I have recently ran a few features where I take a film franchise and rank its various entries in a list from worst to best. These lists have been somewhat successful, have been fun to write and have given my readers a few things to debate about. I have already covered the X-Men, Batman & Marvel franchises, and this week I turn my attention to the Superman film series.
The Superman film franchise, as with many comic book franchises, is a mixed bag of films which range from all out classic to why did they even bother? The various films date back to 1978 (I’m not including Superman & the Mole Men here) in the original Superman, and go all the way up until 2013’s Man of Steel.
Take a look inside as I rank the Superman films from worst to best.
7. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
The final nail in the coffin for the Christopher Reeve led Superman films came in the form of 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. In all honesty, it has been a long time since I saw this film, and I think I have done my best to eliminate the film from my mind entirely. The Superman series started taking a turn for the worse with Superman III, but the fourth entry guaranteed that we didn’t see the big blue boy scout on our screens again until 2006 in Superman Returns. Things were not helped by a heavy reduction in budget & a studio who edited the film to smithereens, it was a shame this was the last we saw of Christopher Reeve as Superman.
6. Superman III
Another film that I have not seen in a long time, Superman III was the kind of film that I enjoyed as a child, but I feel may have lost some if not all of its appeal as an adult. Richard Pryor (a comedian I admire greatly) came on board the franchise & promptly drew a huge a backlash from fans who blamed him for the films overly camp tone. The portrayal of an evil cloned Superman also drew an angry response from fans, fans who I can only presume had not come across Bizarro before.
Supergirl starred Helen Slater in the title role, and is a film that, while not without it many faults, is still one that I found myself enjoying. It’s an odd little film that wants to exist in the same world as the Superman films but also wants to be accepted on its own merits, and is surely the first example of building a cinematic universe. Despite starring Peter O’Toole and Faye Dunaway, Supergirl drew a negative response from critics and fans alike. Perhaps I should put this one down as a guilty pleasure?
4. Man of Steel
2013’s Man of Steel is a bit of an odd film for me. I enjoyed it on the films first viewing, and while I believe it does some things really well, I also believe it gets some things drastically wrong. The first half of the film, where we see Clark Kent become Superman as he journeys across the world attempting to find himself is the best half of the film. While the second half deteriorates into an endless barrage of one action scene after another. There is, of course, nothing wrong with action in summer blockbusters, in fact its a must, but when it is so insistent the audience becomes numb to it. The lack of characterisation combined with a darker tone than most fans were used to, also prevented Man of Steel from becoming a great comic book film, and is instead just an average one.
3. Superman Returns
The first modern attempt to reboot Superman on the big screen came in 2006 and was directed by Bryan Singer, who left the very successful X-Men franchise to direct this passion project. While Superman Returns may not have been to everyone’s taste, it is a film that I enjoyed despite an overlong running time and some dull acting. The film harks back to the franchises glory days of Superman and Superman II, as it explores the relationship between Lois Lane & Superman, while also delivering some great spectacle. It is a shame, from my perspective, that Superman Returns wasn’t deemed successful enough for a sequel, as Bryan Singer could have delivered something truly special.
2. Superman II
Superman II is classed by many as the high point of the series, both back upon its initial release and even now. The film built upon the world that was created in the first Superman film and gave it an even further reach by introducing, or reintroducing, three new Kryptonians to do battle with our hero. The best and most iconic of these new characters was the excellent Terrence Stamp as the evil General Zod. Stamp stole each scene he was in, and his performance cemented the character as one of the all time great film villains. Despite a troubled production, Superman II maintained the high standards set by the first film, and went on to be acknowledged as one of the best comic book films of all time.
For me, Superman is the best film in the entire Superman franchise, and even ranks among the recent crop of comic book films as one of the best ever. The films dedication to the character and an understanding of what make Superman great, along with a solid origin story and some great (back then) special effects make the original Superman film a bona fide classic. The use of big names like Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando drew in the crowds, while Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of Superman endeared the film to audiences, and the film still stands up as not just a classic in the genre, but also a classic in any genre.
Now’s your time to vote. So take a minute to think, and then cast your vote on which you think is the best Superman film yet.