Since his introduction as DC Comics’ first superhero in 1938, Superman has become one of the greatest characters in pop culture history. Therefore, many fans can’t wait to see him finally and meaningfully return to the DC Extended Universe, preferably still played by Henry Cavill.
While his future in this franchise may be particularly ambiguous, there are thankfully plenty of other fantastic and popular Superman movies and TV shows to celebrate both live-action and animated. According to reviews on IMDb, these are his best.
ten Superman vs. the Elite – 7.0
While Superman adaptations are part of established and expansive canons encompassing different movies and TV shows, Superman vs. the Elite is a completely standalone feature. The film follows Superman as she struggles with her responsibility to keep the peace in a world torn apart by injustice and war. He is forced to face a new group of antagonistic heroes, The Elite, worthy of intentions, but diabolical in their methods.
It’s a dedicated and exceptionally animated adaptation of the story arc, “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” It addresses what makes Superman a hero and defines him as a moral and righteous figure, especially when compared to the trope of the evil Superman that currently permeates IP franchises.
9 Superman/Batman: Apocalypse – 7.0
One of DC Comics’ most cohesive team-ups is between Superman and Batman, and there have been several films specifically about this partnership. Superman: Batman: Apocalypse is such a movie. It’s actually a sequel to Superman/Batman: Public Enemiesand frankly, has a misleading title, as it incorporates Superman’s cousin, Supergirl, as a bigger protagonist than Batman.
Many fans clearly enjoyed Superman/Batman: Apocalypse well enough, citing it as a fun and useful watch, though some have called the rushed pacing and underutilization of characters like Batman and Darkseid. Nevertheless, it still beats many other Superman movies.
8 Superman/Batman: Public Enemies – 7.1
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies certainly set up something quite fun with its delightful animation and stellar voice cast – reuniting Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly as Batman and Superman, respectively. Not only did they have to face their classic villains, but also in the public eye as Lex Luthor became president and pits the world against the two heroes.
Compared to people like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it gave fans what they wanted, a real team between these two iconic characters. Hopefully the DCEU can learn something from Superman/Batman: Public Enemiesits sequel and similar animated films about how to use both Batman and Superman.
seven Man of Steel – 7.1
Steel man launched the DCEU and fans have been waiting for a worthy sequel ever since. Unfortunately, the current state of Warner-Discovery and its evolution could put that future in jeopardy, at least for Henry Cavill in the role. Nonetheless, many fans have concocted ideas and theories as to how it might be re-incorporated into future films.
The film was particularly well received when it was first released, offering a new perspective on the Man of Steel compared to the Christopher Reeve series. He seemed to be following in the spiritual footsteps of Christopher Nolan Black Knight trilogy, and as such has been criticized for being somehow too realistic, or at least lacking the comic book aura that fans love. Nonetheless, it’s still quite entertaining.
6 The Death of Superman – 7.3
Not only is The Death of Superman one of the best Superman movies individually, it’s also one of the best DC animated movies. As the name suggests, it faithfully adapts the arc of the same name when Superman encounters his deadliest enemy, Doomsday. It is the eleventh in the DC Animated Film Universe, first created with Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradoxbut the first with Superman as the main and titular protagonist.
Although the premise and source material were used for the DCEU Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Death of Superman is much more successful in its execution. Of course, Superman was revived to save the world another day, and was followed by Reign of the Supermen which further incorporated supporting characters like Cyborg Superman, Eradicator, Steel, and Superboy.
5 Superman: The Movie – 7.4
Honestly, if it hadn’t been for Christopher Reeve and superman: the movie, there would probably be no DCEU or MCU. Comic book adaptations previously resided primarily on television, but this established a series of films, an approach that would be exposed and lead to superhero movies becoming today’s premier history.
One of the main reasons this film is still so beloved was Reeve’s differentiation between Clark Kent and Superman – something that Cavill’s performances honestly lacked. Clark is presented as adorably goofy, while Superman exudes charm and confidence. Couple that with Gene Hackman’s captivating and unique performance as Lex Luthor, and it’s clearly a recipe for success.
4 Smallville – 7.5
While the Arrowverse’s many series have dominated the weekly airwaves on The CW, Smallville paved the way for them. The coming of age story followed a teenage Clark Kent, played by Tom Welling, and presented a small-town perspective on Superman’s grand adventures throughout the comics. Interestingly, Welling actually reprized his role as part of the major Arrowverse crossover. Crisis on Infinite Earthsnearly a decade after the show’s finale.
Smallville could have led to a whole series of shows like Arrow did as the later seasons introduced popular Justice League characters like Aquaman, Hawkman, and Green Arrow. Although it didn’t work out, Alan Ritchson, who played Aquaman, played another DC hero, Hawk, in Titans.
3 The Adventures of Superman – 7.7
Before Christopher Reeve became Superman, it was George Reeves in The Adventures of Superman. The series aired in the 1950s and while still a product of its time, it holds up particularly well against modern depictions, hence its high rating.
It’s also part of an important moment in television history for the transition from black and white to color between seasons two and three. The Adventures of Superman is now considered a classic with the likes of i love lucy and Delighted.
2 Superman and Lois – 7.8
TV’s latest attempt at Superman has quickly established itself as something unexpectedly remarkable. Superman and Lois is part of the expanded Arrowverse, with Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch in the respective titular roles as they raise their twin sons, Jonathan and Jordan in Smallville.
Beyond being a superhero show, Superman and Lois is above all a story of family and responsibility. It takes a grounded approach, but doesn’t lack the necessary sets, action sequences, or supporting characters – some of whom are still missing from the DCEU. As the rest of the Arrowverse comes to an end with the final season of the flash, Superman and Lois seems to be plodding along.
1 Superman: The Animated Series – 8.1
Beating everything else is a centerpiece of DC animation, Superman: The Animated Series. It was the second venture in the DC Animated Universe, taking over for Batman: The Animated Series, and spanning four seasons. It built on the long-established and beloved Superman mythos, along with his plethora of allies and antagonists, while delivering a modern take.
Tim Daly, like Kevin Conroy for Batman, became a regular DC Animation figure voicing Superman long after the series finale. Today, Superman: The Animated Series can still serve as a solid foundation and inspiration for a future movie or show, but until then it’s undisputed as the best portrayal of the characters.
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