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Characters / Superman Films

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Character page for Superman: The Movie (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Supergirl (1984), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) and Superman Returns (2006).

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Main Characters


Superman / Clark Kent / Kal-El
"I'm here to fight for truth, justice and the American way."
"You wrote that the world doesn't need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one."
Played by: Christopher Reeve (1978-1987), Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)

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.
  • Big "NO!": Inverted with Lois' death as 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.

    Lois Lane 

Lois Lane
Played by: Margot Kidder (1978-1987), Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns)

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.
  • 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.


Supergirl / Linda Lee / Kara Zor-El
Played by: Helen Slater

The Last Daughter of Krypton and its prestigious House of El.

Earth Antagonists

    Lex Luthor 

Lex Luthor
Played by: Gene Hackman (1978-1987), Kevin Spacey (Superman Returns)

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 Teschmacher 

Miss Eve Teschmacher
Played by: Valerie Perrine

Lex Luthor's moll.

  • Ambiguously Jewish
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • 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-Heel–Face 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.
  • Ms. Fanservice
  • 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.



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.

    Lenny Luthor 

Lenny Luthor

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.

    Nuclear Man 

Nuclear Man

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.
  • 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.

    Kitty Kowalski 

Kitty Kowalski

Played by: Parker Posey

Lex Luthor's moll.

  • 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 

Jonathan and Martha Kent

Jonathan played by: Glenn Ford
Martha played by: Phylis Thaxter (1978), Eva Marie Saint (Superman Returns)

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.

    Jimmy Olsen 

Jimmy Olsen

Played by: Marc McClure (1978-1987), Sam Huntington (Superman Returns)

A young photographer at the Daily Planet and a friend of both Clark and Lois.

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: He's a redhead in the comic canon, but both his actors are brunettes.
  • Camera Fiend: He's "Superman's best friend" and a photographer for the Daily Planet.
  • Seen It All: He's the only character to appear in all Superman films as well as Supergirl.

    Perry White 

Perry White

Played by: Jackie Cooper (1978-1987), Frank Langella (Superman Returns)

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.

    Lana Lang 

Lana Lang

Played by: Annette O'Toole

A high school friend of Clark.



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 Zod 

General Dru Zod
"Kneel before Zod!"
Played by: Terence Stamp

Kryptons military leader and a heinous war criminal.



Played by: Sarah Douglas

Zod's henchwoman.



Played by: Jack O'Halloran

Zod's henchman.

  • 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.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: During Non’s first scene at the trial, Jor-El doesn’t refer to him by name, merely as a “mindless aberration, whose only means of expression are wanton violence and destruction”.

Alternative Title(s): Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV The Quest For Peace, Superman Returns, Superman The Movie


Example of: