Which “Spider-Man” actor is best?


Liz LaHood

Graphic of the three different “Spider-Men,” Garfield (left), Maguire (middle) and Holland (right).

Thomas Rose, Writer

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” has fueled the fire of one online debate that has been ongoing since 2012, when the Spider-Man universe was rebooted for the first time with “The Amazing Spider-Man.” This heated discussion surrounds one essential question: Which “Spider-Man” actor has delivered the best version of the iconic character? 

Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland’s versions of Peter Parker all have their individual advantages and disadvantages. A widely accepted belief is that there are two good actors; one is a better Parker while another does a better portrayal of his masked alter-ego. However, there are so many variables that I cannot quite provide a straight answer, so we will have to look at each actor’s and character’s individual strengths and weaknesses.

Maguire is the original “Spider-Man,” there is no doubt about it. However, his acting performance simply does not measure up to the performances of the other two actors; especially his performance in the controversial “Spider-Man 3,” where his writing and acting are nearly comical during moments that were intended to be serious and shocking. Despite this, this does not diminish his accomplishments in the first two films of his trilogy. 

His performance as Parker outside of the suit is often considered to be the best out of all three actors, especially in the first movie prior to getting his powers. His “Spider-Man” is notably the only one with the ability to shoot webs out of his wrists instead of making them mechanically. In the suit, Maguire’s humor and quips (which are an essential part of the character) are somewhat dry and stale in comparison to those of Garfield and Holland. However, it is not bad by any means, and the performance still holds up today. 

Maguire’s best performance is certainly in “Spider-Man 2,” where his character undergoes a fair amount of development throughout the plot. The character’s development is clearly shown through his acting, and it would probably land Maguire in the top spot if not for the blemish that was “Spider-Man 3,” I personally enjoyed the movie due to its unintentionally comical moments, but from a critical standpoint it is not a great film, as it undoes a lot of the character development from the second installment. Overall, Maguire built up an iconic Parker in his first two movies with some great character development, but due to the failing of “Spider-Man 3,” he did not reach his full potential. 

Despite its popularity, Andrew Garfield’s career as Peter Parker would be cut short by controversy surrounding the failure of his second movie and the egos of several Sony executives. Garfield seemed to have good intentions, but was disappointed by the fact that the character’s success was based on profits instead of the merit of his acting. In an interview with “The Guardian,” Garfield described the corporate pressure to make money from his movies as a burden. 

“Suddenly the focus is less on the soul of it and more on ensuring we make as much money as possible,” Garfield said. “And I found that -find that -heartbreaking in all matters of the culture.” 

But regardless of his noble intentions to make a truly great “Spider-Man” in spite of Sony’s corporate interest, Garfield was sabotaged by the ‘focus group’ based writing Sony delivered. His portrayal of Parker was written to be an angsty, attractive skater; a huge deviation from how the character is described in the comics. Garfield made the best of the script and still delivered some good moments out of the costume, but the writing ultimately sabotaged his efforts. 

When it comes to his time in the suit, however, he took advantage of his opportunity to truly shine. His quips are probably the best out of all three performances, and his body language and choreography, especially in the second film, are so well done that you can tell exactly how he feels despite the mask obscuring his face. His character development is on point as well – while the sequel was not exactly a critical or commercial success, it did succeed in developing Garfield’s character to perfection. 

However, he still does not have the best development overall, especially in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” where his character feels almost stagnated throughout the first two acts. All in all, Garfield’s “Spider-Man” missed out on a lot of opportunities that could have made for the greatest “Spider-Man” portrayal, but he was ultimately sabotaged by the script. Despite this, his time in the mask is still a sight to behold.

Tom Holland is the most recent actor to take on this role, and he has been under a lot of pressure to deliver the best performance of any “Spider-Man” film to date. Despite the underwhelming “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” the second movie in his series, “Homecoming” and “No Way Home” are probably some of the best portrayals we have seen from this character. 

Holland’s performance as Parker is a good middle point between Maguire’s and Garfield’s, but I think Maguire’s is still superior. When it comes to character development, however, his is by far the best out of the three. Holland starts out as a somewhat selfish person who wants to have it all, but “Homecoming” humbles his character and “No Way Home” teaches him how to truly embody the values of the iconic superhero. 

His development is almost art in itself. Some will say that his character’s reliance on Iron Man is a crippling weakness of the character, but “Far from Home” and “No Way Home” are centered around and evident of him overcoming this weakness. I think his reliance on Iron Man is an important aspect of his character’s development. He may not have had the amazing body language and performance that Garfield brought to the role, nor the best Parker, but his character’s progression over the six movies he appears in is simply amazing.

Overall, there really is no superior “Spider-Man;” all 3 have incredible moments that made each individual stand out. Maguire’s Peter Parker has the best performance outside of the suit, Garfield has the best performance in the suit and the character development of Holland’s Parker is some of the best writing seen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far.