Spider-Man turns 20: Why it's the best superhero movie of all time

Spider-Man turns 20: Why it’s the best superhero movie of all time

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of “Spider-Man”, a look back at this monument to the superhero film signed by Sam Raimi in 2002.

A delicious shiver along the back when the first notes of the introductory credits start to resonate, a surge of goosebumps when Peter Parker begins to climb the walls, an irrepressible smile on the corner of his lips when he gives a lesson to Flash Thompson in the halls of high school, a shot of adrenaline when he rushes through the streets of New York to catch up with his uncle’s murderer…

Even 20 years later, if you discovered Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man with the eyes of a child or teenager when it was released in theaters in 2002, you could not forget the avalanche of sensations and emotions. that fell on you in front of this film like no other.

A real event when it landed in the cinema, this first feature film dedicated to Spider-Man represents for many an unforgettable memory of a spectator. And so many are those who evoke an essential monument of the genre, two decades later, some even go so far as to speak of the greatest superhero film ever made.

But how to explain this near unanimity around Sam Raimi’s film? What is more than the others? What are the secret ingredients that made it so successful at the box office upon its release? And to conquer the hearts of all the fans, practically without reserve?

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Spider-Man, a look back at this rough diamond that thrilled dark rooms, spectators and the cinema industry…

Sony Pictures


Peter Parker is an ordinary young high school student, who has to chase his bus every morning to get there on time, who is often pushed around by bullies in his class, and who has always dreamed of going out with his neighbor, the pretty Mary – Jane Watson. The day he is bitten by a genetically modified spider, his body begins to change suddenly, and he suddenly finds himself endowed with herculean strength, as well as incredible powers.

What if it was its simplicity that made Spider-Man such an effective film? Born from the imagination of Stan Lee and magnified by the staging of a Sam Raimi particularly inspired, the story of Peter Parker is, ultimately, very classic. Sober, basic, refined, almost rudimentary when compared to the scenarios of recent blockbusters.

Here, no multiverse, parallel dimensions or intergalactic travel. The entire film takes place in New York, between Queens and Times Square.

Sony Pictures

Here, no mad titan seeking to exterminate half of the universe, artificial intelligence launched to conquer the world or Norse god from the depths of the cosmos. Only a student in love with a girl. A hero on a human scale. A teenager who leads an ordinary life, who thinks like a teenager, has teenage troubles and teenage dreams.

Difficult not to feel concerned when leading a lifestyle roughly similar to that of Peter Parker when sitting in the room. It’s hard not to identify with this familiar character, especially because of the humanity that a Tobey Maguire in very good shape breathes into him. It is difficult, therefore, not to feel transported at the same time as him when, later in the film, the supernatural suddenly comes to crash into his daily life.

However, even in its spectacular dimension, when observed metaphorically, the adventure of Peter Parker remains fully universal, and quite simply evokes puberty, the transition to adulthood.

The physical and emotional changes that the character goes through, his bodily upheavals, his new “great powers” which come with “great responsibilities” are therefore realities to which each young spectator can easily adhere.

Sony Pictures


As soon as we are emotionally concerned by the character, by the efficiency and the sincerity of an implacable scenario, we are necessarily in an excellent position to follow Peter Parker in each of his adventures.

This is where one of the main strengths of the film comes in: the virtuoso staging of a Sam Raimi at the top of its form. Vertiginous and ethereal when Spider-Man swings from canvas to canvas through the streets of New York, the production is also very organic, especially during scenes of action or tension.

Physical, epidermal, almost visceral, it consists of simple shots (no pun intended compared to another film by the filmmaker), concrete, without artifice or embellishment, clearer and sharper, therefore necessarily more impactful.

Sony Pictures

Whether we talk about the slow motions during the sequences where Peter uses his “spider sense”, the particularly successful clipped scenes when he draws a costume, or the combat choreographies facing the Green Goblin, totally fluid and perfectly readable, efficiency is constantly at the rendezvous.

Spiderman is therefore, from start to finish, a visual spectacle and a real sensory experience that allows us to share (on our scale as spectators) the thrills of a Peter Parker capable of climbing walls, fluttering between buildings or launching himself from the top of a tower.


Impossible to enumerate the strengths of Spider-Man without lingering a little (and even a lot) on one of the most fundamental of them: the masterful score of a Danny Elfman at his best level.

Accustomed to composing all the soundtracks of Sam Raimi’s films, the maestro signs from the outset an absolutely unforgettable main theme, which no other superhero film has really managed to match since (except perhaps Hans Zimmer with The Dark Knight or Alan Silvestri with Avengers).

Gradually woven – like a spider’s web – by the archers of the numerous violins, by the percussions, then by the choirs, Elfman’s music embodies the subject of the film to perfection. Tangled with adrenaline, emotion, heroism and a sense of urgency, it is nothing but a vertiginous rise in power, similar to the ascent of a new-build skyscraper. yorkers.

From the first seconds of the credits, therefore, even before Sam Raimi has begun to tell us the story of Peter Parker, thanks to the inhabited score of an immense Danny Elfman, the journey has already begun.


When it was released in June 2002, on the strength of the many advantages that we have mentioned and the colossal expectation of the fans around the film, Spiderman collects 821 million dollars of receipts throughout the world, and is thus essential like the 7th greatest success of all time (at the time).

It must be said that at the beginning of the 21st century, the territory explored by Sam Raimi is still almost virgin. At a time when most superheroes still inhabit the boards of comic books and where very few of them have ventured onto the big screen, everything remains to be created. The foundations of a new genre have yet to be built.

Sony Pictures

The public, curious to see if the cohabitation between comic-books and dark rooms will be a good omen, impatiently awaits the film which will manage to create the event. And what better than a Spider-Man adventure to get a web?

By landing in dark rooms, Spider-Man is reshuffling the cards, and literally smashing the box office record for a superhero film, held until now by Tim Burton’s first Batman and its 411 million (followed by the Superman of Richard Donner and his 300 million).

Right in the middle of a landscape which, until then, had been almost exclusively occupied by adaptations of DC Comics, and after a few timid attempts on the side of Marvel (Blade in 1998 or X-Men in 2000), the Man- Spider upsets the table and proves that the Maison des Idées also has something under its feet.

Sony Pictures

Champion in its category for the next 6 years (before being finally dethroned by The Dark Knight in 2008), Spider-Man undoubtedly marks a turning point in the Hollywood industry, and undeniably participates in launching the gold rush of the superhero film.

Two decades later, the world has changed. More than 20 superhero films have already surpassed the score achieved by Spider-Man in 2002. Comic book characters are now permanent residents of cinemas. And Peter Parker now sports three different faces in a single feature film.

And yet… Every time we hear the theme of the Marvel logo resonate in the cinema, how can we forget that the first time was in the company of Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, Danny Elfman and Sam Raimi?

(Re)discover our video dedicated to Spider-Man…

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