Tobey Maguire Is America’s Favorite Spider-Man

New data offers an answer to the highly debated question as rumors swirl that previous actors appear in 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'
Forty-one percent of U.S. adults said Tobey Maguire, who took on the role of Spider-Man in the 2002 movie and two sequels, was the best live-action webslinger, according to Morning Consult data. (Sony Pictures / Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Sara Wickersham)
December 16, 2021 at 12:01 am UTC


This story is part of a nine-part series considering the business future of Disney’s crown jewel, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of the most lucrative properties in the history of entertainment, the MCU is suddenly threatened from multiple fronts: Several of its beloved heroes have been retired, the theatrical model is in peril and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated massive shifts in the media consumption habits of superhero fans. Marvel’s future success is not necessarily guaranteed. In order to continue its dominance of global culture over the course of its next phase, the Disney-owned brand will have to adapt.

As those who have portrayed Peter Parker well know, with great power comes great responsibility. 

The question of which actor has most successfully shouldered that responsibility is highly contentious among Marvel fans. Now, ahead of Friday’s U.S. release of the latest installment of the “Spider-Man” film franchise, new Morning Consult data suggests that the first act has proven hard to follow.

Tobey Maguire Ranks as Most Popular ‘Spider-Man’ Actor

U.S. adults were asked which of the following three actors was the best Spider-Man:
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Poll conducted Nov. 19-22, 2021, among 2,201 U.S. adults, including 1,457 Marvel fans and 601 avid Marvel fans, with margins of error of +/-2%, +/-3% and +/-4%, respectively.

What the numbers say

  • Forty-one percent of Americans said Tobey Maguire, who took on the role in the 2002 movie and two sequels, was the best live-action Spider-Man.
  • Tom Holland, who brought Peter Parker to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2015 after Sony Pictures agreed to share the character’s movie rights with Walt Disney Co., trailed by a wide margin, with 18 percent of Americans saying he’s the best webslinger. 
  • Just 6 percent of adults said Andrew Garfield, who portrayed the masked hero in two films from 2012 to 2014, did the best job in the role.
  • That order — Maguire, Holland, Garfield — held up across several demographics, including gender, generation and self-identified Marvel fans. 
  • However, Gen Zers, closest in age with the 25-year-old Holland, were more evenly divided between him and Maguire: 33 percent said they prefer Holland, while 38 percent said they like Maguire best, a difference of 5 percentage points that falls within the margin of error for that demographic.
  • Gen Xers, the generation of 46-year-old Maguire, skewed more heavily toward him than the general public and other generations: 49 percent said he was the best Spider-Man.

Green Goblin, Venom Top List of Favorite ‘Spider-Man’ Villains

Shares of U.S. adults and Marvel fans who said the following were their favorite villains from “Spider-Man” movies:
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Poll conducted Nov. 19-22, 2021, among 2,201 U.S. adults, including 1,457 Marvel fans, with margins of error of +/-2% and +/-3%, respectively.

What the numbers say

  • The villains in Maguire’s films are also among the most popular. While 38 percent of Americans said they have no opinion on the matter, roughly 1 in 3 (32 percent) said Green Goblin, who made his comic-book debut in “The Amazing Spider-Man #14” in 1964 and was portrayed by Willem Dafoe in Maguire’s Spider-Man universe, is their favorite foe. 
  • Venom, Doc Ock and Sandman were the next most popular Spider-Man villains, and all came from the Maguire-led movies.
  • Trailers confirm that Green Goblin, Doc Ock and Sandman will each make appearances in Holland’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday.
  • There’s also speculation that Venom could grace the screen again, since the post-credits scene of October’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” pulled the symbiote into the MCU through the last-minute appearance of Holland’s Parker.
  • Rhys Ifans' Lizard and Jamie Foxx's Electro have also appeared in trailers for “No Way Home,” after first battling Garfield’s Spider-Man in 2012 and 2014, respectively — although they’re less popular than most of Spider-Man’s other adversaries. 
  • Maguire and Garfield have been heavily rumored to appear in “No Way Home” as well, although Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures haven’t confirmed anything surrounding the previous Parkers, while the actors have played coy on the matter when asked. 

The impact

Holland might not be the universal favorite Spider-Man actor, but his films have performed well in the context of the MCU: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” are both among the top 10 highest-grossing movies in the franchise, and “No Way Home” has shattered presale records. When tickets first went on sale, the demand was so strong that websites including Fandango, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and Regal Cinemas crashed. When sites were back up and running, first-day presales for “No Way Home” were reportedly higher than pre-pandemic hits including “Avengers: Infinity War” and several “Star Wars” films.

The new film’s emphasis on the multiverse — a group of different universes that appear to cross over in “No Way Home,” allowing for the introduction of heroes and villains that haven’t previously existed in the MCU — is also undoubtedly driving box-office hype, as nostalgia for the earlier Spider-Man movies draws the attention of a wider range of fans. 

Regardless of who’s the public’s favorite Spider-Man, the character itself — Marvel’s most profitable — holds significant sway over consumers. As the Marvel franchise works to sell the world on its newest lineup of heroes and get Gen Z on board with its fandom, fan favorites like Spider-Man will help lead the way in Marvel’s next phase.

The survey was conducted Nov. 19-22 among 2,201 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Alyssa Meyers previously worked at Morning Consult as a reporter covering brands and marketing.

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