Harry Osborn
Sam Raimi's Spider-Man character
Harry Osborn, as portrayed by James Franco in Spider-Man 2 (2004)
First appearanceSpider-Man (2002)
Last appearanceSpider-Man 3 (2007)
Based on
Harry Osborn
Adapted by
Portrayed byJames Franco
Voiced by
In-universe information
Full nameHarold Theopolis Osborn
SpeciesHuman, later human mutate
OccupationHead of Oscorp
  • Goblin technology
  • Pumpkin bombs
  • Bladed suit and glider
  • Powered sword
FamilyNorman Osborn (father)
Significant otherMary Jane Watson (ex-girlfriend)

Harold Theopolis "Harry" Osborn is a fictional character in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man film series. Based on the comic book character of the same name created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, he is portrayed by James Franco. In the films, Harry is Peter Parker's best friend and a rival for Mary Jane Watson's affections, though the three are friends for much of the series. Harry and Peter's friendship strains severely after the death of Harry's father Norman, who was the villainous Green Goblin, which he blames on Peter's alter-ego Spider-Man on top of some resentment towards Peter for seemingly "stealing" Mary Jane's affections from him. Upon finding out his best friend is actually the web-slinger, Harry, despite being reluctant at first, vows revenge on him, taking on the New Goblin[a] mantle and utilizing the technology his father left behind.

Despite receiving initial mixed reviews in the first two films, Franco's portrayal of Harry Osborn catapulted the actor to wider mainstream exposure as one of his first major film roles. He was nominated for four awards for his more warmly received performance in Spider-Man 3.

Character design and portrayal

Comics origin and casting for Sam Raimi's films

First appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man #31, Harry Osborn is depicted as the wealthy son of Norman Osborn, with his mother presumably dying at a young age.[1] Harry and Peter Parker gradually become close friends after meeting in college, despite initially not getting along and battling over girls such as Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. Harry struggles to gain his father's approval, who is constantly at work, and becomes jealous of Norman becoming fond of Peter. After Mary Jane dumps him, he becomes addicted to drugs. He initially does not know his father becomes the Green Goblin while his best friend is actually Spider-Man. Harry takes on the Green Goblin persona and technology after his father's death, which he blames on Spider-Man and in turn Peter, and is influenced by hallucinations of his father to kill Peter, but sacrifices himself to save Peter, Mary Jane, and his son. Since dying in The Spectacular Spider-Man #200, Harry, like his father and Gwen Stacy, has since been resurrected or re-adapted into different forms in the comics.

James Franco was cast as Harry for the 2002 Spider-Man film. Originally, Franco was considered for the lead role of Spider-Man/Peter Parker in the film before Tobey Maguire won the role, but upon seeing Franco's audition, Raimi's wife thought that Franco was perfect for the role of Harry.[2] In a review of the first film, Todd McCarthy of Variety noted that there were "good moments" between Maguire and Franco.[3] However, due to an off-hand remark that Franco made towards Maguire, a real-life feud emerged between the two actors for some time.[4]

In Spider-Man 3, shooting was difficult for cinematographer Bill Pope during fight scenes that take place at night, as the symbiote Spider-Man, Venom, and the New Goblin were all costumed in black for those scenes.[5] Upon Harry taking on his father's mantle and using leftover equipment, Harry's suit and glider have been modified, possibly due to the backlash that the original Green Goblin suit received in the first film.[6] Instead of using a bulky helmet, the New Goblin uses a mask resembling a ski mask with goggles, and his glider, nicknamed the Sky Stick in the film's promotional materials, resembles a snowboard.

Characterization and themes

As depicted in the Sam Raimi film series, Harry is a good man and a loyal friend, having always considered the nerdy Peter Parker his best friend and protected him in high school, which closely resembles their relationship in the Ultimate Spider-Man comics.[7] In addition, he never allowed his wealth to make him spoiled or arrogant early in the series. However, Harry is also prone to stress, depression and obsession, and his desire to please his father strains his judgement and relationships, including treating his then-girlfriend Mary Jane Watson as a trophy to impress his father, and developing a jealousy towards his best friend, Peter. After his father's death, Harry becomes obsessed with Spider-Man, and develops a strong vendetta towards him. The "New Goblin" persona adapted in Spider-Man 3 is the embodiment of Harry Osborn's hatred towards Spider-Man and only exists for completing his vendetta. But after Harry comes to terms with his misguided hatred and his friendship with Peter, with no more doubts, he reconciles with his best friend and the two form an effective team fighting against adversaries.

In an analysis of the leading male figures in Spider-Man, including Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker and Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn, James Whitbroook of Gizmodo writes that Harry is initially reluctant to bask in the Osborn name, hiding from public view while riding with his father in their limousine and resisting the urge to become spoiled by his inheritance, though he almost immediately takes advantage of Peter's bookish nature to flirt with Mary Jane, his best friend's crush, using a trivia bit that Peter brings up to impress her. Harry eventually gives in to using the Osborn name due to what it brings to him,[8] eventually gambling on an ill-fated experiment by Dr. Otto Octavius in Spider-Man 2 in an attempt to gain more power and influence rather than to benefit those around him.[9] Harry is under the impression that his father was a good man killed by Spider-Man, and upon discovering his father's stash of weaponry, uses it to try and get revenge on the hero, even after he discovers that Peter, his best friend, is actually Spider-Man. Sam Raimi felt that Harry would not follow his father's legacy upon becoming the new Green Goblin, but be instead "somewhere between."[10] Despite this, Raimi wanted the conflict between Harry and Peter to be resolved by the end of Spider-Man 3.[11] He also said that him suffering from amnesia in the first act, was a way to rekindle Harry's broken friendship with Peter.[12]


Spider-Man (2002)

Main article: Spider-Man (2002 film)

Harry first appears riding with his father Norman Osborn in their limousine as Norman drops Harry off for a school field trip. The film establishes that Harry had flunked out of numerous private schools, forcing his enrollment at Midtown High School, and that Harry and Norman have a somewhat strained relationship. Upon seeing his best friend Peter Parker, Harry introduces him to his father, who immediately takes a liking to Peter, due to his intellect, to which Harry jokes that Norman wants to adopt him. Norman later attends their graduation and congratulates Harry, also taking time to console Peter for the loss of his uncle and warmly accepting him as a brother figure to Harry and thus a part of their family. At the same time, Harry notices that Mary Jane Watson, Peter's childhood crush, had broken up with her ex-boyfriend Flash Thompson.

Some time after the end of school, Harry and Peter live together in a large apartment bought by Norman. Harry starts a relationship with Mary Jane, initially without telling Peter, who later finds out from MJ that the two are dating but hides his disappointment. Harry and MJ have an important date at a fair sponsored by his father's company Oscorp, where the flaws of their relationship are shown: Harry wants to impress his father with MJ, and MJ is evidently not truly interested in him. The couple, along with the whole Oscorp board, are suddenly attacked by the Green Goblin, a homicidal criminal who, unbeknownst to Harry, is actually Norman with an insane second personality due to an experiment gone wrong. Harry attempts to save MJ from falling down from a terrace, but is knocked out by falling debris, and she is instead saved by Spider-Man.

On Thanksgiving, Harry tries again to present his girlfriend to his father during dinner with Peter and his Aunt May, but Norman, who discovers that Peter is Spider-Man, suddenly leaves in a hurry. Harry pleads with him to stay for dinner with him and Mary Jane, but Norman uncharacteristically insults MJ, ordering his son to dump her as soon as he is satisfied with her, and then storms off. Harry is saddened by the lack of attention by his father, and, to make it worse, MJ overhears Norman and calls him a creep, and an angry Harry defends him, saying that the "creep" was his father.

While Aunt May is in hospital after being attacked by the Goblin, Harry goes to visit her, but finds Peter and MJ getting intimate with each other. With his feelings hurt, Harry goes to his father, telling him he was right about everything, MJ included, and unwittingly reveals to the Goblin Spider-Man's true weakness: Mary Jane. The Green Goblin uses this to bait Spider-Man into another fight by kidnapping MJ, but is killed by his own glider after attempting to kill Spider-Man. Following Norman's last wish to not let Harry know about his villainous split-personality, Spider-Man removes the Goblin's costume and returns Norman's body to the Osborn mansion, but Harry walks in. Distraught and mistakenly assuming it was Spider-Man who killed Norman, Harry tries to shoot the hero, but Spider-Man vanishes.

During Norman's funeral, Harry swears vengeance towards Spider-Man, but expresses his gratitude that Peter is the only family he has left.

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Main article: Spider-Man 2

Two years after Norman's death, Harry takes over Oscorp. He remains good friends with Peter but still harbours animosity towards Spider-Man, and at Peter's birthday party, offers to introduce Peter to his idol, renowned scientist, Dr. Otto Octavius, whose research Harry is funding. Peter is, however, still fearful of how delicate his friendship with Harry has become because of Harry's vendetta against his alter-ego.

Harry provides Octavius with tritium, a very rare form of hydrogen which Octavius needs for his nuclear fusion experiment. If the experiment succeeds, Oscorp would gain the rights on a new kind of energy source, making it one of the most important, powerful and rich energy companies in the world. However, during a live demonstration of the fusion, the experiment fails and despite Harry's warnings Otto refuses to shut down the machine and the resulting explosion permanently attaches four extendable robotic arms onto Octavius, who is taken to the hospital and later escapes, becoming the villainous "Doctor Octopus". Emotionally destroyed by the failure, Harry starts drinking heavily and focuses his anger onto Spider-Man. During a party, Harry gets drunk and starts lashing out at Peter, resenting him for being his father's favorite, accusing him of protecting Spider-Man for the profit of taking Spider-Man's newspaper photos and for "stealing" Mary Jane. During the argument, Harry slaps Peter, humiliating them both in public.

His hatred towards Spider-Man goes so far that, when Doctor Octopus arrives at his penthouse demanding more tritium, he makes a deal with him: the tritium in exchange of Spider-Man's capture. When Doc Ock asks him how can he find the hero, Harry instructs him to use Peter Parker, who takes pictures of Spider-Man. After kidnapping Mary Jane and a long battle, Octavius delivers Spider-Man to Harry and leaves with his tritium. Armed with a dagger, Harry then proceeds to unmask the hero. He is shocked when he realized that his worst enemy was actually his best friend, but he reveals Doc Ock's whereabouts to Peter, who leaves to rescue Mary Jane.

Still in shock, Harry sees visions of his father's ghost, who encourages his revenge towards Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Harry is reluctant to hurt his friend and struggles against Norman's will, trying to make the ghost go away; throwing a knife through the mirror in which Norman appears, Harry shatters it and discovers the Green Goblin's secret hideout, with all his weaponry and equipment. Now, Harry has both the motives and the tools for his revenge.[b] Harry is later seen at Mary Jane and John Jameson's botched wedding as a guest.

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Main article: Spider-Man 3

Harry in action as the "New Goblin" as seen in Spider-Man 3.

Following a year, Harry brushes off Peter's attempts to talk to him and explain the truth of Norman's death. He eventually opts to use a refined version of his father's performance-enhancing formula, utilizing his father's equipment as well. After Peter leaves a date with Mary Jane, Harry ambushes him as the New Goblin, intent on exacting revenge for his father's death. During their confrontation, Peter tells Harry the truth about Norman's death, but Harry refuses to believe it. Battling in an alley, Peter entraps Harry and knocks him out, impairing part of his memory. Recovering in the hospital, Harry–vaguely suffering from amnesia–forgets everything about his vendetta and Spider-Man. He also re-embraces Peter and Mary Jane as his best friends, seemingly with his life finally at peace. Harry, having forgotten taking the Goblin Serum, is surprised by his enhanced physical capacities, such as his incredibly sharp reflexes. However, despite Harry's relief, Peter does not tell him about the true nature of Norman's demise.

When Peter is overtaken by an alien symbiote which affects his personality and thus starts distancing himself from his friends to focus on his late uncle's recently revealed killer, Mary Jane is depressed over her lost acting career and finds solace with Harry. Harry welcomes her into his home and they bond with each other, seemingly becoming closer than their previous dating relationship. After she unwittingly kisses him and rushes away regretting it, the sudden surge of familiar stress unlocks Harry's memories and restored his vendetta. Again haunted by visions of his father, who gives him advice on emotional war, Harry decides to hurt Peter through Mary Jane by forcing her to break up with Peter, leaving Peter heartbroken. Later, Harry encounters Peter in a café and declares to him that he is MJ's new boyfriend. Realizing Harry's plot against him, Peter goes to the Osborn mansion, now armed with the aggression-inducing symbiote costume, and a new hatred for his old best friend, engaging Harry in a brutal fist-fight. Harry is defeated and insulted by Peter, who spitefully mocks his relationship with his father, and when he tries to hit Peter with a pumpkin bomb, Peter effortlessly slings the bomb back at his face and leaves, turning his back on the completely defeated Harry.

After Peter realizes the symbiote's effects on him and his relationships, he gets rid of the suit, only for it to fall onto his rival at the Daily Bugle, Eddie Brock, and create a new enemy, Venom. Peter pleads with Harry for help when Venom and Sandman kidnap Mary Jane, but a broken-spirited Harry, whose face is disfigured at the right half from the bomb, refuses and Peter leaves. As Spider-Man takes on the two villains alone, Harry's butler reveals to him that while cleaning Norman's corpse, he discovered that Norman's death was a result of his own weaponry and not due to Spider-Man, but kept it a secret all these years; realizing Peter's story is true, Harry relents and comes to his old friend's aid just as Sandman is about to kill Spider-Man. Harry and Peter prove to be a formidable team and defeat Sandman in addition to saving Mary Jane. Venom proves to be more of a challenge, and as he prepares to impale Peter with Harry's glider, Harry takes the blade for Peter and is tossed aside, falling dozens of stories below. Peter finally manages to defeat Venom, and after coming to a truce and understanding with Sandman, finds a mortally wounded Harry down below with Mary Jane. The two friends forgive each other and reconcile before Harry dies with Peter and Mary Jane at his side. Both of them attend his funeral, with Peter staying there more than any other mourner, in a state of grief for his best friend's death.

Alternate universe

After Peter is temporarily transported to an alternate reality during the events of the Marvel Studios film Spider-Man: No Way Home, he reveals to Ned Leeds that Harry, his best friend, "died in his arms after trying to kill him" when he asks Peter if he had a best friend. Harry's father Norman Osborn, who is also transported to this universe, tells May Parker and that universe's Peter Parker that Oscorp doesn't exist and is feeling uneasy about his son not existing in the universe either.

In other media


Video games

Reception and legacy

James Franco at the Spider-Man 3 premiere in April 2007.

In the first two films, Harry's presence was noted as brooding by Anthony Lane of The New Yorker.[15] His conversion from one of the film series' main protagonists into a villain in the third movie was met with generally favorable responses. His portrayal in Spider-Man 3 has been generally considered as a good conclusion to his arc and that Franco finally looked comfortable in his film role.[16][17]

James Franco also received greater mainstream exposure for his portrayal of Harry Osborn in the film series, especially in Spider-Man 3, for which he received four award nominations.[18][19][20]

In popular culture

In the 2013 comedy film This Is the End, which also stars James Franco portraying a fictionalized version of himself, the main characters find a cardboard cutout of Harry Osborn/New Goblin as he appears in Spider-Man 3 in Franco's basement.[21] In addition, the scene in which Harry relishes a slice of pie in Spider-Man 3 has gained meme popularity over the years.[22]


  1. ^ He is never referred to as such in Spider-Man 3 aside from the credits and promotional materials, and was referred to on the set of the film as the Hobgoblin.
  2. ^ While Harry is implied but never outright stated not to know that Norman Osborn was the Green Goblin in Spider-Man 2 (2004), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) establishes that Norman's identity as the Goblin was made public knowledge (and known to Harry) upon his original death in Spider-Man (2002), with Otto Octavius and Flint Marko already being aware of his identity by the events of Spider-Man 2 and after the events of Spider-Man 3 (2007), respectively. Marko informs an alternate-universe Peter Parker about how both Osborn and Octavius should be dead; Harry's consequent actions in Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 are then presented as denial over his father's true motivations as the Goblin combined with an honor-driven vendetta over the mistaken belief that Spider-Man had killed him.


  1. ^ Manning, Matthew K.; Gilbert, Laura (2012). "1960s". Spider-Man Chronicle Celebrating 50 Years of Web-Slinging. Dorling Kindersley. p. 31. ISBN 978-0756692360. This monumental issue saw the first appearances of Peter's upcoming love interest Gwen Stacy, prospective best friend, Harry Osborn, and even the future super villain known as the Jackal.
  2. ^ "Mike Clark review". USA Today. May 3, 2002. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved January 23, 2007.
  3. ^ McCarthy, Todd (April 19, 2002). "Spider-Man Review". Variety. Archived from the original on October 4, 2008. Retrieved March 2, 2009.
  4. ^ Hutchinson, Sam (June 1, 2020). "Spider-Sense: 10 Behind-The-Scenes Details Of Sam Raimi Trilogy Fans Never Knew". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on June 18, 2020. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  5. ^ Jay Holben (May 2007). "A Complex Web". American Cinematographer. Archived from the original on May 8, 2007. Retrieved May 1, 2007.
  6. ^ George, Richard (April 19, 2007). "Spider-Man in Film: Volume One". IGN. Archived from the original on October 17, 2007. Retrieved April 27, 2007.
  7. ^ George, Richard (April 19, 2007). "Spider-Man in Film Volume One". IGN. Archived from the original on March 28, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2007.
  8. ^ Whitbrook, James (August 2, 2020). "Sam Raimi's Spider-Man is a Cautionary Tale About the Power Men Wield". Gizmodo UK. Archived from the original on August 5, 2020. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  9. ^ Whitbrook, James (July 10, 2020). "Spider-Man 2 Is a Perfect Sequel". io9. Archived from the original on July 21, 2020. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
  10. ^ Larry Carroll (July 26, 2006). "'Spider-Man 3' Cast Confirms Love Triangle, Death, Soul-Sucking Costume". MTV. Archived from the original on January 2, 2007. Retrieved August 27, 2006.
  11. ^ Heather Newgen (April 21, 2007). "Spider-Man 3 Interviews: Director Sam Raimi". Superherohype.com. Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved April 21, 2007.
  12. ^ Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace and Bryce Dallas Howard, DVD audio commentary, 2007, Sony
  13. ^ "Looking Back On Spider-Man: The New Animated Series". Cultured Vultures. May 10, 2018. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  14. ^ Navarro, Alex (May 7, 2007). "Spider-Man 3 Review". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  15. ^ Anthony Lane (July 12, 2004). "Swing Easy". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved May 29, 2007.
  16. ^ Roger Friedman (April 25, 2007). "'Spider-Man 3' Is a 4-Star Opera". FOXNews.com. Archived from the original on May 9, 2007. Retrieved May 6, 2007.
  17. ^ Andy Khouri (May 4, 2007). ""SPIDER-MAN 3" – THE CBR REVIEW". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on June 17, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2007.
  18. ^ "2008 MTV Movie Awards: Winners". MTV. Archived from the original on April 24, 2010. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  19. ^ Weinberg, Scott (February 20, 2008). "2007 Saturn Award Nominees Have Landed". Moviefone. Archived from the original on December 12, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  20. ^ Finley, Adam (July 3, 2007). "Teen Choice nominees announced". AOL TV. Archived from the original on July 13, 2015. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  21. ^ "This Is the End (2013) - IMDb". IMDb. Archived from the original on December 17, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  22. ^ Kenneally, Tim (January 23, 2018). "It's National Pie Day: Here Are 5 Infamous Pie Scenes to Sink Your Teeth Into (Video)". TheWrap. Archived from the original on June 15, 2018. Retrieved August 27, 2020.

The plot description and characterization were adapted from Harry Osborn (James Franco), Spider-Man (film), Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3 at Spider-Man films Wiki and Harold Osborn (Earth-96283) at Marvel Movies Wiki, which are available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA 3.0) license.