Played by: Christopher Reeve (1978-1987), Brandon Routh (2006), Jeff East (young Clark, 1978), Aaron Smolinski (toddler Clark, 1978)
The Last Son of Krypton and Earth's greatest hero.
- Action Dad: He fathered a child with Lois, as revealed in Superman Returns.
- Adaptational Badass: Surprisingly, given this is based on his Silver Age version. In the comics at the time, Superman could fly fast enough to break the time barrier but he couldn't change the past. Further, time-travel to any point when he was alive, past or future, saw him become an invisible phantom unable to interact with anyone.
- Adaptational Jerkass: A mild example. While this Superman is still heroic, he's also got a selfish streak. In the sequel, he was willing to permanently give up his powers just to consummate his relationship with Lois, despite the world being dependent on him. In Returns, it's revealed that Superman conceived a child with Lois, but was absent from the boy's life for 5 whole years because he was searching for Krypton and even after discovering the truth, does not show signs of coming out to his son. Subverted in Returns when Superman risks his life to lift an entire island made of Kryptonite and hurl it into space.
- Adorkable: Reeve plays the Clark Kent persona this way. Downplayed when Routh took over in Returns.
- Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: Clark Kent's suit and hat are very fifties, yet he manages to look dashing in them.
- Badass Baritone: Both Reeve and Routh give Superman a deep voice that goes well with his heroic feats and contrasts with the high, awkward voice sported in his Clark Kent persona.
- Big "NO!": Inverted with Lois's death; Superman shakes his head and mutters out a few pained and quiet "no"s before his Skyward Scream.
- Broad Strokes: Routh plays the same character as Reeve, but that means Reeve's last two films didn't happen as Returns picks up some years after Superman II.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Uses his x-ray vision to check out Lois' underwear. Granted, it was her idea.
- Clark Kenting: Christopher Reeve made Superman's switch between identities incredibly convincing and less dependent on MST3K Mantra than in the comics. It's especially apparent during the scene where he nearly reveals himself to Lois in her apartment, and shows the audience what Superman would look like in Clark Kent's suit.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: Superman spins like a top while drilling into Lex Luthor's underground lair and flies around the Earth to make it spin backwards and turn back time. That and the revolving door costume change bit.
- Heroic BSoD: After Superman realizes Lois' car is buried under debris.
- Informed Ability: Clark skills as reporter. We don't ever see Clark doing his job, the way we did in the George Reeves series. However, we know Perry only hires good reporters who can get stories and make them great. Besides Clark has two irresistible qualities fast (and accurate) typing and a snappy, punchy prose style. We do hear Perry compliment Clark right after reminding Lois "there's only one 'p' in 'rapist' when he says, "Nice job on that shooting scandal, Kent."
- Load-Bearing Hero: Superman bench-presses the entire San Andreas Fault Zone. And uses his body as temporary train tracks.
- Master Actor: Clark Kent. On top of making audiences believe a man could fly, Christopher Reeve proved that a really good actor can make you believe that Clark Kenting could actually work.
- Messianic Archetype: Setting the standard for future Supermen, his father refers to him as his "only son" sent to guide humanity.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Or at least like pink, very much.
- Skyward Scream: When Lois dies.
Played by: Margot Kidder (1978-1987), Kate Bosworth (2006)
An intrepid reporter for The Daily Planet.
- Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Generally, though her two actresses have different approach towards her. Margot Kidder's portrayal is more blunt while Kate Bosworth's is more detached.
- Demoted to Extra: In III and, to a lesser extent, IV. The former film only has her appearing in two brief scenes, neither of which have any real relevance to the plot, while the latter has Lacy Warfield more as its female lead, though does give Lois a few plot-critical scenes.
- Fainting: Lois Lane does the Emotional Faint version after Superman saves her from falling to her death.
- "Friends" Rent Control: There was no way Lois could afford a fancy penthouse apartment on a reporter's salary.
- Love Interest: Of Clark/Superman.
- My Car Hates Me: Lois, get gas before you drive into the middle of nowhere. Seriously, she hits the earthquake, burning (broken) train track, oncoming train, and the nuclear warhead from that trope's description all in one turn of the key. On the other hand, it's not for want of trying. She stops at a gas station, but it's deserted, and a few seconds later it blows up right next to her.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: Despite being an accomplished reporter, Lois is terrible at spelling. This trait was made part of her comics characterization (if not always applied consistently).
- Shameless Fanservice Girl: She has no qualms walking in front of Clark wearing only a towel.
- What the Hell, Hero?: How does she confirm that Clark is Superman? By shooting him (with blank bullets, but still).Superman: You realize, of course, if you'd been wrong, Clark Kent would have been killed.
Played by: Helen Slater
The Last Daughter of Krypton and its prestigious House of El.
- Attempted Rape: Upon her arrival to Earth, two truckers she encounters have this on their mind. They eventually got what's coming to them.
- Big Bra to Fill: While often (but not invariably) buxom in the comic books, this version is modestly endowed.
- But Now I Must Go: After retrieving the Omegahedron from Selena, she returns home to Argo City and is never seen again.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Despite being Superman's cousin, she is never seen again.
- Distaff Counterpart: She has the exact same power set and costume as Superman.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: She's blonde and is a sweet and kindhearted character.
- Hero of Another Story: She stars in her own film separate from Superman's film outings.
- The Ingenue: She's sweet and innocent, yet it doesn't stop her for being a magnet for trouble.
- Long-Lost Relative: A member of the House of El much like Superman, though they never get to meet.
- She's Got Legs: Her Mini Dress Of Power and Zettai Ryouiki showcase her nice stems.
- Statuesque Stunner: She stands 5'8 and is a beautiful woman.
- There Is Another: She's a surviving member of the House of El much like Superman.
- Truer to the Text: There have been two live-action Supergirls after her, but she still has the most comic-accurate costume to date.
- Zettai Ryouiki: She wears Grade C boots.
Played by: Gene Hackman (1978-1987), Kevin Spacey (2006)
The greatest criminal mastermind the world has ever seen. Or at least, this is how he wants to be seen.
- Abusive Parents: Implied with his dad, who apparently told Lex to "get out" when he was only six, although this may have been Lex's idea of a joke.
- Badass Boast: "Lex Luthor! The greatest criminal mind of our time!"
- Bald of Evil: Played for laughs by Gene Hackman, who wears a series of unconvincing wigs until whipping off the last one to reveal his baldness during his final rant after Superman dumps him in prison.
- Bat Deduction:
- Lex Luthor not only correctly deduces that pieces of Krypton came to Earth, but that they would be harmful to Superman, with no explanation given.
- In Superman Returns, he suspect (correctly) that Jason is Superman's son when he noticed the boy seemed to be afraid of the Kryptonite Lex was holding.
- Beware the Silly Ones: In spite of his campy moments, Lex is capable of some heinous acts. He was willing to let Zod have Earth as long as he got America for himself and he nearly drowned the entire North American continent by creating his own island.
- Big Bad: In the first and fourth films, as well as Returns.
- Big Bad Wannabe: In the second film. He's easily overshadowed by Zod and his cronies for obvious reasons.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Nary a scene goes by where Lex isn't bragging about how devious his schemes are. In The Quest for Peace he even refers to himself as "the greatest criminal mind of the 20th century."
- The Chessmaster: In Superman II he morphs into more of a Magnificent Bastard.
- Egopolis: Lex does this a lot. But he is not happy when his henchmen Otis scribbles "Otisburg" on a map (perhaps he doesn't want it to be visible on the map, not even Tessmacher's own city's name was shown).
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: When Ms. Teschmacher asked if he thinks that Superman is the real deal, Luthor replies that if he is, he's not from Earth. Granted, Superman is a Human Alien, but it does show that Luthor doesn't believe anyone on Earth could be as selfless as Superman.
- Evil Is Petty: Why does Lex want to drown America? So he can corner the real estate market. To Hell with anyone who gets caught in the crossfire.
- Facepalm: After Lex describes what Kryptonite can do and how to find it, Eve and Otis go off on a tangent about what to wear to Addis Abbaba. Lex's expression says it all.
- Insufferable Genius
- Laughably Evil: He's depicted as a ruthless bastard with a witty sense of humor.
- Too Dumb to Live: Or rather, too impatient to live in the The Quest for Peace. When attempting to send a nuclear missile with the DNA of Nuclear Man into space, he launches the missile before it's completely risen, resulting in it almost hitting the bunker he's in - he survives, but it's really a sign of Villain Decay.
Miss Eve Teschmacher
Played by: Valerie Perrine
Lex Luthor's moll.
- Canon Immigrant: Created for the series, she appeared in JLA: Earth-2 as Luthor's secretary and was transplanted to the Supergirl (2015) TV series where she got a healthy dose of Adaptational Heroism.
- Even Evil Has Standards: She's not a big fan of how Lex disposes of a police detective in the subway.
- Even Mooks Have Loved Ones: Miss Teschmacher didn't like her boss's callous disregard for her mother's life.
- High-HeelFace Turn: Miss Teschmacher thanks to Lex. The last straw involved siccing a missile on Hackensack, NJ, Teschmacher's mother's hometown. That led her to save Superman's life in exchange for his stopping the missile which was headed for Hackensack.
- Secretly Selfish: When she rescues Superman from drowning with Kryptonite chained around his neck, she makes Superman promise to save her mother in Hackensack from the eastbound missile before Superman gets to the westbound missile headed for the San Andreas Fault. When the westbound missile strikes the fault, Superman is able to perform many heroic rescues, but he is too late to rescue Lois Lane, who was buried to death inside her car. This prompts him to turn back time to the point when she was still alive and send the westbound missile into outer space.
Played by: Ned Beatty
Lex Luthor's henchman.
- Canon Immigrant: Created for the film, Otis showed up in Young Justice as the head of Lex's security detail, as Lex's P.A. in the Smallville continuation comics (where his surname is "Berg"), in a cameo as a LexCorp security guard in the mainstream DCU's Forever Evil comic, and in Supergirl. An expy of Otis named Orville Gump also appeared in Super Friends.
- The Ditz: Lex cant understand how Otiss brain has enough smarts to move the rest of his body.
- Dumb Is Good: He's a moron, but he's never shown to be overtly evil.
- Fat Idiot: He's fat and pretty stupid.
- The Load: Otis's excess weight prompts Lex Luthor to leave him behind when making his getaway:Miss Teschmacher: Lex, how could you do that to Otis?
Lex Luthor: What else is ballast for?
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Otis's botched reprogramming sent the second missile to hit Hackensack, which is what causes Teschmacher to turn on Lex and save Superman's life.
Played by: Faye Dunaway
A witch who recovered Argo City's Omegahedron after it landed on Earth.
- Big Bad: Of Supergirl.
- Black Magic: She's an evil witch, what do you expect?
- Canon Immigrant: Created for the film, she soon finds her way into the comicbook canon during Supergirl (Rebirth) and has also appeared in the Supergirl (2015) TV series as its third season Big Bad.
- Evil Is Hammy: Faye Dunaway keeps Chewing the Scenery in any given chance.
- Evil Is Petty: She torments a girl Nigel is interested in just to hurt him, and to gain followers. She's furious when Linda accidentally makes Ethan fall in love with her and vows to make her as miserable as Supergirl.
- Evil Redhead: She has curly red hair and is definitely evil.
- Evil Sorcerer: She is a female example; her ambition is to become a Sorcerous Overlord.
- Fatal Flaw: Her impatience and short-sightedness is commented on by several characters, and is the main reason she lacked the power to take over the world until finding the Omegahedron.
Played by: Jon Cryer
Lex Luthor's punkish and idiotic, but nonetheless conniving nephew, who breaks him out of prison and helps with his schemes to create Nuclear Man.
- Butt-Monkey: Lex openly disparages him as "the Dutch Elm [disease] of my family tree", the arms dealers show clear contempt for him during the meetings where he's present, and Nuclear Man demonstrates his powers on Lenny more than once.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Presumably he's intended to be this, given that in his first scene he manages to operate a car by remote control and understands enough about science to help Lex with his experiments, but it's never made very clear.
- Psychopathic Man Child: A low-grade example, considering that the worst thing he actually does is nearly kill a couple of prison guards by sending them through a nasty but survivable fall over a cliff, but it's clear that he takes after his uncle in this regard.
- Totally Radical: His dialogue is almost made up of 1980s slang, which naturally is used with little regard for whether or not it's appropriate in-context.
Played by: Mark Pillow, Gene Hackman (voice), Clive Mantle (Nuclear Man I; deleted scenes)
An Evil Counterpart of Superman, created using Superman's genetic material and the power of the sun.
- Absurdly Sharp Claws: His fingernails are long, sharp, and apparently capable of inflicting radiation poisoning on people, which they do to graphic effect with Superman himself.
- Canon Immigrant: Was an original creation for the movie, but eventually showed up in the comics in 2018.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Considering he was created by Lex, you'd kind of expect this, but when Superman refuses to tell him where Lacy is he openly announces that he will "hurt people" until Superman gives up her location.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: He gets destroyed when Superman throws him into the core of Metropolis's nuclear power plant, making him one of the few villains in this movie series who unambiguously dies.
- Super Prototype: Inverted with the first version of Nuclear Man from the film's deleted scenes, who turns out extremely stupid and is easily defeated and destroyed by Superman when they fight.
- Vocal Dissonance: He has the same voice as Lex, which you wouldn't expect from either someone with Mark Pillow's looks, or someone cloned from Superman.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Being outside of direct sunlight causes him to completely lose power, and we don't just mean he's Brought Down to Normal — he becomes completely inert, which Superman exploits to defeat him once and for all.
Played by: Sam Wanamaker
A press tycoon who purchases the Daily Planet and remakes it into a sleazy tabloid newspaper.
- Harmless Villain: Despite the various Planet staffers claiming that his headlines are irresponsible and could cause disaster, nothing of the sort ever happens, and Perry White ends up undercutting him and buying a controlling interest in the business, rendering him powerless.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: He's clearly inspired by Rupert Murdoch, who was well into buying up several newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic and doing away with their more serious journalism in favor of a more populist approach.
Played by: Parker Posey
Lex Luthor's moll.
- Canon Foreigner: Exclusively created for Superman Returns.
- Even Evil Has Standards: She's not a big fan of how Lex disposes people and is distraught when he and the other Mooks are ganging up on a weakened Superman. And she clearly loves her dog.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Replaces Miss Tessmacher as Lex's new secretary in Superman Returns. They even have a virtually identical character arc.
Jonathan and Martha Kent
Played by: Glenn Ford (Jonathan, 1978), Phylis Thaxter (Martha, 1978), Eva Marie Saint (Martha, 2006)
Clark's adoptive human parents.
- Happily Married: They are a loving couple.
- Muggle Foster Parents: They are Clark's Parental Substitute after his biological parents died during krypton's explosion. Their comicbook counterparts are the page image, too.
- Parental Substitute: Took the baby Clark in after he landed on Earth.
- Retcon: Martha is said to have died by the time of Superman III, but she's alive and well in Superman Returns.
- Widow Woman: Martha after Jonathan dies in the first film.
Played by: Marc McClure (1978-1987), Sam Huntington (2006)
A young photographer at the Daily Planet and a friend of both Clark and Lois.
Played by: Jackie Cooper (1978-1987), Frank Langella (2006)
The Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Planet and boss to both Clark and Lois.
- Da Editor: He is the Daily Planet's Editor-in-Chief.
Played by: Annette O'Toole
A high school friend of Clark.
- The Cutie: An overall Nice Girl who's easy on the eyes.
- Heroes Want Redheads: She's a redhead and is teased as a Love Interest to Clark/Superman. Subverted since nothing came out of their Ship Tease.
- Loves My Alter Ego: Inverted, as she becomes romantically interested in Clark Kent as opposed to Superman.
- Nice Girl: She's very kind and sweet.
- Romantic False Lead: She and Clark gets a lot of Ship Tease, but Clark and Lois are the film series' Official Couple.
Played by: Mariel Hemingway
David Warfield's daughter, who takes over from Perry White as the editor of the Daily Planet.
- Romantic False Lead: Much like Lana before her, there's a clear romantic interest between her and Clark, but it ultimately goes nowhere.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: After Nuclear Man is defeated, Lacy just disappears from the storyline, and it's not made clear whether she decided to stay on at the Planet and work with Perry White, or left. The deleted scenes show that she left the Planet and bought out the Kents' old farm.
Played by: Marlon Brando
The biological father of Kal-El and Krypton's chief scientist.
- Ascended Extra: This adaptation gave Jor-El unprecedented importance in Superman's origin story beyond just blasting him off to Earth. Superman's superhero career becomes a messianic mission bestowed by Jor-El as God-figure. Jor-El sends Kal-El forth to use his powers as The Paragon for humans, "the light to show them the way to greatness". His Virtual Ghost charges Clark to become Superman and trains him for 12 years. In the comics and most other following adaptations (until Man of Steel that is), Jor-El had nothing at all to do with Clark becoming Superman. Jor-El sent his son to Earth simply to save his life with no ulterior motives for humanity. Earth was chosen simply because it was habitable and Kal-El would fit right alongside humans. The awesome powers were a bonus, and Clark becoming Superman was all due to him being a morally upright, responsible man as raised by the Kents.
- Big Good: Superman's heroic deeds were largely from Jor-El's influence.
- Death by Origin Story
- Exact Words: "Neither I nor my wife will leave Krypton." Jor-El instead sends his son Kal-El to Earth, thus technically keeping his promise to the Council.
- Huge Holographic Head: Jor-El speaks to and finishes training Kal-El in the Fortress of Solitude using this trope.
- Ignored Expert: His comics version is the trope page picture and used to be the trope's namesake.
General Dru Zod
Played by: Terence Stamp
Krypton's military leader and a heinous war criminal.
- And I Must Scream: Zod and company in the Phantom Zone, described in-universe as "an eternal living death".
- Badass Baritone: Has a very deep voice.
- Beard of Evil: He sports a Badass Beard and is the Big Bad of the second Superman film.
- Big Bad: Of Superman II.
- The Comically Serious: He mistakenly calls Earth "Planet Houston" a few times before someone corrects him.
- Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: While Lex Luthor was an Earthling who relied on his intelligence to be a threat, Zod is an alien who uses brute force to get his way. Lex provided moments of levity in spite of his villainy, while Zod is incredibly serious.
- Icy Blue Eyes: Zods eyes are a very cold blue.
- Kneel Before Zod: For he is the Trope Namer! He loves imposing his "superiority" on others.
- Large Ham: He seems to love being theatrical.
- Vocal Evolution: For the first film, Zod is more soft-spoken, with a higher-pitched voice. In the second, his voice sounds like it dropped an octave or so.
Played by: Sarah Douglas
- Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: She's generally unemotional.
- Death Glare: Her default look.
- Does Not Like Men: Described as having an unreasoning hatred of all mankind.
- The Dragon: To Zod.
- Dragon Their Feet: Ursa is killed off mere seconds after Zod.
- Statuesque Stunner: Ursa is tall (59) and beautiful.
- Would Hurt a Child: One of the first things described about Ursa is that her hatred of men endangered Kryptons children.
Played by: Jack O'Halloran
- Beard of Evil: He sports a longer and more unkempt one than his boss.
- The Brute: All muscle and hardly any brains.
- Expy: He's the Kryptonian equivalent to Otis, except that Otis doesn't have the strength to serve as Luthor's muscle.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: During Nons first scene at the trial, Jor-El doesnt refer to him by name, merely as a mindless aberration, whose only means of expression are wanton violence and destruction.
- The Voiceless: Doesn't speak, only grunts.