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Spider-Man: Ranking all the amazing actors who have played Marvel's wallcrawler

Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire.... who is the best Spider-Man?

Spider-Man: No Way Home
Columbia Pictures

It's raining Spider-Men, hallelujah its raining Spider-Men... hey hey!

There's been 60 years of Marvel's friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man - and that's been made plural under the buzzword of Spider-Verse across games, comics, animated, movies, and then finally the big screen with 221's Spider-Man: No Way Home. In that MCU movie, Marvel brought together the big three Spider-Man actors = Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland - for one timey-wimey cross continuity advnture together.

There’s no denying that it was cool seeing all three Spider-Men together, but let’s be real – everyone has their favorite. Are you a Tom person, a Tobey person, or an Andrew person? I thought it would be fun to settle the debate once and for all. Instead of ranking each actor outright, we’ll have each actor compete across multiple categories. First place winners get three points, second place winners get two points, and third place winners get a single point. Then we’ll tally up the points to determine who the most amazing Spider-Man actor is.

Read below for our determinations and final score - but who do YOU think is the best? Tell us in the poll right here:

Before we dive into it, here's a guide for how to watch the Spider-man movies in order.

Ranking the Spider-Man actors: Quips

3 - Tom Holland

Tom Holland’s Spider-Man quipped, but not very often. Sure, he cracked some jokes while fighting some bank robbers in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but I wouldn’t blame you for forgetting. For the most part, Tom’s Spidey embodied a kid who was in over his head, constantly reacting to the world around him. That mindset led to some light-hearted comments, but it was a far cry from the banter longtime Spidey readers could find in the comics.

2 - Tobey Maguire

Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man had some quips, but the less said about them the better. For starters, his first Spidey quip was a homophobic insult during his wrestling match with Bonesaw McGraw, and it hasn’t aged well for many reasons. Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film also had the corny comeback, “It’s you whose out Gobby – out of your mind!” Tobey always sounded a bit awkward saying these lines, and each sequel would contain less quipping than the previous entry.

1 – Andrew Garfield

Andrew Garfield owned the art of Spider-Man quipping. His version of Spider-Man was constantly telling jokes at his opponents expense, and he seemed to have fun doing it. Some of the insults weren’t particularly funny, but Andrew Garfield made them work with his flawless delivery. From his banter with the carjacker in The Amazing Spider-Man to his rematch with the Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Garfield embodied the quipping Spider-Man we’ve come to love from the comics.

Ranking the Spider-Man actors: the Costume

Spider-Man: No Way Home

3 - Andrew Garfield

Don’t get me wrong, Andrew Garfield’s costume looked good, but it never quite looked right. While the colors may have been brighter than Tobey Maguire’s costume, some of the small details seemed off. Maybe the producers wanted to avoid his outfit looking like Tobey’s, but the result was some extra blue threads where red should be and visa versa. The spider emblem on his chest and back was also a bit too big. The revised outfit from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a bit closer to the traditional comics outfit, but it still felt slightly off.

2 - Tobey Maguire

Tobey Maguire’s outfit is almost a direct lift from the comics. Aside from the raised webbing pattern and the darker color tones, Tobey’s costume is almost a perfect translation. We might take that for granted now, but consider how other superhero costumes looked in movies released around 2002. Bryan Singer’s X-Men threw their traditional looks out the window, and don’t even get me started on Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin. Not only was Tobey’s outfit a homerun, it proved that superhero movies could be comic book accurate when it came to costumes.

1 - Tom Holland

If it wasn’t for the final scene from Spider-Man: No Way Home, then Tom Holland would’ve taken last place for this entry. The outfits he wore in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming looked close enough to Spidey’s traditional comic outfit, but some small changes kept them from being perfect. The costume from Spider-Man: Far From Home was too dark, and the metallic armor Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame was too high tech for Spidey. So why did Tom Holland take the top spot for this category? The costume at the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home was absolute perfection. Although he only wore it for less than a minute, it’s the most comic accurate Spider-Man suit that has ever been depicted on screen. The colors are the right tone, it’s not a high tech piece of armor, the pattern matches the comic book, and it looks amazing on screen.

Ranking the Spider-Man actors: Peter Parker

3 - Andrew Garfield

When he put on the suit Andrew Garfield felt like Spider-Man, but out of costume, he never quite felt right for Peter Parker. Andrew always felt a bit too comfortable in his skin, which is perfect for a quipping Spider-Man, but not for a nerdy high school student. While walking through the halls of Midtown High there was a bit of swagger in his step. While the comic book version of Peter Parker grew out of his nerdy phase once he entered college, he never quite became the most popular student on campus. While Peter Parker doesn’t always have to be nerdy, he should never feel like the coolest kid in school.

2 - Tobey Maguire

There is no denying that Tobey Maguire felt like Peter Parker. Tobey captured the feeling of a man who constantly has the weight of the world on his shoulders. It wasn’t just the way he interacted with his Aunt May, or how he meekly made his way through the world around him. Tobey really shined during the quiet moments, where it was just him alone in a room reflecting on the burden of being Spider-Man. This struggle served as the backbone for Spider-Man 2, and none of that would’ve worked without Tobey’s performance.

1 - Tom Holland

Once again, the final act of Spider-Man: No Way Home has given Tom Holland the top spot for this category. Throughout most of his movies, Tom Holland’s Peter seemed like a perplexed kid reacting to the world around him, close but slightly out of sync with the Peter Parker from the comics. All of that changed during the coffee scene from Spider-Man: No Way Home. I invite all of you to rewatch that scene, and pay attention to Tom’s performance. Tom’s silent face says so much as he contemplates whether he should tell MJ his secret or not. There is a look of pain on his face as he sees her band-aid, a stinging reminder of how his life as Spider-Man will ultimately hurt her. None of this is said aloud, but the realization of this is communicated to the audience through Tom’s eyes. He may still look the same as he did at the beginning of the movie, but there’s something different. Like a boy who has become a man after experiencing the horrors of war. When Peter makes the decision to leave MJ and Ned behind, everyone in the audience could feel his heartache. It may have taken a few films, but that was the moment Tom Holland transformed into Peter Parker.

Ranking the Spider-Man actors: Love Scenes

3 - Tobey Maguire

I might be in the minority, but I always felt that the relationship between Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker and Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson lacked sparks. The upside down kiss from the first Spider-Man movie was iconic, but the rest of their romance lacked passion. It was fun to see symbiote-Peter flirt with Betty Brant and Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3, but none of those moments really added anything special to the movie.

2 - Andrew Garfield

The tragedy of Peter Parker’s romance with Gwen Stacy served as the emotional backbone to Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man duology. To be fair, Andrew only deserves half the credit for this, since Emma Stone put in just as much work to keep us invested in their relationship. We cheered for them to get together, smiled whenever they interacted on screen, and then our hearts broke along with Peter when Gwen died. Andrew and Emma were dating in real life, which no doubt helped their onscreen chemistry, making their relationship feel all the more believable. The tragedy of Gwen Stacy’s death is one of the most important events in Spider-Man history, and Andrew’s performance brought that moment to the big screen in a way that captured our emotions.

1 - Tom Holland

Once again, I have to sing the praises of the coffee scene from the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home. Peter’s life as Spider-Man has always been toxic to his love life, forcing the web-swinger to make heartbreaking sacrifices. It’s not as simple as Peter missing a date because he was battling a supervillain, this is deeper. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker sacrificed his chance to be with MJ, believing that she was safer and happier without him. That captured the essence of what romance is like in Spider-Man comics, bringing it to the big screen in a heartbreaking way.

Ranking the Spider-Man actors: Comics Accuracy

Spider-Man: No Way Home

3 - Tom Holland

Although Tom Holland’s movies had evoked the spirit of Spider-Man, very little of it looked like the actual comics. He was too reliant on Stark technology, which was a far cry from the self-made man Peter was in the comics. The comic book version of Peter Parker was a loner, whose secret made him feel isolated from his friends and family. In the comics you got the sense that Peter was all alone against the rest of the world. Tom Holland’s cinematic Spider-Man had Ned Leeds, Nick Fury, Happy Hogan, Aunt May, and MJ Watson helping him. He never brought up his Uncle Ben, an oversight that grew more jarring with each movie. We never saw him walk into the Daily Bugle offices, which is a big part of Spider-Man’s world. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man captured the essence of the comics, but it never truly looked like them.

2 - Andrew Garfield

Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man movies felt like live-action versions of the comics, but a few pieces were missing. Maybe director Marc Webb was trying to avoid comparisons to the Sam Raimi trilogy, but the result felt like an incomplete version of Spider-Man’s world. Instead of becoming a wrestler, Spider-Man becomes inspired by seeing a poster inside of an empty wrestling ring. Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben avoids saying “with great power comes great responsibility.” J. Jonah Jameson only exists as an email address. Despite these awkward drawbacks, Peter’s relationship with Aunt May was spot on, and his complicated friendship with Harry Osborn matched the pathos from the comics. Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy also looks like she stepped straight out of a John Romita illustrated comic.

1 - Tobey Maguire

While Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy made some weird changes to canon, for the most part they were a faithful recreation of the comics. The core supporting cast members were all there, with J. Jonah Jameson, Betty Brant, and Aunt May taking their visuals straight from the source material. The origin kept all the important beats from Amazing Fantasy #15, with the Burglar confrontation scene directly matching some of the original comic panels. Peter’s status quo as a financially struggling college student felt like it came straight from 70s or 80s issues of Amazing Spider-Man, with Tobey embodying all the pathos from that era. When it comes to recreating Spider-Man, his supporting cast, his villains, and their world, it doesn’t get any better than the Tobey Maguire films.

Ranking the Spider-Man actors: Fight Scenes

3 - Tom Holland

Tom Holland’s fight scenes were entertaining, even if they didn’t always feel like traditional Spider-Man fight scenes. Avengers: Infinity War had Spider-Man rely on the technology in his armored costume, which is great for an Iron Man fight, but not for Peter Parker. Still, the battle with the Green Goblin at the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home stands out as being particularly intense.

2 - Andrew Garfield

Andrew Garfield’s fight scenes don’t get the recognition they deserve. His Midtown High battle with the Lizard in The Amazing Spider-Man utilized Spidey’s unique agility and found creative uses for webbing. The showdown with the Green Goblin inside the clocktower at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was wonderfully choreographed. Plus, with Gwen Stacy’s life hanging in the balance, this fight scene had high emotional stakes, something that is a staple of Spidey’s comic book battles.

1 - Tobey Maguire

If you’ve watched the train scene from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, then Tobey taking the crown for this entry shouldn’t be a surprise. The battle with Doctor Octopus, and the subsequent train rescue is a contender for the greatest action sequence in Spider-Man’s cinematic history. The tussle with Doc Ock is fast, intense, and utilizes Spider-Man’s powers in creative ways. Tobey’s Spider-Man chases Doc Ock atop a runaway train, while using his webs to catch innocent people the villain is throwing off of the car. The action continues after Doc Ock flees the battle, with Spider-Man using his webs, strength, and sheer willpower to stop the train. It’s one of the greatest scenes in Spider-Man’s cinematic history, and it has earned Tobey the top spot for this category.

Ranking the Spider-Man actors: Overall Score

Spider-Man: No Way Home

3 - Andrew Garfield

With competition like Tobey and Tom, there is no shame in taking third place. While Andrew Garfield’s turn as Spider-Man was challenged by a few issues, he brought a sense of fun to the role that hasn’t been recaptured since.

2 - Tom Holland

If this list has been written before Spider-Man: No Way Home, Tom Holland would be in a lower spot. However, Tom’s latest entry into the Spidey saga proves that he’s grown into the role. Although there was little resembling Peter Parker in his earlier films, by the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home Tom had passed various trials by fire, cementing his status as the Spidey for this generation.

1 - Tobey Maguire

It’s been 20 years since Tobey Maguire first swung onto the movie screen, and his legacy remains strong. The comic book film industry has gone through decades of innovation since then, but Tobey’s portrayal as Peter Parker doesn’t feel dated. The actor who began Spider-Man’s film career hit a homerun with his first outing, and his score remains unmatched to this day.

Ranking the Spider-Man actors: Cobweb Contenders

Tobey, Andrew, and Tom aren’t the only men to suit up as Spider-Man in live-action. Here are some of the other live-action Spidey actors we’ve met over the years.

Danny Seagren

Danny Seagren was the first actor to portray Spider-Man in live-action, appearing as the Webhead during the Electric Company’s Spidey Super Stories segments. There wasn’t much to Seagren’s short performances, but his segments on the educational program helped kids learn how to read, which is something worth celebrating.

Nicholas Hammond

Nicholas Hammond portrayed Peter Parker on The Amazing Spider-Man, a live-action show which aired on CBS for 13 episodes beginning in 1977. While some of these episodes were fun, very little of the show resembled Spider-Man and his world. Nicholas Hammond’s legacy would continue when the producers of the 1994 Spider-Man animated series designed their version of Peter Parker to resemble the actor.

Shinji Todo

Shinji Todo suited up as Spider-Man for Toei’s live-action Spider-Man television series. Airing in Japan, this series ignored the comics in favor of creating their own take on the character, keeping only the name and the costume. Instead of Peter Parker, Shinji played Takuya Yamashiro, a motorcycle racer who is given spider powers after encountering an alien from the planet Spider. He also had a giant robot.

The best part about this list is that there isn’t a bad Spider-Man on there. Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland have all brought their own unique strengths to the role. While each has had their own shortcomings, all three actors have come out on top in at least one of the categories. As a Spider-Man fan, I think this is awesome. We’ve been lucky enough to have three unique versions of the Webhead on the big screen, and all of them have been amazing.

Make up your own mind by watching all the Spidey films and then telling us in the comments. Here's a guide for how to watch the Spider-man movies in order.

About the Author
Joshua Lapin-Bertone avatar

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Contributing writer

Joshua is a pop culture writer specializing in comic book media. His work has appeared on the official DC Comics website, the DC Universe subscription service, HBO Max promotional videos, the Batman Universe fansite, and more. In between traveling around the country to cover various comic conventions, Joshua resides in Florida where he binges superhero television and reads obscure comics from yesteryear.

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