Image via Warner Bros. Pictures
The symbol of truth, justice and the American way, Superman remains the most famous of all superheroes, and today we salute the Man of Steel with the 10 Best Superman Movies.
When it comes to superheroes, no character is as iconic as Superman. Debuting in 1938, he was the first costumed superhero. Without its success, we might not have seen the rise of Batman, Wonder Woman, or any other superheroes to follow. In fact, you can argue that without Superman, there would be no Marvel Comics and today’s box office giant, the MCU.
After 84 years, Superman still wows audiences around the world. We haven’t seen it in a major theatrical release since 2017. Justice League, but the Man of Steel did not disappear. Thanks to the Multiverse, we can expect a variety of Supermen in the DCEU. Tyler Hoechlin was adopted into the television series, Superman and Lois. Meanwhile, JJ Abrams and Ta-Nehisi Coates are planning a Superman reboot with an African American lead, and Michael B. Jordan is producing (and possibly starring) an HBO Max series focused on the Superman of Earth-2, Val Zod. There are also ongoing talks that Henry Cavill will return to the role as well.
Since Superman and the mole men Released in theaters in 1951, the Man of Steel has starred in around 14 live-action films and 13 animated films, and that includes a mix of solo and team-based adventures. For today’s list, we’ll take the top 10 animated and live-action movies to rank the best Superman movie ever made, according to Rotten Tomatoes’ overall score from both critics and of the hearing. Keep in mind that many of the reviews found on the site were written over the past decade. This primarily affects theatrical releases of the films outside of the 2000s, but it means we don’t get feedback from audiences who have seen the films on the big screen.
Another thing to consider when browsing Superman’s ratings is the disparity in the number of reviews. Obviously, big theatrical releases have many times more reviews than DCAU movies. In most cases, cartoon features have around 13 critical reviews while worldwide live releases have over 300 in some cases. For today’s list, I ranked them equally, but take that with a grain of salt.
Of course, any ranking is ultimately only about opinions. On that note, let opinions flow freely.
ten. Superman Rthe returns (2006)
A spiritual successor to the original Superman film franchise, Brandon Routh was cast primarily as the 21st Century’s first Man of Steel due to his resemblance to Christopher Reeve. Routh’s acting was solid and he did his best Reeve impression for two hours on screen. Kevin Spacey delivered the scene-stealing performance as Lex Luthor, though his real estate program had aged by then. What we wouldn’t have given to see Routh’s Superman battle a super-powered villain and fully unleash his strength.
9. Steel man (2013)
It’s one of the most underrated superhero movies of the past decade. Steel man is by no means a perfect movie, but despite its flaws, Zack Snyder cast Henry Cavill as arguably the best of all Superman actors. Along with Cavill, the other casting choices were excellent, especially Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, and Laurence Fishburne. Then again, Fishburne is exceptional in just about everything. The biggest complaints about Steel man are the dark colors and Superman killing Zod, which didn’t fit his character.
8. Superman All Star (2011)
Based on Grant Morrison’s bestselling comic book series, Superman All Star was the first DCAU animated film to recall the PG-13 rating to a more family-friendly PG. What audiences love about this film is that it embraces the campy charm of the Golden Age with a modern twist and captures Superman’s mythical status.
seven. Superman 2 (1980)
Sure, Superman 2 has more than its share of corny moments. Superman returning to the Arctic roadhouse to spin the bully in his seat was squeaky in 1980, and it’s only gotten worse over the past 42 years. However, the heart of the story is superb. The divine man of steel who chooses to roam the Earth as a mortal only to accept who he is sounds like something out of ancient Greek myth. Which makes the movie feel like Superman saw him take on General Zod and his henchmen. If you want to treat yourself, find it Superman 2 Director’s Cut with additional footage that reshapes the plot. Plus, anything that gives us more Gene Hackman is always good.
6. Superman vs. the Elite (2012)
Particularly in the current political climate, this is a Superman movie that has become more accessible as it gets older. The heart of the story revolves around dual philosophies about justice and superpowers. Of course, there’s Superman with his perfect Boy Scout views of good and evil. This is juxtaposed with the elite, who embrace the role of anti-heroes poised to be villains. The way they see it, to coin the phrase, “might does good”. This leads to a lot of action and the audience wondering what he would do with those powers.
5. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
After years of gossip and WB executives outright denying its existence, Zack Snyder’s vision for the Justice League came to fruition last year. There was nowhere to go, as fans and critics generally hated the theatrical release which was picked up by Snyder’s replacement, Joss Whedon. Essentially, WB wanted less of Snyder and more of the MCU, and Whedon tried to turn the Justice League into the Avengers. While not everyone appreciates the film’s maturity and R-rating, let alone the four-hour runtime, dedicated DCEU fans were excited to see the film. With the silliness of the Whedon cut completely removed, it was an adult superhero movie and a modern classic.
4. Superman: the man of tomorrow (2020)
That 100% review score is impressive and eye-catching, but keep in mind that this percentage is accumulated over 13 reviews. Still, it’s worth adding to the list. These positive reviews focused on The man of tomorrow being a lighter adventure with alien monsters and the crass intergalactic bounty hunter, Lobo, voiced by Sons of Anarchyit’s Ryan Hurst. In this story, we see a young Clark Kent still learning how to be Superman while managing his normal life as Clark.
3. freed superman (2013)
Maybe one day live-action filmmakers will learn what fans really want from a Superman: Brainiac movie. Next to Lex Luthor, Ultron’s predecessor is Man of Steel’s most famous villain, and he’s more than a match for the hero. One of the complaints about Superman is that he’s so overpowered that audiences can’t relate to his struggles. Brainiac is up to the task and he can do the unthinkable: make Superman an underdog. That’s what works so well in this animated movie, and it’s something badly needed on the big screen.
2. The Death of Superman (2018)
If you were disappointed with Doomsday’s live-action debut in batman versus supermanthen you should try the animated version. Death of Superman more closely followed the events of the popular 1992 comic story with a few twists to modernize the tale. What fans loved most about this adaptation were the brutal fight scenes, something the DCAU has mastered. Again, it’s the animated movies that understand Superman better than the live-action ones, and that’s at the forefront of Death of Superman.
1. superman: the movie (1978)
Richard Donner got it all right in 1978, making his cinematic legacy by far a feat that may never be surpassed. Without question, superman: the movie is the epitome of live-action Superman. Although the film is 44 years old, Christopher Reeve remains the archetype that all Superman actors aspire to. He fits the role so well that audiences still consider him their man of steel. John Williams’ heroic score paired perfectly with the love letter to Golden Age Superman. Superman’s main theme remains one of the most recognized and iconic musical pieces in movie history.