Batman has one of the best, if not THE best rogue’s galleries of any comic book character. From Mr. Freeze and the Mad Hatter, to Clayface and the Penguin, the Caped Crusader regularly squares off against some truly diabolical baddies.
In film, these villains have often been the stars of each picture, sometimes even overshadowing Batman himself! But which movie Batman villains are the best?
Below is a list of the eight best Batman movie villains. The list takes into account all of the major players in Gotham, and brings the most gruesome Gothamites to the forefront.
No other villain could sit at the top of this list but the Joker – arguably Batman’s greatest adversary. Batman and the Joker have been locking heads in comics since 1940, and in movies since 1966.
Over the years there have been some great Jokers, from Cesar Romero’s Clown Prince of Crime in Batman: The Movie (1966) to Jack Nicholson’s mobster-turned-psychopath in Batman (1989), but none have quite matched Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight (2008). Ledger’s Joker was an agent of chaos who demonstrated that he would never ever stop his reign of terror – at least not while the Batman is around to play with him.
The Joker is easily one of the greatest Batman movie villains of all time and it is fantastic that audiences have been given multiple iterations of the same character, to showcase how truly fascinating he is.
Joker quote: “You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan”. Even if the plan is horrifying. If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan”. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!”
And what’s the Joker without Harley Quinn? As the Joker’s girlfriend (and better half), Harley is a great foil for Mr. J, but in truth when she stands on her own two feet she is even more entertaining.
Played to perfection by Margot Robbie, Harley Quinn was the standout star of Suicide Squad and proved that a little bit of crazy can go a long way. A heck of a long way.
While audiences may have been divided over Suicide Squad (some loved it, others did not), most people agreed that Robbie’s Quinn was a fantastic addition to the roster of Batman movie villains. And in perhaps the best tribute of all, the Suicide Squad version of Harley become the go-to cosplay/Halloween costume for the year of the movie’s release.
Harley Quinn quote: “What, you were just thinking you can have a happy family and coach little leagues, and make car payments? Normal’s a setting on the dryer. People like us, we don’t get normal!”
For Batman movie villain No.3 it has to be Bane – the man that (temporarily) broke the Bat! But which version of Bane to choose? In 1997 audiences were treated to Jeep Swenson’s brutish, lumbering Bane, but in 2012 we were given Tom Hardy’s more considered Bane.
It has to be Hardy’s Bane, doesn’t it?
Working with Talia al Ghul, Bane was the standout villain in The Dark Knight Rises and he almost brought Gotham City to its knees. Bane not only brought brains to his role as a commanding force within the League of Shadows, but also brute strength and strategy.
Bane quote: “Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but BLINDING!”
Across all three entries in The Dark Knight trilogy, Dr. Jonathan Crane – better known as the Scarecrow – cropped up like a bad penny. While other villains would come and go, he remained in Gotham like a parasite, living in the shadows and feasting on fear.
Scarecrow actor, Cillian Murphy was suitably creepy as Dr. Crane and while he never got the opportunity to become the main villain of each picture, he made sure to make each of his three appearances count.
Scarecrow quote: “I respect the mind’s power over the body. It’s why I do what I do.”
Like the Joker, Catwoman is a recurring Batman movie villain, having appeared in films such as Batman: The Movie (1966) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). She has also turned her hand to being a sort-of vigilante in the 2004 film, Catwoman.
But Catwoman’s greatest movie appearance, which earns her a place on this list, is from Batman Returns (1992) where she not only became a memorable villain, she also stole the whole movie. Michelle Pfeiffer’s turn as Catwoman/Selina Kyle has yet to be bettered and it’s doubtful it ever will.
Catwoman quote: “As I was saying, I’m a woman and can’t be taken for granted. Life’s a bitch, now so am I.”
With grand plans to become Gotham’s cleverest carbon-based lifeform, the Riddler proved to be a formidable foe for the Dark Knight in 1995’s Batman Forever. Jim Carrey not only donned figure-hugging emerald green tights to ensure he stood out from the crowd, he practically took over the whole movie by giving a wild performance.
The Riddler was easily one of the most memorable and best Batman movie villains. He was also the funniest.
Riddler Quote: “Oh, there’s more. But only the first one’s free. Here’s the bargain: you will help me steal production capital, so I can put a Box on every TV in town. So I can become Gotham’s cleverest carbon-based life-form! And in return… is everybody paying attention? I will help you solve the greatest riddle of all… the mother of all riddles: ‘Who is Batman?’”
Ra’s al Ghul
What’s the best way to get on a list of eight best Batman movie villains? Hmm… how about by attempting to cleanse the world of all lifeforms that you feel are no longer necessary?
And if that doesn’t work, then what about fooling Bruce Wayne into believing you are someone else entirely? Or maybe by working from the shadows to ensure Gotham is a crime-ridden city?
Because of his deception and his complete disregard for life, Ras al Ghul easily finds his way onto this list. The fact that Liam Neeson offered up a fine performance as the Batman baddie in Batman Begins (2005) is just the icing on the cake.
Ras al Ghul quote: “When a forest grows too wild a purging fire is inevitable and natural. Tomorrow, the world will watch in horror as its greatest city destroys itself. The movement back to harmony will be unstoppable this time.”
And finally, she might be the only animated Batman movie villain on this list, but don’t let her cartoon appearance detract from who she is deep inside – a cold, calculating murderer, voiced to perfection by Dana Delany in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993).
The Phantasm, aka Andrea Beaumont, was a former girlfriend of Bruce Wayne until her father was murdered and she decided to devote her life to dishing out payback as a costumed villain. She then cut a path through Gotham’s criminal underworld with careless abandon and a disregard for justice, no matter what this meant to Batman.
Oh, the Joker might find new ways to get under Batman’s cape and cowl, but it is the Phantasm who will forever be a source of irritation to the Caped Crusader. She is also the one that got away.
The Phantasm quote: “They took everything, Bruce! My dad, my life…you. I’m not saying it’s right, or even sane, but it’s all I’ve got left. So, either help me or get out of the way!”
In addition to the above eight, there are a wealth of villains who have appeared in Batman movies, from Mr. Zsasz and KGBeast, to Poison Ivy and Max Shreck. For a full list, check out my post: A list of live-action Batman movie villains.
So, who do you think is the best Batman movie villain? Imagine you can only pick one villain, who would it be and why?
Sound off in the comments section below, so other fans can see your choice and your reasons.