Lex Luther is probably Superman’s most prolific villain of all time, with such a deep and personal hatred for the Man of Steel, Lex has had many portrayals both on the big screen and in TV series. With so many iterations of the character, each rendition has its own way of showing the evil genius; but which one was the best?
Who is Lex Luther really?
Firstly, we need to pin down precisely what is going on in the head of this supervillain, why does he hate Superman, what are his plans, why is he evil? So, Lex has been shown as having many different traits, from your basic comical evil genius to a comical bachelor, but one thing remains the same, his wish for Superman’s demise. Reasons behind this have been sketchy, but a very popular, and the most canonical, seem to be rooted in Superman’s powers, greatness, and fame. Lex has a typical rags-to-riches story but remained intensely bitter, so he wishes to remove the threat that has dashed his pride and knocked him down from the top spot.
Jesse Eisenberg – Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Eisenberg can often create depth and meaning to a character, but his portrayal of Lex Luthor did not step up to the mark. His character seemed confused between the mad scientist with tiny dashes of businessman spread throughout. It seems unlikely that this Lex would have been as successful as he is with his lack of diplomacy. The character didn’s scream power, just someone who needed more love from his parents.
Lyle Talbot – Atom Man vs. Superman
In the 1950s Atom Man vs. Superman, this character was played by Lyle Talbot. Many have said this could have been much better and more influential should he have had more freedom for the role. However, with many live-action adaptations taking the forefront, and the advancing of film technology, this adaptation probably hasn’t had much attention
Scott James Wells – Superboy
Many have suggested that Scott James Wells is highly underrated and deserves more recognition for carrying the Lex Luthor batton for several years. With the freedom of a TV series to slowly develop the character, he managed to add a seriously sinister twist to Lex and pulled it off. On the flip side, the quality of the production as a whole wasn’t enough to keep viewers hooked.
Michael Rosenbaum – Smallville
Rosenbaum had everything that Scott James Wells didn’t, a great TV show to star in, and time to shine. This version of Lex had his whole character built slowly, becoming evil over time and captivating audiences in the interim. There’s nothing better than an antagonist you fundamentally understand, even if you disagree with their actions, as it evokes more thought and emotion.
Gene Hackman – Superman: The Movie
The best rendition of Lex Luthor has got to be the incredible Gene Hackman’s. With his total authenticity, humor, and cold brutality. You would never believe he was a mass murderer, at least prospectively, but his plan was almost foolproof until Superman thwarts him. This will always be a timeless version of the entire Superman story.
There are even more versions of Lex Luthor out there, with a wide variety of animated series and voiceovers, however, we are yet to see a Lex Luthor blow us away – not literally – since Gene Hackman’s brilliant performance.