Following a few disappointing Superman movies, we wanted to take a look back at some of the best portrayals of the man in the red cape. Here’s the best to worst Superman actors, as judged by us.
1978: Superman: The Movie
1980: Superman II
1983: Superman III
1987: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Christopher Reeve is quite possibly the most beloved Superman ever to grace our screens. He just epitomises the character so well. Some of the movies were terrible, featuring impressible shit scripts. But one thing remained consistent throughout the first four films and that was Reeve’s commitment to the role. He truly embodied the role better than anyone else and tops our list for the best to worst Superman actors.
Possibly the greatest aspect of his performance was his ability to switch between the strong, confident and grandiose Superman, to the mild mannered and quiet Clark Kent, when visually all that changed was a haircut, some clothes and some glasses. He was humble, confident, strong, gracious, charming and the best Superman ever to exist!
1993 – 1997: Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
This is going to be controversial, but in our defence, we really struggled for a second place position. Perhaps it’s rose-tinted spectacles, but given the couple dynamic in this series, it would certainly have been a challenge to get this right. Dean Cain however did a good job. There was also genuine chemistry between Dean Cain’s Clark Kent and Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane, which made this series pretty fun watching for a lazy Sunday.
Word of warning though, the first series is far better than any other. It’s actually very in line with the spirit of the comics and adds great humour throughout. Dean Cain’s suit is pretty average, but his portrayal of an emotional Superman who had embraced his human upbringing was pretty good.
2006: Superman Returns
Poor Brandon. He was cast aside after Superman Returns despite a fairly solid performance and amazing Christopher Reeve look-alike skills. It wasn’t the worst Superman movie, but it was far from the best. Brandon Routh was good throughout the film though.
There wasn’t much action, and the decision to have a child of Superman didn’t do much for the movie. But Routh gave a very sincere, if quiet, performance which most long term fans of Superman would recognise.
2001 – 2011: Smallville
Smallville wasn’t really a Superman show, and Welling only got to wear the S in the very final episode of 218 hours worth of television. Tom Welling has the chiseled features of a Superman and played the role with a gentle naivety, which was perfect for the series, if not for the adult version of the big S.
2013: Man of Steel
2016: Batman Vs Superman
Henry Cavill is a slightly disappointing version of Superman. His portrayal of the red caped hero is a little bland, and not very memorable. Having said that, it’s tough to convey any kind of acting chops when half the movie is pinballing between skyscrapers in the dull and sleepy affair that was Man of Steel.
Still, he looked the part, and was by far the most ripped version of Superman we have had to date. However, very little emotion is conveyed, and the movie misses out on a large part of the Superman character: his alter ego, Clark Kent. Therefore Henry Cavill finishes at the mid point in our list of best to worst Superman actors.
1951: Superman & The Mole Men
1952 – 1958: Adventures of Superman
In a strange reversal of the norm, George Reeves managed to make Clark Kent the central figure in The Adventures of Superman and its seven series run on television. Rather than being mild-mannered, this version of Clark Kent was Superman but in normal clothes.
Reeves was THE macho superman for the 50s, but sadly committed suicide in 1959.
Tyler Hoechlin has appeared in a few episodes of Supergirl. He was perfect for the role – at least for a TV show where Superman is more of a supporting character.
He falls more into the Dean Cain style of Superman being a quietly confident and more human version of Superman. Naturally having such few appearances he falls down on our list of best to worst superman actors. Yet a few more appearances might see him climb the ladder.
1989-1991: The Adventures of Superboy
Gerard Christopher actually put in a fair amount of hours as Superman, wearing the costume for over 73 episodes, each a half hour long over three years. The suit worn was the most accurate version of the Superman costume (from the comics) ever produced.
There were comic accurate super-villains in the show, and Gerard Christopher was briefly considered for a reboot of the Superman film franchise.
1950: Atom Man vs. Superman
Batman and Captain Marvel beat Superman to the big screen, and Superman’s debut and second outing were pretty forgettable. Kirk Alyn played the role in a light-hearted manner, with his version of Clark Kent being particularly childish.
2014: The LEGO movie
We’ve excluded voice actors from this list so far, but you can’t leave out Tatum. Plus, The LEGO Movie was a full feature movie so it has a spot on our list. It’s hard to mark this one up or down as you get about 40 seconds of dialogue from Channing Tatum as Superman, but actually, it was really funny.
Channing Tatum’s interaction with Jonah Hill’s Green Lantern was hilarious in the snippets throughout The Lego Movie. But naturally, he’s not really playing the iconic superhero to his traditional traits.
John Haymes Newton
Not a good finish. John Haymes Newton was the predecessor to Gerard Christopher’s Superboy, and the less said about it the better. He lasted one series and his Clark Kent was a bit of an alienated outsider as opposed to the mild-mannered and much loved character.
The show had some bizarre scripts and low production values. Newton’s portrayal of the great man himself wasn’t the best and finishes last in our list of best to worst superman actors.
Whether you agree of disagree, I am pretty sure you’ll accept that there are some gems in here. The current Superman movies could definitely do with picking up their game.