It’s hard to believe that four decades have passed since the release of Superman, the first blockbuster superhero movie. At the time of its release in December 1978, it was the most expensive movie ever made, but the high cost was rewarded, as the movie proved to be a massive hit with both critics and audiences. The following year, Superman received three Academy Award nominations, and won a Special Achievement Oscar for visual effects. 40 years later, it still stands as one of the most successful films in Warner Bros. history. Below are several production, event, and behind-the-scenes stills from the Warner archives, starting with the original one-sheet poster featuring art by Bob Peak.
Watch "Making Superman: Filming the Legend" as filmmakers and cast discuss the making of Superman.
Christopher Reeve and director Richard Donner converse during Reeve’s screen test in early 1977. Superman was only Reeve’s second film, and his selection for the title role is one of Hollywood’s all-time casting miracles. His wonderful performance is still the high standard by which all Superman performances are judged.
Watch "Taking Flight: The Development of Superman," as the cast and crew discuss the story of how Superman was made.
Production Designer John Barry stands on one of the gigantic UK soundstages that would soon house his phenomenal Superman sets. Barry had won an Oscar for his work on Star Wars, and was at work on The Empire Strikes Back when he tragically died of meningitis in June 1979.
Jor-El (Marlon Brando) and Lara (Susannah York) watch as the infant Kal-El/Superman (Lee Quigley) is sealed in his capsule in order to escape from the doomed Krypton.
Director of Photography Geoffrey Unsworth and crew on the Krypton set. Widely considered one of the greatest cinematographers of all time, his other credits included Beckett, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Cabaret, for which he won an Academy Award.
Kal-El and Lara during the final destruction of Krypton. The Kryptonians’ costumes were covered with reflective tape, giving them an unearthly glow in the finished film.
Marlon Brando and producer Ilya Salkind chat between takes. Note the storyboards posted in the background.
The Godfather author Mario Puzo came up with the story and co-wrote the screenplay for both Superman and Superman II. He’s seen at left with producer Pierre Spengler and director Richard Donner.
One of the many scenes in Superman that made audiences stand up and cheer: Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent rips open his shirt to reveal the Superman logo underneath.
Director Richard Donner on set with Marc McClure as Jimmy Olsen, Jackie Cooper as Perry White, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, and Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent.
Superman takes Lois on their iconic nighttime flight around Metropolis.
Geoffrey Unsworth and Richard Donner on location in New York City. Sadly, less than two months before the opening of Superman, Unsworth passed away in France while working on Tess. This final work would earn him his second Academy Award for Cinematography in 1981.
Gene Hackman brought the perfect amount of charm and humor to his portrayal of supervillain Lex Luthor.
Christopher Reeve and “Creative Supervisor of Makeup and Visual Effects” Stuart Freeborn on location in the American Southwest. Freeborn was no stranger to blockbusters, having worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey and the original Star Wars trilogy.
Richard Donner and Gene Hackman on the Fortress of Solitude set. This photo was used for promotion of Superman, even though Hackman/Lex Luthor did not appear in this location until Superman II.
Composer John Williams at work on the Oscar-nominated Superman score, one of the many musical masterpieces of his distinguished career.
Christopher Reeve meets President Jimmy Carter at the December 10, 1978 world premiere of Superman in Washington, DC. Warner Bros. CEO Ted Ashley can be seen behind the President.
The Hollywood premiere of Superman at Mann’s Chinese Theater on December 14, 1978.
Watch "The Magic Behind the Cape", an in depth look at how the special effects for Superman were created, presented by the legendary Roy Field.
Own Superman: The Movie in 4K UHD today.
Fathom Events and Warner Bros. are bringing Superman the Movie 40th Anniversary to select cinemas nationwide for a special three-day event (November 25, 27 and December 3). Get tickets today!