A Definitive Guide To The Spider-Man Cinematic Multiverse

Spidey’s spun an increasingly tangled web.

by Katherine J. Igoe
Originally Published: 
Spider-Man at the Downtown Manhattan in New York City, New York (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
James Devaney/WireImage/Getty Images

Spoilers ahead for Spider-Man: No Way Home. Spider-Man is the character who keeps coming back. Following the ’70s TV show and movies starring Nicholas Hammond, the character was acquired by Sony and revamped in the early ’00s. In the past two decades, three actors — Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland — have all had a chance to wear the blue-and-red suit. And that’s not to mention the character’s animated presence in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse or the standalone films that Spider-Man’s longtime nemesis, Venom, has led.

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Previously, these incarnations of the superhero have all existed separately, siloed within their own stories. But Marvel Studios’ upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home changed that in the best way. Despite the cast’s best attempts to deny surprise stars, the latest Holland-led film featured friends and foes from Spidey’s past, like Electro (Jamie Foxx), Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), and, delightfully, previous Peter Parkers Maguire and Garfield.

After seeing all the web-slingers in action, it’s time for you to catch up on (or rewatch) the earlier Spider-Man films. Some of them you can probably skip, but having a bit of background knowledge on the classic villains will help you make more sense of No Way Home — and enjoy future Spidey stories to come. Some light spoilers for these films follow.


Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man tells the prototypical Spider-Man origin story: Peter Parker (Maguire), who lives with his aunt and uncle, gets bitten by a radioactive spider. He becomes a superhero, loses his Uncle Ben, and fights the Green Goblin (played a delightfully over-the-top Dafoe).

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Spider-Man 2 (2004)

The rare sequel to be considered better than the original, Spider-Man 2 holds up — not least because of Molina, who absolutely delivers as Doctor Octopus. This film also effectively sets up a final confrontation between Parker and the Green Goblin’s son, Harry (James Franco), and reconciles Peter’s love life in very ’00s movie fashion.

Watch It on Amazon Prime Video


Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Getty/ Marcel Thomas / Contributor

Spider-Man 3 sees its hero face off against a lot of villains: Franco as the New Goblin, Thomas Haden Church as Sandman, and Topher Grace as Venom. It also sees Peter Parker with a weird new haircut and vibe, courtesy of an invading alien symbiote (this is the film that birthed that dancing meme).

Watch It on Amazon Prime Video


The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

This reboot had the same production team as the previous movies, but with a new cast and crew. As such, it’s covering old ground, with Peter (Garfield) once again gaining his powers, watching his uncle die, and fighting crime. This time, though, viewers learn more about Peter’s parents, and Spidey gets a different love interest in the form of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

In the comics, Stacy is Peter’s first love before she (spoiler alert) tragically dies. This movie actually goes there, which is both brave and also incredibly stereotypical. It also features Spider-Man facing off against Electro (Foxx) and, again, his childhood friend Harry Osborn, aka the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan).

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Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Here’s where it gets complicated: Holland’s epic, scene-stealing introduction as the new Spider-Man didn’t actually occur in a standalone film. Instead, Peter Parker first appears in another MCU film, Captain America: Civil War, when Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) recruits him. Spidey’s in less than 10 minutes of the movie, but he banters with Stark, steals Captain America’s shield, and thinks up combat strategies based off of “old” movies like Star Wars. It’s a quality intro.

Watch It on Disney+


Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

In Spider-Man’s first standalone Marvel film, the origin story is glossed over — it’s assumed that the audience is already plenty familiar. There’s no spider bite, no transformation, no Uncle Ben. Just an upbeat Peter trying to stop an arms dealer (Michael Keaton) from shilling alien tech, while flirting with his crush (Laura Harrier). It’s the non-origin origin story that Spider-Man deserved.

Watch It on Amazon Prime Video


Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Thanos (Josh Brolin) is out to destroy half of all life in the universe. In a bid to stop him, Peter joins forces with Iron Man, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and even the Guardians of the Galaxy — but (spoiler alert) they fail and Peter is turned to dust before Stark’s eyes.

Watch It on Disney+


Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Marvel Studios

So, Spider-Man isn’t actually in much of this movie — he spends most of it, well, being dead — but when the Avengers successfully undo Thanos’ “snap” and Peter reappears, he joins with the rest of the Avengers to fight the evil alien.

Watch It on Disney+


Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Peter tries to settle back in as a high-schooler after all the insanity he’s just been through. But a hole in the universe brings out some monsters — as well as another superhero, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), who may have ulterior motives. This is the movie that immediately precedes 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Watch It on Amazon Prime Video


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

This one doesn’t fit into the rest of the Spider-Man chronology, but it’s definitely worth a watch. Set in present day, the animated film follows teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) as he discovers the Spidey multi-verse and takes on the role of webbed crusader in his own world. There’s also a sequel in the works, which is set to come out in 2022.

Watch It on Amazon Prime Video


Optional: Venom (2018) and Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

Venom, a classic Spidey villain (last seen on this list in Spider-Man 3), has led his own films in recent years. The first film serves as an origin story, showing how investigative journalist Eddie Brock fused with Venom (both played by Tom Hardy). In the sequel, they face off against the symbiote Carnage — another classic Spider-Man foe — and there’s yet another tie-in to the storied web-slinger.

Watch It on Amazon Prime Video


Spider-Man: No Way Home

Sony Pictures

The long-awaited Spider-Man: No Way Home finally hit theaters Dec. 17 (though you might have caught a Thursday night showing). Here, Peter grapples with the fallout of his identity being revealed to the world and how it impacts his loved ones. The involvement of characters from past Spider-Man movies makes this one extra heartfelt — and, at times, heartbreaking. Stick around for post-credits goodies that further connect Spider-Man to other Sony and Marvel projects.

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Upcoming Sequels

Sony Pictures

After No Way Home, you won’t need to wait long for more Spidey sequels. A follow-up to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is on the way Oct. 7, 2022, for starters. Both Venom 3 and a new Spider-Man trilogy, once again starring Holland, are in the works, per Amy Pascal.

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