Superman is arguably the most iconic and well-known superhero of all time. And similarly, he has been brought to the screen (both large and small) a number of times. Sometimes they’re unforgettable and sometimes they should be banished to the Phantom Zone. But regardless, we rank every on-screen Superman from sublime to meh.
11. David Wilson
David Wilson is the forgotten member of the Superman family, and for good reason. He had the misfortune to star in the 1975 TV movie "It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's Superman," a lousy adaptation of a now-forgotten Broadway musical. This Superman needed to worry less about fighting crime and more about finding a better suit.
10. John Haymes Newton
The TV series "Superboy" was basically a rough draft of what WB would later attempt with "Smallville. The series attempted to flesh out Clark Kent's teenage years, but between the low budget and John Haynes Newton's bland performance, it didn't exactly do justice to the Man of Steel.
9. Gerard Christopher
"Superboy" got a massive overhaul in its second season, which included new actors for both the Superboy and Lex Luthor roles. Gerard Christopher's Clark Kent proved to be a slight improvement over Newton's, but that's about the best that can be said. It's a wonder this show ever made it through four seasons.
8. Kirk Alyn
Kirk Alyn has the distinction of being the first actor to portray Superman in live action. He may not have looked the part as much as many of his successors, but Alyn brought enough charm and charisma to the role to convince moviegoers of his superhuman prowess. Without Alyn leading the way, we may never have gotten George reeves' Superman.
7. Brandon Routh
Brandon Routh faced the impossible task of recreating Christopher Reeves' legendary performance in "Superman Returns." Routh succeeded about as well as could be hoped, but he never truly emerged from under Reeve's shadow. Routh has found greater success on "DC's legends of Tomorrow" playing the Atom, a hero with far more room to make his own.
6. Dean Cain
Dean Cain is a better Clark Kent than Superman, which made him the perfect fit for the romance-centric TV series "Lois & Clark:" The New Adventures of Superman." Cain brought a warmth and sense of humor to the role that still sets his Superman apart even today.
5. Henry Cavill
Henry Cavill is a great Superman in search of a great Superman movie. Cavill's Superman is among the most well-rounded we've ever seen, as he conveys strength, vulnerability and compassion in equal measure. That's to say nothing of his Superman-ly physique. Sadly, movies like "Man of Steel" and "Batman v Superman" have squandered this strong casting on weak, overly grim stories.
4. George Reeves
A generation before Christopher Reeve came along, George Reeves was the actor who embodied Superman. Despite the limited technology of the day, Reeves painted a convincing, likable portrait of the Man of Steel. Reeves even made Clark Kent seem cool, eschewing the nerdy goofball approach adopted by so many other actors.
3. Tyler Hoechlin
While Superman is only a supporting player in The CW's "Supergirl," he has a habit of stealing the show whenever he drops by. Tyler Hoechlin has given us the most purely likable Superman ever to appear in live-action. He radiates both joy and strength, and we'd love to see Hoechlin given his own spinoff series at some point.
2. Tom Welling
No actor has been given more time to make Clark Kent his own than Tom Wellling. Welling spent ten years chronicling Clark Kent's evolution from teen outcast to adult hero in "Smallville." While it's a shame we saw so little of Welling in the Superman costume, there's no doubt that he brought more depth and pathos to Clark than anyone before or since.
1. Christopher Reeve
There's really no other option here. Even 40 years after "Superman: the Movie" hit theaters, Christopher Reeve is still the actor who defines Superman more than any other. Other actors might have the benefit of bulkier physiques or better special effects, but none of that can replace the simple warmth, confidence and deep-seated strength Reeve brought to the character. Even when the movies themselves were lousy, Reeve's Superman was always the hero we deserved.