Listen, this isn’t a Marvel or a DC thing. I’m way beyond that. In fact, I don’t even consider the Spider-Man movies or the Batman movies as being distinctly Marvel or DC-related anyway. They’re both bigger than that. So, instead of focusing on the characters themselves or the imprints they’ve spawned from, I’m instead focusing on the films that they’ve starred in, because I think it’s safe to say that both costumed characters have been in movies that have defined generations.
Now, our very own Sean O’Connell—who wrote a spectacular book about Spider-Man’s cinematic legacy (opens in new tab), by the way—already ranked all the Spider-Man movies, and I ranked the Batman movies, so, if you want to know the best films in each of those series, then check those out. But, given that Batman and Spider-Man are inarguably the biggest heroes at the box office, I wanted to determine just which character has the better movies of the two. Pow! Or, should I say, Thwip!
First Major Modern Movie
Every hero needs an introduction. So, which hero has the best modern movie?
Spider-Man’s First Major Modern Movie
Sam Raimi wasn’t messing around when it came to Spider-Man’s first outing in 2002, as it was faithful (in tone) to Peter Parker’s origin, but also added new details, like organic webs. And, Tobey Maguire is probably the perfect actor for the role. In fact, people are still debating to this day whether Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, or Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man and Peter Parker (Spoiler alert: Andrew Garfield is my favorite Spider-Man). If I have any complaint about the movie, it’s Green Goblin’s “Power Ranger” costume (as some fans have called it). Willem Dafoe is fantastic, but that suit, man? No thanks.
Batman’s First Major Modern Movie
Tim Burton wasn’t messing around either when he made 1989’s Batman. Like Spider-Man, Burton lucked out with perfect casting, as both Michael Keaton as Batman, and Jack Nicholson as Joker, are pretty much perfect in their roles.
But, the true star is probably the overall atmosphere, as it was pretty much the standard bearer of what a Batman movie should be like for years to come. Until, that is, Christopher Nolan took a more realistic approach many years later. If I have any complaints with the first movie…well, I don’t. The first Batman movie is exceptional. And that Danny Elfman score, man! You just can’t beat it.
First Major Modern Movie Winner-Batman
I love the first Spider-Man movie, but Batman dominates since there are no embarrassing Power Ranger outfits in it. Petty, I know. But, it’s my list. Oh, and I have nothing against the Power Rangers (RIP, Tommy Oliver!). It’s just that I can’t get over that Green Goblin costume. It pulls me right out of the film, every time.
Sequels And Reboots
Sequels almost always follow successful first films, but, out of Batman and Spider-Man, who has the better batch?
Spider-Man’s Sequels And Reboots
There have been three different versions of the web-head, if we’re not counting Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which I won’t be since I’m also not including Batman: Mask of the Phantasm on this list. But, needless to say, when it comes to Spider-Man, the elephant in the room is Marc Webb’s two Andrew Garfield The Amazing Spider-Man films. I actually enjoyed the first one, but the sequel might just be the worst Spider-Man movie ever made. Still, all of the rest (Especially Spider-Man 2) are either good or great. But The Amazing Spider-Man 2?…blah!
Batman’s Sequels And Reboots
Batman has actually gone through SEVERAL different iterations with his sequels, and reboots, and…I’d say to pretty spotty results. The two Joel Schumacher Batman movies, Batman Forever, and Batman and Robin, are, well…they’re terrible (though, also cheesy, just the way I like my movies). The Christopher Nolan trilogy is great…except for The Dark Knight Rises, which is quite a misstep, if you ask me.
Then, you have the Snyderverse, which is pretty bad, and finally, you have The Batman, which our very own Eric Eisenberg gave a glowing review. So, some hits, and some misses. In the end, I think they even out.
The Sequels And Reboots Winner-Spider-Man
There are more Batman movies, but that also means more room for errors. So, Spider-Man wins in this category.
Every good hero needs a villain, so, which character had the better movie adversaries?
Spider-Man has one of the greatest rogues gallery in all of comics, and the movies have capitalized on them. We’ve gotten Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, Sandman, Venom, The Lizard, Electro, The Vulture, and Mysterio, so pretty much every villain needed to make up the Sinister Six.
We’ve even gotten almost all of them IN ONE MOVIE (I still don’t know how Spider-Man: No Way Home didn’t get nominated for Best Picture), so we Spider-Man fans have been eating well, with only Venom and Electro being kind of awful in the grand scheme of things.
If there’s any comic book character who has a better stable of villains than Spider-Man, it’s Batman. And, we’ve gotten quite a few Batman villains. Including MANY different portrayals of The Joker, two Penguins, The Scarecrow, Ra’s al Ghul, two Banes, two Riddlers, Poison Ivy, Talia al Ghul, and…I think that’s it. Oh, oh. And Two-Face! Twice.
And, that’s the thing. There are a lot of repeats in the Batman movies, and not enough of the more out-there characters, like Clayface, or Mr. Freeze. That said, Heath Ledger won a freaking Oscar for his portrayal of The Joker, so…
The Villains Winner-Batman
I don’t dig the repeats, but the fact that actors have won Oscars for their performances as Batman’s villains (let’s not forget Joaquin Phoenix, as well) gives it the edge in this category.
Sure, we come for the characters, but despite what Tarantino thinks of Marvel and movie stars, the actors are actually the key element behind the costumes. But, which series has the better portrayals of the characters?
We’ve gotten three Spider-Men in Maguire, Garfield, and Holland, and ALL of them were good. Some may argue which one is the best, but I think it’s safe to say that all three of them were excellent Spider-Men and Peter Parkers. So, yeah. Not a bad one in the bunch.
We’ve had eight live-action Batmen (Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, and Robert Pattinson). Out of those eight, I’d say that six were good or great (Batfleck is my favorite), but two were awful (Val Kilmer and George Clooney).
That said, the movies around them could detract from the characters at times, as Clooney could have been a really good Batman, but Batman and Robin sinks him. Affleck was awesome, but he was in pretty miserable movies, so that impacts him, too. So, yeah. Lots of good Batmen, but the bad ones kind of bring down the good.
The Actors Winner-Spider-Man
Sure, the good Batmen are really good, but there are NO bad Spider-Men, so the ‘ol web-head wins in this category.
Both characters have a long legacy of films, but which character’s is the mightiest?
The Raimi Spider-Man movies changed the game completely for cinema, inviting color and fun into the realm of comic book films, without being overly cheesy (well, besides Spider-Man 3). The Amazing Man Spider-Man movies are kind of a black eye on the franchise, but the MCU version is quite beloved, and people are excited for more, so there’s that.
Batman’s legacy is actually longer reaching than Spider-Man’s, since we got the first somewhat modern movie in 1989. That said, Batman has reinvented himself quite a bit, and with Matt Reeve’s recent The Batman focusing more on the detective side of the character, it seems like Batman’s legacy can expand even further with different takes on the character, while Spider-Man seems to now be stuck (Terrible word to use, but true!) in the MCU. Unless, of course, Sony wants him to fight Morbius in their own little universe. And, all I can say to that is, please no.
Though Spider-Man’s legacy is quite impressive, Batman’s still feels like it’s just getting started, and that’s saying something for a character who’s been around for pretty much forever.
Overall, when we total up wins from the various categories, the Caped Crusader wins. But, what do you think? For more news on Spider-Man AND Batman, make sure to swing by here often.