These 5 actors who have played Lex Luthor effectively fleshed out and brought this iconic comic book bad boy to life. Arguably the greatest villain in the realm of comics, Lex Luthor, is simply put, Superman's deadliest nemesis. Luthor may be a mere mortal, but his superior intellect is unmatched. Luthor is so evil, cunning and relentless that the Man of Steel has been on the ropes many times thanks to Luthor's nefarious machinations. While there are several actors who played this dastardly evildoer, these fine actors were able to highlight and present ompelling interpretations of this character.
Released in 1950, “Atom Man Vs. Superman” followed the first ever Superman full-length feature released two years earlier. The visuals in this black and white classic looks a tad tacky when compared to modern age blockbusters, but considering the limited budget and the technology available at that time, it is really quite innovative. Talbot did a fine job in the film; the gleaming bald head and a sinister scowl was a classic comic book look. Much like the modern day Luthor, Talbot's version took to technology to try to even his odds against the Kryptonian. He developed a deadly disintegrating machine that can break down people on the atomic level and created a synthetic version of Kryptonite, a material that is able to weaken and kill the all-powerful Superman.
Gene Hackman is considered by many to be the quintessential cinematic Lex Luthor. The first big Hollywood name to take on this coveted role, Hackman appeared in three out of the four classic Christopher Reeve “Superman” films. This veteran actor gave the character a little more flair and pizazz. Like the comic book version of this villain, Hackman's Luthor is sharp, witty and even charming. He is also very opportunistic. He penetrated Superman's lair to learn more about his adversary and allied himself with three murderous Kryptonians who almost succeeded in taking over the planet.
Although it is difficult to imagine Lex Luthor as anything but evil, the WB series “Smallville” gave audiences an entirely different perspective. In this popular television show, Luthor becomes Superman's best friend when he is saved from certain death by Superman's alter ego, Clark Kent. Not only is he a good guy, but he is young and handsome. Fans of the show enjoyed this refreshing new take on an old character, but many were waiting to see what pushes the young Luthor over the edge to make him the ruthless, brutal and callous villain he will one day become.
After Christopher Reeve's take on the Man of Steel, it would be years before another Superman film was released. Amid much hoopla, “Superman Returns” was released in 2005 with a fresh and updated cast. Sadly though, the movie did not do as well as expected. This was unfortunate because relative newcomer Brandon Routh was simply amazing as Superman. Kevin Spacey should be commended for playing Lex Luthor brilliantly. Spacey as good as they get in the industry. His portrayal of Luthor is the darkest we've seen yet and he retains some of that campy charm we all remember from Gene Hackman's take on Superman's arch-nemesis.
Clancy who? If Gene Hackman is the best Lex Luthor in movies, Clancy Brown is the best Luthor ever. Although not a household name, Brown is actually a prolific actor with an impressive resume. He appeared in such hits as “Highlander” and “The Shawshank Redemption” as well as the TV series "Lost." This Ohio native has played the diabolical Lex Luthor many times not as a live-action actor but as a voice actor. Brown provided the voice over for Luthor in the highly acclaimed "Justice League Unlimited" animated series. By the strength and power of his voice alone, Brown brings to the table a Luthor persona with a perfect mix of humor, gravitas and pure unadulterated evil. For the first time ever, Lex Luthor is actually scary.