All 9 Superman Live Action Movies Ranked!

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Superman is without a doubt one of the most, if not the most iconic fictional character of all time. Since he flew into the mainstream in 1938’s ‘Action Comics #1’, he has appeared in countless adaptations, including live-action movies! Here are all of Superman’s live-action movies ranked from worst to best.

9. ‘Superman 4: The Quest for Peace’ (1987)

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You know a movie is going to be bad when the main star, Christopher Reeve, warns co-stars how much of a train wreck it’s going to be. Lex Luthor is up to his usual schemes and creates Nuclear Man to take down Superman who happened to be over the top, horribly designed, and more of a joke than anything.

It also didn’t feel like the studio had any faith in this film as due to severe budget cuts they used the same Superman flying sequence multiple times throughout the movie. As bad as the movie is however Reeve still delivers a superb performance as Superman. 

8. ‘Superman 3’ (1983)

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While not as bad as ‘Quest for Peace,’ this was certainly the beginning of the end. The movie does have some merit to it. However, it was interesting to see Clark back in Smallville and meeting with Lana Lang, who we had not seen since the first film.

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Also seeing Superman’s reaction to Synthetic Kryptonite was a really interesting concept and having an evil Superman fight Clark Kent was such an enjoyable sequence but overall the script was lackluster with moments that were far too cheesy, even for the 80s.

7. ‘Justice League’ (2017)

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Sometimes a production nightmare can work out, other times, it can turn out like the theatrical cut of ‘Justice League’. As soon as the film started with the CGI disaster that was Henry Cavil’s mustache removal, we all knew what we were in for.

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Filled with tons of corny jokes, clearly trying to recreate jokes that Whedon had included in ‘Age of Ultron’ with scenes that were obvious reshoots that did not blend in with the rest of what was going on, this film was a mess. For whatever reason, they felt the need to reshoot the entire Superman resurrection scene and had Henry Cavil speak with a weird accent with no good build-up to his arrival in the final fight later on. 

6. ‘Superman Returns’ (2006)

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While this might not be the worst Superman movie, it is certainly not a great one, either. Brandon Routh really got the short end of the stick with a bleak script and a very uninspired “Will they, won’t they” between Superman and Lois Lane.

While Routh was a great casting for Kal El, he really didn’t have a good chance to shine. Instead of trying to continue the Richard Donner films, it should’ve been its own thing which would have actually given Routh a chance to really do well as the character and not be overshadowed by Christopher Reeve’s iconic performance. Thankfully he got a chance to come back in the CW’s ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ and give a fantastic performance.

5. ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (2016)

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“Batman V Superman” was the highly anticipated sequel to ‘Man of Steel.’ Once it was announced at Comic-Con, fans went wild, then when the movie was released, DC fans were probably the most divided they had ever been.

Ben Affleck was a fantastic choice for Batman. Having him be a more seasoned Batman with a much more negative outlook on life was great; however, it should’ve been fleshed out more which is one of the major issues of this film. Everything felt very rushed; what should’ve been explored in another movie or two was crammed into this one film.

Superman didn’t have a lot to do in this film, and it was very unclear why he had issues with Batman; however, this was explored more in the far superior ultimate edition, which added more layers to why they were fighting.

4. ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ (2021)

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For years one of DC’s biggest mysteries was if Zack Snyder’s cut of ‘Justice League’ actually existed, and when it was finally announced, fans went absolutely wild! Even though the plot is still relatively the same, this is a massive improvement on the original cut.

The corny jokes are all taken out, the CGI has been majorly improved, and even with scenes that are the same as last time, they have a completely different context and tone, which makes them 10x better. Superman’s return was handled so much better with a build-up that actually made sense and a mesmerizing score to accompany it. 

3. ‘Superman The Movie’ (1978)

If this film didn’t exist, we would not have superhero movies in the way that we do today. This was the film that made people realize that these fantastical characters with colorful costumes can be taken seriously, especially with Christopher Reeve’s fantastic and iconic performance as the Man of Steel.

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While this is 100% a product of its time, due to the film’s simple plot, which focuses more on the character of Superman with a sparring use of CGI, it still holds very well today, with only a few scenes standing out. With Reeve’s performance and iconic score by John Williams, this is a film that will stand the test of time.

2. ‘Superman 2’ (1981)

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Superman 2 is, without a doubt, one of the best comic book movie sequels of all time. With Zod being the main villain, we finally get to see Superman come face-to-face with someone who poses a physical threat.

One of the best things about this movie is the growing relationship between Lois and Clark and seeing Lois becoming increasingly suspicious of Clark not being who he says he is, so much so that she throws herself into a waterfall with the idea that he will save her.

This really fleshed out the character of Lois Lane a lot more, showing how intelligent she is and how confident she is in her knowledge. The only bad thing about this movie is that suddenly Superman has a weird power where he can erase memories with a kiss.

1. ‘Man of Steel’ (2013)

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When it was announced that we were going to get a Superman reboot, the first question people were asking was, “Who’s going to be the new Man of Steel?”. Zack Snyder introduced the world to Henry Cavil as Superman in an action-packed blockbuster that also explored a lot more of his Kryptonian heritage.

Henry Cavil was a fantastic choice for Superman, even though this wasn’t the Superman we were used to, as he was a lot more inexperienced and still finding his footing. Not only did Cavil look the part, but throughout the film, there were scenes of him showing capabilities of becoming the Man of Steel we all know and love from the comics.

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One of the best parts about the movie was having Kal El have to choose between his Kryptonian heritage and his Earth heritage, with him ultimately choosing humanity and becoming the symbol of hope he set out to be.

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