Your plain-English guide to Spider-Man's villains before No Way Home

To get the most out of the latest Spidey escapade, you need to know where we left off with Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Electro, Sandman and the Lizard.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
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Sean Keane
9 min read

Spider-Man will have a terrifying group of villains out for his blood in No Way Home. 

Sony Pictures

Spider-Man: No Way Home is set to bring web-slinging Marvel Cinematic Universe action back to US theaters on Friday, with Tom Holland's hero gearing up to battle a group of classic villains. We previously saw these baddies in the movies where Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield played Spidey, hinting at No Way Home's multiversal storyline.

The villains' fates in their previous battles with Peter Parker's heroic alter-ego might inform their actions in No Way Home, so let's look at where all of the previous Spidey movies' rogues ended up. Only a few have appeared in trailers, but the door is open for more to show up. This piece includes SPOILERS for all the previous live-action Spidey movies and one recently released non-Spidey film, but we'll include a warning before diving into that.

Green Goblin

In 2002's Spider-Man, the first film in the trilogy with Tobey Maguire in the lead role, stressed-out scientist Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) tests an experimental performance-enhancing chemical on himself. This gives him superhuman strength and a homicidal secondary personality -- the Green Goblin. He dons a shiny, armored flight suit and hops on a glider to terrorize New York City.

Green Goblin in Spider-Man 2002

You know, he's something of a scientist himself.

Sony Pictures/Screenshot by CNET

Osborn kills anyone in his way and tries to convince Spidey to join him, but takes the hero's rejection of the alliance personally. He figures out Spidey's identity (the worst-kept secret in superhero movies), then attacks his Aunt May and kidnaps his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson, threatening to murder her.

After being overpowered by our hero, Norman pretends to beg for Peter's help in overcoming the Goblin personality while sneakily preparing to skewer him with his glider. Peter dodges at the last second and the Goblin ends up impaled through the crotch. Sometimes, karma can be painful.

Status: Dead, and an irredeemable jerk. Evil cackle.  

Doctor Octopus

After a fusion power project goes wrong in 2004's Spider-Man 2, nuclear scientist Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) ends up with a set of artificially intelligent robotic tentacles fused to his spine and earns the tabloid moniker "Doctor Octopus." Not only does the tentacles' stupidly delicate inhibitor chip get smashed, but Doc Ock's wife also dies in the fusion accident. He's left with four extra metal limbs, a maniacal attitude and an intense determination to restart his experiment.

Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2

The real crime would be not to finish what he started.

Sony Pictures/Screenshot by CNET

Despite forming an emotional bond with Peter, Doc Ock kidnaps Mary Jane (again) and tells him to find Spider-Man.

During his extremely supervillain (and Manhattan-threatening) attempt to re-create the sun at a waterfront lab, Doc Ock learns that Peter and Spidey are in fact the same guy (wowsers) and is persuaded to act for the greater good. Overcoming the tentacles' influence, he sacrifices himself by forcing the experiment to sink into the river, saving the city.

Status: Dead, and redeemed. Those mean tentacles are still stuck to his spine though.


One of three villains in 2007's Spider-Man 3, Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) turned to a life of crime to pay for his sick daughter's medical treatment. Falling into an experimental particle accelerator while escaping prison, he gains sand-based shapeshifting powers and returns to robbin' as Sandman.

Peter learns that Marko was the guy who killed his beloved Uncle Ben (a controversial change to Spidey's comic book origin) and uses his new alien suit-enhanced powers to absolutely batter the villain.

Sandman vs Spidey in Spider-Man 3

Sandman discovers that symbiote Spidey cares not for negotiation.

Sony Pictures/Screenshot by CNET

During their final battle, Marko absorbs loads of sand from a construction site to get super big and rails on poor Peter. However, he learns the hero's true identity (as every villain must) during the course of the fight and he chills out. He explains that Ben's death was an accident and earns Peter's forgiveness, then turns into sand and drifts away in the wind.

Status: Alive, and redeemed. He still has an ill child to help out, though.

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The second of Spider-Man 3's villainous trio is Peter's greasy rival photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), who fakes an incriminating shot of Spidey like a big jerk. Peter, who's under the malign influence of the alien symbiote that turned his costume a moody black, exposes Brock and gets him fired. Some might say that's vindictive, but he totally deserved it.

Venom in Spider-Man 3

He likes being bad.

Sony Pictures/Screenshot by CNET

Peter rejects the symbiote and it finds Brock, imbuing him with Spidey's powers and awareness of his dual identity. (Peter is Spider-Man?!) He teams up with Sandman and kidnaps Mary Jane (again, sigh).

Exploiting the symbiote's weakness to sound, Peter separates it from Brock and flings a bomb at the alien. A desperate Brock leaps into the symbiote's embrace in an attempt to bond with it again, but the pair are vaporized together.

Status: Dead, and a pair of meanies to their fiery end. However, this won't be the last we'll see of the fanged fellow.

New Goblin

Spider-Man 3 villain No. 3 is Peter's pal Harry Osborn (James Franco), who was left all twisted up inside by his dad Norman's emotional abuse and death. He follows in his father's footsteps after discovering his friend is in fact Spidey (gee golly), donning a paintball mask and flying around on a snowboard-style glider.

New Goblin in Spider-Man 3

Look at little Goblin Junior.

Sony Pictures/Screenshot by CNET

Harry is haunted by visions of his late father, who pushes him into a misguided mission of vengeance against Spidey (and provides an excuse for more Willem Dafoe goblin' up some scenery, yesssss). After a couple of nasty battles with the wall-crawler, Harry turns around and helps his buddy rescue Mary Jane from Sandman and Venom.

Pushing Spidey out of danger during the fight, he's impaled on his own glider by Venom -- similar to his father's death, but in an act of sacrifice rather than a sneaky murder attempt. He and Peter forgive each other before Harry dies.

Status: Dead, and redeemed in the trilogy's most complete emotional arc.


In 2012's reboot The Amazing Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield took over as Peter and had to battle a big mean reptile man. His one-armed mentor Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) uses lizard DNA to create a regeneration serum that restores his lost limb, but also changes him into the angry Lizard.

Lizard in Amazing Spider-Man

If he got his way, we'd all be lizard people now.

Sony Pictures/Screenshot by CNET

In his scaly new form, he connects Peter and Spider-Man (uh oh!) and is determined to eliminate humanity's weaknesses by transforming everyone into lizards -- a plan that's somehow sillier than re-creating the sun on the Manhattan waterfront.

Peter and girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) stop his dastardly plot and restore Connors to normal, but not before the Lizard kills Gwen's dad.

Status: Alive, and committed to a psychiatric hospital. Probably still pines for that lovely lizard life.


Lubriciously nerdy electrical engineer Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) is the first of the two major villains in 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2. He suffers an electric shock at work and falls into a tank of genetically engineered electric eels (a danger we must all be mindful of), giving him electrical powers and fixing a gap in his teeth.

Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

It's his birthday.

Sony Pictures/Screenshot by CNET

As Electro, Dillon takes umbrage with Spidey after causing a blackout in Times Square and the web-slinger stops him. He then takes over the electrical grid, endangering the whole city.

Spidey confronts the baddy and gives Gwen (the true hero of these movies) a chance to reactivate the grid and overload Electro, exploding him.

Status: Seemingly dead, but it felt like he could spark back into the world via a loose wire or faulty plug socket. Probably too bitter to redeem.

Green Goblin 2

This universe's Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) is the second major villain of Amazing Spider-Man 2. He's dying of a hereditary illness and seeks Spidey's blood to cure himself, but our hero refuses for fear of side effects.

He manages to get a sample on his own and it changes him into a yucky green mutant lad in an icky transformation scene. But the fancy flight suit stabilizes his condition and he takes off on his glider with an underrated villainous cackle.

Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

What sharp teeth you have, Harry.

Sony Pictures/Screenshot by CNET

Figuring out his buddy Peter is Spidey (what?!) and quite miffed about the refusal to hand over some of his weird blood, he teams up with Electro and kidnaps Gwen to force the hero into a final confrontation. Harry is beaten, but Gwen dies (in a manner mirroring her comic book death).

Status: Alive and locked away, but quite determined to continue his life of supervillainy.

Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming

He'll kill you dead.

Sony Pictures/Screenshot by CNET


In 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first Spidey movie set in the MCU, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) lost his livelihood as a salvage worker when Damage Control stepped in to take over the cleanup after the first Avengers movie's Battle of New York. Since it was partially owned by Tony Stark, Toomes is quite bitter and turns to a life of crime.

He and his squad create a flying exo-suit with alien tech stolen from the battle, and he becomes Vulture. He keeps on robbin' fancy advanced weaponry to sell on the black market, which gets him noticed by Spidey (now played by Tom Holland). When Peter takes Toomes' daughter Liz to the homecoming dance, the villain figures out his identity and threatens the teenager. (This scene is incredible.)

This doesn't deter Spidey from stopping Toomes' plan to steal a bunch of Stark tech. After their final battle takes an explosive turn, the web-slinger saves the villain's life and leaves him for the authorities.

Status: Alive and imprisoned. Didn't give away Spidey's identity in the slammer, suggesting a warped kind of honor, and his cameo in the first Morbius trailer suggests we'll see him again.


Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) was initially presented as a hero from a parallel reality in 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home, but was actually leading a team of embittered ex-Stark employees using combat drones and hologram tech to create the illusion of superpowers. (Tony is responsible for many supervillains because he was a jerk.)

Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home

Mysterio wants to be the greatest hero on Earth.

Sony Pictures/Screenshot by CNET

Mysterio wants Stark tech to up his game, and learns that Tony had bequeathed access to a fancy security system to Spidey. He stages a bunch of attacks to get close to our hero (learning his identity in the process, OMG) and convinces him to hand over the tech.

The villain's arrogance gets him fatally shot in his final battle with Spidey, but he manages to record a video revealing the hero's identity to the world before his death. Checkmate.

Status: Seemingly dead, but he is (or was) an illusionist. His team is also still out there, and they could use Mysterio's image again.

Venom 2

The version of the character seen in 2018's Venom and this year's Venom: Let There Be Carnage isn't connected to Spidey, but the latter movie's mid-credits scene suggests that's about to be rectified. SPOILERS swinging in.


With Carnage dead, Eddie Brock and Venom (Tom Hardy) take a vacation. The symbiote offers Brock "a taste" of collective knowledge of the symbiote hive mind, but doing so transports the pair into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They see Peter's identity being revealed on television (thanks, Mysterio) and recognize the wall crawler.

Venom Let There Be Carnage

He just wants to be out there snacking on bad guys.

Sony Pictures

"That guyyyyy," says Venom, licking the image of Peter's face and leaving a streak of drool on the screen. Yum?

Status: Alive, and intrigued by Spidey. Given the symbiote hive mind, it's possible this version of Venom has the memories of the one in Spider-Man 3 and has a grudge against every universe's Peter.

Secondary villains

We've run through the main baddies from Spidey's 19-year cinematic history, but there are a few other antagonists worth highlighting.

The Maguire era included Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), who slammed Spidey as a menace in his newspaper. A new version of the character (or the universe-hopping original, since they're both played by Simmons) shows up in the MCU and uses Mysterio's recording to reveal the hero's identity to the world.


J. Jonah Jameson was a fixture of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies.

Sony Pictures

Garfield's movies included another version of Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper), who seems super mean before dying of the illness that plagues his son Harry, and an over-the-top take on the Rhino (Paul Giamatti), who looked like he was about to be beaten up in the closing moments of Amazing Spider-Man 2.

There's also the mysterious Gentleman (aka Gustav Fiers, played by the late Michael Massee), who seemed to be gathering villains to form the Sinister Six for a canceled sequel. That's suggested by the basement containing extremely recognizable villain tech like the Vulture's wings and Doc Ock's tentacles, even though neither had been established in this universe.

Homecoming features two versions of the Shocker (Logan Marshall-Green and Bokeem Woodbine) and the Tinkerer (Michael Chernus), along with Mac Gargan (Michael Mando), who's scarred and imprisoned after an encounter with Spidey and becomes the Scorpion in the comics.

Mac Gargan/Scorpion in Spider-Man: Homecoming

Mac Gargan points out his foreshadowing tattoo.

Sony Pictures/Screenshot by CNET

There's also Aaron Davis (Donald Glover), who's uncle to Miles Morales in the comics and becomes the Prowler.

Far From Home momentarily features Dimitri Smerdyakov and Janice Lincoln (Numan Acar and Claire Rushbrook), better known in the comics as the Chameleon and Beetle, respectively. These are likely just nods to the comics rather than setup, but you never know.

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