Every version of Spider-Man ranked from worst to best

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the sixth theatrical Spider-Man movie, starring the third live-action Spider-Man since 2002. And that barely even begins to scratch the surface of how many Spider-Men have appeared onscreen over the years. The original animated series launched 50 years ago in 1967, and he's never really stopped being on TV since, even after he made the jump to movies.

Some versions of Spider-Man make him look like a square-jawed hero, while others accentuate his youth and inexperience. He's been portrayed as both an adult and a teenager; some versions fight everyday criminals, others battle supervillains, and at least one used a giant robot to ward off alien invaders.

There's plenty of Spider-Men to get through, so here's a look at the major versions of Spider-Man from TV and movies—and the actors who played them—ranked from worst to best.

'70s Live Action Spider-Man – Nicholas Hammond

It isn't Nicholas Hammond's fault that nobody remembers the short-lived Amazing Spider-Man TV show from the late 1970s. He just didn't have much to work with: there were no supervillains, no supporting cast from the comics (except J. Jonah Jameson and a single appearance by Aunt May), and Hammond never looked, talked, or moved like anything other than a random guy in Spider-Man cosplay. Amazing Spider-Man aired on CBS alongside The Incredible Hulk, but that show turned out to be a hit that defined the character for years, while this one would only ever be a footnote in Spider-Man's history.

Spider-Man Unlimited – Rino Romano

Spider-Man Unlimited was basically an effort to extend the '90s animated series past its sell-by date by recasting and sending Spider-Man to an alternate Earth where things are "darker." Rino Romano never seemed to be doing much as Spider-Man besides trying to sound like Christopher Daniel Barnes, who preceded him in the role. The costume, derived from the Spider-Man 2099 comics, is memorable, but it probably would have worked even better if they'd just made a Spider-Man 2099 cartoon.

'60s Animated Spider-Man – Paul Soles

Paul Soles as Spider-Man sounds the way 1960s cartoon viewers expected a superhero to sound—which means his voice is a little deeper and more Superman-like than it really should be. Soles does better work as Peter Parker, but it's clear that this first Spider-Man cartoon, which ran from 1967 to 1970, wasn't very interested in characterization, and considering Spider-Man had only existed for four years when the show started, relatively few viewers had a clear idea of just what Spider-Man should be like, and what makes him special. This Spider-Man is best remembered today as the star of many animated GIFs.

1981 Animated Spider-Man

The 1981 Spider-Man animated series wasn't bad by any means. The animation was solid for the time, and it brought in a lot of Spider-villains from the comics who'd never gotten TV time before. Ted Schwartz as Spider-Man also did good work in the role, bringing more of a specific Spider-Man quality to that standard animated superhero voice, although the mix hadn't been perfected yet. 

The weirdest thing about this show is that it was immediately overshadowed by another Spider-Man cartoon, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, which premiered the same day. Amazing Friends had a team dynamic, even more Marvel Comics guest stars, and a stronger Spider-Man voice (but we'll get to him). The two series also used the same character designs, which only added to the sense that this isn't so much its own series as a run of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends in which he has no friends and talks a little funny.

The Electric Company – Danny Seagren

Spider-Man's first live-action appearance, interestingly enough, was on The Electric Company, the 1970s educational series that ran on PBS. This Spider-Man didn't talk, and never appeared out of costume, but his simple adventures and easily described actions were the perfect vehicle for teaching kids basic language and math skills. The show also had a lot of fun playing with the idea of bringing a comic book to life, with Seagren often framed by comic book panels or "speaking" with the aid of word balloons. It was all a trick to get children to read, of course, but there are certainly worse motivations for experimentation.

Spider-Man – Neil Patrick Harris

Two things are distracting about 2003's Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, which aired on MTV, of all places. The first is the animation, which combines 2D cartooning with 3D computer modeling in an incredibly awkward way that could not possibly look more like 2003. The second is that every time Spider-Man talks, you can't help thinking "I know whose voice that is! It's Neil Patrick Harris, star of Doogie Howser and How I Met Your Mother!" NPH isn't a bad choice for Spider-Man in theory, but it's hard to accept him as Spider-Man when his voice is so recognizable as a singing and dancing TV star.

Japanese Spider-Man – Shinji Tôdô and Hirofumi Koga

The 1978 Japanese Spider Man live action TV series has a cult following in the U.S., even though it's never been officially released here. Shinji Tôdô played Spider-Man's face and voice, while Hirofumi Koga did much of the performing inside the Spider-suit. In this version, Spider-Man is a motorcycle driver named Takuya Yamashiro, who gets his spider-powers from a super-bracelet from the planet Spider, along with a racecar and a giant robot named Leopardon. The show's a lot of fun, and Tôdô and Koga both do a great job, but it just feels wrong to rank them any higher when they're not playing the same Spider-Man as everybody else.

Spider-Man Movies – Tobey Maguire

In the early days of 21st Century superhero movies, Tobey Maguire got the job done. He got in great physical shape for Spider-Man, but he still had that goofy face to play nerdy Peter Parker. While he never quite seemed like a kid in the way an origin story Spider-Man should, he was young enough not to be too outlandish as a teenager. In the emotional scenes he always seemed a little over the top, which is par for the course with these kinds of movies. He's a solid Spider-Man, but nothing to write home about.

Ultimate Spider-Man – Drake Bell

Ultimate Spider-Man was controversial from day one. It was bad enough that it replaced the popular Spectacular Spider-Man—not because Spectacular was doing badly, but because Disney had just purchased Marvel and it made sense for their animation department to get started on a Spider-Man cartoon of their own. This problem was worsened for fans when Ultimate Spider-Man targeted a younger audience by hiring Disney Channel alum Drake Bell of Drake and Josh to voice the title character.

But if you look past the bad buzz, and the occasionally jarring tone of the show, Bell is actually a pretty great animated Spider-Man. He has a high capacity for silliness and fun, as Spider-Man always does, but he also comes through in the darker moments that require a more emotional Peter Parker.

Amazing Spider-Man Movies – Andrew Garfield

The biggest problem with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker is that he was already too old for the part when he starred in The Amazing Spider-Man. He never seems a bit like an awkward teen, he's more of a strange adult man—and yet, rather than starring an adult Spider-Man, the rebooted franchise offered another origin story set in high school, where Garfield's presence just strains credulity. Still, his slim build looked good in the suit, and his comic timing made him a more natural fit than Maguire for the rhythms of the character's constant wisecracks. A fine transitional Spider-Man, but not one we'd want to see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

'90s Animated Spider-Man – Christopher Daniel Barnes

For a lot of millennials, Barnes was the definitive voice of Spider-Man throughout their childhood, having played the role on Fox Kids from 1994 until 1998. While this Spider-Man has aged a little awkwardly, it was the first TV version of the character to really draw on the comics' storylines in a nuanced way, introducing concepts like the symbiotic Venom suit, the Secret Wars crossover, and even the Punisher to Saturday morning viewers.

This series skipped the origin and began with Peter Parker already in college and freelancing for the Daily Bugle, which mitigates the fact that he's drawn and voiced very much as an adult. Within that context, Barnes is perfect in the part, balancing the jokes and the emotional baggage that are both so central to Spider-Man.

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends – Dan Gilvezan

For those a little older, Dan Gilvezan was the Saturday morning Spider-Man of choice. He voiced the central hero on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, a show that brought the Marvel Universe to life from 1981 until 1986. Gilvezan was a mainstay of 1980s animation, playing Bumblebee in Transformers and Cooler in Pound Puppies, among others. His Spider-Man had the lightness that earlier versions of the character had been missing, while still seeming more grounded than the goofier Iceman who Frank Welker was voicing on the same show.

This cartoon seems pretty silly by today's standards, but this was the first time Spider-Man really seemed like Spider-Man, and that's worth something.

The Spectacular Spider-Man – Josh Keaton

Spectacular Spider-Man is fondly remembered as basically the perfect Spider-Man cartoon, and one that ended too soon for entirely corporate reasons. It ran for two seasons in 2008 and 2009, and was being considered for a third when Disney bought Marvel and reacquired the television rights to Spider-Man, leaving this Sony-produced series unable to continue. Spectacular took Peter Parker back to high school, with a whole new design aesthetic that fit that premise perfectly. Voice actor Josh Keaton played the youthful Spider-Man with the earnestness of a kid trying to do his best, and it really worked. It's just a shame there couldn't be more of it.

Marvel Cinematic Universe – Tom Holland

Holland's Spider-Man debuted during a handful of scenes in Captain America: Civil War, earning rave reviews despite being the third live-action Spidey inside of a decade. Unlike Maguire and Garfield, Holland seems like a young teenager with a surprising amount of power, and his youthfulness stands out perfectly in contrast with all the adult heroes running around in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man: Homecoming presents him as a nerdy high school student who might be in way over his head—and that's exactly what Spider-Man should be, especially within the context of a larger Avengers-centric setting.

Also, it may be a silly detail, but the moving eyes on his mask, whatever vaguely plausible light-filtering explanation they've created for them, do a wonderful job of evoking the way Spider-Man emotes on the comics page, in a way that never felt possible in live action before. However Homecoming and any sequels that follow measure up against past Spider-Man movies, this take on the character himself feels very right—and very right now.