40 Years of Richard Donner’s Oscar®-Winning, Epic Masterpiece, “Superman: The Movie”!!! By Matthew Rizzuto

Impervious to bullets!!!!
Winner of the prestigious 1978 Special Achievement Academy Award for Visual Effects and recently selected by The Library of Congress for the distinguished National Film Registry, which recognizes the film’s “cultural, historic and/or aesthetic importance”, Richard Donner’s Oscar®-winning, epic masterpiece, “Superman: The Movie”, continues to be the benchmark for all comic book and superhero adaptations and celebrating its 40th anniversary this year alongside the 80th Birthday of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman!!!!
It’s been 40 years, but no other live-action version comes even close to toppling Richard Donner’s Academy Award-winning film and it’s the best live-action Superman ever made.
All of the best superhero origin movies take significant inspiration from the source material, the approach and style used in Donner’s work, including the very best origin films like “Batman Begins” (2005), “Iron Man” (2008), “Doctor Strange” (2016) and “Black Panther” (2018).
Photographer Bob Penn and the different pictures he took of Marlon Brando as The Spirit of Jor-El for specific scenes in The Fortress of Solitude.
Although, the Academy Award-winning Visual Effects may look dated to some people compared to the miracles of modern special effects, at the time it was not only state of the art, it really lived up to the film’s marketing pitch, invented by the former head of Warners Marketing Department, Andrew Fogelson, his famous tagline, “You’ll Believe A Man Can Fly” is a true eye-grabber. When you take a moment to think about it, the tagline and the film itself, still is.
Of course now, the tagline is more like “duck and cover”, but in any case, a little bit of boasting was quite necessary and deliberate. When it came to the producers of this film, they obviously were quite aware that had a successful movie on their hands and they knew it.
Up. up and away!!!
One of the most well-regarded superhero films of all time and beloved motion pictures to ever grace the Silver Screen, “Superman: The Movie” was a box-office smash hit when it rocketed to Earth in December 1978.
This big-budget movie of The Man of Steel turned DC Comics famous superhero into an astonishing Academy Award-winning, blockbuster phenomenon 40 years ago and is largely regarded as the most influential superhero movie and has become the benchmark for all comic book and superhero adaptations to admire, enjoy and respect.
Starring a then-unknown Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman, veteran television and film director Richard Donner’s adaptation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman is an old-fashioned, spine-tingling adventure, featuring impressive Oscar®-winning special effects, set to a triumphant score by the legendary John Williams, amazing cinematography by the great Geoffrey Unsworth, alluring costumes by the sensational Yvonne Blake, fantastic production design by the mesmerizing John Barry, Stuart Baird’s meticulous and marvelous editing skills, this film also chooses to feature a stellar cast that constantly continues to shine, even after all these years.
Richard Donner’s sign that was available in all of the departments of production.
This film has an excellent ensemble cast and they all have memorable performances included within the piece.
Speaking of Fogelson’s famous tagline, you’ll definitely believe that a man can fly the first time we see Superman in action, as he swoops up the side of the Daily Planet building to catch Lois Lane as she falls and the scene still sends chills up my spine and puts a big, childlike grin upon my face.
Once Superman catches Lois, that’s one part of the deal, but once the double jeopardy kicks in with the helicopter and Superman catches both Lois and helicopter and we hear John Williams “Superman March”, the cinematic greatness of the film takes place.
It’s pure magic.
At the center of it all is that perfect performance by the magnanimous Christopher Reeve, which is, as far as I’m concerned, still the single greatest and most iconic casting decision in a superhero film, courtesy of the brilliant casting director, Lynn Stalmaster.
Even its stunning and mesmerizing sequel, “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut”, still packs a powerful punch.
Can You Read My Mind?
These magnificent Donner “Superman” movies didn’t need Oscar®-winning Visual Effects to make you believe in Superman. All you needed was Christopher Reeve himself.
The magnanimous Christopher Reeve portrays Superman and Clark Kent as two totally different people and to such great effect as you’re watching separate actors on screen and because of Reeve’s performance as both timid reporter Kent and fearless hero Kal-El, you have the film’s complete and undivided attention.
Even the legendary Marlon Brando couldn’t accomplish that.
Rare International poster for “Superman: The Movie”.
Indeed, this big-budget, Academy Award-winning blockbuster created a template for superhero films that is still used to this day and remains — in my opinion and the opinion of many Superman fans and critics alike — the best live-action adaptation of the superhero.
In fact, this year is not only the 80 year anniversary of the creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman, it’s also the 40 year anniversary of the release of Richard Donner’s Oscar®-winning, epic masterpiece, “Superman: The Movie”, which hit theaters on December 15th, 1978.
These days, it’s very easy to think of comic book movies as a fixture within the movie business. It’s almost hard to imagine a time without them, as we just recently hit 20 years since “Blade” (1998) was released, but in 1978, comic book movies weren’t anything common.
Obviously, The nefarious General Dru-Zod (Terence Stamp) and his fellow Phantom Zone cronies, the sadistic Non The Destroyer (Jack O’Halloran) and the wicked Ursa (Sarah Douglas) are having a fun time messing around with the legendary Marlon Brando on the set of “Superman: The Movie” and Donner’s “Superman II”.
Not to mention that it would have been extremely excruciating for anyone to imagine such a film going on to become an all-time classic. That’s why Richard Donner’s Oscar®-winning, epic masterpiece, “Superman: The Movie” is one of the finest films ever made.
Forty years later, it is impossible to overestimate the cinematic superpowers of Richard Donner’s masterwork. The end result of many attempts to bring DC Comics icon onto the big screen, the 1978 classic is the template all superheroes overlook at their peril.
Two-time Academy Award-winner Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor.
A heady mix of Americana married to a crime-ridden Metropolis via story by Mario Puzo and screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz’s barbed wit, John Williams grand orchestral movements, Boy Scout heroism devoid of politics and a through line of humanity over spectacle, “Superman: The Movie” is a Kryptonian crystal all superhero movie-makers must keep safe in their barn at all costs.
“Superman: The Movie” achieved what other comic book and superhero adaptations could not. The reason was because the casting of Reeve, who was picturesque – an on-screen soul with dignity, diplomacy, sense of Justice and compassion. His benevolence cast a longer shadow than his cape. He was the poster boy for movie escapism at the end of a decade that saw the likes of Nixon and Vietnam leave America’s psyche in a precarious way.
For years, I thought New York was called Metropolis. Studebakers, high school cardigans, skyscrapers, press rooms, subways, hot dog stands, Marlboro billboards and yellow school buses – that is what the fictional Metropolis of New York City first meant to me. Yeah, “Superman: The Movie” did that.
Poster announcing Mario Puzo’s involvement in the screenplay.
It is safe to say that Richard Donner’s treatment of the famous DC Comics superhero was NOT the first time the character had been on the big screen. Kirk Alyn played the role in the 1948 and 1950 movie serials, George Reeves had memorably appeared in both theatrical and TV versions in the 1950’s, Bob Holiday gave him new life in the Broadway Musical version in 1966 while radio and game show veteran Bud Collyer gave Superman something to say for a full decade on radio and in animation in the classic Fleischer Studios animated shorts of the 1940’s and in the Filmation cartoons of the 1960’s.
However, for many, Christopher Reeve remains the definitive Man of Steel.
This film, an origin story, recounts Superman’s journey from the crystal planet of Krypton as Baby Kal-El to Earth as a boy, his move from the wheat fields of Smallville, Kansas to the bustling city of Metropolis as his emergence as a true American icon.
Beautiful in its sweep, John Williams stunning score and Academy Award-winning special effects, which create a sense of awe and wonder, “Superman: The Movie” — as the tagline reads — makes you “believe a man can fly”.
Acting legend Marlon Brando as Superman’s Kryptonian father Jor-El with Terence Stamp as General Dru-Zod.
On having two films join The National Film Registry (including “The Goonies”) at once, Richard Donner said: “They are both special films in my life, as was the cast and crew for both. It’s wonderful to see them listed among so many great films.”
Look, whether you wanna hear it or not, you’re gonna hear it from me. Richard Donner and his massive crews of British and American technical experts did it.
They actually did it:
They brought the cherished, beloved and durable Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, DC Comics superhero to the silver screen, while overcoming every challenge in presenting the man who leaps tall buildings in a single bound.
Richard Donner’s Oscar®-winning, epic masterpiece, “Superman: The Movie”, still works. The film still holds up. Believe me, very few movies of this era and of this genre, can still say that.
A special Thank You must be addressed to Ilya Salkind for coming up with the idea of superhero movies to begin with. Genius!!!!
The risk, of course, was that the audience would refuse to believe and laugh in the wrong places. Special Thanks to the skill of process photography, however, it’s easy to believe and the laughs present and there are plenty, which are cued directly to the script and the memorable and delightful performances of Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, Valerie Perrine, Trevor Howard, Terence Stamp, Jack O’Halloran, Sarah Douglas, Harry Andrews, Maria Schell, Aaron Smolinski, Larry Hagman, Jeffrey East, Diane Sherry, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure and Ned Beatty.
Susannah York as Superman’s Kryptonian mother Lara Lor-Van, Lee Quigley as Baby Kal-El and Marlon Brando as Jor-El.
As both the wholesome Man of Steel and his bumbling secret identity of meek and mild-mannered journalist, Clark Kent, Christopher Reeve is superbly excellent. As newswoman Lois Lane, Margot Kidder plays perfectly off both of his personalities and her initial double-entendre interview with Superman is wickedly coy, dancing round the obvious question any red-blooded American girl might ask herself about such a magnificent prospect.
Tracing the familiar Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman comic book genesis, the film opens with those curtains opening. Movies don’t get more special than that!!!!
The Kryptonian costumes, designed by Yvonne Blake, were all made of a special material invented by the 3M Company for use on motion picture screens.
Once you hear that film projector kick on, witness that mock Action Comics cover (Specifically designed for the film by artist Oliver Frey, even though it resembles a Joe Shuster cover and convincingly so.) and you see that Derek Meddings’ Daily Planet model and those spectacular outer space effects (The best credits sequence you’ll ever see in a movie by Richard Greenberg and Steve Frankfurt!!!), with those blue streaking credits and that classic Superman \S/ insignia, combined with a star field, space explosion and John Williams SUPER music, grab the popcorn because you’re hooked in!!!!
Moments later, you’ll see The Red Sun of Krypton and the crystalline planet itself, accompanied with Derek Meddings’ eye-catching and stupendous models of beautiful downtown Kryptonopolis and we see the dome of The August Temple of Wisdom, where a trial is happening. Yet, the trial is meant for the sequel, it notifies you of what is about to happen on Krypton.
The Ghostly Elders of Krypton make a verdict that affects everyone on the planet. This is the first time we witness and hear the voice of Marlon Brando as Jor-El. The line he says, sets the tone for the entire film:
“This is no fantasy.”
Presenter Alexander Salkind and his son, Executive Producer Ilya Salkind.
That, beyond anything that you will see or hear in the movie, notifies you that, you’re not reading a comic book, you’re not listening to a radio drama, you’re not watching a cartoon or a television program or seeing something with some fluff on it. This is a very special presentation and it’s to convince you of something remarkable, like with Fogelson’s famous tagline. Something awesome. Something with awe, possibility and wonder.
This is where Richard Donner’s “verisimilitude” shows up and takes the lead for the entire film.
The trial involves Terence Stamp (General Dru-Zod), Sarah Douglas (Ursa) and Jack O’Halloran (Non The Destroyer) as they await their fate in this powerful scene with Marlon Brando as judge, jury and jailer. They were all found guilty of their horrible crimes and they are banished to a square-shaped orifice, identified as The Zone of Silence. It will take them to an extra-dimensional prison, discovered by Superman’s father Jor-El known as The Hideous Phantom Zone of Outer Space.
Sure, we won’t know more about who those terrible criminals were until the sequel, but it gives you a glimpse of what’s yet to come, especially when the surprises await as they’re on the planet Earth fighting Superman with their Heat Vision in “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut”!!!
Academy Award-winning Cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth and director Richard Donner discuss an upcoming and pivotal scene in “Superman: The Movie”.
The presentation of life on the crystal world of Krypton is meticulous, similar to a Shakespearean piece. That was done purposely and you can thank Tom Mankiewicz for that. The screenplay was written like a three-act play. Krypton was formatted in one aspect, Smallville was conducted in another way, like a beautiful painting by Andrew Wyeth and Norman Rockwell and once you’re in Metropolis, the jokes start flying and you can see why. With Christopher Reeve’s Superman, there are no jokes, but they are there, if you know where to find them. There’s a reason why you should be laughing with the screen and not at the screen. There’s a time to be silly and a time to be serious. As the writer of three James Bond films, Tom Mankiewicz knew that and damn well.
Krypton is the place where nobody believes Brando’s warnings of doom. His pleas of mercy go silent. Even film legends, Trevor Howard, Maria Schell and Harry Andrews are moved by Brando’s dangerous predictions, but are not motivated by the claims of Jor-El.
Just before the destruction of a race of Superpeople on the crystal planet of Krypton, wise scientist Jor-El (Marlon Brando) and his wife Lara Lor-Van (Susannah York) send their infant son Kal-El (Lee Quigley) in a spaceship from their dying world to Earth, as the planet Krypton explodes in an exciting display of stunt and model work.
Former Lois Lane Noel Neill as Lois Lane’s mother Ella Lane, Kathy Painter as Young Lois Lane and former Superman/Clark Kent Kirk Alyn as General Sam Lane.  Both Noel Neill and Kirk Alyn appeared together as Lois Lane and Clark Kent/Superman in the 1948 and 1950 “Superman” movie serials.
As young Kal-El, the last son of the dead planet Krypton, flees his doomed world as the planet explodes in deep outer space, his starship travels throughout the galaxies to its destination on the planet Earth.
The alien orphan’s spacecraft crashes in an open field on Earth in a town outside of Smallville, Kansas.
Striking terra firma, the otherworldly hero is discovered as a baby (Aaron Smolinski) by kind and generous farmers, Jonathan and Martha Kent (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter). The couple adopts and raises him as their own son. Given the name Clark by his adopted parents, the boy grows up incredibly strong in the American heartland. As a teenager forced to hide his remarkable powers at Ford’s wise insistence, the boy is nicely played by Jeff East, but the time must ultimately arrive when Superman’s powers for good are revealed to the world.
Artist Bob Peak’s original artwork for the movie poster of “Superman: The Movie”!!!
Soon, as he ages, Clark (Jeff East) discovers the actual source of his miraculous and remarkable powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men developing under the light of the yellow sun. Ultimately, his powers send him on his destiny to become The Man of Steel.
One day, the unthinkable happens: Jonathan Kent gets a heart attack and dies.
Not long after his foster father’s funeral, the youthful Clark finds a glowing green crystal in the spaceship that brought him to our world inside his Earth father’s barn and with it, finds out about his alien heritage, the knowledge imparted to him by the spirit of his birth father Jor-El at The North Pole within the crystalline structure created by the same green luminous crystal in his spacecraft, known as The Fortress of Solitude.
Before Clark leaves the farm, he has a special moment with his Earth mother.
Jayne Tottman isn’t telling lies when her cat Frisky is saved in a neighborhood tree by Superman (Christopher Reeve)!!!!
Say what you want, but the Smallville scenes are right in the feels. Ma Kent loses the two most important people in her life at once: Her precious husband Jonathan and her superpowered adopted son Clark.
Torn between the anticipation of loneliness and the wisdom to know Clark must leave to fulfill his superheroic destiny. My favorite scene in the movie. The best part is that silent moment when she reaches out to hug her boy, yet realizes he’s a man now and must let him go and she withdraws. Her heart breaking as she brings her hands back. So subtle, yet powerful storytelling and acting.
Take my word for it, if that doesn’t get you, the scenes at The North Pole with the creation of the crystalline Fortress of Solitude are gorgeous and breathtaking.
At one of the premiers in 1978, Christopher Reeve has the privilege of cutting a Superman cake. The artwork on the Superman cake resembles the artwork of Superman artist Curt Swan.
Inside The Fortress of Solitude, The Spirit of Jor-El educates the adult Kal-El where he learns to become the mighty Superman and his mission on Earth to defend democracy can begin.
After Clark Kent goes to work for the Daily Planet and we meet old favorites, like Clark’s boisterous boss Perry White (Jackie Cooper), his true love Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and his pal Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure), there’s a nonstop series of disasters, just for openers: Poor Lois finds herself dangling from one seatbelt after her helicopter crashes high atop the Daily Planet building; Air Force One is struck by lightning and loses an engine; a thief climbs up a building using suction cups and so on. Superman resolves his emergencies with, well, tact and good manners.
Soon after that, Superman’s debut becomes a wild night, beginning with Lois Lane’s rescue from a helicopter accident high atop the Daily Planet skyscraper, the capture of assorted burglars and the salvation of The President’s plane.
Five-time Academy Award-winner John Williams prepares to conduct the music for “Superman: The Movie” in July 1978.
Lurking in wacky palatial splendor in the sewers beneath Park Avenue, supercriminal Gene Hackman views this caped arrival as a threat befitting his evil genius. Assisted by the goofball antics of Ned Beatty’s Otis (“Otisburg”?!) and sensuous, yet almost innocent Valerie Perrine (Miss Eve Teschmacher), Hackman is a charming jackanape with plans to make a real estate killing on the new waterfront remaining east of the San Andreas Fault after causing everything west to sink in the Pacific Ocean.
It’s a big plot and the dastardly results are a dozen disaster films packaged in one, but Superman’s ultimate triumph involves a lot more than Superfeats of strength.
The screenplay was obviously written without the slightest concern for how much the movie might cost. Naturally, most of the plot elements are completely absurd (not the least of which houses reporter Kidder in a glamorous penthouse apartment), but Donner and scripters Mario Puzo and Tom Mankiewicz chose to give us unparalleled greatness, meanwhile, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Norman Enfield and Robert Benton might let the silliness get out of control, but with Puzo and Mankiewicz, you’re gonna be just fine.
It’s easy enough to just enter their world and adjust to certain realities. A feat that would be easily achieved in a comic book.
With so many chores to be handled expertly, it’s impossible to cover all the accomplishments. Obviously, the cinematography by the late Geoffrey Unsworth (to whom the film is dedicated to) is a major factor. Ditto John Williams bold and stunning score and John Barry’s outstanding production design.
“Superman: The Movie” may have been expensive to film, but the money’s right there on the screen.
Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel and Joanne Siegel arrive at the premiere of “Superman: The Movie” in December 1978 in Los Angeles, California.
Joanne Siegel was the original inspiration and model for Superman’s legendary girlfriend, Lois Lane.
When it comes to Superman, he’s modest about his powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Snaps a salute to The President of The United States of America, says he’s for “Truth, Justice and The American Way” and of course, falls in love with Lois Lane and their relationship is subtly, funnily wicked. She lives in a typical girl reporter’s apartment, a penthouse high above a downtown Metropolis skyscraper and Superman zooms down to offer an exclusive interview and a free flight over Metropolis.
Supposing you’re a girl reporter and Superman turns up. What would you ask him? So she does. You would too.
Can You Read My Mind? Maybe.
Meanwhile, the evil scumbag Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) is planning an apocalyptic scheme to destroy the entire West Coast, plus Hackensack, New Jersey. He knows Superman’s weak point: The deadly Kryptonite. He also knows that Superman cannot see through lead (Lois, alas, forgets). Luthor lives in a subterranean pad that’s a true comic inspiration.
The look of how some of the Kryptonian costumes would look in “Superman: The Movie”. Artwork and costumes designed by Yvonne Blake.
Of course, I can’t forget to mention the Academy Award-winning Special Effects. They’re as good in their way as any you’ve seen and they come thick and fast and they still hold up extremely well, especially in today’s modern era of constant CGI, green screens and digital technology.
When the screenplay calls for Luthor to create an earthquake and Superman to stop it, the movie doesn’t give us a falling bridge or two. It gives us the San Andreas Fault cracking open.
No half measures for the mighty Superman!!!!
The film is, in fact, a triumph of imagination over both the difficulties of technology and the inhibitions of money. “Superman: The Movie” wasn’t easy to bring to the screen, but the filmmakers kept at it until they had it right.
In a related story, they still do.
Aaron Smolinski (Baby Clark Kent), Glenn Ford (Jonathan Kent) and Phyllis Thaxter (Martha Kent).
This proves that Andrew Fogelson’s tagline from the film is still accurate.
“You’ll Believe A Man Can Fly.”
Nothing you have ever seen or heard, no comic book, television program, movie serial, radio show, Broadway production, cartoon or motion picture could ever prepare you for this reality. It’s a brilliant cast in an unforgettable story. The awesome technology of modern films brings you someone to believe in.
Revolutionary Academy Award-winning Visual Effects, a genuine romance between Superman and his favorite girl reporter Lois Lane, John Williams captivating score which resonances to this day, Marlon Brando as The Man of Steel’s Kryptonian father Jor-El and Christopher Reeve looking like he’s just stepped off the DC comic book page and all of that and so much more is Richard Donner’s Oscar®-winning, epic masterpiece, “Superman: The Movie”!!!!
Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.


There are many phenomenal and decent reasons why the breathtaking and majestic cinematic achievements of Richard Donner’s Oscar®-winning, epic masterpiece, “Superman: The Movie” and its stunning and fantastic sequel, “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut”, constantly remain accurate, especially in the climate of comic book and superhero cinematic adaptations.
These films had so many superb contributors and they chose to complement one another.
It all started with two shy, bespectacled guys from Glenville High School’s Class of 1934 in Cleveland, Ohio, named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Their dreams inspired the author of “The Godfather”, Mario Puzo, to write the story of this phenomenal tale and origin of Superman and his epic exploits and further adventures on Earth.
From there, the script and the process went like this: The idea (Ilya Salkind), the basis (Mario Puzo), the body (Tom Mankiewicz) and the execution (Richard Donner) of the piece.
Sure, the stars of the film knew how to shine, especially when you have outstanding talent and Academy Award-winners, such as Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp, Trevor Howard, Glenn Ford, Harry Andrews, Susannah York, Maria Schell, Phyllis Thaxter, Valerie Perrine, Ned Beatty, Jack O’Halloran, Sarah Douglas, Jeff East, Aaron Smolinski, Diane Sherry, Larry Hagman, John Ratzenberger and so many countless others, along with the Oscar®-winning crew, such as, veteran cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, production designer John Barry, editor Stuart Baird, costumes by Yvonne Blake, creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz, legendary film composer John Williams (Seriously, what would this film be without John Williams?!), screenwriters Robert Benton, David and Leslie Newman, Norman Enfield and with so many countless others, including an Oscar®-winning Visual Effects team, the stage was set for astounding greatness!!!!
Burglar, David Baxt also played Dr. Thomas Wayne, Michael Keaton’s father in Tim Burton’s Oscar®-winning adventure, “Batman” (1989).
Above all, if it wasn’t for the great contributions of one human being, we couldn’t believe in this film at all. We believe today that comic book and superhero movies are real. We believe in them because one man taught us. He taught all to believe, not only that a man could fly, but that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman was indeed real.
The magnanimous Christopher Reeve, who, as far as I’m concerned, is the greatest contributor to the success of these movies and is the person that we all believe in and we still do, when it comes to the cinematic version of Superman.
Miniature of the city of Kryptonopolis and other Kryptonian cities, created by Derek Meddings.
Believe me, there will be many cinematic adaptations and versions of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman, but there only will be one that the entire world witnessed on a motion picture screen that it had never witnessed previously.
Myth was turned into reality, fiction was turned into fact and great dreams and astounding imaginations took flight and they soared beyond our wildest dreams.
From the work and the genius of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and the vision of Richard Donner, the word, “verisimilitude”, literally became something so profound and so unbelievable, it made the entire world believe…believe that a man can fly.
Academy Award-winning Production Designer, John Barry.
Because of Ilya Salkind, Mario Puzo, Tom Mankiewicz, Robert Benton, David and Leslie Newman, John Barry, Geoffrey Unsworth, John Williams, Stuart Baird, Yvonne Blake, Charles F. Greenlaw, an Oscar®-winning Visual Effects team of Colin Chilvers, Derek Meddings, Roy Field, Les Bowie, Denys Coop, Zoran Perisic, a dedicated crew and a stunning cast of stars and through the embodiment of a magnanimous human being named Christopher Reeve, we all chose to believe in the greatest comic book and superhero adaptation of all time.
Christopher Reeve and his performance as Superman, made an entire generation believe that his version of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman was as real as rain and they could believe in a hero of the people and a champion of Tolerance, Patriotism, Freedom, Liberty, Diversity, Compassion, Understanding, Hope, Honor, Honesty, Ethics, Fairplay, Strength, Courage, Truth, Justice and The American Way for one and for all and to those who could not defend themselves.
Young Clark Kent (Jeff East) and Martha Kent (Phyllis Thaxter) share a tender moment together before Clark leaves Smallville.
The magnanimous Christopher Reeve was a brilliant thespian who gave us a Clark Kent that was weak, cowardly, meek, timid, that was lacking of confidence, that was quiet, subdued and when it came to Christopher Reeve as Superman, he was more than just heroic, valiant, compassionate, astute, humanity, courageous, strong, fearless, for when it was necessary, for when it was mandatory, for when it was important, Christopher Reeve truly became Kal-El, who chose to call himself Clark Kent, but the world would know him better as Superman, The Man of Steel, The Man of Tomorrow, The Undisputed Champion of The Oppressed, Democracy’s Greatest Defender, The Last Son of Krypton, The Ace of Action and so much, much more.
To find any amount of criticism in this movie from 1978, is hard for me to accomplish. Some people might have a problem with the pacing of the film. Some could find flaws in the cheerfully dated production design. Some might vent frustration at the fact that the film lacks a satisfying narrative conclusion to the character arc it setup earlier in the film and everybody knows how ridiculous a notion it is that the rotation of the Earth should have some sort of direct relationship with the flow of the space-time continuum.
Yes, he spun the world back and again to save the love of his life. Whether you like it or not, it’s what he did and he did it for love. You would’ve too. Yes, it’s Superman. He can spin the world back and again. No one said you had to believe it.
Superman (Christopher Reeve) shares a unique moment with The Spirit of Jor-El (Marlon Brando) in The Fortress of Solitude.
Yet, none of that matters. We believe it anyway.
Individuals can say all of that and I won’t. I can’t. I never will.
For me, Richard Donner’s Oscar®-winning, epic masterpiece, “Superman: The Movie” remains blissful, superheroic ecstasy and my affection for its charms go beyond mere appreciation of its story, its craft and its style.
It is the event horizon of comic book films – while there were superhero films before it and several of them after it, it set the stage for the entire genre forevermore and to this day, its impact can be felt.
Director Richard Donner knew that the key in selling “Superman: The Movie” was not only to make him fly (which he did convincingly – this 1978 film, with its rear projection, ropey wirework and innovative Zoran Perisic’s ‘Zoptic’ camerawork, has flying sequences so breathtaking, they instantly lays waste to the CGI stupidity of its successors), but to give him a palpable humanity, an honest-to-goodness soul – here is where every subsequent cinematic Superman failed.
Where Henry Cavill felt like a dunderheaded buffoon and Brandon Routh felt like an eerie antisocial outsider, the immortal Christopher Reeve feels like one of us.
Even though, his God-like father Jor-El (Marlon Brando in his greatest role and I will fight you.) repeatedly reminds us that he isn’t human, Clark Kent in this film feels like a man, a boy just trying to find his place in the world, like any one of us.
Oscar®-winning Cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth is hanging out behind-the-scenes with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) on the streets of New York in July 1977.
His awkwardness as timid Kent around Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) juxtaposed with his playful flirtation with her as Superman is still truly magical – this remains one of the only superhero films ever made where the love story not only feels real, but necessary to the fabric of the film.
For me personally, Reeve’s signature scene is the one wherein he’s at Lois Lane apartment and they’re about to go on a date together.
In the scene, Clark Kent contemplates revealing his secret identity to Lois, removing his glasses and instantly, supernaturally metamorphosing from the foppish Kent to the mighty Superman by straightening his posture and deepening his voice. It’s incredibly scrumptious moment in the film.
No offense to Henry Cavill personally, but I don’t think he exhibited any of the traditional behaviors that we see in Superman because of Hack Snyder’s films. He didn’t show and we didn’t see any of that. You didn’t see him wink or smile and you didn’t see him do any of the usual concepts that we associate with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman and that means Henry Cavill wasn’t Superman.
Unlike his successors, Reeve took the role as seriously as possible, but crucially knew the importance of amazement and joy. Where Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill’s miserably dour and gloomy Supermen sank, Reeve’s smiling champion soars forever.
As far as I’m concerned, Christopher Reeve is and may always be the greatest onscreen portrayal of a superhero.
Comedian Steve Martin presents the Special Achievement Oscar® for Visual Effects for “Superman: The Movie” to Les Bowie, Colin Chilvers, Denys Coop, Roy Field, Derek Meddings and Zoran Perisic at the 51st Academy Awards on April 9th, 1979 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Hosted by Johnny Carson.
Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor is unfairly pigeonholed as one of the dated aspects of the film – his comic relief portrayal of a nemesis known for his no-nonsense intensity and blind hatred in the source material has always left fans yearning for something a bit closer to the comic page. Growing up, I would often hear how someone yearning to be ‘The Greatest Criminal Mind of Our Time’ for no other reason than that he liked causing misery and destruction was somehow unrealistic and that a supposed genius of Luthor’s ilk would never dress so garishly or surround himself with idiots or ‘total nincompoops’ as Hackman snarls.
To give credit where it is absolutely due, Gene Hackman paved the way for the scheming capitalist Lex Luthor quickly became in the comics, eschewing his traditional role as a generic mad scientist into a Bond villain. To counteract the physical and moral perfection of Reeve’s Superman, Hackman’s Luthor is everything ugly about humanity – proud, deceitful, conniving and greedy. Even his ridiculous fake hair and bald cap, design by makeup legend Stuart Freeborn, is true to life.
The captivating soundtrack by John Williams is delectable and brilliant. The scores are completely passionate and heroic without even trying. ‘March of The Villains’ is deceptively nuanced – it begins as a goofy comic relief theme, before the anxiousness of the strings grows and the horns become angrier, the percussion more utilitarian, until it sounds like you’re listening to a Nazi march; as if to say that this odious little man who once seemed like a passing annoyance is a true menace to mankind, not to be underestimated.
Once you hear this music for the scenes and Smallville, you just know you’re in a special place and you don’t want to leave, even though you have to because your mission is in Metropolis.
New York Times bestselling author and Academy Award-winner, Mario Puzo. Puzo wrote the Story for “Superman: The Movie” and Donner’s “Superman II”. The official shooting script Screenplay for both films was accomplished by Tom Mankiewicz.
Williams is synonymous with film score cinematic greatness, but perhaps his most underrated effort is the score to “Superman: The Movie” – again, I’d argue that it’s his best work (better than “Star Wars”). ‘The Planet Krypton’ combines melancholic mystery with sheer majesty, ‘Love Theme From Superman/Can You Read My Mind’ is Williams most heart achingly romantic work and ‘The Helicopter Sequence’ is the centrepiece of my favorite scene in a motion picture.
It’s truly mystifying that Williams definitive ‘Superman March’ theme didn’t become as instantly associated with the character as Monty Norman/John Barry’s Bond theme (which survived the reboot of its own series) or Williams other works on “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones”.
Perhaps, like many other landmark films of the 1970’s and 1980’s, the legacy of “Superman: The Movie” is triumphant in some respects – Christopher Nolan has openly and repeatedly admitted that The Dark Knight Trilogy was his attempt at doing for Batman what Richard Donner had done for Superman.
The tone and style of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films owe a clear debt to this film, as they too successfully straddle the line between respecting the dense source material and making everything as fun and whimsical as possible, courtesy of Kevin Feige, who’s not only the president of Marvel Studios, he’s a former assistant to Richard Donner.
Coincidence? Not at all.
The giant miniature model of downtown Kryptonopolis and The August Temple of Wisdom, as originally designed by Oscar®-winner, Derek Meddings.
Despite its scant flaws that many claim exist, the original 1978 “Superman: The Movie” remains a classic and the embryonic fluid of the entire superhero machine that exists in 2018.
There may never be a better hero on-screen than Christopher Reeve and everything that surrounds him.
From John Williams unforgettable score, to the enormous impact of the cast, to the ground-breaking, Oscar®-winning Visual Effects that hold their own 40 years later – each and every time I watch it, I fall in love with it once again and again and again and again and again and again.
Each and every time, it gives to me The Gift of Flight.
All in all, I’d say it was swell.
This film still resonances with audiences from around the world and continues to entertain the young and the young-at-heart with a brilliant story by Mario Puzo and screenplay by Tom Mankiewicz, director Richard Donner’s movie isn’t just popcorn entertainment.
It is a feast for comics
and movie lovers alike.
The originality of this film has proven that there’s been nothing quite like it. The reason is simply because many years ago, moviegoers everywhere witnessed something on a motion picture screen that it had never been seen previously.
The Fortress of Solitude exterior as displayed in Pinewood Studios in 1977 for scenes in “Superman: The Movie” and Donner’s “Superman II”.


For a movie that was nominated for three Academy Awards, Best Original Score – John Williams, Best Film Editing – Stuart Baird, Best Sound – Gordon McCallum, Graham V. Hartstone, Nicolas Le Messurier and Roy Charman, lost all three, but was (HOW JOHN WILLIAMS DIDN’T WIN IS COMPLETELY SHOCKING!!!) given a Special Achievement Academy Award for its vast and monumental achievements in Visual Effects, still speaks volumes, even today.
Richard Donner’s Oscar®-winning, epic masterpiece, “Superman: The Movie” won a Special Achievement Academy Award for advancement in Visual Effects. The recipients of that special award were Les Bowie, Colin Chilvers, Denys N. Coop, Roy Field, Derek Meddings and Zoran Perisic.
No other movie was nominated in the category for Visual Effects in 1978 and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences outright gave the prestigious award to “Superman: The Movie”.
That has almost never happened in Academy Award history. Never.
The impact of Christopher Reeve’s life and his portrayal of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman, is immeasurable.
While it is hard to put into succinct description, all of us here feel the reality of that impact every day. He transcended the boundaries of the comics page and screen to become a true and utterly real Superman, embodying and exemplifying the qualities that make us believe in The Man of Steel.
There is a reason that we always think of Christopher Reeve when we imagine Superman. It isn’t that he was the first actor to portray him. It isn’t just the groundbreaking storytelling and spectacle of Richard Donner’s Oscar®-winning, epic masterpiece, “Superman: The Movie”. Rather, it is Christopher Reeve himself.
The man who took on the role of The Last Son of Krypton with pride and glee, who viewed his involvement with the iconic superhero as a noble responsibility and an opportunity to inspire humanity. The man whose kindness was matched by his superb initiative and unparalleled courage.
A man like Christopher Reeve coming into the role of Superman may have seemed serendipitous at the time, but I believe it was fate.
Academy Award-winner Yvonne Blake shows off her awards for the film “Nicholas and Alexandra” (1971) while the original artwork that she used to design Christopher Reeve’s Superman costume is in the background.
That’s right. Fate.
Fate, that we should have a fictional character and real person merge so flawlessly into the inspiring phenomenon that was and is, Christopher Reeve.
Respectfully, I’m not sure if Christopher Reeve himself, ever knew the amount or the grand scale of the gravity that the impact he had playing the role of Superman did for an entire generation, but I do know, that his impact is still with us and will continue, even after all these years.
Christopher Reeve believed in people and I think what has made him one of the greatest actors to ever play Superman is not because his attitude playing the role, but because of the kind of individual that he chose to be.
It is, within the realm of my humble opinion, what Christopher Reeve brought to Kal-El, Clark Kent and Superman is something that is far beyond what most actors would ever consider in a performance.
Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula.
Alastair Sim as Scrooge.
Sean Connery as James Bond.
These men excelled in their performances because of the dedication that they brought to the parts that they played. I believe that Christopher Reeve and his performance as Clark Kent and Superman, deserves to be in the same listing as I have suggested. He brought warmth, humanity, compassion, understanding and more importantly than anything, he brought his heart and himself into the role and that’s the greatest effect of his performance as Superman, far more than anything the “Superman” movies could ever achieve.
Production Designer John Barry and Creative Consultant Tom Mankiewicz have a conversation over a specific scene that will happen in “Superman: The Movie”.
Again, with these movies, you didn’t need Oscar®-winning Visual Effects to believe in Superman.
All you needed was Christopher Reeve.
Please choose to take flight with your family and watch Richard Donner’s Oscar®-winning, epic masterpiece, “Superman: The Movie” and its stunning and glorious sequel, “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut”, once again.
REMEMBER: This is no fantasy!!!!
Thank You. \S/
Australian newspaper ad for “Superman: The Movie”, from May 1979.


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