Little Miss Muffet Sat on a tuffet, Eating her curds and whey; Along came a spider, Who sat down beside her And frightened Miss Muffet away.
We've all Seen It a Million Times, some people are scared of spiders. Whenever they see a spider, they will become scared, either screaming in horror, or trying to swat the spider with a rolled-up newspaper or stomp it to death if it's on the floor.
Essentially, this trope is when spiders are portrayed as being scary monsters in different forms of media. Sometimes, they can be giant monsters in horror movies, while they can be normal-sized, yet still retain the scariness that they are thought to have.
They're often portrayed as extremely venomous, capable of killing or incapacitating humans. This happens occasionally in Real Life and near constantly in fiction. In fictionland, the sight of a creeping spider is comparable to that of an approaching cobra or tiger.
In reality, while there are indeed a number of deadly spiders on Earth, most of them are more likely to be found in relatively "remote" or exotic regions, such as Australia or Brazil. In America, the most notorious deadly spiders are the black widow and the brown recluse, and the very name will have an air of death and apprehension. In reality, both of these spiders are extremely docile, and their bites are rarely serious - most fatalities are children or people with weak immune systems.
In lieu of either of these spiders, however, the spider most likely to be used to inspire fear and revulsion is one of a wide variety of tarantula species. Despite being relatively harmless to humans, their size and appearance is a grade of Nightmare Fuel all by themselves. Even when a spider really is dangerous to humans—such as the Sydney funnel web or Brazilian wandering spider—they won't aggressively attack people under normal circumstances (see Animal Assassin for more information).
In reality, more people are killed each year by champagne corks or falling vending machines than spiders. A rather unimpressive record compared to, say, bears, crocodiles, venomous snakes, or even canines. However, those animals all have two eyes, internal skeletons and red blood. When it comes to narrative effect, otherness is always scarier than practical threat.
Compare: Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?, Giant Spider, Spider Swarm, Scary Scorpions.
Not to be confused with Demonic Spiders, which is a gameplay trope, though the two can certainly overlap.
The first three seasons of Digimon had Dokugumon, a monstrous spider Digimon who served either as a guard to the bad guy's lair, or just as a typical spider catching other Digimon that get caught in its web.
The second season also had Arukenimon.
The first season had what's apparently named Kodokugumon. Those are the zillions and zillions of mini-Dokugumon that appeared with the first one.
Or you can not bother with mini-mes and go for an army of the full-sized ones! That's what happened in season five. If Gaogamon's Mid-Season Upgrade hadn't shown up then, the team would have been screwed.
The Johto episodes of Pokémon introduced Spinarak and its evolved form, Ariados, while the Unova episodes introduced Joltik and its evolved form, Galvantula.
Even more frightening that both Joltik and Galvantula have the ability, Unnerve.
Likewise, Spinarak and Ariados both have the move, Scary Face.
The spider-type pokemon should be considered more of an aversion to this trope due to their basic designs not being all that grotesque, especially what with Spinarak and Joltik being more cute and cuddly looking in appearance.
Subverted by Spider-Man who calls himself "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man" and is loved (or at least tolerated) by everyone in New York but J. Jonah Jameson; but played straight by spider-motif enemies Venom and Carnage. Sort of.
Even then, Spider-Man is supposed to be creepy. When shown from the villains' point of view, we're shown a guy who moves and stands nothing like a human being (putting him in the Uncanny Valley), can come out of freaking nowhere, and no matter how far you run or how sneaky you think you're being, you will find him hanging upside down in front of you with the giant bug-eyed eyepieces staring into your soul.
Twisted and played with with Nightwing cast member Tarantula. The original was a Silver Age hero. The current day one was an Anti-Hero who sort of raped Nightwing after encouraging him to kill.
In the Tintin book The Shooting Star, Tintin sees a meteorite through a telescope and nearly has a heart attack when he sees a spider covering the entire thing. It turns out it was just a spider through the telescope, which causes Snowy to laugh at him... until he sees it himself and jumps three feet in the air (which blossoms a running gag through the series).
Snowy is also shown being frightened by a spider in The Black Island.
Alex from Madagascar is spooked by a large spider on his shoulder. After it gives him a friendly "Well, howdy do."
After all of his Death Traps fail to impress Roxanne, Megamind notices a spider dangling in front of her face and pretends it was intended. Then Roxanne nonchalantly blows on it and it lands on his face. Cue freak out.
The Secret Of NIMH: A spider stalked Mrs. Brisby without her knowing it, before it got squashed by the Great Owl.
In Treasure Planet, Scroop, one of the main antagonists, resembles a giant spider. He is the one that acts the most threatening of all the pirates.
Film - Live-Action
Arachnophobia was a film about a group of hybridized spiders that invaded a California town and began killing the inhabitants that lived there.
Similarly, the 1950s sci-fi film Earth vs. The Spider was about a giant mutant spider that invaded a nearby city.
No relation to a similarly-titled 2001 movie about a lowly comic book fan who injects himself with a serum in order to become a superhero with spider-like powers, but although it causes him to gain the powers of a human-sized spider, it also gives him the appearance of a human-sized spider and an endless hunger for human flesh.
Annie Hall - Annie calls Alvy (Woody Allen) over late at night claiming an emergency (some months after they broke up, as an excuse to see him again) - when he finds out it's for a spider in the tub, he gets peevish and exasperated at her...he enters the bathroom and comes right out, saying "Very big spider. Lotta trouble, there's two of them!"
In the film of Dr. No, a mook plants a tarantula in Bond's hotel room at night, clearly the most terrifying thing in the world. In the book it was a centipede known by Bond to be deadly - guess he hadn't read up on all the arthropods...
The Haunted Mansion had one of a pair of siblings who suffers from crippling arachnophobia. Predictably, he's forced to overcome his phobia to save his mom from an arranged marriage with a misguided ghost by opening a door crawling with giant spiders.
In Morganville Vampires mad-scientist vampire, Myrnin, takes a pet house-spider and calls him Bob. This is greatly to Claire's dislike, being an arachnophobe herself. Ada used Bob as a weapon as she blew Bob up to be the size of a stool and set him to attack Claire all because she was jealous of her. Eventually, Bob just exploded, unable to cope with the dramatic resizing.
Averted in Charlotte's Web, where Charlotte is actually kind and sympathetic towards Wilbur. That said, she is very frank about what her species does to survive, at one point casually mentioning how delicious the blood of insects is, which Squicks Wilbur pretty hard.
The first couple of times wolf spider is used as a morph in Animorphs. Played straight in The Android, when Marco has to morph a wolf spider. He really, really doesn't want to.
Initially averted in Harry Potter: Harry has lived in a cupboard long enough not to be bothered by normal spiders. Double Subverted by Aragog from The Chamber of Secrets, the giant Spider that was Hagrid's pet. Initially, he seems chatty and civil, and then he turned out to be scary as all hell. While he's thankful enough to Hagrid to not eat people himself, he doesn't care if his children eat anyone besides Hagrid himself. His children are even worse, as they had to be restrained from killing Hagrid by their parent.
Also from Stephen King, in The Dark Tower, Mordred is described as a sort of were-spider. Fitting, given who one of his fathers is. The Crimson King, who is sometimes called the "Lord of Spiders," and is somewhat were-spider-like in the comic adaptations.
They are robots, each fitted with a Brain in a Jar, but the brain spiders in Galaxy of Fear unsettle and frighten Zak, especially since they seem to be stalking him. When they finally corner him, they turn out to be on his side and trying to tell him something, which is hard to do when you're a meter-tall metal spider that can't talk. He's also alarmed later in the series when there are knobby white spiders around on Dagobah. Yoda tests him by forcing him to be near one that's pacified.
Dave Barry's column "The Web Badge of Courage" tells the story of bravely setting out, on his 41st birthday, to subdue what he calls "a spider the size of Harold C. Crittenden Junior High School" that had set up a large web outside his front door, using a wooden stick and a peanut butter jar.
Stargate Universe: Episodes Human and Lost. Spiders didn't do anything but were scary enough for Greer to shoot on sight.
Col. Young: Why exactly was Greer "forced" to fire his weapon?
Lt. Scott: There was... a spider, sir.
Col. Young: A spider.
Lt. Scott: It was a sizeable spider, sir.
The Eight-Legs of Metebelis III in the Doctor Who story "Planet of the Spiders". Mutated by blue Metebelis crystals from Earth spiders that stowed aboard a colony ship, they eventually grew to several inches across and gained mental powers that allowed them to dominate (and occasionally eat) humans. Their supreme ruler The Great One became a true Giant Spider, many yards across, and attempted to take over the universe. You can probably guess how that turned out for her.
Kamen Rider makes a point of it, as Homage. The first two MOT Ws in the original series were a spider and a bat in that order, so many a modern KR will have a spider and a bat as the first monsters, or recurring enemies, or paired, or important to the story, or something. Spiders are really the ones they use to ramp up the creepy, though, so this trope is in effect whether homaging or not. Most KR monsters are People in Rubber Suits, but the spider in Kamen Rider ZO was a huge horrific Claymation drider with blood red eyes and unhingeable jaws on its otherwise human face (looks like a Glasgow Smile, then opens its mouth, and... uh, you should run at that point.) Kamen Rider Ryuki gave us a giant CGI spider that revived as a giant CGI drider. Kamen Rider Double has a Spider Dopant in the teamup with Kamen Rider OOO, and its design wasn't too scary but its effect was pretty horrible.
Subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a student has a waking nightmare of a swarm of spiders attacking him...it turns out he loves them, and this is a manifestation of his guilt at his pet spiders dying under the neglectful eye of his brother. Played straight by Willow, who is afraid of them. ("Why do they need all those legs anyway?")
Played with on Angel, with the episode where Angel visits the goddess of lost things trying to find a way to locate Cordelia. She's big and spider-like and covered in spooky web-material.
The Brady Bunch The Hawaii trilogy had one ep with a spider sneaking into the hotel room beds and scaring some of the kids. It was crawling on one of the boys.
Averted on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Chief O'Brien tells Lieutenant Barclay at the end of "Realm of Fear" about how he overcame his own fear of spiders to work a repair in a spider-infested crawlspace. The episode ended with O'Brien's pet tarantula crawling on Barclay's arm.
A number of Garfield strips showed Garfield interacting with spiders before he swats them without remorse.
The "Devil's Island" table of Balls of Steel has spiders scurrying around the playfield, as well as a black widow's web at the top of the table.
Lolth, Demon Queen (later goddess) of Spiders, is one of the D&D game's most long-standing epic Big Bad villains. Adventures featuring Lolth or her drow minions typically revel in this trope.
Fully 10% of D&D monsters are spider-based.
In Ravenloft, the leader of the Nightmare Court takes the form of an aged monk wearing robes made of cobwebs, with live spiders crawling all over him.
Baels in Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones are giant spider monsters, and most notable in one stage where you have to keep some defenseless NPCs safe from being killed by one, either by clearing the map before it reaches them, or by rescuing them.
Phantom from Devil May Cry is a giant spider demon that can light himself on fire and is a recurring boss in the first game.
Why do you think these are a staple of the Resident Evil games? When people were used to the tarantula and huntsman style Giant Spider they were given several redesigns to be made more scary, and included even when they weren't needed (Resident Evil 5 had realistic, normal but still huge ones in the background, and the Lost in Nightmares DLC had some bigger than Jill's ass.) Thanks, thanks a lot.
In After The War, certain Aliens seems to be modeled after spiders, and usually they're the creepier ones.
The tarantula in the Animal Crossing series, which is probably the closest thing to an actual enemy you'll ever encounter. It makes an unnerving scratching noise as it moves, and villagers will make some unsettled remarks if one is nearby. If it spots you it'll simply stare at you for a moment, then run off. However, if you have a bug net equipped when this happens, it'll instead hiss and start chasing you. If it catches you, its bite will knock you out, after which you'll wake up in front of your house no worse for wear.
Earthbound lampshades the idea that spiders are particularly scary, as the spiders that you fight are called Arachnid!s and Arachnid!!!s.
In earlier installments of xkcd, the characters are sometimes attacked by swarms of red spiders. They even attack Rob and Megan while they're in a hot air balloon, talking about how the timing is off for a romantic relationship.
Subverted on Static Shock by Anansi, who was a Zorro-type superhero who emulates Anansi the spider from African folk tales.
Played straight then subverted in the Darkwing Duck episode, "Aduckyphobia" where the giant spider who gives Darkwing spider powers actually has the mind of a child and is being manipulated by the bad guy into doing his bidding.
There's also Jeff, who Billy is absolutely terrified of, but he's really a nice guy, and just wants his dad to love him.
In an episode of BBC kids' show Kerwhizz Twist is really scared of meeting Kaboodle's pet spider Cynthia, but being a boy he unconvincingly pretends not to be. Averted in the end when he actually meets Cynthia and discovers that she's cute and friendly.
Fang from Teen Titans, who shoots paralysis-inflicting venom beams.
His design is a doozy. Picture a giant spider... with a human body dangling from it and sorta swaying in the wind as the spider body does... stuff. He basically has a spider five times his size for a head.
The Venture Bros. parodied Dr. No when henchmen of The Monarch and Baron Underbeit both deposit a tarantula and a scorpion into Dr. Venture's bedroom, unseen by each other. When the two creatures meet on Dr. V's bed, they square off against each other, as he screams in terror.
The sequel to Hoodwinked had a giant black widow spider attempt to attack and devour Red Riding Hood and her grandma before the timely arrival of the Woodsman and his team of yodelers. Subverted in the end where the spider is befriended by Granny's redeemed rival.
In one episode of Spongebob Squarepants, Spongebob is sleeping over at Patrick's. Unfortunately for Spongebob, Patrick starts having a nightmare about spiders, and uses his house to start smashing the ground where Spongebob is sleeping.