ByGabriel Reed, writer at
Movie fan who happens to love comics! Follow me on twitter @gabrielreedMP
Gabriel Reed

Ever since he was introduced in the first issue of Action Comics in 1938, Superman — the hero of heroes — has been a cultural icon. Not only does he represent justice, strength and moral integrity, he symbolizes what we all strive to be. That's why playing him on-screen is such a tall order. Here are the greatest actors who've brought the Man of Steel to life.

9. Bud Collyer

[Credit: Warner Bros.]
[Credit: Warner Bros.]
  • Played Superman In: Adventures of Superman (radio show), Superman (original animated series), New Adventures of Superman
  • First Debuted: February 12, 1940
  • Years Active: 1940-1970
  • Also Known For: To Tell The Truth

Having Bud Collyer in any Superman list is a given. He was the man who originally brought Superman to media — both radio and animated television. Collyer took on the role of Superman/Clark Kent for more than 2,000 radio episodes, which aired from 1940-1951. He played Superman for longer than any actor, and he'll more than likely be the only actor to keep the mantle.

8. Kirk Alyn

[Credit: Warner Bros.]
[Credit: Warner Bros.]
  • Played Superman In: Superman (original live-action debut), Atom Man vs. Superman
  • First Debuted: July 15, 1948
  • Years Active: 1948-1950
  • Also Known For: Federal Agents vs. Underworld Inc., Radar Patrol vs. Spy King

Before taking on the role as the Man of Steel, Alyn was a dancer. Not only did he play Superman, but in 1952, Alyn took on the role of another comic book character known as Blackhawk. He then spent the next few decades performing in smaller roles and westerns.

7. George Reeves

[Credit: Warner Bros.]
[Credit: Warner Bros.]
  • Played Superman In: Superman & The Mole Men, Adventures of Superman
  • First Debuted: November 23, 1951
  • Years Active: 1951-1958
  • Also Known For: Gone With The Wind

George Reeves never meant for his portrayal to be as dynamic and iconic as it became. Reeves originally took the role to kickstart his career, which then led up to a seven-season television series — making him a definitive Superman of his time as the character. To learn more about him, check out the Ben Affleck film Hollywoodland.

6. Dean Cain

[Credit: Warner Bros.]
[Credit: Warner Bros.]
  • Played Superman In: Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
  • First Debuted: September 12, 1993
  • Years Active: 1993-1997
  • Also Known For: God's Not Dead, Out of Time

Cain's portrayal of Superman/Clark Kent is very comic-accurate to the Superman runs of the '90s. It was also interesting because of the romantic dynamics between Lois and Clark (and Superman) while also providing comedic elements.

See Also:

5. Brandon Routh

[Credit: Warner Bros.]
[Credit: Warner Bros.]
  • Played Superman In: Superman Returns
  • First Debuted: June 28, 2006
  • Years Active: 2006
  • Also Known For: Legends of Tomorrow, Chuck

Most Superman fans can agree that this wasn't the greatest Superman flick. However, Routh's portrayal of the character is very thoughtful while also bringing a unique approach. I, for one, would have liked to see a sequel, but at least Routh is still involved with DC, playing Ray Palmer (A.T.O.M.) in CW's Legends of Tomorrow.

4. Tom Welling

[Credit: Warner Bros.]
[Credit: Warner Bros.]
  • Played Superman In: Smallville
  • First Debuted: October 16, 2001
  • Years Active: 2001-2011
  • Also Known For: Cheaper By The Dozen, Cheaper By The Dozen 2, The Fog

Tom Welling was able to deliver an outstanding portrayal of Clark Kent/Superman during Smallville's 10-season run. Although we didn't officially see Welling as "Superman" until the final shot of the series, he was still able to deliver a portrayal by captivating Clark's journey up until he dawned the red cape.

3. Henry Cavill

[Credit: Warner Bros.]
[Credit: Warner Bros.]
  • Played Superman In: Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • First Debuted: June 14, 2013
  • Years Active: 2013-Present
  • Also Known For: Immortals, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Being the latest (and current) Superman on the big-screen, Cavill brings us one of the best performances we've seen. It's a darker take on the character, but he also provides some Christpher Reeve flavor in his portrayal. We look forward to his future role in the upcoming .

2. Tyler Hoechlin

  • Played Superman In: Supergirl
  • First Debuted: October 16, 2016
  • Years Active: 2016-Present
  • Also Known For: Teen Wolf, Hall Pass, Road To Perdition

Teen Wolf star Tyler Hoechlin delivered an incredible portrayal of Superman, debuting on the CW's in its second season premiere. While we do need more of Henry Cavill's "Clark Kent," Hoechlin's portrayal does indeed pick up the slack. So far, there's only been positive comments of the TV version of the character — hopefully this means we'll get a spinoff series.

1. Christopher Reeve

[Credit: Warner Bros.]
[Credit: Warner Bros.]
  • Played Superman In: Superman I-IV
  • First Debuted: December 15, 1978
  • Years Active: 1978-1987
  • Also Known For: The Remains of the Day, Somewhere in Time

I'm just going to go ahead and get this out there: Christopher Reeve is the greatest Superman we've ever had and (probably) ever will. Reeve's performance brings us everything Superman represents: joy, hope, decency and strength. This is also the first time we see Superman as a vulnerable being who does in fact feel grief and failure. In other words: Christopher Reeve is Superman.


Which Superman actor is your favorite?


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