Cinematic Catastrophes: The Best and Worst Movie Spider-Man Villains

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Written By William Butterworth

Will Butterworth first started reporting on entertainment news when he was a kid in Barney pajamas giving news reports to his parents while sitting in a cardboard box. Now, he still sits in a cardboard box, but his audience has grown in number (at least that's what his mom tells him). Entertainment junkies unite!

Rumors are swirling that a fourth Spider-Man movie could be in the works from director Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire. Should those rumors be true, there are tons of Spider-Man enemies yet to make their movie debut. Not all villains have successfully made the transition from comic book page to movie, however. Take a look at some of the best and worst Spider-Man movie villains.

Worst: Electro (The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021))

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

Now, I don’t want to call Jamie Foxx’s Oscar-acting into question, but the writing for Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 did him little favors. Add the weird choice of special effects and makeup, and you have a recipe for an odd, bland, villain.

Thankfully, Electro was slightly redeemed when he showed up in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Compared to Spidey’s other movie villains, however, Electro falls flat.

Best: Mysterio (Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019))

Image Credit: CTMG, Inc.

Still reeling from Tony Stark’s death in The Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker finds a friend and potential father figure in Quentin Beck. Jake Gyllenhaal takes up the mantle of Mysterio and does an excellent job of mixing charm with intense obsession.

Although his backstory could have used a little more work (ANOTHER tie to Tony Stark?), there’s no question that Gyllenhaal had great chemistry with Holland’s Parker. And that cliffhanger at the end definitely dropped more than a few jaws.

Worst: Venom (Spider-Man 3 (2007))

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Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

Let’s be honest here, Spider-Man 3 had its share of struggles. One of its biggest hurdles was in casting Topher Grace as Venom. Maybe the casting director was going for some sort of unassuming-man-to-violent-monster angle, but Grace was just a bit too unassuming for the role.

Grace is a great actor in the right role, but sadly this version of Venom didn’t quite hit the mark.

Best: Doc Ock (Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021))

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Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

Playing a villain is difficult, especially in a comic book movie. It’s easy to go the ham and cheese route. That’s why the choice of casting Alfred Molina as Doc Ock in both Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: No Way Home was a homerun. Molina has an incredible ability to play both a dark and sinister role and a sympathetic and charming individual at a turn of the hat.

Doc Ock is a villain who came to his villainy through tragic means. He also has a close relationship with Peter. Seeing a mentee forced to destroy his mentor can often feel boring, but Molina’s chemistry with Maguire made him a villain to remember.

Worst: The Sandman (Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021))

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

First, let me say that Thomas Haden Church did the best with what he had. The man gave his all for the few minutes he was on screen. And that was exactly the problem. In Spider-Man 3, we only got to have a taste of what Church had to offer.

Considering Sandman’s unique backstory and his drive to help his daughter, there’s a compelling story just ready for audiences to sink their teeth into. Unfortunately, his first appearance as Sandman didn’t give him that spotlight.

In Spider-Man: No Way Home, we’re able to see a bit more of Church’s Sandman, but I think it’s high time he receives a bit more screen time in his next iteration.

Best: Vulture (Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017))

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Image Credit: CTMG, Inc.

Now, there’s no question that there are few roles, if any, that Michael Keaton cannot devour. Playing a family man just trying to make ends meet through dubious means is right up his alley. We’re able to see Keaton take on tons of different shades throughout the film.

In the comics, the Vulture isn’t always a villain that you take seriously. Keaton’s version makes you sit up straight and pay attention.

Worst: The Lizard (The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021))

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

A villain as destructive, odd, and problematic as the Lizard isn’t going to be easy to cast. The best villains usually have some sort of redeeming qualities to them or at least manage to make you wonder if they got the right idea. Rhys Ifans takes on the role of Lizard in The Amazing Spider-Man, and for a man who tends to play eccentric roles well, his performance falls a little flat here.

Maybe it’s the writing. Maybe it’s the plot. Maybe it’s the CGI. Whatever it is, the Lizard just can’t seem to make as successful a jump from the comic books to the movies as other villains.

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

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

At long last, Kingpin is finally starting to get some love from audiences. Liev Schreiber in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Vincent D’Onofrio from Netflix’s Daredevil have all the credit for that. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse does an incredible job of depicting Kingpin as a man just trying to do his best for his family.

The animation is also able to really lean into the massive size of Kingpin without making it comical. With Schreiber’s incredible voice acting on top of it, Kingpin remains one of the most interesting villains across Spider-Man titles.

Worst: Rhino (The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014))

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Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

Picturing Paul Giamatti as a massive rhinoceros-like man from Russia is hilarious. Considering we see this new villain right after Gwen Stacey’s death to indicate that Spider-Man is still going to fight crime, the choice of actor is a little odd. It’s like a blast of comedy during a funeral.

It’s out of place, and while we may never know what Giamatti’s take as Rhino would have really been like (since the plan was to have him return in The Amazing Spider-Man 3), the little we did glimpse was a bit of a letdown.

Best: The Green Goblin (Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021))

Green Goblin
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

Willem Dafoe is iconic. One could argue that Spider-Man was the movie that really told studios you can make money off of comic book movies. Its success comes down to Maguire’s Parker and Dafoe’s incredible performance as the Green Goblin.

Dafoe, besides giving us some memorable memes, also gave us Norman Osborn’s remarkable fall to insanity. Even at the very end, you can’t help but hope Osborn has a change of heart in his pursuit of Spider-Man.

Dafoe laid the groundwork for what a compelling, multi-layered, villain should be.

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