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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that when you're talking superhero sagas, Superman: The Movie is how it's done. Many characters are in peril before the hero saves the day, including a school bus full of kids teetering off the Golden Gate Bridge, two coasts threatened by a missile launch, and reporter/love interest Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), who gets in plenty of tight spots. Despite the fact that Superman (Christopher Reeve) has to save her from helicopter crashes, muggers, and earthquakes (she's buried alive in an intense sequence), she still has some take-charge flair. On the other hand, Superman can't save his adopted dad from a heart attack and is shown mourning his death. There's some smoking in the Daily Planet newsroom (typical for the era) and a few swear words along the lines of "damn" and "hell." But Superman always fights for "truth, justice, and the American way" and will entrance tweens, teens, and parents flying high on nostalgia.
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What's the story?
At the start of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, 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 proves 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: The Movie 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about their favorite superhero movies and whether Superman: The Movie makes the list. 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?
- In theaters: December 15, 1978
- On DVD or streaming: June 3, 2003
- Cast: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder
- Director: Richard Donner
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures
- Character Strengths: Courage, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 144 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: parental guidance
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.