Classic Scenes #10: Superman (1978)

Top 10 Films’ Classic Scenes looks at some of cinema’s most memorable moments that live long in the minds of every audience that has witnessed them.

superman man of steel

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Richard Donner’s Superman from 1978 is my favourite superhero movie. I suppose it’s ironic that the abundance of special-effects in modern comic book adaptations is the principle reason I don’t like them very much, yet one of the main reasons why 1978’s Superman is so good. However, back then seeing a man fly was special, even if by today’s standards the effect looks ropey (in more ways than one). There’s a lost art of special-effects being conducted in-camera which is a shame but it is also understandable.

I was reminded of one of my favourite scenes in Superman when putting together my top 10 moments in the film. It occurs somewhere in the middle after the man of steel from Kypton has gone through his “learning curve”. We’ve had the back-story, we’ve met the love interest, and we’ve had a few jokes about the bumbling incompetence of Superman’s alter-ego Clark Kent. Now it is time for action and Superman is off saving the city – stopping robberies, preventing petty crime, saving Lois Lane’s life…over and over again.

The best bit of this sequence, which also includes several funny moments (the office clerk who thinks he sees Superman standing outside his tower block window, and the police officer who tells his sergeant he saw a man flying around in big red boots), occurs when a plane is damaged during a storm. An engine is completely blown away and the plane begins to descend out of control. The pilot issues a distress call, while the flight engineer desperately tries to find a solution. However, there is no solution. The plane is out of control and will crash within minutes.

Then suddenly the plane corrects itself. Its rapid descent ceases. The pilots can’t understand what has happened. If they didn’t correct the plane’s descent, who did. They look at each other, briefly bemused.

Then one of the pilots looks out the window and sees that Superman has positioned himself where the engine would have been. The flying hero has saved the day. As the other pilot and engineer wonder what happened, the man who has the answers turns to address them. Not really sure how, what or why, and still coming to terms with the sight he’s just seen, he says:

“Fly. Just fly. We got… something. I ain’t saying what it is. Just… trust me.”

…it’s a lovely comic moment and one of several scenes in Richard Donner’s Superman that distinguish it as not only one of the best, but one of the funniest, superhero movies ever made.

Discover More on Top 10 Films: Top 10 Moments in Superman (1978) | Top 10 Superhero Films | Top 10 Comic Book Film Villains | Top 10 Superpowers

Written by Daniel Stephens

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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    Sir Phobos Reply

    Yea, this scene is awesome. One of my favorite funny scenes is when he gets the cat out of the tree for the little girl, and when she goes inside and tells her mom what happens, she gets slapped in the face for lying. You can see the shadow of the mom slapping her, too. Brilliant.

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    Sir Phobos Reply

    Oh, and SAY, JIM, THAT IS ONE BAD OUTFIT! WHOO!

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    Maurice Mitchell Reply

    One of the best scenes in the movie.

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