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Christopher Reeve Movies: You Know Him As Superman, But He Starred in 17 Films — Here, An Insider Look At Them All!

From 1978 to 1995 there were 17 movies featuring the actor, only four of which were Superman films!


While there may have been times when he tried to escape the perceived stigma of having portrayed Superman, and there is certainly diversity over the course of Christopher Reeve movies, the actor dismissed the idea that putting on the blue and red costume had become something of a curse.

“It’s a blessing,” Reeve emphasized to journalist Bobby Wygant. “Frankly, if I were sitting out there in the public, and even sitting here, I get really tired of hearing actors say, ‘Well, of course I’m going to play Hamlet now and I’m going to be real and serious and heavy.’ The public shouldn’t have to know about any of that. You just get on with your life. And sometimes they’ll like you and sometimes they won’t.

“But my intention, really, is just to carry on doing work that I like,” Reeve added. “Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don’t. But I could not for a minute think of this as a curse, because it’s made me financially independent. It’s brought me the respect of my peers. It’s gotten me a chance to work with some of the best directors in the business and gotten good reviews. And it was such a long shot in the beginning. They all thought it was going to be a joke and the filmmakers felt we could win our way into people’s hearts, and we did. How could that be a curse?”

Christopher Reeve
American actor Christopher Reeve (1952 – 2004), best known for his role as comicbook hero Superman, 1986. (PLarry Ellis/Larry Ellis Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

That spirit of optimism permeated the life and career of Christopher Reeve, which he proved in the aftermath of the horse riding accident in 1995 that left him paralyzed from the neck down, complications from which would contribute to his death on October 10, 2004 at the age of 52.

He could have so easily given up, but he never did. During that near-20 year period. He managed to act, direct and was heavily involved in lobbying for federal funding on embryonic stem cell research, providing encouragement to others, and even created the Christopher Reeve Foundation to help raise awareness and research funding.

And now, taking things even further is Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story, a moving documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21st, and which Variety describes as “a moving, wrenching, compellingly well-made documentary about Reeve’s life that inevitably ends up centering on his accident and its aftermath. In the movie, we hear Reeve speak with intimate candor about how he felt when he first became conscious after the accident, and the days and weeks after that, and how he experienced it as a surreal nightmare that he could only gradually wake up from … The accident was a supreme test of faith, and as Super/Man shows us, it was, in the end, about the restoration of his faith, and the enlargement of it.”

Adds The Hollywood Reporter, “Reeve’s public profile enabled him to move the needle on disability awareness, starting a foundation that, since its launch in 2002, has funded medical research, professional care and rights advocacy. The film builds a persuasive case that countless people struck by paralysis are walking today because of the work he galvanized.”

The Children of Christopher Reeve
(L-R) Matthew Reeve, Alexandra Reeve Givens and William Reeve attend the Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story Premiere during the 2024 Sundance Film Festival at The Ray Theatre on January 21, 2024 in Park City, Utah. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

There was a time before the accident when Reeve was asked how he would define a hero. “For me, personally,” he said, “a hero is somebody who will make sacrifices for others without expecting a reward.” This was immediately followed up by the query of whether or not Reeve himself was a hero. He replied, “I don’t know. I can’t start leaping to those conclusions.”

The answer, it seems, has been revealed within Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story, of which fans are waiting for word of a wider release or availability on streaming.

Christopher Reeve and Katharine Hepburn
Christopher Reeve and Katharine Hepburn on stage in the 1976 production of A Matter of GravityGetty Images

Sadly, we know the end of his journey, but it began on September 25, 1952 when he was born in New York City. By the age of 9 he realized he was interested in acting, which would lead him to study at Cornell University and the Juilliard School. He would make his Broadway debut in 1976 opposite veteran actress Katharine Hepburn in the play A Matter of Gravity, which would lead to him screen testing for the role of Superman for what would become 1978’s Superman: The Movie.

Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve
Director Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve on the set of 1978’s Superman: The Movie©WBDiscovery/courtesy

“I still have photos from his screen test,” that film’s director, Richard Donner, noted. “He was this string bean, this skinny kid in blue leotards with an ‘S’ cut into the front of it, sweat pouring out from his arms and black shoe polish on his hair to give it a black look. He swore to me that he could put on weight and build up, so we hired him. One day he flew into our office and was perfect.”

Between 1978 and 1995 there would be a total of 17 Christopher Reeve movies, in only four of which he portrayed the Man of Steel. What follows is a guide to all of them.

(Visit our sister site for a ranking of the 9 Superman Movies)

1. Gray Lady Down (1978)

Christopher Reeve in Gray Lady Down
Ned Beatty, Christopher Reeve and Stacy Keach in 1978’s Gray Lady DownFilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

An attempt to cash in on the wave of disaster films that included The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974), Gray Lady Down is set on a nuclear submarine that finds itself trapped on a sea shelf, balancing precariously with death for everyone aboard seemingly capable of coming at any time. The film stars Charlton Heston, David Carradine, Stacy Keach and Ned Beatty. As Christopher Reeve movies go, his role as Lieutenant (JG) Phillips was a minor one, but that was okay with the actor.

While speaking to Playgirl magazine in 1978, he said, “I thought for a while I would like to do a movie. Then I was offered a submarine drama, Gray Lady Down, with Charlton Heston, David Carrdine and Ned Beatty. It was quite a small part, but to be honest, it would have satisfied my ego for the time being, even if Superman hadn’t come along. It was a pleasant experience spending several weeks on Navy vessels off the coast of San Diego.”

2. Superman: The Movie (1978)

Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman
Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman in 1978’s Superman: The Movie©WBDiscovery/courtesy

Of all the Christopher Reeve movies, one stands apart from the rest. Superman: The Movie, released in 1978, set the blueprint for superhero movies for decades to comic and has been highly influential on many filmmakers. Christopher Reeve movies exploded in the pop culture zeitgeist as this film was hailed as an instant classic.

Thanks to director Richard Donner’s determination to keep things real, audiences completely got swept up in the magic. Broken into three segments, the movie chronicles the Man of Steel’s birth and escape from the doomed planet Krypton, his being raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent in Smallville, and instilled with the morality that would define him; and his arrival in Metropolis and the Daily Planet, where he meets and is instantly smitten by Margot Kidder‘s Lois Lane. Then, of course, there’s the intent of Gene Hackman‘s Lex Luthor planning ond sending California into the sea via nuclear missile.

“In a sense, Superman is a stranger in a strange land, a solitary man with incredible powers,” said Reeve, “trying to fit into his adopted planet. He has warmth and a great sense of humor. And while he has sworn to uphold truth, justice and the American way, there’s nothing self-conscious about him. That’s simply what he believes in.

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“Like most people my age,” he continued, “I was brought up on Superman. I knew the classic stance — hands on the hips, cape blowing in the wind, bullets bouncing off his chest. That’s the way six and a half billion people have loved Superman, and I wouldn’t dream of changing it, except to give the role greater dimension. The thing that’s fun for me as an actor, in terms of going back to who I think Superman is, is that he’s three people at the same time. He’s Superman, who he has learned to be through instructions from his father; he’s Clark Kent, which is a very deliberately invented disguise to mask his true identity; and then he’s the person underneath the two characters, when he’s neither Superman or Clark Kent.”

3. Somewhere in Time (1980)

Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve
Actress Jane Seymour and Actor Christopher Reeve take a break during filming of Somewhere in Time on the veranda of the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Michigan in May, 1979Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images

Filmed in between the making of Superman: The Movie and Superman II, this romance was Reeve’s means of escaping the cape, trying to prove to the audience that he was capable of playing more than the Last Son of Krypton. In this film, he’s cast as a playwright named Richard Collier, who, in 1972, finds himself obsessed with the portrait of actress Elise McKenna, played by Jane Seymour, at the Grand Hotel.

Using hypnosis, he is somehow able to travel backwards in time to 1912 so that he can meet Elise. Once there, the two fall deeply in love. However, her manager ( The Sound of Music‘s Christopher Plummer), fearing the romance will ruin her career, is determined to tear them apart.

Somewhere In Time, while it errs on the side of pretentiousness, is an absolutely honest attempt to create an old-fashioned romance,” Reeve enthused. “It’s based on love rather than on sex or X-rated bedroom scenes. I don’t know how to talk about a love story without getting all gooey about it, but the script excited me because of the situation of the leading character. His problem struck me as that of many people. They’ve got everything going for them, or so they say, except for a real commitment, a real love.” Another standout of the Christopher Reeve movies.

4. Superman II (1980 European Release, 1981 in America)

Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve
Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve in 1981’s Superman II©WBDiscovery/courtesy

The first film was a blockbuster, and this second one didn’t come in far behind it. This sequel has a pair of focuses, one being the Man of Steel’s battle with a trio of super-powered Kryptonian villains; the second his romance with Lois Lane — added to which is the fact that this is the first time the two characters have ever slept together. It really does stand as a terrific combination of romance and action.

“Both identities are more sharply defined in Superman II,” offered Reeve. “In the first picture, we had to establish who Superman was and why he disguised himself as Clark Kent. This time, we come out swinging.”

5. Deathtrap (1982)

Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine
Christopher Reeve attempts to strangle Michael Caine in a scene from the film Deathtrap, 1982
Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Not for the last time in the history of Christopher Reeve movies, this one is based on a stage play of the same name. There are plenty of twists and turns between Michael Caine‘s aging playwright Sidney Bruhl, and Reeve’s as his former student Clifford Anderson. Clifford is lured to Sidney’s Long Island home with the intent on killing him so that he can steal the younger writer’s original play and produce it himself. It’s important to note that nothing is as it appears to be.

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Reeve was pretty candid in terms of why he chose Deathtrap when he was spoke to Interview magazine, pointing out that after the first Superman film was released, he found it difficult to accept the hero worship that confronted him at every turn.

“I immediately made choices of material that, in a way, gave everybody the finger,” he said. “My actions were meant to tell the public, ‘Don’t look up to me. Don’t think of me as a hero.’ One of my immediate choices was to play a screwed-up homosexual playwright in Deathtrap. The character I played was one the audience couldn’t possibly like or identify with… It was almost necessary for me at the time to play characters who were gay, crippled, psychotic, neurotic, killers, whatever. It was almost a pompous, self-important way of telling the public, ‘Screw you, I’ll tell you who I am, so you don’t tell me.’ I have to admit that I was a particularly ungraceful and unsympathetic person at the time.”

6. Monsignor (1982)

Christopher Reeve in Monsignor
Actor Christopher Reeve in a scene from the movie Monsignor, 1982 Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images

This time out, Reeve is Father Flaherty, a Catholic priest who rises in rank through the Vatican during World War II, along the way involving the Vatican in a variety of illegal operations and having an affair — before realizing that he has to try and turn it all around. For the actor, the movie he made was rather different from the one that was released, which the critics derided. Definitely not a highpoint in the line of Christopher Reeve movies.

Stated Reeve, “I thought the chance to play a morally ambiguous character who was neither clearly good nor clearly bad, someone to whom life is much more complex than the characters I’ve played previously, would be good. Monsignor should have been a good movie, and it just went off the track for reasons that I don’t want to embarrass a lot of people by discussing. The way it was released, the movie is sort of a series of outrageous incidents that you find hard to believe. Since they don’t have a focus, and since they aren’t justified and explained, they become laughable. Instead of fixing the film, they sold it up the Wazoo — full page ads in the Times. That’s not filmmaking.”

7. Superman III (1983)

Richard Pryor and Christopher Reeve
Richard Pryor and Christopher Reeve in 1983’s Superman III©WBDiscovery/courtesy

In the third chapter of the big screen Superman adventures, Reeve’s Clark Kent returns to childhood home of Smallville for his high school reunion, where he rekindles the romantic feelings he and Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole) had for each other.

Because it’s not a Superman movie without bad guys, corrupt businessman Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) forces a computer hacker named Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor) to come up with technology that will threaten the world as well as come up with artificial Kryptonite to kill the Man of Steel.

Instead, it turns him evil, resulting in a psychological junkyard battle between Superman and Clark Kent. While it may sound like an effective storyline, it does not play well, the combination of Superman and Pryor failing to be a good mix.

Being interviewed by the British media, Reeve was asked which of the three films was his favorite: “It’s a loaded question, because there’s no right answer. I’m a softie. I like romance and I think that Superman I for me contains the most satisfying elements of it. I don’t think we’ll ever beat the flight around Metropolis with Superman and Lois. That tops off the whole thing. Superman III is much more of a comic book. Some people really like it better that way. It’s slick, fast-paced and funny. I miss the more romantic, even sentimental parts of the character. But that’s just my personal taste.”

8. The Bostonians (1984)

Director James Ivory and Christopher Reeve
Director James Ivory directs actor Christopher Reeve in The Bostonians in September 1983 Cambridge, Massachusetts(Photo by Mikki Ansin/Getty Images)

This is how IMDb describes the film: “A Boston feminist and a conservative Southern lawyer contend for the heart and mind of a beautiful and bright girl unsure of her future.” The Bostonians, in which Reeve plays a Southern lawyer in the late 1800s, represented the actor’s shift to some degree into costume and ensemble dramas. As he noted to the Christian Science Monitor, “What effect do you want to produce? Do you want to be a star, or to act? The true star will be careful to preserve his image through the part. The audience feels secure, and the performer is trusted.”

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“James Ivory was one of the directors who asked me because he liked my work in Superman. [Producer] Ismail Merchant could only afford to pay me $100,000, less than a tenth of my established price at the time. I insisted that the money was not an issue, that this was the kind of work I ought to be doing, but my agent told me, ‘If you do that picture with those wandering minstrels, it will be one foot in the grave of your career.’ I cheerfully ignored their advice.”

Period piece, or costume dramas, would be an important component of many Christopher Reeve movies.

9. The Aviator (1985)

Christopher Reeve in The Aviator
Christopher Reeve and Rosanna Arquette having a quiet moment together in a scene from the film The Aviator’ 1985 United Artists/Getty Images

In 1918, a former military flyer (Reeve) who is mentally scarred from the past, finds himself on a battle for survival with a young woman (Rosanna Arquette) when their plane crashes in the wilderness. The threat includes wolves. “It wasn’t really dangerous,” he’s quoted as saying in Superhero: A Biography of Christopher Reeve. “They were trained wolves; you can’t get scared of animals with names like Max and Ivan. All you do is hold a piece of chicken or meat in your hand, and on command they go for it.”

Researching the part, Reeve studied the history of the period. “There was an article in a 1926 National Geographic about this new daring breed of men written much the same way they wrote about the astronauts in the sixties. To a certain extent, I was thinking of Charles Lindbergh. The idea of a man who is capable of great acts of heroism without any self awareness, amazes me. He was a man who’d be likely to say, ‘Well, then I flew the Atlantic, a lot of people met me at the airport and then I went to the Ambassador’s house for dinner’ — he had a flare of understatement.

Early air mail pilots had short life spans: “They were cheating death. If you got to be 35, you were known as an old pilot.”

10. Street Smart (1987)

Cannon Films had gotten the rights to make Superman films and wanted Reeve to reprise the role of the Man of Steel. He was reluctant, given what had happened on Superman III, but was drawn in by the promise the studio would produce a pet project of his, Street Smart, before production would begin on the superhero adventure. As far as the actor was concerned, this was an important entry in the history of Christopher Reeve films.

He plays struggling reporter Jonathan Fisher, who, out of desperation, starts making up stories about a pimp that has the effect of resurrecting his career, but things go south when a real pimp, Fast Black (Morgan Freeman), believes that these stories are about him and demands answers from Fisher. Said Reeve at the time, “The central character is not likable and definitely not a hero. But he’s like many people in their mid-30s, facing a dilemma of personal ethics versus ambition. He’s sort of lost, just getting along, but he wants to be famous. When he gets the opportunity, he takes it.”

11. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Superman IV
Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman and Mark Pillow in 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace©WBDiscovery/courtesy

Superman decides to rid the world of all nuclear missiles, which finds him locked in battle with Lex Luthor (the returning Gene Hackman) and his creation from Superman’s DNA, Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow). Its budget literally cut in half on the eve of production, the film is a sham, a box office disappointment, and the final time Christopher appeared as Superman.

Director Sidney J. Furie tries to remain philosophical about the results: “The truth is that whether your film is about the great mythological character you have to do right by, or it’s a little movie that nobody has heard of, you still approach it like it’s the most important thing in the world. And failing is still the worse thing in the world. But you fail, you go on, you succeed once in a while and you don’t think about it too often. It goes with the territory… we’re gunslingers, and you don’t win every duel.”

One thing Reeve did stand behind was the central theme of the movie, of Superman getting involved in truly trying to save the world. “The Superman operating manual,” he said, “or the instructions he got from Dad back on Krypton was never to interfere with human destiny. At the same time, Superman feels, ‘Well, I live on Earth now. Krypton has been destroyed. I can’t go home. This is my home. Doesn’t that mean I have to take more responsibility?'”

12. Switching Channels (1988)

Switching Channels
Burt Reynolds, Kathleen Turner and Christopher Reeve in Switching Channels©TriStar Pictures/courtesy

The head of a cable news network (Burt Reynolds) attempts to ruin the engagement between his lead anchor (Kathleen Turner) and her fiancé (Reeve), because he has feelings for her. The film was a bomb, making more headlines for all of the behind the scenes fights between Reynolds and Turner than anything else.

“My character, Blaine Bingham, is afraid of heights,” said Reeve. “In one scene, he’s in one of those exterior glass-type elevators, when he reaches the 27th floor — whammo! He goes bonkers. Such a delightful diversion from Superman.” That aspect of the character he calls “a nice bonus,” but what he welcomed was “the opportunity to send up a romantic leading man. But the acrophobia scene was just gravy and I was really glad we were going to shoot that last, because it gave me the whole seven-week period to get ready for it and to think about it. Also, the character’s been buttoned up the whole movie. He’s been this really suave kind of pompous idiot and you’ve got to see all that taken down a peg.”

13. Noises Off (1992)

Noises Off
Marilu Henner, Christopher Reeve and Denholm Elliott in 1992’s Noises Off©Touchstone Pictures/courtesy

Reads the film’s official description, “Hired to helm an Americanized take on a British play, director Lloyd Fellowes (Michael Caine) does his best to control an eccentric group of stage actors. During practice sessions, things run smoothly. However, when Lloyd and his actors begin a series of performances leading up to a Broadway premiere, chaos ensues. Star actress Dotty (Carol Burnett) is quickly passing her prime, male lead Frederick (Reeve) has no confidence, and bit actor Sheldon (Denholm Elliott) is rarely sober.”

“[As an ensemble cast] we all know we are going to get our moment in the limelight,” pointed out Reeve. “All the parts are equal and we just give to each other. This led to a wonderful atmosphere that you don'[t often get in the movies.”

Like Deathtrap, this was an adaptation of a stage play, though it maintains that sensibility throughout. Of the reviews garnered by Christopher Reeve movies, this one was pretty rough.

14. Morning Glory (1993)

Morning Glory
Christopher Reeve and Deborah Raffin in 1993’s Morning Glory©Academy Entertainment/courtesy

Deborah Raffin plays a Georgia widow and mother-of-two, with a third on the way, who seeks out a husband with newspaper advertisement in Depression-era America. Reeve plays Will Parker, a man out on parole for murder, who responds to the ad.

15. The Remains of the Day (1993)

Anthony Hopkins and Christopher Reeve
View of Welsh actor Sir Anthony Hopkins (as ‘James Stevens’) (left) and American actor Christopher Reeve (as ‘Jack Lewis’) during the filming of The Remains of the Day, 1992 (directed by James Ivory) at Corsham Court, Corsham, Wiltshire, England, November 1992. In the scene, butler ‘Stevens’ serves breakfast to Lewis, a retirMikki Ansin/Getty Images

The setting is 1958 post-war Britain, where a butler (Anthony Hopkins), who sacrificed body and soul to service in the years leading up to World War II, realizes too late how misguided his loyalty was to his lordly employer. Of the Christopher Reeve movies, this one had an extremely strong cast. In addition to Hopkins there was Emma Thompson and James Fox, with, in this particular entry in Christopher Reeve movies, the actor in the supporting role of Congressman Jack Lewis.

“After only a few days of shooting, it was obvious to everyone involved that Tony and Emma were giving the performances of a lifetime,” he enthused. “My spirits soared with the realization that I was contributing, even in a small way, to a film that was certain to become a classic.”

16. Speechless (1994)

Christopher Reeve in 1994’s Speechless©MGM/courtesy

Reeve is Bob Freed, a TV war correspondent who comes to town and lands right in the middle of a blossoming relationship between Julia Mann (Geena Davis) and Kevin Vallick (Michael Keaton), respectively Democratic and Republic speech writers. It’s particularly awkward since Bob was engaged to Julia! The speech-writing characters were loosely based on the real world’s Mary Matalin and James Carville.

17. Village of the Damned (1995)

Village of the Damned
Christopher Reeve in 1995’s Village of the Damned©Universal Pictures/courtesy

Christopher Reeve movies end here! Dr. Alan Chaffee (Reeve) works alongside FBI agent Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley) to uncover the truth behind 10 children born on the same day who age rapidly and all have the abilities to read minds and force others to do their will.

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