Follow TV Tropes


Film / Superman: The Movie

Go To

"His name is Kal-El; he will call himself Clark Kent, but the world will know him as Superman."

The superhero movie.

The success of Superman in the comics opened the doors for other masked marvels in colorful costumes — and 1978's Superman: The Movie (or just Superman, the onscreen title) did the same for big-budget superhero films. While it wasn't Superman's first live-action foray — it followed movie serials in 1948 and 1950, and a pilot movie in 1951 for a television series which ran from 1952 to 1958 — it went above and beyond them in terms of spectacle and special effects like never before seen on screen.note 

Produced (concurrently with its first sequel) in the late 1970s and released in 1978, Superman almost wasn't even made, since Warner Bros. feared it would be two hours of campiness à la the 1960s Batman TV series (which had already gotten its own movie-length feature). This was averted when the producers secured the commitment of Oscar-winners Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman to appear in it and a screenplay written by Mario Puzo (The Godfather) was approved, after which Richard Donner was hired to direct and history was made. Part of Donner's mission became a production motto of "Verisimilitude," an attempt to make the world feel natural while including the Superhero into that setting. They also pushed the boundaries of visual effects to make Superman's flying and other superpowers look as convincing as they could.

Superman had a star-studded cast, with the likes of Brando, Hackman, Ned Beatty, former child star Jackie Cooper as Perry White, and Glenn Ford as Jonathan Kent — except for the two main characters. Casting the titular hero was a real hunt, but the studio hit the jackpot with Christopher Reeve, who is likely the best actor ever to play the role. (Watch the scene where he transitions between the character's identities on camera in Lois' apartment if you need convincing.) Finally, composer John Williams supplied a grand score that gave a powerfully majestic heroic tone to the story, even while it didn't take itself too seriously.

Superman established a standard superhero film format dealing with his or her origin story: Origin of Hero, then Introduction of Arch-Enemy, Love Interest and other important characters (which often didn't happen all at once in the comics), then First Conflict. The film starts on Krypton, with brilliant scientist Jor-El (Marlon Brando) sentencing a trio of treasonous villains to spend eternity in The Phantom Zone. Following this scene, the film follows Superman's origins — Krypton's explosion, baby Kal-El's trip through space, getting his adoptive name of Clark Kent, and the first appearance of Superman — before he becomes a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet as Clark, rescues Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and others as Superman, and finally has to stop a plot by the self-proclaimed "greatest criminal mind of our time", Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), to destroy the West Coast.

The film was followed by 1980's Superman II, 1983's Superman III, and 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, as well as the related 1984 spinoff Supergirl. The producers went on to create The Adventures of Superboy a few years later.

Writers and directors such as Tim Burton, Kevin Smith and J. J. Abrams attempted to reboot the franchise with their own unique takes, but despite coming close in a few occasions (famously "Superman Lives," which was mere weeks away from filming) they didn't take hold. Superman Returns in 2006 ended up both a sequel and a Spiritual Successor to the first two films, was released, directed by Bryan Singer of the X-Men Film Series, with Brandon Routh as Superman.

In the aftermath of Returns, Christopher Nolan produced and Zack Snyder directed 2013's Man of Steel, a Continuity Reboot which starred Henry Cavill as the title character. The film became the first of the DC Extended Universe, a Shared Universe of DC Comics characters where Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and others share the big screen for the first time.

DC started publishing a Superman '78 series in 2021, featuring the continuing adventures of the movie versions of the characters.

Useless trivia: this film directly inspired the second run of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood through children trying a little too hard to imitate the Man of Steel, sometimes at the cost of their lives; Fred Rogers, who initially ceased production of the show out of a belief that he had run out of topics to cover and was ready to move on to other projects, felt that the Superman imitation incidents demonstrated that there were still more lessons to be taught. In fact, an early week of the second run dealt with the topic of imitable behavior as it relates to films like this one.

The first film in this series contains examples of:

    open/close all folders 
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Strongly implied with the girl whose mother spanks her for "telling lies" about a flying man, though mostly only through modern eyes; at the time, it would have been considered normal parental discipline.
    • Lex's dad, who apparently told him to "get out" when he was only six, although this may have been Lex's idea of a joke.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Invoked in the Tag Line: "You'll believe a man can fly."
  • Actor Allusion:
    • The Bill Haley song "Rock Around the Clock" is heard on a car radio just before Glenn Ford's final scene. Ford starred in Blackboard Jungle, the film that helped launch the Rock and Roll era by popularizing "Rock Around the Clock."
    • It's most visible in the three-hour cut, but one of the framed photos on Lex Luthor's piano is of Harry Caul, Gene Hackman's character in The Conversation.
  • Adaptational Wimp
    • Downplayed. While Luthor's evil plan still involves launching stolen missiles at fault lines, resulting in the deaths of countless innocents, which is definitely pretty dangerous, in the comics, Luthor would probably have had a bigger goal in mind than making the land he owns worth more.
    • It happened between movies as well; despite being comedic, Luthor was smart enough to figure out Superman's weakness, and ruthless enough to try and murder millions of people. The second movie, however, made him little more than a lackey to Zod.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The main plot is not based on any particular story from the comics.
  • Age Lift: Jor-El seems to be older than in the comics (of the time), as implied with his white hair and Marlon Brando pushing middle age. In the comics he was just around Superman's age and looked nigh-identical, to the point where a time-traveling Superman could pass as him.
  • Alien Landmass: Krypton is a barren planet filled with jagged canyons and landscapes of almost perfect geometric formation. And that's not counting their crystal buildings, which look like jagged icicles jutting from the ground.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: Jor-El forbids Kal-El to interfere with human history. That becomes a Plot Point later.
  • Aliens of London: Kryptonian characters have a refined English accent with a veneer of antiquity, which seems to be the equivalent of the Kryptonian tongue for the viewer's convenience.
  • All Men Are Perverts
    • Played with. Although it is in response to a direct challenge from Lois to identify the color of her underwear in the first movie, to prove he has X-ray vision, Lois' challenge visibly embarrassed him. Lois clearly believes All Men Are Perverts, and Superman's genuinely pure-as-the-driven-snow character isn't something she remotely knows how to deal with.
    • Played straight when the army believes Luthor's henchmistress is an accident victim. The officer insists he has to do chest compressions and "mouth-to-mouth" and makes his unit about-face.
  • All There in the Manual: Although it is never made entirely clear in the film, the reason Zod rebelled was established in the DC continuity as being because of Jor-El's prediction that Krypton was doomed. Jor-El could not tolerate Zod's methods, and so foiled his plans. The reason the Counsel did not listen to Jor-El is because his arguments were exactly the same as Zod's motive for trying to overthrow them.
  • Almost Kiss: Between Superman and Lois Lane after he turns back time and saves her life. Spoiled by Jimmy Olson's ill-timed appearance.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Miss Teschmacher.
  • Anachronism Stew: Clark's birth date is stated to be 1948, and Jor-El describes him as "eighteen" when they first meet. That means that the teenage Clark segment takes place in 1966, but everyone acts and dresses more like it's the 1950s. Sure, country towns are often a little behind, but Lana and her friends listening to "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley & His Comets is pretty odd, considering that song was over a decade old by 1966.
    • If you imagine Clark's birth date to be 1938 (the year Superman first appeared in comic books), then the Smallville scenes make much more sense, since he would have been eighteen in 1956. However, he then would have been too old (forty) by the time he arrived in Metropolis in the present.
  • And I Must Scream: Zod and company did, in the Phantom Zone, described in-universe as "an eternal living death".
  • Apocalyptic Gag Order: The Council orders Jor-El to keep quiet on Krypton’s destruction in the wake of Zod’s imprisonment. Obviously, he decides to send his son to Earth.
  • Appeal to Audacity: Invoked by Lex Luthor when watching news broadcasts about Superman after he's revealed to the world:
    Miss Teschmacher: Lex, what's the story on this guy? Do you think it's the genuine article?
    Lex Luthor: If he is, he's not from this world.
    Miss Teschmacher: Why?
    Lex Luthor: Because, if any human being were going to perpetrate such a fantastic hoax, it would have been me!
  • Artistic License – Economics: Lex Luthor's master plan: Setting aside the environmental factors that probably sink this plan from the start,note  the US government could probably seize the disaster zone via Eminent Domain immediately on national security/emergency factors. In the unlikely scenario that they don't, it will probably be decades before investors will be willing to develop on a coastline that wasn't there years before. Luthor may not live long enough to recoup a single penny, let alone see the riches he seemed to be predicting. He has taken no steps whatsoever to hide his responsibility for the disaster—using a company named after himself to buy the real estate, for instance—and will undoubtedly be prosecuted.
  • Artistic License – Military
    • While on duty, a Metropolis police officer uses the phrase "over and out" during official radio communication.
    • While talking on the radio with the Metropolis airport control tower, the pilot of Air Force One says "over and out".
    • A soldier in a U.S. Army convoy uses the phrase "over and out" during a radio call to another Army unit.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: The movie implies that you can detonate a 500 megaton nuclear bomb roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco without it having any ill-effects other than setting off a major earthquake. Firstly, such a bomb would be five times more powerful than any nuclear weapon that even exists on paper, and ten times more powerful than the most powerful nuclear weapon that's ever been detonated. Secondly, even that part of California is densely populated enough that tens of thousands of people would have instantly been killed, and the final death toll would likely be in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • To this day, you can send scientifically knowledgeable folks into a boiling rage by mentioning the "spin the Earth backwards to reverse time" ending of the first film. Then again, some fans of the franchise tend to agree that the Earth spinning backwards was simply a visual metaphor for going back in time, and that Superman wasn't literally spinning the Earth backwards.
    • In the second episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon argues that it would have been more humane for Superman to let Lois fall to her death from the top of the Daily Planet building instead of breaking her body into three parts from the impact of hitting his arms of steel. However, viewers will notice Superman matches her downward velocity and doesn't just jerk her back up.
  • 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 of the time, it was long established that Jor-El had really 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.
  • Aside Glance:
    • After saving Lois from a mugger's bullet without giving away his powers, Clark shoots a glance and a conspiratorial smile at the audience.
    • Superman ends the movie by giving the audience a smile.
  • As You Know: Lois Lane to a Native American chief she's interviewing.
  • Audible Gleam: Jor-El's crystal during General Zod's sentencing hearing. Also, the crystal Clark found in his old spaceship at the Kent farm and took to the North Pole to build the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: Clark Kent's suit and hat are very fifties, yet he manages to look dashing in them... despite walking with a slight slouch...
    Perry White: ...not only does he have a snappy, punchy prose style...
  • 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.
  • Batman Gambit: Lex Luthor bluffs Superman into uncovering the kryptonite by hiding it in a lead-encased box and claiming that he had hidden a missile detonator, only for Superman to guess wrong.
  • 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.
  • Brains and Brawn: Namechecked by a taunting Luthor: "Mind over muscle?"
  • Briar Patching:
    Superman: You diseased maniac! You think you can hide it from me by encasing it in lead? [Throws Luthor across the room] I'll mold this box into your prison bars.
    [Superman opens the box to find a chunk of Kryptonite on a chain]
    Luthor: [Chuckling] I told ya.
  • Bullet Catch: When Clark and Lois are mugged, he catches the bullet in his hand and surreptitiously drops it behind his back.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: Otis.
  • Buried Alive: Lois Lane, as she is trapped in her car after it falls into the San Andreas Fault, and rock and debris slowly bury her inside.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: As well as a literal one on the Golden Gate Bridge, Superman also saves an Amtrak train from running into a crevasse by bridging the gap with his body.
  • California Collapse: Caused by Luthor's plan to hit the fault line with a nuke. Luckily, Supes can lift up the whole state.
  • The Cameo: Apparently film critic Rex Reed works at the Daily Planet.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Miss Teschmacher's sole reason for freeing Superman is that if he promises he'll save Hackensack, New Jersey, first (saving her mother in the process), she knows he'll keep it. Superman would have prioritized the San Andreas fault missile because the sinking of California and the rest of the West Coast would have killed more people than the admittedly dense population of Hackensack in New Jersey, which itself is practically right next to New York City.
  • Car Chase Shoot-Out: During a car chase between the Metropolis police and a group of armed criminals, the cops and criminals shoot at each other as they're driving along.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Luthor proudly declares himself to be "the greatest criminal mind of our time!"
  • Carload of Cool Kids: Played straight: a car full of teenagers (who are entirely irrelevant to the plot otherwise) drive up to call him a loser. Leads to a slight Who's Laughing Now? moment when Clark Kent uses his super speed to beat them home.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Teenage Clark runs back home at superspeed. Lana and her friends drove by his farm when they saw him leaning on his dad's truck.
    Brad: How'd you get here before us?
    Clark: I ran.
    Brad: You ran, huh? Told you he was an oddball.
  • Catching Up on History: Jor-El leaves his son Kal-El a hologram to be watched when he turns eighteen years old that explains his Kryptonian origins. The hologram is also full of information about Earth's history to better explain why Jor-El sent the child there: he wants Kal to serve as a Hope Bringer to humanity. Unfortunately, this opens up a Plot Hole, as it's never explained exactly how Jor-El knew so much about Earth's history when Krypton was billions of miles away in the first place; Jor-El also specifically says that time flows differently on the two planets, as "many thousands of your years" will have passed when Clark/Kal turns eighteen, meaning that Krypton was millennia ahead of Earth in terms of development.
  • Cat Up a Tree: During his first night in town as a superhero, Superman saves Lois from a helicopter crash, catches a burglar, then a boat full of robbers and finally saves a little girl's cat stuck on a tree.
  • Caught by Arrogance: In the film's climax, Superman takes Lex Luthor and Otis to jail for their crimes. Despite Superman not having any actual evidence of Luthor's wrongdoing, Luthor arrogantly declares himself to be "The Greatest Criminal Mastermind of Our Time". All he would have had to do was deny Superman's accusations.
  • The Chessmaster: Lex Luthor. In Superman II he morphs into more of a Magnificent Bastard.
  • 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.
    • The most notable aspects are that he uses into a more relaxed, slightly taller posture, Clark having a perpetual slump to his stance, and Superman has a more methodical and assertive tone of voice, Clark talking in a faster, more stumbling manner.
  • Comes Great Responsibility:
    • Jor-El teaches this trope to Superman.
    • Jonathan Kent, too: "Been showing off a bit, haven't you, son?" This is after Clark, getting dumped on by the football jocks as he's left behind to clean up as the equipment guy, uses his super speed to sneak ahead of them as they drove by the Kent farm. Jonathan follows up his remark with a lecture that Clark is "here for a reason greater than scoring touchdowns." And then suffers a fatal heart attack.
  • Comically Missing the Point: After Lex's discovery of Superman's weakness, some kryptonite that fell in Addis Ababa:
    Miss Teschmacher: I wonder what they're wearing in Addis Ababa...
    Otis: Looks like a burnoose... (Luthor shakes his head) Gasp!! Are we going to Addis Ababa, Mr. Luthor!?
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Both Lois and Jimmy do this at the end.
    Lois: The trouble with men of steel is that there's never one around when you want one.
    Jimmy: Thanks a lot Superman! You leave me in the middle of nowhere...
  • Contrived Coincidence: A good chunk of the movie rests on a hugely implausible one. Thousands of meteorites fall to earth every year. What are the chances that a random space rock picked up in Addis Ababa by a native 30 years earlier and spotted in a random magazine would not only end up coming from a planet in another solar system (competing, during its three-year journey to Earth, with the billions of space rocks already circling our sun), but from Superman's planet? And not only that, that once said rock was located and obtained, that an unproven theory of Luthor's — that exposure to a piece of a person's home planet can be fatal (which doesn't make scientific sense even with regards to the comic-book kryptonite) — turns out to be correct? Then again, later explanations say that there was Kryptonite stuck to the ship, and fell off when it hit the atmosphere.
  • Conveniently Close Planet: Or a chunk of one. There's a bit of Krypton right there on Earth, easily stolen.
  • Cool Old Guy: Perry White, the editor of Daily Planet.
  • Creator Cameo: Richard Donner has a cameo in the movie as the skeptical man who talks to Clark Kent in front of the televisions, right after the first appearance of Superman.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: A benign example. When little Kal-El comes out of the rocketship, he has his arms outstretched, waiting for a hug.
  • Crystal Prison: The Phantom Zone.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Planet Krypton is portrayed this way, as a homage to pulp science fiction.
  • Dark Mistress: Miss Teschmacher.
  • Data Crystal: Jor-El made some capable of building the Fortress of Solitude and deliver exposition. Court documents presented by Jor-El during the trial of Zod and his accomplices are contained in a long crystal rod.
  • Dead Hat Shot: Luthor kills a detective who's about to discover his secret hideout by pushing him in front of a train. Afterward, the detective's body is not shown, only the mangled remains of his hat.
  • Deadpan Snarker
    • Miss Teschmacher.
      Lex: Miss Teschmacher, when I was six years old my father said to me—
      Miss Teschmacher: "Get Out!!"
      Lex: [chuckling] Before that!...

      And later:
      Miss Teschmacher: (scoffing) Ha! Not like the shudder YOU'RE going to get when you try and lay that rock on him!...
    • Supes has a few pretty good ones, too.
      (standing sideways on a building as a burglar climbs up it with suctions cups) Hi there! Something wrong with the elevator?
      (burglar lets go in surprise, Superman passes him) Going down...

      (when a bank robber has tried to hit him with a crowbar, only to have it rebound) Bad vibrations?
  • Death by Origin Story
    • Jor-El and all of Krypton.
    • Also, in this version, Jonathan's death is a wake-up call for Clark, who was only a jock, to find a deeper purpose in life. However, it's Jor-El, not himself, who turns him into "Superman."
      "All those things I could do... all those powers... and I couldn't even save him."
  • Death Course: Lex Luthor devises one comprised of machine guns, flamethrowers, and a freeze ray to try and stop Superman, which are of no avail as Superman isn't even fazed.
  • Death Glare
    • Ursa gives one to Jor-El, more intense after he calls her hatred of men "unreasonable".
    • Otis got one when he tried to take "the gentleman's cape".
  • Death Wail: Heartbreaking and chilling.
  • Deathly Dies Irae: A backwards dies irae begins playing as Jor-El walks out of the Council after they reject his findings on Krypton's fate, thus dooming their people and their planet to destruction and death.
  • Digital Bikini: The original version had Clark walk around stark naked after his landing. These days, he is wrapped in some kind of blanket. (Well, at least on TV; he's still briefly naked in the video and DVD releases.)
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Council of Elders wanted to send Jor-El to the Phantom Zone for building the rocket ship. Also, they send a soldier to apprehend him. Not that it matters, since they discover too late that Jor-El was right.
    • In a deleted scene taking place after Supes reversed time, Luthor's idea of punishment for Ms Teschmacher is to feed her to his "babies" (an off-screen menagerie of wild animals he kept in a deep pit inside his lair).
  • The Ditz: Otis. Ms. Teschmacher as well, but to a much lesser degree.
  • Drowning Pit: How Lex Luthor tries to get rid of a Kryptonite-weakened Superman.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The destruction of Krypton.
  • Earthquakes Cause Fissures
    • Scenes of the destruction of the planet Krypton included Kryptonquakes, with cracks opening up and many Kryptonians falling to their doom.
    • When the missile hits California, it causes a quake which opens two fissures: one underneath the train tracks and one which Lois Lane's car drops into.
  • The Echoer: After Superman delivers the villainous Lex Luthor and his Bumbling Sidekick Otis to a prison exercise yard, Luthor announces to everyone present that no prison can hold him for long, and... Luthor gets no further, due to Otis echoing his every statement like a loudspeaker on delay. Luthor barks at Otis with an irritated "Will you shut up?!".
  • Egopolis: Lex does this a lot. But he is not happy when his henchman Otis scribbles "Otisburg" on a map.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Lex Luthor's hideout underneath Metropolis. Lex and Miss Teschmacher even Lampshade this fact:
    Lex: ...It's a shame he didn't live to see from such humble beginnings this empire I've created.
    Miss Teschmacher: An empire...this?
    Lex: Miss Teschmacher, how many girls do you know who have a Park Avenue address like this one?
    Miss Teschmacher: Park Avenue address? Two hundred feet below?!
  • Enemy Rising Behind: When Superman is standing on the deck of a ship.
  • Epic Movie: The film distilled the source material into a sweeping Biopic of Superman.
  • Even Mooks Have Loved Ones: Despite her mother being somewhat abusive, Miss Teschmacher didn't like her boss's callous disregard for her mother's life.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Exposition Beam: Jor-El's essence subjects an 18-year-old Clark to 12 years of training by beaming the sum of his knowledge into his brain. At the end of which a Time Skip has occurred and Christopher Reeve debuts wearing the costume.
  • Extranormal Prison: General Zod and his cronies are banished to the Phantom Zone, which is portrayed as an interdimensional wasteland with no hope of escape. Unless someone therein is needed by the plot, in which case, the Phantom Zone is a horrible vacation spot.
  • Eye Take: In the Extended Cut, the Executioner (tasked with arresting Jor-El for misuse of energy in order to build Kal-El's rocketship) reacts to Krypton's imminent destruction this way before a crystal formation (shard?) crushed him to death. It's the only time his Human Alien features can be seen.
  • 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.
  • Faint in Shock: Superman deposits Lois on the top of a building after catching and saving both her and the helicopter that she fell from. She watches him fly away before collapsing atop the helipad in a dead faint.
  • Fake Faint: Clark Kent pretends to faint as a cover-up for his Bullet Catch in the alley.
  • Fanfare: John Williams lived up to his usual epic standards when composing the score.
    • The title theme, like past Superman scores, does a three note motif that says "Superman", only this theme has two different motifs.
    • The Krypton theme is also a fanfare, with an ending similar to Also sprach Zarathustra.
  • Fate Worse than Death: General Zod, Ursa and Non are imprisoned in the Phantom Zone by Jor-El.
  • Fight Off the Kryptonite: Sadly, Superman can't do it. Only by appealing to Miss Teschmacher's empathy and fear for her mother's safety is he able to convince her to save him from drowning and remove the Kryptonite from around his neck.
  • Film Adaptation (Live-Action): An adaptation of the Superman comics, starring Christopher Reeve.
  • First Contact: According to Alexander Salkind, in the DVD Commentary, Superman the Movie was intended as an example of this genre.
  • First Kiss: Superman does kiss Lois after finding her dead, thinking it's a Kiss of Life.
  • Flight of Romance: Every single movie.
  • Foreshadowing
    • Martha Kent warning Jonathan Kent to take it easy because of his heart condition. He later dies of a heart attack.
    • Jor-El forbidding his son Kal-El from interfering in human history. Superman does exactly that near the end of the film.
    • A particularly subtle one: Lois trapped in the wrecked helicopter and trying to climb out over the pilot's unconscious body very nicely foreshadows her being trapped in the wrecked car and trying to climb out through the rock slide coming in. Technically, Superman arrives late both times.
  • Freudian Slip: Perry White tells Jimmy Olsen to get him a coffee black with two sugars, and after Jimmy says, "Yes, Chief", Perry adds "And don't call me sugar" without even correcting himself.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: There was no way Lois could afford a fancy penthouse apartment on a reporter's salary.

  • Giant Hands of Doom: During baby Kal-El's 3-year journey to Earth, what looks like a giant glowing hand seems to be coming right at him.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: As Lex's lackey, Miss Teschmacher spends most of the movie in varying dark-colored outfits. When she pulls her Heel–Face Turn near the end of the movie, she's wearing an all-white gown.
  • Good Feels Good: Kal-El clearly feels this way after his first night out as Superman, and can't believe that his father's Virtual Ghost could have really anticipated that. Jor-El's gentle, wry response makes it equally clear that yes, he did.
  • Gut Punch: Lois Lane's death and Superman's reaction. In the previous two hours, you were treated to a lighthearted superhero movie, complete with comic relief, Card-Carrying Villain, superhuman feats. Then, Superman finds a dead Lois Lane, and you expect his kiss to revive her (this was their first kiss). No, and when she begins to crumple, he catches her as if she were still alive to rest her on the ground. You then get a long, painful sequence of seeing the two from an extreme long shot, before Superman begins to sob and then gives a horrifically human scream. Before that moment, he was the Big Blue Boy Scout with a constant smile on his face for the most part. Even when upset at Lex, he was posturing like a superhero. In this one, sole moment, he's not a superhero, but a man - who is pissed at the universe.
  • Heroic BSoD: After Superman realizes Lois' car is buried under debris.
  • He's Dead, Jim: Lois Lane's car falls into a crack in the ground caused by an earthquake and she is buried under a ton of earth. When Superman pulls her car out of the ground less than a minute later, he makes no attempt to check her pulse, perform CPR, fly her to a hospital or do anything else to determine if she's alive or try to resuscitate her. He just assumes she's completely dead, becomes enraged and flies off.
  • 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.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Inverted in a deleted scene; it seems the Hackensack missile dodged Superman before he caught up with it.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard
    • Averted in Jor-El's case, as he would have been sent to the Phantom Zone had Krypton not been destroyed. Played with in Superman's case with the lead box in Luthor's lair.
    • Inverted in the case of General Zod. He seems to forget that had he not been sent into the Phantom Zone, he would have been killed with the rest of the population.
  • Holding Out for a Hero: According to Jor-El, Superman needs a Secret Identity to both protect his loved ones and to prevent humans from becoming overly dependent on him, expecting him to solve all their problemsnote .
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Averted. Glenn Ford, who played Jonathan Kent, researched what a real heart attack looks and feels like so his portrayal would be accurate. It's still an obvious attack, though — Pa realizes what's happening, clutches his wrist (not his heart) and manages to whisper, "Oh, no," before he falls over.
  • Hollywood Law: At the end of the film, Superman directly drops Lex and Otis in prison without due process or a trial and sentencing.
  • Honor Before Reason: Superman deflected the first missile because he promised he would, but couldn't reach the second one in time. It goes off, triggering a massive earthquake that was the prelude to the West Coast sinking into the ocean, forcing him to go into the mantle and fix the San Andreas fault - after dealing with Hoover Dam busting.
  • Huge Holographic Head: Jor-El speaks to and finishes training Kal-El in the Fortress of Solitude using this trope.
  • Human Aliens
    • Lampshaded by Jor-El when he talks about sending his son to Earth:
      Jor-El: He will look like one of them.
    • Lara subverts this in her response.
      Lara: But he won't be one of them.
    • Then, on Earth,
      Lois Lane: Do you... eat?
  • Humans Are Flawed: They tend to abuse their resources. They're prone to feelings of vanity, just like Kryptonians.
  • Humans Are Special: "They can be a great people, Kal-El, 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."
  • Hurricane of Puns: After Superman has just passed the machine gun part of Luthor's Death Course:
    Lex Luthor: The pressure is still on you, Superman. You know what they say - "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the tunnel". [Flamethrowers ignite and start attacking Superman]
    Lex Luthor: This is your last chance, Superman. Why don't you do yourself a flavor and freeze? [A freeze ray activates and briefly encases Superman in ice, only for Superman to break out a moment later]
  • Idiot Ball: From Lois. 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. Unfortunately, Lex reads the next morning's edition of the paper. (Superman manages to escape anyway... with a little help from Ms. Teschmacher.) Yet, his inability to see lead being public knowledge can be worked against criminals, since Superman would know they're hiding something. However, Lex was counting on that.
  • I Gave My Word: The reason Superman goes after the East Coast missile — he promised Miss Teschmacher he'd get that one first.
  • Ignored Expert: Jor-El
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Superman and Lois Lane during the earthquake in California.
  • Immune to Bullets: Well, that's a given, but here he actually catches one in his hand.
  • Indestructibility Montage: In a deleted scene, as Superman follows a tunnel to Lex Luthor's underground lair, Luthor activates traps to try to kill him. The traps are, in order: machine guns firing from the walls, flamethrowers covering him in fire, and tubes blowing a blizzard of snow onto him and covering him with ice. Superman calmly survives all of these attacks and continues on.
  • 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."
  • Instant Costume Change: Through a revolving door and in mid-air.
  • Insufferable Genius: Lex Luthor is depicted as one.
  • Intentional Mess Making: The first movie from 1978 has Clark Kent help out at school as a coach's assistant. One Jerk Jock topples the bench where Clark has laid the folded uniforms for the football team, then drives away with his cronies. The jock remarks, "He'll be doing that all day." Clark uses his super speed to reorganize everything in a flash.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Lois Lane.
  • Ironic Echo: Luthor throws the phrase "diseased maniac" back in Superman's face as he's suffering from exposure to Kryptonite.
  • I Shall Return: General Zod says this verbatim as he and his compatriots float away, imprisoned within the Phantom Zone.
  • I Will Show You X!: Lex has two reactions like this.
    • When he's taunting Superman:
      Lex Luthor: Look at that overgrown boy scout, Miss Teschmacher. Tell me what you see.
      Miss Teschmacher: Cuteness... Dimples.
      Lex Luthor: You like cuteness, huh? You like dimples? I'll give you dimples.
    • Also, Lex's reaction to Otis' "arm not being long enough" when he entered the wrong missile coordinates:
      Lex Luthor: Otis! The third one was to be 11, and the fourth one, 7!
      Otis: Oh. Oh, gee. Aw, gee. Gee, Mr. Luthor. Oh, I see. I guess my arm wasn't long enough, see?
      Lex Luthor: Otis, would you like to see a long arm? Otis, would you like to see a very, very long arm?
      Otis: Oh no, Mr. Luthor.
  • Jerk Jock: Brad.
  • Jive Turkey: The first person to see Superman in costume is a pimp who's high on something. He treats Superman flying as an Unusually Uninteresting Sight.
  • Just Train Wrong: Steam whistles are heard beneath Grand Central Terminal, despite steam locomotives being banned from the tunnels...and despite being some twenty years after the end of steam.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Luthor shoving a detective in front of a train using the power-operated door to his hideout.
    • Again, when Miss Teschmacher protests that her mother lives in Hackensack, where he's just launched a nuclear missile. Lex merely looks down at his watch and shakes his head at her as if to say "Not for long, she isn't."
  • Kiss of Life: Attempted, sadly averted.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Also the Trope Namer.
  • Large Ham: Lex Luthor.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: As a result for not taking Jor-El’s warnings seriously, the Council goes down with him when Krypton blows up.
  • Last Kiss: After Lois Lane is killed by being buried under a ton of dirt, Superman gives her a kiss before flying off in rage and despair.
  • Laughably Evil: Luthor, as portrayed by Gene Hackman.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • The first spoken dialogue of the film: "This is no fantasy – no careless product of wild imagination." This line is aimed at the movie audience, telling them it's time for Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
    • In both The Reveal of the Bullet Catch and the end of the first two movies, you could swear he was looking at the audience.
    • The "fly off into the sunset" moment that closes this film became so iconic that not only was it repeated in the three direct sequels that Chris Reeve starred in, but Brandon Routh would do his own version in Superman Returns (and again, even more faithfully, at the end of the Arrowverse Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019)), and it was featured in Bruce Timm's seventy-fifth anniversary clip.
  • Life Saving Misfortune: Zod, Ursa and Non being imprisoned in the Phantom Zone means they avoid the planetary explosion which kills all the other Kryptonians.
  • Line-of-Sight Name:
    Lois: [dreamily] What a super man! [Beat] Superman!
  • Live-Action Adaptation: It's a big budget adaptation of the Superman comic book.
  • Load-Bearing Hero: Superman bench-presses the entire San Andreas Fault Zone. And uses his body as temporary train tracks.
  • Look Ma, No Plane!: Superman saves Air Force One by doing this to it.
  • Lovable Jock: As a teenager, Clark was, unsurprisingly, quite athletic and on the high school football team.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: The Lois Lane/Superman or Clark Kent dynamic is one of the best known examples of this.

  • Magic A Is Magic A:
    • Richard Donner, the director, used the word "verisimilitude" as the production motto in scripting and crafting the film. They devoted a lot of their effort to figuring out how to have things make sense within the ludicrous framework of the premise and plot. Why doesn't Superman solve all the world's problems? Jor-El's dialogue explains (piecemeal) that there is an intergalactic rule that Superman is bound not to interfere in the course of another planet's history, this rule having been put into place as the result of the early history of "the 28 known galaxies" being rife with warfare due to interference (presumably resulting in stringent vigilance for that sort of thing now, creating the potential for the intergalactic equivalent of an international incident). He is already bending the rules just being Superman in the first place.
    • If the name "Superman" was invented by the media, why is there an S-logo on the outfit? The fancy traditional attire of Kryptonians included family crests in a chest insignia, and the symbol on the seal of Jor-El's clan coincidentally happens to look somewhat like an S. And so on. That last issue, that the S logo was the seal of the House of El, was apparently Marlon Brando's idea. Donner liked the idea and went with it. It went over so well that it was re-used in other adaptations (Lois & Clark and the late-'80s Superboy series), in Smallville, and later as a retcon in the comics, it was established to be a modification of a letter of the Kryptonian alphabet.
  • The Man with No Name: It seems Supes was going to go nameless ("A friend"), until Lois names him "Superman", which he bemusedly endorses.
  • Manly Tears: Superman, when he fails to revive Lois after she is buried in her car after the earthquake.
  • Master Actor: Clark Kent. On top of making audiences believe a man could fly, Christopher Reeve showed that a good actor can make you believe that Clark Kenting could actually work.
  • Meaningful Background Event: While Perry is talking about journalism and Superman, Clark is listening to Luthor's message and looking for a window to duck out of.
  • Meaningful Echo: Even more compelling as they show up again at the same crucial time:
    Jor-El: It is forbidden for you to interfere with human history.
    Jonathan Kent: There is one thing I do know son, and that is you are here for a reason.
    Clark: All those things I can do, all those powers, and I couldn't even save him.
  • Messianic Archetype: Superman as space Jesus with Jor-El as space God.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Miss Teschmacher saved Superman after Luthor let it slip that Hackensack was going to be hit by one of the missiles, and then shrugged off her pleas that her mother lives in Hackensack.
  • Mobile Shrubbery: Otis does this briefly while re-aiming the missile.
  • Moment Killer: Just as Superman and Lois Lane are about to kiss, Jimmy Olsen shows up to spoil it.
  • Mood Whiplash: A perfect example of this is when the police detectives are following a goofy, bumbling Otis. The mood swiftly changes when Lex uses Otis' entry point to his underground lair to push the cop into the path of an oncoming express train, with a Gory Discretion Shot. Miss Teschmacher growls, "Sick!" at Lex.
  • Monumental Damage: Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. (And in a deleted scene, the Hollywood sign.)
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: The iconic scene of Jor-El sending his son to Earth from the dying planet, faithfully carried over from the comics.
  • Mouthscreen: When Zod says "your heirs", we get a close-up of his mouth.
  • Mundane Utility: One of the reasons Perry cites for having hired Clark is that he's the fastest typist he's ever seen.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Miss Teschmacher, who wears a variety of revealing outfits and different hairstyles.
  • 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.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Clark glances briefly at a pay phone (a half-height, exposed phone kiosk, not a full-fledged phone booth) in the first movie before changing costume in a revolving door.
    • Also during the mugging scene. "Faster than a speeding bullet" indeed! He also shows he's "More powerful than a locomotive" (or at least can hold up a speeding train) and can "fly higher than any plane" by zooming into outer space.
    • Luthor's wigs. Very few people knew that the original comicbook Luthor actually had hair until he was depicted bald after a handful of appearances. In the movie, Luthor appears to have hair (although his frequent changes in hairdos from scene to scene should be a giveaway) until the last scene where he takes his wig off.
    • The Jerk Jock shares the same first name as Brad "Bash" Bashford from the comics. Here, his last name is Wilson.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Miss Teschmacher's red dress has a plunging neckline.
  • Neck Lift: Superman does this to Lex Luthor while they're in Lex's underground lair.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The teaser trailer shows as if only Krypton exploded, like in the comics. Also it's not revealed to be a Superman movie (at least for non-comic book readers) until we see Superman donning his suit.
  • 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.
  • No-Sell: The unfortunate bank robber who hit Supes in the head with a crowbar got to vibrate along with it. Later, Supes just shrugged off the trial by fire, bullets, and ice at Luthor's lair. In a deleted scene, Superman is about to stop the Hackensack-bound missile in mid-air, but not before it flies right past him.note 
  • Noodle Incident: There were other times Otis was being followed to Lex's hideout.
    Lex: You were being followed again.
    [A jumpy Otis accidentally knocks a lamp]
    Lex: Despite your cat-like reflexes.
  • A Nuclear Error: When missiles are test launched, for some unknown reason the authorities put armed nuclear warheads aboard them.
  • Officer O'Hara: The first two cops to encounter Superman on his first night in Metropolis.
  • Oh, Crap!
    • Jonathan's reaction when he's about to have a fatal heart attack is a solemn "Oh, no..."
    • Clark's reaction when Lex threatens to release toxic gas in Metropolis if he doesn't come. Though he only said that to get Superman's attention, knowing he'd only react to the idea of people in danger.
    • Watch Superman's face as the missile hit San Andreas and later when he realized Lois needed saving after he'd contained the flooding.
    • The military officers when the missiles hit.
    "Good God!"
    • Lois Lane's reaction when, shortly after her car runs out of gas and is desperately trying to restart the car, and already with an avalanche headed toward the stalled car, the San Andreas Fault opens up. Lois realizes there is nowhere to escape and that she is about to experience a slow, painfully excruciating death.
    • The Executioner's Eye Take before his death in a deleted scene.
    • The sheep herders running from the train bridge above them, thinking the earthquake will cause a passing train to fall on them.
  • On Patrol Montage: Superman has a busy night after rescuing Lois from the helicopter crash with crimes to stop and more rescues to do.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The aforementioned Death Wail/Skyward Scream. If you want to see Superman completely broken...
  • Paid Harem: Luthor's perpetual moll, Miss Teschmacher.
  • The Paragon: "They only lack the light to show the way."
  • Parent Service: Kids enjoyed seeing Superman fly around. Their dads enjoyed seeing Valerie Perrine in a series of revealing outfits.
  • Planetville: There seems to be only a single city on Krypton.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Heartwarmingly suberverted at one point. Lois Lane asks Superman to say what color her underwear is after he tells her he has x-ray vision. He says he can't see as she's standing behind a lead planter, and only says the color (pink) after she steps out from behind it, revealing that he really was nice enough not to look through her clothes without her consent.
  • Prime Directive: "It is forbidden for you to interfere with human history."
  • Product Placement: For Cheerios. The closing credits even include the line "Cheerios by General Mills".
  • Racing the Train: A young Clark Kent does this.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Or at least like pink, very much.
  • Reflective Eyes: The Executioner addresses two Elders, who are reflected in his helmet's lenses. Later (in a deleted scene), he gets caught up in the destruction of Krypton, first reflected in the same lenses, then in his bare eyes.
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": It's very subtle and quiet, but Superman does this in anguish before he lets out his Skyward Scream.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Notice how dark the city is at some points, such as Superman doing his first rescue? The film was shot during the New York Blackout of 1977.
  • Remake Cameo: Kirk Alyn (the first actor to portray Superman on the silver screen, in a 1948 serial) and Noel Neill (Alyn's co-star from the serials and the second actress to portray Lois Lane, in The Adventures of Superman) were young Lois Lane's parents on the train.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Given to Superman by Luthor right after the Kryptonite is revealed.
    Lex: You were great in your day, Superman. But it just stands to reason. When it came time to cash in your chips, this "diseased maniac" would be your banker. Mind over muscle?
  • Re-Cut: The Special Edition DVD adds some new scenes:
    • Extended dialogue scenes between Jor-El and his fellow Kryptonians,
    • A scene of baby Kal-El's space pod flying past the Phantom Zone-trapped villains,
    • A scene of a child Lois Lane seeing Clark Kent running extremely fast from a train window,
    • A scene in which Ma Kent preparing breakfast while calling for Clark (who's already outside) to get up,
    • Additional dialogue between Superman and Jor-El in the Fortress of Solitude,
    • A scene in which Superman is pelted with bullets, fire, and ice as he approaches Luthor's hideout,
    • A scene of Girl Scouts and their scout leader walking by the Hollywood Sign during the earthquake,
    • A scene in which Otis has to feed Luthor's "babies" (some type of animal or monster we never see on screen),
    • A scene where Luthor attempts to feed Miss Teschmacher to those same "babies" after she sets Superman free.
  • Ret-Canon
    • The first movie established Smallville as being in Kansas and that the Superman crest was a Kryptonian family symbol, both of which were eventually adopted into the comics.
    • Also Lex being a middled-aged businessman.
    • Clark meets Jor-El's Virtual Ghost in two different comic versions of his origin written years after the movie, but the encounters are not as fundamental to his becoming Superman as in the movie. The later version was particularly influenced by the visuals of the movie so its Jor-El is middle-aged and silver-haired like Brando's, whereas he's most often depicted as physically identical to Superman.
  • Ripped from the Phone Book: Lex Luthor is looking through a book in his library to find some information. When he finds it, instead of just showing it to his henchmen he rips it out and hands it to them.
  • 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).
  • Rule of Symbolism: Lots of Christ symbolism:
    Live as one of them, Kal-El. Discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El. 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.
  • Rule of Three: Over the course of the film, Kal-El is told three times by Jor-El that he is forbidden to interfere in human history, before the guilt of having been unable to save Pa Kent makes him ignore the warning: once in the pod, once in the Fortress, and once in the sky over Lois's body. Granted, the third warning echoes around a few times.

  • Sarcasm Mode: "You know something buddy, you're right. I'm gonna turn over a new leaf...Right after I rip off this lady's purse."
  • Saved for the Sequel: At the beginning of the movie, General Zod is roaring to Jor-El, "You will bow down before me, Jor-El! Both you and, one day, your heirs!" However, he is then cast into the Phantom Zone and we have to wait for the next film to see him carry out that threat.
  • Say My Name: "MISS TESCHMACHEERRR!!!!"
  • Scare Chord: "The Planet Krypton", "Destruction of Krypton", and "The Fortress of Solitude" have a few; "Welcome to Metropolis" and "The Big Rescue" each begin with one.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The film features the Phantom Zone, but makes it out to be a one-time prison for a specific set of three villains.
  • Secret Identity Change Trick: Seeing Lois in deadly peril, Clark must find a way to change into Superman unseen. After finding there's no telephone booth to use, he uses a revolving door at super-speed to become practically invisible as he suits up. Jumping off a window and flying off works, too.
  • Sequel Hook: Surprisingly at the beginning of the movie, with General Zod and his allies being banished to the Phantom Zone. note 
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shrug Take: The man at the office did this when Superman caught the cat burglar.
  • Sky Face: A scene where Superman flies through the air surrounded by sky faces.
  • Skyward Scream: Superman gives a positively epic one when he finds Lois' corpse.
  • Spandex, Latex, or Leather: Spandex.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The Superman comics at the time established that both Martha and Jonathan Kent had already passed away when Clark became Superman. Here, Martha lives.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Lex says this about Otis, and probably thinks the same about Miss Tesshmacher. Tessmacher seems to be aware of this and enjoys annoying him, and is also put off by his intellectual superiority complex.
  • Storybook Opening: Done with a copy of Action Comics, the comic in which Superman originally debuted. A young boy's voice recites a bit of the issue's exposition about the Daily Planet before the opening credits.
  • Take That!: Two deleted scenes poke fun at then-President Jimmy Carter.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Well, the hologram. Justified in that it's not a "playback" so much as it is an interactive computer program, possibly even a low-level AI.
    Jor-El: You... enjoyed it?
    Superman: I don't know what to say, Father. I'm afraid I just got carried away.
    Jor-El: I anticipated this, my son. Now...
    Superman: You couldn't have! You couldn't have imagined...
    Jor-El: How good it felt?
  • Terrible Trio: Lex (brains), Miss Teschmacher (beauty) and Otis (ummm...)
  • This Is a Drill: Superman spins like a top while drilling into Lex Luthor's underground lair.
  • This Is Reality: Invoked with Jor-El's first words in the movie. He is actually speaking about the clues that prove Zod and his henchmen guilty of sedition, but the phrase can be easily interpreted as talking to the audience:
    This is no fantasy — no careless product of wild imagination. No, my friends.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Jor-El has one of these after his warning about Krypton's life expectancy and how they should evacuate immediately are forcefully shut down by the council.
  • Time Travel: Near the end of the film, Superman flies around the world backwards so quickly — presumably, faster than light — that time runs backwards, allowing him to save Lois Lane.
  • Took a Shortcut: It is made clear by Jor-El's narration that Superman's journey to Earth took thousands of years but he only aged a few years due to the effects of relativity. Oddly enough, Lex Luthor pinpoints 1948 as the year of Krypton's destruction. Perhaps Lex Luthor meant that the light from far away Krypton exploding reached Earth in 1948.
  • Track Trouble: When an earthquake damages a rail line, Superman's intervention is required.
  • Tragic Intangibility: Jor-El's hologram lamenting that he can't hug his grown-up son at the culmination of the single scene between Reeve and Brando, in the extended cut.
  • Trapped in a Sinking Car: Lois Lane is off somewhere in the desert of the American Southwest when an earthquake fault opens up and swallows her car. She is then buried under an avalanche of dirt.
  • Troll: Superman. Yes, Superman. Watch carefully after Supes tells Lois that statistically, flying is the safest way to travel. When he turns around, he's grinning. Yes, the Big Blue Boy Scout is just an act, just as Clark's nebbishness is an act. We don't really see the real man behind the "S" til Lois is found dead (and maybe when he briefly considered telling Lois he's Superman).
  • True Love's Kiss: Superman gives a Magic Kiss to a dead Lois to Please Wake Up. In a heartbreaking subversion, it doesn't work.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: The Kryptonian Jor-El mentions Earth years multiple times during the reading of his Video Will to Clark Kent (Kal-El) (due to Kal-El having travelled at FTL speeds.)
    By now you will have reached your eighteenth year, as it is measured on Earth. By that reckoning, I will have been dead many thousands of your years.
    By the time we return to the confines of your galaxy, twelve of your years will have passed.
  • Un-Confession: Clark Kent starts to tell Lois Lane that he's Superman, but loses his nerve at the last minute.
  • Vehicle Vanish: Otis does this while the cop is following him in the subway tunnel.
  • Video Will: In his Fortress of Solitude Kal-El/Clark Kent receives a recorded message from the Huge Holographic Head of his father Jor-El, recorded thousands of years ago before the destruction of the planet Krypton.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Zod loses his composure when Jor-El ignores his attempt to sway him to his side.
  • Virtual Ghost: Through the use of crystal technology, Jor-El and several other Kryptonians can communicate with Superman despite having been dead for thousands of years.
  • Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey: Lex Luthor and Otis.
  • Visual Pun
  • The Walls Are Closing In: In a variant, Luthor kills the detective who's following Otis by making the wall of a subway tunnel move outward, shoving the man into the open where he's hit by a train.
  • We Can Rule Together: General Zod invites Jor-El to join him in his rebellion as his Number Two. Doesn't work.
    "I offer you a chance for greatness, Jor-El! Take it! Join us!"
  • Weaksauce Weakness: People will argue the Kryptonite Factor, but at least it's supposed to be rare.
  • Worthy Opponent: Lex Luthor has a one-sided appreciation for Superman this way.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Miss Teschmacher pretends to be an accident victim so that Otis can reprogram the missile coordinates.
  • Wounded Hero, Weaker Helper: When Superman is dumped in a pool by Lex Luthor while wearing a kryptonite necklace, he needs Miss Tessmacher's help to get out in time to stop Luthor's plan.


Superman catches Lois Lane

He's got her, but who's got him?!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / CatchAFallingStar

Media sources: