Superman is essentially the king of superheroes. Among all the greats, Superman stands out as the one that almost anyone could recognize. Aside from his memorable appearance (the blue tights, the red cape, the big 'S' on his chest), people know Superman has a ton of superpowers at his disposal. The joke about Superman was that he always had too many superpowers. Essentially, if he found himself in a situation where it seemed like he would finally be defeated, he would suddenly remember that he had a superpower that he had never used before. He would then use this power to get himself out of trouble, and it would become totally canon with all of his other abilities. This notion of Superman having too many powers really stemmed from his silver age comics, where writers kept adding powers to his repertoire to see what would stick.
Superman lost most of his more ridiculous powers after the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" storyline, but he has continued to exhibit new powers to this day. However, most of the new abilities that Superman displays are at the very least tied to the powers he already has. Everyone knows that Superman can fly, that he's super strong, and that he is invulnerable to pretty much any kind of attack, but did you know that he used to be able to shapeshift? Or that he shot tiny little supermen out of his hands? Superman has had a long and sometimes interesting list of superpowers granted to him, but luckily most of the more silly ones have gone away, while the ones that everyone recognizes as being his core set of superpowers have remained. These are all of Superman's powers, officially ranked from worst to best.
Let's start off with a power that has been adapted to be a little more realistic in the modern age, but started out as one of those "Superman can do this because he is perfect in every way" superpowers: shapeshifting.
You read that correctly: shapeshifting. See, Superman is so strong and his Kryptonian physiology is so advanced that he used to be able to literally change the entire shape and appearance of his body by molding his features using his super strength. This was later adapted to Superman being able to disguise himself well and imitate voices, which seems more reasonable.
24 SUPER VENTRILOQUISM
Superman would make a great Vaudeville performer considering how amazing his powers of ventriloquism once were. On top of all of his other superpowers, back in the silver age, Superman also had the ability to throw his voice better than anyone else.
Superman could, of course, use this power for its most obvious person, which was making people think objects or animals were talking to them, but he could also use it to throw his voice at someone, in particular, allowing long distance communication. Basically, this power became pointless due to the invention of cell phones.
23 SUPER MATH
Did you know that Superman is actually really, ridiculously good at math? This was shown in a classic silver age panel where he correctly guessed how many beans were in a jar by calculating the weight of both (fun fact: no one checked to see if he was actually right).
Of course, this ability doesn't really stand on its own as a power, since Superman is just highly intelligent (more on that later). It was just yet another power that the writers gave to him when they were seeing how much they could actually do with the character.
22 SUPER EATING
You might not know this, but because Superman is sustained by Earth's yellow sun, he never actually has to eat, drink water, or sleep. That's how he can stay so vigilant at all times: he never has to take a break like us Earthlings.
However, if Superman ever finds himself in a situation where he is not exposed to the sun's radiation (being kept underground for instance), he has to consume so many calories that you wouldn't even be able to add them all up. Luckily, he can eat as well as he can do everything else. It's a power that would definitely help Supes get his money's worth at all-you-can-eat buffets.
21 MOLECULAR PHASING
Superman is able to do a lot of things with his Kryptonian physiology, and that includes being able to individually control every molecule of his being, allowing him to phase through solid matter. This power was first demonstrated in 1958 on The Adventures of Superman when Superman vibrated himself through solid metal to capture a criminal.
It came around again in 2001, when in Superman #175, Superman once again vibrated his molecules, allowing punches from Doomsday to pass right through him. While it's not unimaginable that Superman would be able to control the molecules in his body, this is a bit much, right? He is basically indestructible, after all.
20 MIND CONTROL
Alright, let's just say it: Superman had way too many powers during the silver age, and some of them would have been troubling had they stuck around. One thing that should remain consistent about Superman is his lack of external mental superpowers.
This would include mind control, which Superman had utilized at least once in the past when he was constrained by his enemies. It's far too convenient for Superman to be able to fly, lift any object, be invulnerable to bullets, and also control people's minds. It would also have some really troubling implications.
19 SUPER HYPNOTISM
Along with Superman's mind control powers (which have thankfully been lost to time), he was also a master hypnotist. Trying to determine how hypnosis is different from mind control would be like splitting hairs, but the fact of that matter is that they were both separate powers.
The only reason that Superman's hypnosis powers rank a little higher than his mind control is that it seemed to serve a practical purpose. Superman's hypnosis powers were always working in the background, projecting the image of Clark Kent into people's minds as a weak and mild-mannered guy, thus making the otherwise weak disguise effective.
Here we go again with the mental powers. Basically, it used to be that Superman could have every single power that could be thought of, and along with hypnosis and mind control, his other mental ability was telekinesis, which was introduced for a short time in the silver age.
Look, Superman does not require telekinesis to do his job. He has plenty of other powers that make it easy enough for him to scoop up criminals and drop them off at the police station. This was just far too much, and luckily it did not last long (although Superman did show some telekinetic powers in the films starring Christopher Reeves).
17 CREATING TINY SUPERMEN
Okay, we admit it: we ranked this one a little higher than Superman's other strange silver age powers because it's adorable! Look at that Tiny Superman just flying out of big Superman's hand! That is just too cute.
Superman gained this power in 1958's "Superman" #125. After investigating a spaceship and having it literally blow up in his face, Superman lost all his powers but gained the ability to produce little Supermen that retained all of those powers. It's a pretty bizarre storyline, but if this ever turned up in a modern Superman story, it would be hilarious.
16 SUPER SMELLING
We all know that Superman has excellent vision and hearing (more on those later), but did you know that all of his other senses are heightened to superhuman levels as well? That includes his sense of smell, by the way.
Superman's sense of smell is far beyond any animal. He is able to utilize his powerful olfactory sense in ways that make his job as a superhero that much easier. For example, he can tell what components are inside of a chemical weapon, or he can smell trace amounts of rare substances.
15 INSTANT LANGUAGE LEARNING
Superman is a smart guy. Far from being the heroic yet simple man that some people might imagine him to be, Superman is actually highly intelligent (we'll get into that a bit more, further down the list). He is a great listener, and because he works around the world, he often encounters people speaking different languages.
Luckily for them, Superman is essentially polylingual and able to pick up the intricacies and different syntax of any language he encounters in a matter of minutes. This allows him to fully communicate with people he needs to help and to be a hero who can go anywhere on Earth.
14 SENSITIVITY TO RADIO SIGNALS
This one is one of Superman's more recent powers, first exhibited in Action Comics #49. Superman had been pretty wiped out after using up all of his power on the Super Flare (more on that later). So, in an attempt to sort of jump-start his powers back into working, he exposed himself to a huge chunk of kryptonite.
While his powers did return, something was different. On top of his super hearing, Superman could now detect radio waves of all different frequencies. Not only that, but he could hear everything that was being transmitted on them. On top of being able to listen in on what everyone in the world is saying, his body is now basically a superpowered antenna.
13 SUPER HEARING
Superman has always had his super hearing, and it is the kind of thing that has allowed him to always be there when someone is in need of help. After all, he can float high above the Earth and hear every cry for help. Some people might think that would drive a man mad, but not Superman.
In Superman #2, Green Arrow asks if Superman would ever turn off his hearing since it would be impossible for him to listen to all those cries of help knowing he can't save everyone. Superman says he could turn it off, but doesn't, because, on top of all the cries for help, he also listens to the joyful occasions in the world, wishing to experience all of the good things people do along with the bad.
12 TELESCOPIC AND MICROSCOPIC VISION
Clark Kent may wear glasses, but Superman has better than perfect eyesight. He is able to focus on things that are extremely far away, which is also how he is able to home in on any situation on Earth, even if he is out in space. It basically helps him to watch over the people of Earth.
On top of his telescopic vision, however, Superman also possesses microscopic vision, allowing him to focus his eyesight down to the molecular scale. This means that he is able to determine the molecular structure of different materials, but also that he is able to see if the Atom is trying to sneak up on him.
It might not be ranked the highest on this list, but Superman's intelligence is by far one of his most important (and forgotten) powers. Not only can Superman tear through an entire book in seconds, but he is also able to retain all of that information, which means he could just be the smartest being on Earth if he really spent all of his time learning.
However, the most important aspect of his super knowledge might be how it contributes to his other abilities. For example, Superman's super hearing would be a living nightmare if he wasn't able to focus on one thing at a time, which his superhuman ability to concentrate allows him to do. His high level of intelligence is also why he is so benevolent. He is so smart, he knows that using his powers to help the world is the best course of action in any situation.
10 ICE BREATH
Superman has a powerful set of lungs. That must be obvious, given that everything else about him is superpowered. It makes sense that Superman can blow hard enough to put out every candle on every birthday cake in the world, but his breath can also be rendered super cold.
Superman's ice breath is one of those powers he has that remained from the "give him literally every power we can think of" silver age. However, unlike shooting tiny Supermen from his hands, his ice breath has remained a fan favorite and has been a useful power for him to have in plenty of different situations.
9 SUPER BREATH
Why does Superman's regular super breath rank higher than his ice breath? Simply because it isn't quite as gimmicky. As we mentioned, Superman has a set of Kryptonian lungs that allow him to deliver a powerful burst of air that has plenty of applications.
Not only does his super breath allow him to blow out massive fires, but he can also use it to fill a ship's sails or simply blow enemies far, far away. There's definitely a joke to be made regarding whether Superman needs a breath mint or not, but we won't make it here.
8 X-RAY VISION
Superman's x-ray vision has been the butt of jokes for years, with plenty of parodies showing him using it in less than tasteful ways. There has also been a lot of discussion over whether or not the x-ray vision gives off the same amount of radiation as a normal x-ray, and if so, whether it is ethical for Superman to use it or not.
However, Superman's x-ray vision, far from being something he uses to spy on people or do other unsavory things, allows him to see if people are injured or sick. It also lets him see the inner workings of things like bombs so that he can defuse them, rather than just flying them out into space.
7 HEAT VISION
Superman's heat vision is one of his signature powers, and it is one that has been copied by knockoff superheroes for as long as anyone can remember. Over time, Superman's heat vision has actually been given an explanation of how it works, which makes it one of Superman's more viable abilities.
Essentially, Superman is always absorbing energy from the sun, and that energy is stored in every cell of his body (which also allows him to perform the Super Flare, but we'll get to that). His heat vision is just Superman releasing a concentrated dose of that energy through his eyes. It has proven useful on more than one (or even one hundred) occasions.
6 ACCELERATED HEALING
Superman is the kind of hero who is essentially indestructible (more on that later). So, obviously, it's pretty hard for him to actually be injured. However, it does happen occasionally. After all, Supes does have his weaknesses. There is, of course, kryptonite, but he is also susceptible to magic.
Luckily, Superman is able to heal very quickly when he actually does get hurt. Once again, this is due to his Kryptonian physiology and the power he derives from Earth's yellow sun. It's good to know that even if Superman does get a scrape or a bruise, it won't be there for long.
5 SUPER FLARE
Superman's heat vision isn't just a one-off ability. Superman is so full of power at all times that beyond releasing it just through his eyes, he can actually let it all explode out of him at once. This more recent ability was referred to as a Superflare.
The power was first demonstrated in 2015 in Superman #38 when Superman was in a fight against Ulysses. In a last-ditch effort to defeat his opponent, Superman released all of the energy from every cell in his body in one explosive burst. The massive explosion left Superman entirely drained of energy, but at least it worked.
"Can Superman outrun the Flash?" is one of the most classic questions asked by comic book readers (the answer seems to be both yes and no, depending on who is writing the story). Superman's speed is what allows him to help so many people around the world.
Admittedly this would be a great power to have. Who hasn't dreamed of being able to instantaneously travel to wherever they need to be? This power also helps Superman quickly change out of his civilian clothes without anyone noticing.
3 SUPER STRENGTH
Super strength might be Superman's most obvious power, the one that everyone knows he possesses. It's also the power that ties him most to classical mythology, as super strength was the power most demonstrated by classical characters that provided the inspiration for Superman. This includes Hercules and Hugo, the main character in the novel Gladiator.
Superman's strength is the key to him being such a great hero. After all, he can hold up a falling plane, punch a meteorite back into space, and beat up just about any kind of monster, robot, or superhuman enemy that ends up attacking Metropolis.
They don't call Superman the Man of Steel for nothing. Bullets bounce off of him like it's nothing. People break their hands when they try to punch him. Extreme heat and cold are no problem for him. He can't be hurt by basically anything on Earth.
That's not to say that Superman doesn't have his weaknesses. He can't be entirely unbeatable, after all, and writers have taken great care in recent years to counter all of his powers with real obstacles. However, when it comes to stopping any sort of Earthly threat, Superman doesn't really need to fear anything.
It had to be flight, right? Out of all of Superman's powers, there may not be one that is more iconic or copied than his ability to launch himself into the sky and fly to wherever he is needed.
It could be said that one of the most iconic images of the entire 20th century is Superman floating down from out of the sky, his cape rippling behind him before he lands back on the ground. It's not because the image itself is striking, but because it is something that people wish they could do. That's what makes Superman's power of flight his most defining and important power.