Superman (1978) Review

Superman The Movie is the first big budget superhero film and has earned critical acclaim. And with Man of Steel releasing this weekend I thought it was the right time for me to review this ground breaking film. I haven’t seen this film in full for a while and so it was quite an eye opener, I do not remember the first film being this good. The story, the acting and even the visuals stand up pretty well, or I got a copy where you can’t see the wires either way. To be honest what made this film great is its first half, Donner really tried to portray a serious origin story with his interpretation of Superman and it worked. Marlon Brando was great as Jor-El, Terence Stamp was great as General Zod (forgot he was in the beginning of this) and Glenn Ford played Jonathan Kent with affection. The second half though went a little in a different direction with the second hand car salesmen Lex Luthor. But overall a great film and enjoy the review.

“Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, if they wish to be. They only lack the light to show them the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son.”



Richard Donner’s big-budget blockbuster Superman: The Movie is an immensely entertaining recounting of the origin of the famous comic book character. Opening on Krypton (where Marlon Brando plays Superman’s father), the film follows the Man of Steel (Christopher Reeve) as he’s sent to Earth where he develops his alter-ego Clark Kent and is raised by a Midwestern family. In no time, the movie has run through his teenage years, and Clark gets a job at the Daily Planet, where he is a news reporter. It’s there that he falls in love with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), who is already in love with Superman. But the love story is quickly sidetracked once the villainous Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) launches a diabolical plan to conquer the world and kill Superman. Superman: The Movie is filled with action, special effects and a surprising amount of humor.

Tim’s Film Reviews Recommended

Story: 90% Acting: 95% Characters: 95% Dialogue: 95%

Action/Superhero: 90% Music/Atmosphere: 100% Visuals: 85%

Total: 93%


The story in terms of an origin tale is perfect because we get great performances throughout the beginning of Superman’s life, from the excellent performance of Marlon Brando as Jor-El a father having to send his son to a distant alien world so as to save his life and so he can help the innocent people of Earth. To Clarks adopted father on Earth Jonathan Kent played by Glenn Ford whose performance was brilliant as an influence on the young Superman, his death scene was subtle but powerful and nearly made me cry and I never cry. Also can’t forget Terrence Stamps appearance at the beginning already setting up the next film with a great line as Jor-El sends him to the Phantom Zone “You will bow down before me, Jor-El! First you, and then one day, Jor-El, your heirs!”.


The Action was enough for the film and whilst I’d have preferred a little more I understand they were setting up an origin story and so there was only so much they could do. However the film was fun throughout with humour and fun performances. As a superhero film you have to give it high praise for being the first which wasn’t a complete joke and personally I think it laid down the basic formula to make a superhero film in the right way. I did not like the films interpretation of Lex Luthor, too much of a joke and so the effect of a villain is lost on me. Getting the villain right has always been a problem for the Man of Steel but it can be done and I hope the new film gets it right. Just avoid the damn Lex Luthor storyline of wanting land, it’s so crap he’d instantly be arrested!


The visuals were excellent at the time but sadly, excellent in 1978 doesn’t equal excellent in 2013. However they good enough and you have to give points for being the best at the time of its release, the famous quote of “You’ll believe a man can fly” worked well at the time and there were a lot of visuals at play. Sadly I have to point out that some of the visuals were better in this film than some early 2000’s superhero films. Lastly I have to mention the amazing work of John Williams with his brilliant Superman score which is one of the most recognizable themes of any pop culture theme right alongside Star Wars and Jurassic Park.



The best reviews I found:

“Overall this is hard not to love and is a classic in the super hero movie lines, must see for all comic book fans.” The Movie Crew. Full Review

“One of the things I enjoyed most about this film was Kal-El’s journey of self-discovery. He lands in Smallville as an outsider in a strange new world. He grows up, knowing that he’s different from others and has to conceal his special abilities. No matter how much comfort his adoptive parents give him, there is still a loneliness he must endure as the last of his kind.” The Cinematic Frontier. Full Review

“Superman is an entertaining story that is proud of its ideals and embraces the campy fantasy of an immortal alien who stands for truth, justice and the American way. I enjoyed watching it.” I Review Film. Full Review

“With a triumphant score by John Williams, the searing sincerity of Christopher Reeve and a preposterous grand finale, it is impossible not to root for Superman in this most enjoyable of feel-good movies.” Film4. Full Review


My favourite scene would have to be superman’s first appearance which is pretty far into the film but is just really fun to watch and has some great humour to go with it. Saving Lois, changing in a phone booth and saving the day all required for a superman film. That or Jor-El saying goodbye to his son Kal-El.

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About Tim The Film Guy

Very opinionated about films!

39 responses to “Superman (1978) Review”

  1. Chris Evans says :

    Agree with you about Lex Luthor Tim, although Gene Hackman’s take is enjoyable Kevin Spacey’s Luthor in Superman Returns was much more villainous.

    But yes, wonderful film all in all – the original superhero epic!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan says :

    This is my absolute favourite. The sequel is great too but this is the one that stands out for me.


  3. Morgan R. Lewis says :

    First and still the best. Great review, Tim.


  4. ruth says :

    How could’ve I missed this!!! Oh I know, I was super busy the last few days 😀 Splendid Tim, I LOVE LOVE this film, and Chris Reeve shall ALWAYS have a special place in my heart. The earth-turning finale is beyond preposterous though, I always laugh about it, but that rousing ‘chopper scene’ never fails to move me. Ahah, yeah the visuals just doesn’t hold up, especially after seeing Man of Steel. Not only do we believe a man can fly, he can fly REALLY, REALLY fast 😀 John Williams’ score on the other hand, still holds up amazingly well to this day!!


    • Tim The Film Guy says :

      I was very shocked not to see u comment or like this one Ruth, very shocked 😀

      Hang on. Do u not know what the earth turning actually was? Because u may need some nerd schooling 🙂

      Gonna see Man of Steel tomorrow and so excited, but John Williams will always be in my head as Superman’s theme 😀


  5. sanclementejedi says :

    Actually saw this at the theater when I was a wee lad. Recently re-watched it with my boy. This is a decent film but I could just never relate to supe being such a goody two shoes.


  6. thelastsongiheard says :

    As a kid, I always preferred II… more action, less set up… as an adult, I’ve always preferred the first… by the way, it’s well worth listening to Donner’s commentary on this… it’s *very* insightful and sheds a lot of light on what happened when he was fired from II after completing most of it…


  7. ianthecool says :

    I’m with you on Lex Luthor. I really didn’t like Hackman’s portrayal.


  8. Nick Powell says :

    Christopher Reeve is the perfect Superman/Clark Kent.


  9. Fogs' Movie Reviews says :

    I don’t know how well its aged, I think this one looks pretty goofy at times now in comparison to modern superhero movies. But its undeniably a classic. And it doesn’t get any better than Reeve’s Superman!


  10. Three Rows Back says :

    Total classic 🙂


  11. theipc says :

    Very nice!! Going to see the new one on Saturday : )


  12. Tyson Carter says :

    Ahh Brando. Paid more than anyone else for a few seconds work 🙂


  13. Erik says :

    I must re-watch this. It must have been 15 years since I watched it last. :)))


  14. filmhipster says :

    I hope the new Superman has good special effects as this one. Equal to would be nice.


  15. le0pard13 says :

    Great look back at this one, Tim.


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