"Can't I just keep pretending I'm your son?"
"You are my son."
- The birth of Kal-El, the first naturally-conceived Kryptonian in hundreds of years and his parents' utter joy.
- A small one to the fisherman who pushed Clark out the way before an extremely heavy metal cage almost fell on him. Sure, it wouldn't have hurt Clark, but it is an example of human decency. Also could be an example of Good Is Not Nice, because the guy scolded Clark to be more careful afterwards.
- Go watch Deadliest Catch; that's exactly how fishermen react when one of their crewmates does something stupid and life-threatening.
- The captain also has his crew immediately secure the deck and take off when they get a distress call from the oil rig. The entire fishing boat scene is arguably one of the largest arguments Clark has in favor of humanity being worth protecting.
- Martha comforting Clark and helping him to control his super-hearing.
- After Clark learns he's an extraterrestrial (doubles as Tear Jerker):
Jonathan: You are my son. (hugs him)
- Chrissy the waitress talking Clark out of fighting Ludlow, the customer that was harassing her. When she's being interviewed by Lois later on, she's one of the few who, judging by her expression, speaks fondly of him. Even lampshaded further by Lois's narration that some people find the mysterious "Joe" as a guardian angel.
- Even before he becomes Superman, Clark wanders the earth doing good where he is needed, saving people. He's willing to help simply because he can... just like any one of us who can be Heroic Bystanders, if not superheroes.
- Jor-El's copy meeting Clark in the Fortress of Solitude. He may be an artificial copy of the original, but his expression makes it clear he is very happy to see his son again:
Jor-El: To see you standing there having grown into an adult. (sigh) If only Lara could have witnessed this.
- The smile on Clark's face when he finally learns his birth name.
Clark: And "Kal"? That's my name?
- Jor-El's speech to Clark as well. In an industry that is full of cynicism and forced "gritty" realism, Jor-El's message comes across as one of unwavering confidence in the human race and is framed as the mechanism in defining Superman as not the invincible superhero, but someone to invoke potential and inspire many to move further.
- Clark's look of inner peace after he dons the Superman suit for the first time, and his glee at his first flight.
- Superman and Lois finally kissing after he catches her when she falls out of the military plane.
You know they say it's all downhill after the first kiss? Supes: Uh...
I'm... pretty sure that only counts if you're kissing a human.
- Heck, the entire treatment of their romance's origins makes it come out of a very Heartwarming place. Clark's first meeting with Lois involved him saving her life. She then looks for him partly out of a desire to find a hero to inspire the world and pieces things together through an understanding of his sense of honor and character. Then she comes to understand his desire for secrecy and preserves his anonymity. When Supes confronts Zod, Lois is sure to stand by his side and help him and Jor-El save the world.
Clark: (on someone finding out his identity eventually) Then I'll just disappear again.
Lois: (with a gentle smile) The only way you could disappear for good is to stop helping people altogether, and I sense that's not an option for you.
- After Clark tells her how Jonathan died, we cut to Lois's reaction... and she's near tears. In the very next scene, we see that it's moved her to understand and respect Clark's reasons for secrecy.
- After Superman saves her from the pod and begins to fly off, what does Lois cry out? "Clark!" She doesn't see him as someone separate and alien, to be put on a pedestal. She sees him as a person whom she can feel close to enough to call by his human name.
Superman: Thank you.
Lois: ...For what?
Superman: For believing in me.
Lois: ...It didn't make much difference, in the end.
Superman: It did to me.
- Every interaction between Clark and Martha. Full stop.
Martha: Nice suit, son.
- It's so sweet to see her reaction when he comes home for the first time in God knows how long. And he's happy to see her too, as he eagerly runs up the path to give her a nice big hug! It's especially endearing when we soon learn that Jonathan passed away in '97 and that Clark went on a self-imposed quest, thinking he failed his father. In another story, that kind of event would lead to alienation. But not Clark and Martha; a strong family is one that sticks together, no matter what.
- In the same scene, the Kent family's dog is so happy to see Clark again that it doesn't want to wait for him to reach the house and instead, runs up to him on the path.
- It's also sweet that the first thing Clark does after his fight with Faora and Nam-Ek is to check on his mother to see if she's okay.
- Pete Ross, who originally mocked Clark as a teen, helps him back on his feet later after being harassed by bullies.
- In the first flashback in which we see him, Pete is a bully who's teasing Clark on the school bus before it veers off and crashes into the river. He is then saved by him, and his mother declares it a miracle. In a second flashback, we see a teenage Clark get bullied by other kids, and Pete doesn't join in. He then walks up to Clark and helps him out. Clark hasn't even become Superman yet, and he's inspiring people to become better than they are.
- When citizens who know Clark's true identity are implored by the government and media to turn him in to appease Zod, Pete keeps his mouth shut. In fact, it's rather suspicious that no one in Smallville sells out Clark, considering an entire school bus was saved by him when he was a teenager and a reporter just came around asking about the event...
- When Faora orders General Swanick to send Lois onto the Kryptonian ship with Superman, he refuses because that hadn't been part of the deal. It establishes both the moral ambiguity of the Kryptonians, and that Swanick's antagonizing of Clark isn't necessarily personal; he's just following protocol.
- Also the fact that Colonel Hardy—who, up until then, has had a...tense working relationship with Lois—is the one who steps in front of her and tells Faora to shove it, referring to Lois as "one of our own." This is the first indication we get that, for all his snide attitude around Lois beforehand, he's really a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. (The fact that the comics have long established Lois as a Military Brat may give a subtext to it.)
- Lois apologizing to Superman for not being able to resist Zod's Mind Probe, only for Superman to say it's okay because he wasn't able to either.
- The Kryptonian Big Guy Nam-Ek gets one too. After Faora is knocked out by a missile, he takes out the aircraft, then gently picks her up in a Bridal Carry and carries her out of the battlefield, which is immediately followed by one their aircrafts destroying the rest of the human ones. Fantastic Racism filled aliens or not, Zod's soldiers are True Companions to each other.
- "This man is not our enemy." Said by Colonel Hardy after Superman tackled Faora, thus saving his life, just moments earlier.
- More so when you realize it's the first time he's referred to Superman as a man rather than "the alien."
- Steve Lombard, a sleaze and all-round Jerkass in the comics, trying to free Jenny from the rubble, as well as Perry refusing to abandon her when it looks like the end is near.
- Clark spends much of the film feeling outcast because of his alien heritage and feeling isolated from humanity. In the final battle, he has the choice between re-creating his lost homeworld or defending his adopted one, and he chooses Earth. This is solidified by the fact that he completely destroys any connection to Krypton by killing Zod.
- The fact that Superman chose Earth over Krypton. The majority of the film has him pining for his home planet, but by the time he has to make a choice, he decides that Earth is his home planet.
- Lois comforting Superman after he had just killed Zod and was faced with what he had just done.
- That one final flashback that shows Clark's childhood wasn't completely miserable.
- And the look on Pa Kent's face as he watches Clark playing superhero with Shelby. It's a mix of Tear Jerker and Heartwarming, as even though he never managed to see Clark don the suit and become Superman, he did see that potential emanating from his son, and he truly believes it will happen. That whole scene was just made of adorable and bittersweet.
- The ending scene. Zod has been defeated, the world trusts Superman, and Metropolis is on its way to recovery. We see Clark entering the elevator of the Daily Planet and donning a familiar set of spectacles, and the final exchange between Clark and Lois that lets us know that she knows his secret, capped off with this heartwarming Double Entendre from Lois:
Lois: Welcome to the Planet.
- The big joyful grin that Clark has as the film ends that lets us know that he has finally found his place in the world.
- When Lois approaches Perry White about how he killed her story on a mysterious superhuman, he calmly explains to her that he believes every word she wrote — but that nobody else would, and it'd ruin her career.
Trailers and Previews
- Jonathan Kent and Jor-El's separate monologues from the teaser trailer. Two fathers both giving words of inspiration to their son.
- When Superman looks up and gathers himself to destroy the world engine, watch close. For a couple of seconds, you can see Henry Cavill's face bear a startling, and dare we say, heartening, resemblance to Christopher Reeve, to the point that it sparked speculation that Reeve's face had actually been digitally superimposed, although Zack Snyder denied it, saying that "If so, it was the gods. Not me."
- The amount of people who have cited Man of Steel and its version of Superman as a huge help to them when they were going through similar hard moments in their lives, even helping them deal with suicidal feelings, is definitely this.