As one of the first superheroes to ever exist, Superman is still one of the most iconic comic book characters of all time. Since his debut in Action Comics #1 in 1938, his blue bodysuit, red cape, and briefs are still instantly recognizable among the growing list of comic book characters.
If you have a huge chunk of time to spare for a movie marathon, there’s no better character to follow in the movies than Supes. While he may not have as many films as other comic characters, the super-strong, super-fast, invulnerable Man of Steel has established himself as one of the most exciting superheroes to watch on the big screen.
This article will chronologically list all Superman movies that have been released over the years as well as mention other movies where he’s made an appearance. So read on to get the full scoop.
How many Superman movies are there?
Superman films can be divided into three categories; The Christopher Reeve era (1978-1987), Brief Rebirth (2006), and the Snyderverse (2013-2021?). The Reeve era saw the release of four Superman films, the brief rebirth of one film, and the Snyderverse two standalone films and 2 other feature films (i.e. Justice League and Zack Snyder’s Justice League).
So in total, there are seven official Superman movies. These are far from the last appearances of Clark Kent on the big screen. There are plans for more Superman films in the future which we’re all eager to see soon.
Superman movies in order – at a glance
- Superman (1978)
- Superman II (1980)
- Superman III (1983)
- Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
- Superman Returns (2006)
- Man of Steel (2013)
- Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
What is the best way to watch Superman movies?
Only some of the Superman movies are connected. As we’ve mentioned before, Superman films can be divided into three categories; The Christopher Reeve era (1978-1987), Brief Rebirth (2006), and the Snyderverse (2013-2021?). You can start with whatever era you like, but our recommendation is, if you’re up for a marathon, to watch the movies in their release date order. It’s the best way to see the evolution of the character throughout the years.
Superman Movies in Order – by release date
While Superman, otherwise known as Clark Kent or Kal-El, may look like a young guy in his many on-screen appearances, the character has been around for quite a while, with appearances dating as far back as the late 70s.
1. Superman (1978)
The words iconic and legendary are usually associated with this film that’s widely acknowledged as paving the way for the other films that followed. The film changed the character forever and its groundbreaking special effects are still somewhat relevant to date.
The actor who portrayed Superman, Christopher Reeve, seemed like a character plucked from the ages of the comics. He plays Clark Kent and Superman as two different characters. His version of Clark Kent is clumsy, nervous, and unsure while as Superman he stands tall and talks in a deep voice making him an imposing figure.
The film follows the all-too-familiar Superman story. Jor-El of the planet Krypton sends his son Kal-El on a spaceship to Earth. Kal-El is raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent in their small farmhouse. Young Clark discovers he has superhuman powers and moves to Metropolis where he must fight evil in the form of Lex Luthor.
2. Superman II (1980)
Superman was an extremely popular character that Richard Donner actually filmed a sequel to while simultaneously filming the first movie discussed above. However, due to tensions between him and the producers, production on this second film was stopped to finish the first.
After completion of the first film, Donner was fired and Lester was brought on to complete Superman II which he mostly reshot despite the film being 70% complete. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a similar incident to what occurred with the Justice League.
In the film, Supes is forced to stop terrorists by flying their nuclear device into outer space. He comes back to Earth and decides to renounce his powers so he can live a normal life as Clark Kent with his new girlfriend Lois Lane.
However, the explosion from the bomb sends shockwaves that free the Kryptonian villains General Zod, Ursa, and Non from their imprisonment in the Phantom Zone. These villains threaten the planet with destruction. Can Superman find a way to stop them?
3. Superman III (1983)
While this third installment in the Superman film series has its fans, most people agree that this is where the quality began taking a hit. This is largely due to off-screen troubles between the producers and actors. The film features a large tonal shift from the two previous movies and is much crampier with some not-so-comedic moments.
In the film, Gus Gorman who is a computer programmer is hired by financial tycoon Ross Webster to take control of a weather satellite and destroy Colombia’s coffee crop. Superman stops their plan but Webster has more sinister plans. He orders Gorman to use the satellite to find Kryptonite to destroy Supes. Gorman replaces the Kryptonite with tar. When exposed to this synthetic Kryptonite, Superman is literally split into two.
4. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
This final installment of the Superman series played by Christopher Reeve has gone down in history as one of the worst comic book movies in history. Instead of going out with a bang, this incredible run of Superman films is anticlimactic. The movie’s plot is weak, based on getting rid of all nuclear weapons in the world.
As the U.S. and Soviet Union are in a nuclear arms flex that could lead to the world’s destruction, Superman collects all nuclear warheads and tosses them into space. Lex Luthor breaks out of prison and clones Superman with radioactive material to create Nuclear Man who is just as powerful as Superman.
5. Superman Returns (2006)
After The Quest for Peace, the franchise took a break that lasted for almost two decades. The movie returned in the form of Superman Returns in 2006 and it serves as a sequel to Superman II, ignoring the previous two movies.
Lex Luthor hatches a ploy to eliminate Superman once and for all. Superman travels for 5 years to see what remains of his homeworld Krypton. He returns to a world that has changed a lot. Lois Lane has moved on with her life and the world has learned to cope without Superman. Superman is forced to find a way to reconnect with Lois and rediscover his place in a world that may not need him anymore.
6. Man of Steel (2013)
After the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC made plans to start a universe of their own, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Directed by Zack Snyder, the film features all of his trademark grit and introduces the actor Henry Cavill as Superman.
With the imminent destruction of Krypton, Jor-El and his wife are forced to send their infant son to Earth. The infant’s spaceship lands on the farm of Jonathan and Martha Kent who raise him as their own. His extraordinary abilities have led to the adult Clark Kent living on the fringe of society. He discovers that he must become a hero to save those he holds dear.
This movie sees the introduction of Kryptonian prisoners General Zod and his companions who want to take over Earth. It’s up to Supes to stop them.
7. Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Following Man of Steel, this second film in the DCEU shows how the world is split because of Superman. While some believe they have a hero who would fight tooth and nail to save them, others believe Superman is a disaster waiting to happen and he’ll only attract more destruction to Earth.
Two years after Superman’s incredible battle with Zod destroyed Metropolis, the loss of life and collateral damage angers a lot of people. One is Bruce Wayne who formulates a plan to end Superman’s reign on Earth and almost succeeds. Lex Luthor on the other hand launches his vendetta against Superman.
What other movies does Superman appear in?
Some of the other movies we’ve seen Supes make an appearance in include:
1. Justice League (2017)
Possibly one of Superman’s most controversial films yet, this movie was released to a lot of criticism from fans and critics alike. Zack Snyder left the film during post-production after his daughter’s death and Joss Whedon took over. He heavily rewrote and reshot the film in several scenes and created a hostile work environment which is one of the reasons why the quality of the film is subpar, to say, the least. I won’t go into the events of this movie because most fans prefer the Snyder cut of the Justice League, released in 2021.
2. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
I’d recommend skipping the 2017 version of the Justice League and instead advise you to watch Snyder’s infinitely better and longer director’s cut released in 2021.
In the weeks after Superman’s death, Bruce Wayne sets out on a mission to assemble a group of superheroes to help him defeat an alien invasion led by Steppenwolf and ordered by the infinitely powerful Darkseid. The Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg are part of the team he assembles. However, Steppenwolf and his minions prove to be too much for them to handle.
The team realizes they have to resurrect Superman if they are to stand a chance against the alien invasion. Viewers got to witness Superman’s resurrection in a whole new light after the first Justice League film. Eventually, Superman swoops in to save the day.
Unlike the theatrical cut, this version is well-balanced and vastly improves on the flaws of the original. It feels like an entirely new movie.
Will there be more Superman movies?
After the fiasco with the Justice League, Warner Bros was hesitant to sign up for another Superman movie. However, things might be shifting in another direction. Superman appeared in a cameo role in the newly released Black Adam movie, which might mean that another Superman movie is in the making. We don’t have any official confirmation or anything and it’s all speculation so far, however.