All Batman Movie Villains (Including The Batman) Ranked From Worst to Best
Every Batman Movie Villains Ranked From Worst to Best: Batman is the oldest superhero to be incorporated into movies and content on the small screen and big screens. It was so, as he was a character that was possible to adapt believably and convincingly; he just needed to be rich. Ben Affleck said in Justice League when The Flash asked Bruce Wayne what his superpower was. He simply responded, “I’m rich.”
While the character has thrived in feature films for over half a century, spanning eight movies and appearances in films like Batman vs Superman, Justice League, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Suicide Squad; an intriguing part of Batman is the antagonist that has required the Caped Crusader to emerge as the watchful protector to save Gotham.
Of course, some villains are better than others. While a few have been forgettable and downright atrocious, there are entries on this list that have earned their spot in lists of the Greatest Oscar-winning actors and taken superhero antagonist acting to the next level.
Here’s a look at the Batman movie villains from worst to best. Ranked primarily based on their impact, their costumes, and how they carried the narrative in their films.
Darkseid and Doomsday aren’t on this list as Doomsday will be seen as Superman’s foe, and Darkseid is a Justice League enemy in the movies.
25. Michael Reid McKay as Bane (Batman and Robin)
Even before you opened this list, I’m sure you would have guessed Batman and Robin’s Bane owned the wooden spoon. This version of Bane was pathetic. The origin was messed up, and Bane was reduced to being Poison Ivy’s heavy, or perhaps, buffoon. He repeated a few words as though he had never heard them before.
Joel Schumacher kept the venom-powered villain, but he messed up this character (he messed up the entire franchise) as his muscles were seen as the result purely of the venom rather than an enhancement of his own body-building work.
Robert Swenson’s version of the character lacked the ability to be the mentally strong foe to Batman.
24. Frank Gorshin as Riddler (Batman)
Frank Gorshin had one of the worst costumes in the history of Batman film villains. The worst would also be a legitimate tag.
The Riddler is a villain who comes across as the perfect foe for the detective version of Adam West’s Batman, but Gorshin is only used as a remote projector of riddles that, in retrospect, thwart the plans of The Penguin.
23. Lee Meriwether as Catwoman/Miss Kitka (Batman)
Lee Meriwether got a costume where she could breathe in. Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises) Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns), and Halle Berry (Catwoman) weren’t so lucky.
Merriwether’s Catwoman screams campy. Right from her cheetah patterned outfit, to her claws, to her habit of saying “purrrfect”, she overuses the feline references to the point that you begin to think that the film is a teatime pantomime rather than a film having villains with devious plans.
She is relegated to playing the bait to trap Bruce Wayne with a play on the Cold War and American patriotism being hinted at in Batman 1966.
22. Cesar Romero as Joker (Batman)
Romero’s portrayal of Joker came across as a henchman to The Penguin, on a slightly higher level than the ‘Guinea Pigs’. He has the least to do in the Rogues Underworld group. However, he did capture the essence of the villain’s ‘Man Who Laughed’ arc and is chaotic with his cartoonish antics. As it fits with his character, and as his costume was on point, he sits above Merriwether and Gorshin.
While Romero may have earned raves at that time, the role hasn’t aged well if looked at today. Joker seemed to be a side character, one that the film could have done without.
21. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze/ Victor Fries (Batman and Robin)
Mr. Freeze had a touching back story, but it didn’t hit despite flashbacks showing Victor and Nora’s happier times. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s villain was an unrecognizable monster with bad lines and couldn’t save the film. He had set out to freeze the toy town that Joel Schumacher saw fit to present as Gotham but ended up as absolutely cringeworthy.
Not menacing in any form; he wasn’t even funny and is a forgettable entry in Batman cinema lore. The only good thing about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s villain is that he played his part in ensuring that the Batman series did not get the fifth film, and fans got to see The Dark Knight trilogy.
20. Burgess Meredith as Penguin (Batman)
Burgess Meredith’s character served as the leader of the Rogues Underworld and kept the eccentric trio of Joker, Catwoman, and Riddler in check. The Penguin had the plan; he had the umbrella and was the only one who didn’t attempt to copy Cesar Romero’s character.
He is the best of the Batman 1966 version as his stereotypical sea captain character could have fit into future Batman films as well.
19. Christopher Walken as Max Shreck (Batman Returns)
Christopher Walker is a villain in the Falcone and Miranda Tate mold. He stayed in the back and let the more established villains in Batman lore get up to tricks in Gotham. This, he ensured, increased his visibility and earned public opinion as a benefactor who helped The Penguin in his mayoral campaign.
While helping The Penguin wasn’t a crime, Shreck’s role in discrediting the existing mayor was certainly a devious act motivated by his selfish interests.
He also attempts to kill Selina Kyle twice and shoots at Batman after wondering why Bruce Wayne was dressed up as the Caped Crusader.
18. Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Falcone (Batman Begins)
Falcone is the special appearance villain, but his role facilitates both the main antagonists and the protagonist.
The traditional mob boss has the aura of fear and runs crime as a means to earn rather than to have the thrill. He works with the nefarious Jonathan Crane, who, with Ra’s Al Ghul, relies on Falcone’s standing in the Gotham underworld to ensure that he can break the city.
Batman learns of fear being the way and embarks on his origin story after hearing Falcone. The mob boss remains the first villain Batman took down, as he lived up to the symbol when thwarting the boss and the thugs on the docks.
While people may claim that any character could have served this role, the presence of a name from the comics only enhanced Batman Begins.
17. Uma Thurman as Poison Isley/Pamela Isley (Batman and Robin)
Poison Ivy is a rare core Batman villain to have just a single appearance in the films. She is the seductress and comes across as the ultimate villain as she ensures the audience feels for Mr. Freeze.
That speaks about how despicable the animal toxins and pheromones had driven her to be. Ivy’s tricky crisscrossed footsteps are the reason fans (those who managed to get to that part of Batman and Robin) buy into Victor Fries’ redemption.
Uma Thurman played the seductress with ease, and the way she could charm all the men around her was just effortless. Her expressions, too, were theatrical and showed her intentions before words confirmed their devious nature.
16. Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face/Harvey Dent (Batman Forever)
Tommy Lee Jones’ backstory being done the proper way is the only thing better than Aaron Eckhart’s turn as Two-Face. In Batman Forever, Two-Face doesn’t seem to have a villainous purpose as his only aim is to lure Batman out and kill him.
The former DA keeps failing at this and at one point he remarks in frustration or rather an exasperation, wishing for Batman to die. Two-Face was the first villain from the Burton/Schumacher era to not have an origin story in the present time. He was an established villain whom Batman had to battle in the opening fight.
After looking at him, I had to assume that Two-Face had gone psychotic, and was a Joker knockoff that was largely a reminder of the Rogues Underworld quartet from the 1966 Batman film.
He laughed, wore weird outfits, and could have been a henchman rather than the main villain. Lee Jones’ character had no direction apart from being a petty thief and it is The Riddler that had to lend direction to this character.
15. Anne Hathaway as The Catwoman/Selina Kyle (The Dark Knight Rises)
Catwoman is never actually portrayed as a pure villain. However, she understands manipulation and the art of adapting to her surroundings.
Selina Kyle is just an actual petty thief with a fancy costume in The Dark Knight Rises. They had to get the costume right after the fiasco that was Halle Berry’s costume in the standalone Catwoman film in 2004.
She lures Batman into the tunnels to save her skin rather than someone who is in sync with the criminal mastermind. Could The Dark Knight Rises have done without Catwoman? Yes, they would have been able to use a low-level thug. However, who would have helped ridden Batman’s bike at the end? Robin? Gordon? Hell no.
In the final act, she doesn’t aim to stop Batman. She also doesn’t flee the city and comes back to save him and kill Bane, redeeming herself for trapping Batman with the mercenary in the sewers.
14. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Luthor is actually a Superman villain. However, he is included in this list as he is the brains behind the chaos in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. He somehow managed to hoodwink an elite detective in Batman and play on his emotions. It seemed bizarre, as the methods were so basic. However, a point in his favor was that he found out the identity of The Dark Knight.
He used whatever he could to get rid of Superman, no matter the collateral damage. This ensured that the supervillain played his role in setting up the Bat for the Batman vs Superman collision. Luthor doesn’t come across as the comic book villain as Lex isn’t someone with traditionally long hair. However, Eisenberg sported the traditional look later.
He may have worked better had he been the sole villain. Lex could have even had more of a role had the Batman angle not been explored, with it being a battle between Doomsday (Blood of Luthor’s blood in the film) and Superman. Had Snyder gone down that route, Luthor wouldn’t be on this list.
Also, Read – Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 
13. Marion Cotillard as Talia Al-Ghul/Miranda Tate (The Dark Knight Rises)
Marion Cotillard proved to be a Trojan Horse as she essayed the role of the mole within Wayne Enterprises. Initially Miranda Tate, her reveal mirrored that of her father Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins. Talia Al-Ghul’s presence as the woman behind Bane, as the reason for Bane’s creation, came as quite a shock.
Initially, it looked as though Bane had been done well, but Tate took away the brain aspect of Bane’s brain and let it all become all brawn.
Although she is the brains behind the operation and the primary antagonist in the large scheme of things, she does not overshadow Bane in the final film in the Dark Knight trilogy. That was how good Bane was, and how well Al-Ghul remained in the shadows.
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12. John Turturro as Carmine Falcone in The Batman
As is the case with Batman lore and all early versions of the saga, the character of Carmine Falcone takes center stage. Played by John Turturro, Falcone isn’t a forgotten third villain akin to Tom Wilkinson in Batman Begins.
The mob boss served as the head of Gotham underworld corruption, was the default leader of the town, and unelected mayor (decision maker). Falcone gets the better of Bruce Wayne as he manipulates him but ultimately leads him to return and seek revenge as The Batman. What revenge? Well, Falcone paid for his sins, as the trail left by one was pursued by the other.
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11. Cillian Murphy as The Scarecrow/ Jonathan Crane (Batman Begins)
Cillian Murphy wears a gunny sack on his face in his portrayal of Scarecrow. It looks absolutely stupid, but it is the toxin that helps create a sense of fear. Distorted images and changes in the voices make this gunny sack-wearing villain frightening and his collaboration with Ra’s Al Ghul results in the expedited destruction of Gotham.
The Scarecrow pulls strings to get individuals who need to be silenced, confined to his asylum (Arkham Asylum) to test his serum. He one-ups the bat in the scene at the narrows and shows Wayne that he isn’t only about to encounter regular thugs.
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many scenes of Crane as Scarecrow, as he largely appears as the psychiatrist in Batman Begins. Murphy makes appearances as Crane in both future Batman films. However, he doesn’t bring out his villainous alter ego, proving he is powerless without Ra’s Al Ghul. Wasn’t he supposed to have the ability to make fear toxins anyways? Well, Nolan couldn’t let every villain thrive. He just used Scarecrow to help The League of Shadows thrive.
10. Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman/Selina Kyle (Batman Returns)
Michelle Pfeiffer is the only Catwoman to undergo a transformation that gives way to her nine lives storyline.
This core villain’s outfit was a hit and her skills with the whip were dangerous. Kyle’s Catwoman even managed to get through Bruce Wayne’s armor and position her as a foe who could go toe to toe with Batman. Was she the best villain in this film? Unfortunately no, but she is the best Catwoman of the lot.
Her performance overshadowed Lee Meriwether’s by a huge margin and saw the likes of Halle Berry and Anne Hathaway fall flat before her as they tried to keep up.
9. Danny DeVito as The Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot (Batman Returns)
Danny DeVito played a dark villain with an evil plan. The gothic tone of Batman Returns helped Oswald Cobblepot thrive and represent the marginalized, who seek approval, only to get turned away and show their true colors. Hardcore comic fans may rue the lack of the monocle, the bizarre raised by penguins origin story, and the fact that Penguin only had a bunch of amusingly named lackeys rather than mobsters.
However, Danny DeVito made it work with the material that was handed out to him. The character made umbrellas sinister and lived up to Burgess Meredith’s tradition of traveling in transportation that looked like sea creatures.
8. Colin Farrell as The Penguin/Oswald in The Batman
The most striking thing about Colin Farrell was his transformation into one of the original Batman villains. Penguin was always a gangster, something that the Gotham TV series managed to get right. Based in the Iceberg Lounge, he isn’t the supervillain that has been the norm of superhero films as of late.
Reeves’ Penguin comfortably beat out the campy Burgess Meredith and the gothic Danny DeVito. His scene, which began with him screaming Vengeance, culminated in a brutal car chase that was absolutely insane. Is it just me who would love to see him back as the central villain in a future film? One without The Riddler and the deceased Falcone?
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7. Jim Carrey as The Riddler/Edward Nygma (Batman Forever)
Edward Nygma came up with a problematic invention that had to be shut down. However, the scientist in him continued and acquired a new persona. He even realized that he had a thing in fashion, as he somehow managed to put together two rather flashy costumes.
Cartoony. That would be the first word to come to mind when one thinks of The Riddler from Batman Forever. However, Jim Carrey made it work in a big way, as without him, the audience may have flayed Batman Forever.
He resembled an over-the-top showman, who becomes something else when behind his persona. Carrey’s Riddler has weird poses, embraces a style with confidence, and challenges Batman, the detective, to deduce his identity.
Nygma can be seen as the second-best Batman villain from the Schumacher/Burton era as he challenged the Big Black Bat and found out the man’s identity.
Two-Face was more of a henchman, who just wanted to kill Batman. Any other villain could have been used in place of him. However, sans The Riddler, Batman Forever may not have been well remembered.
6. Tom Hardy as Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)
Batman villains donning the mantle of the Bad guy had their work cut out after Heath Ledger’s turn as The Joker. Rarely had a villain been seen as the good guy and someone who had such an ulterior motive. Tom Hardy accepted the challenge and bulked up for his role as the mercenary.
Bane doesn’t position himself as the good guy. It is thanks to the Joker’s insane success that Bane cannot challenge Batman’s mind. Hence, that element of his character gets hidden and partially handed to Talia Al-Ghul.
However, Nolan gives Bane dialogues, an explanation for his brute strength, and the venom storyline gets hinted at, with his mask proving to be his weakest point.
Bane takes these dialogues and oozes a sense of aura as he owns the screen with his measured and commanding walk. He stamps his authority as a supervillain and indeed breaks the spirit of Gotham after breaking Batman.
5. Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face/Harvey Dent (The Dark Knight)
This portrayal of Two-Face was way more grounded and presented him as someone who knew he used to be an attorney, rather than a disfigured clown who needed a fancy suit to go with the scarred half of his face. Harvey Two-Face’s turn to the dark side is strong and is a systematic attack on the established order.
Eckhart’s version of The Two-Face goes against the traditional arc of acid in the courtroom. However, you can ignore that if you get into the vibe of Nolan’s films and think about the meaning. The Joker created Two-Face and got his aim of chaos.
Unknowingly (or was he there at the restaurant scene?) he helped Dent live up to his, “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.“
The transition of White Knight D.A. to the criminal mastermind out for revenge ensures that The Joker won and Batman took the fall. Two-Face was the final villain but didn’t feel like a letdown after Batman had dealt with The Joker.
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4. Jack Nicholson as The Joker (Batman)
The fusion of Joey Chill and fictional Jack Napier as The Joker was one thing that really did a disservice to this Jack Nicholson’s theatrical performance of someone who “you may call Joker.”
Right from his sinister entry hidden in the shadows, he shows his “happy” side as he prances and empties his weapon on a terrified Carl Grissom. Field with insanity by his smile, Joker, who was created by Batman, attempts to punish Gothamites by making them suffer from his condition. (Penguin explores this trope in the sequel as well).
He has some theatrics that come to life in the dance scene at the Gotham Art Museum, and he retains an aura that makes people just stand and listen to him in fear. The scene where he inadvertently reveals his true identity to Bruce Wayne is one example.
3. Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul (Batman Begins)
Liam Neeson brought a previously unseen Batman film villain to the screen in Batman Begins. Initially, you won’t think of him as the villain as he occupied the role of Batman’s mentor Henri Ducard.
However, the fusion of the roles of Ducard, The League, and his revelation and explanation of his plans for Gotham will catch you by surprise as you realize how insanely good he is. Neeson, who never seems perturbed, brings a natural charisma to the leader of The League of Shadows.
The actor oozes a sense of calm to proceedings, as he isn’t even flustered when overpowered in a duel. He simply informs his opponent about his disappointment regarding the fact that they haven’t understood their surroundings. Such was Neeson’s impact in the role, that his return in The Dark Knight Rises was met with cheers in cinema halls.
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2. Paul Dano as The Riddler/ Edward Nashton in The Batman
Paul Dano is an example of limited screen time not being detrimental to an actor being the show-stealer. As The Riddler, he captured the man’s character so well and used his mind to appear as a menacing foe to The Batman. There are no scenes where he engages with The Batman in combat; his arrest also is rather underwhelming as he just gets surrounded and taken.
The monologue is what propelled Paul Dano so high up this list. It is the one scene where he shows that even within the walls of the prison; he is in full control. Dano’s expressions and modulations drive home the point of looks being deceiving as he showcases his insane mind power. Did I mention the fact I found it fascinating that he didn’t opt for a green costume decorated with question marks? That overcoat coupled with a tape mask lent the fear factor to this villain who cleaned out Gotham for ‘The Sins of The Father.’
Dano revolutionized the villain and put a stamp on the character that works with his MO. It may ensure that performances like the one by Carrey remain obsolete with traditionally eccentric villains.
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1. Heath Ledger as The Joker (The Dark Knight)
At times, readers do not click on such lists as there is absolutely no doubt that Heath Ledger occupies the top spot. Dethroning him on this list will require a phenomenal performance from a Batman villain in the future. Ledger followed in Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson’s footsteps in playing this character and outclassed them by a country mile.
He adapted it from the man who smiles and essayed the role of the anarchist with scars serving as smiles. Ledger’s villain carried this film and raised the bar for superhero films and acting in such entertainers. His efforts to get into the appropriate mindset for the role is the stuff of legend, only rivaled by the efforts of Christian Bale and Daniel Day-Lewis.
Joker introduced the trend of the villain being the one who made sense, the one who had the vision to let the fickle nature of the masses come to the fore. His character gets even more awesome after we see the events of The Dark Knight Rises, i.e. a film where Batman is seen as the villain who is subject to a breathtaking police chase.
What do you make of this list of Batman’s antagonists? Which one surprised you? Where do you think Paul Dano’s Riddler/Edward Nashton will feature?