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‘Spider-Man’ Cheat Sheet: A Guide To Watching All the Movies in the Spider-Verse

A split image featuring Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man from 'Spider-Man 2,' the Miles Morales Spider-Man from 'Into the Spider-Verse,' and Tom Holland's Spider-Man from 'Spider-Man: Far From Home'

If you need any advice on how to get into the world of Spider-Man, I’m the right person to ask. As someone who has loved this Queens boy since I was a small child, it was only fitting that my first “midnight release” was the Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002 (I was with my older brother, my mom did not send a 10-year-old to the movies alone). So I am qualified to help guide you through the movie versions of our friendly neighborhood hero.

What’s easy about this franchise is that it is divided into three main arcs, with the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movies standing on their own. But that also means there isn’t that much flexibility in the viewing order, especially with how Spider-Man: No Way Home brings everything together.

That said, the best way to go about watching the Spider-Man movies is in chronological release order. I’ll walk you through how each Spider-Man era helped to create the most recent (and my personal favorite) take on the webbed hero, and what you can expect from each movie in the franchise.

The Tobey Maguire era

Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man
(Sony Pictures)

Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Remember when superhero movies had badass soundtracks? While the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies still have nostalgia working for them, they don’t hold up as well as people want to believe. But what does hold up is “Hero” by Nickelback and “Vindicated” by Dashboard Confessional. For many (myself included), this was our first real entry point into Spidey.

We had the cartoons and many of us knew about the comics, but this was different. We were seeing Spider-Man swinging through New York right before our eyes and it was special. In retrospect, Tobey Maguire was not great at playing either aspect of Peter Parker’s persona (he was fine). This version of the character was more of a nerd who could not talk to people, and less of the smart-ass Peter we’d come to love. But he was our first, so that nostalgic affection still exists for many.

If this is your first time watching the Spider-Man movies, though, you might be shocked by how much of a product of the early 2000s they are. They’re still good, but things have changed a lot in how we write characters (especially women), so you may have a different feeling about this trilogy than someone who saw these movies as a kid.

The Andrew Garfield era

andrew garfield in the spidey suit
(Sony Pictures)

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Prior to the introduction of Tom Holland’s Peter, Andrew Garfield was my favorite version of Peter Parker. That’s because he was actually the Peter I knew from the cartoons and comics, unlike the overt nerdiness of Maguire’s performance. Not that I dislike those first three movies (I love them very much), but we now have multiple versions of Peter Parker that work much better than what Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire built. Garfield’s performance in the Amazing Spider-Man movies was unfairly judged by constant comparisons to Maguire and people who, frankly, only thought they knew why Peter Parker/Spider-Man work as a character.

Garfield’s movies are good! While The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not on the same level as Spider-Man 2, it is not that bad of a movie. It was judged on a horribly unfair scale. The fact that we never got to see how Peter met MJ in that third movie is actually my villain origin story.

The Tom Holland era

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'
(Sony / Marvel Studios)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

My good, sweet boy! Watching Tom Holland after getting through both the Maguire and Garfield franchises will feel like you’re actually watching a kid become Spider-Man. One of the reasons I cherish this trilogy (and hopefully there will be more) so much is because it’s the first time Peter Parker felt like a teenager.

Tobey Maguire was 26 years old and Andrew Garfield was 27 years old when they played Peter in high school. Tom Holland was roughly 19 to 21 years old between Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming, and seeing someone closer in age to a high school student changed the game. It also helps that he managed to perfect both sides of the character.

But in order for the payoff in Spider-Man: No Way Home to really work, you have to go through this franchise in chronological order—except for one amazing Spider-Man story …

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) and Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld).
(Sony Pictures Animation)

Released in 2018, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is separate from the live-action movies, but it has some nods to them. And unless the upcoming sequels, Across the Spider-Verse and Beyond the Spider-Verse, somehow add more live-action lore, it is still safe to say that Into the Spider-Verse stands alone. The movie brings all of our favorite comic Spideys together, and there are so many different versions of the hero from different universes, like Peter Porker and Spider-Man Noir—why not have them team up?

That’s the idea the movie is selling to us and it works incredibly well. Serving as an origin story for Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), the movie brings a different Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) in to help him become the hero he needs to be. It’s just a leap of faith. Miles, Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), and Peter (with the help of some other Spidey friends) all come together as only Spideys can, and it is perfect.

(featured image: Sony / Marvel Studios / The Mary Sue)

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Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast.