I recently watched the extended version of Superman II. I hadn’t watched it since I was a child, so I didn’t really remember it in detail. After watching it, I was genuinely surprised.

After depowering General Zod, Ursa, and Non, he seems to commit murder. Zod posed no threat, as his powers were gone, but Superman throws him against a wall and lets him fall, presumably to his death. Non leaps to attack Superman and falls in the same pit. Lois punches Ursa, who also falls into the pit.

None of them posed a threat to Superman and he could have easily saved them and had them incarcerated. This would be considered murder in a court of law.

So is Superman a murderer?

Yes, he does reverse time back to the beginning of the movie, in a deus ex machina moment. However, to me, that doesn’t change his actions at the time.

  • 8
    Isn't the time reversing in the first movie, not the second? In Superman II the only "reset" is the magical kiss that makes Lois forget everything. Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 9:37
  • 3
    For those who down vote provide a reason. It's a legitimate question.
    – user23298
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 9:42
  • 4
    @user23298 I'm guessing the reason for the downvotes is that you're essentially inviting an ethics discussion based entirely on personal opinion. Try to rephrase it in a way that would allow for a more objective answer.
    – Misha R
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 10:21
  • 2
    If I was Superman's lawyer, I'd be arguing for a change of venue to Krypton.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 15:53
  • 1
    @MikeEdenfield you forget the fact he threw a depowered Zod into the pit. Zod posed no threat.
    – user23298
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 17:22

4 Answers 4


Yes, and no, and yes, and no and yes.


Superman clearly disposes of Zod when he's de-powered. This would appear to be the very definition of Excessive Force given that he's not an immediate threat to Superman.


Except that Zod does still arguably pose a substantial ongoing threat to Superman and Lois. Firstly, he might order Ursa to kill Lois. Secondly, he will almost certainly seek to regain his superpowers and attack Superman again. Superman could easily argue that he still feared for Lois' life (as a clear and present threat) as well as his own life in future, justifying his use of lethal force in self-defence.

Yes and No

Having said that, If Superman was in Massachusetts he'd probably be convicted of murder. Except that he's not, he's at the centre of the Arctic, itself a hotly disputed legal grey zone, where normal laws don't apply


Except that they do apply in the Richard Donner Cut where we see that the Arctic has its own Police Force, and presumably its own laws and judiciary.


Except that neither Zod, nor Superman is human. Although you could argue that Superman is a US citizen, Zod certainly isn't and there are no laws that specifically forbid the deliberate killing of non-terrestrials.

So there you go. Clear as mud.

  • I wonder what the rational was regarding the deleted police scene mentioned in Valorums post (see Yes #2). It almost seems as if the writers were prescient of the very discussion we are having here and were attempting the "justice" part of Supes...motto. Then perhaps during editing it was realized that it makes no sense. Has anyone seen anything from the writers/producers/etc explaining this scene? Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 5:13
  • @Withywindle - Asked (and answered) elsewhere on SFF:SE
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 17:44
  • Re your final "No": They were aware of this problem as far back as Lord Coke, who defines murder as killing "any reasonable creature in rerum natura under the King's peace". It's unclear to me whether that common law definition has been superseded by a statutory definition, but if not, expect a lot of complicated legal wrangling. If you want to use US law, you have the additional problem that there are at least 50 separate jurisdictions with independent definitions of murder (it's not a federal crime at all).
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 5:28
  • "Superman is a US citizen, Zod certainly isn't" - Is it legal for US citizens to kill non-citizens?
    – komodosp
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 13:43
  • @colmde - Please show me the relevant statue that says that a US citizen can't kill a space alien.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 13:47

There is no clearcut evidence in Superman II that anyone died at the end of the theatrical release of the film. although I admit it might be implied.

"but Superman throws him against a wall and lets him fall, presumably to his death. Non leaps to attack Superman and falls in the same pit. Lois punches Ursa, who also falls into the pit."

Yes, PRESUMABLY to their death(s). But we did not see a pit full of corpses, all we saw was Superman's conversation with Lex Luthor and Lois Lane, then it cuts away to him flying her back to civilization. Since it seems that it wasn't nearly as cold inside the fortress of solitude (no one was wearing winter coats or anything), one could also presume that Superman merely trapped them in the pit and came back later to take them to jail.

Furthermore, in other releases of the film and deleted scenes added to various viewings, the fate of the criminals is revealed. In one version they are arrested, and in another version Superman turns back time which re-imprisoned them in the phantom zone.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superman_II#Later_releases In 1984, when Superman II premiered on television, 24 minutes were re-inserted into the film (17 minutes on ABC). Much of the extra footage was directed by Richard Donner. In the ABC-TV version, a U.S. "polar patrol" is shown picking up the three Kryptonians and Lex Luthor at the end of the film. Without this ending, it appears that Superman has let the Kryptonians die, though Superman has a strict code against killing and their deaths aren't necessary once they are depowered. On the other hand, the theatrical version's ending implies that Luthor is left stranded at the Fortress of Solitude, leaving the viewer to wonder how he got to prison in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace — that question was answered in the extended versions where Superman reverses the rotation of the Earth where one of the things he does involves preventing Lex Luthor from escaping from prison. The ending of the extended cuts also has Superman, with Lois standing beside him, destroying the Fortress of Solitude.

  • For the record, in none of the draft scripts does Zod die; "ZOD is hurled helplessly through the air the entire length of the Fortress, crashes against the far wall, drops to the floor." - bigapricot.org/scripts/superman_II.txt
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 21:41

Too long for a comment: If Superman did kill Zod et al, then I suspect (given some of the other arguments presented in the comments) that he could be indicted on these crimes.

In Action Comics #358, “SUPERMAN…GUILTY OF HOMICIDE!” Ron Noble, the secret head of the International Crime Exchange, plots to frame Superman for accidental homicide in a boxing exhibition.

This story line is continued in Action Comics #359, “THE CASE OF THE PEOPLE VS. SUPERMAN!” Superman apparently stands trial for the accidental killing of Ron Noble.

It isn't clear from the references what the result of the case was but in Action Comics #361, Superman meets up with the Parasite again (Action Comics #360 seems to be a Supergirl special.


He absolutely kills Zod. Zod has no powers, and he's essentially a human being at that point like Lara described to Superman when he was talking to her about his relationship with Lois. Superman breaks his hand, tosses him to a wall of ice, and lets him fall to nothingness and we're supposed to believe Zod survived it? If Clark was all messed up from the fight he got into at the diner after he lost his powers, how does Zod do anything after what Superman does to him? And we don't see how Superman gets his powers back. You can infer that it's just the reverse of the process to take them away, but the fact is we don't know. Only Superman knows. And if only Superman knows, how will Zod and his crew (assuming they survived the falls) know the process on how to regain their powers?

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