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The Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy holds up even better than you expected all these years later!
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After the wild success of Spider-Man: No Way Home, it’s possible that Peter Parker is enjoying an all-time high in popularity. Not only that, interest in the Spider-Man movies that came out long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now booming, with fans rediscovering their love for the Tobey Maguire era of Spidey history.
If you haven’t checked out Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy in a while, you’re in for a treat. We just did a full re-watch of all three films, and we’re pleased to report that they still hold up, and will satisfy any Spidey fan’s appetite. And the best part? They’re currently available to stream for free, presented by Crackle on Plex.
Join us as we revisit our favorite parts of this classic Spider-Man movie series.
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Spider-Man is a classic superhero origin story movie, and it’s one that takes its responsibility very seriously. Up until this point, Peter Parker’s transformation into Spider-Man had been told countless times in the comics, but on the screen it had been limited to a handful of animated cartoons, and a modestly-budgeted TV series pilot. While we love all things Spidey, the classic story from 1962’s Amazing Fantasy #15 by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee had never been given the kind of big-budget treatment it deserves.
That all changed with Sam Raimi’s first Spidey movie. From the moment we meet Peter, as a nerdy kid having a rough morning on a school bus, all the way to when he confronts his uncle’s killer, Spider-Man treats the birth of its hero with reverence for its roots, and a unique cinematic style. It remains one of the best superhero origin stories ever put on film, up there with Richard Donner’s Superman (a notable influence on this movie), Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, and Jon Favreau’s Iron Man.
Tucked right in the middle of that origin story is the hilarious (and comics-accurate) point in Peter’s early career where he decides he should use his newfound powers to make some money. And just as in the pages of Marvel Comics, here in Spider-Man, professional wrestling isn’t a scripted affair with predetermined outcomes, which means his match with the terrifying “Bonesaw” McGraw (a perfectly cast Randy “Macho Man” Savage) might not go well for someone without super powers.
It’s a great, often funny scene, with Savage relishing every line of dialogue, an appropriately amped-up and bloodthirsty crowd of fans, and the legendary Bruce Campbell as a ring announcer who inadvertently gives Spider-Man his name. Plus, we’re suckers for any time we get to see a “homemade” early Spider-Man costume, and Peter’s red hoodie, blue track pants, and red vintage Nikes are a pretty charming first attempt.    
Spider-Man trilogy director Sam Raimi made his name with low budget horror movies like Evil Dead and Army of Darkness long before he was given the keys to a multimillion dollar franchise. And Raimi’s love of the horror genre still manages to come through at appropriate moments in all three of these films. Some might say the trilogy is at its best when it’s allowing Raimi to really lean into his unique style.
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After Peter gets bitten by the spider, take a look at how nasty that spider bite on his hand is! It looks like it could burst open and become the plot of a completely unrelated horror movie at any moment. Willem Dafoe’s turn as Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin includes him doing an unnerving Evil Dead-style eye roll anytime the camera catches him transitioning between his two personalities, and it’s GREAT. It makes us wish that so much of his performance wasn’t hidden under that mask.
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While folks tend to remember the battle on the Queensboro Bridge with Mary Jane’s life at stake more often, it’s the slugfest between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin that immediately follows inside what appears to be an abandoned building that really packs a punch. This is another instance where Raimi is allowed to cut loose as a director, and his penchant for bone-crunching and bloody violence really shines through here.
It’s a fantastic, brutal fight, realized with spectacular practical effects and stunts. Even 20 years later, it’s one of the best superhero battles ever filmed. It doesn’t need crowds of endangered citizens, a friend or family member in distress, or crazy weaponry to be effective. It’s just a perfectly choreographed, ugly beatdown between two people that are far more powerful than you or I. And yet it still manages to end on a truly emotional moment.
The opening scenes of Spider-Man 2 are a pretty perfect illustration of “the old Parker luck” at work. Peter is struggling to make ends meet, and he’s delivering pizzas on a moped, often against impossible odds. Seriously, you try navigating New York City traffic between downtown and midtown at lunch time. Even with super powers, it’s tough! Funny enough, the joint that Peter is delivering for is a real place down on Carmine Street and 6th Avenue in NYC, and it’s one of the best places to grab a slice in NYC.
Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus is one of the greatest supervillain performances in movie history. If not the greatest. But what makes him so memorable isn’t any world-conquering ambition, nor is it a scenery-chewing evil that plays to the rafters. It’s his humanity.
The audience meets Molina’s Otto Octavius at the same time Peter does. And Molina plays Otto with such gentle sincerity in their first scenes together that it’s heartbreaking when events transpire that send him down a villainous path. The Doc Ock of this movie is far more interesting than any version who has ever appeared in the comics, and it’s tough to imagine anyone else ever bringing him to life. The Marvel Cinematic Universe decided not to even try replacing him, instead bringing Molina back to bedevil Tom Holland’s Spidey in Spider-Man: No Way Home
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Like so many villains, Doctor Octopus is born out of circumstances beyond his control. In this case, it’s an accident that grafts four powerful mechanical arms to his body and mind. But his actual “origin” moment happens while Otto himself is unconscious. As a team of doctors attempts to remove the arms from him, they come to life, seemingly acting with a mind of their own, to slaughter the entire operating room in gruesome fashion.
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It’s another scene where Raimi gets to lean into his love of horror, and it’s tremendously effective. Full of wonderful practical effects, terrified performances from doctors and nurses, and a wonderfully retro b-movie sensibility, it’s one of the most fun scenes in the entire franchise, despite the fact that, well, you know, people are being slaughtered by terrifyingly powerful robot arms.
Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus’ massive fight on, in, and around an elevated train is perhaps the most stunning action sequence in the entire trilogy. It’s also one of the best superhero action sequences ever put on film. It’s not just about how visually inventive and well-choreographed the fight itself is, it’s the little touches, like how the people inside the train have no choice but to witness these two characters with unimaginable power, settle their own score…while their own lives hang in the balance.
And just like the brutal Spidey/Goblin fight from the first film, this one features a surprisingly somber, emotional note. With Peter out cold and unmasked on the floor of the train, regular folks find themselves touched by the fact that this strange character, masked and terrifying only moments before, is just a kid. This isn’t the only Spidey/Doc Ock throwdown in Spider-Man 2, but it’s unquestionably the best.
Thomas Haden Church’s Flint “Sandman” Marko doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Maybe that’s because Spider-Man 3 is a movie that is, perhaps, just a little bit overstuffed with characters to let any of them really get their due. Nevertheless, it’s a sympathetic performance of a petty crook out of his depth even as he looks for redemption.
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Raimi once again taps into his love of genre for Sandman, playing him like a tragic b-movie monster. When Flint first transforms into Sandman after (you guessed it) a horrible accident, we see him assembling a vaguely human form from grains of sand. It’s a cool visual, one that the camera lingers on as eerie music swells, and it’s pretty unique for a superhero movie. His first fight with Spider-Man a little later in the movie is no slouch, either, with Spidey “pavement-skiing” the streets of New York on a detached car door. 
Since the end of the first film, tensions between Peter and his (former) best friend Harry Osborn have been brewing, with Harry itching for revenge against Spider-Man, who he holds responsible for the death of his father. Those tensions boil over in Spider-Man 3.
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The first time, a costumed Harry ambushes Peter and the two beat the absolute stuffing out of each other in another Raimi-esque, dizzying and bone-crunching fight scene. But later, as their shared love for Mary Jane drives another wedge between them, Harry tells Peter of her infidelity in the cruelest possible way. But Peter gets him back, when influenced by the alien symbiote he once again confronts his former best friend, and they exchange the kind of words that hurt exactly the way two people who know and love each other know how to do. And it finishes with Peter delivering an absolutely brutal deck to Harry’s head. Ouch.
It’s said that Venom was a little shoehorned into Spider-Man 3, and…fair enough. But Raimi still manages to find ways to make the character work within his own unique sensibility. The very first shot of the alien symbiote that will become Venom is reminiscent of classic 1958 b-horror flick, The Blob. And while the less said about “dancing Peter” the better, when the symbiote finally merges with Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), we get some truly memorable visuals.
The symbiote finds Brock in a church…praying for the death of Peter Parker. Having just been spurned by Peter, it joins with Brock, in a sequence that is as close to Raimi’s pure horror roots as you could get. Venom’s final form in this movie is a terrific visual, and these 15 year old special effects somehow look better than the recent Venom movies starring Tom Hardy. 
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Spidey’s final defeat of Venom is similarly creepy and accurate to the comics, as he uses sound vibrations to get the creature to lose its form. As it does, we get more body horror, and what we’re pretty sure is one of the screams from John Carpenter’s sci-fi/horror classic The Thing.
You can now watch Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy FREE, presented by Crackle on Plex. This limited time engagement ends March 1, so you’ll want to act faster than Spidey can sling his webs. Plex has over 50,000 free on-demand titles and over 200 Live TV channels. Download the Plex app today, free on all your favorite devices, to start watching.
What are your favorite moments from the original Spider-Man trilogy? Let us know in the comments!
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Written by
Mike Cecchini |
Mike Cecchini is the Editor-in-Chief of Den of Geek. He's a man with a deep and abiding love of comics published before he was born, low-budget…
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