Synopsis of Movie

“You’ll believe a man can fly.”

There has never been a comic book icon as popular or well-known as Superman. From his Action Comics origins in 1938 to radio, cartoons and movie serials in the 40’s, to a first feature (Superman and the Mole Men) and a television series in the 50’s, to further animated adventures in the 60’s and 70’s, the Man of Steel was the superhero’s superhero, a mild-mannered good guy fighting for truth, justice and the American Way.

No surprise then that when Warner Bros. decided to make the first Superman feature in over 25 years, they lavished the production with big-name stars and big-budget effects. Marlon Brando got top billing as Superman’s father, but the cast also included Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, Jackie Cooper as Daily Planet editor Perry White, Susannah York as Superman’s mother, Ned Beatty and Valerie Perrine as Luthor’s sidekicks, Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter as Superman’s adoptive parents and Margot Kidder as love interest Lois Lane. For Superman himself, the studio conducted an exhaustive casting search, finally finding their Man of Steel in then-unknown Christopher Reeve.

The film explores Superman’s origins, beginning on homeworld Krypton. Scientist Jor-El, convinced the planet is doomed to explosive destruction, prepares a crystalline escape craft for his infant son, Kal-El. As Krypton is destroyed, the pod lifts off, traveling the cosmos before landing in rural Smallville on the planet Earth. The baby is discovered and adopted by kindly farm couple the Kents, who adopt the child as their own. The boy grows to maturity as Clark Kent, in the process discovering that Earth’s yellow sun has given him superhuman powers.

When Clark learns the truth of his origin, he commits himself to doing good. The grown Clark relocates to bustling Metropolis, where he takes a reporting job at the Daily Planet, hiding his identity under glasses, a slightly different hairstyle and a bumbling demeanor. Superman makes his debut on one event-filled night, highlighted by the high-flying rescue of Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. Lois takes an instant fancy to the caped hero, looking for an exclusive story and possibly a date.

Meanwhile, evil mastermind Lex Luthor has cooked up a fiendish plot: with the help of bungling assistant Otis and the curvy Miss Tessmacher, Luthor plans to detonate two nuclear warheads on a California fault line, plunging the state into the ocean and creating a new, Luthor-owned coast. Superman flies in to foil the plot, but Luthor has a secret weapon: Kryptonite, remnants of Superman’s homeworld and the Man of Steel’s only weakness.

With groundbreaking flying effects, Superman made true believers out of fans around the world, achieving a spectacular financial, critical and popular success. John Williams’ score, including the ballad “Can You Read My Mind,” became a hit of its own, and Christopher Reeve gained instant stardom.

Plans had originally called for a sequel to be filmed at the same time, but production problems kept that from happening. Despite several disasters and one director change, Superman III flew into theaters two years later, with two more Superman sequels arriving over the next ten years.

Movie Release History

1978 - Superman
1980 - Superman II
1983 - Superman III
1987 - Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Movie Sub Categories


Movie Studio

Warner Bros.


Jor-El Marlon Brando
Lex Luthor Gene Hackman
Clark Kent/Superman Christopher Reeve
Otis Ned Beatty
Perry White Jackie Cooper
Jonathan Kent Glenn Ford
First Elder Trevor Howard
Lois Lane Margot Kidder
Eve Teschmacher Valerie Perrine
Vond-Ah Maria Schell
Ma Kent Phyllis Thaxter
Lara Susannah York
Young Clark Kent Jeff East
Jimmy Olsen Marc McClure
Ursa Sarah Douglas
General Zod Terence Stamp

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