Movies

A Definitive Guide To The Spider-Man Cinematic Multiverse

Spidey’s spun an increasingly tangled web.

Spider-Man at the Downtown Manhattan in New York City, New York (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
James Devaney/WireImage/Getty Images

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.

Previously, these incarnations of the superhero have all existed separately, siloed within their own stories. But Marvel Studios’ upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home promises to change that. The latest Holland-led film will feature people from Spidey’s past, including Jamie Foxx (Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and Alfred Molina (Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2). They likely aren’t the only ones: the voice of Spider-Man’s Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) is heard in the latest No Way Home trailer, though Dafoe refuses to confirm or deny he’s in the film. Holland has vigorously denied that Garfield and Maguire will make an appearance, but fans are still excited at the prospect of multiple Spider-Mans, and continue to speculate over who else from past films might show up.

So with all this in mind, 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 some background knowledge on the classic villains will serve you well when No Way Home lands in theaters this December. Some light spoilers for these films follow.

1

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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2

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.

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3

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

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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).

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4

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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5

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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6

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.

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7

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.

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8

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.

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9

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.

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10

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 the upcoming film, Spider-Man: No Way Home.

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11

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.

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12

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.

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