A follow up to our previous articles 10 Greatest Animated Justice League Films – Ranked and 10 Greatest Animated Justice League Films – Ranked. Now we take a look at the Man of Steel’s animated filmography. Whether it’s Tim Daly (Superman The Animated Series) or George Newbern (Justice League Animated Series) portraying the iconic role, the Man of Tomorrow continues to soar into new heights over at Warner Brother Animation. As they continue to adapt some of the most iconic Superman stories from The Death of Superman in 1993 to Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son. We have witnessed some of the greatest Superman storylines come to life in the most faithful way possible. Now let’s take an in depth look at some of Superman’s greatest triumphs on the small screen.
10. Superman: Brainiac Attacks
Kicking off our list is official/unofficial sequel to Superman The Animated Series. While this film carries the same artistic style of the DC Animated Universe, it doesn’t fall within the same realm as the DCAU. Tim Daly returns as Clark Kent/Superman as he battles against Brainiac (Lance Henriksen) and Lex Luthor (Powers Boothe). Although part of the story could have worked out in continuity timeline, the creators decided to declare it as “not intended to be part of the DC Animated Universe”. Which also made an impact on the way the film was portrayed, with a much lighter and brighter take then what was displayed from the original series. Lex Luthor for example is changed from a cold and calculating business man to a funny and witty kind of supervillain. Thankfully a real team up between Luthor and Brainiac managed to occur in Justice League Unlimited.
9. Superman: Man of Tomorrow
One of the more recent entries on our list comes in the form of a reboot to Superman for the DC Animated Movie Universe. Telling another origin story, but with a change to the material. Adapted from Max Landis’s Superman: American Alien, we follow Clark Kent as he is forced into the life of a super hero. As chaotic events begin to unravel around him, he comes to the realization that his abilities are the perfect tools to handle such catastrophes. Thankfully he is aided by the Martian Manhunter as the Man of Steel faces off against the Main Man Lobo and the leech Parasite. This time Superman is played by Glee’s Darren Criss, alongside Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto. While the film wasn’t as liked as some of the others on this list, we do have to recognize it for its unique animation style and hopeful for the future continuity of the new DC Animated Movie Universe.
8. Superman: Red Son
As we mentioned earlier, Mark Millar’s acclaimed graphic novel makes its way onto our list. Another more recent release, Superman: Red Son asks the question “What if Kal-El didn’t land in Smallville or Metropolis, but the Soviet Union?” in this faithfully adapted tale of what it would be like with a Russian Superman. While Superman forms and alliance with Wonder Woman, other DC Characters such as Lex Luthor, Green Lantern and Batman take a stand against Superman and the Soviet Union in this explosive Elseworld story. Harry Potter’s Jason Isaacs plays as Superman along with televisions Amy Acker as Wonder Woman. However, we are given a few familiar faces from other DC media, as Diedrich Bader takes a break from playing Batman in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, to take on Lex Luthor. Instead, this version of The Dark Knight see’s the return of Roger Craig Smith from the video game Batman: Arkham Origins.
7. Superman: Unbound
Based on Geoff Johns Superman run of Action Comics #866-870 in 2008 titled Superman: Brainiac. A loose sequel to Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, Superman: Unbound presents Kal-El and his cousin Supergirl face to face with the knowledge and strength of 10,000 worlds… Brainiac. We are treated to a pulse pounding first battle between Superman and one of his most formidable enemies. A stacked cast comes into play with Matt Bomer as Superman, who later went on to play Negative Man in the live-action Doom Patrol series and The Flash in Justice Society: World War II. Stana Katic takes on Lois Lane after portaying Talia Al Ghul in the video game Batman: Arkham City, later on playing Wonder Woman in Justice Society: World War II. While the dangerous Brainiac is played by John Noble, before he terrified us as the Scarecrow in Batman: Arkham Knight.
6. Reign of the Supermen
Based on the storyline that took place between 1992 and 1993, Reign of the Superman comes as the follow up to The Death of Superman. Taking place six months after Superman’s death, the world continues to mourn the loss of the Man of Steel. However, other super powered beings emerge to claim their place as the new Superman. A young kryptonian clone, an energy fueled humanoid, a hammer wielding engineer and cybernetic robot make their presence on Earth known. And with the Man of Steel deceased Superboy, The Eradicator, Steel and Cyborg Superman attempt to claim a stake in Superman’s Legacy. The entire cast of the first film returns for this installment with the addition of Cress Williams (Black Lightning) as Steel, Charles Halford (Constantine The Series) as The Eradicator and Cameron Monaghan (Gotham) as Superboy. While it may not be very high on our list, it does present itself as a worthy follow up to its predecessor.
5. All-Star Superman
An adaptation of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s acclaimed graphic novel All-Star Superman released in 2005. The graphic novel received such critical acclaim, it was difficult for Warner Brothers not to adapt into an animated feature film. This movie explores the possibility of Superman living his final days as he begins to die after being over exposed to the runs radiation. An emotional story that gives viewers a unique perspective of the Man of Steel, as he attempts to make peace with the people that mean the most to him before his imminent death. Televisions James Denton (Desperate Housewives, Good Witch) portrays Kal-El and is joined by Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane. Long time DC Animated Film collaborator Sam Liu (Batman/Superman: Public Enemies, Batman: Year One) comes off the success of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths to direct this emotional Superman tale.
4. Superman: Doomsday
The first film to kick off DC’s collection of Original Animated Films is an adaptation of the Death of Superman. Not to be confused with the remake and its sequel, this is the original adaptation before Warner Brothers Animation decided to take it in a different direction. Superman: Doomsday pits the Man of Steel against a hulking monster, in a desperate attempt to put save the world from the wrath of Doomsday. The film borrows from a similar animation style that Bruce Timm and Paul Dini created for Batman and Superman The Animated Series, but gives it a much more mature tone. Long time DC vocal collaborator Adam Baldwin lends his voice as Superman for this feature, alongside Anne Heche as Lois Lane and James Marsters as Lex Luthor. Timm directs this film, along with future DC Animation directors Lauren Montgomery who went on to direct Superman/Batman: Apocalypse and Justice League Doom. Young Justice Creator Brandon Vietti also provides his expertise as a third director of the film.
3. Superman vs. The Elite
Based on the storyline titled What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way? from Action Comics #775 by Joe Kelly. Superman vs. The Elite presents a super powered team calling themselves the Elite as a new heroic team. They begin to outdo Superman in his daily chores of saving the world. However, Lois Lane begins to dig into The Elite and their purpose and discovers there might something more sinister behind their arrival. George Newbern returns as The Man of Steel after portraying him in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited with Pauley Perrette (NCIS) taking on Lois Lane. Despite this film receiving positive reviews, it remains an underrated film. However, we never get sick of hearing Newbern’s interpretation as the Man of Steel, with Perrette bringing her own unique take to Superman’s love interest.
2. Death of Superman
The first film to the aforementioned Reign of the Supermen, Death of Superman is DC’s attempt to retell the tragic story. Luckily, they do it justice this time around. Once again, the monster Doomsday crashes to Earth and begins destroying everything in his path. While the story has already been told before, there are different elements to it that improves the film, which is what places this so high on our list. This time around, the film gives a deeper look at Clark Kent and his relationship with Lois Lane and his parents, making his death much more emotional towards the end of the film. The movie also manages to provide more stakes, allowing Doomsday to tear his way through military weapons and the Justice League. Allowing the audience to witness Doomsday rip through each member of the League, elevates the anticipation that comes with the final battle. While many might still remain faithful to Superman: Doomsday, there is no question that the choice DC and Warner Brothers made to retell this in an animated form, paid off in the end.
1. Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
Our number one pick might not entirely be a solo Superman story, but still gives all of its focus on Superman and Supergirl. A sequel to Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, this comes as an adaption of Superman/Batman comic titled The Supergirl from Krypton. Just as Kal-El was starting to believe he might be the last son of Krypton, Kara Zor-El comes crashing down to Earth. As Superman and Batman start to make sense of her existence, Kara attempts to establish herself with the human race and fit in with Earths standards. Unfortunately, he struggles to maintain control of her powers, prompting Wonder Woman to arrive and take her back to Themascyria, so she may learn to control her powers. However, it leads to Kara being kidnapped by the Darkseid, as he manipulates her into one of his loyal subjects. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Barda infiltrate Apokolips to rescue Kara from the clutches of the Dark God. The original Trinity (Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg) return from the DCAU, along with Summer Glau as Supergirl already solidifies this as one of the best animated Superman movies, but when you add the incredible action scenes, genius writing and unique art style, you end up with one of the best from DC Animated Movie Universe they have to offer.