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Spider-Man (2002 film)

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Spider-Man in his famous suit crawling over a building and looking towards the viewer. Below of him is New York City, the film's title, credits and release date.
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySam Raimi
Screenplay byDavid Koepp
Based on
Produced by
CinematographyDon Burgess
Edited by
Music byDanny Elfman
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing[1]
Release date
Running time
121 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States
Budget$139 million[4]
Box office$821.7 million[5]

Spider-Man is a 2002 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Directed by Sam Raimi from a screenplay by David Koepp, it is the first installment in the Spider-Man trilogy, and stars Tobey Maguire as the title character, alongside Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, and Rosemary Harris. The film centers on outcast teen genius Peter Parker, who develops spider-like superhuman abilities after being bitten by a genetically-altered spider, and decides to use his newfound powers to fight crime as Spider-Man.

Development on a live-action Spider-Man film began in the 1980s. Filmmakers Tobe Hooper, James Cameron, and Joseph Zito were all attached to direct the film at one point. However, the project would languish in development hell due to licensing and financial issues. After progress on the film stalled for nearly 25 years, it was licensed for a worldwide release by Columbia Pictures in 1999 after it acquired options from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on all previous scripts developed by Cannon Films, Carolco, and New Cannon. Exercising its option on just two elements from the multi-script acquisition (a different screenplay was written by James Cameron, Ted Newsom, John Brancato, Barney Cohen, and Joseph Goldman), Sony hired Koepp to create a working screenplay (credited as Cameron's), and Koepp received sole credit in final billing. Directors Roland Emmerich, Tim Burton, Ang Lee, Chris Columbus, Jan de Bont, M. Night Shyamalan, Tony Scott, and David Fincher were considered to direct the project before Raimi was hired as director in 2000. The Koepp script was rewritten by Scott Rosenberg during pre-production and received a dialogue polish from Alvin Sargent during production. Filming took place in Los Angeles and New York City from January to June 2001. Sony Pictures Imageworks handled the film's visual effects.[6]

Spider-Man premiered at the Mann Village Theater on April 29, 2002, and was released in the United States four days later on May 3. The film received positive reviews from audiences and critics. It was the first film to reach $100 million in a single weekend as well as the most successful film based on a comic book at the time. With a box office gross of over $821.7 million worldwide, it was the third highest-grossing film of 2002, the highest-grossing superhero film and the sixth highest-grossing film overall at the time of its release. Spider-Man is credited for redefining the modern superhero genre, as well as the summer blockbuster.[7][8][9] After its success, the film spawned two sequels, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3, released in 2004 and 2007, respectively. Dafoe will reprise his role as the Green Goblin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).


On a school trip, high school senior Peter Parker visits a Columbia University genetics lab, where a genetically engineered "super spider" which escaped containment bites him. After returning home, he feels ill and passes out. Meanwhile, Norman Osborn, owner of scientific corporation Oscorp, tries to land a major military contract. He experiments on himself with an unstable performance-enhancing chemical and goes insane, killing his assistant and stealing a glider and a flight suit.

The next morning, Peter notices he is no longer near-sighted and his body has metamorphosed into a more muscular physique. At school, he discovers that he can shoot spiderwebs from his wrists and has accelerated reflexes and an increased ability to sense danger. After beating school bully Flash Thompson in a fight, he realizes that he has acquired the abilities of the spider who bit him, and verifies this by climbing up a wall.

Having heard about his confrontation with Flash, Peter's Uncle Ben counsels him that "with great power comes great responsibility". Peter disregards this and enters a clandestine wrestling tournament to raise money to buy a car, wanting to impress his love interest Mary Jane Watson. He wins his first match, but the promoter cheats him out of his winnings. When a thief suddenly robs the promoter's office, Peter spitefully allows him to escape with the money.

After learning that Ben has been killed by a carjacker, Peter follows the stolen car, and is shocked to discover it is driven by the same thief he let escape. After Peter disarms him, the thief falls out a window to his death. Meanwhile, crazed Norman sports advanced Oscorp armor and military equipment, and disrupts an experiment by Oscorp's corporate rival, Quest Aerospace, killing several people. The following day, he is shown to have forgotten the event. Upon graduation, Peter begins using his abilities to fight crime, becoming the masked superhero Spider-Man.

J. Jonah Jameson, editor of the Daily Bugle newspaper, hires Peter as a freelance photographer, as he is the only person who provides clear images of Spider-Man. However, Jameson uses the pictures to discredit Spider-Man, believing he is a menace. Meanwhile, Peter decides to move into an apartment with his best friend and Norman's son Harry. Learning that Oscorp's board plans to oust him and sell the company to Quest, Norman kills them in retribution via a pumpkin bomb as his costumed alter-ego at the World Unity Fair. As Spider-Man, Peter intervenes and defeats Norman, who escapes. Jameson later dubs the mysterious villain the "Green Goblin." After discovering he has developed a crazed alternate personality, Norman, as the Goblin, offers Peter a place by his side. When the two meet again inside a burning building, Peter ultimately refuses Norman's offer, leading to a confrontation which results in Peter suffering a cut to his left arm.

When Peter and Harry invite Norman, Aunt May, and Mary Jane over for Thanksgiving dinner, Norman notices Peter's earlier sustained injury and deduces that Peter is Spider-Man. He later attacks and hospitalizes May. Meanwhile, Mary Jane admits that she loves Spider-Man, who has rescued her twice, and asks Peter if Spider-Man ever asked about her. Harry, who is dating Mary Jane, arrives and presumes that she has feelings for Peter after seeing them hold hands. Devastated, Harry tells his father that Peter loves Mary Jane, inadvertently revealing Spider-Man's greatest weakness.

Norman takes Mary Jane and a Roosevelt Island trolley car full of children hostage along the Queensboro Bridge, forcing Peter to choose whom to save. He manages to rescue both, while nearby civilians side with Spider-Man and taunt the Goblin. Enraged, he grabs Peter and takes him to the abandoned Smallpox Hospital, where he brutally beats him and brags about how he will later kill Mary Jane. The Goblin's taunting provokes and enrages Peter, who then overpowers him. Norman unmasks himself and begs for forgiveness while controlling his glider to impale Peter from behind. Warned by his spider-sense, Peter dodges the attack and the glider fatally impales Norman, who asks Peter not to reveal his identity as the Goblin to Harry before dying.

Spider-Man takes Norman's body to the Osborns' house, where Harry sees him and mistakenly assumes that Spider-Man killed his father. At Norman's funeral, Harry vows revenge on Spider-Man, claiming that Peter is his only family left. Mary Jane confesses her love for Peter, but he rejects her, fearing that his enemies would try to use her to get to him. As he leaves the funeral, Peter remembers Uncle Ben's message and accepts his new responsibility as Spider-Man.


I felt like I was an outsider. I think what happened to me made me develop this street sense of watching people and working out what made them tick, wondering whether I could trust them or not. I went to a lot of schools along the coast in California, made few friends and stayed with aunts, uncles and grandparents while my folks tried to make ends meet. It was tough. We had no money.

—Tobey Maguire on identifying with Peter Parker.[10]

  • Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker / Spider-Man:
    An academically-gifted high school student who is socially inept. After a genetically engineered spider bites him, he gains spider-like powers, including super-strength, enhanced reflexes, a "spider sense" that warns him of incoming danger, and the ability to climb walls and shoot spiderwebs (in a departure from the comics, where he utilizes web-shooters). Following a personal tragedy, he decides to use his newfound powers for good, and begins fighting crime and injustice as Spider-Man.
  • Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn / Green Goblin:
    A scientist and the CEO of Oscorp who tests an unstable strength enhancer on himself and develops a crazed alternate personality. He later becomes a costumed villain using advanced Oscorp armor and equipment, such as a weaponized glider and pumpkin-shaped explosives; the media dubs his alter-ego the "Green Goblin." Norman develops animosity for Spider-Man after the hero refuses to join him, and makes constant attempts to get back at him. Ironically, he quickly takes a liking to Peter, and sees himself as a father figure for the boy, while ignoring his own son, Harry.
  • Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson:
    Peter's love interest ever since he was six years old. Mary Jane has an abusive father, and aspires to become an actress, but gets a job as a waitress at a run down diner, a fact she hides from her boyfriend Harry. She later develops feelings for Peter as they spend more time together, and for his alter-ego, after he saves her on multiple occasions.
  • James Franco as Harry Osborn:
    Peter's best friend and flatmate, Mary Jane's boyfriend and Norman's son who is envious of his father's apparent closeness with Peter. Before being cast as Harry, Franco had screen tested for Spider-Man himself.[11]
  • Cliff Robertson as Ben Parker:
    May Parker's husband and Peter's uncle, a laid off electrician who is trying to find a new job. He is killed by a carjacker whom Peter refused to stop, and leaves Peter with the message, "With great power comes great responsibility."
  • Rosemary Harris as May Parker:[12]
    Ben Parker's wife and Peter's aunt.[13]

J. K. Simmons portrays J. Jonah Jameson, the grouchy publisher of the Daily Bugle newspaper who considers Spider-Man a criminal. Ron Perkins portrays Mendel Stromm, Osborn's scientist, while Gerry Becker and Jack Betts play board members Maximillian Fargas and Henry Balkan. Stanley Anderson plays General Slocum and Jim Ward plays the Project Coordinator. John Paxton portrays Bernard Houseman the butler to the Osborn family, Joe Manganiello, portrays Parker's bully Flash Thompson,[14] Bill Nunn, Ted Raimi and Elizabeth Banks portray Daily Bugle editor Robbie Robertson, Daily Bugle employees Ted Hoffman, and Jameson's secretary Betty Brant respectively.[15][16] Michael Papajohn appears as "The Carjacker", the criminal who allegedly murdered Ben Parker;[17] in Spider-Man 3, it is revealed that his name is Dennis Carradine, and that he is not responsible for Ben's death, but rather Flint Marko.[18] Bruce Campbell, a long-time colleague of director Sam Raimi, cameoed as the announcer at the wrestling ring Parker takes part in. Raimi himself appeared off-screen, throwing popcorn at Parker as he enters the arena to wrestle Bonesaw McGraw, played by former professional wrestler "Macho Man" Randy Savage.[19] Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee briefly appears in the final cut of the film to grab a young girl from falling debris during the battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin at the World Unity Fair in Times Square.[20] Octavia Spencer appears as a staff member at Parker's wrestling match. Tig Notaro was offered the role by Raimi and auditioned, but lost it to Spencer.[21] R&B/soul singer Macy Gray appears as herself performing at the World Unity Fair.[22] Lucy Lawless also appears as a punk rock girl who says "Guy with eight hands... sounds hot."[23] She did the appearance as a favor to her husband, Xena: Warrior Princess creator Rob Tapert, on which Raimi had served as an executive producer alongside Tapert.[24] One of the stunt performers in this film is actor Johnny Tri Nguyen.[25] Kickboxer Benny "The Jet" Urquidez has an uncredited cameo as a mugger who attacks Mary Jane. Comedian Jim Norton shows up in one scene as a truck driver who has an unfavorable opinion of Spider-Man.[26] R.C. Everbeck was intended to play Eddie Brock, but his scenes were unreleased; Brock eventually appeared in Spider-Man 3, played by Topher Grace.[27] K.K. Dodds plays Simkins. Scott Spiegel plays a Marine Cop, while Jason Beghe plays a promoter who cheats Parker out of his winnings.



In the early 1980s, Marvel Comics was in negotiations with film producers to bring their flagship character Spider-Man to the big screen. Producer Roger Corman was the first to hold an option on the Spider-Man property and began to develop the film at Orion Pictures. Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee was brought on to write a screenplay which featured Cold War themes and Doctor Octopus as the primary antagonist. The project did not come into fruition following budgetary disputes between Corman and Lee.[28] The film rights were then acquired by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus of The Cannon Group for $225,000.[29] The two were not familiar with the character's background and mistook Spider-Man for being similar to a werewolf-like character. Leslie Stevens, creator of The Outer Limits, was hired to write a screenplay based on this concept. Stevens' script featured Peter Parker as an ID-badge photographer who becomes subject to a mad scientist's experiment which transforms him into a human tarantula. Tobe Hooper, who was preparing to shoot The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Invaders from Mars for Cannon, signed on to direct.[30] Stan Lee hated the horror route the studio was taking with the character and demanded that a new script be written that was closer to the source material.[citation needed]

By 1985, a new script was being written by Ted Newsom and John Brancato. In this version, Peter Parker receives his spider-like abilities from a cyclotron experiment. Doctor Octopus served as the antagonist and was written as Parker's mentor turned enemy. Barney Cohen was brought in to do a rewrite which added humor, additional action scenes, and a supporting villain.[31] Cannon hired Joseph Zito to direct the film having previously directed the commercially successful Invasion U.S.A. for the studio. For the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, the studio considered Tom Cruise while Zito was interested in casting actor and stuntman Scott Leva who had previously done promotional appearances as Spider-Man for Marvel.[32] Bob Hoskins was considered for Doctor Octopus while Lauren Bacall and Katharine Hepburn were considered for Aunt May. Stan Lee expressed his desire to play J. Jonah Jameson in the film. The project was tentatively titled Spider-Man: The Movie and was budgeted between $15–20 million. Following the critical and financial failure of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Masters of the Universe which were produced by Cannon, the budget for Spider-Man: The Movie was cut to $7 million. Joseph Zito was unwilling to compromise and stepped down as director. He was replaced by Albert Pyun who was willing to make the film at a lower budget. The project was cancelled following Cannon's acquisition by Pathé and Golan's departure from the studio.[30]

Golan extended his option on Spider-Man during his tenure as CEO of 21st Century Film Corporation. By 1989, Golan attempted to revive the project using the original script, budget, and storyboards developed at Cannon. In order to receive production funds, Golan sold the television rights to Viacom, home video rights to Columbia Pictures, and theatrical rights to Carolco Pictures[33] where James Cameron became attached to write and direct the film. Cameron had previously met with Stan Lee to discuss a possible X-Men film until Lee convinced Cameron that he would be a good choice to direct a Spider-Man film.[34] James Cameron submitted a treatment to Carolco in 1993.[35] which served as a darker, more adult take on the character's mythos. In addition to featuring Spider-Man's origin story, it also included variations on the villains Electro and Sandman. Electro was reimagined as a megalomaniacal businessman named Carlton Strand while Sandman was written as Strand's personal bodyguard named Boyd. Cameron's treatment also featured heavy profanity and a sex scene between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson atop the Brooklyn Bridge. Carolco had set a $50 million budget for Spider-Man but progress would be stalled when Golan sued Carolco for attempting to make the film without his involvement.[36] Cameron had recently completed True Lies for 20th Century Fox as part of a production deal with the studio. Fox attempted to acquire the film rights to Spider-Man for Cameron but this proved unsuccessful. At this point, James Cameron had abandoned the project and began work on Titanic.[37] He would reveal in a 1997 interview on The Howard Stern Show that he had Titanic star Leonardo DiCaprio in mind for the lead role.[38] In 1995, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquired 21st Century Film Corporation which had given them access to the previous Spider-Man scripts. MGM would also then sued Viacom, Sony Pictures, and Marvel, who they accused of fraud in the original deal with Cannon. The following year, 21st Century, Carolco, and Marvel would all file for bankruptcy.[39] Marvel would emerge from bankruptcy in 1998 and declare that Menahem Golan's option had expired and that the rights had reverted to them. Marvel would then sell the film rights to Sony Pictures Entertainment, Columbia Pictures' parent company for $7 million.[40] The deal came to effect in March 1999.[41]

While John Calley was in work, training at Columbia, he sought with Kevin McClory's claim to develop an unofficial James Bond movie franchise, partially based on the material used on Thunderball, and also had the rights to the novel Casino Royale.[42] MGM and Danjaq also had to sue Sony Pictures and Spectre Associates, regarding claims of how the McClory film with Sony has been demonstrated.[43] The final blow came in March 1999, when Sony traded the Casino Royale film rights to MGM for the company's own Spider-Man project, thus starting right to production.[44]

In April 1999, although Sony Pictures optioned from MGM all preceding script versions of a Spider-Man film, it only exercised the options on "the Cameron material", which contractually included a multi-author screenplay and a forty-five-page "scriptment" credited only to James Cameron. The studio announced they were not hiring Cameron himself to direct the film nor would they be using his script.[45] The studio lined up Roland Emmerich, Tim Burton, Tony Scott, Chris Columbus, Ang Lee, David Fincher, Jan de Bont and M. Night Shyamalan as potential directors.[46] Fincher did not want to depict the origin story, pitching the film as being based on The Night Gwen Stacy Died storyline, but the studio disagreed.[47] Columbus would later passed on the project to direct Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone instead.[48] Sam Raimi was attached to direct in January 2000,[49] for a summer 2001 release.[50] He had been a fan of the comic book during his youth, and his passion for Spider-Man earned him the job.[51]

Cameron's work became the basis of David Koepp's first draft screenplay, often word for word.[52] Cameron's versions of the Marvel villains Electro and Sandman remained the antagonists. Koepp's rewrite substituted the Green Goblin as the main antagonist and added Doctor Octopus as the secondary antagonist.[53] Raimi felt the Green Goblin and the surrogate father-son theme between Norman Osborn and Peter Parker would be more interesting, thus, he dropped Doctor Octopus from the film.[54] In June, Columbia hired Scott Rosenberg to rewrite Koepp's material. Remaining a constant in all the rewrites was the "organic webshooter" idea from the Cameron "scriptment".[55] Raimi felt he would stretch the audience's suspension of disbelief too far to have Parker invent mechanical webshooters.[56]

Rosenberg removed Doctor Octopus and created several new action sequences.[57] Raimi felt adding a third origin story would make the film too complex. Sequences removed from the final film had Spider-Man protecting Fargas, the wheelchair-using Oscorp executive, from the Goblin, and Spider-Man defusing a hostage situation on a train.[47] As production neared, producer Laura Ziskin hired award-winning writer Alvin Sargent, to polish the dialogue, primarily between Parker and Mary Jane.[58] Columbia gave the Writers Guild of America a list of four writers as contributors to the final Spider-Man script: Rosenberg, Sargent and James Cameron, all three of whom voluntarily relinquished credit to the fourth, Koepp.[52]


The studio had expressed interest in actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Freddie Prinze Jr., Jude Law, Chris Klein, Wes Bentley and Heath Ledger.[47][59][60] DiCaprio had been considered by James Cameron for the role in 1995,[61] while Raimi joked that Prinze "won't even be allowed to buy a ticket to see this film."[47] Sony made overtures to Law about Spider-Man.[60] In addition, actors Scott Speedman, Jay Rodan and James Franco were involved in screen tests for the lead role (Franco would ultimately land the role of Harry Osborn).[62] Joe Manganiello also auditioned for the role, but landed the role as Parker's bully, Eugene "Flash" Thompson.[63] Tobey Maguire was cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in July 2000,[64] having been Sam Raimi's primary choice for the role after he saw The Cider House Rules.[25] The studio was initially hesitant to cast someone who did not seem to fit the ranks of "adrenaline-pumping, tail-kicking titans",[64] but Maguire managed to impress studio executives with his audition. The actor was signed for a deal in the range of $3 to $4 million with higher salary options for two sequels.[64] To prepare, Maguire was trained by a physical trainer, a yoga instructor, a martial arts expert, and a climbing expert, taking several months to improve his physique.[56] Maguire studied spiders and worked with a wire man to simulate the arachnidlike motion, and had a special diet.[65]

Nicolas Cage, Jason Isaacs, John Malkovich and Jim Carrey were considered for the role of Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, but turned down the role.[66][67] Willem Dafoe was cast as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin in November 2000.[68] Dafoe insisted on wearing the uncomfortable costume as he felt that a stuntman would not convey the character's necessary body language. The 580-piece suit took half an hour to put on.[47]

Kate Bosworth unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of Mary Jane Watson.[69] Elizabeth Banks also auditioned for the role but she was told that she was too old for the role and was cast as Betty Brant instead.[70] Kate Hudson turned down the role.[71] Eliza Dushku,[72] Mena Suvari and Jaime King also auditioned for the role.[73] Before Raimi cast Dunst, he had expressed his interest in casting Alicia Witt.[74] Dunst decided to audition after learning Maguire had been cast, feeling the film would have a more independent feel.[75] Dunst earned the role a month before shooting in an audition in Berlin.[47]


With Spider-Man cast, filming was set to begin November 2000 in New York City and on Sony soundstages. The film was set for release a year later,[64] but was postponed to be released on May 3, 2002.[76]

Principal photography officially began on January 8, 2001, in Culver City, California.[58] After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, certain sequences were re-filmed, and certain images of the Twin Towers were digitally erased from the film.[77][78] Sony's Stage 29 was used for Parker's Forest Hills home, and Stage 27 was used for the wrestling sequence where Parker takes on Bonesaw McGraw (Randy Savage). Stage 27 was also used for the complex Times Square sequence where Spider-Man and the Goblin battle for the first time, where a three-story set with a breakaway balcony piece was built. The scene also required shooting in Downey, California.[79] On March 6,[80] 45-year-old construction worker Tim Holcombe was killed when a forklift modified as a construction crane crashed into a construction basket that he was in. The following court case led to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to fine Sony $58,805.[81]

In Los Angeles, locations included the Natural History Museum (for the Columbia University lab where Parker is bitten and receives his powers), the Pacific Electricity Building (the Daily Bugle offices) and Greystone Mansion (for the interiors of Norman Osborn's home). In April, 4 of the Spider-Man costumes were stolen, and Sony put up a $25,000 reward for their return.[82] They were recovered after 18 months and a former movie studio security guard and an accomplice were arrested.[83] Production moved to New York City for two weeks, taking in locations such as the Queensboro Bridge, the exteriors of Columbia University's Low Memorial Library and the New York Public Library, and a rooftop garden in the Rockefeller Center.[79] The crew returned to Los Angeles where production continued, filming wrapped in June 2001.[58] The Flatiron Building was used for the Daily Bugle.[58]


The original animatronic headgear for the Green Goblin was created by Amalgamated Dynamics.

Before settling on the look used in the film, the original headgear created for the Green Goblin was an animatronic mask created by Amalgamated Dynamics. One concept costume designer James Acheson became fond of was the idea of having a red emblem over a black costume. Another, which would eventually lead to the final product, featured an enlarged logo on the chest and red stripes going down the sides of the legs.[47] To create Spider-Man's costume, Maguire was fitted for the skintight suit, being covered with layers of substance to create the suit's shape.[84] It was designed as a single piece, including the mask. A hard shell was worn underneath the mask to make the shape of the head look better and to keep the mask tight while keeping the wearer comfortable. For scenes where he would take his mask off, there was an alternate suit where the mask was a separate piece. The webbing, which accented the costume, was cut by computer. The mask eye lenses were designed to have a mirror look.[85]

Visual effects[edit]

Visual effects supervisor John Dykstra was hired to produce the film's visual effects in May 2000.[86] He convinced Raimi to make many of the stunts computer-generated, as they would have been physically impossible. Raimi had used more traditional special effects in his previous films and learned a lot about using computers during production.[51] Raimi worked hard to plan all the sequences of Spider-Man swinging from buildings, which he described as, "ballet in the sky." The complexity of such sequences meant the budget rose from an initially planned $70 million to around $100 million.[25] Shots were made more complicated because of the main characters' individual color schemes, so Spider-Man and the Green Goblin had to be shot separately for effects shots: Spider-Man was shot in front of a greenscreen, while the Green Goblin was shot against bluescreen. Shooting them together would have resulted in one character being erased from a shot.[47]

Dykstra said the biggest difficulty of creating Spider-Man was that as the character was masked, it immediately lost a lot of characterization. Without the context of eyes or mouth, a lot of body language had to be put in so that there would be emotional content. Raimi wanted to convey the essence of Spider-Man as being, "the transition that occurs between him being a young man going through puberty and being a superhero." Dykstra said his crew of animators had never reached such a level of sophistication to give subtle hints of still making Spider-Man feel like a human being.[87] When two studio executives were shown shots of the computer generated character, they believed it was actually Maguire performing stunts.[47] In addition, Dykstra's crew had to composite areas of New York City and replaced every car in shots with digital models. Raimi did not want it to feel entirely like animation, so none of the shots were 100% computer-generated.[88] Some of the software used for the visual effects were Autodesk Maya.[citation needed]




Original Spider-Man teaser poster, which was recalled from theatres following 9/11 (the World Trade Center is reflected in Spider-Man's eyes)

After the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, Sony recalled teaser posters which showed a close-up of Spider-Man's head with the New York skyline (including, prominently, the World Trade Center towers) reflected in his eyes. The film's original teaser trailer, released that same year, featured a mini-film plot involving a group of bank robbers escaping in a Eurocopter AS355 Twin Squirrel helicopter, which gets caught from behind and propelled backward into what at first appears to be a net, then is shown to be a gigantic spider web spun between the World Trade Center towers. The trailer was attached to the screenings of Jurassic Park III, American Pie 2, and Planet of the Apes. According to Sony, the trailer did not contain any actual footage from the film itself.[89] Both the trailer and poster were removed after the events of the attacks, but can be found online.[90] A new trailer deemed acceptable by Sony Pictures was later released online on December 15, 2001.[91] Raimi later stated that the scene was, in fact, originally in the film but removed due to the recency of the attacks.[92]


Before the film's British theatrical release in June 2002, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) gave the film a "12" certificate. Due to Spider-Man's popularity with younger children, this prompted much controversy. The BBFC defended its decision, arguing that the film could have been given a "15". Despite this, North Norfolk and Breckland District Councils, in East Anglia, changed it to a "PG", and Tameside council, Manchester, denoted it a "PG-12". The U.S. rated it "PG-13" for "stylized violence and action".[93] In late August, the BBFC relaxed its policy to "12A", leading Sony to re-release the film.[94][95]

Home media[edit]

Spider-Man was released on DVD and VHS on November 1, 2002, in the North America and Australia, the UK on November 25, 2002.[96] Over 7 million DVD copies were sold on the first day of release.[97] While the VHS release sold over 6.5 million copies, the DVD release went on to become one of the best-selling live-action DVD titles of all time with over 19.5 million copies being sold.[98][99] A Blu-ray release was followed on July 5, 2011.[100] Spider-Man was also included in the Spider-Man Legacy Collection, which includes 5 Spider-Man films in a 4K UHD Blu-ray collection, which was released on October 17, 2017.[101]

The film's American television rights (Fox, TBS/TNT) were sold for $60 million.[102] Related gross toy sales were $109 million.[102] Its American DVD revenue by July 2004 was $338.8 million.[102] Its American VHS revenue by July 2004 was $89.2 million.[102] As of 2006, the film has grossed a total revenue of $1.5 billion from box office and home video (sales and rentals), in addition a further $880 million from television (pay-per-view, broadcast TV and cable TV).[103]


Box office[edit]

Spider-Man became the first film to pass the $100,000,000 mark in a single weekend, even when adjusting for inflation, with its $114,844,116[104] mark establishing a new opening weekend record.[105][106] The gross surpassed the previous record holder's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone $90,000,000 opening; on this, Rick Lyman of The New York Times wrote "while industry executives had expected a strong opening for the film because there was little competition in the marketplace and prerelease polling indicated intense interest from all age groups, no one predicted that Spider-Man would surpass the Harry Potter record."[106]

The film also set a record for crossing the $100,000,000 milestone in 3 days, at the time being the fastest any film had reached the mark.[107] This opening weekend haul had an average of $31,769 per theater, which at the time, Box Office Mojo reported as being "the highest per theater average ever for an ultra-wide release."[105] The film's three-day record was surpassed by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest four years later.[108] The $114.8 million opening weekend was the highest at the North America box office film for a non-sequel, until it was surpassed eight years later by Alice in Wonderland.[109]

With the release in the United States and Canada on May 3, 2002, on 7,500 screens at 3,615 theaters,[106] the film earned $39,406,872 on its opening day, averaging $10,901 per theater.[110] This was the highest opening day at the time until it was surpassed by its sequel Spider-Man 2's $40.4 million haul in 2004.[111] Spider-Man also set an all-time record for the highest earnings in a single day with $43,622,264 on its second day of release,[105][110] a record later surpassed by Shrek 2 in 2004.[112] On the Sunday during its opening weekend, the film earned an additional $31,814,980,[110] the highest gross a film took in on a Sunday, at the time.[105]

The film stayed at the top position in its second weekend, dropping only 38% and grossing another $71,417,527,[113] while averaging $19,755.89 per theater. At the time, this was the highest-grossing second weekend of any film.[113] During its second weekend, the film crossed the $200 million mark on its ninth day of release, also a record at the time.[113] At the end of its second weekend, the film brought in a 10-day total of $223,040,031.[113]

The film dropped to the second position in its third weekend, behind Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, but still made $45,036,912, dropping only 37%, averaging $12,458 per theater, and bringing the 17-day tally to $285,573,668.[114] Its third weekend haul set the record for highest-grossing third weekend, which was first surpassed by Avatar (2009).[115] It stayed at the second position in its fourth weekend, grossing $35,814,844 over the four-day Memorial Day frame, dropping only 21% while expanding to 3,876 theaters, averaging $9,240 over four days, and bringing the 25-day gross to $333,641,492.[116] In the box office, Spider-Man became 2002's highest-grossing film with $403,706,375 in the U.S. and Canada, defeating The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.[117]

As of 2020, Spider-Man ranks as the 36th-highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S. and Canada, not adjusted for inflation. The film also grossed $418,002,176 from its international markets, bringing its worldwide total to $821,708,551,[118] making it 2002's third-highest-grossing film behind The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and the 58th-highest-grossing film of all time, worldwide.[119] The film sold an estimated 69,484,700 tickets in the US.[118] It held the record for most tickets sold by a comic book movie until The Dark Knight topped it in 2008. As of 2020, it is still the 6th highest grossing comic book movie of all time adjusted for inflation. Only Avengers: Infinity War, The Dark Knight, Black Panther, The Avengers and Avengers: Endgame have sold more tickets than Spider-Man. Spider-Man was the highest-grossing superhero origin film, a record it held for 15 years until it was surpassed by Wonder Woman (2017).[120] As of 2020, it is the 12th-highest-grossing superhero film, as well as the 12th-highest-grossing comic book adaptation in general.[121][122][123]

International markets which generated grosses in excess of $10 million include Australia ($16.9 million), Brazil ($17.4 million), France, Algeria, Monaco, Morocco and Tunisia ($32.9 million), Germany ($30.7 million), Italy ($20.8 million), Japan ($56.2 million), Mexico ($31.2 million), South Korea ($16.98 million), Spain ($23.7 million), and the United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta ($45.8 million).[124]

Spider-Man became the highest-grossing superhero film of all time at the time of its release, both domestically and worldwide. Its domestic gross was eventually topped by The Dark Knight (2008). Its worldwide gross was first surpassed by Spider-Man 3 (2007).

The film also held the record as Sony's highest-grossing film domestically until 2018, when it was finally surpassed by Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ($404.5 million).[125]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Spider-Man holds an approval rating of 90% based on 245 reviews, with an average rating of 7.60/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Not only does Spider-Man provide a good dose of web-swinging fun, it also has a heart, thanks to the combined charms of director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire."[126] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, has assigned the film a score of 73 out of 100 based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[127] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[128]

The casting, mainly Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe and J. K. Simmons, is often cited as one of the film's high points. Eric Harrison, of the Houston Chronicle, was initially skeptical of the casting of Maguire, but after seeing the film he stated, "it becomes difficult to imagine anyone else in the role."[129] USA Today critic Mike Clark believed the casting rivaled that of Christopher Reeve as 1978's Superman.[130] Owen Gleiberman, of Entertainment Weekly, had mixed feelings about the casting, particularly Tobey Maguire. "Maguire, winning as he is, never quite gets the chance to bring the two sides of Spidey—the boy and the man, the romantic and the avenger—together."[131] The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt thought: "the filmmakers' imaginations work in overdrive from the clever design of the cobwebby opening credits and Spider-Man and M.J.'s upside down kiss—after one of his many rescues of her—to a finale that leaves character relationships open ended for future adventures."[132]

LA Weekly's Manohla Dargis wrote, "It isn't that Spider-Man is inherently unsuited for live-action translation; it's just that he's not particularly interesting or, well, animated."[133] Giving it two and a half stars out of four, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt that the film lacked a decent action element: "Consider the scene where Spider-Man is given a cruel choice between saving Mary Jane or a cable car full of school kids. He tries to save both, so that everyone dangles from webbing that seems about to pull loose. The visuals here could have given an impression of the enormous weights and tensions involved, but instead the scene seems more like a bloodless storyboard of the idea."[134] Stylistically, there was heavy criticism of the Green Goblin's costume, which led IGN's Richard George to comment years later: "We're not saying the comic book costume is exactly thrilling, but the Goblin armor (the helmet in particular) from Spider-Man is almost comically bad... Not only is it not frightening, it prohibits expression."[135]

Entertainment Weekly put "the kiss in Spider-Man" on its end-of-the-decade "best-of" list, saying: "There's a fine line between romantic and corny. And the rain-soaked smooch between Spider-Man and Mary Jane from 2002 tap-dances right on that line. The reason it works? Even if she suspects he's Peter Parker, she doesn't try to find out. And that's sexy."[136]

Empire magazine ranked Spider-Man 437 in its 500 Greatest Movies of All Time list in 2008.[137]


The film won several awards ranging from Teen Choice Awards to the Saturn Awards, and was also nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound (Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Ed Novick), but lost to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Chicago, respectively.[138][139] While only Danny Elfman brought home a Saturn Award, Raimi, Maguire, and Dunst were all nominated for their respective positions. It also took home the People's Choice Award for "Favorite Motion Picture."[139] The film was nominated for Favorite Movie at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, but lost to Austin Powers in Goldmember.


In January 2003, Sony revealed that a sequel to Spider-Man was in development, and would be produced and directed by Sam Raimi. On March 15, 2003, a trailer revealed that the film, Spider-Man 2, would be released on June 30, 2004. Spider-Man 3, the second sequel to Spider-Man and, unintentionally, the final film in the series to be directed by Raimi, was released on May 4, 2007. Spider-Man: The New Animated Series was an alternate sequel to the film unrelated to the events of the later Spider-Man 2 and 3.[140]

Video game[edit]

A video game based on the film of the same name was released.[141] The game was developed by Treyarch (only for the home consoles) and published by Activision, and released in 2002 for Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. The game has many scenes and villains that did not appear in the film. It was followed by Spider-Man 2 two years later to promote the release of the second film. In 2007, to promote the release of the third film, Spider-Man 3 was released. Tobey Maguire and Willem Dafoe were the only actors who reprised their roles from the film. Spider-Man: Friend or Foe was released in 2007, the games borrows the film characters, and it serves as non-canon plot of the film series.[142]

The critical reviews for the game were positive. By July 2006, the PlayStation 2 version of Spider-Man had sold 2.1 million copies and earned $74 million in the United States. Next Generation ranked it as the 15th highest-selling game launched for the PlayStation 2, Xbox or GameCube between January 2000 and July 2006 in that country. Combined sales of Spider-Man console games released in the 2000s reached 6 million units in the United States by July 2006.[143]


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External links[edit]