Is the Green Goblin Spidey’s greatest bad guy? Spider-Man movie villains ranked

Tom Percival
Doc Ock, Mysterio, and the Green Goblin lead our coverage of the best Spider-Man villains

From alien goo to rhino-shaped tanks and even a goblin or three, the Wallcrawler has no shortage of enemies, but who are the best Spider-Man villains?

Well, that’s a difficult question to answer. Spider-Man is widely considered to have the greatest rogues gallery in comic book history (although Batman fans may disagree), and a number of these sinister foes have appeared in various Spider-Man movies at this point. 

So, with that in mind, we’ve had to go through Peter Parker’s back catalog of films and determine which vile villain is the biggest pain in Spidey’s spandex-covered bottom (for now at least, as we don’t know what Spider-Man 4 will bring).

For the record, we’re only counting the mainline Spider-Man films in this list, so if they appeared in an Avengers Marvel movie or one of the SPUMC movies, they won’t make an appearance. Sorry, Thanos fans, but you can console yourself by knowing he’d have broken the top five. And if you want to know where Morbius would end up, then God have mercy on your soul. Anyway, here’s our definitive list of the best Spider-Man villains. 

16. The Elementals 

Mysterio stares at the Elementals from Spider-Man: Far From Home

What, you don’t remember The Elementals? How could you forget the illusions created by Mysterio to trick the world into thinking he’s a hero? Could it be because they’re deliberately disposable villains, designed exclusively so Spider-Man could punch something halfway through Far From Home? Well, that’s a rather cynical (and true) way of looking at these characters. We’re sure there are loads of … Molten Man… fans out there.

15. Venom/Eddie Brock

Eddie Brock, aka Venom in Spider-Man 3

A fusion of the embittered journalist and an alien symbiote, Venom is normally considered one of the top-tier Spider-Man villains. Unfortunately, the lethal protector’s only big-screen throwdown with the Wallcrawler in Spider-Man 3 left a lot to be desired. 

It’s a shame because the character’s essential ingredients were there, and Topher Grace does a decent job with the material he’s got. Still, this interpretation of Spidey’s stickiest enemy feels less like a fully developed character and more like an underbaked inconvenience Raimi was forced to include to sell a few action figures… much like I’ve been forced to include a guide to our Venom 3 release date page. 

14. The New Goblin/Harry Osborn

Harry Osborn as the New Goblin iN Spider-Man 3

The New Goblin represents everything wrong with big-screen adaptations of comic book characters. That’s a bold statement, but it’s true. This version of Harry Osborn lacks the bonkers theatricality of his comicbook counterpart and big-screen predecessor, instead opting for an all-black ‘tacticool’ look (did we learn nothing from the X-Men’s leather trousers?), which gives the New Goblin about as much flair as a brown paper bag. Seriously, whoever thought putting a Goblin in ski goggles and leather deserves a pumpkin bomb to the face. 

To be honest, though, this would probably have been forgivable if Harry had been given the chance to be a bad guy. Like the other Spider-Man 3 villains, though, he’s fighting for the limelight. So instead of a satisfying payoff to two films’ worth of build-up, Peter and Harry’s feud is resolved in a few quick scenes and with the help of a butler who may or may not be a ghost. Talk about a disappointing resolution to one of Raimi’s longest storylines. 

13. The Green Goblin/Harry Osborn

Harry Osborn as the Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

A lot of people hate the Green Goblin we got in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and they’re right to. Sorry, Dane DeHaan, you’re a nice guy, but there’s a reason you didn’t get brought back for No Way Home. This version of Harry is just irritating, and the scariest thing about him is the state of his teeth — which are so grim, they’d make a cosmetic dentist flinch.

With all said, at least Mark Webb had the spider’s eggs to commit to Harry turning into an actual goblin instead of sticking a motorcyclist on a surfboard and calling it a day. We’ve also got to give it to the Amazing version of the Green Goblin for doing something no other villain on this list has done; he actually managed to kill Peter’s love interest… sort of. 

12. The Rhino

The Rhino from Amazing Spider-Man 2

Before Paul Giamatti terrorized students at Barton Academy with bad grades and body odor, he battled the amazing Spider-Man in a rhino-shaped battle mech. OK, technically, it wasn’t Giamatti — he was playing Aleksei Sytsevich, a common thug turned supervillain Spidey embarrasses in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — but that’s not a fun way of describing a pretty dull character. Yes, Giamatti’s having a lot of fun in the role, chewing the scenery like a cocaine-addled beaver, but this version of The Rhino has all the complexity of a maze on a kid’s menu.

11. Shocker 1+2

Shocker from Spider-Man: Homecoming

You’re probably wondering what film Shocker is in. Well, there are actually two Shockers in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and they’ve got about 10 minutes of screen time combined, so why have I put them ahead of villains with actual presence in the movie? To prove how much I dislike anyone below the Shockers. 

10. Electro

Max Dillon, aka Electro, in Spider-Man: No Way Home

Arguably, Spider-Man’s deadliest villain, Max Dillon, aka Electro (Jamie Foxx), was transformed into living lightning when he fell into a vat of genetically engineered electric eels. Rather than use this great power for good, Max uses his new abilities to tear New York apart, bringing him into conflict with the Wallcrawler.

While Electro isn’t as well-developed as some Spider-Man villains, there’s definitely a degree of pathos to his story that elevates him above his sinister contemporaries, and it’s undeniable that Foxx’s charisma helps Dillon shine. That said, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 spreads itself thinner than Dillon’s hairline, crowbarring too many villains and plots into the film, and as a result, Electro lacks any real spark. 

9. The Lizard

Doctor Curt Connors, aka the Lizard from the Amazing S.pider-Man

The best villain in the Amazing Spider-Man duology, this version of Curt Connors, aka The Lizard, deliberately borrows from the toolkit that made Raimi’s baddies so brilliant. Like Otto and Norman, he’s a mentor/father figure who’s driven to villainy by a stroke of bad luck in the laboratory. 

So, what separates The Lizard from his predecessors? Well, aside from looking like the twisted offspring of Lord Voldemort and a dinosaur, not a lot, I’m afraid. The reprehensible reptile’s kind of just a blurry photocopy of villains that came before him. Still, Rhys Ifhans does a good job of giving the character some depth, and his evil scheme to turn other people into lizard-human hybrids is deliciously silly. 

8. Sandman

Flint Marko, aka The Sandman from Spider-Man 3.

Sandman, aka Flint Marko, is a really underrated Spider-Man villain with a really cool and unique power set, as well as a rich and compelling backstory. While the decision to tie him into Uncle Ben’s murder was a weird one, Flint gets the best scene in Spider-Man 3, when he pulls his body together after being atomized, and we actually know why he became a criminal: he wants money to help his sick daughter.

Unfortunately, like all the villains in Spider-Man 3, Sandman just doesn’t get the time in the spotlight. He basically vanishes from the film in the second act to give us scenes of Peter Parker dancing (shudder) before teaming up with Venom for the final act for reasons that are never adequately explained. What makes this more irritating than sand in your shoe is that it’s easy to tell when watching Spider-Man 3 that Raimi clearly cared about the character; he shares the same sympathetic characterization as Otto and Norman, and it really makes you wonder what could have been if producers hadn’t demanded Venom’s inclusion. 

7. Kingpin

Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin, from Into the Spider-Verse.

We’ve ranked The Kingpin from Into The Spider-Verse so highly because this crime lord does something no other villain in the history of Marvel movies has ever done. He kills the hero… it’s just bad luck for him that nature abhors a vacuum. So, no sooner has he killed one version of the Wallcrawler than a new one shows up, swiftly followed by five other Spider-people from across the Spider-Verse (no, that’s the sequel). 

Bolstering his villainous credentials is the scope of his plans. He wants to steal another version of his wife and son from another dimension, and he doesn’t care what dimension he has to destroy to make that happen. Despite his omnicidal ambitions, we have to hand it to Liev Schreiber’s performance. He (as well as the animators who brought Kingpin to life) does a great job of keeping the Kingpin of Crime sympathetic. 

6. Spot

The Spot fights Miles Morales in Across the Spider-Verse.

Miles Morales’s nemesis (even if Miles might not agree), Spot, is one of the goofier characters on this list but also probably the most dangerous. With the power to create portals to anywhere and everywhere (all at once), The Spot isn’t just a threat to Miles but to the entire multiverse. Not bad for a character who got his start after being bonked on the head by a bagel and who’s best known in the comics for helping to form the Legion of Losers. 

While his powers make him a force to be reckoned with, it’s not why he’s broken into the top 10 of this list. No, what makes Spot such a great villain is his well-developed story arc. In less than 30 minutes of screen time (if that), Spot goes from being a sympathetic joke of a character to a motivated menace willing to tear the multiverse apart to get revenge on Miles without it feeling forced. We’re excited to see more of him whenever Beyond the Spider-Verse hits cinemas, and who knows? Maybe he’ll even move up a spot or two… geddit?

5. Prowler

Aaron Davies, aka The Prowler from Into the Spider-Verse.

Miles’ wayward uncle Aaron, better known as The Prowler, is one of the most complex and realistic characters in the Spider-Verse films. Sure, he’s a dangerous dude who wears a pair of claws that’d make Wolverine jealous, and he does some pretty horrendous stuff, but he’s not all bad. Notably, he’s the only person in the entire film who encourages Miles to embrace who he wants to be, not who others think he should be. 

4. Mysterio

Quentin Beck, Aka Mysterio from Spider-Man: Far From Home

A master of the mystic arts from an alternate Earth, Mysterio traveled to our planet to help Spider-Man put the old wap-bam-boom, alakazam, on The Elementals. Except, of course, this was all complete hogwash. Mysterio was, in fact, a disgruntled former employee of Tony Stark who was posing as a hero in the hopes of gaining access to his old boss’s tech and getting famous. 

A complete scumbag, Mysterio lacks any redeeming qualities and can only be trusted to do what’s best for himself. All in all, there’s as much substance to this self-involved charlatan as his illusions, yet that’s what makes him so much fun. He’s just bad to the bone and it’s fun to see this fiend get the better of Spider-Man. It helps, of course, that he’s played by Jake Gyllenhaal — an actor with form when it comes to playing a ghoulish narcissist (Nightcrawler fans unite) — who keeps the character from feeling as hollow as his fishbowl helmet.

3. Vulture

Adrian Toomes, aka The Vulture from Spider-Man: Homecoming

In the comics, The Vulture is an octagenarian in a green onesie who’s inexplicably a major threat to Spider-Man. Kevin Feige and the Homecoming team, rather wisely, decided that the times were changing and the Vulture needed to change with them, reimagining Adrian Toomes as a middle-aged industrial scavenger who uses his wings to pull off heists. 

It’s a brilliant reinvention that works well with the MCU’s more ‘tech’ focussed Web-Head, but the real reason this new take on Spidey’s oldest enemy works is because of Michael Keaton. Anyone who’s seen Batman knows how easily Keaton can flip between unadulterated charm and unhinged menace, and there are few scenes in modern cinema as chilling as the moment Adrian realizes Spider-Man’s secret identity while Peter is sitting in the back of his car. 

2. Green Goblin/Norman Osborn

Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin from Spider-Man

Norman Osborn in second place? It’s not fair. Do you know how much he’s sacrificed? In all seriousness, the Green Goblin is widely considered Spider-Man’s nemesis, and Norman’s big screen appearances have been bloody terrifying. In Raimi’s first Spider-Man film, he’s a dangerous madman who’s willing to target Peter’s loved ones to get what he wants, but it’s not until No Way Home that we see just how out of his mind Gobby truly is. 

He’s a lunatic who revels in causing misery and pain, gleefully murdering Aunt May, and even when Peter seems to get the better of him physically, he just laughs it off. What makes this so heartbreaking, though, is that big-screen Norman is a genuinely paternal figure who admires both the Peters he meets for their scientific brilliance. 

We only see shades of this before it’s subsumed by the Goblin, but adds such a poignant level of tragedy to the character. Credit where it’s due; that’s all down to Willem Dafoe’s devilish face and metamorphic acting abilities. All that said, he’s still not the best Spider-Man villain. No, that title belongs to someone with the power of the sun in the palm of his hand. 

1. Doctor Octopus

Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man 2.

Spider-Man’s greatest villain and easily the most tragic, Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus, is a dark reflection of Peter Parker – and not in the on-the-nose way Venom is. Peter and Otto are both brilliant men whose lives are changed forever by a lab accident that robs them of the opportunity to use their brilliance. The difference is that while Peter uses his great power responsibly, Otto is blinded by his own arrogance (and the AI controlling his powerful tentacles) and becomes, in his own words, “a monster.”

Beyond the easily identifiable parallels (we didn’t even mention them both taking the name of an eight-legged animal), what helps Otto’s case is that he’s the baddie in the best live-action Spider-Man film, Spider-Man 2. Everything in Raimi’s sophomore Spidey film is brilliant, from the exciting plot, unforgettable action (the train fight is arguably one of the best set pieces in the genre), and Danny Elfman’s sweeping score.

Still, that’s all window dressing because what makes Doc Ock the greatest supervillain in cinematic history — yes, I include Heath Ledger’s Joker in that — is Alfred Molina’s nuanced performance, which manages to walk a fine line between deliberately hammy and brilliantly sympathetic. 

If you love Marvel as much as we do, then check out our guide to all the upcoming Marvel movies, and we’ve also got all the details on Deadpool 3 and Captain America 4. That’s not all, as we’ve also got an article unpicking the complex timeline of the X-Men movies.

This list was written to celebrate HeroFest, a week championing all things superheroic. Check out the full HeroFest schedule here.

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