What’s It About? The life of nerdy high-school loser Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) takes a super-heroic turn after getting bitten by a radioactive spider during a class field trip. Though gaining great powers — supernatural strength, speed, senses, wall-crawling and web-shooting — he continues to suffer endless bad luck. His uncle, Ben Parker (Cliff Robertson), is murdered during a robbery Peter could have prevented. His next-door crush, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), always falls for guys no good for her. His new boss, newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons), launches a smear campaign against Spider-Man, branding the hero a menace. Things go from bad to worse when Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), starts dating M.J. behind Peter’s back. Finally, there’s Harry’s technology tycoon dad, Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), who has gone insane and begun terrorizing the city as the Green Goblin, a supervillian armed with disintegration bombs, an exoskeleton suit and a flying, rocket-launching bat-glider-thing. “Spidey,” as folks start calling him, just can’t catch a break.
Why New York? Editor Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko created Spider-Man for Marvel Comics back in 1962. Unlike rival comic book publisher DC Comics, which put its superheroes in imaginary cities such as Metropolis and Gotham City, Marvel specifically made New York home to its new line of characters including the Fantastic Four, Daredevil and The Avengers. Lee wrote Peter Parker as a character with whom teen-age readers could instantly identify, and Ditko drew New York’s skyline and specific locations as detailed backdrops. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Marvel’s writers began using New York slang and headlines from the city in their superhero stories, adding a sense of realism to the absurd adventures of costumed vigilantes. Almost four decades later, director Sam Raimi and screenwriter David Koepp changed little from the original concept when they adapted Spidey to the big screen.
Scenes To See In The Movie
The Fateful Field Trip
Peter Parker and his classmates arrive at an unnamed research institute that New Yorkers will recognize as Columbia University, 2960 Broadway, Upper West Side. Unfortunately, as far as we know, the law school is not actually breeding genetically-enhanced spiders that grant super-powers. View actual location.
The Osborn Penthouse
Norman Osborn’s rooftop mansion, seen along the East River several times in the movie, is the Tudor City complex, E. 40th to 43rd Streets between First and Second Avenues, near the United Nations. The interiors were actually shot at a location in Los Angeles. View actual location.
Peter Parker’s Neighborhood
Shortly after figuring out he’s no longer a mere mortal, Peter Parker is shown running through Forest Hills in Queens, particularly down Austin Street at the corner with Ascan Avenue. View actual location.
Aunt May’s House
Peter grows up with kindly old Aunt May and Uncle Ben on 69th Road, between Metropolitan Avenue and Sybila Street in Queens. M.J. grows up next door. View actual location.
Take Me To The Library
Peter has his last conversation with Uncle Ben while getting dropped off on the 42nd Street side of the New York Public Library (aka Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) at Fifth Avenue and 42nd. Many films have used this building as a set piece, but in Spider-Man it only gets a passing glimpse. View actual location.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibly
Peter mourns the death of Uncle Ben and thinks about his future while sitting atop one of 61st floor eagles on the Chrysler Building at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue in Turtle Bay. View actual location.
An Actress Waiting Tables
While struggling to break into show business, Mary Jane worked as a waitress at the Moondance Diner, formerly found at Sixth Avenue near Canal and Grand Street. The diner is no longer there, but other restaurants in New York still operate under the Moondance name.
A Cup Of Coffee Sometime?
Peter awkwardly proposes a date to MJ while standing outside Cafe Noir at 32 Grand Street. View actual location.
The exterior of Norman Osborn’s company headquarters is shown as the 125/135 E. 57th Street building in Midtown, but later the movie suggests it may be closer to Times Square. View actual location.
Spidey Meets The Green Goblin
Amid something called the World Unity Festival set in Times Square, the homicidal Norman Osborn uses the Green Goblin suit to murder the Oscorp board of directors who ousted him from his company. As Mary Jane dangles from a collapsing balcony, Peter leaps into action as Spider-Man and battles the Goblin. The scene was all CGI, but the background was fairly accurate to a location shoot. View actual site. View actual location.
From Rescue To Rooftop
After saving MJ from the Green Goblin’s attack, he swings with her through Midtown and drops her off at atop the Rockefeller Roof Gardens, 5th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, where St. Patrick’s Cathedral appears in the background. View actual location.
The Daily Bugle
Peter lands a job as a freelance photographer at J. Jonah Jameson’s tabloid newspaper, shown in the movie to be run out of the Flatiron Building at 1 E 23rd St. The Green Goblin shows up here to draw out Spider-Man, kidnap him and offer a partnership in causing mayhem. View actual location.
Spidey Saves A Baby
During a building fire near the corner of 83rd Street and York Avenue on the Upper East Side, Spider-Man rescues a woman’s infant and is confronted by cops looking to arrest the web-slinger. Cries of help lure Spider-Man back into the burning building, only to end up ambushed by the Green Goblin waiting inside. View actual location.
Battle On The Queensborough Bridge
After the Goblin has kidnapped MJ and taken a bunch of kids hostage on the Roosevelt Island Tramway, Spider-Man slingshots himself from the Manhattan side of the East River and saves the day. In a turning point for Peter Parker, a crowd of New Yorkers on the bridge get involved in the fight, pelting the Green Goblin with bricks and shouting “You mess with Spidey, you mess with New York. You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.” The Roosevelt Island tram runs from Second Avenue, between E. 59th and East 60th Streets, beside the Queensborough Bridge to Roosevelt Island. The Queensborough doesn’t actually connect to the island; for that you need to cross on the Roosevelt Island Bridge from the Queen side of the river. View actual location.
The Final Fight
Frustrated and feeling vicious, the Green Goblin lassos Spider-Man and slings him into an abandoned smallpox hospital on Roosevelt Island, where the pair duel to the death. Although the fight scene was not staged on-site, the setting was accurate to the spirit of the place. Roosevelt Island has a history of use for treating the physically and mentally ill, as well as hosting a prison for part of its past. It is a quieter place today, though there are still long-term treatment facilities on the narrow strip of land between Manhattan and Queens. View actual location.
Want More, True Believer?
Fans of Spider-Man and his amazing friends should check out our guide to Best Comic Book Shops In New York City for where to follow the wall-crawlers’ latest adventures.