Every Superman Movie Ranked From Worst to The Best (1978-2017)

Although he was not the first superhero in comics, since his first appearance in Action Comics # 1 (April / June 1938) when he became the first DC superhero, Superman has become the most important hero today. Today, his stories are by far the best-selling, and he personally not only popularized the superhero comic book genre, but became a role model for all comic book superheroes in the years to come; the quality of a superhero character is still measured by how successfully he presents the postulates set by the Man of Steel.

Kal-El is the last survivor from the planet Krypton, which was destroyed moments after his parents sent him into space toward Earth; there his ship landed in Kansas, where, as his son, he was raised by farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent. On Earth, Kal-El became Clark Kent, a later reporter for the prestigious Daily Planet, where he collaborated with editor Perry White, journalist Lois Lane, and photographer Jimmy Olsen.

Discovering that he has superhuman abilities on Earth, Clark Kent becomes a superhero Superman, who saves his Metropolis, but also the whole world from various threats. His biggest rival is the genius billionaire Lex Luthor, who sees Superman as the only real threat to his plans to conquer the world, but over the years other dangerous antagonists such as General Zod, Doomsday or Brainiac have also profiled themselves.

Given the popularity he enjoys, Superman was often and very early adapted to film and television. He had his first theatrical appearance back in the 1940s in a series of short animated films, while the first film about the Man of Steel was actually a four-hour series of 15 short black-and-white films collectively called Superman. The character was played by Kirk Alyn, who repeated the role in another identical series, Atom Man Vs. Superman, 1950. The first real feature film, Superman and the Mole Men, appeared in 1951, and the character was played by George Reeves.

Christopher Reeve played Superman in four films in the first real series about the Man of Steel, which was launched in 1978, and the so-called homage sequel from 2006 introduced us to Brandon Routh in the lead role. The most recent film Superman, at the time of writing, was Henry Cavill, who played Kal-El in three films as part of the DCEU film universe.

Given the longevity and popularity of this character, we decided to prepare for you one top list of the top ten films about the Man of Steel, starting with the 1978 film Superman and ending with the 2017 Justice League. Here, therefore, we will not include two series from 1948 and 1950, as well as an independent film from 1951, but we will also include the film Supergirl from 1984, because it is an integral part of Reeve’s series, although Superman in that the film only mentions.

The list will also not include movies in which Superman had cameo appearances, so nothing from Shazam either. Likewise, the movie Superman II will be listed twice simply because the original 1980s movie version differs significantly from Richard Donner’s version (the so-called Donner Cut), which was compiled and released many years later. Also, the list will only contain feature films, so animated adaptations, although there are excellent ones among them, will not be on this list.

The basic criterion in the ranking was the quality of the film itself, then the use of Superman’s character (his characterization, interpretation and similarity with / then / current comics) and the historical significance of the work itself. The ratings in this list do not necessarily reflect the actual ratings of the film or their objective (in) quality; it is exclusively about their valorization in the context of the series and in the context of this top list. Well then – let’s go!

10. SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987)

Directed by: Sidney J. Furie
Screenplay: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Composer: Alexander Courage
Cast: Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Superman), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Jon Cryer (Lenny Luthor), Mark Pillow ( Nuclear Man)

Rating: 1/10
Explanation: I’m not at all sure what went through the heads of the people who made this film and it’s hard to list at all everything that’s wrong with this film. From an almost idiotic scenario full of fable ambiguities and inconsistencies compared to the three previous films, a villain who is so bad he couldn’t even be in Ed Wood’s film (along with the effects in the film) to a complete perversion of Superman’s character for political purposes and pretense of the most powerful superhero to an idiot with a cloak, Superman IV is a film that should be forgotten as soon as possible, if it can’t be erased from existence already. Aside from symbolically “killing” Reeve’s Superman, I’m not sure this film has done anything important to film history. Without the slightest hesitation, Superman IV is not only insultingly the worst film about the Man of Steel, but also certainly one of the worst films ever made.

9. SUPERGIRL (1984)

Directed by: Jeannot Szwarc
Screenplay: David Odell
Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Helen Slater (Kara Zor-El / Linda Lee / Supergirl), Faye Dunawaye (Selena), Peter O’Toole (Zaltar), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Maureen Teefy (Lucy Lane), Peter Cook (Nigel) , Mia Farrow (Alura In-Ze)

Rating: 3/10
Explanation: What makes a movie without Superman better than a movie with Superman is the fact that the latter is so bad that it would have been better if Superman hadn’t even been in it. That’s what happened with this film, in which Superman doesn’t even appear, and which ultimately turned out to be one pale attempt at a spin-off, but again sympathetic enough not to take the last place. And while Helen Slater kinda saved the film with her cuteness, it remains unclear on which drugs the author of the story was on and why so much acting talent (Dunaway, O’Toole, Farrow) was spent on such a stupid story that they didn’t know if they wanted to be a superheroic version of mediocre episodes of Scooby-Doo, a teenage flick about I don’t even know which problem or attempt to expand the franchise. But whatever this film wanted, it failed, but it still made better use of the Superman character than Superman IV.

8. SUPERMAN III (1982)

Directed by: Richard Lester
Screenplay: David Newman, Leslie Newman
Composer: Ken Thorne
Cast: Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Superman), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Richard Pryor (August Gorman), Robert Vaughn (Ross Webster)

Rating: 5/10
Explanation: The departure of Richard Donner and the stay of Richard Lester brought one big turnaround in Reeve’s series. Namely, until then, a very serious superhero film became a camp comedy that was stylistically a completely foreign body at the time it was made. Although the film had several very innovative scenes (especially two Supermen), a mild and uninspiring villain (Vaughn), a focus on a caricature of a character named August Gorman and almost primitive effects (especially that “metal grandma” from the end of the film) combined with barely with a digestible premise they successfully annulled the positive aspects and made the third film in the series only a barely watchable film unworthy of its predecessors.

7. JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)

Directed by: Zack Snyder
Screenplay: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon
Composer: Danny Elfman
Cast: Henry Cavill (Clark Kent / Superman), Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne / Batman), Gal Gadot (Diana Prince / Wonder Woman), Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry / Aquaman), Ezra Miller (Barry Allen / The Flash), Ray Fisher (Victor Stone / Cyborg), Ciarán Hinds (Steppenwolf)

Rating: 6/10
Explanation: This messed-up film may not be so bad on the whole, but Superman’s character in this Whedon’s weird rendition of Snyder’s original idea certainly fell victim to the mutilation the film experienced in post-production. The last part of Snyder’s trilogy about Superman brought his “awakening” and the emergence of the Justice League, but the final product that viewers watched was in limbo between the “kid-friendly” version of Joss Whedon and the dark idea of ​​Zack Snyder, which led to the first gathering of DC’s superheroes left a lukewarm and almost imperceptible impression that barely exceeds minimum viewing standards.

6. SUPERMAN II (1980)

Directed by: Richard Lester
Screenplay: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman
Composer: Ken Thorne
Cast: Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Superman), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Terrence Stamp (General Zod), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Jackie Cooper (Perry White)

Rating: 6.5 / 10
Explanation: In the relatively short time he was given to complete Donner’s almost-completed sequel to Superman, Richard Lester managed to do almost the same thing that Whedon did with Snyder’s film – significantly spoil it. In a style that will be clearly profiled in Superman III, Lester turned Donner’s serious approach into a semi-comedy that led to this version of the sequel acting at times not only inconsistent but almost quirky. True, on the whole, it was still solid (but only that!) work thanks to a good deal of preserved Donner material, but Lester intervened enough in the film to turn it into a “Frankenstein monster,” which will take its final, barely visible form get in the next sequel from the series.

5. BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)

Directed by: Zack Snyder
Screenplay: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Composer: Hans Zimmer, Junkie XL
Cast: Henry Cavill (Clark Kent / Superman), Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne / Batman), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Jeremy Irons (Alfred Pennyworth), Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor), Gal Gadot (Diana Prince / Wonder Woman) )

Rating: 7.5 / 10
Explanation: Although the author of this text is a big fan of this film and considers it an incredibly underrated, subversive work that deserves a far higher rating than the one it has on this list, it should be said that Snyder’s ambitious project suffered from that narrative ambition, which led to that the film remained unfinished. And while Ultimate Cut has significantly improved things, we can’t help but get the impression that only that original, true five-and-a-half-hour version of Synder would fully and correctly convey his extraordinary vision. Cavill did a strong job of his Superman in this film, but all of that together was diluted in the narration, which quite autarkically threw everything else (even the characters) into the background.

4. SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)

Directed by: Bryan Singer
Screenplay: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Composer: John Ottman
Cast: Brandon Routh (Clark Kent / Superman), Kevin Spacey (Lex Luthor), Kate Bosworth (Lois Lane), Frank Langella (Perry White), James Marsden (Richard White)

Rating: 8/10
Explanation: There is practically no difference between this and the next film on the top list because these are equally high-quality films that are equally important for their time periods. Singer did an outstanding job in revitalizing Superman, giving his Return his own authorial stamp, but retaining clear connections to the original that inspired him. Brandon Routh was an excellent successor to Christopher Reeve, also consistent with the original but also authentic, however, the biggest gain of this revitalized film was the dangerous Lex Luthor, embodied by Spacey in his unique way, paying due respect to Hackman’s often comical character. It is a real pity that the planned sequels of this film were canceled because the first part offered a lot of potential for development, and the quality broke through to the very top right from the start.

3. SUPERMAN (1978)

Directed by: Richard Donner
Screenplay: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton
Composer: John Williams
Cast: Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Superman), Marlon Brando (Jor-El), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Jackie Cooper (Perry White)

Rating: 8/10
Explanation: The civilizational significance of this film has led it to take third place, despite its equal objective quality. Donner’s Superman was the first, and the first is always remembered. At least that’s what they say. Using almost revolutionary effects for 1978, along with outstanding set design, authentic storytelling, and a masterful Reeve in the role of the greatest superhero ever, Richard Donner made this film a revolutionary work from which, in one way or another, all later superhero films emerged. And while he may not possess the depth or seriousness of some later works, this film has defined not only Superman but the entire genre for future generations.

2. SUPERMAN II: THE RICHARD DONNER CUT (2006)

Directed by: Richard Donner
Screenplay: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman
Composer: John Williams
Cast: Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Superman), Terrence Stamp (General Zod), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Marlon Brando (Jor-El), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Jackie Cooper (Perry White)

Rating: 9/10
Explanation: What Donner was supposed to do with the sequel to Superman, if there was no conflict with the production, we saw in 2006 in a restored version of the preserved and saved material from the original recording. Narratively much more meaningful, without the inappropriate camp, in a tone darker and more serious, the so-called Donner Cut showed us what Superman II was supposed to look like, but also how the series could have evolved back then. For the year the material was filmed, it was technically superior, and the excellent Terrence Stamp, whose danger only came to full expression in this version, remains one of the best superhero villains in the history of the genre. Certainly a stronger work than the first part, Donner Cut is one specific masterpiece that represents the culmination of Reeve’s series about The Man of Steel.

1. MAN OF STEEL (2013)

Directed by: Zack Snyder
Screenplay: David S. Goyer
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Henry Cavill (Clark Kent / Superman), Russell Crowe (Jor-El), Michael Shannon (General Zod), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Laurence Fishburne (Perry White), Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent), Diane Lane (Martha Kent)

Rating: 10/10
Explanation: In the context of the presentation of Superman’s story, Snyder’s Man of Steel is an absolutely perfect work. Although again narratively ambitious, Man of Steel managed to present the entire Superman story, from Krypton to Metropolis, in one meaningful narrative whole that is executed technically flawlessly and in Snyder’s classic, dark color scheme. Henry Cavill has shown how remarkable the choice for Superman is of the new generation, how he is the embodiment of all that Reeve would represent in the 21st century, and how it fully corresponds to the vision of the world in which Snyder placed him. The dark tone of this incarnation of Superman is consistent with the seriousness of contemporary comics, which in combination with all other elements makes, in the context of this top list, not only the best but also the perfect film about Superman, in whose costume we still want to see the great Henry Cavill

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