For over thirty years, Superman has lived beyond the comic book pages in several TV shows, movies, and video games. From the several incarnations that have come and gone, the Man of Steel has been depicted by various storytellers in many different forms. One of the most iconic aspects of the character since his inception is the costume. Just as it has been drawn differently in comics, it has been adapted in multiple ways for the big and small screen. From Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Tyler Hoechlin, Tom Welling, Brandon Routh, and others, many have worn an iteration of the iconic suit.
As several talented costume designers have been involved with bringing Superman’s suit to life, there are many to choose from. Given the many Superman adaptations that we have gotten, there have also been a few other suits than just the classic red and blue outfit. With that said, it’s time to look at the ten best Superman costumes in television and film.
10 Adventures of Superman
The Last Son of Krypton’s first television series came in 1952 as Adventures of Superman ran for six seasons with the late George Reeves donning the role. His Superman costume is definitely one of the more basic versions as this was made at a different time than now.
But just because it was a simple design, it doesn’t take away the fact that it’s a good suit made for TV.
9 Superman Returns
While the film still remains a mixed bag, the Superman Returns costume worn by Brandon Routh is still one of the better versions of the suit in media. However, the color balance of this costume sets it apart from the other versions that have appeared in live-action. For instance, the red cape and boots got a lot darker with the blue bodysuit following the same path.
Given its connection to the Christopher Reeve franchise, it’s still a mystery for what caused the costume to get a darker tone when Reeve’s suit was as bright as it was.
8 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (Black Suit)
One of the other big Superman TV shows from the past is Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman with Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain in the respective roles. However, during the four-season run, Clark got to sport another Superman suit. Towards the end of the third season, Clark dons a new suit as he attempts at helping the surviving Kryptonians on New Krypton from the villainous Lord Nor (the show’s version of General Zod.)
While ditching the cape and getting into a fully black suit, we get to see the famous House of El shield in blue. This is one of the few instances where the Black Superman suit has made it on the screen which is always a fun treat.
7 Arrowverse’s Elseworlds
On the subject of Black Superman costumes, the Arrowverse recently got to bring it into the ongoing DC TV universe on The CW. During the Elseworlds crossover, John Deegan (Jeremy Davies) uses the Book of Destiny to become the Man of Steel on Earth-1.
But rather than the traditional red and blue outfit, Deegan sports a black suit with a silver S-shield that any hardcore Superman fan will recognize from the lore. Even if that costume made it into the CW-DC franchise in a different way, maybe we’ll see it at some point in the upcoming Superman and Lois series that is in the works.
While Smallville only had Clark Kent (Tom Welling) in the suit in part two of the series finale, it’s not that Superman suit that we remember the most. Especially as it was the Superman Returns costume with a few changes made to it. Even if he wasn’t Superman officially until the end, Clark was in many ways already operating as the Man of Steel without the name and classic costume. However, the series had Clark wear variations of a Superman costume in the later seasons. After having gone with the red jacket and blue t-shirt for eight seasons, the ninth year saw Clark take it to a whole new level.
In season nine, Clark starts dedicating more time to being the Blur while wearing a black trench coat and t-shirt with the House of El shield in all white. The final season got Clark back to the red and blue when he changed to a red leather jacket with the S-shield and a blue shirt underneath. Even if they weren’t what Superman traditionally wears, they were clever ways to have Clark still suit up in some way, hence why they earned a spot on this list.
5 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
While the black suit was a fun treat on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, it was always the classic suit that got the most love. One of the biggest takeaways from Cain’s suit is how big they made the S-shield in this version. Even though other versions of the costume have had a fairly sizable S on it, Cain’s version had the biggest one.
It’s also the origin story of the suit that will always be greatly remembered. In the pilot, we see Martha Kent (K. Callan) help Clark make his costume as he tries different options in the iconic sequence that was played to Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need a Hero.”
4 Crisis on Infinite Earth’s Kingdom Come Superman
Superman Returns may have not gotten a sequel, but the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover is giving Routh another opportunity to play the Man of Steel. This time, however, he’ll be suiting up in a different look that brings to life one of the most iconic Superman versions from the comics.
In the crossover, Routh’s Superman will be sporting the Kingdom Come costume from the iconic Alex Ross comic. From start to finish, it’s a perfect adaptation that really showcases how good this version of the S-shield looks in live-action. It's also the better Superman suit for Routh.
When Hoechlin made his debut as Superman in the second season of Supergirl, he got one of the better versions of the costume. With the suit being slightly close to the design of Kara’s (Melissa Benoist) outfit, the series did something that other Superman suits hasn’t done previously.
The way that they applied the cape to Hoechlin’s costume is a refreshing look with the golden clasps. It’s a simple design that also feels modern.
2 Superman: The Movie
When it comes to the big screen versions of the Superman costumes, the Reeve incarnation still holds up today because of its meaning pop culture. Similarly to Adventures of Superman and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, it’s a basic, but still amazing design.
The tone of the red and blue colors pops to this day and is still remembered as one of the best suits in the media. From Superman: The Movie till the end of that franchise, there really never was a need for the costume to evolve as it was perfect the way it was.
1 Man of Steel
While there are a lot of amazing versions of the Superman uniform in live-action, only one can be number one. In this case, that title goes to Henry Cavill’s Superman in the DCEU in Man of Steel. Zack Snyder and the costume designers James Acheson and Michael Wilkinson truly did the biggest redesign to it while also staying true to the core. It is different enough while also having that feeling of familiarity to it. While other depictions have been incredible, it’s this version that has a majestic feeling to it.
The advanced material and the fresh take on the S-shield helped set this costume apart from other incarnations. What sets this suit apart from other versions in TV and film is how it visually allows the costume, along with the Superman character, having a deeper meaning. As the character evolves with time, so should the costume and Man of Steel proves that point.