Batman Movie Villains Ranked from Worst to Best

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Who has a better rogues gallery than Batman? Sure, the X-Men have some greats in Magneto, Stryker, and Mr. Sinister. And Spider-Man’s got the Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and Mysterio. But none of these baddies can touch the denizens of Arkham Asylum for their variety and malleability. Even if film adaptations keep going back to the same few characters, the psychologically twisted enemies offer room for multiple interpretations, allowing actors to find something different to each version. 

But as great as they are, some Batman villains are better than others, allowing for a clear ranking of all the Bat-Baddies. 

First, Batman may not have any limitations, but this list does. This ranking only covers live-action theatrical feature films. So we’re leaving off characters that never made it to the movies (sorry, Magpie) or those who appeared in an animated movie (sorry, Phantasm). 

Furthermore, we’re focusing mostly on costumed villains, not regular thugs, which means that guys without a costume need to be special to earn consideration. Max Shreck and Carmine Falcone make the cut, but Roland Daggett and Bob the Goon will not. 

Finally, the villains need to have interacted with Bruce Wayne or Batman in some form, which means that Mr. Zsasz from Batman Begins barely makes the cut, but the Joker from The Batman does not. Also, Superman is not on the list. This is a list of Batman villains. Superman might fight Batman, but he’s not a villain and you know it. 

34. Joker (Joker)

The Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) Joker never fights Batman, which makes him a strange inclusion on this list. Todd Phillips’s Joker is more concerned with copying Taxi Driver and King of Comedy than telling another Batman origin story. Until it’s not, that is. For all its pretensions, Joker can’t help but tie back to the comics, not only having Arthur have a menacing interaction with young Bruce but also indirectly causing the death of the Waynes and the birth of the Bat. 

33. Mr. Zsasz (Batman Begins)

It was cool to see Mr. Zsasz ( Tim Booth) make a cameo in Batman Begins, a surprisingly deep cut (pun intended) which largely served to establish Jonathan Crane’s role as a hired shrink for the Falcone family. But as scary as Zsasz seemed to be, he gets dispatched pretty quickly, carried away into the night before he can hurt Rachel 1.0 and Joffrey. 

32. Bane (Batman & Robin)

Despite his giant build, the Bane of the comics is a sensitive, thoughtful villain, a master strategist whose muscles are only part of the threat he poses to Batman. Apparently, Batman & Robin screenwriter Akiva Goldsman never read any of those comics, because he wrote Bane as a big dumb guy who can only growl his own name, played by wrestler Jeep Swenson. The one shot of him wearing a porkpie hat over his bondage gear moves Bane out of the bottom slot, but only barely. 

31. General Zod (The Flash) 

Although Batman wasn’t nearly as prominent a character as the marketing led us to believe, The Flash did bring Michael Keaton (among others) out of Bat-exile to strap on the body armor once again. Unfortunately, it then made Keaton’s Batman fight Man of Steel bad guy General Zod, played by a clearly bored Michael Shannon. At least the Zod fight puts to rest all the dumb “Batman vs. Superman” speculation, proving that a Kryptonian would easily destroy Batman in a fight. 

30. Deadshot (Suicide Squad)

Suicide Squad has many, many problems, but Will Smith isn’t one of them. The ever-charismatic Smith is fun to watch in a truly terrible film, even if the movie can’t stop reminding us that his Floyd Lawton is actually a good dad who just made some bad decisions. Unfortunately, that schmaltz also rears its head in Deadshot’s one on-screen interaction with Batman, severely diminishing his cool factor. 

29. Joker (Suicide Squad)

Joker is the worst of Suicide Squad’s problems. As usual, Jared Leto overdoes it, subscribing to the ‘more is more’ school of acting. But his usual shenanigans are made so much more irritating by the fact that Leto has no real take on the character, save for the 30s gangster trappings. Fortunately, Batman only shares the screen with Leto’s Joker for a few moments, disappearing from the movie while leaving the rest of us to suffer. 

28. Doomsday (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice)

Bane and Doomsday both debuted in comics around the same time, and both immediately sidelined their well-known antagonists. But where Bane has layers, Doomsday is just a big dumb rock monster, notable only for his bright green biker shorts. But because “green” is a color, Zack Snyder couldn’t allow the shorts in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, leaving his Doomsday to be just a gray blob that battles Batman and Superman. 

27. Steppenwolf (Justice League)

In the pages of the Fourth World comics, Jack Kirby imagined Steppenwolf as a large man in green armor, complete with an electro-axe and a jaunty cap. In Justice League, Zack Snyder imagined Steppenwolf as a gray blob. Whether we’re talking about the unsettling color-corrected version in the theatrical release or the somehow even grayer version in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Steppenwolf is a boring brute who exists only to punch and be punched. 

26. Mr. Freeze (Batman & Robin)

Occasionally, someone speaks up to defend Batman & Robin, calling it a goofy camp classic. While there’s humor in the idea of Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a mad scientist who wears blue armor and makes ice puns, the execution is definitely lacking. Arnold himself only shows up for close-ups, letting stand-ins do the rest of the work, and even then, he delivers his one-liners without any of the zest that made him a screen legend in the 1980s. 

25. Lex Luthor (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice)

Doesn’t DCEU Batman ever get to fight his own bad guys? Okay, there is a special thrill that comes from seeing Lex Luthor face off against Batman, both of them powerful men with superior minds. Unfortunately, Ben Affleck’s Batman does more CrossFit than detective work, and never seems like an intellectual equal to Lex. Worse, screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer don’t seem to know what a smart person sounds like, letting Jesse Eisenberg babble on about God and power, hoping that no one who knows about theodicy or congressional hearings is listening. 

24. Joker (Batman: The Movie)

People sometimes complain that modern Batman movies have too many villains, but they’ve got nothing on 1966’s Batman: The Movie. Rushed into production after the first season of the campy Batman television show proved to be a hit, Batman: The Movie brought along the four biggest baddies on the show, including Caesar Romero as the Joker. Unfortunately, the four male bad guys more or less have the same personality, and Romero brings the least amount of panache to his part, making him the lowest-ranking of the four antagonists. 

23. Two-Face (Batman Forever)

Tommy Lee Jones certainly knows how to play a wry agent of chaos (see Under Siege or The Package), and he’s done good work with director Joel Schumacher before in The Client. But he seems utterly lost in Batman Forever, trying to keep up with the buffoonery of mid-90s Jim Carrey and failing completely. 

22. Talia al Ghul (The Dark Knight Rises)

For all of his strengths, Christopher Nolan struggles to write interesting female characters, and those problems are on display with Talia. Introduced in The Dark Knight Rises as Wayne Enterprises CEO Miranda Tate, Talia eventually reveals herself as the mastermind behind Bane, continuing her father Ra’s al Ghul’s mission. As compelling as that concept may be, Nolan fumbles the execution, leaving actress Marion Cotillard to play either a supportive girlfriend or a cackling madwoman, with no clear continuity between them. 

21. Riddler (Batman Forever)

Thanks to the releases of Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, and The Mask, 1994 transformed Jim Carrey from a supporting player on the sketch show In Living Color to the biggest movie star in America. So when Carrey got the chance to pay homage to his hero Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, he went for it… and no one told him no. Even in the 90s, Carrey’s hyper-mugging got tiresome. Today, it’s just exhausting. 

20. Riddler (Batman: The Movie)

Carrey may have amped Frank Gorshin’s take on the Riddler up to 1000, but all of the problems are there in the original. Like the other male villains in Batman: The Movie, Gorshin only has one mode, switching between evil declarations and triumphant cackling. Every once and a while, Gorshin throws in a legitimately sinister edge to his line readings, but usually, he’s just jumping around and shouting. 

19. Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad)

If this were just a list of characters from DC movies, Harley Quinn would rank much higher, thanks to Margot Robbie’s outstanding performance in Birds of Prey, or the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. But because this is a list of Batman villains, she has to fall lower, as she only briefly tangled with the Dark Knight for a few minutes in Suicide Squad. Exciting as it was, and a good encapsulation of Harley’s chaotic appeal, the scene isn’t enough to move her higher on this list. 

18. Catwoman (The Dark Knight Rises)

Like Heath Ledger before her, Anne Hathaway met with a lot of resistance when she was cast as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises. And like Ledger, she completely exceeded expectations. Less sensuous than other takes on Catwoman, Hathaway ups her considerable charm to toy with her marks. Hathaway’s less convincing in the fight sequences, never Nolan’s strong suit, but still makes for a compelling foil for the hero. 

17. Carmine Falcone (Batman Begins)

Tom Wilkinson only gets one real scene in Batman Begins, but man does he nail it. Never mind his outrageous Chicago accent, never mind the unnecessary cutting that punctuates his monologue. It’s the facial expression he flashes at the end of his monologue that establishes Carmine Falcone as a credible threat. His canines bared, Wilkinson makes Falcone feel like a rabid dog, even if he soon gets dispatched from the movie. 

16. Penguin (Batman: The Movie)

As mentioned earlier, the three male villains in Batman: The Movie all have the same tone of cartoon menace. But the Penguin’s gimmick helps him stand out a bit better, especially since he’s the leader of the group. Between Burgess Meredith’s signature growl and his comic squawk, Penguin both matches the goofy energy of the 1966 movie while still feeling like a credible threat.  

15. Poison Ivy (Batman & Robin)

Everyone in Batman & Robin delivers their lines with a knowing wink, but only Uma Thurman makes it work. Purring every line with a syrupy Mae West purr, Thurman’s Poison Ivy luxuriates in the goofiness of Schumacher’s film instead of assuring the audience she’s better than the movie that she’s in. Thurman’s Poison Ivy shows everyone how to do a great Batman villain without being dark and twisted. 

14. Catwoman (The Batman)

Zoë Kravitz had a considerable task in front of her when she took on the role of Catwoman in The Batman, perhaps even greater than that of star Robert Pattinson. In the grounded but stylized world created by Matt Reeves, Kravitz had to be seductive but not camp, strong but not invincible. Kravitz finds an innate sadness in her Selina Kyle, giving her character a believable motivation throughout the many costume and personality changes. 

13. Two-Face (The Dark Knight)

Unsurprisingly, Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent often gets overshadowed by the other antagonist in The Dark Knight, but it’s Two-Face who serves the larger thematic purpose. In the rise and fall of Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne sees that he can never stop being Batman. Brought to life by Eckhart’s chiseled looks and ghoulish make-up from effects supervisor Chris Corbould, Two-Face is the tragedy of Bruce Wayne made half-mangled flesh. 

12. Ra’s al Ghul (Batman Begins)

The immortal eco-terrorist Ra’s al Ghul seems like an unlikely choice for Christopher Nolan’s attempts to create a realistic world for Batman. But as the leader of a long-standing secret society, al Ghul gave Nolan enough plausible deniability to “explain” Bruce Wayne’s decision to don a bat suit and fight crime. As ridiculous as that sounds, Liam Neeson sells it with a world-weary weight that makes you believe he’s a real person. 

11. Carmine Falcone (The Batman)

At first glance, John Turturro’s Falcone seems like an outlier among the costumed baddies on this list. As a gangster who hobnobs with the rich and powerful, Falcone wears fancy suits and walks around in public. But then there are the dark sunglasses. The sunglasses operate as a mask, shielding whatever humanity his eyes might have, conveying real menace with every whispered intonation. 

10. Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)

Playing the chief bad guy in The Dark Knight Rises, Tom Hardy had the unenviable task of following the iconic Heath Ledger. And yet, he pulled it off in the most unlikely of ways: with a Douglas Fairbanks impression. Sure, Hardy cuts an imposing figure and looks great in a fur coat. But it’s that unmistakable lilt that makes Bane one of the most memorable villains in superhero movie history. 

9. Catwoman (Batman: The Movie)

Catwoman stands above the other villains in Batman 1966, and not just because she’s the only woman. She also gets far more to do than the others, seducing Bruce Wayne under the guise of Russian damsel in distress Miss Kitka, Catwoman fools the world’s greatest detective until the end of the movie when her mask falls off and the dynamic duo learns the truth. Stepping in for Julie Newmar and preceding Eartha Kitt in the role, Lee Meriwether made for a convincing antagonist, even within the movie’s goofy tone. 

8. Scarecrow (The Dark Knight Trilogy)

A handsome Irishman with arresting blue eyes, Cillian Murphy bears little resemblance to the lanky academic Jonathan Crane in the comics. But there’s a sincerity to Murphy’s approach that makes the twisted psychologist all the more frightening. Even better, Murphy’s Scarecrow gets to return in each of Nolan’s Dark Knight movies, giving a comic-book feel to the epic trilogy. 

7. Penguin (The Batman)

Okay, yes, the character Colin Farrell plays is called Oz Cobblepot, not really the Penguin. But with his pounds of make-up and ridiculous accent, Cobblepot is the most cartoony character in the movie and thus earns the moniker. Outside of the fantastic chase sequence, Cobblepot doesn’t get to do much fighting with Batman. But he makes the most of his shared screen time, dubbing the caped crusader “Mr. Vengeance” and mocking his ability to “habla español.”

6. Max Shreck (Batman Returns)

The least toyetic villain in Batman’s least toyetic movie Batman Returns, Max Shreck is one of the best bad guys to face Batman. Where most of the bad guys are cheap hoods masquerading as the rich, Shreck is the most vile of all, a real, live member of the 1%, complete with a large adult son. Played by the always terrific Christopher Walken with a shocking tuft of white hair, Shreck shows us what makes Bruce Wayne really odd: being a good rich person. 

5. Penguin (Batman Returns)

“You’re just jealous because I’m a genuine freak and you have to wear a mask.” When the Penguin levels this taunt at Batman, he establishes himself as a perfect foil to Tim Burton’s version of Bruce Wayne. Despite his money and good looks, Keaton’s Wayne feels like a freak. But Danny DeVito’s Penguin is a genuine freak, the grotesque culmination of the true ugliness behind the pretensions of Gotham’s upper class.

4. Riddler (The Batman)

In lesser hands, the Riddler could have been a disaster. The death traps he creates in The Batman feel like Jigsaw’s castaways, threatening to sink the film with a desperate play for edginess. But Paul Dano brings an inherent vulnerability to the character, making his Riddler pathetic, an attempt by a broken, impotent man to become relevant via violence. Rather than diminish the character, that aspect adds depth, especially in the fantastic jail confrontation, when Edward Nashton realizes that Batman is not on his side. 

3. Joker (Batman)

One might think that Jack Nicholson’s take on the Joker would grow stale over the decades, as more comics-accurate versions become the norm. But strangely, the opposite has happened. As supervillains become more labored, as writers and actors keep adding unnecessary layers to characters who got their start in kids’ stories, Nicholson’s simple, confident performance in 1989’s Batman becomes even more notable. He doesn’t need to constantly prove that he’s an agent of chaos. He just needs to raise his eyebrows and smile, sending chills down the spine of everyone in the audience. 

2. Catwoman (Batman Returns)

There’s always been a sexual element to Batman’s neurosis, an undeniable fetish aspect that comes with dressing up in skin-tight black leather. Like Adam West before him, Keaton’s Batman wants to ignore that part of his identity under the guise of moral uprightness, but Catwoman will not let him. In one of the all-time great villain dramatizations of any franchise, Michelle Pfeiffer leans into the outrageousness of the character without ever sacrificing the pathos of Selina’s death. At once playful and dangerous, alluring and repulsive, Pfeiffer’s Catwoman is still the definitive take on Batman’s femme fatale. 

1. Joker (The Dark Knight)

The Dark Knight feels empty every time Heath Ledger is not on screen. That’s not a shot at the movie, which has a number of amazing moments, including Bale playing Bruce as a man who thinks he can give up his obsession, and Gary Oldman as a Jim Gordon pushed to the edge. But Ledger effortlessly embodies the chaotic nature of the Joker without having to constantly remind us that he’s nuts. With every line delivery, with every changing background story, with every truly gleeful laugh, Ledger’s Joker is the ideal counterpart to Bale’s “realistic” Batman, a lunatic who has finally found someone to play dress-up with him.

The post Batman Movie Villains Ranked from Worst to Best appeared first on Den of Geek.

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