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Tom Holland Vs. Tobey Maguire: Here's Who Played The Best Spider-Man

As one of the most beloved superheroes of all time, Spider-Man draws strong opinions from fans, especially when it comes to the actors who've donned the red-and-blue spandex. In the past couple of decades, three live-action Spideys have been given the great responsibility of bringing the web-slinger to the silver screen. Of them, the fan favorites are Tobey Maguire, who starred in Sam Raimi's acclaimed "Spider-Man" trilogy from 2002 to 2007, and Tom Holland, who currently plays Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and made his debut in "Captain America: Civil War" in 2016. Sorry, Andrew Garfield.

Both actors have done a (shall we say) marvelous job in the role, and while Spider-Man is a difficult character to translate from the page, each portrayed different aspects of the character. Maguire took audiences on an emotional journey that brought pathos and vulnerability to the friendly neighborhood superhero, and fought against some of the most memorable villains in the web crawler's canon. Holland, meanwhile, brought a youthful joy to the role as a kid from Queens who builds Legos with his best friend and awkwardly crushes on Mary Jane.

While the multiverse may split asunder with the release of "Spider-Man: No Way Home," only one Spidey can claim the belt of "best Spider-Man." So with a preponderance of fan opinions, critical consensus, and film-based evidence at our disposal, it's time to crown the best live-action Spider-Man.

Tobey's Spider-Man has the most heroic scenes

Tom Holland's take on the web-slinger is not without its high points, from his first big fight scene in "Captain America: Civil War" to the high-octane rescue scene in "Spider-Man: Homecoming." But when it comes to memorable moments, the Spider-Man of Raimi's trilogy has the MCU version beat.

We could mention the upside-down kiss in the rain with Mary Jane and stop there. It's not only an iconic moment for Spider-Man but for cinema more generally. But why stop there when there are so many scenes to choose from? Uncle Ben's immortal words about power and responsibility; the death of Norman Osborne; cringey though they may be, emo Peter's hip-thrusting dance moves; all of these and more have endured in our collective memory for good reason.

For many fans, however, the train fight against Doc Ock culminating in Peter saving the runaway subway takes the cake. Den of Geek even dubbed it "superhero cinema's greatest fight scene." When the official Spider-Man subreddit asked for fans' favorite movie scenes, they were quick to highlight that scene, with one user calling it "not only my favorite movie Spider-Man scene but one of my favorite Spider-Man scenes in-general." Part of what makes the scene so powerful is the way Peter's fellow New Yorkers carry him, maskless, back into the train. "When the crowd kept him from falling in Spider-man 2 when he saved the train, and one guy yells 'he's just a boy' that was peak spider man for me," wrote another Reddit user.

Holland's Spidey feels most like the comics

While Tobey Maguire's performance of Peter Parker nails the fundamentals, especially when it comes to portraying the emotional toll that being Spider-Man takes on him, there was always the problem of his age. Although Raimi's version of Peter is in college, Maguire was already 27 years old when the first of the trilogy debuted and looked even older, giving his performances a slightly unrealistic quality.

Tom Holland, by contrast, feels entirely believable in the role of a high schooler, and more focus is put on Peter's academic prowess. Just like the comics, Holland's Peter builds his own web-shooters, emphasizing that he has skills that don't come from a radioactive spider. His friendship with Ned (Jacob Batalon) feels more authentic than does Maguire's with James Franco's Harry Osborne. While the MCU Spidey doesn't immediately introduce key characters like J. Jonah Jameson or show us the death of Uncle Ben, that's because a project as large as the MCU can take its time, versus packing as much as possible into a self-contained film.

Moreover, comic book fans are used to seeing other heroes and characters pop up in a Spider-Man story, and the MCU can replicate that, letting Tony Stark take on the role of mentor to Peter and allowing him to seek supernatural assistance from Doctor Strange, as he has many times in the comics.

The success of Tobey's trilogy helped make superhero movies mainstream

It may feel like barely any non-superhero movies get made these days, so it can be difficult to recall that time around the start of the century when most people thought the genre was going the way of the western. While Bryan Singer's "X-Men" had been released in 2000, it was weighed down by baffling directorial decisions and confusing performances. And only a few years prior, in 1997, "Batman and Robin" nearly killed the genre for good with a movie so exceedingly bad that director Joel Schumacher was still apologizing for it in 2014. The future looked dire for fans of capes and spandex.

Enter Sam Raimi. Speaking to Rotten Tomatoes about the studio environment at the turn of the 21st century, the "Spider-Man" director said, "I felt the pressure that the genre was in trouble. It was very hard for me to get people to work on the film ... it was looked down upon as something that people didn't really want to act in. I tried to get different people interested in playing some of the other parts. No one was really interested." Raimi was undeterred, and his passion for making the project eventually won Sony Pictures over.

If you want proof that Raimi and Maguire's trilogy was really that good, simply take a look at the outpouring of fan excitement that occurred when it was confirmed that some of the characters from those films will be ported over to the MCU for "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

The web-slinging winner: Tobey Maguire

It's a close call, and Holland gives his predecessor fierce competition for the title, but between the strong scripts, Sam Raimi's directorial vision, and a performance for the ages, Maguire set a gold standard for any actor who would don the spandex after him. Fans seem to agree, with one commenting on the 21st anniversary of Maguire's casting, "As lovable as Tom Holland has been, I still think Tobey played the role better. He is still the Spider-Man [actor] by which I measure all others."

Speaking about what makes Maguire's turn in "Spider-Man" 1 and 2 so incredible, critic Bob Chipman says, "[Peter Parker is] exactly good enough of a person to be crushed by the guilt of failing to be a better person, and Tobey Maguire pulls this off perfectly." In other words, what makes Maguire's Spider-Man so good is not the heroic stunts, but the inner conflict of the kid behind the mask. 

A big fight against Doc Ock means nothing if the audience doesn't know what the emotional stakes are, and Spider-Man's best moments are when he triumphs not only over the villain but over himself. The writers of Holland's Spider-Man films know this too, and there are moments in the climaxes of both "Homecoming" and "Far From Home," where Peter must overcome self-doubt to win against his enemies. But they're following the blueprint. 

Ultimately, while both actors are undeniably able to do whatever a spider can, only one Spider-Man can be the best, and that superlative goes to Tobey Maguire.