At the time of its release in 1978, Superman was Hollywood’s most expensive ever feature film. Directed by Richard Donner and starring a relatively unknown Christopher Reeve in the title role (alongside an impressive ensemble cast, including Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Trevor Howard, and Terence Stamp), the movie was given a budget of $55 million—almost twice that of Hollywood’s previous most expensive movie, 1963’s Cleopatra.
Nevertheless, the gamble paid off, and happily, Superman proved an immense success, both critically and commercially. Nominated for three Oscars (and presented with a special award for its groundbreaking visual effects in 1979), the movie easily beat off competition from the likes of Grease, Jaws 2, and The Deer Hunter to top the year’s box office with a worldwide gross over $300 million (equivalent to $1.2 billion today), and later spawned three sequels.
Despite all of that success, however, suspicious moviegoers have long considered the film to be the subject of an eerie and bizarre curse, claiming that many of those associated with Superman’s on-screen adaptations go on to suffer terrible calamities and misfortunes in their lives off-screen.
Arguably the most notable people among those supposed to have been “cursed” by the Superman movies is Christopher Reeve, who suffered devastating injuries in a fall from his horse in 1995 and spent the final nine years of his life paralyzed before his death at the age of just 52.
Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane opposite Reeve’s Superman, battled bipolar disorder her entire life; she committed suicide from a drug and alcohol overdose in 2018. Marlon Brando would go on to lose his daughter Cheyenne to suicide in 1995. And even Lee Quigley—who played Superman as a baby in the 1978 film—died of solvent abuse in 1991, at the age of just 14.
Rumors of the Superman curse are even said to predate the 1978 movie, with the actor George Reeves—star of the 1950s TV serial The Adventures of Superman—dying of a gunshot wound in mysterious circumstances in 1959, at the age 45.
Of course, the supposed “Superman curse” is really nothing more than grim coincidence, and indeed many of the actors associated with the character and its on-screen adaptations—including Gene Hackman, Richard Pryor, and most recently, Henry Cavill—have suffered no such misfortunes.
Even Margot Kidder, though considered a “victim” of the curse herself; once dismissing the idea as “newspaper-created rubbish.”