The 15 Best Actors Who Should Have Played Lex Luthor

After years of hype and anticipation, Batman V Superman has failed to live up to audience's expectations. The buzz surrounding the release of the film was unprecedented and why wouldn't it be; the two most iconic superheroes ever were sharing the big screen for the first time. After Man of Steel's lukewarm reception there were concerns from the onset of the announcement and questions arose regarding character development, storyline and most of all - casting. Those questions were duly answered as Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Jesse Eisenberg were cast as Batman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor respectively. The initial fan response was highly critical of all three actors chosen to play such famous characters, with a huge amount of fan backlash focused on the odd casting of Jesse Eisenberg as Superman's archenemy, although, I, like many, remained optimistic to the notion of a new take on the supervillain who is typically portrayed physically as a tall, well-built, bald criminal mastermind. He is regarded as one of the most intelligent men on the planet, a brilliantly gifted scientist and inventor as well as a billionaire business magnate and philanthropist to the city of Metropolis. His hatred towards Superman stems from an ideological standpoint for contradicting his human achievements as well as viewing the Man of Steel as a threat to the very existence of humanity.

The release of Batman V Superman opened to negative reviews with most critics finding issue with its narrative structure but the performances of both Affleck and Gadot were praised. Eisenberg's turn as Luthor was heavily criticised and with that criticism comes hot debate as to which actors could have provided their own fresh take on the character and been the best man for the beloved villain.

15. Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix is one of the most talented and interesting actors working today as well as the only actor on this list who was actually offered the role of Lex Luthor. Although he obviously decided against taking the part, it could have made for compelling viewing watching Phoenix offer a unique take on Superman's greatest nemesis. His Oscar-nominated performance as Commodus in Gladiator is one of the most memorable screen villains since the turn of the century so his decision to ultimately pass on Batman V Superman remains a great loss to the DC Extended Universe and audiences as a whole.


13 Michael Fassbender

Alas, who better to play Superman's greatest foe than Michael Fassbender. After a steady rise through the Hollywood ranks, Fassbender is now firmly established as one of the most sought after actors in the world. His wide-ranging choice in film roles playing a variety of diverse characters has culminated in him being regarded as one of the finest actors working today. He possesses all the physical traits that would help keep die hard fanboys happy as well as the eclectic acting ability that would enable him to best characterise Luthor for Batman V Superman and the DC Extended Universe. This is a hypothetical list so we won't let the fact he's already killed it as Magneto in the X-Men films get in the way of the fact he could have been the perfect man for the job of Lex Luthor.

12 Bryan Cranston

As soon as the character of Lex Luthor was announced for Batman V Superman, the internet was set alight with fan theories of who should play him. One of the most popular were Heisenberg himself, Bryan Cranston. The obvious similarities between Luthor and the power hungry, bald guy Walter White of Breaking Bad were too obvious for fanboy hype to not run rampant. As it turned out it was all just rumour as Cranston himself admitted to not being approached for the part.

11 Bradley Cooper

In early 2012 there was a rumour circulating around the internet that Bradley Cooper was set to appear as Lex Luthor in 2013's Man of Steel which would set up his involvement in DC's Extended Universe moving forward. Obviously that rumour proved to be just that but it does beg the question: would Cooper have been a better pick for the role than Eisenberg? The short answer is a resounding YES. Cooper's interpretation could have been portrayed as a preppy, cocky yet charming evil CEO with an unquestionable desire to be revered by the people of Metropolis as Superman is. This drive for popularity and power could stem from the years of abuse and torment at the hands of his father, Lionel Luthor. This would have provided the fresh take on Luthor that Snyder and the powers that be were looking for whilst also allowing the opportunity for audiences to see one of the biggest names in Hollywood attempt a rare villainous role.

10 Michael C. Hall

Those familiar with Michael C. Hall will be all too aware of what he could have brought to the role of Lex Luthor: his icy portrayal of police blood splatter analyst/vigilante serial killer Dexter Morgan in Dexter shares a variety of similarities with Luthor. Both are brilliant criminal masterminds and mad scientists of sorts as well as having to conceal their true nature from the public eye. Hall has proved with his role as Dexter that he would have the ability to convey the intricate emotions of Luthor's inner torment whilst putting on a good face for the people of Metropolis; his characterisation would most likely resemble the Luthor in Batman V Superman more than anyone else on this list but would provide the level of intimidation and believability that Eisenberg couldn't quite bring to the role.

9 Matthew McConaughey

A few years ago, Matthew McConaughey was more known for taking his shirt off in pointless rom-coms than he was for his serious acting chops. The very mention of his name coming up in this conversation would have been met with severe fan backlash but thanks to the "McConaissance" Matthew McConaughey has proved himself as an actor more than capable of taking on a wide-range of demanding roles. The Oscar winner would be worth the price of admission alone watching him play against type as a maniacal villain.

8 Mads Mikkelsen


One would have to watch just one episode of NBC's cancelled yet underrated psychological thriller, Hannibal, to see just how good a fit Mads Mikkelsen could've been for the role of Lex Luthor. Just like Luthor, Mikkelsen's Hannibal Lector hides in plain sight, a ruthless sociopath behind closed doors and a charming intellectual for the public eye. Audiences would need to believe that the people of Metropolis can't see past Luthor's charismatic and emboldening public persona to the cunning super villain beyond that. No one plays that part quite like Mads Mikkelsen.

7 Mark Strong

Up there with Cranston, Mark Strong was another popular fan choice for the Lex Luthor role. Bald with a history of playing villains, Strong was always going to garner speculation and even hinted at his possible involvement as Luthor on a number of occasions. A possible detriment to his claim to the character was his prior role as Sinestro in the critically-despised Green Lantern film. Though his portrayal of the villain was seen as one of the few bright spots in the film, Warner Bros. probably wanted to leave that mess in the past where it belongs. A shame as Strong definitely had the means of bringing the necessary screen gravitas and dominant presence to the role that would make the powerful businessman his own.


6 Jason Clarke


Jason Clarke is one of the most in-demand actors working today and with good reason. His breakout role playing the sadistic torturer in Zero Dark Thirty has given evidence to the fact that Clarke would have no problem taking on the part of a ruthless, calculating villain that will go to any means necessary to assert his will over the citizens of Metropolis. Simultaneously conveying Luthor's conflicted, tormented nature and his debonaire public persona would be no easy feat, but you feel Clarke could bring that effortlessly to the big screen.

5 Oscar Isaac

Oscar Isaac may not seem an obvious candidate for the role of Lex Luthor, but after his performance as a powerful, tech-savvy CEO in Ex Machina, many would agree that he would be up to the task of bringing the wealthiest man in Metropolis to life. Much like his role in Ex Machina, Isaac's Luthor could be played with a calm, coolness, all the while concealing himself as a manipulative, plotting criminal mastermind. Glimpses of his upcoming role as the titular god-like villain in the X-Men: Apocalypse trailers are sure to have DC super fans thinking of what could have been had he been cast instead of Eisenberg in Batman V Superman.

4 Clive Owen


Look at the above image. Now look at it again and imagine Clive Owen sporting a bald head and that icy stare as Lex Luthor. Once a leading contender for the role of James Bond, it is an exciting prospect to think how Owen could have applied that cocky, debonaire attitude to the reviled villain. He certainly has a look that stands in pure contrast to Eisenberg's whimsy, muttering interpretation. Owen's Luthor could have been portrayed as a brash, smug yet charming businessman with a relentless hunger for power; it's not hard to imagine Owen as Luthor bending would-be opposers to his will with nefarious tactics and sheer ruthless villainry.

3 Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis is well known for the extreme lengths he goes to for his roles, refusing to break character for his Oscar-winning portrayal of severely-paralysed man Christy Brown in My Left Foot. Day-Lewis refused to leave his wheelchair for the entire production as to try and gain insight into all aspects of his life. It's this type of dedication and master of his art that has led to Day-Lewis being labelled as the "World's Greatest Actor". His turn as 'Bill the Butcher' in Gangs of New York is one of the iconic screen villains of the 2000's, with all things considered it's hard to fathom how Day-Lewis as Lex Luthor wouldn't have worked.

2 Armie Hammer


One of the few things the brains behind Batman V Superman got right with regards to Lex Luthor was casting an actor around the same age as Henry Cavill. In keeping with that decision, a more unorthodox pick: Armie Hammer. Once cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne in George Miller's cancelled Justice League: Mortal and many fanboys favourites for Superman before the casting of Cavill, Hammer would be a controversial choice for the role but standing at 6'5'' with a deep authoritative voice, you feel given the chance Hammer could command the screen and with the help of his powerful stature could portray Luthor as the dominant, intimidating businessman in a way that Eisenberg just couldn't.

2. Jon Hamm


Undoubtedly his role as Don Draper in AMC's critically acclaimed Mad Men was what made Jon Hamm another certified fan-favourite for the role of Lex Luthor. Possibly more so than any other actor on this list, Hamm resembles how most artists have depicted Luthor in comics and animated series/films. He possesses the height, deep voice and steely gaze that could help make the role his own. Although he conveys the complexities of Don Draper's inner demons so convincingly in Mad Men, you can't help but feel if he was cast as Luthor, this decision would be more of a safe than inspiring one. Albeit we'll never know.

1 Leonardo DiCaprio

One of Hollywood's greatest leading men, it would be a treat for audiences around the world to see one of the most famous people on the planet play against type as one of comic's greatest villains. His one and only villainous role to date as Calvin Candie in Tarantino's Django Unchained proved that as popular as he is, DiCaprio has the acting ability to make audiences believe he can take on the role of unbelievably-morally rotten characters. With all this said, DiCaprio playing a rich, powerful, charming philanthropic businessman is basically him playing himself so it shouldn't be too far a stretch of the imagination to envision what could've been for the role of Lex Luthor.


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