Christopher Reeve was born Sept. 25, 1952. He made us believe a man could fly.

UPDATED 9/25/22: The late, great Christopher Reeve was born 70 years ago! Perfect time to re-present this piece, which first ran on Reeve’s birthday in 2015. It’s been edited slightly to update some references. Oh, and for Walt Grogan’s TOP 13 Non-SUPERMAN MOVIES, click here. Dig it. — Dan


1. While I recognize that a lot of people are responsible for the tone of the first two Superman movies — most notably Richard Donner — it’s Christopher Reeve’s understated performance that sells it. It’s because he plays the Man of Steel with equal parts slyness and kindness. His Superman isn’t tortured. He knows he’s got a good thing going and he’s very happy in his own skin. I like to think that if I had his powers, that’s how I’d behave.

2. For me, the platonic ideal for Batman can be found in the comics. But where Superman is concerned, the comics have never lived up to the first two movies. Not in the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age or the Modern Age. The closest were John Byrne’s Man of Steel era (click here for more on that) and Geoff Johns’ all-too-brief pre-52 run. (The comics by Peter Tomasi, Dan Jurgens and Patrick Gleason were pretty dang good, too.)

We all know whom Johns and artist Gary Frank had in mind.

We all know whom Johns and artist Gary Frank had in mind.

3. The entire first-night sequence is perfect superhero-movie superheroing. It’s the highlight of the entire series and easily one of the best segments in any superhero movie ever.

4. When Superman: The Movie made it to HBO, I watched everytime I could. It ended up being 25 times during its first run on the channel. That’s 25 times before VCRs and DVRs, mind you.

5. I loved Superman: The Movie so much that the only thing I wanted when I graduated middle-school was to see Superman II that night. My mom took me to the long-since-closed Amboy Cinemas in Sayreville, N.J. She bought me one of these programs. Thanks, Mom!


6. Around that time, I used to risk my life on Saturday mornings by riding my bike over a 100-foot-tall, high-speed bridge to the U.S. #1 Flea Market in New Brunswick, N.J., so I could get my weekly haul of comics. (And fresh-cut French fries with malt vinegar.) As I rode across, I hummed the Superman music in my head and pretended I was flying. You can have your Star Wars theme. The Superman soundtrack is John Williams’ greatest work.


7. This:

8. I walk through Grand Central all the time and I can’t help but hum Otis’ theme while I do it. Also, occasionally, while I’m walking through midtown Manhattan, I’ll imagine what it would be like to see Superman zipping down the avenue, between the concrete towers.

9. “Any more at home like you?” “Uh, not really, no.”

10. Christopher Reeve was proof that you could wear a bright spandex superhero outfit and not look silly.


11. Man, I love that first glimpse of him in the Fortress of Solitude.

12. DC’s done Batman ’66 and Wonder Woman ’77. They really need to do Superman ’78. (They are now, obviously!) Speaking of, I read these over and over while growing up:

68477 4745

13. This:


— SUPERMAN ’78: Why This Is the Only SUPERMAN Comic Book I’ve Ever Wanted to Read. Click here.

— The SUPERMAN ’78/BATMAN ’89 Comic Book Index of News and Features. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

Share This Post On


  1. I’d like to add just one, if I may. It’s the elaborate, comical, nerdy, clumsy, stammering Clark Kent portrayal — a contribution which was original with Reeve. In an interview Reeve once gave his rationale for “going all the way” with Clark Kent. I found it rather touching and quite noble. The whole point was to preserve the integrity of Lois Lane’s character. To believe Lois wouldn’t be able to tell Clark was just Superman wearing glasses would be to consider her sort of a dimwit. In order to protect her dignity, Superman disguises his identity as well as he can. It’s a measure of his affection for her. No other actor prior to Reeve went to such lengths.

    Post a Reply
    • Reeve modeled his Clark Kent on Cary Grant’s “David Huxley” from the 1938 movie “Bringing Up Baby”. If you watch both movies back to back, you will see just how Reeve’s Clark Kent came to life! Chris was a big classic movie buff & Cary fan. It’s pure gold!

      Post a Reply
  2. Always loved Christopher Reeve’s Superman. Regarding the comment about Doing a Superman 78 comic because of Wonder Woman 77 ant Batman 66 , those were both based on TV shows. How about a comic called Superman 55 based on the George Reeves portrayal which seem to always get lost in the shuffle. Other than the finally released DVDs no current collectible products have ever been released which is a shame. The same audience who grew up on Batman & Wonder Woman also grew up on Superman reruns and would certainly interested in collectible products.

    Post a Reply
    • Agree! Keep with the TV show theme. George Reeves Superman always seems to get overlooked and shortchanged by DC as respects any sort of collectible products. No comic books, toys or other collectibles. They missed the boat in my opinion.Same audience who watched Batman 66 watched this too. They were on in syndication back to back through the late 80s. Shame…

      Post a Reply
  3. Greatest moment of my life: Superman (Chris Reeve himself!),flying over my head on the James Bond stage at Pinewood for Superman 1 and 2..

    Post a Reply
  4. I remember going to see this in the theatre. Besides popcorn they were selling green rocks that glowed in the dark. I picked up everything to do with this movie. From the bubble gum cards to the novels in the local Farmer Jack’s, I was sold. Reeve made you believe a man could fly. Of course there were parts I didn’t agree with or would have wished were done differently but they don’t take away from any of the excitement of watching that movie. And, I was a BATMAN fan!

    Post a Reply
    • I saw this in the theater when I was 10, and got to see it again, at 50 for the 40th anniversary. It was incredible seeing it on the big screen, again. I dragged my whole eye-rolling family along, and I think they were bored out of their minds, but I was enraptured. Along with Star Wars, this movie cemented who I was as a child. Star Wars gave me my love for fantasy and creativity, and Superman was my moral compass.

      Is it a perfect movie? Hardly. But I challenge anyone to point to a more definitive realization of a comic book character on the big screen, whose impression will last for 40+ years. Sure there are plot holes, too much slapstick with the villains, and the special effects were limited (a little) by their time, but the ESSENCE of the character is all there, complete, and faithful…. unlike every other DC movie that has come since.

      Post a Reply
  5. The scene in Lois’ apartment.
    Where he almost shares his secret with her. THAT makes Christopher Reeve shine as Superman. There are other moments. That’s the one that does it for me.
    I would buy a Superman ’55 comic book. I would put Mr. West and Mr. Reeves together as The World’s Finest. I see Mr. Keaton and Mr. Reeve as a modern version.

    Post a Reply
  6. I agree completely with #12. I also had both of those magazines as a kid. Emphasis on had. Unfortunately, I read them so many times, they both literally fell apart. I hesitate to look them up online because I’m afraid to find out how much they cost now.

    Post a Reply
  7. Everyone has their own opinion on this topic and that is the way it should be. I enjoyed the Christopher Reeve version, But for me the only Superman is George Reeves. There are many reasons for this, one being his Superman is the one I grew up with, but more than that the goofball Clark Kent of Reeve always got under my skin. I prefered the (I know something everyone else doesn’t But I’ll play along) way Reeves took the Kent role. Obviously a pair of eyeglasses does not disguise the fact that these two guys are the same so the extra act of being a goof is unnecessary.

    Post a Reply
  8. My anecdote is not something that made it’s way onto the screen, but something “behind the scenes” relayed by Jack O’Halloran, Non from Superman 2. He said Reeve was visiting the set during Marlon Brando’s scenes as Jor-El. He was there to watch an idol of his work on the same movie he was in! He was starstruck, but when Brando began ridiculing the silliness of the costumes, the story, the dialogue, Reeve walked up to him, his idol, and told him that everyone else was taking the project seriously and he should too, or else he should leave. Brando apologized to Reeve, the director, and the entire cast and crew and took the role seriously from that point on.

    Imagine the sheer guts it would take to do that! He felt so strongly about the subject matter that he told hid idol to shove off! THAT is why Superman the Movie is the greatest and THAT is the underlying commitment that makes Reeve the greatest Superman.

    Post a Reply
  9. You have covered this well! I agree with you about your points , and those added about Reeve’s portrayal of Clark Kent. This was the most exciting film of 1978 for me. I already enjoyed Superman and this was him brought to live action!

    We need him back. Thanks to Christopher Reeve for taking the tole seriously and not being ashamed of it. I hope he knew how much joy and impact he made to millions of people then and still today.

    Post a Reply
  10. As someone here already pointed out, the scene where Clark almost reveals his identity is one of the great moments in Superman The Movie. He takes off his glasses, stands tall, drops his voice an octave and you realize how much his Clark Kent is a total performance for both Reeve and Superman. It’s a wonderful moment.

    The funny thing is, if you watch Reeve’s screen tests as Clark (particularly with Margot Kidder) you can see he’s trying out a completely different portrayal of Clark — an affable, soft spoken but assertive Clark which, for me, closer resembles a Jimmy Stewart character. And it’s an equally valid and compelling portrayal of Clark, to be honest. But Reeve is that good an an actor that he tried out a completely different version of the character and fully inhabited it before trying something else entirely!

    Post a Reply
    • Greatest memories! We really did believe he could fly. His flying debut was off the charts! Dozens of nice tidbits that only a true fan would notice…i.e, Superman wore his parted hair opposite of Clark Kent,
      Perry White’s [get the first scoop] speech was well worth a theatre full of verbal thumb-ups! The news paper story that Perry White was reading after His “God talked to Moses!” speech was an actual story. (Read it on Superman website)
      Until this day I’m still amazed how Kirk Alyn’s Superman serial always introduced SUPERMAN as himself each episode.
      Yes! He played Lois Lane’s father when little Lois was riding a train through Smallville when she caught a glimpse of actor Jeff East (young Clark Kent)speeding past it.

      Post a Reply
  11. Was told a million times I looked like him after #1 debuted. Except I was 6′-2″ tall. I was born 09/24.

    Post a Reply
  12. I enjoy the first two films as nostalgic relics of their time. I saw both in the theatre during their initial theatrical run, and I watched them both over and over again when we first got a VCR. But as an adult, I can’t get over how this portrayal of Superman is a complete and total sociopath. He lies, over and over again to the woman he loves (one time (during the balcony scene in the first film) he lies to Lois literally seconds after telling her that he never lies–you can’t get more sociopathic than that). Which is fine, it’s fiction, and flawed characters can make for interesting drama (e.g. Robert Downey Jr. in the first Iron Man). But they don’t present him as a flawed character. They present him as being perfect, which, to me, is illogical because it doesn’t jibe with anything we’ve actually seen on screen. And then when some audience members hold the character up as a paragon of virtue while simultaneously describing the Henry Cavill version as mopey and nihilistic and selfish, it just rubs me the wrong way. Judging the characters purely by their actual actions on screen (as opposed to my own biases), the Reeve version of the character is a sociopath who treats the people he loves with contempt, while the Cavill version of the character literally sacrifices his life to save a population that despises him. If we’re going to take these characters seriously as moral barometers (and I’m not suggesting that we do, but many people insist on it), then I know which version I’d look up to.

    Post a Reply
  13. There is a Superman ‘78 comic by Robert Venditti and it is excellent! The collected edition came out recently

    Post a Reply
  14. Like a few other commenters, I first saw this at the movies aged 10. Loved it then, love it still. With reference to the ‘Superman’s First Night’ sequence: Remember the guy who whangs Supes over the back of the head with a crowbar on the deck of the ship? The actor’s name was John Cording and he was my next-door neighbour for years. His standing with me increased exponentially once I’d realised 🙂

    Post a Reply
  15. Gotta agree with every point on your brilliant list. And #13 always does it for me. That smile seals the deal that Chris was born to play the definitive Superman. I’ll never forget the day my parents took me to see the movie back in early 1979.

    There truly were no better days than the good old days.

    Post a Reply
  16. Even though it debuted December 15th, 1978, I had to wait until January 6th(my birthday)1979 to see it. To this day I’m still surprised that not one of my 6th grade classmates, who all saw it before I did, ruined it for me. And Daniel, this is no relic. It’s a movie that stands the test of time and blows the Cavill version out of the water.

    Post a Reply
  17. This year, I’ll turn 50. Superman was the (3rd? 4th?) theater movie I ever saw. I lived in a tiny midwestern town that was basically Smallville.
    I remember ever second of that first viewing. Where I was sitting, the smells, everything. Do you know that rare feeling, when you know in the moment “What’s happening RIGHT NOW is going to stay with me, and impact, the rest of my life”?
    Back at home (Kent-ish farmhouse) I begged, begged, begged my parents to let me go back and watch it again. We were poor, and this seemed like a whimsical extravagance. I never let up. I wrote a letter to them in my room. I made lists of reasons. I did every chore I could dream up.
    With all accumulated (and the vow of future) Christmas and birthday money, I went back and watched Superman…BOTH daily showings…every, single, day, until it left our tiny town.
    There will only ever be One Superman, because there will only ever have been One Christopher Reeve.
    (In the first Cavill superman, where he takes a beer from the fridge and drinks it? My now middle-aged little brother and I both shouted “WHAT?!?!?!?!” )
    Thank you for writing this, Dan.
    Someday? As God as my witness? I WILL have a detail-perfect backyard replica of Lex Luthor’s sub-subway pool. You can come over for a swim.

    Post a Reply


  1. Superman Was Once a Puny Daily Comic Strip - […] 13thdimension.com […]
  2. OTISBURG: A Visit to the Funniest Place in SUPERMAN | 13th Dimension, Comics, Creators, Culture - […] — Why CHRISTOPHER REEVE Was the Greatest SUPERMAN Ever. Click here. […]
  3. SUPERMAN & BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM Return to Theaters | 13th Dimension, Comics, Creators, Culture - […] — 13 QUICK THOUGHTS: Why CHRISTOPHER REEVE Was the Greatest SUPERMAN Ever. Click here. […]
  4. SUPERMAN and BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM Return to Theaters | 13th Dimension, Comics, Creators, Culture - […] — 13 QUICK THOUGHTS: Why CHRISTOPHER REEVE Was the Greatest SUPERMAN Ever. Click here. […]
  5. The SUPERMAN MOVIE You Didn’t See, by CARY BATES | 13th Dimension, Comics, Creators, Culture - […] — 13 QUICK THOUGHTS: Why CHRISTOPHER REEVE Was the Greatest SUPERMAN Ever. Click here. […]
  6. EXCLUSIVE: RICHARD DONNER Talks SUPERMAN’s Legacy | 13th Dimension, Comics, Creators, Culture - […] — 13 QUICK THOUGHTS: Why CHRISTOPHER REEVE Was the Greatest SUPERMAN Ever. Click here. […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: