Ranking The Best Superman Actors – You’re Guaranteed To Be Surprised Over Who #1 Is

George reeves as Superman

Superman is a weirdly polarizing superhero. To some, he’s the greatest superhero in comics history. To others, he’s actually boring because he’s basically unbeatable.

There’s a little bit of truth to both sides. All I know for sure, though, is he’s a nuanced character, and he’s tough to play perfectly. Not only does he have to display vulnerability and extreme dominance, but he’s also got to play a human version of himself in Clark Kent.

More layers exist to the Superman character than some are willing to admit to. That makes compiling a best Superman actor list a bit more difficult than you’d think. But hey, someone has to do it!

Since we’re on the topic – and because you’re likely a DC fan in general – be sure to check out our Batman actor rankings, as well. With that, let’s look at the top Superman actors, ranked from worst to best.

7. Dean Cain – Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

This one can be said pretty simply; Cain was a passable Clark Kent, but he brought very little to the table as Superman.

Cain is arguably a fairly underrated actor, but his Superman portrayal bordered on campy. He did a solid job with the Clark Kent role and furthering his relationship with Lois Lane on screen, but the rest was lacking.

He makes my top Superman actors list based largely on nostalgia, and the fact that I did enjoy the series when I was younger.

6. Tyler Hoechlin – Superman & Lois

If you came here to see a list of Superman actors ranked and didn’t think Hoechlin would be in the same boat as Cain, I’ve got news for you.

He doesn’t distance himself by much.

I do think he isn’t given much help in terms of story, production, and supporting cast, but his effort as Superman is also a bit too campy for my liking.

There is a specific look and feel to Superman that you expect, and it just isn’t there with Hoechlin, who never completely takes over a scene on his own.

See for yourself.

Hoechlin isn’t a bad actor, but he just wasn’t the right pick to play Superman. He’s better than Cain, though.

5. George Reeves – The Adventures of Superman

Let’s kick it back to the 50s, where Reeves was made a legend in this iconic TV series. He does benefit greatly from a few things, of course.

The first is that there wasn’t a lot on TV to get excited about just yet, while he was also the initial actor to portray Superman on screen.

Reeves still did a good job capturing the character’s sense of duty and morality, while he offered surprising humor and affability as Clark Kent.

4. Tom Welling – Smallville

Reeves was the first Superman TV actor, but in my opinion, he wasn’t the best. He did manage to beat out Cain and Hoechlin in my Superman actor rankings, though, so there’s that.

Next up is Tom Welling, who really gives us the only young Clark Kent we can turn to. Thankfully, he actually did an amazing job in this role, and also set the stage for his future days as the hero of Metropolis.

Welling had his flaws in a somewhat campy environment, but he was commanding in his heroic role, and he captured the constant balancing act that Kent’s life was.

3. Brandon Routh – Superman Returns

I’ve touched on some Superman actors that largely spent their time on the small screen. Now it’s time to really dig my feet in and point you to some of the best Superman portrayals we’ve ever seen.

You undoubtedly have some idea as to where we’re headed (although the order can obviously be debated), but I’ll get the party started with Brandon Routh’s one-off turn as Superman ranking third all-time.

I don’t think he got a fair shake as Superman, and I also don’t think the studios put enough thought into what they’d do with the story. Routh basically picked the story up following the last Superman movie, and that was only a difference of two decades.

Routh was probably destined to fail from the start, but he looked the part and was actually extremely convincing in this dual role.

I mean, do you remember the scene where he took a bullet to the eye and didn’t even flinch?

Faster than a speeding bullet, indeed.

Routh wasn’t perfect in both roles, but Superman needs to command your attention, he needs to be perfectly comfortable in his own skin, and he has to offer some swagger. Routh packaged all of that, while taking hold of a tougher than expected role on the fly.

While Routh was a hit in the cape and tights, he probably creeps up my Superman actor rankings due to his ability to crank out a very believable Clark Kent. He played both roles much better than expected, however.

2. Christopher Reeve – Superman

Seen by most as the best Superman actor ever, Reeve slides in at #2 in my Superman rankings. It’s admittedly considered the definitive portrayal of Superman and Clark Kent, as Reeve did a stellar job at nailing both characters.

While Reeve carried the torch successfully through four amazing films – and there’s no denying he’s in the conversation for being the top Superman in history – there’s someone else I believed a bit more as Kal-El.

1. Henry Cavill – Man of Steel

Reeve probably played the best Clark Kent we’ve ever seen. To me, Cavill gave us the most authentic Superman we’ve seen on screen. The tie goes to the runner here, in that the title character is what moves the needle the most.

That, and Cavill’s Kent was still very convincing.

Of course, it’s his mixture of innate confidence, physicality, brooding presence, and timely humor that really puts Cavill over the top for me.

Part of the credit of Cavill landing #1 in my Superman rankings goes to the woefully underrated Man of Steel, which was brilliantly crafted by Zack Snyder.

I’m not even necessarily Team #Snyderverse but they knocked it out of the park here. Cavill is a dominant force as Kal-El, and he isn’t just good at walking around as an unstoppable brute.

He also has layers of vulnerability, compassion, and soul-searching that I don’t think any other Superman rendition offered.

Cavill’s is the most layered and most complex Superman, as he perfectly illustrates the character’s internal battle with doing the right thing – even in the face of failure.

Think I got my Superman rankings all jacked up? Are they out of order, or did I leave a deserving actor off my list? Let me hear about it in the comments below.

Scott Bondiful


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