The “Spider-Man” comic-book universe itself offers a treasure of multiple antagonists worth exploring on the big screen. So far, we already have the appearances of Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Venom and Vulture, just to name a few. And this year, we will finally (!) get to see the first big-screen appearance of Spidey’s villain/anti-hero character of Morbius in his solo movie. Played by Jared Leto, “Morbius” is set to arrive this 31 March and while we wait for the release, check out our worst-to-best ranking of the past Spider-Man movie villains below.
12) Rhino (Paul Giamatti) – “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014)
(Most) people would agree that “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” suffers from too much stuffed into a single movie. Then, there’s Rhino, where his brief presence looks like he is simply shoehorned for the sake of one reason. The reason in question is to set up Sony’s then-planned “Sinister Six” team-up movie. It’s sad enough to see a great character actor like Paul Giamatti hamming it up with a silly Russian accent. The less said about his character’s ridiculous rhino-like robotic suit the better.
11) Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) – “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014)
Dane DeHaan sure knows how to emote throughout the movie, proving that his breakthrough performance in 2012’s “Chronicles” wasn’t a fluke. But the problem is, the way the story depicts his character arc feels vastly inferior compared to James Franco’s portrayal in Sam Raimi’s original trilogy. Even his Green Goblin suit and makeup effects look like a B-movie reject.
10) Electro (Jamie Foxx) – “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014) & “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)
It’s hard to believe that the typically charismatic Jamie Foxx can pull off a nerdy role in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”. But his transformation from an introverted electrician to a supervillain capable of manipulating electricity is rather pathetic. But thankfully, director Jon Watts handles his character better in last year’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home”.
9) Lizard (Rhys Ifans) – “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012) & “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)
In a perfect world, we might be able to see Dylan Baker’s Dr Curt Connors transforming into the Lizard someday in Sam Raimi’s future sequels. Too bad that didn’t happen and when Sony decided to reboot the whole thing, the Lizard character was given to Rhys Ifans instead. Ifans delivers a decent performance as the misunderstood villain but his CGI lizard creature looks disappointingly tacky. Then, Ifans reprised his role in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” but too bad his character is largely overshadowed by his co-stars.
8) Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) – “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2019)
Casting Jake Gyllenhaal in “Spider-Man: Far From Home” was a nice touch. No doubt one of the best actors of today’s generation, I was confident that he could pull off his Mysterio role. He sure had a field day playing the scheming villain. But shame about his character arc lacking a strong motivation, which in turn, misses the mark to make him a potentially memorable antagonist. Okay, maybe I should give him extra credit for exposing Spider-Man’s secret identity at the end of the movie.
7) Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) – “Spider-Man 3” (2007) & “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)
Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3” may suffer from multiple villain issues but there are a few redeeming qualities here. And one of them includes Thomas Haden Church’s understated turn as Flint Marko, whose alter-ego as Sandman is capable of manipulating sand. His overall sympathetic performance also deserves praise here, even though Thomas Haden Church’s return in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” feels rather underutilised.
6) Venom (Tom Hardy) – “Venom” (2018) & “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (2021)
The solo “Venom” movie itself isn’t that good, but one thing is for sure, Tom Hardy’s dual portrayal as Eddie Brock and the title character remains the lifesaver here. The way he gets all twitchy and confused and at some point, he would go completely unhinged. Hardy does all that well enough. In the 2021 sequel, Hardy is again the redeeming factor here with his delirious performance in the title role.
5) Venom (Topher Grace) – “Spider-Man 3” (2007)
Producer Avi Arad (in)famously demanded Sam Raimi to shoehorn Venom into “Spider-Man 3”. A result that turned the third movie into an unnecessarily overstuffed sequel. Poor Topher Grace because I actually enjoy the way he portrayed his character as both Eddie Brock and Venom. Grace’s overall better-than-expected performance also proved his versatility as a dramatic actor rather than just solely known as the former sitcom star of “That ’70s Show”.
4) New Goblin (James Franco) – “Spider-Man 3” (2007)
James Franco’s Harry Osborn is one of the best things in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy. Raimi takes his time building his character arc right from the first movie, portraying him as Peter Parker’s (Tobey Maguire) best friend before he subsequently becomes the New Goblin in “Spider-Man 3”. This makes his backstory and motivation strong enough to justify his all-out hatred towards Spider-Man for causing his father’s (Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn) death in the first movie.
3) Vulture (Michael Keaton) – “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)
Tom Holland isn’t the only one who steals the show in his first solo “Spider-Man” movie under the MCU banner. The movie also gives us one of the best Spider-Man villains in the form of Vulture, thanks to Michael Keaton’s sympathetic performance. The fact that his character as Adrian Toomes is given a strong backstory helps to establish his motivation for becoming the Vulture. Keaton also reprised his role in “Morbius” and it would be interesting how his character would progress from there.
2) Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) – “Spider-Man 2” (2004) & “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)
Doctor Octopus or Doc Ock is one of the best villains in the “Spider-Man” universe. And it was Alfred Molina who brought the famous antagonist role to life, making him more than just a threat to Spider-Man. His character also turns out to be a tragic one, who becomes evil consumed by grief and madness. “Spider-Man 2” even featured him in one of the greatest battles ever seen in a “Spider-Man” movie. That battle in question is none other than the elaborate duel against Tobey Maguire’s Spidey atop a speeding train.
In “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, Molina returns as Doctor Octopus and his appearance is more than just a nostalgia factor. The introduction of the multiverse allows the movie to explore the redemption angle from Doctor Octopus’ perspective, which in turn, wraps up his story in a satisfying manner.
1) Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) – “Spider-Man” (2002) & “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)
It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the role of Norman Osborn and his alter-ego, the Green Goblin other than Willem Dafoe. Beyond his now-signature sinister laugh, Dafoe’s Norman Osborn/Green Goblin character brings a subtle level of complexity to his Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde-like persona. If that’s not enough, his appearance in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” certainly elevated the movie as one of the best “Spider-Man” films ever seen since “Spider-Man 2”.
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