Ever since Disney and Sony dropped their bombshell trailer for “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, the internet has gone wild for Spidey’s past villains! Speculating to no end as to what other villains could appear in the film. Hell, even we had our own wild theories about how “No Way Home” could be the key to bringing together the Sinister Six. We’ll get out answers soon enough when it hits theaters this December.
Till then, we’re counting down all the villains that have appeared in every Spider-Man film thus far. And just to be clear, we’re only including foes that play a prominent role in the films. So folks like the Rhino from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, Dr. Olivia Octavius and the other villains who made brief appearances in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” won’t be counted. With that of the way, let’s get to ranking them from the worst to the best!
12. Topher Grace’s Venom
Let’s be clear, Topher Grace’s Venom did not need to be in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3”. Two villains are plenty enough, there’s no need to shoe-horn a third, last minute addition into the film. It’s such a shame because Venom is actually a really interesting character made to reflect the darker sides of power and how it corrupts.
Perhaps if Raimi dedicated an entire film to having Peter Parker wrestle with the Symbiote and Eddie’s eventual rise as Venom, he’d have ranked higher on this list. Sadly, all we got here was an underdeveloped side-character awkwardly rushed into the role as one of the film’s main antagonist. For ruining one of Spidey’s most iconic villains, Topher Grace’s Venom lands squarely at the bottom of our list.
11. Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin
Speaking of iconic villains made into underdeveloped jokes…Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin manages to avoid the very bottom of the barrel by the smallest of margins. Harry’s “friendship” with Peter had the potential to form a compelling and tragic emotional fallout that left the young man in a state of mad distraught. They could’ve showed him being forced to become the monster that is the Green Goblin.
The problem is, no one believes that they’re friends! It seemed like they barely knew each other before he freaked out on Peter and declared him to be his mortal enemy! Yes, DeHaan delivered a somewhat entertaining performance as the Goblin but one that left little impression on the Spider-Man legacy.
Jamie Foxx’s rendition of Electro is actually a pretty novel take on the character. A man who idolises Spider-Man and longs to walk in his hero’s footsteps. When a horrific accident leaves him disfigured with electric powers, he places his faith in Spider-Man, only to find himself betrayed. This wasn’t really even Spidey’s fault, since the authorities were the ones who freaked out and sent him away.
Next thing we know, the guy absolutely hates Spider-Man! That’s a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? One random mishap and now you want to kill your idol? At the very least, his character’s pain and frustration at Spider-Man makes more sense than Harry’s random turn to evil. Still, Electro’s rushed character arc did not leave viewers with a great impression of the character. Let’s hope Foxx can make up for it when he reprises the role in “No Way Home”.
9. New Goblin
Alright, this version of Harry Osborne as the Green Goblin isn’t so bad. Is he still has a hasty third wheel in a film that didn’t need so many villains? Absolutely. That being said, Franco’s Harry has had at least two solid films to build on before entering into “Spider-Man 3”. The main issue with Harry turning into the New Goblin, or Little Goblin Jr. as Spider-Man calls him, is that it seems like he had already come to terms with his father’s death in “Spider-Man 2”.
He had a chance to kill Peter but he didn’t. It was a painful revelation that placed Harry in a difficult moral dilemma. Should he avenge his father or spare his friend? At the end, he chose Peter…only to decide later on to kill him. This whole revenge subplot feels contrived and unnecessary, giving us a serviceable villain at best, and ruining a powerful emotional moment in the prequel at worst.
8. The Lizard
The idea of Doctor Curtis “Curt” Connors’ history with Peter’s parents was certainly an intriguing one. An old, family friend that helped Peter connect with his missing parents. Someone who could have been a father-figure to the young Peter after his Uncle Ben passed away. A kindred spirit who also shared his love of science, except he took it too far. In his pursuit to become whole, he became a monster.
The Lizard certainly made for a compelling villain for Andrew Garfield’s first outting as the Amazing Spider-Man. He had a strong familial connection to Peter and a tragic pathos. We just wished the film would focus more on the Lizard’s personal conflict with Peter and Spider-Man over his goofy plan to turn everyone into animal people.
7. The Vulture
Adrian Toomes is a complicated man. A simple working-class guy who had his whole business taken down because of Stark after the Battle of New York. Someone who initially turned to a life of crime out of desperation before becoming a dangerous arms-dealer. A ruthless killer but also a loving father and husband. It’s this kind of personal character conflict that we love to see in Spider-Man’s villains.
Nobody wakes up one day and simply decides to be evil. Actions have consequences and Toomes is a criminal built on the legacy of Stark’s sins. As a villain, Vulture is one of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) very best. As a sworn nemesis of Spider-Man? Yeah, not so much. We needed more time away from the big Avengers-level business to build up a more intimate rivalry between Parker and Toomes. Too much of the conflict here feels like its under Tony’s shadow and less on Spider-Man’s shoulders.
As badass as the other rogues are on this list, only one of them can claim to have killed a Spider-Man and that’s Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. Throughout his time in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”, he proved himself to be not only a cunning crimelord but also a brutal fighter. The guy crushed Miles Morales’ version of Peter Parker with his bare hands! He tried to rip a hole in reality, all in the name of reuniting with his wife and son he lost.
Fisk is less of a man and more of an unstoppable force that will tear through everything in his way to get what he wants. Yet, at the heart of it, what he really desires is the one thing he cannot buy: family. So much of Miles Morales’ life, much like Parker, has been marked by familial ties and personal tragedy. To have him battle against a man whose just as desperate to have a family as Miles is to save his own is pure poetry. A fantastic foil for the young Miles Morales, but not as good as our next pick.
You know what’s more horrifying than losing a loved one? Realising that the masked maniac armed with metal claws trying to murder you is one of your closest family members. Which is exactly what Miles Morales’s Spider-Man had to deal when he faced off against the Prowler. First thing’s first, the suit design for the Prowler is gorgeous. The fearsome metal claws, the menacing Venom-like mask and that sleek cape to top it off makes Prowler easily one of the most visually striking villains on this list.
At first, he seems to be this frightening enigma hell-bent on trying to take out Miles but as we learn more about his character, we begin to understand the pain that Prowler hides as Miles’ uncle. Thinking that as long as he keeps his family at arm’s length, he never has to confront the reality of being criminal. In one stunning scene, though, we see him finally face the painful truth. Kingpin may have killed the Prowler but only Miles’ uncle could have left such a devastating mark on Miles’ journey as a hero.
Somewhere in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3” is the greatest Spider-Man story ever told in cinema. An emotionally gripping conclusion to an amazing character arc that sees Peter confront the man who killed his Uncle Ben. A damaged, broken criminal who made a mistake and now must face the wrath a vengeful hero out for blood. Forget Venom and New Goblin, the whole film should have been dedicated to Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman!
The one thing that Church so brilliant nails is his character’s desperation. He’s lived his entire life on the run, from the cops and his family. The film sees him having to finally face up for his shameful past in the form of a bloodthirsty Spider-Man. A part of him wants to own up to the truth but the other desires to go back to the only life he knows. The final scene of the film sees him and Spider-Man come to a place of peace. One that sees Spider-Man finding the power to forgive Marko, freeing himself and Marko of the guilt of not saving Uncle Ben. If you have a tear in your eye right now, it’s not because of sand!
Rarely do we ever describe a Spider-Man villain as scary. Sure the wall-crawler has plenty of powerful and menacing enemies but most of them are sympathetic, hurt individuals. Not Mysterio, though. This guy is just a straight-up psychopathic monster! Actor Jake Gyllenhaal elevates the character of Mysterio. Turning him from a goofy trickster with a fishbowl helmet in the comics into a dangerous and delusional performer who will burn the world just so he can play hero.
On the surface, he seems like a charming, decent person but beneath that facade is a disturbing hollowness and a twisted desire to capitalise off the terror of a post-Thanos world. Not unlike another character the actor plays in “Nightcrawler”. Plus, the way he psychologically tortures Peter in that hallucination sequence was pretty damn grim. For Gyllenhaal’s knockout performance and that awesome psychological horror sequence in “Spider-Man: Far From Home”, Mysterio has made it to our top three.
2. Doctor Octopus
“I will not die a monster!”, till this day that line from Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus feels just as profound and powerful as it did nearly 20 years ago. Beyond his cool powers and quippy jokes, what makes Spider-Man such a remarkable hero is his desire to save everyone. Not just the innocent bystanders caught up in the action but the villains he battles as well. Otto Octavius was a man driven by a genuine desire to make the world a better place, not unlike the Lizard. Unfortunately, he was driven to madness by his sentient robotic tentacles. Metal demons that filled his head with nefarious thoughts.
For us, Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2” is the greatest Spider-Man film, perhaps even the greatest Marvel film, of all time. One that truly embodies everything we love about the superhero film genre before it went all dark and edgy. It was about how one individual’s life of sacrifice could inspire others to do the same. Having a villain redemption arc in the film is an insane tight-rope act. You have to be able to make your character sympathetic and charismatic enough so the audience can empathise with them but also have them pose a genuine threat to our hero. Decades from now, Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus will stand as a shining example of what masterful writing looks like, and as one of the best comic book film villains ever put to screen!
1. Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin
Was there ever any doubt? Of course Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is going to be our top pick! Just as Batman has the Joker, Spider-Man’s quintessential archnemesis will forever be the sinister Green Goblin. Dafoe’s performance as Norman Osborn and the Green Goblin is immaculate. The way he modulates his voice from a low, commanding tone as Osborn to the Goblin’s demonic, high-pitch cackles is a thing of beauty! That scene where he lures Spidey into a burning building while pretending to be a crying woman is both wildly hilarious and creepy, all at the same bloody time! Then, there’s that horrific scene when he terrorize Aunt May while the sweet old lady was praying.
Prior to Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man”, we knew nothing about the Green Goblin. From that day on, he became one of the most iconic villains in all of cinematic history. Even after Norman’s death, Raimi continued to incorporate Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin into the rest of his trilogy. Lurking in the mind of Harry like some sort of spirit. The same monster that possessed his father slowly taking over Harry as well. The Goblin is here to stay and until someone manages to unseat Dafoe from the throne, his Green Goblin will remain the greatest Spider-Man villain on screen to date.
So what do you think of our list? Who do you think should take the top spot in Spidey’s rogues gallery? Be sure to let us know in the comments!