5. The Lizard (The Amazing Spider-Man)
One of the failings of Sam Raimi’s trilogy is how it never capitalized on the presence of Dylan Baker’s Curt Connors by showing him become The Lizard. He was name dropped in Spider-Man, introduced in Spider-Man 2 and played a supporting role in Spider-Man 3, but was never elevated to his supervillain status until The Amazing Spider-Man reboot.
The film follows Connors’ transformation, but adds a new wrinkle that he worked with Peter’s father at Oscorp on something very mysterious and deadly (deleted scenes showed their work was related to Peter’s origin as Spider-Man). Played by Rhys Ifans, he came across as a well-meaning man and scientist, though without the added benefit of the type of relationship in Raimi’s films, Connors’ turn to the Lizard didn’t feel nearly as earned as it should have been.
It also replayed many of the same beats as Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2: well-meaning scientist creates something great, his mind is warped by said creation, risks destroying the city to achieve his goal, ultimately turns good again. There wasn’t quite enough to make the Lizard stand apart from Doc Ock or the other villains.
4. Electro (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
The final villain from Amazing Spider-Man 2, and the main one at that, was Jamie Foxx’s Electro. An awkward loner in New York, Max Dillon was a very intelligent guy who worked at Oscorp, but was considered very weird and claimed he was best friends with Spidey after the wall-crawler saved his life. After getting in accident, he gained electric based powers and wreaked havoc on New York for all those who had wronged him.
Electro’s arc isn’t the most creative since he’s just a loner turned homicidal maniac with no deeper psyche or goal, but Foxx plays him pretty well. He sells the awkwardness and loneliness of the character as well as Electro’s danger. His turn to evil might be fast though, as his feelings on Spider-Man shift fairly quickly. He still gives audiences one of the best set pieces in the Spider-Man films as the pair battle it out in Times Square and the effects on him are good for the most part, even if it comes across a little too much like Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan at times.
3. Sandman (Spider-Man 3)
One of the big problems with Spider-Man 3 was how it was crammed three villains into its story, all of whom have separate stories and motivations that don’t really come together in any meaningful way. That said, Thomas Haden Church’s Flint Marco, a.k.a. Sandman, may be the main villain of the film.
Marco escapes from jail and ends up in a weird sand experiment that allows him to morph his size and makes him close to indestructible, but Spider-Man’s fight with Sandman intensifies when he discovers the new supervillain is the man truly responsible for killing Uncle Ben. Sandman eventually teams up with Venom to kill Spidey in the film’s climax, but turns over a new leaf after being forgiven by Peter.
Sandman’s real motivation was to stop his daughter’s sickness, turning to a life of crime in order to pay for her medical bills and was filled with regret over Uncle Ben’s death. Its not a bad arc on paper, but somewhat repeats the same arc as Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2 as a villain with a heart of gold and reforming in the end. Raimi has to be given credit, at least, for deciding to make a film around what some consider to be a C-list villain, but its also a reason why Spider-Man 3 suffers as the film can never choose between who the actual main villain is.
2. Green Goblin (Spider-Man)
The very first villain to appear in the Spider-Man films, Norman Osborn became the Green Goblin after he took an experimental serum that heightened his strength and senses and created a split personality within him. Played by Willem Dafoe, Goblin tortured Spider-Man both physically and psychologically. You’d think the added fact that Norman viewed Peter as a second son would complicate things, but it didn’t really as his attacks against Spider-Man only grew tenfold.
Dafoe gave a good performance as Goblin, though hammed it up a lot in certain scenes. There’s definitely a cheesy element to his performance, but he made a clear distinction between the personalities of Norman and Goblin, giving each one their own distinctive facial tics, speech patterns and mannerisms. He also did a good job showing just how much Norman was losing control of this battle.
That’s one change from the comics that Raimi significantly made: whereas Osborn in the comics was always a rather cold man and father, here he’s actually trying to look out for Harry even if some of the things he says tend to be a bit harsh. He’s a relatively good man rather than the scheming, corrupt one from the Marvel universe, but this interpretation still holds up. The only real drawback is the suit that looks like a discard from Mighty Morphing Power Rangers; it looked a bit silly then and hasn’t aged all that well.
1. Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man 2)
Despite it being over 10 years old, Spider-Man 2 is still regarded as one of the best superhero movies ever made. Its no small wonder then that it should feature the best Spider-Man villain brought to film in Doctor Octopus, or Doc Ock. Played by Alfred Molina, Doc Ock was both a physical and intellectual match for Spider-Man and was even a brief mentor to Peter Parker before his turn to villainy.
There is a lot to be said for Molina’s performance. At the start of the film he sells the character’s charisma and good nature, forming a nice bond with Peter, but once he becomes Doc Ock he relishes in his villainy. You really do feel sympathy for him as he suffers a personal and professional tragedy and somewhat struggles against the A.I. taking control of his mind. He also sells Ock’s redemption well as he ultimately overcomes the A.I. and helps save New York from his creation.
Its not just Molina’s acting that elevates Doc Ock’s status, though. A lot of work went into Ock’s mechanical arms using a mixture of animatronics, puppetry and CGI, all perfectly blending into each other so you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. Certain scenes, such as the fights, you can obviously tell is CG, but when Ock is just standing still or the arms reach out to grab something, its hard to tell and the effects, while aged, still hold up for the most part.
Speaking of the fights, Doc Ock gave audiences one of the best scenes put to superhero screens as Spider-Man and Ock fight atop a moving train through New York. It’s a spectacular (no pun intended) and intense sequence that perfectly shows just how capable and dangerous Ock can be, but also delivers everything you’d want from Spidey’s arsenal of tricks. For all these reasons, Doc Ock definitely takes the top spot as the best cinematic Spider-Man villain so far.
How would you rank the Spider-Man villains? And where would Michael Keaton’s Vulture fit into this list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…