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Gods are selfish beings who fly around in little red capes and don't share their power with mankind. No, I don't want to be a god, I just want to bring fire to the people. And I want my cut.
~ Lex Luthor's philosophy
WROOOOOONG!
~ Lex Luthor in the birth of a meme

Lex Luthor is the main antagonist of the 2006 film Superman Returns. He is an evil criminal mastermind and genius scientist who schemes to defeat and kill Superman, his longtime archenemy, for taking away five years of his life.

He was portrayed by Kevin Spacey, who also played Frank Underwood in House of Cards, David Harken in Horrible Bosses, Hopper in A Bug's Life, Micky Rosa in 21John Doe in Se7en, Clyde Northcutt in Fred Claus, Rufus Buckley in A Time to Kill, Buddy Ackerman in Swimming with Sharks, and Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects.

History

Lex Luthor plans to destroy the United States, replacing it with a large continent and forcing the rest of the world to live there. He sneaks behind Superman's back to the Fortress of Solitude and finds out how to access the main computer that will tell him anything he wants to know about Krypton. After that, he finds and steals some Kryptonite so that he use it against Superman, knowing that it makes him weak and deprives him of his powers. Lex uses the crystals to create a Kryptonian landmass, with Kryptonite embedded in its surface, to create the new continent.

His creating this first continent causes an earthquake that nearly destroys Metropolis, and had he continued to create new landmasses with it, it will undoubtedly cause more earthquakes and floods which will kill billions and leave America underwater. Luthor is well aware of this catastrophic side- effect, but thinks nothing of it. After Superman lands on the mass, dubbed "New Krypton", the Kryptonite renders him powerless as Lex assaults him, before finally stabbing him with a Kryptonite shiv. With the help of Richard White, Lois Lane, and Superman's son Jason, Superman is saved. Removing most of the Kryptonite and recharging through the sun, Superman stops Luthor's plan. Luthor and his moll Kitty Kowalski escape via helicopter, but Kitty's conscience overpowers her and she tosses the crystals, preventing Lex from reattempting his plan. The helicopter soon runs out of fuel and they are forced to crash land on a remote island, where there is no food. It is unknown what became of him since sequels to Superman Returns have been cancelled, though it can be implied that he starved to death or was found by authorities soon afterwards.

Trivia

  • Because of Kevin Spacey's Academy Award-winning performance in Bryan Singer's film The Usual Suspects (1995), and friendship with the director, Spacey was the only actor considered for Lex Luthor. The writers specifically had Spacey in mind for the part when writing the script. Spacey's version of Luthor has the same comically exaggerated vanity and pompous arrogance of the earlier Gene Hackman version as well as the same strong interest in real estate, but Spacey's version is far less campy and more serious. Spacey later said that Singer told him to play the character more as "darker and more bitter"  compared to Hackman and not to use the earlier portrayal as an inspiration.
    • Coincidentally, both Kevin Spacey and Gene Hackman (who played Luthor in Superman and Superman II, to which Superman Returns is an alternate sequel) have also previously voiced the villains of from two separate but very similar animated movies about ants released in 1998. Spacey voiced Hopper from Pixar's A Bug's Life, while Hackman voiced General Mandible from DreamWorks Antz.
  • The scene in which Lex Luthor goads Lois Lane into telling him that Superman will stop his plan, just so he can then interrupt her by loudly shouting "WRO-O-O-O-ONG!", became something of an Internet meme after the film came out.

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Theatrical Movies
Superman: Lex Luthor | Otis | Eve Teschmacher | General Zod | Non | Ursa
Superman II: General Zod | Non | Ursa | Lex Luthor | Otis | Eve Teschmacher
Superman III: Ross Webster | Corrupted Superman | Vera Webster | Lorelei Ambrosia
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace: Lex Luthor | Nuclear Man
Superman Returns: Lex Luthor
Man of Steel: Sword of Rao (Zod, Faora-Ul, Nam-Ek, Jax-Ur, Tor-An, Car-Vex, Nadira & Dev-Em II)
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Lex Luthor | Doomsday | Anatoli Knyazev | Mercy Graves | Cesar Santos | Amajagh | Joe Chill | Zod | Steppenwolf

Direct-to-video Movies
Superman: Brainiac Attacks: Brainiac | Lex Luthor | Mercy Graves | Mister Mxyzptlk
Superman: Doomsday: Lex Luthor | Superman Clone | Doomsday | Toyman | Mercy Graves
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies: Lex Luthor | Major Force | Metallo | Amanda Waller | Toyman | Solomon Grundy | Gorilla Grodd | Killer Frost | Lady Shiva | Giganta | Mongul | Captain Cold
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse: Darkseid | Female Furies (Granny Goodness, Gilotina, Mad Harriet, Lashina & Stompa) | Doomsday
All-Star Superman: Lex Luthor | Solaris | Parasite | Bar-El & Lilo-El
Superman vs. The Elite: The Elite (Manchester Black, Coldcast, Menagerie & Hat) | Atomic Skull
Superman: Unbound: Brainiac
The Death Of Superman: Doomsday | Lex Luthor | Intergang (Bruno Mannheim) | Mercy Graves | Cyborg Superman
Reign Of The Supermen: Cyborg Superman | Darkseid | Parademons | Lex Luthor | Mercy Graves
Superman: Red Son: Superman | Brainiac | Lex Luthor | Batman | Joseph Stalin | Superior Man

Video Games
Superman Arcade: Emperor Zaas

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