In 1982, Rogert Ebert wrote in his commentary about Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that:
"Khan is played as a cauldron of resentment by Ricardo Montalbán, and his performance is so strong that he helps illustrate a general principle involving not only Star Trek but Star Wars (1977) and all the epic serials, especially the James Bond movies: Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph. In a curious way, Khan captures our sympathy, even though he is an evil man who introduces loathsome creatures into the ear canals of two Enterprise crew members. Montalbán doesn't overact. He plays the character as a man of deeply wounded pride, whose bond of hatred with Admiral Kirk is stronger even than his traditional villain's desire to rule the universe."
Ricardo Montalbán's portrayal of Khan Noonien Singh continues to inspire writers and directors, and rumors abound that the character will again be the villain of the next Star Trek movie. He was the inspiration for a three episode narrative of Star Trek: Enterprise. Indeed, Khan is to Star Trek what the Joker is to Batman.
The enduring popularity of Ricardo Montalbán's Khan is symbolized by the character's ongoing inclusion in both the Star Trek mythos and his continued appearance on Star Trek collectibles.
In 2005, Hallmark Ornaments released a Khan Christmas ornament as part of its continuing line of Star Trek themed Keepsake items. Beginning in 1991, and continuing each year since, Hallmark has produced Star Trek ornaments. The 2005 Khan ornament includes a nicely detailed 4" sculpt of Ricardo Montalbán's likeness, and care was given to getting details on the costume proper, which is impressive in such a limited scale. The ornament also included a collectible card with a photo of the ornament on the front and room on the back to write a note if the item was a gift.
In 2007, Khan returns again with the Hallmark Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ornament celebrating the film's 25th Anniversary. The U.S.S. Enterprise is replicated with minature versions of Admiral James T. Kirk, Captain Spock, and Commander Hikaru Sulu watching the U.S.S. Reliant. The voices of Ricardo Montalbán, William Shatner, and Leonard Nimoy recreate some memorable moments from the film.
Khan continues as a popular culture icon because of the words that created him by Carey Wilbur, Gene Coon, and Nicholas Meyer, and because of the thoughtfulness to which Ricardo Montalbán imbued the character.