All 11 Superman Actors Ranked From Worst to Best

As the old adage goes, ‘not all that glitters is gold.’ This saying holds true when examining the performances of the 11 actors who have donned the iconic red cape of Superman. Embarking on this ranking journey, you’ll find that whilst some have soared high in the sky, others have remained firmly grounded, failing to capture the essence of the Man of Steel.

It’s not just about the looks or the physique; it’s about embodying the character’s spirit, his moral compass, and his alien nature. So, buckle up and prepare to set your preconceptions aside. Who will land at the top, and who will be left trailing in the dust? Let’s find out.

Key Takeaways

  • Brandon Routh’s portrayal of Superman in “Superman Returns” is often considered one of the weaker portrayals, lacking the charm associated with the iconic character.
  • Channing Tatum’s exaggerated and ego-filled portrayal of Superman in the Lego Movie franchise added a fresh and unique take to the character, receiving positive reception from audiences.
  • Nicolas Cage’s unique portrayal of Superman in the abandoned ‘Superman Lives’ project leaves questions about his chemistry with Lois Lane and how his Superman would have been.
  • Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of Superman transcended all 11 actors, capturing the dual nature of the character successfully and holding the top spot consistently over four seasons.

11th Place: Brandon Routh

Taking the mantle as the first actor to portray Superman after Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh’s performance in the 2006 Warner Bros production, Superman Returns, was unfortunately forgettable and lacked the charm associated with the iconic character.

Despite looking the part, Routh’s role of Superman left a mixed impression on the big screen. His portrayal is often ranked lower among Superman actors, with his turn as the character not making a lasting impact.

10th: Dean Cain’s Superman

You might remember Dean Cain’s turn as Superman in the 1993 TV show, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. His portrayal veered from the traditional superhero archetype, offering us a more average and relatable character.

Let’s analyze Cain’s performance and how audiences received this version of the Man of Steel.

Cain’s Performance Analysis

Despite landing in the realm of corny TV sitcoms more than superhero lore, Dean Cain’s portrayal of Superman in ‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’ demonstrated a unique approach to the character. His chemistry with Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane stood out as a memorable aspect of his performance.

In this actor’s ranking, Cain’s performance analysis reveals his distinct, sitcom-esque version of Clark Kent. This version of the character redefined Superman in the realm of TV.

Audience Reception Summary

While Dean Cain’s Superman in ‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’ mightn’t have packed the punch typically expected from the iconic superhero, audience reactions were a mixed bag. Some appreciated his unique, sitcom-style portrayal and chemistry with Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane, while others found it lacking in comparison to more traditional interpretations.

Even though every actor dons the iconic suit, not all live-action Supermans are ranked from worst to best equally. This audience reception summary points out that Cain’s performance wasn’t the best Superman, but he wasn’t the worst among all 11 Superman actors either.

9th Position: Channing Tatum

Now, let’s turn your attention to the unique and notably exaggerated portrayal of Superman by Channing Tatum in the Lego Movie franchise.

You’ll appreciate how his over-the-top, ego-filled performance fit perfectly with the comedy-driven narrative of these films.

Let’s not forget, Tatum’s voice-over performance spanned three films, a testament to its success and reception.

Tatum’s Superman Performance

Channing Tatum, lending his voice to the character of Superman in The Lego Movie franchise, delivered an exaggerated and ego-filled portrayal that perfectly complemented the comedic and light-hearted nature of these films.

In terms of Superman actors ranked, his Superman performance stands out as unique. He’s not the typical Clark Kent from Superman TV, nor actor to ever portray him in a big-budget feature, but he’s a breath of fresh air in the New Adventures of Superman.

Role Impact and Reception

In the realm of Superman portrayals, Tatum’s voice acting in The Lego Movie franchise stands out for its comedic and exaggerated style, adding a light-hearted twist to the iconic superhero and receiving positive reception from audiences. His fresh take breathed life into Clark Kent’s comic book Adventures, demonstrating the actor’s versatility.

Tatum’s role impact was significant, creating a memorable Superman for a new generation.

Kirk Alyn: 8th Rank

Paving the way for future Superman portrayals, Kirk Alyn snagged the 8th rank, being the first to ever portray Superman in a live-action series back in 1948.

  1. Your version of Superman began with Alyn’s beefy physique and striking looks.
  2. Despite limited special effects, his portrayal was pioneering.
  3. Remember, among the 11 superman actors ranked from worst to best, Alyn’s Superman set the visual standard.

7th Place: George Reeves

Landing in 7th place is George Reeves, who brought Superman to life in the 1950s. You’ll remember his portrayal not only for how it embraced the ‘American way’ persona of the character, but also for its significant impact on pop culture.

It’s hard to discuss Reeves without acknowledging his tragic early death, which added a layer of melancholy to his legacy.

Reeves’ Superman Portrayal

Often regarded as a highlight of the 1950s series, George Reeves’ Superman portrayal truly captured the ‘American way’ vibe, earning major popularity. This ranks him among all 11 Superman actors ranked from worst to best.

Here’s why:

  1. Unlike Christopher Reeve’s Superman in ‘Superman III’ and ‘IV: The Quest,’ Reeves’ embodiment was closer to the original character.
  2. He starred in popular episodes like ‘Atom Man vs. Superman.’
  3. He made a comeback in The Flash in 2023.

Impact on Pop Culture

Building on Reeves’ portrayal as Superman, his interpretation of the character not only won hearts but also significantly influenced pop culture in the 1950s. His impact on pop culture, from Clark Kent and Superman to Lois Lane, has resonated into modern day iterations like Zack Snyder’s Justice League and Superman: Dawn of Justice.

His embodiment of Superman set a standard for subsequent portrayals.

Tragic Untimely Death

Despite enjoying monumental popularity as Superman in the 1950s, George Reeves’ life was tragically cut short, casting a somber shadow over his iconic portrayal of the superhero.

  1. As the mild-mannered Clark Kent, he played the Man who stood for the ‘American way’.
  2. Reeves’ young Clark Kent was a trailblazer for Superman Lives.
  3. His untimely demise left an indelible mark on the legacy of the Man of Steel.

6th: Bud Collyer as Superman

Taking us back to the golden era of the 1940s and 1950s, Bud Collyer became the defining voice of Superman in radio and animated adaptations, setting the foundation for the character that we know and love today. He brilliantly portrayed the dual identities of Clark and Superman.

As the title suggests, when Superman actors are ranked, Collyer’s influential role in the radio series and TV show firmly secures his standing.

Nicolas Cage: The 5th

Stepping into the fifth spot is Nicolas Cage, a Superman that almost was, signed on to don the iconic cape in the ultimately abandoned ‘Superman Lives’ project in 1998. Imagining Cage as Superman sparks curiosity:

  1. Pictured: Tyler Hoechlin, yet Cage’s Clark portrayal would’ve been unique.
  2. Could Cage’s Lois chemistry rival Cavill’s (Man of Steel)?
  3. How would Cage’s Superman compare to others?

Unfortunately, we’ll never truly know.

4th Rank: Tyler Hoechlin

Swooping into the fourth spot is Tyler Hoechlin, whose portrayal of Superman in the current TV series Superman & Lois has resonated strongly with audiences, balancing the iconic character’s superhero activities with his personal life in Smallville.

Hoechlin’s portrayal on the CW Network, including crossover episodes, cements his place among the 11 Superman actors ranked from worst to best.

His authentic depiction has left an indelible mark on Superman’s legacy.

Tom Welling at 3rd Position

Moving up one spot to third is Tom Welling, whose younger Clark Kent in the TV series Smallville won hearts with a fresh take on Superman’s journey from adolescence to superhero.

  1. Welling’s portrayal showcased a raw, relatable Clark balancing Daily Planet duties and destiny.
  2. His performance outshone George Reeves and animated TV renditions.
  3. Despite Batman v Superman: Dawn’s Henry Cavill, Welling’s Clark: The New Adventures remains unforgettable.

2nd Best: Henry Cavill

Just shy of first place, we find Henry Cavill, whose unique and more cynical version of Superman has definitely left an impactful impression on both fans and critics.

Unlike Routh’s performance in ‘Superman Returns’ or the ‘Quest for Peace’ debacle, Cavill’s portrayal resonates, echoing the complexity of Superman and the Mole Men.

With rumors of a return in ‘Black Adam’, it seems Lois and fans mightn’t have seen the last of him.

Top Spot: Christopher Reeve

While Cavill’s portrayal of Superman has its own unique charm, no one has quite managed to encapsulate the dual nature of the character as successfully as Christopher Reeve in ‘Superman Returns’.

Reeve’s portrayal transcended all 11 superman actors, ranked from worst to best.

Over four seasons, he consistently held the top spot: Christopher Reeve.

His dual role performance remains unmatched, evident in every image number.


So, there you have it. From Routh’s unremarkable stint to Cain’s forgettable performance, our journey has been quite a flight.

Hoechlin, Welling, and Cavill each brought a unique veneer to the Man of Steel, but let’s face it, no one quite embodies Superman like Reeve. His performance remains the gold standard, a beacon of hope in the cinematic universe.

In the grand pantheon of Supermen, Reeve soars above the rest, untouchable and unforgettable.

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