Deciding on the correct order to watch Superman movies is not as easy as it sounds.
You could, of course, choose to watch them in the order they made them, but then you would have huge continuity problems.
Then you have the question of how far back do you go? Do you include the TV series and TV Specials?
In the order I have used below, I believe I have the optimum viewing order for your Superman journey.
Superman Movies In Order:
- Superman II (1980)
- Superman III (1983)
- Supergirl (1984)
- Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
- Superman Returns (2006)
- Man of Steel (2013)
- Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
My tactic is to first look at the modern series of movies.
By modern, I mean going back to 1978.
After you have followed the timeline from that series of movies, then optionally view the movies that stood apart in different timelines, whether as movies or TV specials.
Finally, you may choose to watch the TV series and pre-1978 movies.
Length: 2 hours 23 minutes
Released on 14th December 1978
IMDB Rating: 7.3
Gross Box Office North America (adjusted for inflation) $526,120,935
Starring: Christopher Reeve
Just before the destruction of the planet Krypton, scientist Jor-El sends his infant son Kal-El on a spaceship to Earth.
Raised by kindly farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, young Clark discovers the source of his superhuman powers and moves to Metropolis to fight evil.
As Superman, he battles the villainous Lex Luthor, while, as novice reporter Clark Kent, he attempts to woo co-worker Lois Lane
Krypton was about to be destroyed and the infant son of Jor-El is sent on a spaceship to a far-off planet called Earth by his father.
After the spaceship crashes on Earth, Jonathan Kent, a farmer, and his wife Martha find the infant. They decide to raise the child.
As he grows, the child, now called Clark Kent, discovers that he has superhuman powers.
Once grown up he moves to the fictional city “Metropolis” to fight against evil.
In his day-to-day life, he hides his true identity by posing as mild-mannered Clark Kent, a journalist.
However, he has a second identity as the superhero named “Superman”.
As Superman, he fights against the evil Lex Luthor, while as a reporter Clark Kent seeks to win the affections of fellow reporter Louis Lane, who only has eyes for Superman.
Superman II (1980)
Length: 2 hours 7 minutes
Released on 9th April 1981
IMDB Rating: 6.8
Gross Box Office North America (adjusted for inflation) $335,699,022
Starring: Christopher Reeve
This movie begins where Superman finished continuing the story.
A nuclear explosion that took place in deep space released three criminals from Superman’s homeworld,
Krypton from their imprisonment in the phantom zone.
The three criminals, General Zod, Ursa, and Non, come to Earth with an obvious intention to take it over using their powers.
Clark Kent, still in love with Louis Lane, discovers that he is really Superman.
Lex Luthor escapes prison and is intent on killing Superman.
He takes advantage of the arrival of the three criminal fugitives.
Superman III (1983)
Length: 2 hours 5 minutes
Released on 13th July 1983
IMDB Rating: 5.0
Gross Box Office North America (adjusted for inflation) $153,892,628
Starring Christopher Reeve
Superman has an amazing record fighting the bad guys, even supercriminals from his own planet are no match for him.
This time he faces something new, and we have to ask whether Superman’s super-strength holds up against the circuitry of an insane computer?
Gus Gorman, a bumbling half-wit in most things but a super genius with computers, turns the computer into a deadly weapon.
On the personal front Clark Kent meets up with his old high school flame at a reunion and he gets exposed to a deadly piece of red Kryptonite.
Length: 2 hours 4 minutes
Released on 19th July 1984
IMDB Rating: 4.4
Gross Box Office North America (adjusted for inflation) $35,182,426
Starring: Helen Slater
While technically not a Superman Movie, this movie from the same universe fits well into the storyline and adds continuity, so I have included it in this listing.
This is perhaps a good time to point out if you have not already noticed, that the IDMB ratings of all these movies have been steadily declining and the Box Office receipts plummeting.
Back on Krypton, there are some survivors, and somehow accidentally sent one of their power sources to Earth.
This problem requires resolving and Supergirl (Superman’s Cousin) is sent to retrieve it.
When she arrives on Earth, she finds she has the same powers as her cousin.
Retrieving the power source is difficult, and an evil woman who takes the power source and tries to use it to wreak destruction has grabbed the power source.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Length: 1 hour 30 minutes
Released on 24th July 1987
IMDB Rating: 3.7
Gross Box Office North America (adjusted for inflation) $35,289,185
Starring Christopher Reeve
A busy movie for Superman as he faces his arch-enemy Lex Luthor, who has created his own super-being who is charged with radiation.
He calls him Nuclear Man.
In fighting off this super foe Superman has to secure the Statue of Liberty, control a volcanic eruption on Mount Etna, and rebuild the Great Wall of China.
That’s just for starters, but of course, Superman wins in the end.
Superman Returns (2006)
Length: 2 hours 34 minutes
Released on 14th July 2006
IMDB Rating: 6.00
Gross Box Office North America (adjusted for inflation): $253,751,040
Starring: Brandon Routh
Superman returns after being absent for five years, to find that the woman he loves has moved on during that time.
He also finds that society has also moved on and has learned to get by without him.
If that was not bad enough, an old enemy has a plan to despatch Superman once and for all.
Things look bad, but of course, Superman is still ready when destruction hangs over the planet and they call Superman into action like he has never known before.
The opportunity to redeem himself and find a new place in society that involves epic action.
Man of Steel (2013)
Length: 2 hours 23 minutes
Released on 14th June 2013
IMDB Rating: 7.00
Gross Box Office North America (adjusted for inflation): $319,443,245
Starring: Henry Cavill
This movie is out of sync with the main timeline. They planned it to be a reboot of the Superman series. The film was used to launch the DC equivalent of the Marvel universe. The story goes right back to the beginning and tells the story of Superman the Movie once again. Think upon it has a flashback that tries to reset the franchise and bring back the glory days. With this movie, they brought the ratings back up, and the Box Office figures more much more respectable than they had been of late.
A young man (Clark Kent) finds out that he has some incredible powers and is not from the planet Earth.
That’s a pretty shocking piece of information to come by, but he finds out about his origins, and why they sent him to Earth.
Somehow the hero hidden within him has to emerge so that he can save the world from destruction, and become the encapsulation of human hope.
Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Length: 2 hours 32 minutes
Released on 25th March 2016
IMDB Rating: 6.4
Gross Box Office North America (adjusted for inflation): $351,935,298
Starring: Henry Cavill
As part of the reboot of Superman and the introduction to the new universe, the next movie was not a Superman movie but brought Superman face to face with other characters in this new universe.
The story focuses on a backlash in public opinion about having an alien (Superman) rampaging around the planet (how soon they forget the multiple times he has saved them) and Batman is getting in on the action, very concerned about Superman. Batman tries to attack Superman, just as Lex Luthor starts one of his plots to rule the world.
Public reaction to this last film was mixed. Some people described this integration into an alternative universe to be sheer genius.
Others complain it has moved completely away from what Superman is supposed to be.
Since 2013 there have been no other movies launched, whilst some of that may well be because of the COVID virus laying waste to film production, it may show some uncertainty on how to proceed.
Interestingly enough, was the fact that they killed off Superman at the end of this movie. Of course, we all know that being dead does not interfere with you being a superhero in a subsequent movie.
Many superheroes have died, only to be resurrected in a future episode.
When asked about this, the director of the film stated that Superman was a bit of a problem in constructing the new DC Universe.
Batman and the Justice League does not really work if Superman is still around, so maybe we have seen the end of him.
When we get details of the proposed film that has been in discussion since 2017, we might have a better idea.
Untitled Superman Project
There is an as-yet-unannounced project for a further Superman movie, but since 2017 there has been no further talking about this.
With a large backlog of films awaiting production due to the pandemic, it is very difficult to say at this point what may happen soon.
There are rumors going around that a black actor will play the next Superman.
Whether this is the project that is currently under discussion or yet another movie that takes place in another universe cannot be confirmed. Just watch out.
At this point, you may wish to look at these movies that stood apart outside the timeline (as either movies or TV specials).
Then finally you can complete the marathon by heading back to the beginning and checking out the earliest movies and TV series.
The adventures of Superman TV Series
The Superman TV series may well have been how many people today first noticed Superman.
The television series that was based on the superman comics began filming in 1951 in California.
The cereal company Kellogg sponsored the show. There is a minor dispute about the exact dates it first ran, but most people accept that it ran between September 19, 1952, and April 28, 1958.
Each season contained 26 episodes, and they filmed the first two series in black and white.
George Reeves played Superman for most of the series, although Noel Neill took over towards the end.
In 1951 they released the movie Superman and the Mole Men, serving as a pilot for the TV series Adventures of Superman.
This TV series was to go on for 6 Seasons of 26 episodes. They ran it in several countries and I certainly remember growing up watching it.
The series was critically acclaimed, and many people commented on its technical merits, and how closely it stuck to the original stories.
In 2006 they released it on a DVD set and it is still possible to get hold of a copy if you shop around.
Other Superman on Film
If the 8 superman movies described above and the 156 episodes of the TV series are not enough for you, there are many more Superman titles to choose from.
IMDB list over 200 Superman titles that were made. Most of these would have been animations made by various studios.
If you are fond of Kung Fu, it will please you to learn that there are many Superman films originating in China, Movies that feature Chinese Superman, most of which are skilled in martial arts.
I have a confession to make.
I’m a big Superman fan and I thought that I have seen all the movies.
However, when doing research for this article, I found out that I somehow missed “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” movie.
So the first thing after finishing writing this article will be that I’ll watch this movie so and that I’ve seen them all.
Well, maybe I also helped you to discover a movie that was unknown to you – if yes, the mission of this article was successful.