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Top 5 Reasons Why Spider-Man 2 Remains One of the Best Superhero Films Ever

Sam Raimi's best entry into the Spider-verse turns 15 this weekend.

tobeyt maguire as peter parker in spider-man 2.

The superhero movie genre has undergone a massive metamorphosis over the years, leading to the complete market saturation audiences find themselves in today. Due to the omnipresence of comic book films and TV series, it’s worth remembering that this wasn’t always the status quo. A handful of successful superhero films with universal appeal helped to kickstart the genre, but few are as beloved as Sam Raimi’s 2004 Spider-Man 2 starring Tobey Maguire.

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15 years later (feel old yet?), Spider-Man 2 remains a nearly flawless film that elevates the genre in bold and unexpected ways. With a brilliant script from Oscar-winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent (who passed away just last month) and bold direction by Sam Raimi, Spider-Man 2 was a critical and commercial success, as well as the gold standard in superhero cinema. Here are our top 5 reasons why we’ll always love Spider-Man 2.

Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius

alfred molina as otto octavius aka doc ock

They say that a hero is only as good as their villain. Alfred Molina’s Otto Octavius is not a villain, at least not at the start. He’s a warm, empathetic mentor to Peter, a science genius who adores his wife and his work. Otto’s villainy comes not from greed or a hunger for power, but from a failed experiment that robs him of both his free will and his wife. It’s a tragic tale that is well grounded in character development and a terrific performance by Alfred Molina. When Peter convinces Otto to destroy his fusion reactor to save the city, Otto sacrifices his life, making him one of the few antagonists to experience redemption.

The “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” Sequence

Halfway through the film, Peter Parker decides to hang up his spidey suit after his powers start failing him. This leads to the bounciest emotional crisis ever, as Peter stumbles through getting his life back on track by focusing on himself, his schoolwork, and his relationships. This is a scene I’ve revisited many times over the years, because the editing, pacing, and humor all clicks perfectly together. The freeze frame ending is just icing on the cake, as it underlies how false Peter’s attempts at normalcy are. The city needs Spider-Man, so when he finally takes back the suit and swings into action, the audience is rooting for him more than ever.

Sam Raimi’s Signature Horror Touch

Before he took on Spider-Man, Raimi was beloved for his Evil Dead franchise, which seamlessly blended horror and comedy. The surgery scene in Spider-Man 2 is filled with classic Raimi touches as Doc Ock’s robotic tentacle arms attack the medical staff. There’s screaming, fast and fluid camerawork, and of course, a chainsaw. One wonders what Raimi could have done with an R-rated superhero property if given the chance.

The Romance

kirsten dunst as mary jane in spider-man 2

Superhero movies don’t have the greatest track record with romance. The love interest is usually relegated to a weak B-plot that is often the least memorable aspect of the movie. But Raimi’s Spider-Man films have always centered Peter’s journey around his romance with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). It helps that Dunst and Maguire have a natural chemistry together (the couple dated in real life), but the films have always allowed the romance to flourish. Spider-Man 2 even ends with a spin on the classic romcom ending, with Mary Jane leaving her groom at the altar to tell Peter she loves him. Few superhero films before or since have been able to create an equally compelling love story.

Spider-Man Unmasked

spider-man 2 train

The people of New York City have always played an important part in Raimi’s narrative. The first film features a scene of citizens talking straight to the camera to share their views on Spidey. There is also a moment where Peter is helped by New Yorkers who throw trash at the Green Goblin during the climactic fight. The sequel takes this one step further, in a scene where Peter stops a runaway train. He collapses, unmasked, on the train as passengers lift up his body and carry him to safety. They keep his identity a secret until he is revived. It’s a touching moment that brings the community into the hero’s journey and reminds us that Spider-Man is truly a part of the city.

What are your favorite Spider-Man 2 moments?

(image: Sony)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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