Lex Luthor is the main antagonist of the Christopher Reeve Superman Series, appearing as the main antagonist of Superman, a major antagonist of Superman II, a major antagonist of Superman III and the main antagonist of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. He is Superman's arch nemesis who plots to destroy Superman and become the richest man ever.
He is portrayed by the legendary actor Gene Hackman.
He is purely motivated by money, as well as the desire to swindle as tremendous a fortune as possible to prove his genius. Although he is bald, he wears a variety of wigs throughout the film to conceal it. He resides in a secret lair fashioned out of the remains of an abandoned railway terminal, a high-tech hideout that hearkens back to his "Golden Age" comic counterpart. Luthor's schemes are offset by a tendency to surround himself with unsatisfactory help; he is burdened by his bumbling henchman Otis, as well as his conscience-stricken girlfriend Eve Teschmacher. Luthor plots to divert a nuclear missile into hitting the San Andreas fault, causing California to sink into the ocean, thereby turning its neighboring states into prime beach front property. Although Luthor nearly kills Superman using kryptonite, Superman escapes with the help of Teschmacher. After Superman repairs the damage to the San Andreas region, he delivers Luthor and Otis to prison.
After journeying to the Fortress of Solitude, Luthor learns of the existence of General Zod and the other Kryptonian criminals. Hoping to rule his own continent once the evil Kryptonians take over Earth, Luthor allies himself with Zod. He asks Zod for control over real estate in Australia. However, when Superman confronts Zod and his cronies at the Fortress of Solitude at the film's climax, Luthor tricks Superman into revealing that there is a chamber in the Fortress which can nullify a Kryptonian's powers using synthetic red solar radiation- in essence turning a Kryptonian, such as Superman, Zod, and his followers Non and Ursa, into a vulnerable human. Fortunately, expecting Luthor's betrayal, Superman had already reversed the mechanism of the chamber, and when forced inside by Zod, the "red sun" beams are dispersed throughout the Fortress while Superman is safely shielded; Zod and his followers are defeated easily because of the loss of their powers. Luthor, meanwhile, is sent back to prison for his accomplishment with Zod and his minions.
Superman lV: The Quest For Peace
Once again, Lex allies himself with other villains, in this instance a cadre of war profiteers and arms dealers who are worried about what Superman's efforts toward nuclear disarmament will do to their business. Lex uses his own DNA, combined with strand of Superman's hair that is stolen from a museum, to create a hybrid clone which he dubs "Nuclear Man." The radioactive villain possesses abilities similar to Superman, but receives his power from direct sunlight, whereas Superman can still operate in darkness. Superman exploits this weakness eventually, destroying Nuclear Man and returning Lex to prison for last time.