A cinematic history of all the villains in Spider-Man: No Way Home

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The Green Goblin hovers on his glider in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Image: Sony Pictures

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, many villains in Spider-Man

Spider-Man: No Way Home is officially in theaters and yes — it really does have all those villains from the trailer. Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Electro, the Lizard, and Sandman are back, and the actors who played them in the first two Spider-Man movie franchises have even returned to reprise their roles.

So, let’s take a tour through cinematic Spider-villainous history — after all, it’s been a long time since the Green Goblin first snarled on to screens, since Doc Ock waved his first tentacle, and since the Lizard tried to turn everyone in New York City into a reptile.

The Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) from Spider-Man (2002)

The Green Goblin in Spider-Man (2002).
Image: Sony Pictures

In 2002, Sam Raimi released his much anticipated Spider-Man movie, starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, and of course, Willem Dafoe. Dafoe brought to screen what is arguably one of the most iconic villains from Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, the Green Goblin. In Raimi’s film, Norman Osborn was the head of a massive corporation, Oscorp, and the father of Peter’s best friend Harry. Norman frequently ignores his son Harry in favor of Peter, in whom he sees himself – as he puts it, both he and Peter are “something of a scientist.”

We quickly find out that Oscorp is on the cusp of bankruptcy, and the only way out is to secure a highly lucrative U.S. military contract for a performance enhancement serum. Unfortunately, the serum causes some subjects to lose their minds, and under threat to make it work or cancel the contract, Osborn tests it on himself. The serum does enhance his strength and his agility, but it fractures Norman’s identity into Norman, a cutthroat businessman who cares for his son and his legacy, and the Green Goblin, who immediately murders the Oscorp scientist he forced to help him through his serum procedure.

Norman’s transformation doesn’t drastically change his physical appearance. Instead Dafoe wears a costume and mask when he’s acting as the Green Goblin, his fearsome mask becoming a symbol of the Goblin personality to Norman. At first, Norman doesn’t seem to be aware of the things he’s doing as the Goblin, but once he does – after an iconic Willem Dafoe talks to Willem Dafoe scene – he leans all the way in. After Spider-Man refuses to join him, Goblin attacks everyone in Peter Parker’s life, from Mary Jane to dear old Aunt May. Ultimately, he is accidentally impaled on his own tech during an attempt to murder Spider-Man.

Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) from Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2.
Image: Sony Pictures

Widely heralded as one of the best Spider-Man films of all time, Spider-Man 2 introduced audiences to Doctor Otto Octavius, played by Alfred Molina. Otto was a nuclear scientist working for Oscorp (under Harry Osborn) attempting to develop fusion power. Octavius had also taken Peter under his wing as a mentor, and so both Peter and Harry were at a demonstration of Otto’s where he wore a harness of AI-run robotic tentacles he invented to help him manipulate dangerous substances.

Unfortunately, the demonstration went wrong, killing Otto’s wife and dealing critical damage to his arms’ inhibitor chip — allowing the AI program that ran the tentacles complete access to his nervous system. And surprise! This program loves murder. When doctors attempted to remove the arms from an unconscious Octavius, the AI-controlled arms slaughtered them all in this iconic scene.

Once Otto woke up, he went on the run – inspiring the Bugle to dub him Doctor Octopus. As the AI gained more control and influence over his nervous system, Doc Ock became convinced that he needed to rerun the experiment, which lead him back to Harry Osborn. Oscorp was the only source of a radioactive isotope necessary for Otto’s work, and Harry agreed to give it up if Otto took down Spider-Man, who he blames for his father’s death.

Moving on information from Harry that Peter Parker is the key to finding Spider-Man, Otto kidnapped Mary Jane, instigating a battle that led to another iconic Spider-Man scene, in which our hero stopped a runaway subway car. Otto and Spidey’s final battle happened around Otto’s second attempt at a fusion reactor, which again threatened to obliterate the city. Spider-Man convinced Otto that the danger was not worth it and, in the end, Doc Ock sacrificed himself to protect New York.

Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) from Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Thomas Haden Church as Sandman in Spider-Man 3.
Image: Sony Pictures

It’s an understatement to say that there’s a lot going on in Spider-Man 3. One of three villains in this movie, Sandman, aka Flint Marko — played by Thomas Haden Church — pops onto the scene fairly early in the movie. He had just escaped prison so he could get money for his family, and fell into a particle accelerator while on the run from the police. Don’t ask.

Naturally, the accelerator turned on and fused Marko’s body with the sand lying on the ground, turning him into Sandman, a man with the ability to turn into different shapes made of sand, as well as to absorb massive quantities of sand in order to be come a big sand…man. Again, there’s a lot going on in Spider-Man 3, but eventually Marko teams up with Venom (Eddie Brock, played by Topher Grace) to get rid of Spider-Man.

Together, they battled Spider-Man and Harry Osborn, wearing his dad’s Goblin armor, in a construction site full of sand, during which Marko is mortally wounded, and dissipates into sand in the wind.

Lizard (Rhys Ifans) from Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Rhys Ifans as Lizard in Amazing Spider-Man.
Image: Sony Pictures

Amazing Spider-Man is Andrew Garfield’s first stint as Peter Parker, and for his villain of choice, Sony went with Dr. Curt Connors, aka Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans. Early in the film, Peter found out that his father, Richard Parker, used to work with biologist Connors in the field of cross-species genetics. He eventually goes to find Connors and speak with him directly, kicking off a mentorship between the two.

At first, Connors is a decent man. He’s delighted when Peter provides him with Richard’s missing piece of a formula, so Connors can begin his experiments on limb regeneration – an issue close to home for him, as he’s missing an arm. Unfortunately, the success of the formula in animal trials leads to Connors’ boss pressuring him to rush into human testing, in order to find a cure for a dying Norman Osborn. Connors refuses and is subsequently fired from Oscorp.

So instead he successfully tests the formula on himself, regenerating his arm. But, then he finds out that his unscrupulous Oscorp boss is trying to test the formula on non-consenting veterans. When Connors confronts the man, the side effects of his work become clear: His lizard DNA cure morphs him into more of a lizard man with scales, claws, a tail, and an unstoppable lizard rage. Spider-Man showed up, to deal with the lizard rampage and Connors fled into the sewers – but was already obsessed with the idea that his new form represented biological perfection. Lizard DNA will apparently do that to you.

Various Spidey on Lizard battles continue, but eventually Connors launches his endgame move: A chemica bomb that will transform all of New York into lizards just like him. Spider-Man manages to disperse a lizard antidote, before he begins to slip from the top of a building. With the last of his waning lizard strength, Connors saved Spidey’s life and turned himself in. Amazing Spider-Man ended with Connors in a psychiatric hospital, hinting that there was still some of the Lizard left inside of him.

Electro (Jamie Foxx) from Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Jamie Foxx as Electro in Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Image: Sony Pictures

Unlike his comics counterpart, TASM2’s Maxwell Dhillon is meek and mumbling, painted as kind of a loser. So when he has a chance encounter with a friendly Spider-Man, it kicks off an obsession. He thinks they’re friends.

Later, at work, Max was completing some maintenance when he fell into a tank of genetically engineered electric eels, transforming him into Electro, a supervillain who can absorb and conduct electricity. Like a lot of Spider-Man movie villains, Max gets caught up in the schemes of one of the Osborns (Harry, this time) and is eventually defeated by Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy when they overload him with power, causing him to explode.



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