As tomorrow is Superman’s 80th birthday, I thought it might be an idea to take a look at some of the actors who have played the Man of Steel over the past eight decades, to determine who has played Superman the longest.
From the big screen to the small screen, across radio, games and even the stage, a heck of a lot of people have strapped on that famous red cape, with many taking on the role more than once and for quite some period of time. For example, did you know that Nathan Drake voice actor, Nolan North has voiced Superman across six different projects, throughout the course of six years?
Well he has!
Check out the list below to see all of the actors who have played Superman, starting with Bud Collyer in 1940 (just two years after Superman first appeared in comics) and running all the way through to 2018 with Henry Cavill, Tyler Hoechlin and Jason J. Lewis all taking on the role. Underneath the list is the answer to the question in the title of this post: Who has played Superman the longest?
And now for a disclaimer: The list below includes actors who have played Superman and variations of Superman (Superboy, Superpup, Superman X, Kal-el, Clark Kent etc). Where possible, I’ve also included the names of the actors who have played baby Kal-el – although a couple may have slipped through the net.
Every actor to have played Superman:
- Bud Collyer – The Adventures of Superman radio serial (1940 – 1951) + Superman Fleischer / Famous Studios cartoons (1942-1943)
- Kirk Alyn – Superman serial (1948)
- George Reeves – Adventures of Superman (1952 – 1958)
- Billy Curtis – The Adventures of Superpup (1958)
- Johnny Rockwell – The Adventures of Superboy (1961)
- Bob Holiday – It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Superman (1966)
- David Wilson – It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Superman TV special (1975)
- Christopher Reeve – Superman: The Movie + Superman II + Superman III + Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1978 – 1987)
- Jeff East – Superman: The Movie (1978)
- Aaron Smolinski – Superman: The Movie (1978)
- Lee Quigley – Superman: The Movie (1978)
- Beau Weaver – Superman Ruby Spiers (1988)
- Stuart Milligan – Superman On Trail (1988) + The Adventures of Superman BBC Radio 4 (1988)
- John Haymes Newton – Superboy (1988)
- Gerard Christopher – Superboy (1989 – 1992)
- Gary Jackson – It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Superman (1992)
- Dean Cain – Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997)
- Jason Marsden – Superman: The Animated Series (1996)
- Tim Daly – Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000) + Superman: Shadow of Apokolips (2002) + Superman: Brainiac Attacks (2006) + Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009) + Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010) + Justice League: Doom (2012)
- Patrick Warburton – The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman (1998 – 2004)
- Christopher McDonald – Batman Beyond (2000)
- George Newbern – Justice League + Justice League Unlimited (2000 – 2004) + The Batman (2007) + Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam (2010) + Superman vs. The Elite (2012) + Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013) + DC Universe Online (2013) + Injustice 2 (2017)
- Tom Welling – Smallville (2001 – 2011)
- Malkolm Alburquenque – Smallville (2001)
- Michael Daingerfield – Krypto the Superdog (2005)
- Yuri Lowenthal – Legion of Super Heroes (2006 – 2008)
- Brandon Routh – Superman Returns (2006)
- Cheyenne Jackson – It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Superman (2007)
- Adam Baldwin – Superman: Doomsday (2007)
- Kyle MacLachlan – Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
- Mark Harmon – Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)
- Matt Cavenaugh – It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Superman (2010)
- Nolan North – Young Justice (2010 – present) + Lego DC Comics: Batman Be-Leaguered (2014) + Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League (2015) + Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League – Attack of the Legion of Doom (2015) + Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League – Cosmic Clash (2016) + Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League – Gotham City Breakout (2016)
- James Denton – All-Star Superman (2011)
- Mark Valley – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 & 2 (2012 – 2013)
- Edward Watts – It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Superman (2013)
- Matt Bomer – Superman: Unbound (2013)
- Sam Daly – Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)
- Travis Willingham – Lego Batman: The Movie (2013)
- Henry Cavill – Man of Steel + Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice + Justice League (2013 – 2017)
- Dylan Sprayberry – Man of Steel (2013)
- Alan Tudyk – Justice League: War (2014)
- Peter Jessop – JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time (2014)
- Channing Tatum – The Lego Movie (2014) + The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
- Jerry O’Connell – Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015) + Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016) + Justice League Dark (2017)
- Craig Berry – It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Superman (2015)
- Benjamin Bratt – Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015)
- Daniel DiMaggio – Supergirl (2016)
- Tyler Hoechlin – Supergirl (2016 – present)
- Jason J. Lewis – Justice League Action (2016 – present)
One thing you’ll notice about the list above is the fact that from 1940 onward, Superman has regularly appeared outside of the printed page with very little downtime. In recent years, the character has received a great deal of exposure thanks in large part to the excellent animated shows produced by Warner Bros. Animation and this means many actors have played the character for quite a long period of time.
But now for the answer to the big question: Who has played Superman the longest?
Well, this is a bit of a tricky question, because it depends on if you are asking who has played the character the most (i.e. Bud Collyer’s 2088-episode run on The Adventures of Superman radio show), who has appeared in the most projects, or who has stayed in the role the longest?
For the purpose of a straight forward answer, here are the actors to have appeared in the role over the longest period of time – in reverse order.
- Christopher Reeve – Nine years between 1978 & 1987
- Tom Welling – Ten years between 2001 & 2011
- Bud Collyer – Eleven years between 1940 & 1951
- Tim Daly – Sixteen years between 1996 & 2012
- George Newbern – Seventeen years between 2000 & 2017
So, in answer to the question, to date George Newbern has played the role of Superman across the longest stretch of time. Although, Bud Collyer easily takes the crown if you want to factor in the amount of times the actor has played the part.