Henry Cavill's 10 Best Moments As Superman

Change was inevitable when James Gunn and Peter Safran took up their posts as co-chairman and co-CEO of DC Studios — and generally speaking, change was desired. It's no secret that DC's comic rival, Marvel, took a commanding lead in the cinematic game with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the DC Extended Universe stumbled and fell amidst rumored internal strife. Perhaps, then, new leadership and a (hopefully) unified vision would right the DC ship.

Unfortunately, the by-product of this shift is existing storylines and actors catching strays. Probably the most deeply felt of these was Henry Cavill's official departure as Superman not even two months after he took to Instagram to officially confirm his return to the DCEU following his cameo in "Black Adam." Cavill had been working fairly steadily in the UK for just over a decade before he stepped into the blue spandex and donned the red cape. His brown curls and impressive jawline made him the picture-perfect boy scout in blue, while his brawn and good-natured demeanor created a well-rounded Supes/Clark Kent for modern audiences.

But alas, after appearing in only three DCEU films (plus "Zack Snyder's Justice League" and the aforementioned "Black Adam" cameo), Cavill's days as the Last Son of Krypton are apparently over. Fans of the DC comics and superhero genre eagerly await to see what Gunn and Safran have up their sleeves, but until then, let's look back at Cavill's 10 best moments as the one and only Superman.

Supes takes flight (Man of Steel)

Looking back, "Man of Steel" did a lot of heavy lifting. It was the first Superman movie in almost 10 years, was the first entry in the DCEU, and our introduction to Henry Cavill as Supes. Directed by Zack Snyder, "Man of Steel" rehashed Superman's origin story bringing us to Krypton and Kansas, welcoming us into the home of Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, respectively), and into the Daily Planet newsroom with editor-in-chief Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) and reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams).

The film was decidedly darker in tone than fans were expecting (and as compared to the popcorn-lite MCU films that had been released), but it struck a chord and had us excited for what was to come. And no scene in the film inspired more hope and optimism for the future of Cavill's Superman than his first flight.

With the sun on his back, Cavill steps through the doors of the found Kryptonian ship wearing the classic, but updated, Superman suit. Taking steady but careful steps across the snowy plains, Jor-El's (Russell Crowe) words echo in his mind. The first burst into the air is shaky, as expected. The hit of power overwhelms Kal as he crashes back to the ground. "You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards," assures Jor-El. And with his Kryptonian father's encouragement and one power fist to the ground, Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman takes flight.

The oil rig rescue (Man of Steel)

Gone are the days when superheroes are meant to be svelte. Today, we want our heroes and James Bonds to pile on the beefy six-packs. So when Clark, working on a fishing boat in the middle of a storm, sees an oil rig on fire, of course, he has to take his shirt off in order to save the men left for dead. How else would we know what he's working with?

Just as giant pieces of the rig threaten to fall on the helicopter rescuing the workers, Clark, barefooted and chested, leaps to the occasion holding up the debris with just enough time for the helicopter to get away. Never missing a moment to slowly pan over his subjects, Zack Snyder employs Han Zimmer's deafening score to punctuate this heroic moment as the camera gazes up from his sweaty naval to Henry Cavill's furrowed brow.

A throwaway scene by most accounts, this rescue scene comes very early on in "Man of Steel" and sets the tone and aesthetic of this Superman's new look. He's no average boy scout; he's a beefcake with a moral compass and a heart of gold.

The return that never was (Black Adam)

As a film, "Black Adam" was, uh, interesting. But never mind that the film lacked any heart, purpose, or substance — Superman was in the mid-credits scene! Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) warns Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson) against leaving Kahndaq, threatening to call in favors from outside of Earth. With a powerful grin, Adam growls, "Send them all," before he laser blasts the comms machine into a pile of rubble. And through the rubble, Superman emerges: "It's been a while since anyone's made the world this nervous. Black Adam ... we should talk."

And with those three words full of promise and opportunity, audiences erupted around the world. Finally. After five long years, we had the answer we'd been looking for. Of course Henry Cavill would come back as Superman! How could DC allow the most well-known superhero to sit on the sidelines, especially when an actor, so perfectly cast, is just waiting for the call?

The sacrificial Supes (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

If the oil rig rescue didn't convince you that Clark was a man willing to risk his physical well-being for good, then his making the ultimate sacrifice to stop Doomsday will do the trick.

After battling with Batman (Ben Affleck) and discovering all that they have in common (and a pretty dope introduction to Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman), the Kryptonian, Dark Knight, and Amazonian come together to take down Doomsday, a Lex Luthor creation that stands to destroy the world. Armed with a Kryptonite spear, Supes takes flight and impales the creature. Although damage is done, Doomsday would have the last laugh by stabbing a weakened Superman. Because of his exposure to Kryptonite, Superman goes down with the enemy.

Whatever you think of the Martha twist, this moment in "Batman v Superman" seemed unreal. For as long as Superman has been in the public conscience, he's been seen as an immortal being who protects the world. Seeing Batman and Wonder Woman carefully lower Superman's lifeless body off the pile of rubble for Lois to say her last goodbye was not on my bingo card, to say the least. Killing him (however temporarily) was a bold move by Zack Snyder and in keeping with the risk-taking associated with Henry Cavill's tenure in the DCEU.

Playing nice with the man (Man of Steel)

Seeing Superman in handcuffs will never not be funny. "It makes them feel more secure," he explains to Lois. "Man of Steel" touches on the moral dilemma humankind would naturally have dealing with a being like Superman. How to control the uncontrollable? He could be an asset and Earth's greatest ally, but he'll always be a weapon.

When Superman surrenders himself to the U.S. government, he firmly makes his choice. He'll return back to his own kind and take on General Zod (Michael Shannon), but when Lois becomes part of the negotiation package, all bets are off. Clark's surrender marks his genuine desire for peace on Earth and across the universe, and is also recognition of his strength. Henry Cavill creates a self-aware Superman who understands Earth's predicament, and rather than bristle against his critics, he extends an olive branch for better and for worse.

The Knightmare (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

It was all a dream, but it was still cool as hell. Ben Affleck's Batman had an understandable fear of Superman, especially after he had a vision of a dystopian future where Superman turned on humanity, ruling the world as a tyrant. Parts of The Knightmare sequence were shown in trailers and provoked a negative reaction without more context (Batman never shoots a gun).

With the Caped Crusader and his Knightmare team captured, Superman comes crashing into the underground prison. His guards drop to a knee as Kal-El menacingly walks towards Batman with only vengeance on his mind. "She was my world," he snarls at Bats before ripping out his heart. This is where Zack Snyder, despite his misgivings, excelled as the DCEU's captain. He understood what fans of the comics wanted out of DC and what made these characters and stories stand apart from Marvel's: darkness in morality and tone. Batman broke his only rule because he had to.

The Knightmare's significance also lies in what was to come in Snyder's DCEU. Bruce Wayne's vision and The Flash's warning created threads for the franchise's cinematic future. The sequence set off warning bells for DC fans that Darkseid and the Anti-Life Equation are what's to come. Unfortunately, though, when Joss Whedon took over from Snyder in "Justice League," all references to The Knightmare were removed.

Resurrection (Zack Snyder's Justice League)

The Snyder Cut sequence of resurrecting Superman is fairly impressive. In true Zack Snyder form, there's a lot of slow motion and thundering orchestration, but would we expect anything less for the second coming of the world's greatest superhero?

After the newly-formed Justice League has completed the procedure, a jet stream of water shoots from the underground into the sky, and we're left with a familiar silhouette hovering in the sky. Typically a symbol of hope and freedom, Superman's resurrection was complicated with feelings of dread and hesitation.

A melee ensues (we'll get into that later) and Superman initially abandons the team to return to the disused Kryptonian ship filled with uniforms and the ghosts of his fathers. Kal walks through the ship hearing Jonathan and Jor-El's wisdom in the hopes of encouraging him to be the leader they know he's capable of being. In the all-black Superman suit, Kal takes flight, knowing what he must do. It's a beautiful scene that lends some poetry to an otherwise brawny film, and this is in large part to Henry Cavill's performance. Without any dialogue, Cavill's ability to convey fear, perplexity, and ultimately courage with his eyes alone speaks to his talents as an actor and his connection with a character he clearly loves.

Does he bleed? (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

It's the showdown all DC fans have wanted to see on the silver screen. Equipped with a powered exoskeleton and Kryptonite-tinged weapons, Batman does the unthinkable and goes head-to-head with Superman. It's one of the best storylines in the DC comics and one that has been visited in animated films before.

Let's address the Martha in the room: The conclusion of this epic battle is pretty lame. Two men who have been ripping each other to shreds and are ready to kill the other are stopped in their tracks because their moms share the same name? I dread to know what was left on the cutting room floor.

But the fight itself is fantastic. Bruce's use of Kryptonite makes the fight more even-keeled and he's able to do some serious damage to Superman — until the Kryptonite wears off, anyways. Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill (and their stunt doubles) do a great job of going full tilt and showing the strengths of both their characters. Zack Snyder's dark and rainy palette, with only the green glow of Kryptonite providing contrast, gives a gritty texture to the battle to end all battles.

Taking on the Justice League (Justice League)

When Superman is resurrected by the Justice League, he is dazed and confused at first and his fear and uncertainty come out in pure aggression. Kal-El (again shirtless) single-handedly takes on the Justice League with great ease. Cyborg's interface detects enemy behavior and fires at Supes, launching a tirade of attacks on the group. Once again, sequences like this are brilliant for showing the extent of Superman's strength and the fact that he chooses to stifle it when provoked. Something that sets this showdown apart from his battle with Batman is a degree of humor.

When Cyborg hits Supes with a freeze attack, the look on Henry Cavill's face hilariously reads as pitiful. His head-butting tet-a-tet with Wonder Woman ends with her flush with the sidewalk. And of course, the slowed-down sequence where The Flash attempts to outmaneuver Supes garners the biggest laugh.

Notably, this scene was a part of Cavill's mustache-gate. While working on "Mission: Impossible – Fallout," Cavill required a glorious mustache for his role as August Walker, but of course, Superman is famously clean-shaven. When scheduling conflicts didn't allow Cavill enough time to shave and re-grow his mustache, Warner Bros. had to rely on CGI to remove his fuzzy friend. The result added to the humor, albeit unintentionally.

Superman's scream (Man of Steel)

Controversial to many, the final moments of "Man of Steel" saw Superman take a life. As he battled with General Zod in a train station, Clark was forced to decide whether to kill Zod, the only other Kryptonian, or to allow the general to mercilessly kill a trapped family. In the most anguished moment of the DCEU to date, Superman lets out a scream that could have been heard around the world as he snapped Zod's neck.

Superman killing another, let alone his own kind, set an incredibly dark tone for the DCEU. The despair and regret that plagues Clark is matched by the fear he strikes into humans — by saving the life of the family, he in turn showed the power he possesses and chooses to wield. In one moment, Zack Snyder showed us that his cinematic universe wasn't going to be the typical superhero fare. Tough decisions were going to be made with real stakes and consequences felt.

It has to be said, Henry Cavill was a great Superman. He embodied the physicality and spirit of the character and had a deep respect for Supes' legacy and significance to pop culture. This is the end of the road for his Superman, but we look forward to a new actor putting his mark on the character and building out the legacy that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created nearly 100 years ago.