There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Superman is the biggest and the most well-known superhero out there. There have been many live-action portrayals of the character, whether we’re talking about TV shows or movies. Some of them are inspiring, well-written and bring the comic book character to life, while some are cheesy, bad and not what Superman is supposed to be.
Today, we bring you a list of the five worst live-action Superman portrayals out there. So let’s get started!
5. Come fly with me, come fly, come fly away!
Have you ever wondered if the Man of Steel could sing? You don’t need to wonder anymore, because this question is answered in a 1975 TV special called “It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman”.
In this one, David Wilson plays a Superman that’s completely out of character and nothing like the source material. The TV special completely ignored what makes Superman great and instead showed him in a cheesy portrayal, who seems to sing like crazy when he’s fighting bad guys.
This version definitely deserves a spot on the list of the worst live-action Superman portrayals, but you also have to take under consideration the fact that the makers of this TV special didn’t take it seriously. The whole thing is based on a 1966 Broadway musical and it was filmed in three days. Think of it as Superman’s version of Batman 1966, with much worse production value and writing. Much like the Adam West’s Caped Crusader, it wasn’t a good portrayal of the character, but it’s not to be taken seriously either, that’s why this is as high as this Superman gets on our list.
4. Able to build tall walls just with his eyes!
While Christopher Reeve’s Superman is well known and loved, he owes that to just the first two films in the quadrilogy. However, we’re not digging into the third installment. We’re focusing solely on the much, much worse Superman IV. Much like in the Burtonverse Batman quadrilogy, the fourth movie was the worst one, with the most ridiculous Batman portrayal. There’s a pattern forming here, wouldn’t you say?
There’s so much wrong with this movie, whether it’s the poor practical effects, reusing the same shot multiple times, villain with one of the worst origins ever or sloppy fights between Superman and Nuclear Man. However, this list is not about the movie, but the Superman character, and he has just as many flaws as the film itself.
You think you know all of Superman’s powers, but the makers of Quest for Peace prove you wrong. You probably didn’t know that the Man of Steel can rebuild the Great Wall of China with his eyes or bring falling people safely to the ground with his telekinetic abilities. If these ridiculous powers weren’t enough, his intellect took a hit, as well. Superman seems to think that it’s a good idea to steal all of the nuclear weapons of the world, stick them into a huge net in space and throw them into the Sun. This child-like logic should create vast conflicts on the political scene, but in this silly universe he just gets a round of applause at the UN meeting.
Christopher Reeve’s Superman wasn’t the only portrayal that took a hit in later films. Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel had a cameo in the 2019’s Shazam!. Even though he was played by a stuntman, with much worse physique than Cavill, it was still the same character.
If you look at previous films in the DCEU, like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, you can see how serious Superman was about helping people and how he shied away from being seen, when it wasn’t necessary. In Shazam!, he figures it’s a good idea to listen to a teenage hero he never had seen before, and have lunch with some kids in a school cafeteria. If that’s not ridiculous enough, the fact that you can’t see his head in the shot makes it even worse.
2. Superman on vacay!
It’s partially understandable to make a cheesy and poorly written Superman in the 70s or 80s, but it’s a whole different thing when it’s done in 2016. Let’s take aside the miscasting and all the ridiculous plots this Superman was involved in, and focus on the fact that he is just a bad superhero, even though he’s supposed to be the best of them all.
When a huge threat comes around and all the heroes unite to put an end to it, what should Superman do? Well, the one in CW decided on having a BBQ with Lois in his Fortress of Solitude. Throughout the Elseworlds crossover, Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman didn’t seem to do much, well, maybe except for the part where he was defeated by Amazo. This wasn’t the only time Superman didn’t bother to commit to his superhero gig. When the threat was gone and everything went back to normal, Clark informed his cousin that Lois was pregnant and that he had to hang his cape for a while. When Kara asked him if he’d be gone for another nine months, Clark replied “a little longer than that”. After the whole Elseworlds thing, the mighty superhero figured that he could lose a lot, so it would be better if he quit and had a life of his own. It’s pretty much as if he told her he needed to have a life, and she didn’t get to have one.
1. Josstice League
That brings us to the biggest abomination that appeared in the Justice League film. In this one, Superman faces off his biggest villain yet – Henry Cavill’s mustache. In Warner Bros.’ desperate attempt to change the story and the tone of the movie at the last minute, Justice League underwent extensive reshoots. Henry Cavill wasn’t allowed to shave his mustache due to his part in Mission Impossible: Fallout, so the VFX artists had to remove it in post-production. That, plus the fact they were creating the CGI for pretty much the entire film on a small reshoots budget, led to many creepy scenes, where Superman looked like a creature from a horror film. This is one of the many reasons why this version of Superman is the worst live-action portrayal, but let’s dig into the plot of the film.
The movie starts off with Superman talking to a couple of kids. He seemed to have deep, philosophical thoughts on how hope is like car keys, but when asked what he loved the most about Earth, he didn’t get the chance to reply, as the scene was cut off. Either Joss Whedon couldn’t figure out what to have him say, or this unnecessary cliffhanger was in his plans all along.
Things get much worse after Justice League resurrects him. When asked what death feels like, he whips out another philosophical gem and answers with a single word “itchy”, he gets to have a race for no apparent reason with The Flash, and in one scene he is seen flying with an entire building he’s holding with his hands. That makes you wonder if Superman dug it out with his bare hands and just how strong houses are in Russia.
In the third act he jumps in the fight with Steppenwolf and easily manhandles him. It makes the rest of the Justice League look unnecessary. They might as well return to wherever they came from and let Superman handle things himself. You’d think that being killed by a villain in the previous film would make Superman cautious and serious when he’s fighting another foe, but no. He’s acting all cocky and smiles all the way through the fight. Maybe the thing that made him so sure things wouldn’t go wrong was the newly, out of the blue, acquired power – super breath.
It’s without a doubt the worst portrayal of Superman, and it will most likely be a while before we get an even worse one.
◊ ◊ ◊
What do you think of our list? Do you think there are any bad portrayals of the character that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments and tell us why! And like always, don’t forget to leave a suggestion for the future articles. If we pick your idea, we’ll give you a shout out at the top of that very article, so don’t miss out!