5 Reasons Spider-Man 2 Is The Best Superhero Movie Of All Time

We can debate what the best superhero movie is until the cows come home. But I think you can tell those cows to relax and take their time, because I already know the answer: it's "Spider-Man 2."

Sam Raimi's 2004 sequel is astoundingly good, and has only gotten better in this age where superhero movies are a constant presence, and they all kind of look the same. Featuring bright, colorful action, dramatic beats that feel genuine, an all-time-great villain, and a genuine heart and soul, "Spider-Man 2" is truly something special. Interest in the film has recently been renewed thanks to "Spider-Man 2" actor Alfred Molina reprising his role of Doc Ock for "Spider-Man: No Way Home." But based on the trailer alone, "No Way Home" is a blah successor; a muddled, colorless drab more interested in cinematic universe enhancement and Easter eggs instead of telling the best possible story.

But the trailer did lead to at least one thing good for me: it inspired me to revisit "Spider-Man 2" for the first time in years. And no matter how good I remembered the movie being, it turned out to be even better. That, in turn, inspired me to write this 100% scientific, unquestionable, infallible explainer as to why "Spider-Man 2" is so damn good. So, without further adieu, here are five reasons "Spider-Man 2" is the best superhero movie ever. 

It Has Real Dramatic Conflict

Yes, there's plenty of fantastical superhero stuff in "Spider-Man 2." But the film also has refreshingly down-to-earth and realistic dramatic conflicts. Peter Parker is struggling with his grades in college. He's pining for Mary Jane, denying himself a chance at romance with her because he doesn't want to ruin her life. He's broke as hell — superheroes don't get paid, after all, and Peter has to literally run away from his landlord to avoid paying rent. And the apartment he's occupying looks like someone threw up all over a nightmare; lots of grey-browns and filth. Peter gets fired from a pizza delivery job. His job at the Daily Bugle is constantly in danger. He's exhausted. He's still riddled with guilt for not saving his Uncle Ben from being murdered. The grief and guilt threaten to topple him, and he's so afraid of admitting the truth to his dear Aunt May. And he also carries around the knowledge that his best buddy Harry secretly hates his guts. Harry thinks Spider-Man killed his dad, Norman Osbourn, AKA The Green Goblin. But Peter knows the truth — not that he can admit it to Harry. 

In short, Peter Parker's life is a miserable mess. That's not to say "Spider-Man 2" is a dire slog. No, Sam Raimi knows just how to handle the tone here: things are kept light and fun, but we also feel the emotional weight pressing down on Peter. All of this culminates in Peter losing his spidey powers. The film wisely never specifically spells out why Peter is suddenly unable to shoot webs and crawl walls, because all the info we need is already there. It's a psychological problem — Peter is so stressed, so unhappy, that he's unable to perform. Is this all a metaphor for impotence? Sure, you could read it that way. But the fact remains that "Spider-Man 2" is the rare superhero flick where we, the powerless audience members, can genuinely relate to the hero's problems. It's a surprisingly adult approach to such a fun, colorful comic book movie. 

The Action Scenes Are Fantastic (And Visible!)

One of my big complaints with modern-day superhero movies — and a lot of action-based movies in general — is that the action is weirdly incoherent. Action is a big part of these movies, so you'd think filmmakers would work hard to make sure we could, ya know, see the action, and follow what's going on clearly. Unfortunately, that's not the case, and more often than not we're left with blurry, hard-to-follow action that fails to elicit even a tiny bit of excitement. 

But "Spider-Man 2" knows exactly how to do it, thanks to Sam Raimi, who is a master of camera movement. To be clear: some of the VFX work in the Raimi Spidey films hasn't aged well. There are shots where the digital Spider-Man is flipping around town that just don't look right — the character looks too weightless, too fake. But once you look past that you get treated to clean and clear scenes of thrilling movement. Hell, look at the video above. That's not even really an action scene in the sense that it has Spider-Man engaged in a fight. He's just delivering pizzas! And yet, this scene, played for laughs, is more exciting than the majority of action beats in the MCU right now. 

Then you have moments like the much-talked-about train sequence (more on that in a moment). Or, my personal favorite, the scene were Doc Ock is unleashed inside a hospital — a scene that allows Raimi to really lean into his horror roots, complete with an "Evil Dead"-like chainsaw moment. Even if you want to disagree with me that the action in modern superhero movies is good, I don't think you can deny no recent superhero action scene comes anywhere close to touching the energy here. 

It Has Heart

Not only does "Spider-Man 2" boast great dramatic conflict, it has a real heart, too. I'm talking specifically of the scene where Spidey has to stop a train from crashing. Never mind the fact that the whole reason this is happening is because Doc Ock wants to capture Spider-Man, even though setting this train stunt in action could very well kill him. 

No, ignore all that. Instead, focus first on how thrilling this scene is, and then on what comes after. Spidey is so exhausted, so beaten, that when the train finally stops he comes very close to falling off the elevated platform. Instead, the people he just saved reach out and save him. They carry him into the train and gently lay him down on the floor. In the process of all of this, Spidey has lost his mask, and the passengers can see his face. "He's just a kid," one of them observes, shocked that this superhero who has been swinging all over the Big Apple is just some young guy. In the midst of all this, Peter wakes up and is worried that his mask his gone. But the passengers tell him not to worry — they'll keep his identity safe. There's something so shockingly kind here; a moment of true grace, and not even the arrival of Doc Ock can shatter it. The New Yorkers take a stand and say that if Dock Ock wants Spidey they'll have to go through them first. Of course, Doc Ock pushes them aside easily — but hey, it's the thought that counts. 

It Has a Great Villain

A hero is often only as good as his villain, and "Spider-Man 2" has a great one. It certainly helps that Alfred Molina is a wonderful actor, and he brings a considerable amount of emotional heft to the part. We first meet Doc Ock when he's Otto Octavius, a brilliant scientist trying to harness the power of the sun. Peter and Otto hit it off, and Peter greatly admires and looks up to this giant of science. But in true Frankenstein/50's sci-fi movie fashion, Otto tampers in god's domain and suffers the consequences. The experiment backfires and turns him into a freak; a monster with sentiment tentacles. Raimi explored similar territory with "Darkman," and he has a great grasp on his bad guy. Molina's performance makes Doc Ock both pathetically sympathetic (he loses his wife; it's not really his fault that he's suddenly a crazy bad guy, his mind is warped) while also pretty scary. He's not afraid to hurt people in his way, and comes close to even killing saintly Aunt May. He's a complex, scary bad guy and the scenes where he faces off against Spidey are lively and wildly entertaining. 

It Has That Dashboard Confessional Song Over the End Credits

Look, I'm not going to get into whether or not Dashboard Confessional is a good band. I'm not here to debate music. All I can say is that no matter how you feel about the band and their emo jams, the moment "Spider-Man 2" ends and this song starts blasting, you'll be reaching for the remote to crank up the volume. Chris Carrabba screaming "Vindicated! I am selfish! I am wrong! I am right, I swear I'm right! Swear I knew it all along!" just hits hard, man, what can I say? The story goes that Sony asked Dashboard Confessional to record a song and they agreed on the condition they could watch an early screening of the film. Sony obliged, showing them an unfinished cut. The band then went and wrote the song in 10 minutes immediately after watching the movie. Is that story true? I don't know, and I don't care. It's a good story, and "Spider-Man 2" is a great movie.