Andrew Garfield Is The Best Spider-Man, Here’s Why

Andrew Garfield's Amazing Spider-Man films aren't the best, but his Spider-Man is more well-rounded and demonstrates the character's sense of responsibility better than the other two.

By Mark McKee | Published

andrew garfield spider-man

I can feel all you Holland-ers and the Maguirians (Maguirites?) stretching their fingers and putting their drinks down to come after me for such a divisive statement. But stick with me here, and let me tell you why Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker stands above Tom Holland and Tobey Maguire‘s portrayal of Spider-Man. While he has the fewest movies out of the trio of live-action webheads, he found a way to give the most dynamic performance in the group, from beginning to end, and here is why. 

Let’s start with one unavoidable statement, Andrew Garfield may be the best Spider-Man (the case for him is coming), but that doesn’t mean he had the best movies (though the Rotten Tomatoes scores aren’t that bad). He was failed by bad writing and an overambitious attempt at setting up a sprawling extended Spider-Man universe without the benefit of Marvel‘s perfected formula that had already had six years to build a foundation. Despite all of the bad writing and even worse villains in Jamie Foxx’s Electro, Dane Dahaan’s Harry Osborn, and Paul Giamatti’s Rhino, Andrew Garfield remained the highlight of his two films. 

But let’s go back to the original live-action Spider-Man (not including the low-budget attempts of the past), Tobey Maguire; if you are a child of the 80s or 90s, Tobey is your Spider-Man. His first film in 2002 is one of the movies many people point to as kick-starting the comic-book era we find ourselves in (along with Blade and X-Men). But there is a specific reason his first two films succeeded, Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn and Alfred Molina’s Otto Octavius. 

andrew garfield
Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield in the Amazing Spider-Man

The third film in the Sam Raimi trilogy saw a significant drop in the quality of the villains. Without the help of a compelling adversary, Maguire couldn’t carry the film on his own. It scored a dreadful 51% on Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest audience score of all three franchises, a full 13 percentage points lower than The Amazing Spider-Man 2, where Garfield struggled with the same problem. Also, from the same film, and maybe the moment that killed his franchise, was the laughable bully Parker, seeing him become rude and abrasive while joined by the Venom symbiote. 

Now, let’s talk about Tom Holland. Without a doubt, it can’t be argued that he has the best films of the three; his entrance into the Marvel Cinematic Universe allows him to make the most money, get the highest scores, and have the most exposure to a massive fanbase. However, Holland’s Peter Parker was closer to a Tony Stark Jr. 

At his core, Peter Parker is a struggling photographer in New York City, attempting to balance being Spider-Man and an ordinary student. He is almost always broke and must rely on his ingenuity to become the friendly neighborhood superhero we all know and love. In the MCU version of the character, he has spent nearly his entire character arc under the wing of Tony Stark, giving him the best tech and rarely seeing him struggle with the character’s most traditional conflicts. 

andrew garfield marvel
Andrew Garfield in Spider-Man: No Way Home

Our best chance at a great Peter Parker from Tom Holland was in his first appearance as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War. His scene in the bedroom with Tony Stark showed us an awkward but brilliant kid who struggled with the responsibility of his powers. And his time in battle gave us the spirited and fun character from the comics, but that was very short-lived. 

Now for Andrew Garfield, his Spider-Man saw an arc that took him through the death of Uncle Ben in The Amazing Spider-Man, followed by yet another death of Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. When he returned in No Way Home, he was easily the most charming of the three and had the most poignant moment when saving Zendaya’s MJ from falling. His face betrayed the weight of his past failures, and there was no question that he was in the same place mentally that we, as an audience, were, feeling the redemption of a past failure. 

Of course, you can argue that all three actors were great in their own right. But when it comes down to it, Andrew Garfield is the best actor who portrayed the best version of the character, and when we all got another look at him years later, we found ourselves clamoring for The Amazing Spider-Man 3