The following is an overview of the characters depicted in the live-action Superman films.

Christopher Reeve films (1978-1987)[]

Main articles: Superman (film), Superman II, Superman III, Supergirl (film), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and Alternate versions of Superman

In Superman and its sequels,[1] Christopher Reeve played Superman, who was depicted as possessing an array of different abilities never before seen in the comics, even by his Silver Age self. He was able to erase Lois' memory of his secret identity with a kiss, restore the Great Wall of China to pristine condition with the use of a blue eye beam, apparently teleport (though this may have been a use of super-speed), create multiple illusions of himself (although this may have been caused through Kryptonian image projection technology in the Fortress of Solitude), among other abilities. Kryptonian foes such as General Zod even demonstrated telekinetic ability.

Clark Kent/Superman[]

In 1978, the first of four Superman films was made in which Clark Kent and Superman were portrayed by Christopher Reeve. This was followed nearly 2 decades later by a fifth film called Superman Returns with Brandon Routh giving a performance very similar to Reeve's. In contrast to George Reeves' intellectual Clark Kent, Reeve's version is much more of an awkward bumbler, although Reeve is also an especially athletic, dashing and debonair Superman. Clark Kent's hair is always absolutely flat, while Superman's hair has a slight wave and is parted on the opposite side as Kent's. These films leave the impression that Clark Kent is really a secret identity that is used to enable Superman to serve humanity better, rather than just a role to help him assimilate into the human community.

A great deal of emphasis is placed on his origins on the planet Krypton with exotic crystalline sets designed by John Barry, effectively giving Superman a third persona as Kal-El. The first film is in three sections, Kal-El's infancy on Krypton (shot in London on the 007 stage), Clark Kent's teen years in Smallville, and Kent/Superman's adult life in Metropolis (shot in New York City). In earlier sections of the film, we see Reeve's Kent interacting with both his earthly parents and the spirit of his Kryptonian father through a special crystal, in a way we never saw George Reeves. The film has a fair amount of quasi-Biblical imagery suggestive of Superman as a sort of Christ-figure sent by Jor-El to show humans the way.[2] (See also Superman (film)#Themes). In Superman II Reeve's Superman has to sacrifice his powers (effectively becoming just Clark Kent) in order to have a love relationship with Lois Lane, a choice he eventually abrogates to protect the world.

The relationship between Superman and Kent came to actual physical blows in Superman III. Superman is given a piece of manufactured Kryptonite but instead of weakening or killing him it drives him crazy, depressed, angry, and casually destructive, committing crimes which range from petty acts of vandalism to environmental disasters, like causing an oil spillage in order to bed a lusty woman in league with the villains. Driven alcoholic, Superman, his outfit dirty and neglected, eventually goes to a car wrecking yard where Kent, in a proper business suit and glasses, suddenly emerges from within him. A fight ensues in which the "evil" Superman tries to dispose of the "good" Kent, but the latter fights back, "kills" the evil side to his nature and, reclaiming the Superman mantle, sets off to repair the damage and capture the villains.

Reeve does not appear personally as Superman in the 1984 spin-off film, Supergirl, however a publicity photo of Reeve as the character is briefly shown on screen.

The indirect "Christianization" of Superman in the Reeve films (admitted by film producer Pierre Spengler) has provoked comment on the Jewish origins of Superman. Rabbi Simcha Weinstein's book Up Up and Oy Vey : How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero says that Superman is both a pillar of society and one whose cape conceals a "nebbish", saying "He's a bumbling, nebbish Jewish stereotype. He's Woody Allen." [3] [4] Ironically, it is also in the Reeve films that Clark Kent's persons has the greatest resemblance to Woody Allen, though his conscious model was Cary Grant's character in Bringing up Baby. This same theme is pursued about '40s superheroes generally in "Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero" by Danny Fingeroth.

Origin of Superman[]

Main article: Origin of Superman

The origin Richard Donner's 1978 Superman film was given a much more complete treatment, with the classic components remaining intact, but exploring more of Clark's boyhood in Smallville. Much of the film's groundwork is laid during the film's first sequences on planet Krypton, with actor Marlon Brando portraying Superman's Kryptonian father, Jor-El.

The film also included the previously established component of Jonathan Kent's death prior to his son donning the costume. This became a staple of Superman's origin in most popular adaptations, as certain writers feel it adds needed dimension to the character. Though Martha Kent had died alongside her husband in earlier versions of Superman's origin, in this film Martha survives to see her adopted son become Superman.

Powers and abilities of Superman[]

Main article: Powers and abilities of Superman

In the first movie, Superman's speed was shown as fast enough to travel backwards in time. In Superman II, he possessed the ability to hypnotize Lois Lane with a kiss. He also possessed the ability to create apparent 'holograms' of himself that could interact independently. However, since it was shown in the Fortress of Solitude, it could have been an utilization of Kryptonian technology instead of his own ability. Presumably, because the three Kryptonian villains of the movie had the ability to shoot beams from their hands, Superman would have the same ability. In the fourth film, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, he demonstrates the ability to repair damaged structures with a telekinetic beam from his eyes, and to levitate several falling people.


Kryptonite was featured in Superman: The Movie. In the film, Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) and his cronies Otis and Miss Tessmacher ([played by Ned Beatty and Valerie Perrine respectively) track a large chunk to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where they steal it from a museum under the cover of night. In this film's usage, the term "kryptonite" seems to mean simply a "Kryptonian meteorite". After co-opting and launching two missiles for opposite ends of the United States, Luthor places the kryptonite on a chain around Superman's (Christopher Reeve) neck and drops him into a swimming pool. When Miss Tessmacher learns that one of the missiles is headed for Hackensack, New Jersey (where her mother lives), she rescues Superman from drowning and removes the kryptonite, after which his strength and powers quickly return.

An imperfect synthesis of artificial kryptonite containing tar appeared in Superman III. Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) orders the creation of synthetic kryptonite after remembering a Daily Planet story about the last original chunk disappearing years earlier after falling to Earth (whether Webster references the kryptonite robbery in Superman: The Movie is unclear.) Developed by Gus Gorman (played by Richard Pryor), it was intended to be a copy of green kryptonite. After scanning the coordinates of Krypton's former location via satellite, results return a small percentage of an unknown component. The substitution of tar (which Gorman used after glancing at a pack of cigarettes) for a crucial, but unknown, component resulted in the synthetic kryptonite behaving like a combination of red kryptonite and black kryptonite; in this case, the kryptonite turned Superman evil and eventually split him into two people. The evil Superman and Clark Kent, the embodiment of Superman's remaining good qualities, then engage in an epic battle at a deserted junkyard, where Clark emerges victorious and the evil Superman fades from sight (it should be noted that this might only have been an hallucination on Superman's part). Later in the film, Gorman's creation, the Ultimate Computer, severely weakens Superman with a kryptonite ray before Gorman has a change of heart and attacks his own machine.

Supporting characters[]


Marlon Brando played Jor-El in the 1978 Superman film, which Alexander Salkind, his son Ilya Salkind, and their business partner Pierre Spengler produced and which Richard Donner directed. In the movie, Jor-El is shown wearing the Superman "S"-shield symbol as the family crest of the House of El. In the current comics, the shield is the Kryptonian symbol for "hope," and not only is it worn by Jor-El in a similar manner to Brando of the first feature film, but it adorns all manner of Kryptonian flags, clothing, spaceships, and equipment. However, the film version is one in which the shield is unique to members of the House of El, with other Kryptonians wearing their own individualized family crests.

When the teenage Clark Kent finds the green crystal his birth father placed in his ship, it leads him to the North Pole, where the green crystal creates the Fortress of Solitude, and brings Clark into contact with an interactive hologram of Jor-El, who instructs his son on how to use his powers and informs him that the people of Earth "can be a great people, Kal-El, if they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all...their capacity for good...I have sent them you, my only son." Later, Jor-El is shown advising Superman on why he must maintain his secret identity to protect himself and his loved ones.

Superman II[]

Marlon Brando filmed additional footage for the sequel, Superman II, before differences behind the scenes caused his footage to end up on the cutting room floor. It has been restored for the 2006 revised version, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. In the Richard Donner Cut, Jor-El appears again as in the first as a person to guide and inform Kal-El. Jor-El's historical crystals reveal to Lex Luthor the existence of the three Phantom Zone criminals General Zod, Ursa and Non, which makes Luthor realize just who and what they are (and that it was Superman who caused their release).

Jor-El is asked by Clark if he can live a life as a human with Lois Lane. Jor-El tries to persuade Clark not to wish so, but Clark is firm with his will. Jor-El then reveals the crystal chamber with the rays of Krypton's red sun which will make Clark human forever. Later, Clark returns to find all the crystals and information regarding Krypton destroyed, but finds the original crystal and is able to bring back Jor-El. Jor-El sacrifices his remaining life-force to restore his son's powers so that Superman can save Earth from Zod. Superman later destroys the Fortress after it has been breached by Luthor and the Phantom Zone criminals, but then goes back in time, where it remains normal.



In the 1984 Supergirl movie, Zor-El, the father of Kara/Supergirl, was played by Simon Ward.

Alura In-Zee[]

In the 1984 Supergirl movie, Kara/Supergirl's mother, Alura, was played by Mia Farrow.

Ma and Pa Kent[]

Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter portray Jonathan and Martha in 1978's Superman. In the movie, Jonathan dies of a heart attack on the farm as young Clark approaches manhood. In 1983's Superman III, it is mentioned by Lana Lang that Martha has died.

Lois Lane[]

Actress Margot Kidder played Lois Lane against Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent in the 1970s and 1980s films Superman, Superman II, Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Her role in Superman III was greatly reduced, however, due to a conflict with the producers of the film. Kidder also appeared briefly in two episodes of the television program Smallville as Dr. Bridgette Crosby, an emissary of Dr. Swann (played by Christopher Reeve), but declined to make a third appearance after Reeve's death because she felt it would be doing his memory a disservice.

One of the most important aspects in the first and second movies was the romantic relationship between the two main characters; Clark was hopelessly in love with Lois Lane and even (in Superman II) gave up his powers in order to be with her. The scene of the first movie where Superman takes Lois in his arms and both fly over the nocturnal sky of Metropolis has become classic and has inspired several parodies over the years.

Lucy Lane[]

Lucy Lane appears in the 1984 movie Supergirl as a friend and schoolmate of Supergirl's alter-ego Linda Lee. Fame actress Maureen Teefy portrayed her here as a peppy teen-ager with a burgeoning relationship with Jimmy Olsen (mimicking their relationship in the comics).

Sam Lane[]

Sam Lane makes a brief cameo appearance in Superman: The Movie from 1978. Kirk Alyn, the first actor to portray Superman in live-action (in two low-budget serials from the 1940s) is seen witnessing young Clark Kent racing the train he and his wife (portrayed by his serial co-star, Noel Neill) are riding on.

Lana Lang[]

In Richard Donner's Superman in 1978, Lana Lang had a brief appearance in a scene at Smallville High. She was shown to be a cheerleader at the school with a fairly obvious crush on Clark, even though her current boyfriend was a football player named Brad. She was portrayed by Diane Sherry.

In the 1983 movie Superman III, Lana was played by Annette O'Toole. In an interview for the documentary Look Up In The Sky: The The Amazing Story of Superman, O'Toole states that the producers of Smallville (where she plays Clark's own adoptive mother, Martha Kent) were not aware that she had appeared in Superman III until after she was cast in the TV series. In Superman III, Lana is a divorcee with a son named Ricky. Lana's former boyfriend Brad, a former jock and Clark's childhood bully, is now a security guard and is still vying for her attention.

Lara Lor-Van[]

Lara was played by Susannah York in Superman (1978), Superman II (1980)and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) (voice only). After Marlon Brando (Jor-El) was removed from Superman II, Lara took on the role as Superman's mentor, in both Superman II and IV. She was later replaced by Brando's Jor-El in the new 2006 edit of II.

Jimmy Olsen[]

In the four motion pictures starring Christopher Reeve beginning with Superman, Jimmy Olsen was portrayed by Marc McClure. Marc McClure reprised his role as Jimmy Olsen in the 1984 spin-off movie Supergirl, making McClure the only actor and Olsen the only character to appear in all five Superman films of the 1978-87 era.

Perry White[]

In Superman: The Movie, Jackie Cooper played Perry as a tough character, who never let his reporters forget he had worked for the Planet nearly all his life. The "don't call me 'chief'" line was worked into a gag about ordering coffee, and became "don't call me 'sugar'!" (when he orders a coffee with sugar, and Jimmy Olsen calls him chief and he tells him not to call him "sugar"). Cooper's Perry was also fond of aphorisms such as "A good reporter doesn't get great stories — a good reporter makes them great." In the commentary track for Superman, director Richard Donner reveals that Cooper got the role because he had a passport, and thus was able to be on set in a few hours, after Keenan Wynn, who was originally cast, suffered a heart attack.



Brainiac was considered a villain for Superman III[5].

Evil Superman[]

Evil Superman (portrayed by Christopher Reeve) is a fictional supervillain utilized in Superman III. He is the original Superman turned evil when computer expert Gus Gorman gives him synthetic kryptonite. The formula he received to make synthetic kryptonite included known elements; however, 0.57% of the formula was unknown. He replaced this with tar, which made the synthetic crystal behave like red and black kryptonite, slowly turning Superman evil. The idea of an evil Superman came up when Pierre Spengler wanted to add a serious edge to the film's comic tone. Unfortunately, fans weren't impressed, and he ended up "touching a wrong nerve".[6]

Evil Superman has a similar appearance to the original Superman, except that his expression projects either bullying arrogance or a sullen scowl. He is unshaven and his hair appears greasy and unkempt. Evil Superman's cape has darker colors than the original Superman's suit. According to some reviewers, it resembles the costume worn in Superman Returns[citation needed]. The S symbol also has a dirtier yellow background.

Gus Gorman[]

Main article: Gus Gorman

Gus Gorman is a fictional character from Superman III. He is a computer hacker and employee to the film's villain, Ross Webster, and is portrayed by famous actor/comedian Richard Pryor.

In the original version of Superman III, Gus Gorman was to be a disguise for the supervillain Brainiac in which he could live among humans. Under his Gus persona, Brainiac would then set about his evil deeds using the supercomputer which appears at the end of the film. The filmakers rejected this idea, instead using the Gus Gorman character for comic relief.

A talented computer hacker, August "Gus" Gorman is unemployed and down on his luck. Finally landing a job at Webscoe Industries by happenstance, he balks at the figure of his first paycheck, which is $143.80½. But, once he'd learned that all of the other ½ cents are left floating around inside the megacorporation's database, Gorman hacked into the company's computer system and funneled them all into his next check, accruing the amount of $85,789.90. (This form of hacking is known as salami slicing.)

Having gained the attention of Webscoe's owner Ross Webster (by driving a red sportscar to work one morning), Gorman is given the choice of either going to jail or helping Webster gain economic control over the world, starting with the coffee industry.

Lenny Luthor[]

Main article: Lenny Luthor

Lenny Luthor, played by Jon Cryer, is the teenaged nephew of criminal genius Lex Luthor, who appears in the film Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Like his uncle's previous criminal associates (i.e. Otis), Lenny is considerably less than intelligent, and in fact he's a bungling imbecile according to Lex, who considers him "the Dutch Elm disease of my family tree."

Lex Luthor[]

Actor Gene Hackman played the role of Lex Luthor in the 1978 movie Superman and in two of its three sequels (Superman II and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace). Hackman's portrayal is a notable departure from Luthor's comic book incarnations. In the films, Luthor is portrayed as Superman's comedic foil, or as comic book critic Peter Sanderson puts it, "a used car salesman wielding nuclear missiles."[7]


In the 1978 Superman film, Lex Luthor serves as the primary antagonist. He is purely motivated by money, as well as the desire to swindle as tremendous a fortune as possible to prove his genius. Although he is bald, he wears a variety of wigs throughout the film to conceal it. He resides in a secret lair fashioned out of the remains of an abandoned railway terminal, a high-tech hideout that hearkens back to his "Golden Age" comic counterpart.[8] Luthor's schemes are offset by a tendency to surround himself with unsatisfactory help; He is burdened by his bumbling henchman Otis, as well as his conscience-stricken girlfriend Eve Teschmacher. Luthor plots to divert a nuclear missile into hitting the San Andreas fault, causing California to sink into the ocean, thereby turning its neighboring states into prime beach front property. Although Luthor nearly kills Superman using kryptonite, Superman escapes with the help of Eve and sends him to prison.

Superman II[]

Luthor's role in Superman II is relegated to a supporting villain, beginning with a jailbreak organized with the help of Miss Teschmacher. After journeying to the Fortress of Solitude, Luthor learns of the existence of General Zod and the other Kryptonian criminals. Hoping to rule his own continent once the evil Kryptonians take over Earth, Luthor allies himself with Zod. However, when Superman confronts Zod and his cronies at the Fortress of Solitude at the film's climax, Luthor tricks Superman into revealing that there is a chamber in the Fortress which would rob a Kryptonian's powers due to Red Sun imitation, which turns a Kryptonian, such as Superman, Zod and his followers, Non and Ursa, into humans. Fortunately, expecting Luthor's betrayal, Superman reversed the effects of the chamber so that when he was forced inside by Zod, the Red Sun beams were transported into the Fortress while Superman was safe inside the chamber and Zod and his followers were defeated easily because of the loss of their powers. Luthor, meanwhile, is sent back to prison.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace[]

Luthor reappears in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, escaping from prison once more, this time with the aid of his nephew Lenny. Once again, Lex allies himself with other villains, in this instance a cadre of war profiteers and arms dealers who are worried about what Superman's efforts toward nuclear disarmament will do to their business. Lex uses his own DNA, combined with strand of Superman's hair that is stolen from a museum, to create a hybrid clone which he dubs "Nuclear Man." The radioactive villain possesses abilities similar to Superman, but receives his power from direct sunlight, whereas Superman can still operate in darkness. Superman exploits this weakness eventually, destroying Nuclear Man and returning Lex to prison.

Mister Mxyzptlk[]

Mxyzptlk was considered as one of the villains in Superman III, as written in an outline by Ilya Salkind. The Mr. Mxyzptlk portrayed in the outline varies from his good-humored comic counterpart, as he uses his abilities to seriously harm. Dudley Moore was the top choice to play the role.[2]


Main article: Non (DC Comics)

Non is portrayed in the films Superman: The Movie and Superman II by Jack O'Halloran. At the beginning of Superman, Non is one of the three Kryptonian criminals, along with General Zod and Ursa, on trial for their attempted coup against the Kryptonian government. With Jor-El as their prosecutor, the three are found guilty and sentenced to be imprisoned in the Phantom Zone. They are cast into the Phantom Zone portal shortly before the planet Krypton is destroyed. Non, lacking the ability to speak, communicates only through occasional whines and moans as well as his penchant for wanton violence. Non's name is not spoken at any time during the film; Jor-El's only reference to him is to proclaim that he is "as without thought as [he is] without voice".

Nuclear Man[]

Nuclear Man (portrayed by Mark Pillow but voiced by Gene Hackman) is the supervillain from the film Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. He was created by Lex Luthor with the DNA of Superman. Despite his name, he is actually solar powered. He and Bizarro succeeded Evil Superman as the evil movie clone of Superman.

Superman IV was approximately 134 minutes long in an earlier form. Around 45 minutes of footage was deleted prior to the theatrical release. Deleted scenes from the film show Lex Luthor creating a prototype Nuclear Man (played by British actor Clive Mantle), who was quickly defeated by Superman. This Nuclear Man also seemed to resemble the comic book character Bizarro in his speech and mannerisms. He is very tall, wears black clothing, and has spiky black hair. This Nuclear Man was created in Lex Luthor's laboratory. While Clark Kent and Lacy Warfield were dancing at the Metro Club in Metropolis, the first Nuclear Man entered the club with the intention of killing Superman. Before he could get to Superman, a woman began to flirt with him. She unbuttoned his shirt and touched his chest, but was burned by the intense heat his body gives off. She screamed, getting Clark's attention. Clark emerged as Superman from the back door of club, finding the Nuclear Man. The two battled using cars, garbage cans, and other objects against each other. Ultimately, Superman kicked the Nuclear Man into a power transformer which destroyed him. Lex Luthor's nephew, Lenny, collected the remains of the first Nuclear Man and returned them to Luthor's lair.

The stolen DNA (or, in the original cut, the remains of the first Nuclear Man) were placed into a small box along with a computer and some material which would be made into clothing. Following assembly, Lex Luthor put the case onto the side of a nuclear missile which Superman threw into the sun. The second Nuclear Man was born. Immediately, the Nuclear Man made his way to Lex Luthor's building, where he showed that he had the power to generate heat and electricity by touch, had heat vision hotter than Superman's, could levitate objects using hand beams, could shoot fire and heat flares, and had even greater super strength than Superman. His only weakness was that he had to remain in direct sunlight to function. His appearance is that of a 6-ft-3 muscleman, who wears black gauntlets, a sleeveless black costume with yellow-goldish-orange stripes, a "N" for nuclear logo on the back of his long black cape, long silver nails/talons, and long, blonde, mullet-like hair.


Main article: Otis (Superman)

Otis, played by Ned Beatty, is the short henchman of Lex Luthor who appears in the 1978 film Superman and its sequel, Superman II. Lacking any real intelligence or physical strength, Otis is used by Luthor primarily as a gofer. He was inspired by Houseroy, a bumbling servant of another DC Comics supervillain Funky Flashman.

According to producer Pierre Spengler in the DVD commentary for Superman II, before Beatty got the part, Peter Boyle tested for and was offered the role.


Main article: Ursa (comics)

Ursa is a fictional villain that appears as an enemy of Superman in the film Superman II. She was a co-conspirator and accomplice of General Zod. Ursa was played by actress Sarah Douglas. The character also made a brief appearance at the beginning of Superman.

In the first Superman film, Ursa appears alongside General Zod and Non as they are being sentenced to the Phantom Zone by Superman's Kryptonian father, Jor-El. Jor-El describes her as "the woman Ursa, whose perversions and unreasoning hatred of all mankind has threatened even the children of the planet Krypton." She, Zod, and Non are imprisoned in the Phantom Zone where they should remain for all eternity and are not heard from again in the first film. She desperately screams in the Phantom Zone "Forgive ME!" repeatedly.

Ursa is depicted in both films as a hater of any member of the male gender anywhere. The only exceptions to this prejudice appear to be Non and General Zod. In the first film, this aspect of her character is emphasized by Jor-El in his speech as he sentences them to the Phantom Zone. In the second film, as directed by Richard Lester, Ursa's male hating tendencies survive, but the reprise of Jor-El's speech emphasizes a different aspect of her character. In Lester's Superman II, Jor-El says "Ursa, the only feeling you showed was for your vicious general. Your only wish, to rule at his side." Lester altered the character slightly, making her softer, and at least to a degree, in love with General Zod. In Superman II footage shot by Richard Donner, Ursa is more vicious and expresses her desire to kill as many men as she can in one scene from an extended TV version. In Donner's footage, Ursa does not necessarily appear to be in love with General Zod, but is with him because they share common goals.

Ross Webster[]

Main article: Ross Webster

Ross Webster is the main villain played by Robert Vaughn in the 1983 film Superman III, written similar in tone to Lex Luthor in the first two Superman movies.

Published on June 17, 1983, Jane Maslin of The New York Times wrote: "This wealthy villain, played nattily by Robert Vaughn, is so rich he's never worn the same socks twice. He even has his own rooftop ski slope right in the middle of downtown Metropolis, which makes for one of the film's more inspired sight gags."

General Zod[]

General Zod appears in Superman and Superman II, portrayed by actor Terence Stamp as a pathologically arrogant and pompous aristocrat, almost bored with his incredible powers and disappointed with the ease of overtaking Earth. Zod's line "Come to me, son of Jor-El! Kneel before Zod!" has become part of pop culture.[9] Terence Stamp's portrayal has led to Zod becoming one of Superman's best-known villains, and fans have come to view his portrayal as the definitive version of the character. The movie version of General Zod is rated #58 on Wizard magazine's "100 Greatest Villains of All Time" list.[10]

Superman Returns (2006)[]

Superman/Clark Kent[]

In Superman Returns, Brandon Routh takes over the role of Superman. Director Bryan Singer had stated that this film's continuity is based only loosely on the first two Superman films directed by Richard Donner and Richard Lester, and thus Christopher Reeve and Routh's Supermen, though similar in places, may not be the exact same individual. For example, the events of the third and fourth films are ignored.

Both Richard Donner and Bryan Singer have stated that Clark Kent is intended to be the disguise. However, while the Donner films tend to imply that Superman is the actual persona, Singer stated at the 2006 Comic-Con that he favored the three-persona concept, stating that there was Clark Kent on the farm, the bumbling Metropolis Clark and Superman, the Last Son of Krypton. Brandon Routh himself even stated, in an HBO First Look interview that he was playing three characters; Clark Kent, the reporter/farm boy, Superman, the protagonist and savior of Metropolis and Kal-El, the Last Son of Krypton.

Powers and abilities[]

Main article: Powers and abilities of Superman

In Superman Returns, Superman is shown to possess enough strength to stare unblinkingly as a gun is fired point blank at his eye and receive no damage at all. Kryptonite does lower his strength, but due to flying above the clouds and into the rays of the sun, he gained enough amplified strength to lift Lex Luthor's kryptonite-based sub-continent beyond the Earth's atmosphere and into space despite the kryptonite in his body and the kryptonite coming from the continent, though this severely weakens him and he falls back down to Earth in a coma.


In Superman Returns, an additional piece of kryptonite is found in a rock fragment, once more in Addis Ababa. Lex Luthor steals it from a Metropolis museum and uses it in his quest to create a new kryptonite landmass, much like how young Clark created the Fortress of Solitude. In addition, he uses a shard leftover from processing it to create a kryptonite shiv, which he uses to stab Superman.

Bibbo Bibbowski[]

Bibbo apparently appears in an early scene in the 2006 Bryan Singer-directed movie Superman Returns played by Jack Larson, who had portrayed Jimmy Olsen in the 1950s Adventures of Superman (as well as in one episode of the Lois and Clark TV series). Larson's credit only reads "Bo the bartender", but since his character is working in the Ace o'Clubs, it could be inferred that he is Bo "Bibbo" Bibbowski. Although Larson, 75 at the time of filming, was much older than the "Bibbo" character in the comics (usually portrayed as middle-aged, late 40s-late 50s); a more logical deduction might be that "Bo," in fact, is "Bibbo's" father, or some other older relative.

Ma and Pa Kent[]

In the 2006 film Superman Returns, Academy Award winner Eva Marie Saint portrays Martha Kent. Because the film is a semi-sequel to the 1978 film, this version could be considered similar to Phyllis Thaxter's portrayal but with differences included: in 1978 film, Martha Kent appeared physically frail and nearly-homebound, in Superman Returns she is much more active, driving a stick-shift truck and helping to lift her 200-pound son out of the smoking wreckage of his space ship. Photos of Jonathan Kent (as played by Glenn Ford) are briefly visible in Martha's living room. In this film, when Clark comes back after an absence of five years, she may have already been dating Ben Hubbard but the storyline was cut from the final film.


In 2006, two years after Marlon Brando died, he "reprised" the role of Jor-El in Superman Returns through the harvesting of archived video footage and sound clip outtakes. In the film, Lex Luthor, having retained vague memories of the place, returns to the Fortress of Solitude during Superman's absence to learn the power of the crystals. After stealing one, he uses it, with kryptonite, to create a new continent that threatens to destroy North America. Superman manages to throw the "New Krypton" island out of the atmosphere and into space.

Lois Lane[]

Actress Kate Bosworth played Lois Lane in the 2006 Bryan Singer-directed film Superman Returns. In this version, she has given birth to a son named Jason White, who is later revealed to be Superman's son.

Lex Luthor[]

In the 2006 film Superman Returns, Luthor is played by Kevin Spacey. Although, retaining a humorous streak, Spacey's take on the character is dryer and more straightforward than Hackman's. In the film, Luthor has been released from prison bent on revenge against Superman. Luthor funds his criminal operations by seducing a wealthy, elderly benefactor. Luthor's machinations once again concern real estate, as they did in the first two films. He plans to use Kryptonian crystals, like the one Superman used to create the Fortress of Solitude, to form a new continent, owned by Luthor, off the East Coast of the United States, destroying all surrounding landmass in the process and killing untold numbers of people. The landmass also has the added effect of sapping Superman's powers when he is in proximity, as Luthor has laced it with Kryptonite. However, after putting several layers of earth between himself and New Krypton, Superman hurls the landmass into space. After his scheme fails, Luthor uses a helicopter to escape capture, but it runs out of fuel, stranding him on a deserted island with his crooks dead and he is stuck with his new sidekick/wife, wealthy heiress Kitty Kowalski, as well as her dog. When she asks what they'll eat, he looks at the dog hungrily.

Jimmy Olsen[]

In Bryan Singer's 2006 movie Superman Returns, Jimmy Olsen is portrayed by Sam Huntington, an older and more confident, yet goofier portrayal of the character who finds it difficult to get a good shot or get any photos published. In a deleted scene (included in the DVD release) a slightly inebriated Olsen is seen to complain to Clark about the fact he hasn't had a photo printed in several months.

Perry White[]

In Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, Perry White was originally going to be portrayed by Hugh Laurie. But when it was determined that there would be a schedule conflict involving Laurie's TV series House (which is incidentally, executive produced by Singer), Laurie was forced to drop out and Frank Langella stepped in to play Perry White. In this movie, Perry has a nephew, Richard White, who is engaged to Lois and serves as a father figure to her son Jason, although it is implied over the course of the film that Jason's biological father is Superman himself. In the film, director Singer asked Langella to play a more toned-down and distant version of the character to avoid comparison with J. K. Simmons' portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man films.


  1. Superman: The Movie, Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
  2. This is discussed by the producers in their DVD commentary to the original theatrical cut.
  5. [1]
  6. Look up in the sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Redemption)
  7. Sanderson, Peter (2006-07-28). "Comics in Context #139: Superman Returns Twice". Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  8. Supermanica - Luthor's Lair. Retrieved on 2007-7-18.
  9. "KNEEL BEFORE ZOD stickers". Retrieved November 7 2006. 
  10. Wizard #177.

Template:1978-1987 Superman film series