Superman is one of DC Comics, and the world’s, most recognisable heroes. It’s a mantle that is passed from actor to actor like that of a superhero itself: to play the Man of Steel is to take on the pressure of representing a pop culture legend, known the world over as a figure of courage, strength and compassion. Henry Cavill is the latest actor to hold that responsibility, and after it appeared he no longer would, his re-appearance in Black Adam (2022), alongside big changes in leadership at DC’s film division, means he might have more to come.
When Did Henry Cavill Appear In The DCU?
Henry Cavill made his DC Universe debut almost a decade ago, in Man Of Steel (2013). Since then, he has gone on to make five more appearances (if you regard Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) as its own movie, and we are going to). Here’s how we would rank Henry Cavill’s Superman appearances in the DC Universe.
The actor, born on the Channel Island of Jersey, first rose to prominence playing Charles Brandon in Showtime’s The Tudors (2007-2010), before catching the eye of director Zack Snyder to play Kal-El in Superman’s return to the big screen.
With his chiseled jawline and ripped physique, the undeniably handsome star was the perfect fit for Krypton’s most famous son, following in the footsteps of Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh.
But how would you rank his five appearances as the Man of Steel? We’ve judged them below…
5 – Justice League (2017)
This ill-fated go at the first Justice League collaboration didn’t quite manifest according to plan. Designed to be a team-up movie in the style of Marvel’s Avengers (2012), instead, the final result was muddled at best, coming amidst rumors of major studio intervention, a change in director (from Zack Snyder to Joss Whedon), and generally unhappy rumblings from the cast. The combined charisma of Cavill’s Superman, Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman), Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Ray Fisher (Victor Stone/Cyborg), Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry/Aquaman), and Ezra Miller (Barry Allen/Flash), couldn’t pull this movie back.
Instead of being Cavill’s first chance to show a Superman who embodies all the hope and character of the comic-book hero, fresh from the origin story of Man of Steel ((2013) and the trials of Batman Vs Superman (2016), we got him best remembered for a ropey CGI’d out mustache (the result of reshoots ordered during a time in which the actor was also shooting Mission: Impossible — Fallout (2018)). A team-up in the style of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this was not.
4 – Man Of Steel (2013)
Cavill’s first appearance as Superman is an epic origin story. Opening with the destruction of Krypton, it takes us through Kal-El — otherwise known as Clark Kent — being adopted by the Kent family, and then discovering more about his superpowered extraterrestrial origins. It’s a weighty hero’s journey, Clark carrying the pressure of his responsibility, his power as much a burden as a gift as he decides how best to wield it on his adopted home planet.
The film is buoyed by a menacing adversary in Michael Shannon’s General Zod, who glowers his way through the movie, building to a spectacularly destructive fight in Metropolis. The grand finale raised some eyebrows, with the usually humanitarian character demolishing skyscrapers and more in the super-powered scrap. The whole thing is also scored with a stunningly stratospheric score from Hans Zimmer, and the stand-out track “What Are You Going To When You Are Not Saving The World?” provides a grand, sweeping new theme for Cavill’s interpretation of the iconic hero.
Cavill gets to dig deep into the character, building out the psychology of a man carrying the potential defense of an entire planet on his shoulders. We also see the start of his romance with Lois Lane, a sparky Amy Adams.
3 – Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Cavill’s second appearance is in this chapter, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). As you might guess from the title, it pits his hero against Ben Affleck’s take on the Dark Knight, the two coming to blows over their interpretation of justice and what it means to protect the cities they call home.
Continuing the theme from Man Of Steel (2013), in this film Superman is coming to terms with his status as an almost godlike figure on Earth. And the people don’t all see him as benevolent; the aftermath of the destruction left from the climactic battle against Zod has caused some discontent, with Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) leading the charge against the last Son of Krypton via some Machiavellian shenanigans (which unexpectedly involve a glass jar of urine).
As the title also suggests, while Henry does get to flex both his character and his muscles, the film also carries the weight of introducing the concept of the Justice League too. People have ridiculed the way Superman and Batman resolve their conflict, both realizing their mothers were called Martha, forcing them to see the humanity in one another. But what’s undeniable is that the moment Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman joins the party, with the Big Three shown together on-screen for the first time to face off against Doomsday, it brings chills.
However, that fight also spells doom for Kal-El, resulting in a somber ending… with just a tease that Superman might be down for the count, but not fully out yet.
Related: ‘Black Adam’ Post-Credits Explained
2 – Black Adam (2022)
Yes, it might just be a surprise appearance, a post-credits cameo, but seeing Henry return as Clark Kent on the big screen, emerging from a cloud of smoke to meet Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam toe-to-toe, was a DCU moment for the ages. It’s the most classic we’ve seen him look as the character: red and blue suit gleaming, immaculate hair curl in place, he steps towards Johnson’s anti-hero: “We should have a talk.”
It’s a thrilling moment, not just for the character, but for Cavill too: it marks his potential return to the big screen as the hero, surely a key figure in the future of the developing DCU on the silver screen. A Superman cameo, but a heroic moment for the future of the British actor on screen.
1 – Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Yes, the four-hour epic took the top spot. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is so aggressively grandiose, so completely and clearly a singular vision from its director, that you sort of have to buckle under the feat. Filled with the intricately detailed slow-motion tableaus Snyder loves, this is the Justice League as gods among us: walking, flying titans, destined to wage destructive war with humanity as collateral in-between.
But it’s not just that; it’s also a somber tribute to Superman, to what he represents, and how the world mourns a hero that they once could see with their own eyes saving their lives. It’s dense with mythology, to the point of goofiness — did we need that slow-motion hot dog to demonstrate just how quick the Flash can be? — but it also approaches the character with the level of reverence as befits one of the 21st Century’s biggest pop culture icons.
It gives Cavill a different take too: a Superman dragged back to life, forced to save a world he already came to terms with sacrificing himself for and uniting a disparate pantheon of fellow godlike beings to do it. Yes, there’s a lot of CGI, and yes, this runtime is a behemoth in itself. But the film reflects the bombastic, grand vision of its director, taking the Man of Steel and making him into modern-day myth. (It also has some really great fights.)
Related: James Gunn Reveals Plan For DCU
Where Will He Next Appear?
While we don’t have a confirmed date or title in which Cavill will next appear as Superman, the man himself has spoken out on Instagram to confirm he will indeed return. His future as the character seems to have been, at least in part, secured with the help of Dwayne Johnson. Johnson seems to have played an integral part in convincing DC bosses to consider bringing Cavill back to the big screen, even with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ take on a Black Superman, rumored to be played by Michael B Jordan, still apparently in development.
Under the new leadership of co-CEOs for DC Studios, the former DC Films, James Gunn and Peter Safran, surely Cavill’s Superman will play an integral role in what’s to come for the DCU on the big screen. We know the actor himself wants to bring the hero back with the ability to ‘inspire’ once more.
Are you excited to see Henry Cavill return as Superman? Let us know in the comments below.