The other night I was rewatching Superman (aka Superman: The Movie), which I still consider the best superhero movie of all time let alone the best Superman movie. But I can see where someone might dismiss it, especially for the time-travel cheat and the Lois Lane inner monologue. My wife, for instance, thinks I'm crazy. Her favorite is Superman III, which I'll agree is a lot of fun. You've got Richard Pryor, the return to Smallville and the Superman vs. Superman sequence. And the Tower of Pisa gag was one of my favorite things ever put on film -- when I was a kid.
Of course, when I was a kid I loved everything Superman -- movie-wise, that is. Even Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Even the kinda lame TV series Lois & Clark. Heck, I even was a really big fan of Supergirl. Strangely, I've never ever been a reader of Superman comic books, not even when I was an avid collector (like all suckers, though, I did get some copies of The Death of Superman). Yet I'll always love Superman in cinema. From the beautiful old Oscar-nominated Fleischer animated films from the early '40s and the still-thrilling if also still-silly serials of the late '40s through to the decent Superman Returns and now the awesome sci-fi spectacle of Man of Steel (which Movies.com Managing Editor Erik Davis declares is now the best yet).
I need to see the new one again, but I think it's definitely in the running for the best treatment of the character yet. It has some stiff 30-year-old competition, though. The only problem I might really have with Superman being singled out as my favorite is that it's very hard to separate it from Superman II. They're a pair that go together like The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (fitting since both sets were written by Mario Puzo). I was thinking the other night how weird it would have been had the first Superman flopped and they decided not to release the sequel. It'd be one of those many failed franchise starters that sets up villains or other story elements that never get to be realized.
That's one reason they're so inseparable. Especially if you watch the Richard Donner cut of Superman II. That's something I don't normally like to do, however, because the parts I love most in the sequel are the really ridiculous Richard Lester-directed moments. In particular I like the many absurd extras bits in the Metropolis battle. I grew up believing that Superman movies were supposed to be kind of goofy, the way Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent is all comic relief and there's often even incidences of outright slapstick. It's why I don't think The Quest for Peace is necessarily a terrible Superman movie, just one that clearly didn't have as good a budget.
I must admit that I'm mainly a movie guy and so I've never seen the 1951 feature Superman and the Mole Men, which is basically a theatrical pilot for the Adventures of Superman TV series. I've also never seen much of that series nor the related biopic Hollywoodland, and I've also never watched Smallville. I've also missed a lot of the recent nontheatrical animated features that have been put out on video (the poll results include some recommendations, so perhaps I'll change that).
But I have seen his first unofficial film appearance, which makes for some neat trivia: a few months before technically making his debut in the Fleischer's Superman (and the Mad Scientist) in 1941, his likeness showed up in the Merrie Melodies short Goofy Groceries, where he's named "Superguy" and has buck teeth and is quickly defeated by a faux King Kong who scares him into becoming a crying baby.
What's the best Superman movie?
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