Movies & TV

A Definitive Ranking of All the Cinematic Spider-Man Villains

Let's take a look at all the Spidey super villains, past and present, as we prepare for No Way Home.
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In light of the recent release of the official trailer for Spider-man: No Way Homewhich spared no expense in showing almost all the super villains that appeared in both Sam Raimi and Marc Webb’s Spider-verses (Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Lizard, Electro, Sandman)we give you the definitive ranking of all of Spidey’s foes that appeared in all three Spider-man (live-action, sorry Into The Spider-verse fans) franchises.

Photo by Columbia Pictures.

You might ask, “What gives you the power to rank all the villains?” While some might say, “They’re all special in their own unique ways,” “All Spider-man villains matter.” Calm down. While every Spider-man villain is compelling, thanks to the brilliant writing and art by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, not everyone translated well into the silver screen.

That said, I believe that I am a cinematic Spider-man expert myself. I’ve seen all seven movies in the cinemaand will definitely see the eighth on IMAX. I remember walking out of the first Tobey Maguire film in 2002 as a seven-year-old kid wanting to be Peter Parker. My parents said that I was obsessed. That day marked the start of me being a true Spidey die-hard. I started collecting action figures, clothes, and comic books. Heck, I even wore a Spider-man mask to my senior prom—no wonder why my date left me. So rest assured I am taking this list seriously.

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This isn’t just going to be a ranking based on nostalgia or how I feel about a particular villainthere will be a science behind this. We’re ranking them based on three categories. First is the character’s motivations. Are they really evil or are their intentions warranted? The second is how well a villain was written into the story and how well they were acted. And last and definitely the most important one is how threatening they were and how close they were to killing their Spider-man. I call it the sinister factor. All three categories are worth 5 points each.

Without further ado, let’s dive right into our sinister rankings of cinematic Spider-man super villains.

15| Felicia Hardy (The Black Cat), The Amazing Spider-man 2

Poor Felicity Jones. She was wasted in this. Why get an amazing actress with an incredible pedigree just to make her sit there.

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CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 1

Felicia Hardy just served as the executive assistant for both OsbornsNorman and Harry. There weren’t any hints that she would eventually turn into the nefarious Black Cat. She was there probably because she needed a job—just like the rest of us. Get that bread, I guess.

WRITING AND ACTING: 1

She literally had a couple of scenes here. Felicity Jones wasn’t able to flex any of her amazing acting chops.

SINISTER FACTOR: 1

If your definition of sinister is a woman who wears corporate attire and heels, then yes she is menacing. But if you’re normal like the rest of us, Felicia Hardy in this movie is the complete opposite of sinister.

The Black Cat is the worst cinematic Spider-man villain thus far, only getting a score of three out of the total 15.

14| The Gentleman (Gustav Fiers), The Amazing Spider-man 1 & 2

Who? Exactly. I don’t blame you if you don’t remember who he is. I didn’t. I only remembered him while I was doing some research. The Gentleman had brief appearances in both of Andrew Garfield’s movies. He’s the shadowy figure that appeared in the post-credits scene of TASM 1 and was shown working behind the scenes building the Sinister Six in TASM 2.

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CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 2

At least he was trying to build the Sinister Six. Why you might ask? I’m not sure either. Perhaps, world domination?

WRITING AND ACTING: 1

They were building up to a Sinister Six movie before plans were scrapped and the franchise was rebooted for the third time. He could have been a major player in the now-defunct Amazing Spider-man franchise. His presence was negligible and it’s because of the lousy storytelling.

SINISTER FACTOR: 1

He never even faced Peter Parker or Spider-man in person, but his plans working behind the shadows could have been promising. 

The Gentleman’s overall score is four, making him the second-worst Spider-man villain to appear on-screen.

13| The Rhino (Aleksei Sytsevich), The Amazing Spider-man 2

The Rhino’s true superpower in this one is being a quintessential Russian caricature. 

CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 1

Typical Russian mobster motivations. Nothing special to see here.

WRITING AND ACTING: 2

Paul Giamatti did the best he could with the laughable lines he was given. “I crush you, I kill you! I destroy you!” Really? C’mon, man.

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SINISTER FACTOR: 2

Things started to get interesting once he put on that Zoids-like Rhino suit that The Gentleman gave him. But unfortunately, the Rhino suit only appeared for the final couple of minutes, squaring off with Andrew Garfield’s Spider-man. 

The Rhino’s overall score is five. Pretty meh and could have been executed way better.

12| Scorpion (Mac Gargan), Spider-man Homecoming

Mac Gargan is a criminal who wanted to buy The Vulture’s (Adrian Toomes) modified Chitauri-weapons. Spider-man foiled his plans on the Staten Island Ferry and defeated him pretty easily.

CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 2

He was just a standard, run-of-the-mill criminal at first but he vows to take revenge on our favorite wall-crawling superhero as we see him talk to Toomes in the post-credits scene of Homecoming

WRITING AND ACTING: 2

A good set-up to a classic Spider-man villain. I’m excited to see more of Michael Mando as the Scorpion as he brings the right amount of grit that is expected from the character.

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SINISTER FACTOR: 2

There’s something about his look that makes you want to make a U-turn and walk away from him as fast as possible if you came across him on the street. The eyes? The scars? The tattoo? Here’s to hoping that we see Gargan in an actual Scorpion suit in the future.

The Scorpion gets a six according to our infallible rankings scale.

11| The Shocker (Jackson Brice and Herman Schultz), Spider-man Homecoming

Both Shockers served as The Vulture’s lackeys. Brice wore a modified mechanical gauntlet first worn by Crossbones as part of his Battlefield Suit. The shocker gauntlet was eventually passed on to Schultz when Toomes killed Brice.

CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 3

They both wanted to protect their Crew which provided their livelihoods. In this day and age, it’s hard to get a high-paying job. So who can blame them? However, Brice acted like a fool by recklessly using an Ultron gun in public and paid the price. Schultz definitely did a better job as the Shocker. 

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WRITING AND ACTING: 2

The script by Jon Watts et. al., did a decent job to portray both the Shockers. The acting of both Logan Marshall-Green (Brice) and Bokeem Woodbine were okay, too.

SINISTER FACTOR: 1

There was something missing with The Shocker’s character design. Maybe it was the mask? Aside from the gauntlet, they just look like regular dudes. Schultz gave Spider-man a couple of bone-crushing blows in their school parking battle but none sufficient enough to leave a lasting effect.

The Shocker also gets a six, same as The Scorpion, but ranks higher in this list due to the fact that there were two of them.

10| Electro (Max Dillon), The Amazing Spider-man 2

Yuck. What was Marc Webb thinking when he approved of the character design for Electro. Jamie Foxx in blue is never going to be a good look—unless that’s your kink. Thank god Marvel is changing his look in No Way Home.

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CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 1

He went rogue once he realized that Spider-man forgot his name. Enough said.

WRITING AND ACTING: 3

Major props to Jamie Foxx for not bursting out laughing every few seconds due to the horrible lines he was given. The writing sucked (who could forget the teeth gap scene?) but Jamie Foxx killed it in this role. I can’t wait to see him again as Electro—the proper yellow version.

SINISTER FACTOR: 3

Again, I have to credit Jamie Foxx for making an otherwise hilarious version of Electro into something decent. He gave Spider-man a good run for his money—or in this case, subway tokens. Only the true sickos can get that reference.

Electro gets a seven, for now, as we wait for his redemption.

9| Venom (Eddie Brock), Spider-man 3

Venom is, perhaps, one of the most iconic Spider-man villains of all time. He’s literally an evil, much better version of Spider-man. But the Venom from Spider-man 3 looked underwhelming. It was certainly less bulky than the comic book versions and had a weird-looking small mouth. The fact that Venom in this movie felt like it was hamfisted right at the last second didn’t help his case at all.

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CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 3

Symbiote Spider-man treated Eddie Brock like shit when he smashed his camera. On top of that, he lost his job because Peter Parker exposed his fraudulent behavior. Brock had separate beef with both Spider-man and Peter Parker.

WRITING AND ACTING: 1

Topher Grace was garbage in this and the story of Venom felt rushed. They could have made a tighter movie if they didn’t include Venom at all. 

SINISTER FACTOR: 4

Despite looking like a discount cosplay version, Venom actually did some damage. He’s what Spider-man was supposed to be—smarter, faster, and stronger. He could have defeated Spidey all by himself but teaming up with another villain in Sandman proved to be a better decision. That scene where he was choking Spider-man down on his neck while Sandman kept battering was really intense. Spider-man could have died or seriously been maimed if it weren’t for the face turn of the New Goblin.

Spider-man 3’s Venom gets an eight. So much wasted potential in this.

Tom Hardy’s Venom is not on this list as he’s not a Spider-man villain yet. We’ll have to wait and see where Let There Be Carnage’s post-credits will scene lead.

8| Green Goblin (Harry Osborn), The Amazing Spider-man 2

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Another case of “What the hell were they thinking?” when they made this one. Not only is this the worst-looking Goblin in cinematic history, but this is also the least fleshed out among the three.

CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 2

I’m trying so hard not to laugh while writing this but did they actually think that Harry wanting Spider-man’s blood to cure his Osborn disease would be a good enough motivation? Kudos for thinking outside the box, though.

WRITING AND ACTING: 1

Dane DeHaan did nothing to elevate this role. But personally, I don’t think even Leonardo DiCaprio could save this version of Green Goblin. Horrible writing.

SINISTER FACTOR: 5

The only thing that’s keeping this Green Goblin off the 15th spot is the fact that he contributed to the death of Gwen Stacy. That still hurts.

Harry Osborn’s Green Goblin gets an eight like Venom but ranks higher on this list for killing Gwen Stacy.

7| Lizard (Dr. Curtis Connors), The Amazing Spider-man 

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Coming in at the seventh spot is The Lizard. He is one of Spider-man’s most iconic villains, first appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man #6, which was published in November 1963.

CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 3

The Lizard’s motivations are pretty comic-accurate. Dr. Curtis Connors wanted to grow his lost limb by studying reptiles but the experimental treatment made him go mad and turn into a literal lizard-like monster.

WRITING AND ACTING: 3

The Lizard was a completely developed character here. He was well written and acted by Rhys Ifans.

SINISTER FACTOR: 3

The hideous character design of Lizard actually added to the sinister factor. A lot of people might not agree with this but not utilizing the lizard snout was a brilliant idea. He looked downright scary in this. That scene where Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy was hiding in the lab while the Lizard was lurking is straight off a horror movie. 

Overall, they did a really decent job with this portrayal of The Lizard and thus gets him a score of nine.

6| New Goblin (Harry Osborn), Spider-man 3

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They were teasing the heel-turn of James Franco’s Harry Osborn since the first Spider-man film. I was so excited when Harry broke the mirror to reveal his father, Norman’s, secret Goblin lair after the “Avenge me!” scene in Spider-man 2. When they finally delivered in the third installment, I was a little disappointed with the design. The New Goblin looked like a SWAT team member rather than the son of the Green Goblin. I still enjoyed this version compared to the Dane DeHaan one.

CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 5

Harry saw Spider-man bring home his dead father and wanted revenge right at that moment. What made his turn to the dark side more compelling is when he found out that Spider-man is his childhood friend Peter Parker. That inner turmoil is what makes this villain so great.

WRITING AND ACTING: 3

The writing here could have been way better. I am a firm advocate of not using amnesia as a plot device in any movies or television shows. Making Harry have amnesia is just lazy writing. James Franco was equally as great as Harry Osborn and as the New Goblin.

SINISTER FACTOR: 2

The costume could have been a little more Goblin-like, to be honest. He did more damage outside the suit than in it. The most damage he’s dealt Spider-man was when he forced Mary Jane to tell Peter that they were having an affair.

The New Goblin was a nuanced character and he was given three movies worth of character development. Him being a fully developed villain gets him the sixth spot with an overall score of 10.

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5| Vulture (Adrian Toomes), Spider-man Homecoming

The Vulture’s glow-up here is commendable. He looks amazing in this. One of the best character designs in the history of cinematic Spider-man. His literal bird costume in the comics is just plain silly and wouldn’t translate well in movies. Giving him a teched-out upgrade fits the vibe of the MCU while maintaining the lore. 

CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 4

Time and again we’ve seen that if you take a man’s job, he will break bad. Adrian Toomes’ felt slighted by the government that’s supposed to take care of blue-collar workers like him. So when the Tony Stark-backed Damage Control pushed his company out of the way he went full criminal.

WRITING AND ACTING: 4

Jon Watts and the other writers did a masterful job with Vulture’s character especially the plot twist. Who could’ve seen that coming? That was the perfect way to differentiate from the comics—respecting the lore but making it fresh. By making the Vulture the dad of Spider-man’s girl, they raised the stakes. Michael Keaton is amazing in this. He’s always amazing.

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SINISTER FACTOR: 3

Well yeah, he threatened to kill a 15-year-old kid but he didn’t actually do any significant damage to Spider-man. In fact, Spider-man handed his ass over to him while wearing the homemade suit.

Michael Keaton’s Vulture is amazing and it lands him on the top five with a score of 11. I can’t wait to see him again soon in Morbius.

4| Sandman (Flint Marko), Spider-man 3

First appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man #4, which was published in September 1963, Sandman is one of the household villains. He’s appeared in a lot of Sinister Six iterations, being one of the founding members. Sandman’s just a badass and it translated well onto the big screen. Spider-man 3’s version is one of the strongest villains in comic book movie history. I remember watching it in 2007 thinking, “How will he die?” He didn’t. Sandman is immortal.

CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 5

Everything he does is for his critically sick daughter. If that’s not enough motivation for you, then I don’t know what is.

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WRITING AND ACTING: 4

Sandman is one of the few highlights in an otherwise troubled third outing for Tobey Maguire’s Spider-man. Despite being overcrowded with two other villains, Sandman stood out—thanks to Thomas Haden Church’s performance. He should have been the only villain in this movie.

SINISTER FACTOR: 4

Sandman defeated Spider-man in all the times they’ve faced and could have definitely ended his life if the New Goblin’s pumpkin didn’t spoil the party. 

Sandman was a legitimate threat to Tobey’s Spider-man and will be a legitimate threat to Tom Holland’s version when No Way Home hits theaters. He gets a score of 12.

3| Mysterio (Quentin Beck), Spider-man Far From Home

We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Quentin Beck’s brilliant scheming mind. By leaking Spider-man’s secret identity to the public, he started us off on this wild multiverse ride. Apart from that, I think he’s got one of the coolest designs ever. The fishbowl helmet is iconic and gives an ominous look. 

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CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 3

I just don’t buy his beef with the late great Tony Stark. He felt like Stark turned his life’s work into a form of therapy and so he wanted retribution. C’mon, Beck, therapy is important.

WRITING AND ACTING: 5

I love everything about how Mysterio was written and acted. Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting is top-notch and really made some believe that he might actually be a good guy. That house of horrors illusion scene is one of the best Spider-man scenes of all time, bar none.

SINISTER FACTOR: 5

He literally opened up the Spider-verse and the possibility of a multiversal Sinister Six at the same time. All hail, Quentin Beck.

I wanted to make him number one on this list just for the fact that we might see Tobey and Andrew again as Spider-men. For that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you Mysterio for making No Way Home happen. He’s third all-time with 13 points.

2| Doc Ock (Dr. Otto Octavius), Spider-man 2

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There’s a reason why he was in the teaser trailer for No Way Home. Everyone and their grandmothers love Doc Ock from Spider-man 2, which is widely regarded as the best Spider-man movie of all time. The moment we saw Alfred Molina say, “Hello, Peter” on that trailer, we were reminded of a simpler and better time in our lives.

CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 5

“Nobel Prize, Otto.” Those were the words said to him by Harry Osborne. If it weren’t for the malfunctions, the world could’ve had renewable, sustainable energy which I believe would’ve won him that prestigious award. However, his brilliance is what also caused his downfall. Even though the mechanical arms controlled him for a while, he was still determined to finish what he started.

WRITING AND ACTING: 5

He’s a brilliant scientist, a loving husband, and a great mentor to Peter. Doctor Otto Octavius’ (seriously though, what’s your real name?) life is a beautiful tragedy.

SINISTER FACTOR: 4

I could’ve also given him a perfect score here but his slight redemption where he saved Peter and MJ takes a point off the sinister factor.

I love Alfred Molina as Doc Ock and I’m so excited to see him again soon. If you placed him at the top of your own list that’s okay with me, too. Doc Ock gets a score of 14.

1| Green Goblin (Norman Osborn), Spider-man

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The villain that started it all. My childhood. Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin is the quintessential cinematic Spider-man villain. The memes speak for themselves. His iconic lines such as, “Back to formula?”, “You know how much I’ve sacrificed?”, and “Out am I?” have permeated the fabric of space-time and will continue to exist long after we’re gone. 

CHARACTER MOTIVATION: 5

There isn’t just one motivation for Green Goblin and that’s what makes him the best. His nuanced and slow descension to evil makes him a ruthless adversary to Spider-man. 

WRITING AND ACTING: 5

Willem Dafoe is and always will be Green Goblin to me. No matter how many movies he continues to make, he will never shake off that Goblin look and that is a testament to how amazing he was in this movie.

SINISTER FACTOR: 5

He is definitely the scariest Spider-man villain to appear on the silver screen. His diabolic laugh, inner demons, and ominous demeanor, among others, make him the perfect version of Green Goblin. The costume could have been more comic accurate but it still worked nevertheless. Sam Raimi’s vision for the villain truly excelled. In case everyone forgot, Green Goblin also almost beat Spider-man to a pulp and that was the only time the wallcrawler looked so wounded and defeated. 

Willem Dafoe’s turn as the Green Goblin gets a perfect score of 15. Here’s to hoping that Green Goblin has a major role in No Way Home. The best cinematic Spider-man villain ever deserves more than just a cameo.

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MJ Pagaduan
MJ Pagaduan is the Content Producer of Esquire Philippines.
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