Superman: The Movie

Movie review by
Ed Grant, Common Sense Media
Superman: The Movie Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Super-nostalgic superhero adventure still soars.
  • PG
  • 1978
  • 144 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 17 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 51 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids will see the Hoover Dam and the workings of a press room in the '70s -- typewriters 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. Major themes include integrity, perseverance, and courage.

Positive Role Models & Representations

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."

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDr3w November 29, 2011

Great Film-Making

Well, I think there have been enough reviews of this movie from a quality perspective. However, I have yet to see a review that accurately described the bad co... Continue reading
Adult Written byAllAges August 14, 2020

Best Superman movie; Theatrical cut is more family-friendly.

There are two cuts: the theatrical (rated G), and the director’s (rated PG). The director’s cut has language, while I don’t recall any in the theatrical (which... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bytomatoking June 21, 2021
Kid, 10 years old June 3, 2021

Great movie

This film is a lot like Superman II but slightly darker. The acting is great, the villain is incredible and Reeve is at his best. I first saw this film when I w... Continue reading

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?

  • How do the characters in Superman: The Movie demonstrate integrity, perseverance, and courage? Why are those important character strengths?

Movie details

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