AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Director: Richard Donner (Dir)
Release Date:   15 Dec 1978
Duration (in mins):  148
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Cast: Marlon Brando  (Jor-El)
  Gene Hackman  (Lex Luthor)
  Christopher Reeve  (Superman/Clark Kent)

Summary: On the planet Krypton, Jor-El explains that the planet is bent on a natural course of self-destruction but the Kryptonian Council rejects his theory that its citizens should evacuate. While agreeing not to start a panic, Jor-El only has enough time to save his baby son Kal-El by sending him to Earth. Wife Lara doubts their son will fit in, but Jor-El tells her that his powers will help Earth’s people survive. The baby is sent off in a rocket capsule carrying crystals filled with Krypton’s history. Couple Martha and Jonathan Kent stop their car to inspect a burnt out crater in the field. A naked Kal-El emerges with his arms outstretched. As Jonathan fixes a flat tire, arguing with Martha whether they should keep the child, the tire jack gives way. The baby lifts the truck before Jonathan is crushed. He is persuaded at that moment to raise the child as family, and they name him Clark. The years go by and Clark doesn’t always fit in with his high school crowd, but a pep talk from his dad reminds him that although he is different, he was put on Earth for a reason. Clark races his dad to the house but Jonathan has a fatal heart attack. One night, Clark goes to the barn and discovers crystals from his Kryptonian rocket. He tells his mother he must go North to discover his birthright, and she gives him her blessing. In the far reaches of the North Pole, Clark creates a Fortress of Solitude. He listens to the archives that Jor-El prepared to explain his heritage. The crystals hold the secrets to Clark’s existence. Clark becomes a reporter at the Daily Planet newspaper as his day job and Superman becomes his secret identity. Editor Perry White introduces Clark to the staff, and reporter Lois Lane is annoyed when he assigns Clark the city beat, which was Lois’ job. Later, two policemen follow Otis, a henchman who works for criminal mastermind Lex Luther. At the train yard, Otis descends a secret passageway controled by Luther. When one officer arrives at the passageway entrance, Luther’s controls push him into the path of an oncoming train. Luther hints to his assistant, Miss [Eve] Teschmacher that his latest crime involves real estate and he reminds her she is fortunate to have a Park Avenue address. The only problem is that the address is two hundred feet underground and she is not impressed. At the Daily Planet, Lois rides a helicopter to get a story at the airport. The helicopter spins out of control and the pilot is knocked unconscious. Lois hangs precariously from the helicopter as it leans off the side of the building. Clark transforms into Superman and saves Lois after she loses her grip and plummets through the air. When Superman grabs the helicopter and returns it safely to the roof, the public watches from below and cheers. Shortly thereafter, Superman catches a criminal and delivers him and his stolen jewels into the hands of a police officer. So begins Superman’s war on crime and good deeds throughout Metropolis. Perry rallies his reporters to find out everything they can about Superman. He wants the Daily Planet to have the best coverage on the caped crusader. Later, Lois gets an anonymous note to have dinner. Superman shows up on her terrace and Lois interviews him. He explains his purpose is to fight for “truth, justice, and the American way.” They fly all over the city and by the time they return to her apartment, Lois has fallen in love with him. When Clark shows up for their date, her thoughts are miles away. While Otis and Miss Teschmacher read Lois’ exclusive interview with Superman, Luther realizes that pieces of exploding Krypton that have landed on Earth are lethal to Superman. Luther sets up a roadside accident to create a diversion for some soldiers transporting a missile, while Miss Teschmacher inputs the coordinates that change the missile codes. Meanwhile, Luther sends a high-frequency message that only Superman can hear. Within five minutes, Luther plans to release poison gas from thousands of air ducts in the city. Clark becomes Superman, burrowing deep in the ground like a drill bit until he steps into Luther’s underground headquarters. Luther shares his plan to send nuclear missiles to the San Andreas fault, which would destroy big cities like Los Angeles and San Diego and increase the value of all the land Luther owns east of the fault. As the military launches its test missile, it’s apparent that the coordinates have malfunctioned and Lois is heading straight into the path of the destruction. Luther says only his detonator can stop the missiles. When Superman searches for it, he opens a lead box and is weakened by some Kryptonite. Luther tosses him and the Kryptonite into the swimming pool to drown. Miss Teschmacher rescues him because he promises to save her mother who lives in Hackensack, New Jersey, in the path of one of the missiles. Superman destroys one missile, while the other missile goes off, causing an earthquake as Luther predicted. He repairs the fault line, saves a train from derailing, and reporter Jimmy Olsen from failing into the Hoover dam. Superman also prevents the broken dam from flooding a town and saves Lois by turning back time after she suffocates when her car is buried in the fault. Alive again, Lois complains to Superman about her crummy day filled with exploding rocks and crumbling roads as he grins at her. She melts at his smile but Jimmy interrupts them. Soon, Superman leaves them to deliver Luther and Otis to prison. The warden thanks him for making the country safer. In turn, Superman tells him they are all part of the same team.  

Distribution Company: Warner Bros., Inc.
Production Company: Dovemead, Ltd.
International Film Production Inc.
Director: Richard Donner (Dir)
  David Tomblin (2d unit dir/Asst dir)
  John Glen (2d unit dir)
  John Barry (2d unit dir)
  David Lane (2d unit dir)
  Robert Lynn (2d unit dir)
  Dusty Symonds (Prod mgr)
  Peter Runfolo (Prod mgr, New York)
  Les Kimber (Prod mgr, Alberta)
  Austen Jewell (Prod mgr, New Mexico)
  Dominic Fulford (Asst dir & flying unit co-ord)
  Vincent Winter (Asst dir)
  Michael Dryhurst (Asst dir)
  Allan James (Asst dir)
  Gareth Tandy (Asst dir)
  Jerry Grandey (Asst dir, U.S.A.)
  Michael Rauch (Asst dir, U.S.A.)
  Bud Grace (Asst dir, U.S.A.)
  Steve Lanning (2d asst dir)
  Roy Button (2d asst dir)
  Michael Green (2d asst dir)
  Kieron Phipps (2d asst dir)
  Charles Marriott (2d asst dir)
  Vic Smith (2d asst dir)
  Keith Lund (2d asst dir)
  Michael Hook (2d asst dir)
  Patrick Cadell (2d asst dir)
  Peter Jacobs (2d asst dir)
  Simon Milton (2d asst dir)
  Michael Murray (2d asst dir)
  Peter Bergquist (2d asst dir, U.S.A.)
  Candace Suerstedt (2d asst dir, U.S.A.)
Producer: Alexander Salkind (Pres)
  Pierre Spengler (Prod)
  Ilya Salkind (Exec prod)
  Charles F. Greenlaw (Assoc prod)
Writer: Mario Puzo (Scr)
  David Newman (Scr)
  Leslie Newman (Scr)
  Robert Benton (Scr)
  Mario Puzo (Story)
  Norman Enfield (Addl scr material)

Subject Major: Crime
  Superman (Comic book character)
  Super powers
Subject Minor: Adoption
  Comic books
  Earth (Planet)
  Family life
  Guided missiles
  Hoover Dam (AZ and NV)
  Love in the workplace
  North Pole
  Real estate
  Swimming pools
  Time travel

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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