From 1989 until 1997, Warner Bros. Pictures produced four live-action Batman movies, collectively known as the Batman Anthology. The films saw Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney take on the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman across the four big budget features that were incredibly popular.
But while Batman was a key figure of each film, the pictures often favoured the villains over the hero, dedicating a great deal of screen time to the Caped Crusader’s arch enemies. In total, nine major villains appeared across the films, along with a collection of side characters, who all ensured the Dark Knight had a heck of a job on his hands trying to keep Gotham City safe.
But who are the villains of the Batman Anthology?
Jack Napier/Joker – Jack Nicholson
“Wait til they get a load of me.”
For the first entry in the Batman Anthology only one major Batman villain appears in the film and that is the Jack Napier/Joker. Napier was a former gangster who fell into a vat of acid and became disfigured.
The acid bleached his skin and affixed a permanent grin on his face. Despite a round of plastic surgery, his appearance was forever altered and he became the Joker.
Bob the Goon – Tracey Walter
In addition to the Joker, a collection of hired goons also feature in Batman. These characters included Bob, who is the Joker’s right-hand man.
Batman Returns (1992)
Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin – Danny DeVito
“You’ve gotta admit, I’ve played this stinking city, like a harp from hell!”
For Batman movie no. 2, more villains were required to take on the Dark Knight, beginning with Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin. Born with deformities, Cobblepot was abandoned as a child and grew up amongst penguins before being taken in by a travelling circus.
Adopting the name Penguin, Cobblepot sought out his birth parents, but upon finding they had passed away he needed a new direction in life. With the help of Max Shreck he becomes a corrupt politician and an enemy of Batman.
Selina Kyle/Catwoman – Michelle Pfeiffer
“Life’s a bitch, now so am I.”
Before she was transformed into Catwoman, Selina Kyle was a meek secretary working for business man Max Shreck. But after Shreck pushed her out of a window, she was revived by alley cats and turned into Catwoman.
As Catwoman, Kyle takes to the rooftops of Gotham City to seek revenge on Shreck – systematically destroying his empire before targeting the man himself. However, Catwoman’s misguided desire for revenge causes her to cross paths with Batman.
Max Shreck – Christopher Walken
“Bottom line: if she tries to blackmail me, I’ll drop her out a higher window. Meantime, I got better fish to fry.”
Unlike the Penguin and Catwoman, Max Shreck did not originate in Batman comics. However, Shreck was one of the main villains of Batman Returns – if not THE main villain in the movie.
As a ruthless business man, Shreck stops at nothing to get what he wants, no matter the cost. This includes being partially responsible for the creation of Catwoman and assisting the Penguin with his career in politics.
The Red Triangle Gang
As well as Penguin, Catwoman, and Max Shreck, Batman Returns also introduces the Red Triangle Gang – a macabre and deadly travelling circus group, led by the Penguin.
Batman Forever (1995)
Edward Nygma/The Riddler – Jim Carrey
“Soon my little “Box” will be on countless TVs around the world. Feeding me, credit card numbers, bank codes, sexual fantasies, and little white lies. Into my head they’ll go. Victory is inevitable.”
Edward Nygma was an employee at Wayne Enterprises, with an unhealthy obsession with Bruce Wayne. When his latest invention – the Box – is dismissed by Bruce Wayne on ethical grounds, Nygma adopts the persona of the Riddler in order to stalk and taunt his former boss.
As the Riddler, Nygma steals enough money to fund his Box technology. With the invention operational, he uses the tech to retrieve confidential information from the citizens of Gotham City in the ultimate brain drain.
Harvey Dent/Two-Face – Tommy Lee Jones
“Patience is hell! We want him dead!”
Former District Attorney Harvey Dent was a friend to Bruce Wayne and a colleague to Batman, until a crime boss threw acid in his face. Externally, the acid disfigured half of Dent’s face, but internally it altered his mind – creating a devious personality.
As Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent, the former DA turns to a life of crime. He also develops a deep hatred for Batman, who he blames for his disfigurement.
Sugar & Spice – Drew Barrymore (Sugar) and Debi Mazar (Spice)
Joining the Riddler and Two-Face in Batman Forever is Sugar and Spice – Two-Face’s henchwomen. Sugar represents the Harvey personality, while Spice is Two-Face through and through.
Batman & Robin (1997)
Dr. Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze – Arnold Schwarzenegger
“Mercy? I’m afraid my condition has left me cold to your pleas of mercy.”
Dr. Victor Fries was a prominent Gotham scientist, working on a cure to save his wife from a rare disease. But a laboratory accident caused Fries to fall into liquid nitrogen, turning him into the villainous Mr. Freeze.
As Mr. Freeze, the cold-hearted villain has only one thing on his mind – to continue his research to help save his wife. Nothing and no one will stand in his way, not even Batman.
Dr. Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy – Uma Thurman
“Kill them, of course. But why stop there? Why should only Batman and Robin die while the society that created them goes unpunished?”
Dr. Pamela Isley was a former botanist who was assaulted and left for dead. But plants and toxins seeped into her body and transformed her into Poison Ivy.
With a kiss that can kill, and pheromone dust to lure in victims, Ivy heads to Gotham to unleash her plan to transform the world into a garden paradise. Her intentions might be noble, but her path of destruction is deadly.
Antonio Diego/Bane – Jeep Swenson
A former criminal who was given an opportunity for a new lease of life – but not as a model citizen of Gotham, but rather as a brainless super soldier. Injected with an experimental formula called Venom, Antonio Deigo is transformed into Bane.
Dr. Jason Woodrue – John Glover
In addition to the Freeze, Ivy, and Bane, Batman & Robin also features an appearance by Dr. Jason Woodrue, a character who originated in the comics. In the movie, Woodrue is responsible for creating both Bane and Poison Ivy – a move that sealed his fate.
Considering there were only four entries in the Batman Anthology, the series managed to pack in a considerable number of villains. Not all of them took centre stage, but they all contributed something to the series and demonstrated that Gotham was a deadly place to live.
But which of these villains was your favourite? Is the Joker your No.1 bad guy from this list or did Catwoman prove to be the best Bat-villain? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below.
And should you want to know more about the Batman Anthology, then check out one of the recommended posts below.