What’s that in the sky? Is it a bird? A plane? No, it’s Superman!
Superman has been an iconic superhero that it had and still has several movie franchises since the late 1975s. In 1941, Superman broke free into the world of animation and then tried out live action.
The source material has graced several filmmakers and producers with the opportunity to have various adaptations, and that’s when movie audiences and critics draw the line for the best Superman movies for them to watch.
Movie audiences and critics do not think all of these Superman films are great, these films are just better versions of each other. Thus, one might be better than the other for you.
Now, let’s not try to let the production differences cloud your judgement. What could be the kryptonite of these movies? Even the latest Superman movie has some weaknesses to point out. But, whatever that could be— script, cast, visual effects, or production; each Superman movie still offers great performances and knockout action scenes.
1. Superman: The Movie (1978)
English 2h 23m IMDb
Director: Richard Donner
Stars: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman
This movie brings back childhood memories. Henry Cavill may have been the face of Superman, but the incredible legacy of Christopher Reeve’s casting in this Superman movie is timeless. He left a mark on the audience and critics, making the movie the best of the Superman origin story.
The cinematography and visual effects of this movie are definitely no match with today’s, but the casting and how the characters were portrayed made the movie iconic. Superman: The Movie is very much timeless, it connects with the audience emotionally.
This is your sign to watch this iconic Superman movie.
2. Superman II (1980)
English 2h 7m IMDb
Director: Richard Lester, Richard Donner(uncredited)
Stars: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder
Superman got head-on to three Kryptonian villains inhabiting Earth when he was about to live a lowkey, normal life with Lois Lane. This movie showed how inspirational, heroic, and honorable Superman is.
Troubles and challenges happened during the production of Superman II. Half of the movie was filmed during Superman: The Movie, while the rest of the movie is filmed with a different director. But still, how Christopher Reeve breathed life into Superman.
Movie critics pointed out the dated special effects of the movie, but it has exceeded the standard set by Superman: The Movie.
3. Man of Steel (2013)
English 2h 23m IMDb
Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon
The Man of Steel sits on the top 3 for a reason. Apart from the realistic approach to production, the movie paid homage to the complete story of Superman— his childhood, love life, and heroic acts. What’s lacking in this movie is the obligatory Kryptonite scene. Yet, it is the first DC Extended Universe film and gave the franchise a transcendent quality.
Some viewers may not be happy with the similarities and comparisons between this movie and Superman II. But, its impressive cast keeps the movie engaged. Moreover, Henry Caville is slightly less convincing than Clark Kent.
Nevertheless, this is the Superman movie in that viewers got more excited for the actor but not the idols.
4. Superman Returns (2006)
English 2h 34m IMDb
Director: Bryan Singer
Stars: Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth
This Superman movie could have ranked higher if it has not been a cold reboot and an indirect sequel to Superman II. Movie critics felt like the new Superman movies have lost the core ethos. The plots have changed and Superman’s suit and cape have changed and become less saturated.
The emotional complexity of this movie got the audience. Did Superman reconnect with Lois Lane, or did he finds his place and realizes the world no longer needs him? The answer is for you to watch the movie!
Some fans are still bitter about how the movie chooses to spend half the runtime in a Superman-free zone. Although the action scenes are out of the edge, it is still self-defeating considering how the audience is looking forward to the Superman formula.
Nonetheless, the movie has a solid director and production team, and characters were breathed into life by an impressive cast.
5. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
English 4h 2m IMDb
Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot
Remember how you were disappointed with the last fighting scene? Fans have been worried about this reboot because of what happened with Batman vs Superman and Justice League (2017). In this movie, the storyline is heavily executed by the director and cast. The ultimate sacrifice of Superman did not go in vain, and the Justice League happened because of what he fought for.
The movie has lived up to its title; the impressive cuts definitely showed and fit the impressive director’s vision. Fans were taken aback by its impressive action scenes, character development, and what the fans have been asking for—the double runtime.
This movie is still fresh, you are not that late yet. Hurry up, and watch it on your favorite streaming platform.
6. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
English 2h 32m IMDb
Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams
Technically, this is a Superman movie, although it feels like he is a supporting character in this film. Batman vs Superman is a thematic sequel to Man of Steel and the bridge for the Justice League movie. However, instead of paving a legacy for Justice League, it became cynical and damaging to Justice League.
The audience was disappointed with the fight scenes between Superman and Batman, and the final fight including Doomsday and Wonder Woman. Worst of all, the storyline of this movie is quite problematic. Although Batman and Superman always banter, the unheroic and terrible attitude of both superheroes opened uncertainty and confusion to some audiences.
Movie critics were unhappy with the unsatisfying storyline and hoped this movie did not affect the most awaited Justice League franchise.
7. Justice League (2017)
English 2h IMDb
Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa
The production did not push through as planned. Joss Whedon replaced Zack Snyder in post-production of Justice League. Several fans were excited for Whedon’s cut because he previously worked on Marvel and Warner Bros. However, the audience and critics were disappointed as he did not bring the same spirited humor and action to DC.
The movie works on forming Justice League to stand up against the awakened enemy and face a greater threat. But what happened was the audience’s interest in the franchise became a threat. It missed shedding the aesthetics, lack of character development, and chaotic action scenes.
This movie failed to capture the essence of Superman’s sacrifice. Much more disappointing when you know it cost them $300 million to make the film. But hey, why don’t you try watching the movie? Some fans still enjoyed it!
8. Superman: Man of Tomorrow (2020)
English 1h 26m IMDb
Director: Chris Palmer
Stars: Darren Criss(voice), Zachary Quinto(voice), Ike Amadi(voice)
Superman has a bunch of animated movies, and this is one of the movies. Superman: Man of Tomorrow is the beginning of the new era of DCAMU. It serves as a breath of fresh air to the series, and this is where the excitement starts with the return of Superman’s crime-fighting career.
The animation of the movie is vibrant and smooth, it is quite refreshing from the New 52 aesthetics.
9. Superman: Red Son (2020)
English 1h 24m IMDb
Director: Sam Liu
Stars: Jason Isaacs(voice), Amy Acker(voice), Diedrich Bader(voice)
Another Superman animated film that is included in the best Superman movies to watch is Superman: Red Son. Fans were left wanting more because it is the perfect adaptation of the Man of Steel. There may be some political discourse because there is a thin line between the Russian-raised Superman and the one we knew from Smallville.
This thought-provoking Superman movie is a must-watch.
10. Superman III (1983)
English 2h 5m IMDb
Director: Richard Lester
Stars: Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Margot Kidder
There is a reason why Superman III is almost at the bottom of this list. It has a better reputation than Superman IV. But, this was the time when movie critics of the Superman franchise made a notable remark that the production and visual vocabulary in filmmaking is making progress.
Superman III is the third entry into the franchise. It shows Superman’s return to Smallville, rekindling his connection with Lois Lane, reaffirming his heroic acts and fighting supervillains.
Moreover, one thing that did not look convincing in this movie is Christopher Reeve. Although we have mentioned how he impressively breathes life into Superman, his build became different in this movie. He became more intimidating in the fight scenes. Luckily, the wire work still made justice and gave him outstanding takeoffs and landings.
11. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
English 1h 30m IMDb
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Stars: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman(voice), Margot Kidder
If not for the dated poorly visual effects of Superman and The Mole Man, this Superman movie is the last on the list. It had a problematic story origin and production. The whole movie felt rushed and cheap, it seems like there was no budget for the production.
It is sad how Christopher Reeve did not outlast his portrayal of Superman. His finale somewhat devalued his idealistic and personal take on the movie. That’s why several fans felt betrayed by the movie.
Superman IV felt rushed, lazily made, with bad production values, and a cast that is simply going with the flow without the intention of giving justice to the characters.
12. Superman and The Mole-Men (1951)
English 58m IMDb
Director: Lee Sholem
Stars: George Reeves, Phyllis Coates, Jeff Corey
Superman and The Mole Man started as a theatrical film that was later adapted into a movie. You might find this movie pretty lousy and unappealing because the visual effects are dated poorly. But the movie still has a logical direction that showcases the storyline of Superman and his sacrifice for the society which made it ahead of its time.
Even when this movie is not a convincing piece of Superman’s cinematic history, why not give it a try? It is nice to see how the origin story of Superman evolved throughout the years.
You might be surprised how there are several Superman movies, and that there is even a list to rank the best Superman movies. Truth is, there are even more movies that did not make it to the list. Some Superman movies did not throw a punch. But, hey! It is all about preference— you might like it, and some do not. Which Superman movie is your favorite?