Supergirl will have its season two finale next week and the show’s Superman, played by Tyler Hoechlin, will be making a dramatic return. Hoechlin previously appeared as the Man of Steel and his Clark Kent persona in the first two episodes of the show’s sophomore season “The Adventures of Supergirl” and “The Last Children of Krypton.” With him appearing in the finale on May 22 I felt like it was a good time to update my ranking of the top modern live action Superman actors. So up, up and away:
#6 Dean Cain, TV, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997)
As a teenager I was super excited (no pun intended) to hear about a live-action Superman series. But then I watched Lois and Clark and wondered what was all this soap opera nonsense.
The show unfortunately focused more on the relationship between Lois and Clark than the actual adventures of Superman. As a result Cain spent less time in the suit and we got more Melrose Place than Man of Steel.
The stories were also a bit campy, silly and disappointing to anyone looking for comic book action. Cain was charming as Clark Kent and decent as Superman but he just did not get much chance to shine as a superhero. He has played Supergirl’s adoptive father on the new TV series and it was nice seeing him back in the universe.
#5 Tom Welling, TV, Smallville (2001-2011)
Throughout the long running WB/CW series Welling was never called “Superman” and only put on the suit in the series finale, and even then we never saw him in the full costume. Dagnabbit CW, I waited a decade for this! Come on!
Rant aside, Welling did play a Clark Kent who (eventually) got a costume and did super things. And while I enjoyed the show I was not a great fan of Welling’s performance. He was always a bit too stiff and stick-up-his-butt for my tastes, but characters like Allison Mack’s spunky Chloe Sullivan and Michael Rosenbaum as THE BEST LEX LUTHOR EVER really lifted the series.
#4 Brandon Routh, Film, Superman Returns (2006)
The one and done Superman, Routh actually did a commendable job in the role. His Clark Kent had charm and felt real, and his Superman had strength and heart. Too bad he was in an artsy snoozefest of a movie.
Other than that eye-popping plane rescue and a brief gunfight Routh’s Superman does not do much heroics. And the end scene where he gets beat up like a piñata is the worst. Director Bryan Singer got a little too caught up in his Christ metaphors that he forgot to give us the hero we both needed and deserved.
At least Routh got another chance to play a superhero as the Atom in CW’s Arrowverse and has done cool work on Legends of Tomorrow.
#3 Henry Cavill, Film, Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Justice League (2017)
After the blah Superman Returns we got dark, intense and moody Superman for the reboot Man of Steel. Like Batman, only MORE serious. Dude, would it kill you to smile every now and again?
I thought Cavill did a decent job but I was not a fan of this tortured soul version of the character. Superman is not Batman. He is bright and cheery and saves cats from trees and, only when needed, goes all super intense. His chest symbol means hope for goodness sake.
At least we got a more physical and action oriented Superman in Man of Steel compared to Superman Returns and he was also decent in Batman v Superman but got overshadowed by Ben Affleck’s superior performance as Batman. He was closer to his lighthearted, boy scout version in Justice League and had one really cool action scene but sadly he got stuck in an underwhelming movie. And the less said about his CGI moustache, the better.
#2 Tyler Hoechlin, TV, Supergirl TV series (2016-)
Hoechlin, best known for his role on the MTV fantasy drama Teen Wolf, was a breath of fresh air when he appeared on Supergirl. Not since Christopher Reeve had we seen an actor that could play both the charming but bumbling Clark Kent and the righteous, heroic Superman with such wit and vitality.
Hoechlin’s portrayal felt grounded and believable, whether he was giving advice to Supergirl or punching it out with Metallo. This is the Superman we both needed and deserved, not the DCEU’s gloomy Gus. Hoechlin was so fantastic in this role that they should really consider giving him a spin-off TV show (and, October 28, 2018 update, he is getting one!).
#1 Christopher Reeve, Film, Superman (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Sometimes you just cannot beat a classic. In what is no surprise to many readers the late Christopher Reeve tops my list for live action Superman actors. And you just have to watch the first two films to see why. As Clark Kent he is bumbling but sweet and as Superman he oozes charisma and is heroic and honourable.
The original film was entertaining (save that ridiculous flying-backwards-around-the-world-and-turning-back-time nonsense) but my favorite is the second film. Reeve’s Superman facing off against Zod and his Kryptonian minions in battle, while internally battling between being a superhero and wanting to have a normal life, is wonderful stuff.
Sadly the third film was a heaping pile of crap and the fourth heaped more crap unto an already ridiculously high crap pile. It was like a Jenga tower made of bricks of crap and it made quite a mess when it all came crashing down. But stick to the first two and you will realise why Reeve, who died in 2004, is the most iconic actor to don the red and blue tights. He was Superman.
So what do you think of my list? Who is your favorite Superman actor? Feel free to comment wherever this posted. And how about a like and a share? It is most appreciated.
For more Superman action you can check out my review of Batman V Superman here.