Making the Hard Decisions for You: Who is the best Spider-Man and Peter Parker?

Molly Kaplow, Sentry Reporter

Grossing $1 billion 12 days after its release, Spider-Man: No Way Home has proven to be a saving grace for theaters affected by the pandemic. The film stars Tom Holland and includes cameos from Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire, both of whom played Spider-Man in previous Sony adaptations of the popular superhero. The union of the three Spider-men has allowed the audience to get a closer comparison of each actor’s interpretation of the character, begging the question: Who is the best Spider-Man?  

Tobey Maguire set the precedent for the character, as he played Spider-Man first among the three actors. Taking on the role in 2002, his performance set the stage for Garfield and Holland. His ability to organically shoot webs from his wrists sets him apart from the other Spider-men, who use genetically engineered webs. This skill makes Maguire’s version of the superhero seem more fictitious, adding to the characteristics that make Spider-Man the marvel that he is. While he will always have a special place in the hearts of Spider-Man fans, his performance was the least entertaining in comparison to the other two actors. 

Though Maguire captures the basic characteristics of Spider-Man, highlighting both intelligence and courage, he lacks the comedic aspect that attracts many to the character. The sarcastic and humorous tones in the delivery of Maguire’s lines fall short in comparison to Garfield and Holland’s. Spider-Man’s comicality is one of his best features, making Maguire’s humor-deficiency a major fault in his interpretation of the character. 

Andrew Garfield, the second actor to play the superhero, takes the cake for the best Spider-Man. Playing the character with charisma, wit and confidence, he fits all the criteria. In Spider-Man: No Way Home, Garfield stands out among Maguire and Holland in every scene they share together. He brings an emotional side to the superhero, as he feels remorse and sorrow over the death of Gwen Stacy, his love interest portrayed by Emma Stone in both The Amazing Spider-Man films. Garfield steps out of his comfort zone to express the pain Spider-Man carries with him, creating a connection between the character and the audience. 

Throughout The Amazing Spider-Man films, Garfield remains calm and collected, despite the chaotic circumstances he finds himself in. He speaks in a sarcastic tone, making sure to crack jokes while fighting to save the world from imminent peril. Garfield’s portrayal of Spider-Man highlights the fact that the character is a high school student who accidentally became a superhero. He focuses on the nerdy and charismatic sides of Peter Parker and incorporates them into his performance as Spider-Man. He creates a connection between Parker and his heroic second identity, whereas Maguire and Holland make the two seem like completely separate characters. Garfield’s confidence as Spider-Man makes it obvious that he feels a deeper sense of comfort with the character than do the other actors. 

Tom Holland, the most recent actor to take on the role of Spider-Man, comes in as a close second to Garfield. Holland’s portrayal of the character is awe-inspiring; however, due to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) interpretation of the character, he does not earn the title of the best Spider-Man. In the MCU movies, Spider-Man is often accompanied by the Avengers, which takes away from the individuality of the character. Holland is still able to capture the redeeming qualities of the superhero, specifically his innocence and purity, but his character often seems underdeveloped when sharing scenes with the Avengers, including Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man or Chris Evans as Captain America. 

The MCU version of Spider-Man strips the character of the reputation he is given in the comic books. With his high-tech suit and ability to travel into space, he is rid of his title of the “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.” Holland plays the character with confidence and naivete, both of which add admirability to the hero. Unfortunately, due to the MCU storylines, it is hard to see Spider-Man as anything other than Iron Man Jr. 

Though second to Garfield, Holland earns the title of the greatest Peter Parker. The most obvious advantage he has over the other two actors is his closeness in age to the character. Because Parker’s young age is mentioned repeatedly throughout all of the Spider-Man films, it is important that the actor fits the look of a high school student. Holland was 19 years old, just two years older than Parker, in his first appearance in the MCU in Captain America: Civil War. Maguire and Garfield first played the role when they were 26 and 27, respectively. 

A large part of Spider-Man’s success is attributed to his Aunt May, who becomes his primary caretaker after his parents’ death. The connection between Peter and May is a vital part of the character, as she guides him through the trials and tribulations of both high school and, after he reveals his identity to her, saving the world. Holland’s Peter Parker has the closest bond with May, which is made obvious throughout all three MCU Spider-Man films. He keeps her in the loop as much as he can, showing that she is someone he greatly trusts. She is always the first person he contacts when faced with danger, making sure she is safe and sound. While it is made clear throughout the Sony adaptations of Spider-Man that losing a loved one is all part of the hero’s quest, it took many by surprise to witness Aunt May’s death in Spider-Man: No Way Home

As part of the MCU, Holland’s Peter Parker appears in multiple movies other than just the three Spider-Man films. He was first seen in 2016 in Captain America: Civil War after Tony Stark recruits him to fight in the war against Captain America. When he is first introduced, he is an intelligent yet insecure high school student who was found by Tony through a viral video. Now six movies into the MCU, the audience has gotten to grow with Peter and watch his transition from a confused teenager to the superhero everyone knows and loves. In the Maguire and Garfield films, Peter’s storyline is much more short-lived, ridding the audience of the experience they get with Holland’s character. Not only is it apparent how much Peter Parker has changed, but it is easy to see how Holland becomes more and more comfortable taking on the role of Spider-Man with each movie. 

There is no doubt that Maguire, Garfield and Holland are among the most qualified actors of this generation to take on the opportunity to play one of the most famous superheroes in the world. To have to rank the three means having to cast aside the popular belief that each actor’s performance is incomparable. The reunion of the three in Spider-Man: No Way Home was long-awaited by many and it is safe to say that it did not disappoint. While it is uncertain what will happen in the next chapter of Spider-Man’s journey in the MCU, fans are hopeful that this will not be the last of the three Spider-men sharing the big screen.