Superman III (1983)

superman iii poster 1983 movie
4.0 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 6/10

Reeve and O'Toole work

Unbalanced, loses the magic

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Superman III

Studio:  Dovemead Films/Cantharus Productions/Major Studio Partners

Genre(s):  Comic Book/Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  June 17, 1983

MPAA Rating:  PG

superman iii lana lang annette otoole christopher reeve

Lois has competition!

August “Gus” Gorman (Richard Pryor) is a low-level con artist who is down on his luck.  When he shows an aptitude for computer design and programming, he is hired by Ross “Bubba” Webster (Robert Vaughn) and his sister Vera Webster (Annie Ross) who have big plans for the world.  Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) finds himself returning to Smallville for a reunion and reunited with his childhood crush Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole)…but Superman has become a target of the Websters since he is the only one who could foil their plans.  The world is threatened, but can Superman save it or himself?

Directed by Richard Lester, Superman III is a DC Comics superhero fantasy movie.  Following Superman II in 1980, Superman III was released to much less favorable reviews and much lower box office numbers.  It received Razzie nominations for Worst Supporting Actor (Pryor) and Worst Musical Score.

Superman was a magical movie followed by Superman II which was a solid second strike at a superhero movie.  I was so excited about Superman III when I was a kid…but I remember seeing it in the theater with a friend and being pretty disappointed even as a kid.

superman iii evil clark christopher reeve

Clearly a good Superman wouldn’t have messy hair like that

The first movie was epic and played with the superhero tropes.  It had a tone that doesn’t match up with current movies, but it was well planned and executed.  Superman III feels sloppy by comparison.  The villains aren’t up to par and the injection of Richard Pryor adds a lot of unnecessary comedy that are even beyond the tongue-in-cheek nature of the first two films.  There are moments of greatness like the opening sequence, the evil Superman battle, and the horrific computer woman

Christopher Reeve still shines as Superman (and gets to play the dirty Superman when he’s corrupted).  It gives him a bit more range.  The movie unfortunately sidelines the great supporting cast of the previous films (no Hackman and Kidder and the Planet crew are just bookends).  I do like the addition of Annette O’Toole as the perfect Lana Lang (she later played Ma Kent in Smallville), but Pryor is miserable as the comic relief.  Both Annie Ross and Robert Vaughn are pretty dull, and Pamela Stephenson as Lorelei Ambrosia is a poor substitute for Valerie Perrine’s Ms. Teschmacher (though she does work at some points).

superman iii evil robot brainiac annie ross

Superman Robot Fighter

The movie feels a step down from previous Superman movies and things like the computers don’t hold up over time either (but I recall thinking they were cheesy as a kid).  The movie originally had eyes on Brainiac as a villain (allegedly) and some see the terrifying computer version of Vera Webster as the leftover part of the plot.

Superman III isn’t very good and it killed a lot of my love for Superman as a kid.  The movie also started to lower expectations for superhero films which were few and far between at that time.  Superman III is a quirky, goofy, campy movie that can be enjoyed in that sense, but as a Superman film, it is a downer.  Superman III was followed by the even more maligned Superman IV:  The Quest for Peace in 1987.

Related Links:

Superman:  The Movie (1978)

Superman II (1980)

Superman Returns (2006)

Man of Steel (2013)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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