Every Live-Action Superman Ranked From Worst To Best
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Every Live-Action Superman Ranked From Worst To Best


More than any other comic book hero, Superman
has been as defined by his portrayals off the page as he is within them. Whether it’s the radio show introducing Kryptonite
and Jimmy Olsen in the ’40s or the way Christopher Reeve made audiences believe a man could fly
in 1978, the men playing the Man of Steel have shaped how the world views Superman. But which one did it best? Here’s a look at every live-action version
of Superman ranked from worst to best. Superman Returns 2006’s Superman Returns isn’t just terrible,
it’s the kind of terrible that makes you wonder how it happened. It’s mystifying on every level, starting with
the fact that it’s meant to be a sequel to the director’s cut of Superman II not the
theatrical release, but Richard Donner’s original version, which had only been released on DVD
a few years earlier. That’s weird, especially considering it ignores
the two sequels to Superman II that already existed. Worse, though, the version of Superman that
the movie presents us is remarkably unappealing. After leaving Earth for five years to check
and see if Krypton was still blown up, Superman returns to find that Lois Lane has been spending
the intervening years raising their five-year-old child. Superman then mopes around, basically stalking
his ex-girlfriend for two hours. The most frustrating part about the whole
thing is that Brandon Routh is actually good in the role. He’s got a great look, he comes off as genuine
and heroic, and he’s incredibly likable he just happens to be playing a version of Superman
that’s none of those things. It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman “Hi there America and friendly nations everywhere. Glad we could get together.” This 1975 TV adaptation of the popular ’60s
Broadway musical taps into the same campy vibe that made the Batman TV show such a big
hit. That actually led to some pretty cool stuff,
too. The sets being drawn as flat, comic book-style
backgrounds for the actors to play against complete with panel borders drawn in was a
great idea, and there are a few really well-done gags. Plus, “You’ve Got Possibilities,” the song
in which a vampy femme fatale swings a meek Clark Kent around the room while undressing
him is… something else. In practice, though, it just doesn’t come
together, thanks in large part to David Wilson’s Superman. Like almost everyone else in the cast, he
feels like he’s constantly winking at the audience about how goofy this entire thing
is. “Yeah, I know.” He plays Clark Kent just a little too weedy
and bored, and his Superman is a little too much of a blowhard to ever really want to
see him win. Superboy Before Smallville managed to carve out a solid
decade on the airwaves, the story of a younger, pre-Superman Clark Kent found its way to syndicated
television as Superboy in 1988. Set during Clark’s college years in Florida,
the first season was shot on a tight budget, but still managed to tell pretty interesting
stories about its title character, played by John Haymes Newton. Though the series was a hit, Newton only lasted
a single season, after producers used a DUI as an excuse to replace him after he asked
for a pay raise. “This imposter will be more than happy to
sign a full confession to the crimes committed in my name.” Superman Here’s the weirdest thing about Kirk Alyn’s
tenure as Superman in the 1948 serial: while his name did appear on the posters, identifying
him as the actor who played Clark Kent, Columbia Pictures never actually credited him in the
serial itself. Instead, they promoted the film as starring
Superman, taking some time off from fighting crime and saving the world to make his motion
picture debut. Looking back, it seems like a pretty bizarre
promotional choice, but in all honesty, Alyn really did sell it. His big smile and hell-raiser attitude were
a great match for the early iteration of the character. There was one truly bizarre thing about the
serial version of Superman, though: since they didn’t have the budget for a live-action
special effect, all the scenes of Superman flying were done by showing Alyn’s very human
form quickly turning into an animated cartoon that would fly around before landing behind
something, so they wouldn’t have to animate the landing. That’s weird! Süpermen Dönüyor Is Turkey’s 1979 bootleg action epic The Return
of Superman good? No. No it is not. Is it, however, absolutely worth watching,
if only to see how truly insane it is? Yes. Since Turkish laws at the time prevented American
blockbusters like Superman from being shown, enterprising Turkish filmmakers just made
their own version. This resulted in a film in which a suspiciously
scrawny Superman comes to Earth from a Krypton that appears to be decorated by Christmas
tree ornaments, and the shots of Superman flying are done by dangling a Ken doll in
a homemade Superman costume on a string. So no, it’s not what you’d call good, but
Tayfun Demir’s performance is certainly unique, and incredibly entertaining. The Adventures of Superboy After John Newton left the Superboy television
show, the title role for the second, third, and fourth seasons passed to Gerard Christopher,
who benefited from joining a show that was already a success. As a result, he had a lot more to do than
his predecessor, both on and offscreen Christopher actually ended up writing two episodes of
the series himself. “I want superboy!” He also had the benefit of being a little
older and having a little more experience. Despite the fact that he was playing a sophomore
in college, Christopher turned 30 the year he landed the role, and the experience he
brought to the table shows. There’s a sincerity to his portrayal of Superboy,
and his Clark Kent was purposefully a little nerdier than Newton’s, to bring him closer
into step with Christopher Reeve’s bumbling, stuttering Clark from the films. Smallville With 218 episodes over the course of ten seasons
beginning in 2001, Smallville’s Tom Welling put more time into playing Clark Kent than
any other live-action performer. But then, that’s also the problem. Smallville famously had an approach rooted
in the simple rule: “no tights, no flights.” The idea was that their focus would be on
a young Clark Kent in the years before he decided to become Superman. The show was such a hit, though, that it took
him a whole decade to get around to becoming Superman. As a result, Smallville’s Clark became a victim
of his own success, forced by the rules of the show into an indecisiveness that even
Hamlet would find a little annoying. The show went on long enough that it even
outlasted the original setting of the title, and Clark ended up doing pretty much everything
you’d expect to see a grown-up Superman do. The thing is, he only did it as “the Red-Blue
Blur.” If we ever get around to ranking Red-Blue
Blurs, he’ll be at the top of the list, but as Superman, he leaves a little to be desired. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Smallville erred on the side of putting too
much focus on Clark Kent, and the DC’s blockbusters went to the other extreme and barely bothered
to include Superman’s alter ego at all. But beginning in 1993, Lois & Clark struck
a balance that few other portrayals of the character have managed to even come close
to. The trick is right there in the title “Lois
& Clark” comes first, emphasizing the love story. And this didn’t detract from the action. Instead, it did the opposite, adding a level
of drama that got fans invested in a kind of ongoing soap opera without ever letting
it get in the way of super-powered action. The single best thing that Lois & Clark ever
did was, after three different fake-outs, calling the episode where the title characters
got married, “Swear To God, This Time We’re Not Kidding.” That said, a close second was the way that
Dean Cain’s take on the Man of Steel got the dynamic of the secret identity right: Superman
is what he does, Clark Kent is who he is. “That’s ridiculous you are Superman.” No, Superman is what I can do. Clark is who I am.” And a close third? “Hey, hey, look over there!” Man of Steel and the DC Extended Universe The DCEU may have its origins in an unrelentingly
bleak place, but Henry Cavill’s arc as Superman transcends even the dreariest parts. As Superman, he’s pretty much the truest thing
you’ll ever get to his comic appearance, and for the first time on screen, he’s not just
a dude with superpowers, but an alien god. Sure, his initial arc consists of murdering
the villain, getting his butt whupped by Batman, and then dying pretty dark, but also a great
match for Ben Affleck’s Batman. By the end of 2017’s Justice League, we got
a sunnier and more optimistic version of Superman: a guy who could joke around with The Flash,
and hopefully open the door to a much brighter DCEU. What more could you want in a Superman? The Adventures of Superman Even though the show was on the air for over
a hundred episodes beginning in 1952, the most defining moment for George Reeves’ tenure
as Superman on The Adventures of Superman didn’t happen on the screen. It happened in real life. Reeves was acutely aware of the fact that
kids looked up to him. He even quit smoking so that he wouldn’t be
caught by a photographer and set a bad example for his younger viewers, and pushed for scripts
that would give good messages about respect and tolerance of others. The downside to that was that when he made
public appearances in costume, a few children would attempt to test Superman’s invulnerability
with a quick punch or a kick to the shins. At one appearance, a kid took things much
further by bringing his father’s pistol in an effort to see if bullets really would bounce
off Superman. Reeves, thinking quickly, convinced the child
to hand over the loaded gun, as immortalized in the 2006 film Hollywoodland: “If you did shoot me, and the bullet bounced
off, it might accidentally hit someone else. We don’t want that to happen, do we?” That’s the kind of thing Superman himself
would have done. Supergirl There’s a moment in the second season of Supergirl
where everyone is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Kara Zor-El’s more famous cousin. When he does show up, Superman lands, and
then spends the next few minutes smiling and shaking hands with everyone, learning their
names and greeting them not as an alien savior, but someone who sees them as equals. That’s the moment where it was clear that
the show’s producers understood Superman as well as they understand his cousin. Tyler Hoechlin’s take on Superman has a warmth
and honesty that goes perfectly with the world the show has created, an affable attitude
and humanity that doesn’t go away when he takes off his glasses. With his first appearance in 2017, he might
not have the tenure of some of the other Supermen on this list. But what he does have is a note-perfect vision
of a hero who’s here to help. Superman If you go looking for people’s thoughts about
Christopher Reeve’s performance as The Man of Steel starting in 1978’s Superman, the
one thing you’ll read over and over is that he looked like he stepped off the pages of
the comics and into the real world. But the truth is that Reeve embodied the idea
of Superman so well that the comics had to change to keep up. His easy smile, his reassuring confidence;
it’s all there on screen. He even made the eye-popping costume look
great, and did such a great job with the double identity that it was easy to believe the citizens
of Metropolis would overlook the meek, slouchy Clark Kent as a disguise for Superman. Looking back at them years later, the movies
themselves can be wildly uneven 3 and 4 aren’t as bad as you remember, and the first two
aren’t as good but at least Reeve’s performance remains unassailably
great in virtually every way. Thanks for watching! Click the Looper icon to subscribe to our
YouTube channel. Plus check out all this cool stuff we know you’ll love, too! Plus check out all this cool stuff we know
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100 Comments

  • Michael Petrousek

    Really supergirl superman Tyler is the second best wow you guys got to rethink this pecking order not good guys not good at all

  • Bob Degenhart

    I stopped watching as soon as I saw that you put Superman Returns behind that ridiculous mid70s Superman dance disaster and Superboy. Seriously, are you mentally challenged? Your credibility level is at absolute zero.

  • Grumpy Sorc

    It's hard to watch any Superman, that plastic acting & boring good deeds after Antony Starr's terrific performance as Homelander.

  • YAHCOB Pintos

    Sorry dude swimmer Return movie sucked big ass but it 2 playing Superman was the only good thing about that the worst Superman it's one from the TV show the new that show now I wouldn't mind seeing the dude that played Superman return taking over the payroll again just came about a movie

  • Seacrest Outlaw

    Hands down my own personal opinion Christopher Reeves is the greatest Superman of all time! I grew up watching all of the movies, although I didn't really like the fourth movie, the third movie I tolerateed because it have had great actors alongside Reeves was Richard Pryor. But Christopher Reeves will always be the very best! Dean Cain I also grew up watching Lois and Lane The New Adventures of Superman as well. That was a pretty awesome show. I first heard about Henry Cavill playing Superman I thought to myself he's going to have some huge shoes to fill Left Behind Christopher Reeves. But he did good. I like the first Superman remake, Man of Steel but dawn of Justice wasn't good at all. Brandon Routh is a hell of an actor I think he portrayed Superman actually pretty well it's just the graphics with terrible. We got some moments in Superman Returns some awesome scenes but also some moments where CGI WAS just too ANIMATED

  • Steven Leccese

    I agree with most people who say Christopher Reeve was the best Superman. He was absolutely perfect for the role. I do think it's very sad though how many people forgot just how great George Reeves was.

  • جديد الساحرة المستديرة

    Christopher Reeve is the most loyal to the comics superman, but my favorite is Henry Cavill, he delivered the most realistic superman on screen which made me imagine how supes would be in real life, no other version could do that, i say the biased nostalgic critics can suck it the hate on the Man Of Steel is unjustified and only driven by their nostalgia, i liked the dark toned dramatic superman in Man Of Steel too bad people can't be open minded enough to accept a new different protrayal of the character

  • medexamtoolsdotcom

    True story though, I had a professor in college who said that Christopher Reeve based his dorky Clark Kent look on. I'm not sure if that's something to be proud of though.

  • Shane ye boi

    You're mad to put Tyler's superman before Henry's, Tom's, and Brandon's. Supergirl writers completey destroyed his version by making him insanely weak. A veteran hero who's lived on earth for many years and learned how to enhance his powers and adapt to them should never have gotten defeated by a rookie who's just starting to learn how to be a hero. Especially if he was "going his fullest potential" against supergirl. Not only that, but they practically tossed him aside to go "retire and be a dad" like wtf? It ruins the whole destiny arc of being Earth's guardian. I'm sorry, but clearly you've overlooked some things. I'd say Tyler's version of superman on supergirl is one of the worst ones out there. Sure, he's got the kind quality, but he's pathetic and weak and can't fight for himself.

  • Borengar629

    I am sorry but this list is terrible. It already starts wrong with Brandon Routh ranking last because you think that Superman Returns is a bad movie. You should have decided on wether you wanted this to be a list about Superman adaptations or portrails because this list seems pretty inconsistant in this regard.

  • coeenc123

    1)Christopher Reeve 2)Kirk Alyn 3)George Reeves 4)Tom Welling. The only actors who (imo) played a good Superman true to the character.I'm hoping Routh does good as KC Superman as he got a bad script for SR,but it's the arrow/supergirl/flash universe…..

  • Pappy O'hoolihan

    Decades of clammoring for a Persian Superman finally paid off!!! Isn't 'woke' culture and the soft-dick millennial's that shoehorn it fascinating

  • Alpha So flat

    I stopped at 34 seconds…you're terrible for thinking Superman Returns was terrible. Your ranking videos are generic, and insults people's intelligence

  • Allen Alvey

    I thought everyone was at a mutual agreement that the top 3 is welling, Reeves and cavill not in order. Honestly I do have welling at 1 but that's because I'm just a diehard smallville fan. Everyone else after welling and Reeves isnt even close though

  • Stitchthekitten

    Dean Cain will always be my superman and it saddens me he gets so little love, I’ve been watching the show since I was very little and I just love it, it’s cringe but you know, it’s my cringe 😅

  • Jackson Parker

    How you gonna say Superman Returns is the worst one. Routhe was awesome and Kevin Spacey played the best Lex Luthor. And Cavill should be second if not first in my opinion.

  • Woozle 03 Productions

    I have controversial opinions on this. I never really liked the Christopher Reeve films. My favourite Superman is Tyler Hoechlin with Tom Welling and Henry Cavill as a joint second(I can't choose between those two. They both have good moments and bad moments.)

  • I AM KING

    This list was trash when you placed Brandon Routh last and then you called Henry Cavill the closest you’ll get to a comic Superman but then placed him so low lol he should be #2 at the least

  • Eben Adams

    Just remember they put Brandon Routh at the bottom of the list behind shitty musical stage performances and awful 80s tv.

    Even though Superman Returns is a mediocre film, his acting beat everything Henry Cavill has done. In Crisis, we see that Brandon Routh is still better than Tyler Hoechlin, as he already was in Superman Returns. This list is cringe. 80s Superboy and corny ass stage musical better than Brandon Routh, omg…

  • JC Tremblay

    Ok so looking back, Superman 1 and 2 are not that good and 3-4 are not that bad but Superman Return is still considered as bad ? Shut up with your bullshit

  • Elise

    Finally someone who's not berating Tyler Hoechlin's Superman as "too short" or whatever and instead praising his qualities!

  • RKO 1718

    1st superman was ok but God 2nd and 3rd was shit
    just because people may have some old feeling it doesn't mean it was good
    dude, you placed henry cavil's superman below some old shit
    you need a NAP
    your channel sucks

  • Charla castens

    I believe that brandon is the best superman i just think that the movie wasnt the greatest the script was lackluster the movie had really only maybe 3 action scenes that were good and one of them was in the dam trailer lex being the big bad in the movie in my opinion wasnt a good decision at all but i really want to see him on the big screen again playing the iconic hero and this time i really believe with the right script and the advancment in cgi would make for a great movie im going to start a petition online this month when i drop my channel to get him re cast in the role and for everyone to get the superman movie we all want and branden deserves he really got a shitty deal with that movie its such waisted potential because hes such a great super man they also need to adjust and tweek his portrayal of clark kent # give branden one more chance to be the superman

  • civilian arc

    I refuse to believe that they think Arrowverse Superman is better than DCEU Superman. Hes like the highlight of the DCEU (besides Wonder Woman)

  • Rangga Handoyo

    the late Christopher Reeves is unreplaceable… the image of superman is sooooo attached to him, so when anyone mention superman, my imagination is always Christopher Reeves's version..

  • Rick Vice

    You ranked the supergirl Superman who only does the occasional cameo ahead of most of the others. That is weird.

  • EliasAlucard

    I agree with pretty much every said, including the rankings, and yes, Superman Returns was a disaster, and obviously Christopher Reeve is the best Superman actor of all time (Reeve really set the benchmark standard for Superman), except one thing: Brandon Routh was not a good Superman, at all. It wasn't just Superman Returns as a movie that sucked; Routh was very much the big problem with that film. Like zero charisma.

  • Matthew Henry

    Christopher Reeves was perfect in the role. Just don't see anyone ever doing it better, but I like Henry Cavill and hope they'd keep him around, but I don't it. We got The Witcher though!

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