There are so many iconic villains in Batman’s villain gallery – from the Joker to Catwoman to the Penguin and the Riddler, the list goes on – that the Dark Knight himself is rarely the most interesting character in Batman movies. It’s become something of a franchise tradition for a villain to steal the limelight from the Caped Crusader.

As great as Michael Keaton’s performance as Bruce Wayne was, he was portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. As great as Christian Bale’s performance as Bruce Wayne was, he was eclipsed by Heath Ledger’s Joker.


10 Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy

Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin

The main villain in Joel Schumacher is wildly controversial Batman & Robin is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze, but he relies on delivering ice-based puns. Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy is easily the most compelling villain in the film.

Poison Ivy is let down by a weak script – she’s stopped with a pair of rubber lips – but the character is redeemed by perfect casting. Fresh from starring as Mia Wallace, Thurman gave a classic femme fatale performance as Poison Ivy.

9 Danny DeVito as Penguin

Danny Devito as Penguin in Batman Returns.

After Tim Burton injected a healthy dose of darkness into Batman’s on-screen adventure in his groundbreaking 1989 film, things got even darker and grittier for the sequel. Batman returns. His horror vision of Gotham is complemented by Danny DeVito’s sinister twist as the penguin.

DeVito leans into the cartoonish aspects of the character with an absurdly sadistic streak and a loyal army of penguins at his side. Keaton’s Batman was captivating as always, but DeVito stole every scene he was in.

8th Jim Carrey as the Riddler

Jim Carrey as Riddler

Schumacher’s first Batman film, Batman forevermade a complete 180 degree turn from the tone of the Burton films, leaving the darkness behind and harking back to the campy tone of the Adam West series.

Jim Carrey’s zany performance as the Riddler fitted that tone like a glove. Carrey captures the eccentricity so much that not only does he eclipse Val Kilmer’s performance as Batman; He dwarfed the performance of Tommy Lee Jones as the film’s other villain, Two-Face.

7 Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman

Selina Kyle drinks coffee in The Batman

Zoë Kravitz reinvented the character of Selina Kyle in the latest big screen The Bat. Matt Reeves The Batman based on the neo-noir classic clod in his portrayal of a romance between a socially awkward detective and a key witness in his latest case.

While Catwoman is usually portrayed as the standard femme fatale, Kravitz portrayed her as surprisingly likable. Like Batman, she’s a vigilante with a tragic backstory determined to bring down Gotham’s criminal underworld.

6 Tom Hardy as Bane

Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

Tom Hardy had to fill some ridiculously oversized boots when he was cast as the villain The Dark Knight rises and had to follow up on Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the Joker.

His role as Bane is decidedly more campy and comical than Ledger’s disturbing performance, but he’s still iconic (and he still steals every scene from Batman).

5 Jack Nicholson as the Joker

Jack Nicholson Joker Tim Burton

In Burton’s original Batman Movie, although Batman is the title character, Jack Nicholson gets the highest bill over Michael Keaton. The 1989 classic Batman Film is as much a Joker film as it is a Batman film, detailing the origins of the Clown Prince of Crime in even more detail than those of the Caped Crusader.

As the Joker, Nicholson channels the same unnerving psychosis that made his portrayal of Jack Torrance so iconic: “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

4 Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul

liam neeson ras al ghoul batman begins

Liam Neeson’s character in Batman begins is introduced as Henri Ducard, but turns out to be the B-tier Batman villain Ra’s al Ghul. As the leader of the League of Shadows, Ducard mentors Bruce Wayne before he emerges as the big bad.

Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul is both the caring father figure he initially pretends to be and the ominous antagonist he really is. He’s a captivating screen presence, borrowing the spotlight from Christian Bale.

3 Colin Farrell as the penguin

Colin Farrell as Penguin in The Batman.

With The Batman, Reeves set out to make a down-to-earth Batman film, and Colin Farrell gives one of the film’s most down-to-earth performances as Oswald Cobblepot, Carmine Falcone’s trusted right-hand man. Farrell’s performance as the penguin is the polar opposite of DeVito’s performance Batman returns.

Farrell plays the penguin as a middle-class gangster who wouldn’t look out of place in a Scorsese crime thriller. With his dry, sardonic lines, he also delivers the funniest moments in a mostly humorless film.

2 Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman

Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman

Danny DeVito’s penguin isn’t the only villain to eclipse Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight Batman returns. Michelle Pfeiffer arguably makes an even more memorable performance as Catwoman. True to the comics, Pfeiffer plays Catwoman as the quintessential femme fatale. But she also played with the horror elements of Burton’s vision.

Pfeiffer’s Catwoman isn’t just a straight-forward villain; She is a powerful figure who becomes a fearless vigilante after her evil boss tries to assassinate her.

1 Heath Ledger as the Joker

Heath Ledger as The Joker sits in a cell in The Dark Knight

The history of Batman movies has seen many scene-stealing villains, but by far the most memorable is Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the clown prince of crime. Famously inspired by Alex DeLarge and Sid Vicious, Ledger’s Joker is a truly mesmerizing on-screen presence.

Whenever he appears in a scene, audiences forget that they’re even watching a Batman movie while being captivated by a monologue about scars, a pile of burning money, or an exploding hospital.

NEXT: The 10 Best Villain Performances in DC Movies

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