Every Live-Action Batman Movie Villain Ranked From Worst to Best

in Movies & TV

Bane in the dark in The Dark Knight Rises

Credit: Warner Bros.

There have been countless iterations of all the Batman villains over the decades, but none wind up leaving quite the same impact on audiences as those of the live-action and theatrical variety.

So, with the exception of lesser-known villains such as Carmine Falcone and Salvatore Maroni, or any of the villains from Batman (1966), Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and Justice League (both versions), we’ve ranked every iconic villain from the Batman films.

Colin Farrell as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin in 'The Batman' (2022)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

From Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), Batman and Robin (1997), Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, Suicide Squad (2016), Joker (2019), and The Batman (2022), here are 20 villains from the Batman movies, ranked from worst to best!

Related: James Gunn Confirms Which Version of Batman WON’T Appear In ‘The Flash’

20. Bane — Batman and Robin

Bane flexing his muscles in Batman and Robin
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

There’s very little to be said about Bane (Jeep Swenson/Michael Reid Mackay) from Batman and Robin. With his Mexican wrestler mask, he might be more in line with the look from the comic books than Tom Hardy’s iteration in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), but that’s about it.

Recruited by Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) to help her with her dastardly plans, Bane, whose strength and size are bolstered beyond natural laws by a powerful toxin, amounts to nothing more than a giant dumb henchman, who’s far more laughable than he is intimidating.

19. Mr. J — Suicide Squad

Jared Leto as Mr J/Joker talking to Harley Quinn in Arkham Asylum, in Suicide Squad
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Oh, how we wish we could put Mr. J/The Joker (Jared Leto) right at the bottom, but we simply can’t justify having Batman and Robin‘s Bane be any higher than we already have (yes, even the bottom seems too high for him). Well, at least Mr. J isn’t a total laughing stock like Bane… Right?

Suicide Squad is a critically-panned DC disaster, and one of the many terrible things about this mess is Jared Leto’s take as the Clown Prince of Gotham. Cringe-worthy, pretentious, hideously-designed, and downright embarrassing, Leto took “clowning around” way too far.

Related: ‘The Batman’ Star Reveals Episode Count For Upcoming ‘Penguin’ Series

18. Poison Ivy — Batman and Robin

Mr Freeze (L) and Poison Ivy (R) in Batman and Robin
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Though we’ve placed her in the lowest echelons of our ranking, there’s no denying that Uma Thurman gives a 110% as Poison Ivy in the ultimate cheese-fest that is Batman and Robin. Unfortunately, though, she’s just not that great a villain in the film.

Like everything else around her, Thurman has the campiness dialled up to 11, and though she’s entertaining to watch, she’s bogged down by cheesy one-liners and no sense of threat. That’s fine, though — this is a kids’ film after all, but there are many far better villains coming up.

17. Mr. Freeze — Batman and Robin

Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) with one of his henchwomen in Batman and Robin
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Say what you will about Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), but there’s no denying he has an ice-some look. Like Thurman, Arnie gives 110% as the Batman and Robin super-villain, and as far as family-friendly villains go, he’s ice-tastic (dreadful puns intended).

Sadly, his one-liners have gone down in history as being among the most cheesy in a superhero film. His plans for world-domination also makes zero sense — “First, Gotham, and then… the world!” That’s quite a leap, Arnie. He still looks very “cool”, though. Sorry.

Related: All 7 Live-Action Jokers Ranked From Worst to Best

16. Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin — Batman Returns

The Penguin and Catwoman plotting against Batman in Batman Returns
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (Danny DeVito), as portrayed in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, might not be everyone’s cup of tea. After all, he’s actually pretty unsettling to watch — that deathly-white skin, those horrible hunches, and those salivating jaws. Yuck, yuck, and yuck.

Danny DeVito delivers a great performance as the iconic Batman villain, though, but the real problem is that, on top of all the ew, he’s a pretty irritating character. And worst of all, his uncomfortable leching over Selena Kyle/Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) really hits the gag reflex.

15. Harvey Dent/Two-Face — Batman Forever

Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) talking to The Riddler (Jim Carrey) in Batman Forever
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Another Batman Forever villain who went on to become a huge megastar is Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Harvey Dent/Two-Face in the film, taking over from Billy Dee Williams in the two previous installments. But Jones’ Gotham bad-guy isn’t quite as good as you might remember.

There isn’t all that much going on with Two-Face, which is ironic considering there are supposed to be two sides to his character. Perhaps in this case it’s indicative of just how two-dimensional he is. While there is some fun to be had, he’s among the most forgettable live-action Batman villains.

Related: 7 Batman Villains You Definitely Missed in ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’

14. Edward Nygma/The Riddler — Batman Forever

The Riddler (Jim Carrey) in the showdown against Batman in Batman Forever
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Many fans consider Jim Carrey’s Edward Nygma/The Riddler to be one of the only good things about the last two films in the original Batman series. The role is perfect for Carrey, who, during the ’90s, made a name for himself with high-energy characters like The Mask and Ace Venture.

With that said, his villain has hardly aged like a fine wine, and though Carrey injects his own energy into the character, it’s plain to see it’s mostly borrowed from Frank Gorshin’s version from the ’60s. Carrey is definitely entertaining, but a saving grace for Batman Forever he is not.

13. Harvey Dent/Two-Face — The Dark Knight

Two-Face in the hospital in The Dark Knight
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

The Dark Knight (2008) is a vastly superior film to Batman Forever (although it certainly isn’t the masterpiece many fans and critics believe it to be — it’s “riddled” with plot holes and contrivances), but we’re not convinced this film’s version of Two-Face is all that much better.

In true Christopher Nolan-style, Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart) is given a more realistic treatment, however, there’s nothing at all realistic about his horrible scars whatsoever. Not only that, but there’s a touch of overacting from Eckhart, and his Dent just isn’t particularly likable.

Related: Keanu Reeves on Being the Next Batman

12. Miranda Tate/Talia al Ghul — The Dark Knight Rises

Talia al Ghul in the rain in The Dark Knight Rises
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Miranda Tate/Talia al Ghul (Marion Cotillard), daughter of Ra’s al Ghul/Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), is a rather unusual villain, in that she isn’t revealed until the last few minutes of The Dark Knight Rises, despite being around for most of the film under the guise of Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate.

Generally, fans aren’t crazy about her, largely because her reveal in the film completely undermines Bane (Tom Hardy), who, up until that point, is a villain seemingly driven by his own agenda. On the other hand, seeing as Talia is the mastermind behind seizing Gotham, we have to give her some credit!

11. Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin — The Batman

Colin Farrell as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin in 'The Batman' (2022)
Credit: Warner Bros./DC Studios

Colin Farrell is an incredibly talented actor — you only need to watch his latest film The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) to know how much. He’s also brilliant as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin in Matt Reeves’ The Batman. Unfortunately, though, there are a couple of problems.

Firstly, he’s not in it that much (although this will be remedied in HBO’s Penguin series). Secondly, while the fact he’s unrecognizable is impressive, was it really necessary? In other words, can we please stop literally transforming Farrell whenever he plays a villain (yes, we’re looking at you too, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!)?!

Related: All Live-Action Batman Actors Ranked From Worst to Best

10. Selena Kyle/Catwoman — The Dark Knight Rises

Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) on the rooftop in The Dark Knight Rises
Credit: DC / Warner Bros

Is Selena Kyle/Catwoman a friend or foe? It’s an age-old question as the character is fascinatingly complex, but when it comes to Anne Hathaway’s version in The Dark Knight Rises, the answer is both yes and no, which we think makes her all the more interesting.

For the first half of the film, Selena (Anne Hathaway) winds up leading Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) straight to Bane, who wastes no time in beating him to a pulp and seizing control of Gotham. While she has a change of heart during the last half of the film, Selena’s most memorable moments are when she’s being cunning and deceitful.

9. Jack Napier/The Joker — Batman

Jack Nicholson as The Joker in 'Batman' (1989)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Though one of the more overrated live-action Batman villains, Jack Napier/The Joker (Jack Nicholson) remains one of the most memorable. At the time, and in the years thereafter, besides Cesar Romero’s Joker from the ’60s, there was no one else to compare Nicholson’s Joker to.

That’s not to say Nicholson isn’t fantastic in the role, but the problem is that he feels like nothing more than a dark version of Romero’s Clown Prince of Gotham in the ’60s Batman television series and theatrical film, which was probably the intention.

Related: 7 Actresses Who Could Play the Female Joker

8. Edward Nashton/The Riddler — The Batman

The Riddler (Paul Dano) behind the glass at Arkham Asylum in 'The Batman' (2022)
Credit: DC Studios/Warner Bros.

Many fans and critics praise Paul Dano’s performance as the highly-intelligent psychopath Edward Nashton/The Riddler in The Batman, whose sadistic work upon the corrupt elites of Gotham City echoes the likes of the Zodiac Killer, and even Jigsaw from the Saw films.

He’s definitely the most chillingly realistic portrayal of the character, and his outfit is pretty awesome too (we don’t think we’d have taken him quite as seriously in question mark-patterned spandex). Some of the post-reveal acting from Dano, however, does feel incredibly forced and a little cringe-worthy at times.

7. Henri Ducard/Ra’s al Ghul — Batman Begins

Ra's al Ghul as Henri Ducard in Batman Begins
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Ra’s al Ghul is by far one of the most enigmatic Batman villains ever, and he enjoyed his first live-action outing in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) — in which he’s portrayed by Liam Neeson — as the man who inspired Bruce Wayne into becoming Batman in the first place.

Ra’s al Ghul/Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) ultimately becomes one of Batman’s most formidable foes, and though he’s killed off in the 2005 film, his “League of Shadows” lives on, leaving two successors — Bane and Talia al Ghul — to return in The Dark Knight Rises to finish what he started.

Related: What Would ‘Batman: No Way Home’ Look Like?

6. Dr. Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow — Batman Begins

The Scarecrow in Arkham in Batman Begins
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Dr. Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) is the second villain in Batman Begins (yes, Christopher Nolan’s trilogy wasted no time in doing the whole duo-villain thing), and Cillian Murphy turns in an excellent performance as the psychotic Arkham Asylum psychiatrist.

The Scarecrow is a terrifying villain, mostly because his powerful hallucinogenic gives the film an edge other Batman installments are lacking. Though relatively unknown at the time, The Scarecrow serves as the main villain of the piece until Ra’s al Ghul shows up — a huge burden to shoulder, but one he carries effortlessly.

5. Harley Quinn — Suicide Squad

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) smiling in Suicide Squad
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

We’ve taken a couple of liberties with this ranking. 20 villains is a pretty big undertaking, which is why we decided to omit characters like Carmine Falcone, Salvatore Maroni, and all the villains from Adam West’s big-screen outing. It’s also why we’ve decided to pluck only two from Suicide Squad.

Alongside Mr J, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is the only villain in the spin-off film to go up against Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck). As such, it makes sense to include her. And she’s nothing short of pure genius — Margot Robbie was simply born to play the Clown Princess of Gotham!

Related: All the ‘Batman’ Movies Ranked Worst to Best

4. Selena Kyle/Catwoman — Batman Returns

Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) lying down in Batman Returns
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Michelle Pfeiffer is widely considered to have delivered the best version of Selena Kyle/Catwoman to date. But do we agree? Well, what Pfeiffer does incredibly well is walk that fine line between good and bad, something Anne Hathaway also does well in The Dark Knight Rises.

Pfeiffer’s version, however, is far less guided by a moral compass and is more revenge-driven. She’s no less entertaining for it, though, and as such, this makes her more of a villain than Hathaway’s version. She’s also a lot more intimidating and violent. Three words: Hear her roar!

3. Arthur Fleck/Joker — Joker

Arthur Fleck/Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) dancing on the stairs in Joker
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Remember what we were just saying about taking liberties with this list? Well, while you might disagree with Joker being here, Arthur Fleck/Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) is still a live-action Batman villain, and seeing as Phoenix is phenomenal in the film, not including him would be a crime.

Perhaps you might give us some leeway, though, seeing as Bruce Wayne (Dante Pereira-Olson) is actually in the film. The pair are yet to lock horns, though, of course, not for many years yet, but here’s to hoping Joker: Folie à Deux (2024) brings us closer to their eternal conflict.

Related: 5 Actors Who Could Play Batman In James Gunn’s DC Universe

2. The Joker — The Dark Knight

The Joker (Heath Ledger) taunting a police offer in The Dark Knight
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

It’s difficult to tell whether or not Heath Ledger’s terrific turn as the Clown Prince of Gotham would have become as iconic had the actor not tragically passed away after making The Dark Knight way back in 2008, but his performance is nothing short of mesmerizing nonetheless.

Whenever The Joker infiltrates a scene, Ledger is nowhere to be seen, which makes his performance all the more chilling. As for his style, he feels far more terrorist-like than any other Joker we’ve seen, and it’s this level of realism that makes him even more uncomfortable to watch.

1. Bane — The Dark Knight Rises

Bane in the dark in The Dark Knight Rises
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

There are two groups of fans when it comes to Bane (Tom Hardy) from The Dark Knight Rises. There are those who compare him to The Joker from the previous film (despite them both being very different villains), and there are those who love him. Obviously, we fall into the latter camp.

Hardy’s performance is a physical one (in many ways, he’s as unrecognizable as Colin Farrell is as The Penguin in The Batman), but like his war-painted predecessor, every single line he utters (which aren’t inaudible like many claim) became instantly iconic. He also breaks Batman’s spine and seizes complete control of Gotham City. Now that’s what you call a villain.

Related: Every DCEU Movie Ranked From Worst to Best

Joaquin Phoenix as Joker in full costume
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Joker: Folie à Deux releases in theaters on October 4, 2024. There are currently no release dates for The Batman 2 (TBA) and HBO’s The Penguin (TBA).

How would you rank these Batman villains? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

in Movies & TV

Comments Off on Every Live-Action Batman Movie Villain Ranked From Worst to Best