Spider-Man is a 2002 American superhero film based on the fictional Marvel Comics character Spider-Man. The first installment in the Spider-Man series, the film, directed by Sam Raimi and written by David Koepp, stars Tobey Macguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco and Willem Dafoe.
The film begins with Peter Parker, a high school student, being bitten by a genetically altered spider. After misusing his newly-given abilities, which indirectly causes the death of his Uncle Ben, he becomes the heroic Spider-Man. Peter hopes to win the heart of Mary Jane Watson, the girl he has loved since he was a boy, and battles the villainous Green Goblin, who is the father of Peter's best friend, Harry Osborn.
After being stuck in development hell for nearly 25 years, the film was released on May 3, 2002 by Columbia Pictures. The film received multiple good reviews, went on to break box office records, and become the third highest grossing film of 2002 worldwide, making $822 million worldwide. Spider-Man became the most successful film based on a comic book and is the 18th most successful film of all time. The success of the film led to two sequels, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3, the latter of which surpassed the first film's record.
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), and Peter's secret crush Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) visit a genetics laboratory at Columbia University with their high school class. While taking photos in the laboratory, Peter is bitten on the hand by a genetically engineered "super spider". Feeling unwell, he passes out shortly after arriving home. Meanwhile, scientist and owner of Oscorp Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), Harry's father, is attempting to preserve his company's military contract, knowing that its loss will mean the end of his business. He experiments on himself with his company's new, but unstable, performance-enhancing chemical vapor which increases his speed, strength, and stamina. However, it also causes him to become insane and he kills his assistant, Mendel Stromm (Ron Perkins). The next morning, Peter wakes to find that his previously impaired vision has improved and that his body has metamorphosized into a more muscular physique. At school, he finds himself producing webbing and having the quick reflexes to avoid being injured in a fight with bully Flash Thompson (Joe Manganiello). Peter escapes from the school and realizes that he has acquired spider-like abilities from the spider bite. He quickly learns to scale walls, long jump across building rooftops and swing via webs from his wrists.
Lying to his aunt and uncle about where he is going, Peter decides to enter a wrestling tournament to get money to buy a car and impress Mary Jane. During an argument, Uncle Ben advises Peter, "With great power comes great responsibility." Peter lashes out at his uncle and leaves for the tournament. Peter wins, but is cheated out of the contest money. In retaliation he allows a thief to escape with the promoter's gate money. Afterward, Peter finds his uncle has been carjacked and killed. Peter tracks down the carjacker only to find out it was the same thief he allowed to escape earlier. After Peter disarms him, the carjacker tries to get away but falls out of a window and is killed. The same night, Norman kills a bunch of scientists, including General Slocum, who are threatening to drive Norman out of business.
Upon graduating school, Peter decides to use his abilities to fight injustice, and dons a new costume and the persona of Spider-Man. Peter is hired as a freelance photographer when he arrives in newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson's (J.K. Simmons) office with the only clear images of Spider-Man.
Norman, upon finding out that Oscorp's board members plan to sell the company, attacks them at the World Unity Fair. Although he successfully murders them, Spider-Man arrives and drives him off. Jameson quickly dubs Norman the "Green Goblin". The Goblin offers Spider-Man a place at his side, but Spider-Man refuses, knowing that it is the right thing to do. At the Osborn and Parkers' Thanksgiving dinner, Norman, unknown to Peter, figures out Spider-Man's true identity; the Green Goblin subsequently attacks Aunt May. While Aunt May recovers in the hospital, Mary Jane admits she has a crush on Spider-Man, who rescued her on numerous occasions, and asks Peter whether he ever asked about her. Peter reflects on his own feelings, during which Harry enters. Feeling betrayed by his girlfriend and his best friend, Harry tells his father whom Peter loves the most, unintentionally revealing Spider-Man's biggest weakness.
The Goblin holds Mary Jane and a tram car full of children hostage on top the Queensboro Bridge where Spider-Man arrives. The Goblin forces Spider-Man to choose who he wants to save, and drops Mary Jane and the children. Spider-Man manages to save both Mary Jane and the tram car, while the Goblin is pelted by civilians showing loyalty to Spider-Man. The Goblin then grabs Spider-Man and throws him into an abandoned building where he begins to beat him. The tables turn as the Goblin boasts of how he will later kill Mary Jane, and an enraged Spider-Man dominates over him, forcing the Goblin into being unmasked. Norman begs for forgiveness, but his Goblin persona attempts to remote-control his glider to impale Spider-Man. The superhero avoids the attack, causing the glider to impale Norman instead, and he dies asking Peter not to tell Harry about the Green Goblin. At Norman’s funeral, Harry swears vengeance toward Spider-Man, who he believes is responsible for killing his father, and asserts that Peter is all he has left. Mary Jane confesses to Peter that she’s in love with him, but Peter, feeling that he must protect her from the unwanted attentions of Spider-Man's enemies, hides his true feelings. As Peter leaves the funeral, he recalls Uncle Ben's words about responsibility, and accepts his new life as Spider-Man.
- Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker / Spider-Man: An academic but socially inept student who is bitten by a genetically modified spider and gains spider-like abilities. Maguire was cast as Peter in July 2000, having been Sam Raimi's primary choice for the role after he saw The Cider House Rules. The studio was initially hesitant to cast someone who did not seem to fit the ranks of "adrenaline-pumping, tail-kicking titans", but Maguire managed to impress studio executives with his audition. The actor was signed for a deal in the range of $3 to $4 million with higher salary options for two sequels. To prepare, Maguire was trained by a physical trainer, a yoga instructor, a martial arts expert and a climbing expert, taking several months to improve his physique. Maguire studied spiders and worked with a wire man to simulate the arachnidlike motion, and had a special diet.
The studio had expressed interest in actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Freddie Prinze, Jr,Chris Klein, Wes Bentley and Heath Ledger. DiCaprio had been considered by James Cameron for the role in 1995, while Raimi joked of Prinze that "[he] won't even be allowed to buy a ticket to see this film." In addition, actors Scott Speedman, Jay Rodan, and James Franco were involved in screen tests for the lead role.
- Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn / Green Goblin: CEO of Oscorp who tests an unstable strength enhancer on himself and becomes the insane and powerful Green Goblin. Unaware of Spider-Man's true identity, he also sees himself as a father figure for Peter, ignoring his own son, Harry. Dafoe was cast as Osborn in November 2000.Nicolas Cage turned down the role due to his commitment on Adaptation, while John Malkovich also rejected the role because of scheduling difficulties and a disinterest in the genre. Dafoe insisted on wearing the uncomfortable costume as he felt that a stuntman would not convey the character's necessary body language. The 580-piece suit took half an hour to put on.
- Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson: The girl whom Peter Parker has developed a crush since he was six years old. Mary Jane has an abusive father, and aspires to become an actress, but becomes a waitress at a run down diner, a fact she hides from her boyfriend Harry. Before Raimi cast Dunst, he had expressed his interest in casting Alicia Witt. Dunst decided to audition after learning Maguire had been cast, feeling the film would have a more independent feel. Dunst earned the role a month before shooting in an audition in Berlin.
- James Franco as Harry Osborn: Before being cast as Peter's best friend and flatmate, Franco had screen tested for Spider-Man himself.
- Cliff Robertson as Ben Parker: The husband to May Parker and uncle of Peter Parker, a fired electrician who is trying to find a new job. He is killed by a carjacker whom Peter failed to stop, and leaves Peter with the message, "With great power comes great responsibility."
- Rosemary Harris as May Parker: The wife to Ben Parker and the aunt of Peter Parker. May is a devout Christian who is highly aware of Peter's love for Mary Jane.
- J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson: The grouchy chief editor of the Daily Bugle who considers Spider-Man a criminal. Nonetheless he has a good side and pays Peter for photos of Spider-Man, and refuses to tell the Green Goblin the identity of the photographer.
- Joe Manganiello as Flash Thompson: A repugnant high school student who bullies Peter, and is defeated in a fight after Peter inherits his spider-like powers.
- Michael Papajohn as The Carjacker: The criminal who robs the wrestling manager who stiffs Peter Parker for his ring performance and murders Ben Parker (although the murderer was retconned as Flint Marko (Sandman) in Spider-Man 3). He was killed from falling from a window when confronted by Peter.
- Bill Nunn as Joseph "Robbie" Robertson: The editor at the Daily Bugle, who on occasion helps Peter.
- Elizabeth Banks as Betty Brant: As seen in past Spider Man comics, Betty Brant is the woman who gives Peter Parker money following his photography sessions with "Spider Man"
Bruce Campbell, a long-time colleague of director Sam Raimi, cameoed as the announcer at the wrestling ring Peter takes part in. Raimi himself appeared off-screen, throwing popcorn at Peter as he enters the arena to wrestle Bonesaw McGraw (played by former professional wrestler "Macho Man" Randy Savage). Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee also had a cameo, in which he asks Peter, "Hey kid, would you like a pair of these glasses? They're the kind they wore in X-Men." The scene was cut, and Lee only briefly appears in the film to grab a young girl from falling debris during the battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin in Times Square.