Marvel’s iconic web-slinger has faced numerous foes over the course of his career. In fact, one may argue Spider-Man has one of the greatest rogues’ galleries in comics. His villains are as complex and human as Spidey himself and have been further illustrated in their movie adaptations.
Starting with Green Goblin from Sam Raimi’s 2002 inaugural Spider-flick, some of the wallcrawler’s most famous villains have accompanied him on his journey to the silver screen. However, looking at the history of Spider-Man movies, it’s evident that some portrayals are better than others.
So saying that, what are the best Spider-Man movie villains? Let’s find out, shall we?
10) Dr. Curt Conners/The Lizard (TASM, 2012)
Despite being a complete reboot, the Powers-That-Be took the lessons of Raimi’s movies and applied them to the new Spider-Man. One of these is that the villain should be related personally to Peter to raise the emotional stakes. And thus, they went with Dr. Curt Conners AKA The Lizard, who the teenage genius seeks out for answers on his missing parents.
Rhys Ifans isn’t really memorable in the role nor does the script allow him to develop a compelling bond with Peter Parker. Once he turns into the Lizard, he concocts a groan-worthy scheme of turning all of New York into lizard-people. Curt Conners is on this list because he is at least a more developed villain than Topher Grace’s Venom or Jamie Foxx’s Electro. However, that’s not saying much.
9) Harry Osborn/Green Goblin (TASM2, 2014)
If there’s one thing I like about TASM2‘s Harry Osborn, it’s his Goblin costume. Instead of a bulky Power Rangers outfit, the Goblin serum gives Harry a mutation that gives him pointed ears, wildly greasy hair, and a bad case of acne. Luckily, once it wears off, he goes back to looking like pretty boy Dane Dehaan. Speaking of Dehaan though, while his Goblin performance is a bit cheesy, he does play a good Harry Osborn. The “You’re a fraud, Spider-Man!” scene aside, Dehaan portrays a desperate, tormented young man very well. A shame the hurried script and soulless executive meddling didn’t leave him with a good movie to star in.
8) Norman Osborn/Green Goblin (Spider-Man 1, 2002)
Osborn cameos as hallucinations of Harry’s mind in the second and third Raimi films. However, he’s mostly active in Spider-Man 1 as the wall-crawler’s archnemesis, the Green Goblin (on account of him, you know, being alive at this time). Despite his Power Rangers-esque outfit, the Goblin is a powerful foe for Spidey. And look, Willem Dafoe’s performance (especially when the mask is off) is legendary. But the problem comes after Gobby kills the board of directors – his goal is achieved, meaning the rest of his villainous exploits feel aimless and just for the sake of being evil. I guess he really is out – out of his mind, that is.
7) Harry Osborn/New Goblin (Spider-Man 1-3, 2002, 2004 & 2007)
For a so-called ‘best friend’, Harry makes Peter’s life miserable in several ways. Firstly, he closes in on MJ, the girl Peter likes. Then, when he inherits his father’s empire in 2, he doesn’t even help his best mate out when he’s low on cash (and berates him for taking pictures of Spider-Man, which is how Peter makes a living!). Thirdly, upon learning his identity, Harry tries to kill him.
To be fair, Harry is only the villain for 95% of Spidey 3. He’s a bit far down the list because his ‘New Goblin’ shtick is a bit lame, to be honest. But his sacrifice at the end of the third film wraps up his arc in a pretty satisfying way. So, he’s certainly not the worst villain the Spider-Man movies have had to offer.
6) The Kingpin (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018)
Spider-Verse makes the most of its animated nature by exaggerating the Kingpin’s physique. And even despite its absurdity, the Kingpin is undeniably intimidating. After all, he’s the only villain in the film who manages to kill a Spider-Man. And he almost manages to kill the second one in the form of Miles!
And as physically intimidating as Kingpin is, he has surprising depth. The reason he wants to open the multiverse? He wants to revive his late wife and son, who died in a car crash in his dimension. It would have been nice to explore this some more, but even the short timespan dedicated to this puts Kingpin above many other villains in the Spider-Man movies.
5) The Prowler (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018)
Into the Spider-Verse may be a desperate money-grab by Sony – but it’s a good money-grab. This isn’t just down to the film’s impressive animation, but also due to Lord and Miller’s focus on the emotional core of Spider-Man. The inclusion of Miles’ uncle, Aaron Davis, is a big part of this.
Aaron Davis is a sympathetic character because, despite his criminal activities, he loved his nephew. He kept his double-life secret so that Miles would continue to look up to him. But when Miles reveals his identity to Prowler, Aaron can’t bring himself to kill his beloved nephew. Unfortunately, this costs him his life, getting shot by the Kingpin and causing Miles to lose his uncle.
4) Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Spider-Man: Far From Home, 2019)
Mysterio is a compelling bad guy. After the ‘reveal’, the film shows us that Beck is a former employee of Stark Enterprises. After being fired by Stark, he bands together with other disgruntled employees, plotting his revenge via his illusion technology. Beck can appear a bit too zany, played with charismatic hamminess by Jake Gyllenhaal, but he’s high on this list because of how he challenges Peter. Not only does Beck successfully pose as a plausible father figure for naive Peter, but he manages to reveal his identity to the public by the movie’s end. His actions pave the way for No Way Home.
3) Flint Marko/Sandman (Spider-Man 3, 2007)
Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman is the best of the three villains in Sam Raimi’s threequel. Why? Well, he has the most sympathetic motivation (continuing as a criminal to fund his sick daughter’s operation). He also has the coolest powers out of his co-villains, with his origin scene being the most mouth-dropping scene in the film.
While I was never fond of SM3 retconning Marko as Uncle Ben’s killer, it’s still moving to see him regret his wrongdoings. It’s a shame he isn’t the sole focus of the movie – I’d happily trade all of Venom’s scenes to see if Marko ever manages to cure his daughter’s illness.
2) Adrian Toomes/The Vulture (Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2017)
Michael Keaton’s Vulture is easily the best Spider-Man movie villain since Spidey 2‘s Doc Ock. As Keaton himself said in a 2017 Collider interview, the character is actually a victim. He’s a man whose salvaging business is taken away from him from society’s upper echelons and is backed into a corner to the point he turns to crime in an act of revenge. Not only is Toomes’ character relevant in today’s political climate (a working-class man downtrodden by large corporations), but the way the movie handles his reveal as Liz’s father is just fantastic. It’s a shock to your system and it adds another layer of complexity to Toomes as we see he also has a family to provide for.
1) Doctor Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man 2, 2004)
Sam Raimi’s ability to humanize his villain’s peaks in Spider-Man 2. Whereas Norman Osborn was already a bit evil before his transformation in Spidey 1, Doctor Otto Octavius is achingly likable before his turn to evil. He and Peter bond over science and he is clearly an affable and ambitious man who loves his wife.
When his wife, Annie, dies, all Otto has left is his dream of achieving nuclear fusion. This drives him to turn to crime to get his project going, albeit partly under the influence of his AI arms. Yet, during his battle with Spider-Man, the hero reminds him that “to do what’s right we must be steady and give up the thing we want the most”. Upon hearing these words, Octavius destroys his project – albeit at the cost of his own life. He’s a tragic villain but gets a hero’s ending come the finale.
That said, this is just my take. Do you agree or disagree with this listing? What are your favorite villains from the Spider-Man movies? Let us know in the comments below!