Superman: The Movie

  • Review Date: March 7, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 1978
  • Running Time: 144 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Super-nostalgic superhero adventure still soars.
  • Review Date: March 7, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 1978
  • Running Time: 144 minutes





What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will see the Hoover Dam and the workings of a press room in the '70s -- typwriters and all!

Positive messages

Like every superhero movie, good against evil is a key component. So is the idea that humans are flawed but worth saving.

Positive role models

Superman "fights for truth, justice, and the American way." He's humble, telling a prison warden that "we're all part of the same team," and always tells the truth. Although his father tells him not to meddle with human history, he does so to save someone's life.

Violence & scariness

Lots of action, but little to no blood. Superman stops property crimes. Clark Kent intercepts a bullet intended for Lois by a mugger who accosts the two of them. The citizens of Krypton are killed when their planet explodes. Various people are imperiled during an earthquake, including Jimmy Olsen, but all are saved by Superman. Clark's father, "Pa" Kent, is shown having a fatal heart attack; Clark mourns his death at his funeral. Before he turns back time, Superman discovers Lois buried alive in her car. A derailing train, a helicopter, a bus full of kids teetering off the Golden Gate Bridge, and a lightning-struck Air Force One are all saved by Superman. A detective is thrown in front of a train and all the police find is his mangled hat.

Sexy stuff

Two kisses. Lots of cleavage shown on Miss Teschmacher, including one scene where she plays dead on the side of the road and an army officer says he's going to attempt "vigorous chest rubbing." When toddler Superman emerges from the meteor, you can see his penis.


"Damn," "ass," and "hell" once or twice each.


Tie-in to vast quantities of related merchandise. Cheerios and Amtrak.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Perry White smokes cigars and Lois and other newsroom employees smoke cigarettes. Superman tells Lois she shouldn't smoke and uses his x-ray vision to check her lungs. Some wine drinking, but Superman says he never drinks when flying. One cop says to another "the first bottle's on me."

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that many characters are in peril before Superman saves the day, including a school bus full of kids teetering off the Golden Gate Bridge, two coasts threatened by a missle launch, and Lois who is buried alive after an earthquake. Superman can't save his adopted dad from a heart attack, however, and is shown mourning his death. There is some smoking in the Daily Planet newsroom typical of the '70s and a few swear words. Superman fights for "truth, justice, and the American way" -- your basic superhero role model.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

As the planet Krypton is about to explode, administrator Jor-El (Marlon Brando) ensures his son's safety by putting him in a spaceship intended for Earth. The Kents, a farm couple, discover the boy from space and raise him as their son, Clark. Upon adulthood, Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) sets out for Metropolis, where he lands a job as a reporter on The Daily Planet. He also fights crime as SUPERMAN, a name given him by reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), a coworker on the Planet whom Clark secretly loves. Meanwhile, criminal mastermind Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) develops a plan to cause a deadly earthquake in California, thereby increasing the value of his desert property. When Lois becomes a victim of the earthquake, Superman must literally turn back time by flying around the Earth with enough speed to temporarily reverse its orbit.

Is it any good?


Christopher Reeve proved an ideal Superman, with just the right level of steadfast simplicity. But the producers' emphasis on larger-than-life moviemaking (they won a Special Achievement Oscar for visual effects) results in a movie that drags in parts. The quartet of writers -- who individually had dreamt up the stories of The Godfather and Bonnie and Clyde -- concocted an overlong spectacle that spends an inordinate amount of time recounting Superman's origin, then fragments into episodic crime-fighting vignettes.

Younger viewers may not have the patience to wait through the first third of Superman before getting a glimpse of Superman's famous costume, and the picture is more than half over before he begins fighting crime in Metropolis. Thus, the movie will appeal primarily to adults looking to relive their youth by watching a 1970s-style blockbuster.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about favorite superhero movies. What makes a good superhero movie? What makes Lex Luthor one of the best villains?

  • Families can also talk about different versions of the Superman story. And why do you think in the last century he fought for the "American way" and in this one he becomes more globally minded?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 15, 1978
DVD release date:June 3, 2003
Cast:Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder
Director:Richard Donner
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:Superheroes, Adventures
Run time:144 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:parental guidance

This review of Superman: The Movie was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
Parent Written byPlague May 14, 2010

Superman: The Movie

An instant classic, and a fabulous superhero movie for the whole family.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 16 years old Written byanime_freak004 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?


What are the different ways that you access Common Sense Media ratings and information? (Check all that apply)

Essential Apps Guide