Spider-Man

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Spider-Man Movie Poster Image
Fun movie, but may be too intense for younger kids.
  • PG-13
  • 2002
  • 121 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 44 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 164 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Core messages about empathy and responsibility are strong. "With great power comes great responsibility" is the lesson learned here as a new hero is born. Other themes include integrity, self-control, perseverance, and courage.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Peter Parker is one of the comic book world's more thoughtful heroes. He's all about saving people who are in trouble and learns important lessons about responsibility. On the other hand, he blames himself for one of the movie's sadder moments. The main villain is deceitful and conflicted, but wants the best for his son.

Violence

Lots of cartoon violence, with fight scenes (some intense), fires, explosions and people getting vaporized, shot (off-camera), and in one case, impaled. A group of schoolchildren is in peril; and parents emotionally abuse their children.

Sex

Passionate kissing. MJ wears a clingy wet T-shirt in one scene.

Language

"Ass," "damn," and one "s--tty."

Consumerism

Tie-in to vast quantities of related merchandise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spider-Man's PG-13 rating comes from a couple of swear words, a clingy wet T-shirt, and -- particularly -- a great deal of comic book-style violence. It can get very intense and includes not just fires and explosions, but people getting vaporized, shot (off-camera), and impaled. Characters lose people close to them; a group of schoolchildren is in peril; and parents emotionally abuse their children. But the movie's core messages about empathy and responsibility are strong, and Peter Parker is one of the comic book world's more thoughtful heroes.

User Reviews

Parent of a 5, 9, and 12 year old Written byshadowfc March 14, 2009

Common Sense Pretty Accurate

I watched this movie at the theater when it came out, but I've probably only seen it once or twice since then. My 12 year old has been bugging me to see i... Continue reading
Parent of a 3, 6, and 9 year old Written bytsreyb November 26, 2010

Enjoyable for tweens, teens and adults, but NOT younger kids.

Very enjoyable movie. Older kids, teens and adults will love it. But, IMHO, the villain is just way too scary for kids under 10.
Teen, 13 years old Written byrobinrunner March 22, 2011

With Great movies comes great reviews for it.

And hopefully this one doesn't fall short! Spiderman is a web-slinging adventure that takes you through the process of Peter Parker's transformation f... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byedelman100 January 16, 2016

Marvel does it again

I love this movie. Does have some iffy stuff though. Violence: Lots of comic-book action violence, many characters are in peril, one sad death that is implied o... Continue reading

What's the story?

In SPIDER-MAN, Toby Maguire stars as Peter Parker, a brilliant and sensitive high school student who's so deeply in love with his next-door neighbor Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) that he can barely bring himself to say hello to her. On a school field trip, he's bitten by a genetically engineered spider; the next morning he wakes up with some distinctly arachnid-like qualities: He can see without his glasses, climb walls, eject webbing with the swinging power of rope and the strength of steel, and anticipate danger. Peter plays around with his newfound superpowers but quickly learns that power comes with great responsibility. Great risk comes as well: Everyone Peter cares about is put in danger because of who he is. Meanwhile, Peter's best friend's father, industrialist Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), has decided to try out his company's new product on himself. He, too, develops extraordinary power -- and a mad fury. His new alter ego is dubbed the Green Goblin for his bizarre armor-like covering.

Is it any good?

Maguire is just right as Peter, the supporting cast is great, and the script is excellent, striking just the right note of respect and affection for the source material. Spider-Man has a contemporary feel without being showily post-modern or ironic. The special effects are thrilling. New York City is brilliantly stylized. Peter's relationship with MJ is sweetly romantic. The movie's weakest point is that it fails in the single most important requirement for a comic book-based movie: The villain isn't unforgettably crazy or evil or larger-than-life. Dafoe is a brilliant actor, but the part of Osborn/Green just isn't interesting enough to be truly scary.

Parents who are struggling with whether this movie is appropriate for kids under 13 should know that it's at about the same level as the X-Men movies. Keep in mind that just because kids can repeat after you that "it's only pretend" doesn't mean that they fully understand what that means until they're 10 or even older. Some kids may see the movie and appear to have no problems with it but later act out in other ways. Be watchful for kids who respond by desensitizing themselves to violence or re-enacting it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Uncle Ben's influence on Peter Parker in Spider-Man. What role does he play in Peter's life? 

  • What does "with great power comes great responsibility" mean? Can you think of other superhero movies that tackle that theme?

  • Also, do you agree that people "love to see a hero fail"?

  • How do you think this live-action film compares with Spider-Man comics or the other Spider-Man films?

  • How do the characters in Spider-Man demonstrate self-control, integrity, and empathy? What about perseverance and courage? Why are these important character strengths

Movie details

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love superheroes and action

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate