Ever since his introduction as DC Comics’ first superhero in 1938, Superman has risen to become one of the world’s greatest characters in pop culture history. Therefore, many fans are eager to see him finally and significantly return to the DC Extended Universe, preferably still played by Henry Cavill.
While his future in that franchise might be particularly ambiguous, thankfully there are many more fantastic and popular Superman movies and TV shows to celebrate across both live-action and animation. According to reviewers on IMDb, these are his very best.
10 Superman vs. The Elite – 7.0
While Superman adaptations are parts of established and expansive canons encompassing different films and TV shows, Superman vs. The Elite is a completely standalone feature. The movie follows Superman as her struggles with his responsibility to maintain peace in a world torn by injustice and war. He is forced to contend with a new group of antagonistic heroes, The Elite, worthy in intentions, but evil in their methods.
It’s s a dedicated and exceptionally animated adaptation of the story arc, “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, & the American Way”. It tackles what makes Superman a hero, and sets him up as a moral and just figure, especially compared to the trope of the evil Superman permeating throughout IP franchises currently.
9 Superman/Batman: Apocalypse – 7.0
One of the most consistent team-ups in DC Comics is between Superman and Batman, and there have been several films specifically about that partnership. Superman: Batman: Apocalypse is such a movie. It is actually the sequel to Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and frankly, has a misleading title, since it incorporates Superman’s cousin, Supergirl, as a more significant protagonist than Batman.
Many fans clearly enjoyed Superman/Batman: Apocalypse well enough, citing it as a fun and worthwhile watch, though some called out rushed pacing and underutilization for characters like Batman and Darkseid. Nevertheless, it still beats out plenty of other Superman films.
8 Superman/Batman: Public Enemies – 7.1
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies certainly set up something quite fun with its delightful animation and stellar voice cast – bringing together Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly yet again as Batman and Superman, respectively. Not only did they have to contend with their classic villains, but also the public eye as Lex Luthor has become president and sets the world against the two heroes.
Compared to the likes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, this gave fans what they wanted, a true team-up between these two iconic characters. Hopefully, the DCEU could learn something from Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, its sequel, and similar animated films on how to utilize both Batman and Superman.
7 Man of Steel – 7.1
Man of Steel launched the DCEU and fans have been waiting ever since for a worthy sequel. Unfortunately, the current state of Warner-Discovery and how it’s evolving might be putting that future at risk, at least for Henry Cavill in the role. Nevertheless, many fans have concocted some ideas and theories for how he could be reincorporated in upcoming films.
The film was particularly well received when it was first released, featuring a fresh perspective on the Man of Steel compared to the Christopher Reeve series. It did seem to follow in the spiritual footsteps of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and as such was critiqued for somehow being too realistic, or at least lacking the comic book aura fans love. Nevertheless, it’s still quite entertaining.
6 The Death of Superman – 7.3
Not only is The Death of Superman one of Superman’s best films individually it’s also one of DC’s best animated movies. As the name implies it devotedly adapts the arc of the same name when Superman meets his deadliest foe, Doomsday. It is the eleventh of the DC Animated Movie Universe, first established with Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, but the first with Superman as the primary and titular protagonist.
Though the premise and source was used for the DCEU’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Death of Superman is far more successful in its execution. Of course, Superman was revived to save the world another day, and was followed by Reign of the Supermen which further incorporated supporting characters like Cyborg Superman, Eradicator, Steel, and Superboy.
5 Superman: The Movie – 7.4
Truthfully if it hadn’t been for Christopher Reeve and Superman: The Movie, there probably wouldn’t be a DCEU or MCU. Comic book adaptations had previously resided primarily in television, but this established a series of films, an approach that would be expounded upon and lead to superhero films becoming the premiere story of today.
One of the big reasons that this film is still so beloved was for Reeve’s differentiation of Clark Kent and Superman – something that’s been lacking in Cavill’s performances, honestly. Clark is presented as loveably awkward, while Superman exudes charm and confidence. Add in Gene Hackman’s captivating and unique performance as Lex Luthor, and it’s clearly a recipe for success.
4 Smallville – 7.5
While the many series in the Arrowverse have dominated weekly airwaves on the CW, Smallville paved the way for them. The coming of age story followed a teenage Clark Kent, played by Tom Welling, and showcased a small-town perspective on Superman’s grand adventures throughout the comics. Interestingly, Welling actually reprised his role as part of the major Arrowverse crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths, nearly a decade after the show’s finale.
Smallville could’ve actually led to a whole series of shows like Arrow did as the later seasons introduced popular characters from the Justice League like Aquaman, Hawkman, and Green Arrow. Though that didn’t pan out, Alan Ritchson, who played Aquaman, did go on to play another DC hero, Hawk, in Titans.
3 Adventures of Superman – 7.7
Before Christopher Reeve became Superman, it was George Reeves in Adventures of Superman. The series ran in the 1950s and while it’s still a product of its time, it does hold up particularly well compared to modern portrayals, thus its high rating.
It is also part of an important moment in television history for transitioning from black-and-white to color between seasons two and three. Adventures of Superman is now regarded as a classic with the likes of I Love Lucy and Bewitched.
2 Superman & Lois – 7.8
The latest endeavor in Superman television has quickly established itself as something unexpectedly remarkable. Superman & Lois is part of the expanded Arrowverse, with Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch in the respective titular roles as they raise their twin sons, Jonathan and Jordan in Smallville.
Beyond being a superhero show, Superman & Lois is primarily a story of family and responsibility. It takes a grounded approach, but doesn’t lack in the necessary set pieces, action sequences, or supporting characters – some of whom are still missing from the DCEU. While the rest of the Arrowverse is coming to an end with the final season of The Flash, Superman & Lois looks to be trudging along.
1 Superman: The Animated Series – 8.1
Beating out all the rest is a seminal piece of DC animation, Superman: The Animated Series. It was the second venture in the DC Animated Universe, taking over for Batman: The Animated Series, and spanning over four seasons. It relied on the long-established and beloved mythos of Superman, along with his plethora of allies and antagonists, while still providing a modern interpretation.
Tim Daly, like Kevin Conroy for Batman, became a regular figure in DC animation voicing Superman well after the series finale. Today, Superman: The Animated Series can still serve as a strong foundation and inspiration for a future film or show, but until then, it’s uncontested as the characters’ best depiction.
NEXT: 10 Best Animal Characters Who Should Join The DCEU