One of the greatest DC Comics villains of all time is none other than Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor. Despite being human with no superpowers, Lex can be considered as one of the Man of Steel’s greatest enemies. His mind alone makes him one of the most dangerous characters in the entire DC Universe.
As we have had several interpretations of the Last Son of Krypton in media, his greatest foe has as well. Whether it is on the big or small screen, DC fans have been able to enjoy Lex in various stories and forms over the last 20 plus years. Now, it is time to rank the 10 best versions of Lex in TV and film!
10 The Death of Superman/Reign of the Supermen (Rainn Wilson)
DC animation recently adapted Superman's famous death into a two-parter where the current animated universe introduced Doomsday, the creature that killed the Man of Steel. Throughout The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen, Rainn Wilson lends his voice for Lex and became definitely one of the sassiest versions of the character.
While this incarnation may not have been as dark as some of the others we will bring up later, this Lex at least remained a mastermind and a formidable opponent to our boy in red and blue. It should be fun to see where this Lex goes especially after the post-credits scene in Reign of the Supermen.
9 Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (Chris Noth)
What if Lex was good and came from a world where he was a hero while Superman was the enemy? That is the case in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths where Chris Noth voiced the iconic Luthor. Here we see a Lex who was the leader of the Justice League and did everything he could to stop the Crime Syndicate before having to turn to a Justice League from another world.
Taking away the darkness that Lex usually lives in, Noth was a perfect choice to bring a heroic version of Lex and give fans an idea of what he could have been like if he hadn't turned to crime.
8 Superman: Doomsday (James Marsters)
Before The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen, DC animation had actually done an adaptation of Superman's death. Back in 2007, Superman: Doomsday came out and, in this one, James Marsters took on the role of Lex.
For Smallville fans out there who remember him as Brainiac, Marsters was a perfect pick to portray one of the most calculative characters in the Superman mythology. This was however not the last time that Marsters would portray Lex as he did go on to voice the baddie in the popular MMO game DC Universe Online.
7 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (John Shea)
In the 1990s, John Shea took on the role of Lex in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. One of the key aspects that Lex needs to have is charisma and Shea's take became one of the most charismatic versions of all time. If there was ever a downside to this Lex is that this version did actually appear too close to being insane, especially compared to some other incarnations.
Sometimes it worked, sometimes Shea's Luthor went a bit too far. That doesn't negate the nutty things that Lex would do throughout this series which made Lois & Clark one of the best Superman adaptations of all time.
6 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Jesse Eisenberg)
While we only spent one film and a brief cameo with him, Jesse Eisenberg is without a doubt one of the more polarizing live-action Lexes. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we see an incredibly young Lex who, while still being a mastermind, was probably one of the most insane takes on Lex we have had on the screen. In this version, he doesn't take long before trying to turn everyone against Superman (Henry Cavill) as he sees the Man of Steel as the largest threat that Earth has ever witnessed.
With all of his power, Lex manages to pit Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman against each other, eventually, even creating Doomsday. In Justice League, the post-credit scene between him and Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) talking about forming a league of their own. While we will probably not see Eisenberg's Lex again, it still doesn't change the fact that he was a blast to watch on screen.
5 Young Justice (Mark Rolston)
One of the best-animated series from DC is Young Justice, which is currently in its third season on DC Universe. One of the best-depicted characters on the show is Mark Rolston's Lex who has served as one of the bigger baddies in the series.
Something that we haven't seen other Superman media explore thoroughly is the relationship between Lex Luthor and Conner Kent a.k.a. Superboy; however, Young Justice fixed this quite early on. In addition to that, this is one of the shows where we got to see Lex work with other villains like The Light.
4 Superman: The Movie Franchise (Gene Hackman)
The Superman: the Movie franchise didn't just have the perfect Man of Tomorrow, but also a terrific Lex, with Gene Hackman portraying the legendary villain. Even though this is one of the more comedic portrayals of Lex, Hackman's presence on screen makes the character impossible to dislike.
What was scary about this Lex is that underneath all of his wit and charm, he had the capacity of hate and made sure Superman (Christopher Reeve) knew it. While the later Superman films didn't exactly end up in a good place, Hackman's Lex was always someone you wanted to see more of.
3 Superman: The Animated Series/DC Animated Universe (Clancy Brown)
Several actors have done a splendid job in portraying Lex in animation, but when it comes to the best animated Lex, it is, without a doubt, Clancy Brown. From Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, to Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Brown owned that role.
Throughout his many appearances as Lex in the DC animated universe as well as other projects, Brown's Lex had everything you wanted in a perfect Lex. Smoothness, intelligence, power, and intimidation. The animated design for Brown's Lex is also probably the best one out all of the Lexes we have seen in animation.
2 Supergirl (Jon Cryer)
One of the more recent versions of Lex is Supergirl. In Season 4, the series introduced Jon Cryer as the famous Luthor. Despite having only been in three episodes, it doesn't change the fact that Cryer's version stole the season and therefore earned this high spot on the list. Given that this is an older Lex compared to other versions, it makes him all that more dangerous. If you look at what he has done in comics, other shows, and movies, it is clear that Lex is capable of a lot.
In fact, despite appearing so late in the season, Lex had pulled the strings in a lot of stories throughout most of Season 4. From manipulating Red Daughter to redeeming himself as a hero to the public, Lex accomplished a lot. Along with having the qualities that fans want from Lex, Cryer is one of the best Lexes as well as one of the Arrowverse's finest castings of all time.
1 Smallville (Michael Rosenbaum)
Only one can take the crown and when it comes to the best portrayal of Lex Luthor in media, it is Michael Rosenbaum's version on Smallville. For 7 years as well as one last appearance in the final season, viewers got to follow Lex's journey as his relationship with Clark (Tom Welling) eventually drove him to become the iconic villain we all know and love today.
Smallville offers a comparatively realistic take on Lex, with psychology playing a large factor in his development. Towards the later seasons of the series, you could actually understand why Lex became the man he grew into. Along with strong writing and consistently amazing acting by Rosenbaum, the Smallville version of Lex is, without a doubt, the best Lex that we have had in media.