Superman III
Superman 3 poster
Directed by Richard Lester
Produced by Ilya Salkind
Pierre Spengler
Written by David Newman
Leslie Newman
Starring Christopher Reeve
Richard Pryor
Jackie Cooper
Marc McClure
Annette O'Toole
Annie Ross
Pamela Stephenson
Robert Vaughn
Margot Kidder
Music by Ken Thorne
John Williams
Giorgio Moroder
Cinematography Robert Paynter
Editing by John Victor-Smith
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release 17 June 1983 (US)19 July 1983 (UK)
1 August 1983 (Spain)
Running time 125 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $39,000,000
Gross revenue $70,656,090 (worldwide)
Preceded by Superman II
Followed by Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Superman III is a 1983 superhero film directed by Richard Lester. It is the third film in the Superman film series based upon the long-running DC Comics superhero. The film is the last Superman film to be produced by Alexander Salkind and Ilya Salkind and stars Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Annette O'Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, and Robert Vaughn.

Although the film still managed to recoup its $39,000,000 budget, it was less successful than the first two Superman movies, both financially and critically. While harsh criticism focused on the film's comedic and campy tone, Reeve was praised for his much darker performance as the corrupted Superman. Following the release of this movie, Pryor signed a five-year contract with Columbia Pictures worth $40 million.


August "Gus" Gorman, a chronically unemployed ne'er-do-well, discovers a knack for computer programming. After embezzling from his new employer's payroll (through a technique known as salami slicing), Gorman is brought to the attention of the CEO Ross Webster. Webster is obsessed with the computer's potential to aid him in his schemes to rule the world financially, and is more impressed than angry at Gorman's embezzlement. Joined by his sister Vera and his "psychic nutritionist" Lorelei Ambrosia, Webster blackmails Gorman into helping him.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent has convinced his Daily Planet boss Perry White to allow him to return to Smallville for his high school reunion. En route, as Superman, he extinguishes a fire in a chemical plant containing vials of highly-unstable Beltric acid that can produce clouds of corrosive vapor when superheated. At the reunion Clark is reunited with childhood friend Lana Lang, a divorcée with a young son named Ricky.

Webster schemes to monopolize the world's coffee crop. Infuriated by Colombia's refusal to do business with him, he orders Gorman to command an American weather satellite named Vulcan to create a tornadic storm to decimate the nation's coffee crop. Webster's scheme is thwarted when Superman neutralizes the tornado and saves the harvest. Webster then orders Gorman to use his computer knowledge to create Kryptonite, remembering Lois Lane's Daily Planet interview with Superman, in which Superman identified it as his only weakness. Gus uses a computer to order Vulcan to locate Krypton's debris in outer space, but after the computer fails to analyze an "unknown" element in kryptonite, he improvises by replacing the unidentified element with tar, garnered from a pack of cigarettes.

Lana convinces Superman to appear at Ricky's birthday party, but Smallville turns it into a town celebration. Gus and Vera, disguised as United States Army officers, give Superman the Kryptonite as a gift, but are dismayed to see that it appears to have no effect on him. However, because this version of Kryptonite was not perfect, the compound gradually produces symptoms. Superman goes through a descent into darkness as he becomes selfish, focusing on his lust for Lana, which causes him to delay rescuing a truck driver from his jackknifed rig. Superman begins to question his own self-worth, he becomes depressed, angry, and casually destructive, committing petty acts of vandalism such as blowing out the Olympic Flame and straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Webster plots to control the world's oil supply, ordering Gorman to direct all tankers to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and have them sit idly until further notice. Gorman feels unappreciated. He gives Webster a series of crudely drawn blueprints for a supercomputer. Ross makes a deal with Gorman, agreeing to build his supercomputer in return for sorting out the oil tankers.

Superman goes on a drinking binge, but is eventually overcome by guilt and undergoes a nervous breakdown, after Ricky calls out to him urging him to fight against his descent into evil. After nearly crash-landing in a junkyard, Superman splits into two personas: the immoral, selfish, corrupted Superman and the moral, righteous Clark Kent. They engage in a battle, ending when Clark strangles his evil identity, vanquishing him for good. Restored to his normal heroic self, Superman sets off to repair the damage his evil counterpart had caused.

After defending himself from numerous rockets and an MX missile en route to the Grand Canyon and the villains' hideout, Superman confronts Webster, Vera and Lorelei for a final showdown. He is forced into a battle with Gorman's supercomputer, which severely weakens him with a beam of pure Kryptonite. Gorman, guilt-ridden and horrified by the prospect of "going down in history as the man who killed Superman", destroys the Kryptonite ray with a firefighter's axe, whereupon Superman flees. The computer becomes self-aware and begins to defend itself against Gus's attempts to disable it, draining power from electrical towers, causing massive blackouts. Ross and Lorelei escape from the control room, but Vera is pulled into the computer and forcibly transformed into a cyborg. Empowered by the supercomputer, Vera attacks her brother and Lorelei with beams of energy that immobilize them. Superman returns to the battle with a canister of the Beltric acid from the chemical plant he saved earlier, the intense heat emitted by the machine causes the acid to turn volatile, eventually destroying the supercomputer. Superman flies away with Gus, leaving Webster and his cronies to deal with the authorities. He drops Gus off at a West Virginia coal mine and recommends the foreman hire Gorman to run their computerized system; Gus is offered the job but turns it down.

Superman returns to Metropolis and reunites with Lana, who has relocated to the big city and found employment as the new secretary to Perry White. The film ends with Superman flying into the sunrise for further adventures.


  • Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent / Superman: After discovering his origins in the earlier films, he sets himself to helping those on Earth. After beating arch enemy Lex Luthor twice, Superman meets a new villain: Ross Webster, who is determined to control the world's coffee and oil supplies. Superman also battles personal demons after an exposure to a synthetic form of kryptonite that corrupts him.
  • Richard Pryor as August "Gus" Gorman: A bumbling computer genius who works for Ross Webster to destroy Superman.
  • Robert Vaughn as Ross Webster: A villainous multimillionaire. After Superman prevents him from taking over the world's coffee supply, Ross is determined to destroy Superman before he can stop his plan to control the world's oil supply. He is an original character created for the movie.
  • Annette O'Toole as Lana Lang: Clark's high school friend who reconciles with Clark after seeing him during their high school reunion. O'Toole later portrayed Martha Kent on the Superman prequel television series Smallville.
  • Annie Ross as Vera Webster: Ross' sister and partner in his corporation and villainous plans.
  • Pamela Stephenson as Lorelei Ambrosia: Ross' assistant and girlfriend. Lorelei, a voluptuous blonde bombshell, is well-read, articulate and skilled in computers, but conceals her intelligence from Ross and Vera, to whom she adopts the appearance of a superficial fool. As part of Ross' plan, she seduces Superman.
  • Jackie Cooper as Perry White: The editor of the Daily Planet.
  • Margot Kidder as Lois Lane: A reporter at the Daily Planet who has a history with both Clark Kent and Superman. She is away from Metropolis on vacation to Bermuda, which put her in the middle of a front-page story.
  • Marc McClure as Jimmy Olsen: A photographer for the Daily Planet.
  • Gavan O'Herlihy as Brad Wilson: Lana's former boyfriend.

Film director/puppeteer Frank Oz originally had a cameo in this film as a surgeon, but the scene was ultimately deleted. That scene had been included in the TV extended version of the film.


External links

Superman Films
Films 1978-1987
SupermanSuperman IISuperman IIISuperman IV: The Quest for Peace
Other films

SupergirlSuperman II: The Richard Donner CutSuperman ReturnsMan of SteelBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Adapted characters
General ZodJor-ElJonathan KentMartha KentNonUrsaLaraLois LaneLucy LaneLana LangLex LuthorJimmy OlsenSupergirl / Kara Zor-ElSuperman / Clark KentPerry WhiteOtisRoss WebsterGus GormanDaily PlanetMetropolis
Christopher Reeve films

Superman (1978)  · Superman II (1980)  · Superman III (1983)  · Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)  · Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)  ·