The Evolution of Spider-Man on the Big Screen

Mar 10, 2022

2022 marks 60 years since Spider-Man sprung from the minds of artist Steve Ditko and writer Stan Lee onto the pages of the comic books published by Marvel Comics. What started off as a filler story for a canceled anthology series has since grown into a billion-dollar enterprise, with the famous web-slinger becoming one of the most enduring icons of modern mythology. 

Peter Parker has been the lead in multiple comic book series, the star of his own movies, TV series, and video games, and was even adapted for the Japanese market in a superhero show known as Supaidā-Man. He was first portrayed on television by Nicholas Hammond in 1977. Since then, three different actors—Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland—have donned the spider-suit and fought villains on the big screen, each offering a decidedly different spin on the friendly neighborhood hero. 

The constant evolution of Peter Parker is fuelled by the fact that fans just can’t get enough of him, which is why Spiderman is a worldwide hit also offered to fans in the form of alternate versions like miles morales as well as incredible merch, such as action figures and spiderman posters too!

But exactly how much has Spider-Man changed throughout his live-action films, and what have the past 60 years looked like for him? Climb on, and let’s untangle this together!

Warning: There are spoilers for all nine Spider-Man movies ahead. But if you haven’t seen those by now, we don’t really know what to tell you.

Spider-Man 1 (2002) by Sam Raimi

Spider-Man 1 movie poster

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Sam Raimi brought the wall-crawler to the big screen in 2002, with Tobey Maguire starring as Peter Parker. The movie is set in modern-day New York City and follows the titular character’s decision to become a crime-fighting superhero after being bitten by a genetically engineered super spider, facing the villainous Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) in the process. The movie established Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) as Peter’s love interest.

Maguire’s Parker wears a red ski mask and a long sleeve with a spray-painted black spider logo when he fights in a cage match, and later when he pursues his uncle’s killer. Eventually, he upgrades to a skin-tight suit with raised-gray webbing and triangle-shaped eyes. Unlike in other film series, Raimi’s Spider-Man produces organic webs from his wrists instead of relying on mechanical web-shooters. Despite the changes over the years, every single spiderman movie has given us some cool spidey suits, which we have to give a nod to marvel for. They’ve definitely drawn us into every marvel film with their awesome character costumes which look great on every marvel movie poster.

Spider-Man 2 (2004) by Sam Raimi

Spider-Man 2 movie poster

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The second installment in the Raimi series is widely regarded as one of the greatest superhero films ever made. In this movie, Peter Parker is trying to balance his private life and his duties as Spider-Man. He clashes with the terrifying Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), a metal-tentacled cyborg, who kidnaps Mary Jane. During the final battle, she learns Spider-Man’s identity and resolves to be with Peter regardless.

Even though Peter Parker’s superhero costume took a beating in Spider-Man 1, it reappears in Spider-Man 2, this time with a slightly larger and differently shaped spider emblem. While the red portions of the suit are lighter and the blue portions are darker, the overall design remains unchanged.  

Spider-Man 3 (2007) by Sam Raimi

Spider-Man 3 movie poster

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In the third and final episode of the trilogy, Maguire’s Spider-Man has to contend with three new villains: New Goblin (James Franco), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), and Venom (Topher Grace). Amidst this, his relationship with Mary Jane begins to strain, in part because of the black alien goo that affixes itself to his suit changing his personality. The movie ends with Peter getting rid of the symbiote and reuniting with Mary Jane. 

In Spider-Man 3, the original Spidey uniform is enhanced by a parasitic creature from space. It latches onto Peter, turning his suit pitch-black and modifying his emblem, which looks slightly more aggressive with the front legs curled in at more of an angle on the chest and back. When the web-slinger separates himself from the alien, he returns to the red-and-blue color scheme of his standard outfit.

The Amazing Spider-Man 1 (2012) by Marc Webb

The Amazing Spider-Man 1 movie poster

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Following the end of Raimi’s trilogy, the series was rebooted with Andrew Garfield taking over the role of the superhero and Emma Stone playing the love interest Gwen Stacy. Garfield’s version of the web-slinger dives head-first into Peter Parker’s personal history as he investigates the Oscorp conspiracy surrounding his father’s sudden death. The superhero has to battle Doctor Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), once Richard Parker’s friend, now a violent humanoid reptile known as the Lizard. 

Andrew Garfield first dons a red mask and sunglasses to fight criminals, then creates a textured bodysuit with thin yellow lenses (likely the biggest criticism fans had with the suit). The spider symbol on his chest and back gets a redesign, with the lower legs of the spider extending right up to the costume’s belt. He also has wrist-mounted web-shooters that release webs at the flick of a hand. 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) by Marc Webb

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie poster

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In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker embraces being a superhero with the rise of a new villain, Electro (Jamie Foxx), and a friend turned foe Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). Upon discovering that Spider-Man is really Peter, Osborn drops Gwen Stacy through the top of a clock tower, killing her. Following the death of his girlfriend, Peter nearly gives up being Spider-Man but returns to fight Rhino after watching a recording of Gwen’s graduation speech.

In the sequel, Peter wears a new suit he and Gwen designed together. To address the complaints that Marvel fans had with its predecessor, the creators upgraded the suit with more prominent eyes. They also made the lenses noticeably whiter, rectifying The Amazing Spider-Man’s 1 mistake of coloring them yellow. 

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) by Jon Watts

Spider-Man: Homecoming movie poster

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Tom Holland made his debut as Spider-Man in 2017 Spider-Man Homecoming. This movie is set immediately after Captain America: Civil War with 15-year-old Peter Parker working as an intern for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Impatient for the chance to prove himself to his mentor, he strikes out on his own to tackle the bad guys. However, after a run-in with the Vulture (Michael Keaton), he learns the hard way that he may not yet be ready to step into the superhero’s shoes.

Holland’s Peter doesn’t make his own suit, as has been tradition. Instead, he gets a technologically advanced version of the uniform from Tony Stark. The Stark suit has animated eyes, a retractable wing-suit, a hidden parachute, a flying drone emblem, and special webbing abilities. When Stark takes it back, Parker instead wears a sleeveless hoodie and a red mask with black goggles to fight against the Vulture.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) by Jon Watts

Spider-Man: Far From Home movie poster

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Holland returns in the 2019 sequel Spider-Man Far From Home. While still mourning the loss of Tony Stark, Peter travels to Europe on summer vacation with his friend Ned and his crush Michelle “MJ” Jones-Watson (Zendaya). His trip is cut short when Nick Fury shows up and asks him to step up against the creatures known as the Elementals, alongside a newly arrived hero, Mysterio (Jack Gyllenhaal).

Since Far From Home picks up where Avengers: Endgame left off, Peter Parker’s main costume is the metallic Iron Spider suit featuring a bevy of electronic upgrades and a gold trim. Other suits that appear in this episode are the original Stark suit, a SHIELD stealth suit, and a new red-and-black suit created by Peter using Tony Stark’s technology prior to battling Mysterio. 

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) by Jon Watts

Spider-Man: No Way Home movie poster

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Spider-Man: No Way Home follows the events from Far From Home and sees Parker’s secret identity revealed to the whole world by Mysterio. Desperate, Peter turns to Doctor Strange, who casts a spell intended to erase the knowledge that he is Spider-Man from everyone’s memory. However, the spell goes sideways, opening the multiverse, bringing in three generations of Spider-Men together, along with some of their greatest rogues from the pre-MCU franchises. 

Spider-Man: No Way Home features as many as seven different Spider-Man suits—more than any other Spider-Man movie! However, Holland’s primary outfit is the red-and-black suit created in Spider-Man: Far From Home with leftover Stark tech. Maguire and Garfield, who reprise their roles as Peter Parker, wear their respective spider uniforms, each a little more tailored to the times and the particular actor wearing it.

It’s a Wrap! 

As you can see, the good old Web-Head has evolved a great deal over two decades of cinematic history, sporting many different looks through the years. Let us know in the comments what your favorite on-screen Spider-Man suit is and why! 

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