Superman Movies in Order: Every Man of Steel Movie Chronologically

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Along with almost a thousand issues of Action Comics, the man of steel has been adapted for television, radio, and cinema. Superman movies dating back to the classic 1978 version have earned more than two and a half billion dollars combined over almost five decades. Now, that being stated, Superman is a classic figure of the superhero genre. He originally debuted on Action Comics #1 way back in 1938 and has been renowned ever since.

About four months ago, we heard that Warner Bros. had recruited award-winning novelist and comics writer Ta-Nehisi Coates to start work on what was anticipated to be a “Black Superman” movie. This implies it’s time to figure out where the character has appeared on the big screen previously. It would make sense if someone wanted to understand everything about the character just by seeing all of his movies. Unfortunately, since Superman has been rebooted and re-cast many times over, the chronological sequence of the movies is a little jumbled up. Regardless, continue as I give an ultimate analysis on the best way to view the man of steel movies.

Superman Movies in Order at a Glance

Choosing the proper order in which to view Superman films is not as straightforward as it may seem. You could watch them in chronological order, but it would introduce significant continuity issues. You may also watch them in chronological order, however as I already said, Superman has two rebooted films and has been recast many times. In any case, I’ll offer two-part guidance to the order in which you should watch them: chronologically or by release date.

Superman Movies by Release Date

First up, here are the Superman movies in order of release:

Superman: The Movie (1978)

Superman II (1980)

Superman III (1983)

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Superman Returns (2006)

Man of Steel (2013)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Justice League (2017)

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Superman Movies in Chronological Order

Since it is hard to categorize the Man of Steel movies in chronological order, I will organize them as per the Superman actors’ generations; that is by Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh, and Zack Snyder.

Christopher Reeve

Superman: The Movie (1978)

Superman II (1980)

Superman III (1983)

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Brandon Routh

Superman Returns (2006)

Zack Snyder

Man of Steel (2013)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Justice League (2017)

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Superman Movies in Chronological Order

1. Superman: The Movie (1978)

Superman, directed by Richard Donner in 1978, is one of the first superhero films, and it stands up very nicely. If you like the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe style of action and suspense mixed with plenty of comedy and fun, this first Superman film should be just up your alley. To begin, a fantastic ensemble. When Christopher Reeve was cast as Superman/Clark Kent, he was almost unknown, and therefore became synonymous with the role. Beyond that, you may recognize a familiar face: Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Superman’s scientist father on Krypton, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, and Gene Hackman as the archetypal evil Lex Luthor.

This classic film chronicles Superman’s origins: His father Jor-El (Marlon Brando) transports him from the dying planet of Krypton to Earth, where his unique molecular structure endows him with superhuman abilities. He is raised by the Kents until he discovers his true origins and is forced to confront Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), who is plotting to destroy the US west coast with a nuclear bomb.

Unable to persuade Krypton’s governing council that their planet is on the verge of destruction, scientist Jor-El takes extreme steps to save the Kryptonian race: he sends his newborn son Kal-El to Earth. There, beneath the golden sun of Earth, he will develop tremendous abilities and become a defender of truth and justice. Clark Kent is raised by the Kents, an old farm couple, and learns early on that his talents must be put to good use. 

Clark as an adult relocates to Metropolis, where he works as a mild-mannered writer for the Daily Planet…and as a cape-wearing marvel whose astounding deeds astound the city: Superman! Meanwhile, Lex Luthor, the world’s finest criminal intellect, is planning the world’s biggest real estate con. Even the Man of Steel is unable to thwart this heinous plot.

2. Superman II (1980)

If you like Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor (who returns here with Reeve and Kidder), wait till Terence Stamp appears in Superman II as Krypton’s villainous General Zod, one of Superman’s most infamous adversaries. The storyline revolves around Superman giving up his abilities to live a regular life with Lois Lane. Nonetheless, Superman II is a blast and was a box office smash for a reason.

Superman launches a hydrogen bomb into orbit, accidentally releasing three Kryptonian war criminals commanded by General Zod (Terence Stamp). The three Kryptonians were granted the same abilities as Superman and set out to conquer Earth. Meanwhile, Superman abdicates his powers to resume a regular life with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder).

Before Krypton collapsed and Jor-El was compelled to send his infant son, Kal-El, to Earth by rocket ship, the compassionate king was forced to exile three irredeemable criminals to another realm known as The Phantom Zone. General Zod, the trio’s commander, swore vengeance. Naturally, Kal-El developed into Superman, Earth’s powerful champion. Superman defeats Lex Luthor’s criminal mastermind by throwing a nuclear bomb into orbit, where it explodes, but not harmlessly. Rather than that, it liberates the Kryptonian trio from their extradimensional captivity. 

They quickly realize they have near-limitless power (nearly identical to Superman’s), which they exploit to take over the Earth. Meanwhile, Lois Lane discovers that her clumsy coworker Clark Kent is Superman, which leads to his taking her to his freezing Fortress of Solitude and relinquishing his abilities to have sexual relations with her. Superman and Lois learn about the three Kryptonians and Lex Luthor’s alliance with them only after they return to civilization. Superman must now undo the unthinkable and reclaim his abilities to rescue humanity.

3. Superman III (1983)

Superman III is sometimes referred to as “the one with Richard Pryor.” It retains much of the excitement of the previous films—Superman flying!—but eliminates the rest—Gene Hackman and the majority of Margot Kidder’s role—in favor of Pryor. And Pryor is fantastic! However, it falls short of the mark set by the others. Still, if you’re a Clark Kent fan, it’s worth a look.

Superman III is a significant step down in quality from the previous two Superman films, perhaps due to the addition of a new director, Richard Lester. Christopher Reeves reprises his role as Clark Kent and returns to his birthplace of Smallville, Kansas in his adaptation. Meanwhile, Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn), the CEO of Webscoe, recruits a brilliant but clumsy computer programmer (Richard Pryor) to assist him in destroying his rivals and, perhaps, killing Superman.

The Man of Steel is unmatched when it comes to deadly foes. Superman rescued the day even when confronted by a group of evil super-powered criminals from his homeworld. However, can super-strength withstand the heinous wiring of a criminally mad computer? Gus Gorman, a jovial half-wit who is also a natural-born genius at computer programming, enters the fray. 

A computer keyboard transforms into a lethal weapon in his hands, and Superman is soon confronted with the microelectronic threat of his career. Clark Kent reconnects with his ex-girlfriend Lana Lang during a Smallville High School reunion, while Superman becomes his own worst adversary after being exposed to a piece of red kryptonite.

4. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

The original Superman series ends with a whimper with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace; the film’s storyline revolves around the abolition of all nuclear weapons from the planet. Superman’s last film, directed by Christopher Reeves, sees the Man of Steel confront a nuclear weapons race. When Superman declares his intention to eliminate all nuclear weapons, the Earth’s countries agree and begin shooting the bombs into space.

Superman wants to amass weapons in space and launch them towards the Sun. However, Superman’s adversary, Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), connects a strand of Superman’s hair to one of the nukes, and when it is exposed to the light, it produces another super-powered creature, Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow), who is equal to Superman in strength. The Quest for Peace was directed by Sydney J Furie.

Superman accomplishes a great deal in his latest quest. Lex Luthor, desperate to secure the globe for nuclear weapons merchants, develops a new creature to confront Superman: the radiation-charged Nuclear Man. The two super-powered adversaries battle in an explosive cinematic extravaganza in which Superman saves the Statue of Liberty, repels a volcanic explosion on Mount Etna, rebuilds the Great Wall of China after it is destroyed, and does many other extraordinary deeds.

5. Superman Returns (2006)

The Superman series had an almost two-decade hiatus after The Quest for Peace. When it reappeared, it was in the shape of Superman Returns, directed by X-Men director (and self-professed weirdo) Bryan Singer. 

The film takes an unusual approach. While the cast is entirely new (except for archive footage of Marlon Brando as Jor-El), the film acts as a sequel to Superman II, omitting the latter two films. Brandon Routh is strong, though not very memorable, Superman, while Kate Bosworth takes over as Lois Lane, Frank Langella as newspaper editor Perry White, and Kevin Spacey as our new Lex Luthor.

It’s the most difficult picture to put in our chronology since it’s meant to take place five years after Superman II, which occurred in 1982, but somehow takes place in “modern-day” 2006.

Brandon Routh appears as Clark Kent/Superman, who returns to Earth after a five-year hiatus to discover his archnemesis Lex Luthor planning his assassination and the destruction of the United States to establish his continent to govern. Superman must also contend with issues in his personal life since Lois Lane has abandoned him during his absence from Earth.

After an unexplained absence of many years, the Man of Steel returns to Earth in the epic action-adventure Superman Returns, a soaring new chapter in the story of one of the world’s most famous superheroes. Superman’s bittersweet homecoming forces him to close the gap between them while establishing a foothold in a world that has adapted to life without him. 

Superman goes on an epic quest of atonement to save the planet he loves from catastrophic catastrophe. His adventure takes him from the depths of the ocean to the distant reaches of outer space.

6. Man of Steel (2013)

Following the success of the Marvel Cinematic World, DC announced intentions to launch their universe, dubbed the DC Extended Universe, or DCEU. Zack Snyder’s solo Superman picture, Man of Steel, was the Iron Man of these films. While many of the earlier Superman films aimed for a lighthearted tone, Snyder’s films had a much darker tone; Christopher Nolan serves as executive producer, and Man of Steel aims to replicate the roughness of his Dark Knight Batman films.

Henry Cavill assumes the role of Superman in the film that launched the official DC Extended Universe. Russel Crowe plays Superman’s biological father, Jor-el, while Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play the Kents, who adopt him.

Clark, who blames himself for the murder of his adoptive father, traverses the globe to conceal his real identity and abilities. Clark must eventually embrace his status as Superman to rescue the world from General Zod’s wicked Kryptonians. General Zod, a Kryptonian and military commander, views Earth’s destiny differently and intends to exploit it in exchange for a human sacrifice. Superman allies with current military and news reporter Lois Lane to prevent Zod from annihilating humanity.

7. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Man of Steel ended up serving as a sort of prologue to the DCEU event films that Zack Snyder would eventually direct. The first of these big events was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which garnered widespread attention and grossed a lot of money in 2016, but had a mixed reception from reviewers.

While there is much to criticize here, Cavill proceeded to develop his character as Clark Kent/Superman in the aftermath of the previous film. He was accompanied on film once again by Adams as Lois Lane. While the film’s title and artwork pit Superman against this universe’s new Batman (Ben Affleck), the film’s true antagonist is an animated Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, who injects the legendary villain with fidgety energy that makes him seem very new.

The world changed forever when humanity, Metropolis’s inhabitants, and millionaire Bruce Wayne saw Superman’s amazing power. Now, two years later, the love story seems to be over as the Man of Steel gets embroiled in the intricacies of international politics, where lives are sacrificed in the fight against terrorists and rebels. While journalist Lois Lane works to defend Superman’s reputation, Senate Hearings and the media force Superman to operate within the system, Batman intensifies his war on crime in search of a way to eliminate the danger posed by Superman, and Lex Luthor seems to be pulling strings behind the scenes. Batman v Superman demonstrates how two of the most recognized superheroes develop animosity against one another.

Batman, played by Ben Affleck, regards Cavill’s Superman as an uncontrollable extraterrestrial entity that is too dangerous to let unchecked. Meanwhile, Superman sees Batman’s version of vigilante justice as another manifestation of lawlessness.

8. Justice League (2017)

Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are outgunned and reeling from Superman’s (Henry Cavill) death in Batman v Superman, so Justice League brings the classic superhero team together to take on Steppenwolf, a villain bent on terraforming Earth into an uninhabitable planet similar to his own.

The end effect of the rewrites, reshoots, and Superman’s CGI-scrubbed mustache is a muddled conclusion to the trilogy. Post-release inquiries into Whedon’s on-set behavior, as well as accusations of misbehavior against several Justice League cast members—not to mention the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League—add to the misery of this film era.

After Superman’s death, the wicked and mighty Steppenwolf comes to Earth with his demons and takes the Mother Box from Paradise Island. Queen Hippolyta informs her daughter Diana Prince about the world’s dangers, and Wonder Woman meets with Batman to discuss ways to protect the planet. 

Meanwhile, Steppenwolf obtains the second Mother Box from Atlantis, while Batman and Wonder Woman joins forces with The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg to safeguard the last Mother Box given to humanity, with the assistance of Alfred. However, Batman decides that they lack the necessary strength to rescue the planet and offers to utilize the Box’s power to resurrect Superman despite the dangers. Will his strategy succeed?

9. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Everything makes more logic and works better in Zack Snyder’s Justice League—and the performances speak for themselves.

Justice League (2017) looked so bad in comparison to an earlier promotional video that several fans begged to see Snyder’s initial concept for the picture before he departed at the start of post-production. And, after Warner Bros.’ rejection for many years, HBOMax stated in 2020 that they would enable Snyder to complete and distribute Zack Snyder’s Justice League. In 2021, spectators saw Superman’s resurrection in a whole new light. 

The Kryptonian who sacrificed himself after BvS is at ease in his role as Earth’s defender as he faces the New Gods for the first time. While he does not appear until about halfway through the film, his absence becomes practically a character in and of itself. He continues to rescue the day, not just through the power of his extraterrestrial talents, but also by inspiring the people of Earth to join him in the battle to defend the world.

Determined to guarantee that Superman’s ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne teams up with Diana Prince to assemble a band of metahumans to defend the planet from impending danger of cataclysmic proportions. The job becomes more difficult than Bruce anticipated, as each recruit must confront the demons of their pasts to overcome the obstacles that have prevented them from coming together and ultimately creating an unparalleled league of heroes. 

Now that Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash have come together, it may be too late to rescue the world from Steppenwolf, DeSaad, and Darkseid and their heinous goals.

Do you have to watch superman movies in order?

Unlike other movies such as The Terminator, the superman movies are not as co-dependent as the previous films and therefore you will not lose much if you do not watch them in order. However, while it is not necessary, it is beneficial to view them in order so that you can acquaint yourself with the character and the whole Man of Steel narrative.

Will there be more superman movies?

There is a chance that more Superman films may be released. JJ Abrams, the filmmaker of Star Wars, just inked a massive development agreement with Warner Bros., and sources say that he will helm the next Superman film as part of the pact. In fact, additional information regarding the studio’s intentions surfaced, including their intention to hire a director of color for the position. Warner Bros. is said to be considering a short list of candidates that includes Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II), J.D. Dillard (Sleight), Regina King (One Night in Miami), and Shaka King (Judas and the Black Messiah). While Ta-Nehisi Coates is not anticipated to complete his Superman script until just before Christmas, Warner Bros. seems determined to utilize the remainder of 2021 to ramp up production on a Superman film.

Will Henry Cavill return as Superman?

As much as we want Cavill to continue as Superman, that future may not involve him, as The Wrap’s Umberto Gonzalez confirmed on Twitter that Cavill is not scheduled to participate in any future DCEU projects. Henry Cavill will not appear in The Flash in 2022 and is allegedly not attached to any future DC Extended Universe productions as the Man of Steel. Superman, though, is still anticipated to be Kal-El from the planet Krypton, and the film may be set in the twentieth century.

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