Why Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is better than Tobey Maguire’s and Tom Holland’s


Richard Liang

Sophomore Richard Liang shares his opinion about why Andrew Garfield plays the best version of Spider-Man.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” featured an all-star crew studded with academy-award winning actors and Marvel megastars, but Andrew Garfield’s performance as a grief-ridden Peter Parker outdid them all. This may seem like an anomaly to many viewers, since Garfield’s “Amazing Spider-Man” films were shunned by movie critics and Marvel comic book faithfuls, but, in truth, Garfield has always been the best Spider-Man actor.

In 2010, Garfield burst onto the Hollywood scene after starring as Eduardo Saverin in “The Social Network,” which received eight Academy Award nominations. Mainstream American audiences got their first glance at the gawky Brit and were left speechless by his unique ability to embrace his character’s polar emotions and infuse them into the script.

Garfield’s delivery of even the most difficult emotional beats is only paralleled by acting titans like Tom Hanks and Dustin Hoffman. His split with Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network” quite literally gave me the chills, and I would argue that it may be one of the greatest scenes in cinematic history.

Garfield propelled “The Social Network” into greatness, and as a result Hollywood began to notice his potential. He was lauded as the face of a new generation of actors succeeding the giants of the 90’s when he took the reins of the Spider-Man franchise in 2012. Garfield had been criminally overlooked in the 2011 Oscars for his role as Saverin, so Spider-Man fanatics were expecting a transcendent performance from him to prove his doubters wrong. Garfield faced insurmountable expectations to elevate an already successful franchise to divine status.

Yet the “Amazing Spider-Man” franchise was the epitome of dysfunction. A blend of insufficient funding, awful casting choices (cough, cough, Dane DeHaan) and off-screen drama coalesced into the weakest live-action Spider-Man franchise. Garfield’s herculean efforts to salvage the movies were tainted by his castmates’ appalling acting and the iffy leadership of the movie producers. Critics and Spider-Man fans alike dismissed Garfield’s brilliance and wrongfully crowned either Toby Maguire or Tom Holland as the best actor to play Spidey. Clearly, Garfield was not the issue; it was the conditions under which he had to act. Garfield poured his soul into those movies, but his screenwriters failed to support his acting wizardry—in all honesty, they sucked. 

It doesn’t help Garfield’s cause that the “Amazing Spider-Man” films lie between Maguire’s original motion pictures and Holland’s blockbuster Marvel franchise. Admittedly, both are vastly superior series. Maguire’s Spider-Man movies are valued for being the first live-action Spider-Man franchise and including the greatest Spider-Man movie, “Spider-Man 2.” Maguire’s trilogy also featured superior villains and significantly better plot development than Garfield’s. Holland’s films are carried by his “pretty face,” the immense popularity and wealth of Marvel and his character being a famed Avenger. All Garfield gets to brag about is Sam Raimi’s weak installment into the franchise and Dane DeHaan’s accent; a blend of Northern Boston, Central Manhattan and the flu—not exactly music to the viewer’s ears. 

Garfield drew the short straw in terms of which franchise he starred in, but that shouldn’t belittle his acting talents.

Much of the criticism directed toward Garfield’s solo performance arises from his seeming misportrayal of Peter Parker. Spider-Man junkies hoped for a timid, nerdy and socially awkward Parker similar to Maguire and Holland, but instead, Garfield’s Parker carries a charming flair and is, well, cool.

Although Marvel superverse nerds see this as a gross misinterpretation, it actually makes Garfield’s performance all the more genius. Garfield brings a sort of elegance to his scenes that differentiates him from Maguire and Holland. He’s able to seamlessly slide in a joke or naturally become hysterically melodramatic without making it seem forced and unusual. Plus, Garfield is such a potent romantic and natural comic that it makes this grace inevitable.

The romance between Garfield’s Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy was the hallmark of the “Amazing Spider-Man” films. Their onscreen intimacy radiated an authenticity that captured the attention of the world. From their admittedly cringeworthy beginning to their first kiss, Garfield and Stone’s relationship consumed our attention and tugged on our heart-strings, making us scream at the TV, “Why don’t you just get married already?!?” When Stacy abruptly died in dramatic fashion at the end of “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” it felt like a slap to the face, and we struggled to fathom the tragic loss. Our eyes glimmered with a dying hope for Gwen to stay with us—and, when she didn’t, we shed the tears Garfield held in out of shock. 

In other words: Garfield is really freaking good at portraying romance.

Besides romance, Spider-Man movies have strived to feature comedy, however this effort was killed by Maguire and Holland, who make certain scenes unbearably awkward. Garfield, however, can generate his own jest with proficiency. His comedy often seems unintentional, but its timing and manner always perfectly suit his predicament. Whether it’s delivering a sarcastic and sassy “whaaaat” after discovering his apartment doesn’t have a chimney or cracking a truly unswerving joke while getting whooped by a giant lizard, Garfield can enliven any moment with comedic finesse. 

Garfield advocates like myself have been singing the actor’s—the god’s—praises for years, only to be ignored by the average moviegoer. Garfield’s reappearance in “No Way Home” only added fuel for our love of the second Spider-Man. It has proven what we’ve known all along: Andrew Garfield was the best actor ever to suit up as Spidey.