It’s fair to say that when it comes to bad guys and gals, the Superman movies fall a little short. In the villain department the Man of Steel’s foes are often a little underwhelming, with only a few capable of giving Superman a run for his money.
But regardless of this, who are the best and the worst villains of the Superman films? Who sinks to the bottom and who hits the top spot?
In this post I am ranking all of the villains from the Superman movies. From Superman and the Mole Men (1951) through to Justice League (2017), here are the villains ranked from worst to best.
OK let’s kick things off with arguably the worst villain to appear in a Superman movie – Lex Luthor’s nephew, Lenny. Lenny Luthor appeared in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) where he added absolutely nothing to the Superman mythology.
Put simply: Lex Luthor doesn’t need a nephew and certainly not one designed to be a ‘hip’ street kid to appeal to younger audiences. The only saving grace for the character is that Jon Cryer played the part, and he would later go on to play an excellent Lex Luthor in the Supergirl TV series.
Nice save, Jon!
Next up is another villain from Superman IV and one arguably as bad as Lenny Luthor – yep, it’s Nuclear Man! Nuclear Man was conceived as a credible threat to Superman, but due to a restricted budget and an awful character design, the villain proved to be a damp squib.
Ross Webster/Vera Webster/Lorelei Ambrosia/Gus Gorman
Ross Webster, Vera Webster, Lorelei Ambrosia and Gus Gorman are all villains from Superman III (1983) and they are all grouped together because they are as threatening as each other – which is to say, not very threatening at all. Ross is a business tycoon, Vera is his sister (who gets turned into a robot), Lorelei is Ross’ girlfriend and Gus gets mixed up with the group.
Collectively the four villains are not interesting, and unless you’re a fan of Superman III the chances are you won’t even remember who these guys are. However, they are responsible for…
The Super Computer
Towards the conclusion of Superman III, the quartet of villains create an incredibly powerful computer with the ability to defend itself against any threat. The Super Computer becomes self-aware and for a short while looks to be a match for the Man of Steel!
So, if the computer is pretty powerful, why doesn’t it rank higher? Simple: It is never fully developed and is a little too generic to get excited about.
Had the computer been a more important part of the movie, or given a personality, it would have appeared higher in this list. It’s lack of character development keeps it simmering down low.
Onto another underdeveloped villain that should also factor higher on this list. This spot is reserved for Doomsday – the computer generated foe from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).
According to the film, Doomsday is a bizarre hybrid, created from the corpse of General Zod. But between you and I, Doomsday is an undercooked visual effect that was added to the climax of the film and looked a bit crap.
Speaking of which…
The big bad of Justice League is Steppenwolf, a supposedly deadly villain that threatened life on Earth. Was he all that powerful? Erm… to most of the members of the League, yes.
To Superman, Steppenwolf wasn’t all that threatening. But Steppenwolf ranks higher than some of the other villains on this list because he was at least a credible foe throughout the film.
Lex Luthor appears in multiple Superman movies and in every film he is surrounded by lackeys. From Kitty Kowalski to Otis and Miss Teschmacher, Luthor’s goons can often prove very useful (except Lenny of course).
But all of his goons are just mere mortals; so what makes them such a threat? Easy – the fact they facilitate Luthor’s scheme!
Luthor could cause lots of trouble on his own – after all, he is the greatest criminal mind of our time – but because of his lackeys, he is able to do far worse. All of his followers help to inflate his ego to a shockingly high level and that only fuels his villainy.
An angry mob
Question: What’s one of the most dangerous forces on the planet?
Answer: An angry (and misguided) mob.
In Superman and the Mole Men, the Man of Steel has to dissuade an angry mob from getting violent. Nuclear Man might be powerful and Steppenwolf might be deadly, but a mob of misguided people is one of the biggest threats to Superman.
Mob mentality is very dangerous. One lone human might not be that strong, but a group can cause serious harm.
Superman is one of the most powerful beings on the planet, but thankfully he fights for truth and justice. It’s just a shame then that not all beings from Superman’s home world of Krypton share his code of ethics.
Kryptonian bad guys feature in Superman: The Movie (1978), Superman II (1980) and Man of Steel (2013), and each is as deadly as the next. With Superman’s powers, but none of his compassion, these guys don’t pull any punches.
You thought Lex Luthor would take the top spot, didn’t you? Well, he almost made it, as Luthor is one of the most persistent foes in Superman mythology. However, he was just pipped at the last minute (see below).
But Luthor deserves to be high on this list as he is the de facto Superman villain. He is cruel, cunning and very clever – and also a bad guy that will not quit until Superman is wiped off the face of the Earth.
And the No.1 spot goes to Superman! Or rather, the evil Superman that appeared in Superman III.
The Man of Steel has faced many adversaries over the years, but none compare to the villain that scares him the most – himself! Losing control and becoming a threat to humanity is one of Superman’s greatest fears, so seeing that fear brought to life as a twisted version of himself in Superman III created the ultimate foe.
Plus, I think we can all agree that evil Supes was the best thing about Superman III.
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