The Superman Movies Ranked

superman i superman returns

For decades, the Last Son of Krypton has appeared in non-comic book media like books, cartoons, serials, and TV shows. His popularity and standing grew thanks to the film Superman in 1978. As a franchise, the Superman films experienced ups and downs ranging from epic masterpieces to the type of garbage seen in Mystery Science Theater 3000. Having viewed the films recently these are my rankings for the Superman movies.

1. Superman (1978): This film has stood the test of time and become a genuine classic. There have been many superhero films that have come since this one, but it still holds up today in spite of its dated special effects and other drawbacks.

whos got youSuperman has a sense of awe and majesty in some moments, namely, the first acts in the planet Krypton and Smallville. At times some scenes in Superman’s hometown seem taken out of a Rockwell painting. It’s these quieter moments that lend an ambience to what we are watching.

Once Superman grows up and moves to Metropolis, the movie becomes a hybrid of a romance, light comedy and adventure yarn. At these points, Superman/Clark Kent encounters colorful types like his love Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and nemesis Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), who is both an amusing and devious foe.

More than an origin story about Clark Kent growing up to be Earth’s greatest superhero, Superman is a loving ode to classic Silver Age comic books. Thanks goes to director Richard Donner’s respect for the source material and Christopher Reeve’s masterful performance as Superman/Clark Kent.

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2. TIE: Superman II (1981)/Man Of Steel (2013): I couldn’t decide which of the two films is greater. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but they’re so different in style and execution. So determining which is better depends on the viewer’s taste and preference.

Superman II is very exciting and captivating with an engaging story. Kryptonian criminals come to Earth and create havoc while Superman, unaware of their activities, gives up his powers to be with Lois Lane. As fun as it is, Superman II unfortunately is littered with plot holes and conveniences.

For starters, how is it that Luthor gains entry into Superman’s Fortress of Solitude (some security!). How come Superman never learns about this? More importantly why is he so clueless about Zod and his cronies until after he renounces his powers? Why give up his powers? Just to dance in the sheets with Lois? Given the scope of his decision, it makes him seem kind of irresponsible and naive. Plus, the ending has an even bigger cop out than the first movie.

kneel before zod

Still, the performances by Reeve and Kidder are stellar whenever they’re together on screen. Terrance Stamp, Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran are formidable and vicious villains with Stamp’s Zod displaying a sense of regality and pompousness. You’re just itching for Superman and these super jerks to finally get into it during the film’s last act. The battle in Metropolis is fun and exciting, even if it lacks the scope and effects shown in Man Of Steel. However, at least Superman showed more concern for the innocent civilians caught up in the melee, unlike Man Of Steel.

man of steel and lois

Producer Christopher Nolan and director Zack Snyder reinvigorated the Superman franchise with the epic reboot Man Of Steel. It’s a no-expense-spared spectacular with jaw-dropping and exhausting battle scenes that finally showcase the scale of Superman’s powers.

Many elements about Superman and his mythos are updated and feel refreshing. Henry Cavill does a fine job playing Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent and echoes Reeve’s earnestness and humble nature. At the same time, Cavill makes the role his own as the role emphasizes Superman’s loneliness. We feel that he is an outcast who just wants to help out and find himself.

As Superman searches for his past heritage, MAN OF STEELGeneral Zod (Michael Shannon) arrives on Earth his small army of evil followers with the intent of capturing Superman and transforming the Earth into a new version of Krypton. Afterwards, Superman must not only contend with Zod and a mistrustful military, but with his dual heritage. There are many terrific quiet moments when he examines his humanity.

There are so many great things about the film but it has faults. Aside from common complaints about the music, the film needed tighter editing. It’s a long movie and it feels like one. Some fights seem to go on forever, leaving you wanting the whole thing to end already. Sometimes less is more as the saying goes. Continue reading

Which Are Worse, Superman III & IV Or The Schumacher Batman Movies?


drunk supes and clark batman forever

The title says it all. While many comic book fans are salivating over the upcoming Man Of Steel movie, many of them want to forget not just Superman Returns but those horrendously awful Superman sequels from the ’80s, Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.

On the flip side of that notion there are the Batman movies. Sure Christopher Nolan singlehandedly reinvented and salvaged the Bat franchise with his own take of Batman, but the sting of Joel Schumacher’s version of Batman in the ’90s is still felt.

Altogether these flicks nearly derailed each franchise and forced years-long moratoriums where no new Superman or Batman movies were available. With the Superman train wrecks it took nearly twenty years until a new Superman movie came out. But Superman Returns was a huge letdown and brought upon another drought of Superman flicks until this year. Batman recovered much quicker, his sabbatical from the movies only lasted seven years and his comeback flick Batman Begins set fandom on fire, culminating with The Dark Knight.

Still the nagging question remains, which of those films are worse? Let’s take a look, and start with Superman.

drunk supes

Super Duds

Before Superman III, Superman was riding high in popularity. Superman II was a huge success in the movies with its action-packed story about Kryptonian supervillains coming to Earth and Superman having to confront them. The end of the movie promised a Superman III, which excited many people. Unfortunately, the second sequel was doomed from the start. See, Richard Donner, who deserves credit for his masterful work on Superman and parts of Superman II had no input in the third Superman movie. Executive producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind had a feud with Donner and even fired him during production of Superman II. They turned to their buddy Richard Lester to complete that movie.

Now that they were running the show completely without Donner, they proceeded to ruin Superman by turning Superman III a comedy. It wouldn’t be as bad as it sounded if the movie was funny. Quite the opposite, it was moronic and embarrassing to watch. How bad was it? I put it on a few weeks ago when it was on cable to watch with my seven-year-old nephew. After a few minutes (right around that stupid scene where the traffic light figurines fight with each other), he told me to change the channel because “Superman III is dumb!”

supes gus gormanWhat is hard to believe is that there are actually defenders of this film who hail its dumb comedic bits, including Richard Pryor’s casting! Talk about misfires! Superman III heralded the downfall of Pryor’s reputation in the movies. Once the guy was seen as a comedic genius and had several hit movies under his belt. Then the poor comedian made a comment in a talk show about how he loved Superman II. Fate turned out to be cruel because the filmmakers behind the Superman films got wind of this comment and decided to put him in Superman III. It was a ballsy move, but it didn’t work. Pryor was known for his racy humor, which had to be toned down for the kid-friendly Superman film and instead he became a bumbling, unfunny buffoon in the movie. His character wasn’t much of a villain, just a misguided dupe forced to help an evil tycoon (Robert Vaughn), and of course, he helps Superman in the end. Ho hum.

Superman (and actor Christopher Reeve) took a break and didn’t appear again until the abysmal Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. By this time, the Salkinds washed their hands of the Man of Steel and sold him off to the schlocky film studio Cannon Films, famous for the zero-quality Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson action flicks.

The fourth film, the new filmmakers promised, was supposed to be bigger and better. Instead, the budget for it was severely slashed leaving an extremely cheesy mess. But the worst part was the script where Reeve supposedly had input on. Lord almighty. Superman gets rid of all the nuclear weapons without thinking of the consequences. But the movie doesn’t even cover that or have any serious discussions superman 4about that idea. The only thing that happens is that Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) schemes with some generals and creates a sort of Superman clone called Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow). The two superhumans fight and talk in space(!) and Superman pushes the moon to create a solar eclipse to defeat him. It was strictly for kids. Alright I’m stopping. Let’s just say this wasn’t one of Superman’s better films and as much as people like to riff on director Bryan Singer for Superman Returns, at least that movie didn’t have gross scientific inaccuracies.

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The Man Of Steel Teaser Is Just Underwhelming

I tried to keep an open mind with what was revealed about the upcoming Superman reboot Man Of Steel. Some of it was good, Amy Adams is a good choice for Lois Lane, Henry Cavill should be okay as Superman. Some of the other news wasn’t, namely the choice of director, Zack Snyder. The guy has a hit and miss record as a director. The last couple of films he’s done were downright awful. And no John Williams score!

Anyway, Warner Bros. released the teaser trailer for Man Of Steel last week and it just plain sucks. Talk about underwhelming!

What were they trying to convey here? A bunch of clips that looked like outtakes from Deadliest Catch (would’ve worked great if this was Aquaman: The Movie), and pretentious looking scenes that looked more like commercials for products. Why not show that Comic-Con footage that actually showed some action and money shots?

Supposedly, Warner Bros. and producer Christopher Nolan wanted to get away from the failure of Superman Returns but they go ahead remind viewers of the same motifs that the teaser trailer for Superman Returns was trying to convey! The idea of Superman as a Christ-like savior with long, reflective and pensive shots of Superman (in Man Of Steel’s case, a long shot of Superman flying up into the sky). This time those type of shots were used on Clark Kent instead and we then get two kinds of cliche narrations about having power and being a savior. And you know what? Superman Returns did this better! At lleast that trailer was inspiring.

If they wanted to make people-not just the zealous fans at some convention but the general audience-take notice of this film and forget the previous Superman movie, they needed to show what was shown at Comic-Con. They need to create an excited buzz, not confusion or worse indifference. During its showing in The Dark Knight Rises that I attended there wasn’t any reaction to this film and many have reported the same thing from other showings. Also some audience members had no idea what the trailer was for until that last shot of Superman.

Of course, it’s too early to say Man Of Steel is doomed. This could turn out to be a good film (and maybe enough fan outcry can force them to use at least part of Williams’ score; check out the trailer below that placed Williams’ “Planet Krypton” theme-it works better) but they are off to a dismal start. Their next trailer has to be more interesting and buzz worthy.

Waldermann Rivera