Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s one of the most iconic characters in pop culture history!
No character represents the ideal of the superhero more than Clark Kent’s spandex-clad alter ego, and Superman has had almost as beloved a run in the movies as he has in comics. He first appeared in a film serial way back in 1948, before Christopher Reeve epitomized the role in four films across the 1970s and ‘80s. More recent attempts to revive the character have brought him up to speed with the DC Extended Universe and even into conflict with Batman, who he'll team up with again in next month's Justice League.
But these movies are far from the complete versions of the stories they tell. The Reeve Superman films all had a significant amount of material cut out, much of which was added back in for later TV screenings or DVD releases. And if you know anything about Zack Snyder, you won’t be surprised to learn that his two Super-movies so far both had much more footage shot than what actually made it into theaters.
While many of these scenes were cut for good reasons – not being essential to the plot or making the movie overrun – many others make us wish the editors had been more lenient. From Clark Kent’s investigation into Bruce Wayne to an encounter with Kryptonian war dogs, via some more slapstick encounters with a seesaw and laser eyes, here are fifteen scenes that really could have stepped their movies up a peg...
15 Lex Feeds His ‘Babies’ (Superman)
Debuting in 1978, when superhero films were much rarer than they are today, Christopher Reeve’s incarnation of the Man of Steel became the definitive big screen Superman – while Gene Hackman became the definitive Lex Luthor.
This cut sequence sees Luthor send poor Miss Teschmacher to a horrific fate; he has bumbling henchman Otis lower her into a pit, at the bottom of which lives some growling creatures we never actually see. As Teschmacher is lowered towards Luthor’s ‘babies’, the villain delights in playing the piano. And then, in the nick of time, Superman comes to her rescue.
It’s a delightfully wacky scene with a decidedly sinister edge, and if left in the film, it would have helped build Luthor into the nasty figure we all love to hate.
14 Return to Krypton (Superman Returns)
After an almost twenty year absence, the film series returned in 2006 with Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, which began with the hero arriving back on Earth after a five year absence of his own, somewhere out in space.
But where had he been? This was explored in a scene cut from the beginning of the film. Brandon Routh’s Superman flies a spaceship around the ruins of Krypton. This attempt to learn about his past leads to finding a giant letter ‘S’ in the style of the Superman logo, but also to some serious Kryptonite deposits. When exposed to this, he barely escapes with his life.
Not only is it a visually impressive scene, but it actually explains where Superman has been and why. It also reveals what actually happened to leave him in a weakened state upon his arrival back on Earth.
13 Clark Investigates Batman (Batman V Superman)
Zack Snyder’s preferred cut of Batman V Superman ran to a whopping three hours. This was cut down for the theatrical release, but half an hour was restored for the Ultimate Cut, available on home media.
One of the most interesting of these sequences sees Clark Kent use his journalism skills to learn more about Batman. Sent to Gotham to cover a football match, Kent instead seeks out Kahina Ziri, only to find she’s gone. He then speaks to her neighbors about Batman, learning about the Bat’s brutality and being warned to leave the city before dark.
Though we get why the film was cut down, it’s a shame to have lost this sequence, as it’s nice to see Clark exercise his journalistic skills. Plus, it actually gives him motivation for his vendetta against Batman.
12 Zod Enters The Fortress Of Solitude (Superman II)
We’ve had a Lex Luthor deleted scene, now it’s time for that other key part of Superman’s rogues gallery – the Kryptonian rebel General Zod, who terrorized Earth in 1980’s Superman II.
Cut from the latter act of the film, this scene sees Zod and his followers, Ursa and Non, try to break into the Fortress of Solitude, with Lex Luthor and a captive Lois Lane in tow. Non’s first attempt to get through the door ends in a painful-looking electric shock, but with what Zod terms ‘the strength of three’, the trio of villainous Kryptonians then successfully fly into Superman’s base.
The scene helps build up Zod and his team as serious opponents to Superman, able to counter any of his defences. Plus, it’s never a bad thing to spend more time with the sinisterly bearded Terence Stamp.
11 Baby Kal Blows Up The Doctors (Man Of Steel)
Kicking off the DC Extended Universe, Superman returned to theaters with 2013’s Man of Steel. Starring Henry Cavill, this gave us a whole new version of Superman’s origin story, but an extra scene of the young Clark Kent’s upbringing was cut from the proceedings.
This sequence sees Jonathan and Martha Kent, after noticing their adopted baby exhibiting some unusual behaviors, take Clark to a pediatrician. The doctor does a hearing test on Clark, dialing up various sounds, only for the young Kryptonian to respond by screaming – and smashing all the building’s windows.
This was cut because it was too tonally different to the Armageddon on Krypton shortly before it, but it nevertheless sounds like a fun scene that we would like to have seen. It’s a shame that it’s not turned up on any DVD releases, then.
10 Saving A Kid From A See-Saw (Superman III)
Superman III isn’t many people’s favorite movie in the series, and is often criticized for prioritizing slapstick humor over good storytelling. But we can’t help but smile when we see this particular moment of silliness.
A young boy’s mother sits him down on a seesaw, only for some construction workers to drop a heavy object from a crane onto the other end. The kid goes flying, reaching a sudden arboreal stop in a nearby tree. Thankfully, Superman isn’t too far away, and comes to the child’s rescue.
It’s always good to see Supes saving everyday people in (sort of) everyday situations in between fighting the universe’s supervillains. Plus, in a movie that features Richard Pryor skiing off the top of a skyscraper, what harm would one more gag have done?
9 Luthor Communes With Steppenwolf (Batman V Superman)
Gene Hackman was a tough Lex Luthor to beat, so Batman V Superman went a very different route with the character and cast the much younger Jesse Eisenberg. Not all of his scenes made the theatrical cut, though, including this one, which made its way online soon after the film's release.
After accessing the database of the Fortress of Solitude, Luthor makes communion with Steppenwolf, hench-god of Darkseid and commander of the Parademon army. Steppenwolf appears to teach Luthor about the Mother Boxes, alien tech originally owned by Darkseid. But before they can continue their lesson, Luthor is interrupted by armed troops.
Though not strictly relevant to the plot of Batman V Superman, it’s an intriguing tease for storylines to come in the DC movies – we’ll be seeing more of Steppenwolf soon in Justice League.
8 Superman’s Sickness (Superman IV)
Like the movie immediately before it, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is generally regarded as a super-failure, crammed with boring action, cheap effects, and a very hamfisted anti-nuclear message.
But this scene, cut from the point shortly after Nuclear Man (yes, that is really the bad guy’s name) has infected Supes with radiation sickness, gives us something we don’t see often – the Last Son of Krypton at a point of weakness. Clark barely manages to cross his own apartment, stumbling as he grabs water from the tap.
Critics of Superman often complain that he’s too powerful and is never beaten, so this scene would have gone some way towards addressing that, as well as adding some character stakes back into this otherwise dull film.
7 Young Clark Learns To Fly (Superman Returns)
Another one from the 2006 effort, though this time, we’re not with Brandon Routh’s version of the hero, but Stephan Bender’s take on the teenage Clark Kent in a flashback sequence.
After somewhat clumsily falling through the roof of the Kent family’s barn, young Clark finds his fall stopping as he hovers just above the ground. We can see the confidence in his abilities growing throughout the scene, and he then plays around with his X-ray vision, looking through the hay at the barn floor beneath.
Though not essential to the plot, it’s a neat little scene which builds on Superman’s backstory, shows us how he came to be the assured hero we spend the rest of the film with, and fits with the more character-focused tone of Bryan Singer’s movie.
6 Jor-El Is Banished (Superman)
1978’s Superman opens with a take on Superman’s family backstory, leading up to the destruction of Krypton, but the theatrical cut of the movie had an important part of this snipped out.
Jor-El – Superman’s dad – meets with various other leaders of Krypton and tries to convince them that the planet is on the verge of destruction. But the other leaders refuse to believe him, and dub his words fear-mongering. For this attempted ‘insurrection’, Jor-El is banished.
It seems sacrilege to cut a single moment featuring the great Marlon Brando, and yet that’s what Warner Bros did. What also makes this scene remarkable, particularly today, is the worrying parallels it has with those who try to ignore evidence of our own world’s imminent crisis – Superman was ahead of its time!
5 Jor-El’s Robot Vs. Zod’s War Dogs (Man Of Steel)
Man of Steel begins with Kal-El being sent away from Krypton in the midst of Zod’s rebellion and the planet’s doom, but that whole sequence was at one point even more insane.
In a bigger battle on the landing platform, Kelex, the El family’s robot, would have donned armor and joined Jor-El in battle against Zod. Oh, and Zod would have had a pack of genetically engineered war dogs on his side. Kelex has some explosives hidden in his armor, however, and blows himself up in order to hold off the dogs long enough to allow Kal-El’s escape.
It’s unknown how much of this was even shot, but the concept art of the war dogs looks pretty damn cool, and it certainly sounds like it could have raised the stakes of the Krypton sequence even higher.
4 No Borders (Superman IV)
Superman IV’s story of Supes trying to unite the world’s countries and stop the Cold War may not have been competently delivered, but there was a strong message at its heart, as this scene depicts.
Addressing leaders of the UN, Superman wishes they could see the world as he does, and has an idea of how to show them. He takes a young boy, Jeremy, up into space. Somehow, Jeremy doesn’t immediately soil his pants (or, you know, die), and instead comments for Superman on how the world looks from here – “I can’t tell where one country begins and another one ends. There’s no borders. It’s just one world.”
It’s a powerful reminder that, in a world as full of international tensions today as it was when the film was released, all our divisions are arbitrary and man-made, and it poignantly sums up all that Superman stands for. Shame about the rest of the movie.
3 Zod And Co.’s Violent Arrival (Superman II)
It doesn’t take long after arriving on Earth – specifically Houston, Texas – for Zod and his pair of Kryptonian thugs to start causing some serious trouble. In the extended cut of Superman II, they cause even more chaos.
Zod uses his telekinesis to throw some poor guy around and, when the man’s son tries to escape, Non blows the boy up. Soon after this, they’re facing a full military force, but this is no match for them either. Non uses his laser eyes on an army jeep, causing it to swerve up a convenient ramp and through a billboard.
We could go on about how this scene should have stayed in the film because it helps establish Zod and co. as formidable villains, but really, we just like it for the comedy violence.
2 Hearing All Crimes Across The World (Batman V Superman)
Would you believe that Zack Snyder cut a scene from Batman V Superman because he thought it was too dark? Given the brutality and grimness peppered all over the rest of the movie, it does seem odd, but it’s true.
The scene in question takes place after Lex Luthor has kidnapped Martha Kent. Superman tries to use his super-hearing to find her, but can’t work out where she is, as her cries are drowned out by those of hundreds of other crime victims across the city. Subsequently, Kal-El is filled with despair over not being able to be everywhere at once.
Yep, that is indeed a damn dark idea for a scene. On the other hand, it would fit exactly into the tone of Batman V Superman!
1 The Full Destruction Of Krypton (Superman)
The destruction of Krypton is the key event in Superman’s backstory, so it was of course shown in the 1978 debut movie, but the extended cut of that film goes into much more detail.
In this version of the planet’s destruction, we spend more time with the Kryptonian leaders who still refuse (right up until the last minute) to believe their planet is reaching its end, intercut with Jor-El saying his goodbyes to his son. Then, with the baby launching off, explosions of color and sound signify the tearing apart of the planet, and parts of the city collapse atop its residents.
Though the theatrical cut of this scene served its purpose, we completists do prefer the longer version. It gives a much more chaotic take on the planet’s Armageddon, with a real sense of panic and despair. And all achieved without CGI!
Are any of your favorite missing super-scenes also missing from this list? Let us know in the comments!