Top 5: Live Action Supermen


5) Brandon Routh


4) Dean Cain


3) Tom Welling


2) George Reeves


1) Christopher Reeve


  1. Who else actually played Superman besides these 5?

  2. I don’t know if you’ll find anyone to disagree about number one…

  3. No Kirk Alyn? I’m…well…yeah.

  4. There’s no way Routh should be at the bottom of this list.

  5. I just re-watched Superman Returns this morning, and I gotta say that Routh was a pretty great Superman.  I always forget about the Dean Cain Superman TV show…I loved that show when I was a kid.

  6. Here’s a list of people who have played Superman, but most of them are voice actors. I *think* Kirk Alyn is the only one not on this list? 

    I don’t want to spoil any upcoming articles, but how about a top 5 live-action Batmans? For me, they would all be Adam West. 

  7. @Cooper: Kirk Alyn is basically the only significant live-action Superman not on the list. There was also John Haymes Newton from the live-action Superboy series, which I had never heard of until now.

  8. Correct.

  9. Is Tom Welling technically Superman? He hasn’t put on the suit yet so idk if he really could be considered Superman just yet.

  10. Only change I would make is move Routh to #3. I feel he was a great fit for very big shoes.  But Chris Reeve IS Superman.  No arguments should come from anyone who values the IP. 

  11. I agree with the order here.  I know I’m in the minority, but I was completely underwhelmed with Routh’s portrayal.  I’d probably put Kirk Alyn on the list over him if I remembered those serials at all (haven’t seen them since I was a kid).

    Reeve is the only instance in comics where if you mention a character I imagine the movie version rather than a comic version.

  12. What about Affleck? he played George Reeves and wore the outfit. Wait, nevermind…

  13. Routh’s performance was so eerily similar to Reeve’s shouldn’t that make them tied for first?

  14. "Reeve is the only instance in comics where if you mention a character I imagine the movie version rather than a comic version."


  15. Ummmmm. OK.

  16. Oh man, how much did I love "Lois & Clark"? (A: A whole lot)

  17. I’ve not seen any of George Reeves’ stuff. Otherwise, I completely agree, and second the motion for a Batman equivalent of this list.

  18. Don’t know if Welling has actually played Superman yet.  So far he’s been some jerk named the Blur 😉

  19. Christopher Reeve was perfect!

  20. i would agree that maybe you need kirk alyn

  21. I don’t think anybody here doubts #1

  22. Welling is by far the worst. Nothing but a model who cannot act at all.

  23. @Conor >OK now we demand this list for Batman. I think this one was a piece o’cake!! For the record, I agree with Cooper; Adam West made a great detective Batman, Dark Knight, not so much.

  24. This is quite possibly the safest comic related news article currently on the Internet.

    (All teasing aside, I completely agree.)


  25. Brandon Routh was an amazing superman and should be 2nd place.  I have mixed feelings about the Superman Returns movie but none of the negative comes from Routh or his performance.

    Food for thought
    Jack Nicholson’s Joker was great and was adored by fans but today the vast majority would say that Heath Ledger is the best Joker of all time.
    Routh did not 1-UP Christopher Reeves at all but did the best damn impersonation (of any movie character) that I can think of.   That deserves a lot of credit.
  26. I like Routh. He was good. Love the whiny replies.

  27. Routh did a fantastic job with lackluster material and the moments in which he was able to make his natural talent and charisma shine through he should be lauded for.

  28. It’s odd, but I’d take Dean Cain over Tom Welling. He has a better personality.

  29. I’m gonna go against the majority here and say that I really quite enjoy Welling. Over 9 (Jesus! Who saw that coming?!) years he’s developed from a mopey heart throb into someone who I can believe is inspiring a generation of heroes. It’s tough to get that mixture of gravitas and sadness inherent in Superman, but I buy it from Welling.

    My first thought was of poor old Kirk Alyn, too.

  30. I didn’t see the Christopher Reeve movies until years after I had watched Lois & Clark and old George Reeves episodes on Nick at Nite. For that reason, I think Dean Cain was the best Superman. (Yikes!) Also, George Reeves crossed over into an episode of I Love Lucy, which is pretty fantastic.

  31. I thought Routh was better than Dean Cain.

  32. LOL. I can’t believe I ever watched Lois and Clark.

    Now I found myself putting Reeve’s face over Routh’s… what does that say about Routh’s performance?

  33. Looking at the pics I’m struck by how different the actors’ looks are (poses, body shapes, hair styles, etc).  Anyone else think it would be interesting to read a paper about how different versions of Superman over the decades show different ideals of the perfect man?  I wrote a similar paper about Robin Hood in a class once, but now I wish I’d used Superman as my subject.

  34. My top 2 George Reeves are #2 – Ben Affleck and #1(wait for it) – George Reeves.

  35. I’d have to put Dean Cain above Tom Welling. Cain actually did a pretty great Clark Kent, I thought, though it’s been years since I watched that show. Tom Welling is mostly good at standing around looking confused while Allison Mack does all the work.

  36. I’ve been a Superman fan my whole life, and this is still a tough list for me to make.  I disagree w/ on the order.  I’d go in terms of my favorites: 1. Christopher Reeve  2. Tom Welling  3. Brandon Routh  4. Dean Cain  5. George Reeves

    Honorable mention: Gerard Christopher from Superboy Seasons 2-4. He replaced John Haymes Newton’s Supes of season 1.

  37. I like Brandon Routh after Christopher Reeve, I dont know why Superman Returns get such a bad rap. I thought it was pretty good.

  38. Man, I was hoping for some Conor commentary on this one.  His reasons for stuff like this are usually pretty interesting.

  39. Man, every time I see Christopher Reeve as Superman, I get chills. The man IS Superman to me.

    And, yeah, I’d bump Routh up a few places. He was a good Superman. Hopefully he’ll get the chance to do it again, I think he’ll be even better at it now.

  40. Reeves was great, and Superman the movie was excellent. I also hated anything after the first one from that era. Routh however, needs to be #2. The man held it down. Also (meat-head bias), except for Chris Reeves, he was the only movie Superman in good shape.

  41. I still haven’t gotten over the no S on the cape. Obviously it has nothing to do with the actors but since I can’t get laid I might as well have something to do.

  42. wellings acting gets worse every year and roths was ok but reeves IS SUPERMAN. NUFF SAID

  43. I’m definitely a fan of Tom Welling’s interpretation of the character, and as for the shortcomings of Superman Returns…I’m of mixed feelings. My biggest problem with it was the fact that the basic plot was the same as Superman The Movie. For all of the excellent special effects and decent performances, I’ve already seen that story, and it had Gene Hackman and Christopher Reeve!


    And as far as I’m concerned, Christopher Reeve IS Superman.

  44. Oh, and I hate the tiny "S" logo on Routh’s costume. Nothing against him, but that "S" should be BIG!

  45. I’d put Routh up to third but otherwise I agree with the order. Great list.

  46. George Reeves hands down, then Christopher Reeve. Dean Cain looked too short, Welling hasn’t worn the suit, and Routh got saddled with a bad suit and bad story so it’s unfair to compare him to the rest

  47. Christopher Reeve is the greatest screen superhero ever. Brandon Routh is way too far down though.

  48. Actually more to the point, Christopher Reeve is the only superhero where the live action version is the definitive one.

  49. If anyones still lookin at this, I gotta know… Not to start the argument again.. but…

    What is so bad about the Superman Returns suit???

  50. whats right is a better question.

  51. I liked the suit, but the final third of the movie, not so much.

  52. What’s wrong with Superman returns? It is a sequel and homage to a thirty year old movie. It did nothing to ingratiate itself to a generation of new fans. However, that’s it. Everything else was spot on. I was in awe of the movie when I saw it in theatres, as were all the ifanboys. I will defend it til my dying day.

  53. It tried to be both a sequel and a remake.  Singer should have chosen one or the other.  Also, the last half hour was totally lacking in tension and drama.

    Like Ang Lee’s Hulk, there was good stuff in it, but neither was good enough to start a franchise.

  54. I wish they could bring George Reeves back to life and have him play Kingdom Come Superman.  Anyone who argues against him as #2 is nuts.  Not to mention that whoever played Jimmy Olsen in that old TV show is still the definitive Olsen.

  55. Routh was definitely better than Dean Cain. I mean I loved Lois & Clark, but I think like every guy here, I watched it for Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane baby!

  56. Teri Hatcher and that haircut…good times.