10 Things I’ve Learned Rewatching Every Superman Movie Ever Made

Summary

  • Superman has had a long and storied history in movies, with various adaptations exploring different aspects of the iconic character.
  • Even some of DC’s most controversial creative choices in Superman movies hold up well.
  • Superman’s animated movies are well worthy of consideration alongside the live-action releases.

Superman has led a multitude of DC movies, and upon revisiting each of his cinematic outings, a few key things stood out about the character and his place in pop culture. Superman is recognized as the first ever comic-book superhero and an icon of quintessential heroism. He has held this office since his creation in Action Comics’ first issue and has achieved further iconic status in a number of Superman movies. His impact on culture is unrivaled, with his real only competition being Batman.

With Superman’s DCU reboot coming in 2025, now is the perfect time to revisit the franchise, if only to remind yourself of the lessons DC’s new venture needs to learn. Doing so reveals just how differently the actors playing Superman and the directors guiding each of them approached the character, providing some interesting insight into DC’s Man of Tomorrow.

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10 A Darker Superman Tone Is Not A Bad Thing

Supes Does Not Have To Replicate Batman’s Personality, But He Is Not Above Being Imperfect Himself

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DC’s superhero fan base is often divided over the tone in Superman’s movies. Sometimes accused of being too idealistic and altruistic to appear relatable, Superman movies have elsewhere been criticized for a darker tone that apparently betrays his foundational traits. Both things can be true, but it is realistic to show the more serious and tragic side of superhero films. People and life are not perfect, and Superman is, after all, a lost child of a destroyed world.

Even Christopher Reeves’ more optimistic and confident portrayal left room to show Superman as human; Superman II saw Clark struggle with his responsibilities and even briefly remove his powers for a quiet life with Lois Lane. Even the most recent reveal for David Corenswet’s Superman costume seems to suggest a more world-weary tone. Hopefully, the DC Universe will explore the human side of Clark Kent, opening audiences up to the character beyond his godlike powers.

9 An Evil Superman Is A Tired Trope

While A Darker Tone Is Often Welcome, Superman Turning Evil Defeats His Foundational Traits

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Having Superman constantly turn evil dilutes the point of his heroism and makes it harder to distinguish between the multitude of evil variants seen in
The Boys
,
Invincible
, and
Brightburn
.

While a darker tone is welcome, several movies have already explored the idea of an evil Superman. Superman III saw Reeves’s Clark split into two and one embodied his potential immortality. Zack Snyder teased Superman becoming a soldier for Darkseid in the follow-up to his cut of Justice League. These sequels never happened, and it’s probably for the best as having Superman constantly turn evil dilutes the point of his heroism and makes it harder to distinguish between the multitude of evil variants seen in The Boys, Invincible, and Brightburn.

Part of Superman’s inspiration for audiences is that he is a morally dependable character in the unlikeliest of circumstances; an alien with powers that make him unstoppable to reduce the planet to rubble. His dark sides should be represented by his large gallery of foes, many of whom replicate his abilities; unlike them, he does not seek world domination. Several stories in Superman movies and beyond have explored the idea of an evil Superman to test the traditional ‘Truth, Justice and The American Way’ slogan, but there should be different ways directors and writers can show his deep-rooted flaws.

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DC’s newest Superman show seems to point to another iteration of evil Superman in some capacity based on its current villain storyline.

8 The Death Of Superman Was Done Far Better In Animation Than Live-Action

One Of DC Comics’ Most Devastating Storylines Missed The Mark When Adapted To Live-Action

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Superman’s death at the hands of Doomsday is one of the most powerful moments in DC Comics, and of course Zack Snyder adapted it for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s ending. But its adaptation to live-action failed to capture the high-points of the source material. Although the sacrifice of Cavill’s Superman is thematically in line with the movie questioning the relevance of the hero in the world, it nevertheless felt rushed. By contrast, the animated movie, The Death of Superman was a far more worthy adaptation of its namesake comic book.

The movie briskly established its Superman with a longer history of heroism than Snyder’s, who was in his junior years. It also includes various members of the Justice League, allowing for Doomsday to appear more of a threat, More importantly, that allowed for the impact of Supes’ death to carry far more emotional weight; it showed how important Superman is to the world as a leading figure in Earth’s group of godlike protectors.

The Death Of Superman (2018) - Poster The Death Of Superman (2018) PG-13Science FictionAnimationActionDrama Where to Watch

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The Death of Superman is an animated superhero film based on the 1992-1993 DC Comics storyline “The Death of Superman”. The movie follows Superman as he faces off against the powerful villain Doomsday, who has been engineered to be the ultimate killing machine.

Director Jake Castorena , Sam Liu Release Date July 24, 2018 Studio(s) DC Entertainment , Warner Bros. Animation Writers Peter Tomasi , Jerry Siegel , Joe Shuster , Paul Norris , Bob Kane , Bill Finger Cast Jerry O’Connell , Rebecca Romijn , Rainn Wilson , Rosario Dawson , Nathan Fillion Runtime 81 Minutes Expand

7 The Live-Action Movies Have Never Really Known What To Do With Lois Lane

There Should Be More To Superman’s Earthly Lover Than Simply That

Kate Bosworth and Amy Adams as Lois Lane in Superman Returns and Man of Steel

Across his history in movies, Superman has been accompanied by his earthly love interest, Lois. The original character is important to Clark’s humanity, yet, the movies have struggled to make Lane compliment Clark’s journey and make her interesting in her own right.

Margot Kidder was susceptible to the damsel in distress trope, and more recent portrayals have made Lois more independent but lack depth. Kate Bosworth was saddled with a clichéd love triangle subplot in Superman Returns, while Amy Adams in the DCEU was overcompensated for her more modern, capable qualities that saw her as a glorified deus ex machina.

Having watched My Adventures With Superman, there is still hope that Lane can be an endearing character in her own right, without stifling the pace of Superman’s action-packed adventure. She can be headstrong and determined, but also hasty and even conceited. It remains to be seen how important Rachel Brosnahan’s Lois will be to Corenswet’s Clark. Yet, the new animated series has provided a stellar blueprint for how interesting Superman’s human lover can be.

6 The Movies Have Yet To Depict A Definitive Lex Luthor

Every Version Is A Far Cry From The Ruthless Charisma Of Comics Luthor

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The owner of LexCorp is recognized as Superman’s nemesis and has appeared in various movies, yet none have purely adapted the character. Gene Hackman leaned more toward a comedic take that lacked any scientific merit that the original character had. Kevin Spacey suffered the same feat in Superman Returns. In the DCEU, meanwhile, Jessie Eisenberg was notoriously criticized for his modern reinterpretation of the character.

Luthor is one of the more nuanced comic book villains, proving not every villain has to be a psychotic foil to the honorable hero. Through an endorsement of Nietzsche’s philosophy, Lex’s hatred for Superman is through their common middle ground; both want to inspire humanity, but they do so through different methods. The animated movies fundamentally understood the character of Lex, yet his live-action appearances miss the mark. It remains to be seen whether Nicolas Hoult will adhere to these portrayals or bring to life a more than worthy Lex to the screen.

Nicholas Hoult in The Menu and Lex Luthor with his green and purple armor in DC Comics Related Superman Set Photos Reveal Bloody First Look At Nicholas Hoult’s Lex Luthor

The Superman set photos continue, with a new round of images revealing the first look at Nicholas Hoult’s bloody Lex Luthor in the DCU movie.

5 There Are Fewer Superman Animated Movies Than Anticipated

An Easy Alternative Binge-Watch For DC Fans

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Superman has appeared in several great animated movies in the DC Universe, yet there are far fewer than expected from a character with such a lengthy history in pop culture. From 2006 to the present day, Superman has appeared in 13 animated movies, which is dwarfed by the 29 Batman animated movies. That’s somewhat surprising, given how the two compete for DC’s greatest icon, but it does at least make for an easier binge-watch.

Like their live-action counterparts, the animated features vary in story and tone. Although several are bound by a connection to Superman: The Animated Series, like Brainiac Attacks, others act as standalone stories. Whilst some differ in quality, some offer far better adaptations of important comic plots starring Superman, and DC fans should consider viewing the gallery of animated adventures.

Superman Animated Movies

Year

Superman: Brainiac Attacks

2006

Superman: Doomsday

2007

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies

2009

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

2010

Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam

2010

All-Star Superman

2011

Superman vs. The Elite

2012

Superman: Unbound

2013

The Death of Superman

2018

Reign of the Supermen

2019

Superman: Red Son

2020

Superman: Man of Tomorrow

2020

Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons

2022

4 Man Of Steel’s Most Controversial Scene Holds Up Brilliantly

The Divisive Vision From Zack Snyder Fits Brilliantly With The Era It Was Made

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Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel is one of the most polarizing superhero movies of all time; its bleaker tone and Superman killing Zod are the most prominent targets of its worst criticisms. However, especially upon rewatching, this singular moment that sparked so much controversy is a perfect visual of a symbol of idealism in conflict with agony and grief. And crucially, the act is not glorified, unlike how it was in Superman II. Superman stops Zod, but there is a lot of collateral damage, and killing his nemesis results in him wailing in grief.

These failures are at the crux of Superman’s rehabilitated relevance within American culture. Despite his heroism, the film states that even Superman cannot fight evil and do so without consequences, even given his historical optimism. Unlike Reeves and Donner’s interpretation, this Man of Steel is not bound to the tradition of the Monomyth, nor can he supernaturally turn back the planet and reset time if an adventure does not turn out to his liking. There is only so much that Superman can do to reassure people (both in the story and in terms of the audience).

Man of Steel Poster Man of Steel PG-13Adventure Sci-FiActionFantasySuperhero Where to Watch

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This new take on Superman’s origin story, Man of Steel, centers on young journalist Clark Kent/Kal-El, a being who came to Earth as a child from Krypton. Though he has trouble fitting in with his secret superpowers and questions his purpose in life, Clark is forced into action when fellow Kryptonian General Zod arrives on Earth hellbent on conquest. Clark is built by the values set upon him by his parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent, who adopted him as an otherworldly orphan, inadvertently raising him to become the hero humanity needs.

Director Zack Snyder Release Date June 14, 2013 Studio(s) Warner Bros. Pictures Distributor(s) Warner Bros. Pictures Writers David S. Goyer , Christopher Nolan Cast Kevin Costner , Laurence Fishburne , Richard Schiff , Amy Adams , Harry Lennix , Antje Traue , Michael Shannon , Henry Cavill , Christopher Meloni , Diane Lane , Russell Crowe Runtime 143 minutes Franchise(s) Superman Budget $225 million Expand

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The latest batch of Superman movie set photos show David Corenswet’s Man of Steel bringing an iconic DC Comics cover to life in the DC Universe.

3 Brandon Routh’s Iteration Deserves More Appreciation

The Most Forgotten Superman Remains Special

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Brandon Routh’s time donning the red cape may have received a lukewarm reception, but both Superman Returns and its lead stood out after this rewatch saw newfound appreciation. Routh does not have it easy, following the cinematic Christopher Reeve, with Tom Welling’s long-running series Smallville and then Henry Cavill’s following soon after. Being placed among these three means that Routh is practically swallowed up into obscurity.

It cannot be understated how Routh and his movie explored a more serious Superman first, illustrating themes of whether the world needs a Superman. The darker tone and story laid the ground for where 2013’s Man of Steel would take the character, with imagery and a tone that reflects the post-9/11 era. At the center of this is Routh, who provided a humanity for Superman that encapsulates the points previously made. He proved a stellar lead that perfectly balanced the idealism of Reeve and the humanity of Cavill.

Superman Returns Where to Watch

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Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns follows the events surrounding the hero’s return to Earth after a five-year absence. When Superman (Brandon Routh) arrives back on Earth, he discovers that Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has developed a plan to use kryptonite crystals to establish a new landmass that he intends to sell off to the highest bidder. With Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) now married with a child, Superman must come to terms with everything he left behind in order to stop Luthor’s villainous scheme.

Director Bryn Singer Release Date June 30, 2006 Studio(s) Warner Bros. Pictures Distributor(s) Warner Bros. Pictures Writers Michael Dougherty , Dan Harris , Bryan Singer Cast Brandon Routh , Kevin Spacey , Kate Bosworth , James Marsden , Parker Posey , Frank Langella , Sam Huntington , Eva Marie Saint Franchise(s) Superman Budget 204 million Main Genre Superhero Expand

2 The Movies Have Only Scratched The Surface With Superman’s Villains

Superman’s Movies Have Underused His Vast Rogue Gallery

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Despite several movies to his name, Superman has only been seen battling Lex Luthor and General Zod, alongside some secondary villains. The only other villain was the monstrous Doomsday, who was reduced to a fleeting cameo, despite killing Supes toward the end of Batman v Superman.

James Gunn’s Superman (2025) is bringing back Lex Luthor for his upcoming movie, yet many have theorized that David Corenswet will face off against a new foe. Many have championed the idea of DC Comics’ Brainiac appearing as a villain in Superman. Brainiac has appeared in several animated movies; Superman: Brainiac Attacks and Superman: Unbound, to name a few. His live-action debut is overdue.

Superman_ Brainiac Attacks (2006) - Poster - Superman Fighting Superman: Brainiac Attacks (2006) AnimationActionFamilyScience Fiction

Superman: Brainiac Attacks is an animated superhero film that pits Superman against the villainous Brainiac, who has stolen the city of Metropolis’ technology. As Brainiac attempts to capture Superman, the Man of Steel must use his powers to stop the villain and save the city.

Director Curt Geda Release Date June 20, 2006 Studio(s) DC Comics , Warner Bros. Animation Writers Duane Capizzi Cast Tim Daly , Dana Delany , Powers Boothe , Lance Henriksen , George Dzundza Runtime 75 Minutes Expand

David Corenswet, Nicholas Hoult, and Brainiac from Krypton Related All Rumored Superman 2025 Movie Villains Explained

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1 It’s Time For A ‘Boy Scout’ Superman Again

With A History Of Drastic Tonal Shifts, It’s Time To Go Back

Christopher Reeve in the Fortress of Solitude in Superman II

As previously mentioned, the Superman movies have undergone a serious tonal shift, making Superman far less optimistic in the movies of the 21st Century, allegorizing the more cynical feeling of the post-9/11 era. However, what the same century has also proved, more recently, is that the idealistic, conformist heroes of traditional American pop culture can integrate into contemporary society.

The MCU’s Captain America, for example, became one of the leading figures of a sprawling franchise and his movies adhered to the character’s classic traits of morality and hope. It is time for these traits to be resurfaced in Superman.

According to Peter Safran (via The Hollywood Reporter), the upcoming Superman (2025) will revolve around the traditional ideals of the character. It will also put a modern spin on how those ideals are perceived. As Safran mentioned, Corenswet’s Superman “is the embodiment of truth, justice, and the American way. He is kindness in a world that thinks that kindness is old-fashioned.” Superman is still forever present in movies, and it will be interesting to see how Gunn and Corenswet differ from previous interpretations and what trends they continue.

Superman 2025 Custom Poster Superman (2025)

Written and directed by James Gunn, Superman is the first movie in Warner Bros.’ rebooted DC Universe to center around the titular comic book hero. It introduces a new version of the Man of Steel after Henry Cavill’s departure from the role, honoring the character’s roots as “the embodiment of truth, justice and the American way.”

Upcoming DC Movies

Release Date

Joker: Folie à Deux

October 4, 2024

Superman

July 11, 2025

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow

June 26, 2026

The Batman – Part II

October 2, 2026

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