Saturday, December 15, 2018

Happy 40th Anniversary To Superman: The Movie!

Happy 40th Anniversary (!) to Superman: The Movie, which premiered on December 15, 1978. Hard to believe it's been a whopping four decades since the film was released. 

Superman: The Movie was the very first superhero blockbuster film, and it's arguably still the best. Prior to its release, there were no feature length superhero films. There were a series of excellent Fleischer Superman cartoons in the 1940s, along with a few cheaply made comic book serials in the 1940s and 1950s, and that was pretty much it. The general public had little or no interest in superheroes, and considered them to be Saturday afternoon kiddie fare.

That all changed when Warner Bros. decided to make a big budget Superman movie. To prove they were serious about the film, they hired Mario Puzo (who wrote The Godfather!) to pen the screenplay. 

They also cast the top acting talents of the day, including Glenn Ford, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman. The studio hoped that these big name stars would convince the public that this was a legitimate movie, and not a kiddie show. They were so adamant about this that Brando and Hackman received top billing above the title!

Richard Donner was hired to direct, and he was determined to make a comic book film that was imaginative, yet still believable. He reportedly plastered the studio and sets with signs that read "verisimilitude," to keep the cast and crew on track.

Donner hired John Williams, fresh off of Star Wars, to compose the film's score. Williams' soaring and heroic music played a VERY big part in the movie's success.

The film was a huge hit, grossing $134 million against its massive (for the time) $55 million budget. Adjusted for inflation, it earned a whopping $517 million in 2018 dollars.

Even though it's forty years old, Superman: The Movie is my all-time favorite superhero movie. Sorry, Marvel Studios! Amazingly it still hold up incredibly well, and Christopher Reeve is the best live action Superman ever. I doubt anyone will ever surpass his wonderful performance. 

As much as I love the film, even I have to admit it's not perfect. Some of the effects looked dodgy even in 1978, Ned Beatty's Otis is a little too silly for my tastes and I still fast forward through the dreadful and interminable "Can You Read My Mind?" sequence. But those are all minor nits in an otherwise near-perfect film.

If you're a fan of the Marvel films, you owe a debt of gratitude to Superman: The Movie. It showed Hollywood and the public that superhero films could be taken seriously, and it set the template for every subsequent movie in the genre. There'd be no Avengers: Infinity War without Superman: The Movie.

Happy 40th Anniversary!


  1. Personally, while I love the movie ... I never quite bought Margot Kidder as Lois. She just doesn't do it for me.

  2. Agreed. If you have any of the special editions of the movie on DVD or blu ray, there's a bunch of screen tests of various actresses who tried out for Lois. Anne Archer did an AMAZING job. She was funny, smart, attractive and felt like the perfect live action Lois. Plus she seemed to have a great chemistry with Christopher Reeve. I wish they'd chosen her instead. What could have been!


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