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YMMV: Superman

Franchise

  • Archive Panic: As one of the most enduring and popular characters in fiction, this is to be expected.
  • Broken Base: After Superman Returns, the fans were deeply divided over whether the next film (if there was to be one) should be a sequel to said film or a reboot. This cumulated with Man of Steel which some fans viewed as a betrayal for going in a Darker and Edgier, while other fans thought the film was the modernization the hero needed.
    • Naturally this happened with the New 52 reboot as well. Some fans didn't like the body armor, the increased aggressiveness and rebelliousness, and of course the fact that he no longer wears his red undies on the outside. Other fans think of it as a modernization of the character.
  • Fandom Rivalry: Who's the best Superman? Christopher Reeve? George Reeves? Dean Cain? Tim Daly? George Newbern? Tom Welling? Henry Cavill? Fans fight endlessly over this.

Comics

  • Alas, Poor Scrappy: Superboy-Prime's apparent demise in Blackest Night. Of course, it might not have happened. The Legion Threeboot featured a very creative storyteller who looked just like Superboy in one issue, and we now know the Threeboot took place on Earth-Prime.
    • It didn't happen. He showed up during the last couple of issues of Teen Titans alive and well, having apparently spent much time in the background putting together his own Legion of Doom. He was defeated and imprisoned on the Source Wall by Superboy and Supergirl in #100, just before the reboot occurred.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The debate has raged for years over who is the real personality, Superman or Clark Kent?
    • Pre-Crisis Superman was very much the dominant personality, with Clark Kent as mask he puts on in order to "hide." He noticeably wasn't very committed to it, as the Clark Kenting trope is quick to point out, and several times tried to just give up on the persona and be Superman 24/7
    • The idea that Superman was the dominant personality was theorized by Jules Feiffer, whose words were paraphrased by Bill the Snakecharmer in Kill Bill Vol 2.
      • While that was the case in The Silver Age of Comic Books, several Bronze Age stories, most notably the "Mr. Xavier Saga" (no relation), came to the conclusion that he valued both identities equally, and felt miserable and stressed whenever he was forced to neglect either for an extended period of time. Without Clark, he had no way to ever relax; and without Superman, he couldn't help people in danger.note .
      • One good story involved a pair of gambling aliens separating Clark and Superman. All that happened was that there was two Supermans, and that when one of them was Clark the other felt compelled to be Superman, and vice versa.
    • Michael Fleischer once suggested that if Krypton had not exploded and Kal-El had grown up there, he might have been so overshadowed by his brilliant father that he might have been more like shy, mild-mannered Clark.
    • Post-Crisis is the opposite, Clark is the dominant personality with no knowledge or memories of Krypton until well into his adult years and after he started operating as a super hero. This means that Clark comes off as a far more assertive and aggressive person than the Pre-Crisis "wimp." This makes Superman come off as stiff and artificial because, as Clark puts it, "Clark is who I am, Superman is what I can do."
      • To a certain extent this is how George Reeves played Clark. He was easygoing, but could be assertive if there was an emergency. There were times when Reeves' Clark seemed to forget he wasn't supposed to be Superman.
    • Modern writers now suggest that there are actually three personalities, the first is Clark at home, who is a decent, normal guy like any other. Then there is Clark at the Daily Planet, still a nice guy if occasionally clumsy and a little goofy, likes to play things safe but also an ace reporter and Deadpan Snarker par excellence. Finally there is Superman, who is every inch The Cape and honestly believes in Truth and Justice, almost to a fault. He sees Krypton as his birthright, but not his home and tries to bring the best of that society to Earth while trying to steer away from its shortcomings.
      • It has been implied that, similarly, there are three personalities; Clark Kent, the mild mannered, calm and somewhat geeky dude. Superman, the superhero, who fights for Justice and Freedom and wants to inspire the world to be good. And Kal-El, a merge of both personalities and who he really is for those who are closest to him.
    • Superman is typically portrayed as an eager hero, happy to save everyone else. Five For Fighting's song about him, also called "Superman," portrays him as "a man in a silly red sheet" who's aware that he's not as special or heroic as everyone else thinks he is, and who struggles under the pressure of being the person everyone looks up to.
    • More importantly, Superman was originally a hard-nosed bruiser who went after not just criminals, but businessmen and lawmakers who he perceived as screwing people over.
    • Is Clark Kent an exaggerated disguise Superman takes to fake everyone out? Or is Superman a projection of Clark's desire to help others? Or, does Kal-El struggle to balance the nerdy reporter with the macho crimefighter? Before 1986, the answer was clearly the former, but between that point and about 2003, it was the later. From that point forward, it's been somewhat opened to interpretation, but in 2011, the New 52 pretty much got rid of the exaggerated nerd angle once again.
      • This is NOT counting appearances in film, western animation or live-action TV, but only comic books. For the record, the exaggerated nerd appeared in most cinematic interpretations, but not Man of Steel or Superman & the Mole Men whereas of the four live-action shows, he only played the exaggerated nerd in Superboy. Animation has tended to follow whatever interpretation the comics were going with at the time.
      • What is interesting is that the Golden Age Batman had Batman the mask Bruce Wayne wore, while Clark Kent was the mask Superman wore. Now, it's reversed - Bruce is the mask that Batman wears, while Superman is the mask Clark wears.
    • The writer of The Screamsheet has had a love/hate relationship with Superman over many years, resulting in a number of different interpretations, from a cynical dick to a desperate outcast wanting acceptance to a straight-up awesome guy.
    • Cracked has pointed out that for a person who is fighting for truth among other things, he has chosen a way of living with separate identities that is not only inconvenient but involves a lot of lying to some of the people that are closest to him. Does he have a psychological need for being not only the next-to-invincible alien but also a regular human?
    • Consider Mr Mxyzptlk. Is he merely a Jerkass Reality Warper who tests the Man of Steel's patience, or a more benevolent Trickster encouraging Superman to use his brain and to think and use his powers in unconventional ways? He may well be a big Superman fan who loves seeing what he can do!
    • Superboy Prime: An Omnicidal Maniac who destroys anything he doesn't like, or a kid who's been given incredible power and thrust into a situation he was in no way ready to handle? Or a deliberate parody designed to screw with the fans heads with lines like "I'll kill you to death!" Or maybe he's just dumb?
      • Fanwank personified?
      • Incidentally, are his lines really that stupid? Could you do better after having the equivalent of a nuke explode in your face? Or would you also scream the first thing that came to your mind, even if it made no sense?
      • Super-Boy Prime is us. That's all. People on all of the other earths are just different from people on Earth-Prime. When someone on New Earth or somewhere gets random superpowers, they run around, fight evil, and make more or less the right decisions for the big picture. Because of their superpowers, they are essentially good people. There are another caste, supervillians, that have excuses such as Well-Intentioned Extremist or insanity. Whatever their reason, they are evil. Permanent Heel Face Turns are uncommon. But what happens when you give a normal, Earth Prime kid the powers of a god? Consult your psychology textbook: He doesn't know what to do with himself. He has problems, he makes stupid decisions thinking they're the right ones, and he says random things in the middle of a fight. Other superheroes have no problem making big flowery speeches beating somebody up. Other superheroes will be able to make the right decision. Supervillians will always know what they want. But Superboy Prime? He just wants to go home.
      • Another way of looking at Superboy-Prime: He grew up in a world where all these people were fictional characters. Deep down, he still doesn't see them as real. If he kills them all and then creates a world where he didn't, he hasn't really killed anyone, any more than Geoff Johns has. To him, the whole thing is no different from playing Grand Theft Auto, he's not killing anyone because nobody's really alive. And so long as nobody's getting hurt, isn't it much more fun to play the villain than the hero? After all, Evil Is Cool.
      • Maybe he never killed anyone. No really, In the real world (Earth-Prime) its been implied that the DC team controls everything! So who's to say that they couldn't just write everything Superboy's done away? If they wanted to, they could simply teleport him back here, bring back everyone he killed and reset the mind of all the DC characters that hate him. Prime's not even the real threat to DC, its the Writers
      • In fact several of the people he's killed have come back since then. Given that he's seen the do that time and again from his prison, it's possible he's at least subconsciously aware none of his victims will stay dead forever.
    • Lex Luthor: Pure evil? A hero striving to show the human race that it has some worth when set against the impossible, unreachable ideal that is Superman, rejecting no act that would prove his point as worth it to the greater good? A tragic figure who's actions are ruled by obsession based in deep insecurities unearthed by Superman's mere presence? A titan of industry and politics driven mad by a world that truly can't appreciate his genius nor see the threat Superman poses? A petty dick who'll stoop to any level of crime, including stealing forty cakes, which is as many as four tens And That's Terrible?
  • Ass Pull: Silver Age Superman stories were notorious for coming up with convenient new powers for the main character all the time.
    • Superman had pure kryptonite injected into his veins, yet was still able to overpower a villain who had been a match for him even when he was healthy.
  • Audience Awareness Advantage: Probably the ultimate example of this, and has been for decades (since the Silver Age at the least). For instance, a remarkable number of criminals seemed to not only know that Superman was weakened by Kryptonite, but exactly what each color of Kryptonite would do... even if it was that color of Kryptonite's first time showing up. Because everyone knows Superman is hurt by Kryptonite! But even more than that is the whole "people don't know Clark Kent is Superman wearing glasses" deal. Again, having gotten blatant enough that even characters in-universe who are in on the secret have mocked others for not getting it. And the number of times "Clark Kent and Superman are never in the same place together!" is used as evidence is almost appalling.
  • Base Breaker: Lex Luthor: Competent antagonist who provides an interesting Evil Brains contrast to Superman's Good Brawn, or weakling that the writers make too big of a deal over purely out of the Grandfather Clause?
    • Lois Lane - awesome woman by way of her guts and intelligence, or an annoying pain in the ass Designated Love Interest?
    • Naturally, the changes made to Superman in the New 52 have divided fans, from the changes to his costume to some differences in his personality to the fact that he's dating Wonder Woman instead of his usual default love interest Lois Lane.
  • Captain Obvious Aesop: This article mocks the Grounded Aborted Arc for this, pointing out that Superman appears to be making the statement that drug dealers and child abuse are bad and treating it as though it's some radical new idea.
  • Complaining about Shows You Don't Watch/ Fandom Berserk Button: Most haters of Superman argue that he is too powerful and boring, what they fail to realize is that Superman fights enemies that are just as powerful if not stronger, making the stories larger than life and is exactly what makes him so appealing.
    • Also, not all of his opponents can be defeated simply through brawn (such as his Arch-Enemy, Lex Luthor), and that his stories typically aren't about whether he wins or not.
    • A common complaint is that Superman's powers make him unrelatable, especially compared to Batman, whose lack of powers makes him clearly a better and more relatable hero. Yet, Clark Kent is a clumsy, snarky, Every Man who after the Bronze Age who can be as relatable as Peter Parker, the hero whose entire gimmick is being relatable, while Bruce Wayne is a rich multi-billionaire by day and an aggressive, stoic with no idea how to relate his emotions.
  • Complete Monster: As a Long Runner, Superman has a sizable Rogues Gallery. These, however, stand out.
    • The first Post-Crisis version of Zod was from an Alternate Universe, where he and his equally bloodthirsty allies had already nearly killed everyone on that universe's Earth and planned to find a way to the mainstream universe to do the same; they were so unrepentantly evil that, after they were defeated, Superman took it upon himself to execute them, probably the only instance since the Golden Age where he knowingly, deliberately killed anyone.
    • Brainiac has counted since his first appearances in the 1960s. When you force Silver Age Superman, perhaps DC's ultimate boy scout, to resort to lethal force, you know you are a monster. His crimes over the years have ranged from shrinking cities and planets for his private collection, coldly slaughtering thousands in a quest to destroy the "Master Programmer" and become God, and brainjacking Luthor, leading to the deaths of Lex, Lana Lang, and Jimmy Olsen in Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow? And that's just Pre-Crisis. Since then, he has fed on human spinal fluid, possessed countless victims and destroyed their minds in the process, exploited the Imperiex War in an attempt to rewrite the fabric of the universe, tried to destroy New Krypton, and, most recently, gone in for planetary destruction and city collection in a big way. He has never shown any remorse, his presence in a story inevitably signals that the bodycount is about to rise, and he has been a genuine physical threat to Superman since the early days when his Deflector Shields made him untouchable.
    • The Bronze Age incarnation of Galactic Conqueror Mongul was a deeply nasty piece of work, particularly given the time period. In his first appearance, he kidnapped Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Steve Lombard in order to blackmail Superman into giving him the keys to Warworld, then tries to kill both Superman and Supergirl with the weapon. He later travelled to Prince Gavyn (one of the Starmen)'s homeworld, murdered Gavyn's sister, and tried to force Gavyn's girlfriend into marrying him so that he might take over the planet. Beaten by Gavyn and Superman, he seized control of a Sun-Eater and unleashed it on Earth's solar system, seeking to wipe out all human life. It was in his last appearance, however, in the iconic For the Man Who Has Everything storyline that Mongul showed just how low he could sink. Ambushing Superman on his birthday, Mongul trapped him in a fantasy world, from which Superman could only escape by sacrificing his heart's desire; in Mongul's own words "It must have been like tearing off your own arm." While Superman is occupied with this, Mongul tries to beat Wonder Woman to death, while gloating about how women are too weak to stop him. Eventually trapped by the same weapon he had used on Superman, Mongul dreams of a galaxy awash in bloodshed, with himself seated on a throne, orchestrating it all.
    • Of all the Evil Counterparts Superman has had over the years, Superboy-Prime is easily the most repulsive one. While the reader could at first sympathize with him a little, since he lost his homeworld, it quickly becomes clear that he is nothing more than a selfish, immoral and absolutely ruthless sociopath who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Throughout his numerous appearances, he has done nothing less than killing and crippling several Teen Titans (Superboy among them), massacring countless alternate Supermen and blowing up their Homeworlds, because he saw them as inferior to him, killing his own girlfriend because she was repulsed by him and much more. His most common excuse is that his victims brought it upon themselves. In Blackest Night, it seemed like he wanted to redeem himself, but he promptly threw his chance out of the window in his next appearance, when he tried to attack the Titans again.
  • Crazy Awesome: That time Bizarro managed to assemble an army of Supergirls from across the multiverse.
    • Vartox
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: Superman's Shut Up, Hannibal! to Manchester Black: "Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul, I swear... until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share - I'll never stop fighting. Ever."
    • Meta-example - The Superman radio show fought the resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan. And defeated the real one's attempted post-War revival.
  • Crowning Moment Of Funny: Yellow Lantern.
    • And Pink Kryptonite. Lookin' pretty hot there, Jimmy.
  • Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: Considering Superman's idealistic nature, he's prone to causing a whole lot... but let's face it, one of the biggest one has got to be the Kents' discovery and adoption of the infant Kal-El, regardless of the version of it.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: Superman has inspired a lot of great music over the years. The original march in the Kirk Alyn serials count as this trope, as does the more famous John Williams theme from the Christopher Reeve movies. The song "Save Me" by Remy Zero ended up getting immortalized and remembered as this trope after it was chosen to be the theme song for Smallville. And perhaps the most famous use of this trope as applied to Superman is 3 Doors Down's career-making rock single "Kryptonite."
    • Either that or Five for Fighting's "Superman".
  • Damsel Scrappy: This is the characteristic once strongly associated with Lois Lane. Ironically, it can be argued that Lois' role as a Distressed Damsel was far more important to the Superman plot than her role as a love interest, Depending on the Writer. In the 1940's, she did need to be rescued a lot (usually while pursuing a news story), but was fairly intelligent and could sometimes get herself out of scrapes by kicking ass and taking names. Once the 50's, 60's and early 70's came around though... Yeesh. She was an empty headed twerp who was constantly putting herself in danger for no reason, and whose sole goal in life was to trick Superman into marrying her. She took Too Dumb to Live to uncharted levels. In recent comics and other media she's a much more well rounded and developed character, who is extremely competent and able to take care of herself. She still needs to be rescued sometimes, and the trope may pop up occasionally, but for the most part she's a very independent, intrepid and intelligent reporter who just needs a little help against super powered aggressors from time to time.
    • The sixties-era book Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane seemed dedicated to making sure every single reader hated poor Lois. If you Google around, you'll find scans of multiple letters columns where readers asked for Superman to spank Lois (which would in fact occur, though in the context of Super Dickery). A few may have had other motives than scrappyhood, though.
    • Even when there's neither any Super Villain's ill will nor a big scoop one jump away from her window, she can be trusted to find something dangerous. Letters on the label are bigger than her eyes, so... they just don't fit in, right?
    • Starting late in The Seventies comics, Lois was written to be more assertive to avert this trope, and needed rescuing much less often, including in her solo stories in The Superman Family. This included Lois having mastered a Kryptonian form of martial arts named "klurkor."
    • Being associated with this trope is probably what spurred John Byrne, in his Post-Crisis retelling of Superman's origin, to make it very, very obvious that Lois was now an Action Girl. This eventually led to an Inversion immediately after her wedding to Clark when he was kidnapped after temporarily losing his powers. Lois took her Army brat background to extremes, becoming a G. I. Jane in order to come to the rescue.
  • Dork Age (Superman transforming into an electrical being, then splitting into Red and Blue Superman.)
    • JMS' half-aborted run on the main title which involved Superman walking across America "to rediscover the country" was so critically derided that it was called the worst comic of the year. Chris Roberson was able to salvage it thankfully
    • To some, The New 52 version may be this.
      • Of course, Superman has been running so long as has so many versions that EVERY version has fans that consider it a Dork Age.
  • Escapist Character: Superman, obviously.
  • Fashion-Victim Villain: Both versions of the villainous Ultraman. The Pre-Crisis version wore a blue bodystocking with huge spiked shoulderpads, and the Post-Crisis version is wearing pajamas with weird circular bubbles on the belly.
  • Foe Yay: With guess who... and Lois. Doesn't help that he has the same initials as all of Clark's major love interests. Though technically he's Alexander Luthor.
  • Fridge Logic: How the hell is Superman vulnerable to his own planet?
    • We are also vulnerable to portions of our own planet that are radioactive.
      • Between Crisis on Infinite Earths and The New 52, it was established that part of the process of Krypton going BOOM was internal chemo-nuclear reactions resulting in the formation of Kryptonite. The natives called it the Green Plague. The New 52's take on it has yet to be revealed.
    • Kryptonite has been subject to so much Fridge Logic over the years (like how you can just about buy it on any street corner on earth by now, etc..) that it's best to mutter Bellisario's Maxim and move on...
    • Symbolism-He's an immigrant to America, kryptonite is the old country.
    • Sometimes (most notably, its first Post-Crisis appearance), kryptonite very painfully drains the solar energy from Superman's cells, hence why it weakens him as well as hurts him, and also why it glows. Of course, how this works opens up a whole new can of Fridge Logic.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In one comic (see It Only Works Once), Superman burns out a part of Jimmy Olsen's brain after he discovers his secret identity. After Irredeemable, where Superman Expy the Plutonian lobotomizes his sidekick Samsara, it's a lot more disturbing.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In a letter at Superman: Man of Tomorrow #3 a couple of readers said that it would be cool, if Lex Luthor killed Superman and took over his titles, like Action Comics. What do you know, fifteen years later the second part of their wish came true. And it was awesome.
  • Ho Yay: His comments about how Jimmy looked in a bow-tie were not subtle. This is arguably a variation on Kissing Under the Influence since he had just been exposed to pink Kryptonite.
  • Love It or Hate It: It seems that the audience is divided between those who thinks Superman is an awesome superhero who represents the best side of humanity and those who thinks he's a boring and unrelatable Mary Sue.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Lex Luthor, who has been DC's go-to guy for Magnificent Bastardry from the word "go". It doesn't matter whether he's a Diabolical Mastermind, a Mad Scientist, a Corrupt Corporate Executive, a President Evil, or any combination thereof, Luthor stands at the top of DC's villainous hierarchy because of his ability to outmanouvere, outplan, and outfight anybody else who might want the job. As someone once remarked, other villains might fear The Joker, but they want to be Lex Luthor. To see him at his best check out Last Son, New Krypton, The Black Ring, and of course, Lex Luthor: Man of Steel.
    • General Zod achieves this status during New Krypton, going toe-to-toe with Luthor and Brainiac (who would qualify for this trope, were it not for his utter monstrousness) in the MB Olympics and matching them play for play. Every move that Alura, Superman, Luthor, General Lane, and Brainiac make only further cements Zod's position, and brings the two sides closer to war, and while that's what Luthor and Lane want, it ends up backfiring on them horribly when it turns out they cannot take Zod in open warfare.
  • Memetic Mutation: Lex Luthor stole forty cakes. And That's Terrible.
    • Pre-internet memes from Superman include:
      • Kryptonite, as a object/substance/etc. that the forms the fatal weakness of someone. Similar to an Achilles' heel, but that's more Attack Its Weak Point.
      • Superheroes wearing their underwear on the outside.
      • Clark Kenting, keeping a Secret Identity through a disguise that's not even paper thin.
      • The terms "superpowers" and "superhero". Before Superman, they were "mystery men" who had "extra-normal abilities" or similar terms. Superman introduced the all-purpose "super" prefix.
      • "It's a bird! It's a plane!" And it's variation "Is it a bird? Is it a plane?".
      Is it a bird? Noooo! Is it a plane? Noooo! Oh my gosh, it's Mighty Mouse! - Actual pow-wow song by the Black Lodge Singers.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In every one of his appearances, Superboy-Prime ends up finding new and horrific ways to become more and more of a Complete Monster.
  • My Real Daddy: Many of DC's own staff will point to Mort Weisinger as being this for Superman, as it was his direction as editor that expanded Superman beyond being a guy who could lift cars, jump high, and run fast into the super-powerful Flying Brick fighting other evil super-powerful aliens, as well as turning Lex Luthor into the implausibly intelligent Mad Scientist.
  • Newer Than They Think: Lex Luthor. Many villains of a certain type - Corrupt Corporate Executive Karma Houdini Magnificent Bastards, generally bald - have been described as Lex Luthor Expys on this site. Norman Osborn and Obadiah Stane, for example. However, Luthor was only a Corrupt Corporate Executive Karma Houdini after the Crisis in 1986. For most of the character's history he was a Mad Scientist driven to criminality by his hatred of Superman rather than the other way around. If anything, he is an Expy of the Green Goblin rather than the other way around.
    • Stane is an odd example; he predates Corporate Lex by a couple of years, but physically the comic book Stane is Lex's identical twin, the only difference being he is slightly taller and doesn't have green eyes. Just look. Even more bizarelly, 80's corporate Lex was the spitting image of The Kingpin.
    • Siegel and Shuster's original proto-Superman character was a bald villain with Psychic Powers.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The Alternate Zod's genocide of the entire planet at the end of John Byrne's run. We only see bits of it in flashback, but it's just as horrific as one can imagine.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: Sadly one of the biggest examples of this trope. Superman 64 is even considered one of the worst video games of all time.
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat: Between Superman/Lois fans and Superman/Wonder Woman fans.
  • The Scrappy: Jimmy Olsen, Superboy Prime.
  • Stoic Woobie: When Lois at one point breaks off their engagement and returns his ring (with fair cause; marrying Supes is a daunting prospect for a dozen reasons), a brokenhearted Superman flies out to the middle of the Atlantic to try to calm down. There he bumps into Lori Lemaris of Atlantis, his ex-girlfriend, and confides in her how frustrating it is that he's the only man in the world who can never allow himself to get angry. He chucks the ring miles over the horizon. Then Lori asks, "Wasn't that Ma Kent's engagement ring?" Supes realizes she's right and bolts off over the horizon to retrieve it.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Superman in the Action Comics comic Muscles For Money. Sure he was being a jerk, but his argument that he deserves a reward for all his good deeds does have merit.
    • Superboy Prime may be insane, but he's not far off when he says that superheroes have gotten too dark for their own good.
    • Lex Luthor may be pure evil (and a bigot) but some of his criticisms about humanity putting its collective faith in the godlike alien that is Superman are not entirely unreasonable.
  • Tear Jerker: The Death and Return of Superman arc. Especially having to do with his parents is almost hard to read.

Film

  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Brando's Jor-El is Good Is Not Nice at best and a Manipulative Bastard at worst. From beyond the grave he programs his son as a baby until he's a toddler, then again when he's 18 until he's 30, towards a career he'd predestined him to take. This sowed the roots for the Jerk Ass Jor-El artificial intelligence from Smallville.
  • Anvilicious: The Space Jesus/God the Son symbolism intoned by Space God the Father. Wasn't ever in the comics. At least it's limited to Jor-El's speeches, unlike Superman Returns and Man of Steel.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: That opening fanfare.
    • You can almost hear the words — "Look, up in the sky, there he is! Look, up in the sky, Superman!"
    • No, no... it's "Look, up in the sky! Way up high! Who flies so high? SUPERMAN!"
    • You'll believe a man can fly...
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: You know the pilot of the helicopter that almost killed Lois Lane? Listen to his voice on the radio before it lands on the Daily Planet heliport. It belongs to the man who rescued her. This also means he landed on the heliport twice: once at the helm, then with the helicopter and Lois in tow.
  • Genre Turning Point: While not the first superhero film, the original Superman opened a whole new era for this genre as big time Hollywood fare which carries on to this day. Christopher Nolan said that Richard Donner's work on this film inspired him to create The Dark Knight Saga.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Needless to say, Reeve playing the role as Superman was seen in a whole new light after Reeve was crippled in real life. In light of Reeve's social activism on behalf of the disabled after that, many parallels were drawn between his activism and his role as Superman.
  • He Really Can Act: With Christopher Reeve, you'll not only believe that a man can fly, but Clark Kenting can work if you're as masterful an actor as he was.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Kryptonite made a pulsating noise when Supes opened the lead box. The original Dolby Surround mix (available in later pressings of the Theatrical Cut on DVD, as well as VHS and laserdisc) is louder.
    • The 5.1 mix uses all channels during the Sonic Warning scene (This is Lex Luthor. Only one thing alive of less than four legs can hear this frequency...)
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: That Army major who 'revives' Miss Teschmacher? Major Nelson, on loan from the Air Force.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The relavitely modern idea that Superman is something of an ersatz of Jesus Christ is quite ironic when you know that not only were Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster Jewish, Superman himself was partially inspired by the concept of Judaism! Specifically, by the story of Moses.
  • Hype Backlash: While this and Superman II are often touted as still the best superhero films ever with Reeve as the epitome of superhero casting, modern DC and Superman fans can come away less than impressed about the story, though the technical achievements for the time are undeniably great. There are plenty of elements that may not ring true with today's fans. Today's Superman identifies as Clark Kent first and Superman second and he became Superman on his own initiative, while the films emphasises his alien identity to the point of having Jor-El mind-meld with him for many years to make him Superman (and give him the suit), after which "Clark Kent" is just a sham. For all the praise Reeve gets, because of plot contrivance he never played Clark as the "real guy" like Dean Cain or Tom Welling did. The characterizations of Jor-El and Luthor (who comes with a politically incorrect bimbo gun-moll) are also departures from the comics, and Pa Kent's death can seem unneccesary for people who are used to depictions with him still alive. The theme of Superman as a sort of space Jesus (and Jor-El as a space God) just isn't true to the comics, now and then. Then there's the issue of Superman being "overpowered" because of Silver Age power levels, as with turning back time.
    • The characterizations of Jor-El and Lex Luthor aren't the only ones on trial for modern fans - Lois Lane wasn't exactly the smartest reporter on the block, and her shrill chain smoking voice, scatter brained illiteracy, and in general her "quirky", daffy 1940s screwball personality with just a hint of Stalker with a Crush - which Lois Lane sadly was throughout the Golden Age, Silver Age and even a little bit in the Bronze Age - would probably rub modern fans the wrong way and leave them wondering just what exactly Superman sees in her.
  • Jump the Shark: When Richard Donner was forcibly replaced with Richard Lester as director.
  • Moment Of Awesome: Jor-El's amazing speech at the end of Kal'sFortress of Solitude education. There are people whose parents weren't even alive when this was made, who can quote the speech word for word.
    Live as one of them, Kal-El. Discover where your strength and your power are needed. But always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, and they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you... my only son.
  • Narm: The entire flying sequence with Lois' spoken-word musical number in the first film. However, the music and the sheer sense of awe and wonder can make it a Crowning Moment Of Heartwarming for sufficiently sentimental viewers.
    • It was spoken-word because the filmmakers discovered too late that Margot Kidder couldn't sing. Perhaps dubbing in a professional singer's voice would have put them over budget or something.
    • The infamous "Sellophane Superman S" that Superman throws at The Brute in the second film.
    • "PLEASE MR. GENERAL. PLEASE LET MY DADDY DOWN" in a British accent.
  • Narm Charm: General Zod is made of this. He's a titanic ham with lots of dialogue that could have been very painful, but he tends to come of as genuinely deranged and dangerous rather than goofy considering he has the godlike power to back up his threats. It also helps that he can bounce back and forth between Large Ham and dangerously understated almost at will, as his introductory scene shows.
  • Never Live It Down: For some people, the ending with Superman spinning the Earth backwards to reverse time completely obliterates any other merits the film may have. In fairness, this wasn't the original plan — in earlier versions of the story, Superman travelled back in time, diverted the second missile and returned to the present, only to be stripped of his powers for what Jor-El's essence felt was going too far — but due to the production problems and friction between Donner and the Salkinds, it ended up being curtailed into the ending that we got.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Marlon Brando as Jor-El
  • Romantic Plot Tumor: Superman and Lois Lane long had an uneven dynamic in the comics and that uneven dynamic is on full display here.
  • Sacred Cow / Fandom Heresy: Criticize any part of the first two films and you're an ingrate who's slighting the late Christopher Reeve.
  • Seinfeld Is Unfunny: Although the first movie basically invented the modern superhero film, looks impressive even after 30 years, it is sometimes dismissed as a museum piece with little appeal to modern audiences.
  • Tear Jerker:
    All those things I can do. All those powers. And I couldn't even save him.
    • Straight out of canon, causing even more tears among old fans of the comic.
  • Type Casting: Playing Superman in films or TV tends to get you this.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Many.
    • One of the most striking visuals even today is the scene in the first film where Superman rebuilds the San Andreas Fault.
    • Superman Returns has the whole sequence with the 777 jetliner rescue.
    • R/Greenberg, which previously specialized in TV advertising, created the opening credits. They later branched out into a visual effects firm, their other claim to fame being the invisibility effects in Predator.
  • What an Idiot: After Superman first makes his presence known in Metropolis by stopping many crimes in a single night, Lois deliberately asks about and prints for all to read one of his non-Kryptonite Factor weaknesses —his inability to see through lead. And unfortunately, Lex reads the next morning's edition of the paper (Supes naturally escapes though).

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