If I asked someone to rank the Superman movies from best to worst, Superman IV would likely be in the bottom three for most people. But it’s likely that it’d be at rock bottom for Laura Kelly as she critically analysed the film for Inverse:
There’s a clear decline, starting with the acclaimed Superman: The Movie (94 percent), then the well-received Superman II (82 percent), followed by the mediocre Superman III (29 percent), and finally ending with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace at a depressing 10 percent.
Superman IV is considered one of the worst films ever made — Superman or otherwise. 35 years later, I sat down to discover if the long-reviled film actually lives up to its reputation. Unfortunately, Quest for Peace’s status as a low point for the franchise (and superhero cinema in general) is extremely well-earned.
Superman IV is not only uninteresting, it’s filled with themes and plot points that go nowhere or are rendered forgettable because there’s too much happening. You’ve got the nuclear arms race, Lex and Nuclear Man, and the evils of tabloid journalism — not to mention we need a love triangle thrown in.
When I first saw the movie back in 2008, I was aware of it being known as the worst of the bunch (yes, even worse than Superman Returns) but I watched it anyway as I had yet to see it and… objectively, it was the worst. But subjectively, I kinda liked it? I like seeing films out of their “prime” eras, with the actors much older and trying to take on new ideas. It was still ropey in terms of plot themes but scenes like the one where Kal-El/Clark Kent plucks out an energy module from Krypton (‘all that remains of a once powerful civilisation’, as his father says) to heal himself from radiation sickness gave a truer sense of finality than in previous movies.
As for “worst movie ever”? Nah. It’s in that ballpark but there are worse films in the history of cinema.
Anyway, here’s an interview with Mark Pillow, the actor that played the (second) Nuclear Man. And some interesting trivia.