Superman Movies in Watch Order: All 15 Appearances from Henry Cavill, Christopher Reeve & More

By Jennifer McDonough Posted:
Superman DC Henry Cavill Christopher Reeve

Superman, one of the most recognizable characters on the planet, has been adapted in live-action many times. This includes no shortage of big-screen incarnations.

When the average person thinks of a superhero, there’s probably a strong chance that the first spandex-clad do-gooder that springs to mind is Superman (the other two possibilities being Batman and Spider-Man).

And while Batman might possess a few more points on the “cool factor” scale, the fact of the matter remains that Superman has long been seen as DC’s flagship figure and an icon in his own right since his comic debut in 1938. And because of that, the big blue boy scout has been one of the most sought-after roles in Hollywood for decades.

All Superman Movies In Order

Many notable names have worn Clark Kent’s famous red cape, with some dating back all the way to the 1950s. The Man of Steel has been featured in animation, television shows, video games, radio dramas, and perhaps most significant of all, movies.

Here are the 15 times that a live-action actor has donned the crest of the House of El in a motion picture:

1.) Superman and the Mole Men (1951) - George Reeves

George Reeve as Superman
Warner Bros.

The first ever film to star a DC character, Superman and the Mole Men was used to test the waters for the subsequent television series, Adventures of Superman, which in turn ran from 1952 to ‘58.

The plot concerns a group of humanoid creatures who glow in the dark. These so-called Mole Men spark fear in a small town, and when the townspeople take up arms to destroy them, Superman steps in.

In Superman and the Mole Men, the title role was portrayed by George Reeves, who, due to his association with the character, was rigidly typecast and experienced great difficulty finding other work. He ultimately took his own life in 1959, although many contest that there was foul play involved.

2.) Superman (1978) - Christopher Reeve

Christoper Reeve as Superman
Warner Bros.

Generally one of the most favored interpretations of the Man of Tomorrow, Christopher Reeve took his first turn as Clark in Richard Donner’s 1978 classic Superman.

The film showcases Clark’s formative years growing up in Smallville, Kansas before launching into his life in the city of Metropolis. Superman must also contend with Lex Luthor, played by Gene Hackman, who launches a nefarious plan to sink the United States’ west coast into the ocean. Margot Kidder also starred as Lois Lane.

Audiences responded well to Reeve who played Superman with a kind, affable nature and brought a sort of well-meaning clumsiness when he was disguised as Clark Kent. 

3.) Superman II (1980) - Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve as Superman
Warner Bros.

For the sequel to the 1978 movie, Superman II, Richard Donner was fired as director after clashing with the producers. Instead, Richard Lester was brought in and ended up reshooting most of the film.

In Superman II, Christopher Reeve returned as the lead and did battle with Terrance Stamp’s General Zod, another survivor of Krypton, and Zod’s followers, Ursa and Non.

Much of the supporting cast from the original film came back, including Margot Kidder as Lois, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, and Jackie Cooper as Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White.

4.) Superman III (1983) - Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve as Superman
Warner Bros.

Christopher Reeve once again stepped into the suit in Superman III. This is traditionally marked as the turning point in Reeve’s run; while the first two movies were well-received, Superman III’s goofiness and the addition of comedian Richard Pryor to the cast gave it a not-so-stellar reception.

The threequel saw Kal-El split into two halves: one, the mild-mannered Clark Kent, and the other, a corrupted, angry Superman. He also did battle with a malevolent supercomputer in what is considered one of the character’s less-than-finest hours. But at least it’s not as bad as the next one.

5.) Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) - Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve as Superman
Warner Bros.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace marked Reeve’s final time out as the Metropolis Marvel. The Cannon Group held producing duties for the film and was in the midst of a financial upset when it was being made, resulting in Superman IV’s budget reportedly running dry before filming was completed.

This movie, having been conceived during the Cold War, dealt with the idea of nuclear disarmament. That particular story element was actually the contribution of Reeve himself, who was given script input in exchange for his agreeing to reprise the character.

Quest for Peace was a major flop with critics and fans alike. After a bad pre-release test screening, 45 minutes of footage ended up deleted, most of which still hasn’t seen the light of day.

6.) Superman Returns (2006) - Brandon Routh

Brandon Routh as Superman
Warner Bros.

After laying dormant for almost 20 years after the disastrous Superman IV, a new film with a new actor was developed. Brandon Routh gave life to Clark in 2006’s Superman Returns alongside Kate Bosworth as Lois.

Ostensibly a sequel to the first two Christopher Reeve movies, Returns took a more modern approach to its visuals and characterizations. And even though it was critically well-received, Warner Bros. remained dissatisfied with the film’s box office returns and scrapped a sequel that would have come out in 2009.

Years later, in the 2020 Arrowverse crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths, Brandon Routh suited up once again as a Kingdom Come-inspired Supes that was intended to be an extension of the world of Superman Returns.

7.) Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006) - Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve as Superman
Warner Bros.

As the story goes, Richard Donner was forced out of Superman II’s production over a battle with its producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind after having shot about three-fourths of the movie. Richard Lester replaced Donner and proceeded to reshoot most of what his predecessor had filmed.

However, in the early 2000s, despite Donner’s claims of wanting to be done with anything Superman, an online movement to get the director to finish his version of the film gained traction. The end result is Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, which restored much of what was lost in the theatrical version. Many fans remain divided over which one is better, though.

8.) Man of Steel (2013) - Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill as Superman
Warner Bros.

Henry Cavill took over the cape in this gritty, grounded reboot. Man of Steel was helmed by Zack Snyder, who injected many of his own signature touches, especially with regard to the movie’s visuals.

A somewhat controversial installment in the Superman franchise, particularly over the way certain characters and elements of the mythos were portrayed. Man of Steel is still recognized as a solid entry.

The movie was the launching point for DC’s shared universe, the complete tale of which could fill multiple books.

9.) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) - Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill as Superman
Warner Bros.

More or less a Man of Steel sequel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice also brought in Ben Affleck to play Batman, and Gal Gadot also made her first appearance as Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman.

Even though Dawn of Justice was fairly financially successful, it was lambasted by critics who panned the narrative and tone, among other things. And although die-hards rushed to the movie’s defense, it still suffered an 81% box office drop during its second weekend of release.

Storywise, Clark Kent is feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders as public outcry of his actions as Superman persists. Bruce Wayne decided that enough was enough and took on the Last Son of Krypton in pitched combat.

10.) Justice League (2017) - Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill as Superman
Warner Bros.

After Snyder was forced to walk away from production on his Batman v Superman follow-up due to a personal tragedy, Warner Bros. dialed up Avengers director Joss Whedon and had him complete work on Justice League. Whedon reshot large swaths of the movie and the result is still controversial to this day.

What should have been the supergroup’s first big-screen team-up was mired in a host of issues both on and offscreen. Henry Cavill reprised his role as Superman, but during the reshoots, he was simultaneously putting in time on Paramount Pictures’ Mission Impossible: Fallout, for which he had grown a mustache.

Paramount refused to let Cavill shave his facial hair when participating in Justice League’s additional filming, meaning that it had to be digitally removed. The outcome was off-putting, to say the least.

11.) Shazam! (2019) - Henry Cavill (Body Double)

A stand-in for Henry Cavill’s Superman next to Freddy Freeman and Shazam
Warner Bros.

In the last few seconds of 2019’s Shazam!, the titular hero is seen visiting his pal Freddy Freeman in the school cafeteria. He’d brought another friend along with him too: Superman.

Henry Cavill was unable to make it to the shoot, so the production was forced to use a Superman stand-in who only appeared from the neck down. It was still a memorable moment but not as impactful as it could’ve been.

12.) Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) - Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill’s Superman surrounded by the Justice League
Warner Bros.

After relentless campaigning from the fanbase, Warner Bros. finally allowed Zack Snyder to go back and finish his work on Justice League. Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which was released in 2021 on HBO Max, is the culmination of those efforts.

Superman wore a sleek, black and silver suit in this four-hour-long director’s cut, and his upper lip was free of CGI manipulation, unlike in the theatrical version.

Kal-El comes into Zack Snyder’s Justice League more than halfway through its runtime after his teammates use the power of a Mother Box to resurrect him from death. 

13.) Black Adam (2022) - Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill as Superman
Warner Bros.

The surprise cameo from Henry Cavill arrived in Black Adam’s post-credits scene. In the movie, he stepped out from the shadows in an attempt to negotiate with Dwayne Johnson’s anti-hero on behalf of Amanda Waller.

Heralded as Cavill’s grand return to the character, further plans to utilize his talents were cut short when Black Adam bombed, and James Gunn and Peter Safran were hired to revitalize the DC Universe.

14.) The Flash (2023) - Henry Cavill, Christopher Reeve, George Reeves, & Nicholas Cage

Digital recreations of Henry Cavill, George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, and Nicholas Cage as Superman
Warner Bros.

In the final battle sequence from The Flash, after Barry Allen repeatedly tries to save the lives of Bruce Wayne and Supergirl, the DC Multiverse begins to collapse upon itself. This brought forth CGI renditions of George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, and Nicholas Cage (from the aborted Superman Lives) that can only be described as ghoulish.

A similar rendering of Henry Cavill’s Clark was also glimpsed when Barry travels back in time to 2013.

15.) Superman: Legacy (2025) - David Corenswet

An artist’s rendering of Davin Corenswet as Superman
Warner Bros.

The only Superman that audiences haven’t gotten an official look at, David Corenswet will arrive on-screen in 2025’s Superman: Legacy, directed by DC Studios co-CEO James Gunn.

Said to embody the hope and optimism that are central to the character, Corenswet’s Supes will exist in a world where several other superheroes are already established including the likes of Hawkgirl and Mister Terrific.

Superman: Legacy will hit theaters on July 11, 2025.

A Cavalcade of Other Clark Kents

That’s a lot of Supermen! But his film interpretations barely scratch the surface of the number of times the legendary Kryptonian has been adapted for media.

There’s the still-running Superman & Lois TV series, plus other small-screen takes like Smallville and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

And that’s not even making mention of the myriad of times he’s been featured in the realm of animation, including the Fleischer Studios shorts from the '40s, all the way up to his role in the DC Animated Universe. The new, anime-influenced My Adventures with Superman has also been making waves as of late.

Superman is an icon and one of the most enduring figures in popular culture, so it’s no big shock that he’s ventured outside the pages of comic books into other formats several times.

At his core, though, Clark has always been a beacon of hope and a shining symbol of truth, justice, and a better tomorrow, qualities that he’s almost always been imbued with no matter who’s playing him.

- In This Article: The Flash
Release Date
June 16, 2023
- About The Author: Jennifer McDonough
Jennifer McDonough has been a writer at The Direct since its 2020 launch. She is responsible for the creation of news articles and features. She also has a particular affinity for action figures and merchandise, which she revels in discussing in the articles she writes, when the situation calls for it.