Every Live-Action Batman Movie Villain, Ranked From Truly Awful To Iconic
The bat signal is lit, the streets of Gotham City are filled with criminals, thugs, brutes, and sometimes mutant freaks just looking to spoil a good time. Of course, that means there's a new Batman movie in theaters! The Batman arrives March 4, introducing a new take on the Caped Crusader played by Robert Pattinson, along with a new crop of over-the-top baddies for him to contend with.
If you want to know what we thought of The Batman, you can go ahead and check out GameSpot's review of the film. What we'll tell you here is that, at the very least, it includes at least one of the very best portrayals of a Batman villain ever.
That got us thinking, though. Who are the best live-action Batman villains of all time? There have been so many movies, multiple lines of continuity, and oftentimes a character that more than one actor has given life to. So we decided to revisit every single Batman live-action movie villain, going all the way back to the 1966 film, and rank every single one of them.
Take a look below at where our rankings stand and sound off in the comments with your thoughts. Before you get up in arms about the lack of Joaquin Phoenix's or Jared Leto's Joker not being on these lists, let's calm down. Neither of them actually appeared in a Batman movie. Leto's clown prince of crime was tacked into Zack Snyder's Justice League, but by that point in the film, he was an uneasy ally, so it's hard to classify him as a villain. But that's all besides the point. Enjoy! And make sure to check out our ranking of every big-screen Batman, as well!
22. Bane (Batman & Robin)
It's been a bumpy road for Bane in live-action, but nothing from the various Bat-movies sinks lower than the cartoony representation of the character in Batman & Robin. He's a brainless, hulking brute pumped full of "venom" to make him big and strong as he does Poison Ivy's bidding. In what is already a very silly movie, Bane is five steps too far.
21. Steppenwolf (Justice League)
Regardless of what version of the movie you're watching (theatrical, or the Snyder Cut), Steppenwolf simply isn't a great villain. Sure, the world is at stake, and it takes the entire Justice League to stop him, but the best Batman villains are memorable, often charismatic, and even remotely believable. Steppenwolf–the giant horned alien thing–has none of those traits. He got more backstory (and Darkseid officially entered the picture) in the Snyder Cut, but it wasn't enough to make him very interesting.
20. Talia al Ghul (The Dark Knight Rises)
In theory, Talia al Ghul would be a great villain in a Batman movie. Unfortunately, in The Dark Knight Rises she feels more like a late addition than anything else. The character merely exists to connect Bane to the rest of the trilogy. It's no fault of Marion Cotillard's performance in the movie, which is as good as it can be, the character is simply treated like it's a third- or fourth-tier role in the film.
19. Doomsday (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
First and foremost, Doomsday is a Superman villain, so he's only on this list because Batman v Superman is technically a Batman movie. That said, he wasn't that great of a villain, regardless. Much like Steppenwolf, he was a mish-mosh of CGI of an interplanetary bad guy who is mostly forgettable--which is a surprise, given the importance of Doomsday in DC Comics.
18. The Riddler (Batman 66)
The first live-action take on the Riddler is fun in small doses, but also by far the weakest of the villains in the 1966 film. Still, you at least have to give Frank Gorshin credit for creating a version of the character that clearly inspired Jim Carrey's take on the role decades later.
17. Penguin (The Batman)
Unfortunately for Colin Farrell, he most likely spent more time in the make-up chair than he did on screen in The Batman. While, sure, this version of Cobblepot allowed Farrell to flex his accent skills a little, he didn't really do much or accomplish anything. Aside from the prosthetics, there was very little to even differentiate him from any other run-of-the-mill gangster, and certainly, nothing to really establish him as Penguin.
16. Two-Face (The Dark Knight)
Two-Face didn't get a fair shake in The Dark Knight. He's killed off in the fourth or fifth act of the movie, just as he was getting started. We may never know exactly what the original plan for the franchise was, but prior to Heath Ledger's death, it's hard to imagine a version of The Dark Knight in which Dent doesn't survive. After all, setting a final film in the trilogy featuring Joker, Two-Face, and Scarecrow all vying for underworld supremacy in Gotham sounds amazing. That's not how it played out, though, and we're left with a take on Two-Face that never had the chance to cement himself.
15. Penguin (Batman 66)
Burgess Meredith's portrayal of Penguin is iconic and, honestly, led to a couple of generations quacking their hearts out. In retrospect, his performance--along with the rest of those from the 1966 film–is incredibly silly, but they deserve to be remembered.
14. Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)
Look, we love doing the Hardy Bane voice as much as anyone but being a meme doesn't necessarily mean the character was great in the actual movie. At the very least, we'll all be mocking it for decades to come. The fire rises!
13. Catwoman (Batman 66)
Yet another Batman 66 villain and one that's simply unforgettable--regardless of who was playing her. In the film, actress Lee Meriwether plays Catwoman. Interestingly, though, it's the only time she played the role. The TV show the movie is spun out from featured Julie Newmar in the role for Seasons 1 and 2, with Eartha Kitt taking over in Season 3.
12. Ra's al Ghul (Batman Begins)
At least on the big screen, Liam Neeson's Ra's al Ghul is the only live-action take we've seen of the character. And while it's not a bad portrayal by any means, it's simply not that interesting. In Begins, he's contending with a genuinely demented and intriguing take on Scarecrow played by Cillian Murphy. In the grand scheme of things, he's simply the lesser of the two.
11. Mr. Freeze (Batman & Robin)
Say what you want about Batman & Robin. Yeah, it's a bad movie. Yes, everything in it is utterly ridiculous. It doesn't matter because, like with Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy, Arnold Schwarzenegger has embraced the camp that flows through the veins of the film. He's over-the-top and theatrical, delivering a long line of terrible ice-based jokes to anyone standing in his way and puts a genuinely funny spin on what is classically a tragic character.
10. Joker (Batman 66)
The clown prince of crime is also the king of Batman's villains in the 1966 film. Cesar Romero's performance in the role is iconic and provided a great template for certain takes on the character--Mark Hamill's Batman: The Animated Series version feels particularly inspired by it. While others have come along and put unique and brilliant spins on the Joker since then, Romero's work deserves to be in the top 10.
9. Poison Ivy (Batman & Robin)
Uma Thurman's performance as Poison Ivy may not be the most serious or most true to the comics, but we have to love her anyway. From the extremely campy costumes and theatrics to the sheer production value of all her big showpieces, Batman & Robin's Ivy was an icon and one we can't help but remember fondly.
8. The Riddler (Batman Forever)
Clearly inspired by Frank Gorshin's take in Batman 66, Jim Carrey's Riddler would feel incredibly out of step in the Batman universe Tim Burton built-in the two movies before Batman Forever. Still, he's the perfect foil for a Caped Crusader that exists in this zanier version of Gotham City.
7. Two-Face (Batman Forever)
Of course, Batman Forever's Riddler is nothing without Two-Face at his side. It's not often we see Tommy Lee Jones getting in on silly, slapstick humor in a bright, colorful comic book movie. His take on Two-Face is fantastic, though. And the chemistry between him and Carrey is electric.
6. Scarecrow (Batman Begins)
Nolan's first entry into the Batman franchise is memorable for plenty of reasons but Cillian Murphy's turn as Scarecrow has to be near the top of the list. A rogue who, prior to this movie, didn't get much love outside of the cartoons, Murphy bumped recognition for Scarecrow up to the likes of Joker and Riddler with an unhinged, yet strangely vulnerable, take on Jonathan Crane.
5. Catwoman (Batman Returns)
For kids from the '80s and '90s, Michelle Pfifer's Catwoman was our live-action introduction to the character and it was something special. She was the perfect mix of maniacal, seductive, and flat-out unhinged in a way that made her a serious threat to Batman, even though it was so easy to love her.
4. The Riddler (The Batman)
The Batman was a pretty crowded movie, even for Batman standards, introducing countless villains and antiheroes to a brand new Gotham City, but one managed to rise above the rest. Paul Dano's clearly Zodiac-inspired Riddler was terrifying, from his Saw-like traps and "riddles" to his meandering, desperate rants about his perceived connection to Bats himself, this was Edward Nygma as we've never seen him before.
3. Penguin (Batman Returns)
You may find no portrayal of Penguin quite as iconic as Danny DeVito's in Batman Returns. Deranged and deformed, this Oswald Cobblepot was abandoned by his parents as a child and raised by penguins in an abandoned zoo. No, seriously. That's his origin story and proof that Tim Burton's work in the Batman franchise should be guarded with all of our lives.
2. Joker (Batman)
For a certain generation, there was nothing bigger than Jack Nicholson's turn at the Joker in the 1989 Batman film. It was the stuff of legend and revolutionized the possibilities of a comic book movie. Here was a villain who was truly psychotic, killing people left and right, and doing it all with a smile etched into his face and plenty of laughter. While Nicholson's greatest role might be as Jack Torrance in The Shining, Joker is a very close second--even if it skews away from the comics.
1. Joker (The Dark Knight)
Honestly, did you expect anyone else to make their mark as the best big-screen Batman villain? Ledger completely reinvented the character, embracing the sadistic lunatic clown and making his own. It's one of the most iconic on-screen performances of all time and one that will be very hard to ever top.