Who is the best live-action Spider-Man of all time?

July 03, 2017

 So far a mere five actors have played live-action versions of Spider-Man. 

Some are good, some are bad, some are just kind of there. Here they are, in ascending order of awesomeness.

Spidey on "the Electric Company"

5. Danny Seagren

The virtually anonymous actor who played Spidey as a silently spelling superhero on "The Electric Company” skits “Spidey Super Stories.” (Man, that’s a lot of alliteration.) 

PRO: I always thought the costume was pretty good, and, frankly, if you were 3 to 6 years old in the mid/late 1970s, this Spidey was just the right titration of weird, scary and educational

CON: Per the theme song, “Nobody knows who you aaaaaare!” 

Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker, looking a little confused

4.Nicholas Hammond

This gent, formerly best known as Friedrich von Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” was 27 when he starred in the TV-movie pilot for “The Amazing Spider-Man,” a mere 13 episodes of which aired between September 1977 and July 1979. (In fairness, he played Peter Parker -- a stuntman played Spidey in costume, and it never looked like he could actually see out of the mask). 

It had a spectacular theme song, a slice of 1970s funk that is ripe for sampling, and a similarly good score. 

PROS: This was Spidey as a full-grown adult, a struggling 27-year-old grad student trying to moonlight as a newspaper photographer. Hammond always had this exhausted grad student vibe that worked oddly well. And there was a certain ground-level, regular-guy feel to the character that was absent other takes.

CONS: Well, the show just wasn’t all that good. It never had the campiness of 1966’s “Batman”(or 1977’s “Wonder Woman”), nor did it have the angst of “The Incredible Hulk.” As a result, Hammond’s Parker’s shaggy-haired 20-something was a little dull. And it ignored the whole Uncle Ben’s death thing completely, making Parker’s motivations a little nonexistent outside of, “Hey, what if I stopped muggers or something?”

3. Tobey Maguire

YEAH, I SAID IT. The man who played Spidey in the first three “Spider-Man” movies is our third-best Spider-Man

PROS: He was there first. He got to define the character on screen. He looked good in glasses. Sam Raimi directed him. The first film was massively popular and spawned two popular sequels.

CONS: By 2003, Maguire was a movie star, a known quantity. And you can’t blame Sony for wanting a movie star, but movie stars bring a certain amount of baggage -- Maguire, for example, was a tabloid fixture as a close pal of Leonardo DiCaprio. The best live-action superheroes (Christopher Reeve’s Superman, for example) are often actors little-known by the public. (Of course, the flip side is that a lesser-known actor runs the risk of becoming typecast.) 

Take another look at the three Spidey movies he was in -- behind Maguire’s puppy dog eyes, in theory perfect for Parker, there is a smugness lurking in every scene, save for Uncle Ben’s death. Peter Parker is a lot of things, but smug isn’t one of them. He gets to be smug under the mask, but not in person. (Somewhat famously, Maguire was nearly replaced after the first film by Jake Gyllenhaal, which might have been, well, amazing.)

Also, organic webshooters suck.

2. Andrew Garfield

The one nobody except me seems to like all that much. Garfield’s two “Spider-Man” films were the last before the franchise rebooted itself into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

PROS: If Maguire’s prototype is the Spider-Man of Spidey co-creator Steve Ditko, Garfield is the Spider-Man of artist John Romita: a little slicker, a little more modern and a lot mopier. Spider-Man in skinny jeans, if you will -- less awkward geek than skate-boarding outsider and hard-core science obsessive. And, even if the second Garfield film was a narrative mess, his chemistry with then-girlfriend Emma Stone was stronger than anything between Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, and his angst factor was strong.

CONS: He seemed a bit old for the part, and audiences never totally warmed up to him. A genuinely messy second film didn’t help, either. 

1. Tom Holland

Introduced in “Captain America: Civil War” and now in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Holland is the best live-action Spider-Man of our lifetimes, bar none.

PROS: Even without glasses, Holland’s vibe is pure Ditko-era Spider-Man. He actually looks like a 15 or 16 year old. His vibe is wide-eyed but not stupid. He is excited by his powers and what they mean, but Holland never looks like he is winking at the camera or that the material is a novelty that is beneath him. He is a wise-acre under the mask, but he never seems like a jerk.

CONS: None so far.

RELATED: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the best Spidey movie in years.