This article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home.Spider-Man has starred in nine theatrical motion pictures over the past 20 years — soon to be ten, when Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One) swings into theaters this October. And from the Raimi Trilogy to the Amazing Spider-Man films to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spidey’s movie adventures have produced no shortage of iconic moments.
So while it’s still several months until everyone’s favorite wall-crawler returns to the silver screen, there’s still no better time to remember the scenes that have defined each and every past Spidey film. And now, without further ado, let’s look back on the greatest moments that defined Spider-Man’s movie history.
The original Spider-Man film starring Tobey Maguire is still fondly remembered by fans today, and it’s not hard to see why. One of the movie’s finest moments is the climactic showdown between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, played by the scene-stealing Willem Dafoe. This battle is everything a Spidey-Goblin showdown should be — intense, emotional, and even tragic. The duel culminates with the Goblin being impaled on his own glider, in a pitch-perfect homage to Norman Osborn’s death in the comics.
While this spot on the list could have easily been taken by the beloved train battle or Doctor Octopus’ heroic sacrifice, the best scene in the movie is arguably one of its least spectacular. After Peter Parker has lost his powers due to his own self-doubt and given up being Spider-Man, it’s some wise words from Aunt May (portrayed brilliantly by Rosemary Harris) that restores the heroic spirit within him. “I believe there's a hero in all of us,” she says, “that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride.” It’s these words that reignite the spark of hope in Peter, reminding him of his great responsibility. It’s never said outright that Aunt May knows Peter’s secret identity, but taking that interpretation just adds another layer of greatness to an already fantastic scene.
While Sam Raimi is a master of crafting over-the-top superhero fights, it’s the more quiet, emotional scenes that really allow his skill as a director to shine. Take for instance this unforgettable sequence, which speaks volumes without a single line of dialogue being uttered. The evocative visuals and heart-wrenching score manage to perfectly convey Flint Marko’s confusion, horror, and sorrow at being transformed into Sandman, which soon gives way to his all-consuming resolve to be reunited with his daughter. It’s no secret that Spider-Man 3 has plenty of problems, but this scene is hardly one of them.
The romance between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is often cited as the greatest strength of the Amazing Spider-Man films, and for good reason. For proof of this, look no further than the scene where Peter reveals his secret identity to Gwen — and before she can even figure out what to say, she leans in for a passionate kiss. The chemistry between the two leads is off the charts, and watching Gwen learn Peter’s secret so soon is a breath of fresh air compared to Peter and Mary Jane in the Raimi Trilogy.
It’s considered by many to be the worst Spidey movie, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 arguably has the best opening of the bunch — well, not counting the prologue with Peter’s parents. The proper start of the film sees Peter running late for his high school graduation, because he’s too busy chasing down Aleksei Sytsevich (the soon-to-be Rhino, played by Paul Giamatti). It’s an exciting, lighthearted introduction that showcases both the wisecracking, trickster-like charm of Andrew Garfield’s Spidey and the classic trope of Peter juggling his crime-fighting with his personal life. And for bonus points, Spidey’s fight with Aleksei is intercut with Gwen’s valedictorian speech, which effectively (if unsubtly) sets up the themes of loss and hope that form the film’s emotional core.
The sequence where Peter lifts a mountain of rubble in the wreckage of Vulture’s lair is a direct homage to a famous comic scene from Amazing Spider-Man #33 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. And indeed, the film perfectly captures what made the comic scene so iconic. Tom Holland’s performance shows off Peter’s vulnerability as he bursts into tears beneath the unbearable weight — but more than that, it conveys his incredible willpower as he overcomes his doubts and fears, finding the strength to move mountains.
This single scene is the ultimate culmination of not only Miles Morales’ character arc within the film, but of the driving themes at the core of the entire Spider-Man series. Miles has spent the whole movie trying to become the new Spider-Man out of a sense of obligation, only to doubt himself at every turn, crumbling beneath the weight of everyone else’s expectations. But thanks to his father’s words of encouragement, Miles gains the will to fight — after failing to save his world’s Peter Parker, he refuses to let Peter B. Parker give up his life to stop Kingpin.
Miles suits up, designing a costume of his own instead of just copying Peter’s. He climbs to the roof of a skyscraper, and he takes his leap of faith. And as he jumps down, the camera inverts — as the script states, “Miles isn’t falling through frame. He’s RISING.” No longer afraid to fall, Miles shouts with joy as he swings through New York. At long last, he’s taken his place as a true Spider-Man. Facing your fears and finding the resolve to do what’s right are what being Spider-Man is all about, and this scene proves it.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is one of the best Spider-Man movie villains yet, due in no small part to the jaw-dropping reveal of his master plan. After spending the first half of the film in the guise of a noble, selfless mentor to Peter, Mysterio shows his true colors as a spiteful, unhinged narcissist, boastfully recounting the details of his scheme to his loyal henchmen. While it’s technically exposition, Gyllenhall’s performance makes it captivating nonetheless.
Virtually any scene from the last hour of No Way Home could have made this list, from the meeting of the three Spider-Men to Andrew Garfield’s Peter saving MJ. However, the most gripping scene of the film is the brutal showdown between Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Peter intends to kill Goblin to avenge Aunt May, and it’s shocking to see the usually-optimistic Spidey acting so ruthless. But before he can deal the final blow, Peter is stopped by Tobey Maguire’s variant. And so, Spidey has mercy on his nemesis and injects Norman with the cure to the Goblin formula. After all, saving everyone is what Spider-Man does. Between the final fight with Green Goblin and the heartbreaking farewell that follows, No Way Home perfectly encapsulates the compassionate selflessness that makes Peter Parker such a great hero.
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