Does any superhero have a more impressive gallery of villains than Batman? We don’t think so. There are enough great Batman villains to keep the cells in Arkham Asylum full and fans riveted. From classic supervillains to newer evildoers, male and female nemesis, the Batman universe is largely defined by the bad people who terrorize Gotham City. And there seems to be no end to the fascination people have with Batman and the villains he fights. They are even getting their own movie in 2016, Suicide Squad. From the recent Batman V. Superman movie to the television show Gotham: Rise of the Villains and the upcoming video game Batman: Return To Arkham, here is a list of the 11 best Batman villains of all time.
11. Lex Luthor
We know, he’s Superman’s arch nemesis. But criminal mastermind Lex Luthor has appeared in enough Batman storylines – both comic books and in movies – to warrant inclusion on this list. Lex Luthor is so pervasive in DC Comics that one could argue he is the penultimate villain in that universe. And he has certainly given Batman a hard time over the years. Notably when the billionaire turned politician and was elected President of the United States (Donald Trump, anyone?). President Luthor schemes to take over Gotham City through a series of shady land deals, and even stages an earthquake in the city so that he can then be seen to help rebuild the shattered city. Batman, of course, thwarts Luthor’s plans. Plus, LexCorp is billed as the main competitor of Wayne Enterprises in the Batman cannon, making for some interesting exchanges between Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor as businessmen.
10. Harley Quinn
Originally conceived as a female sidekick to the Joker for the 1990s animated Batman television series, Harley Quinn proved so popular that she moved into the Batman comic books as well. And it didn’t take long for Harley Quinn to get her own comic book series, and later a starring role in the Batman spin-off title Gotham City Sirens. Harley Quinn’s fandom is due to the fact that she is mischievous, revels in being bad and can kick some ass when she needs to. Harley Quinn is also the perfect female counterpoint to the Joker and has proven to be a handful for Batman. A brand new Harley Quinn comic is now in the works at DC Comics, and the character will be played by actress Margot Robbie in this summer’s blockbuster film Suicide Squad.
9. The Scarecrow
Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka The Scarecrow, has been a reliable Batman villain since he first appeared in World’s Finest Comics #3 back in 1941. Created by none other than Bob Kane, Batman inventor extraordinaire, Dr. Crane is a psychiatrist who uses a variety of fear-enhancing drugs, toxins, and psychological warfare tactics to exploit the fears and phobias of people, including Bruce Wayne. The premise and creepiness of this character have made The Scarecrow one of Batman’s most enduring enemies. The Scarecrow was also featured prominently in the Christopher Nolan directed film Batman Begins and he is frequently seen in any storylines involving Arkham Asylum. In fact, The Scarecrow is one of the most licensed DCvillains, appearing in films, video games, television series, and merchandise such as action figures. The Scarecrow was ranked as IGN’s 58th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.
This might seem to be coming a little bit out of left field, but few, if any, Batman villains are as truly terrifying and volatile as Man-Bat. A true doppelganger to Batman, Man-Bat first appeared in Detective Comics issue #400 back in 1970. Fans couldn’t get enough of the character, and he proved so popular that he was given his own comic book series in 1975. The series was short-lived, but Man-Bat has nevertheless proven to be a popular and consistent villain for Batman. Dr. Kirk Langstrom, a zoologist who is going deaf, develops an extract intended to give him the power of a bat’s sonar, which he hopes will compensate for his loss of hearing. The extract works, but has horrible side effects – transforming him into a hideous man-sized bat and driving him insane. The serum also gives Man-Bat superhuman strength, which he uses to take on Batman at every opportunity. Man-Bat and his story is reminiscent of the great sci-fi movie The Fly, only much more violent in Batman’s world. Man-Bat has also been featured in comic book limited series such as Infinite Crisis and was part of DC’s New 52 relaunch.
7. Ra’s Al Ghul
Another villain featured prominently in the movie Batman Begins, the character of Ra’s Al Ghul personifies the word “sinister” for Batman. His name is Arabic for the term “demon’s head,” and Ra’s Al Ghul is leader of the League of Assassins. As such, he is usually portrayed as the mastermind behind some large and elaborate plot involving mass chaos and destruction. A Batman villain since 1971, Ra’s Al Ghul was actually shown to be Bruce Wayne’s trainer and mentor, as well as adversary, in the Christopher Nolan films. The character has been killed off and resurrected several times in the Batman comic book series (via the Lazarus Pit), giving Ra’s Al Ghul an air of invincibility and immortality. He has been ranked one of the greatest villains in the entire DC Universe.
Is it us, or does Batman have a number of the best female supervillains? Here we come to the iconic Catwoman. While not an outright supervillain, Catwoman was introduced to readers of Batman comic books as a jewel thief. Over the years, Selina Kyle has manipulated, used, and abused both Bruce Wayne and Batman. And while she has, at times, teamed up with the Dark Knight and the two characters have even been lovers at times, Catwoman always ends up discarding Batman or hurting him once he’s served his purpose to her. A longtime fan favourite, Catwoman has surfaced in countless Batman titles as well as the last Nolan – The Dark Knight Rises. And the character was given her own movie in 2004, starring actress Halle Berry in the titular role. Although the less said about that film, the better.
For brute strength and power, there is no other Batman villain quite like the terrorist known as Bane. He is literally the Bane of Batman’s existence (pun intended). Bane has proven incredibly popular with Batman fans considering he is probably the newest villain to appear on this list, having made his debut in 1993. Yet Bane has been featured in both the 1997 movie Batman and Robin as well as the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises. In addition to wreaking havoc in Gotham City and beating Batman to a pulp, Bane has also starred in another DC Comics title, Secret Six, where he is the leader of a merry band of supervillains. Bane’s backstory and time spent in prison seem to enrich this character and make him even more appealing to fans.
4. The Riddler
The Riddler is one of Batman’s oldest villains, and has proven to be a classic villain at that. A thorn in Batman’s side since 1948, The Riddler has appeared in nearly every Batman incarnation – from the campy 1960s television show, the current TV program Gotham, to movies such as 1995’s Batman Forever, plus comic books and every Batman animated series. The character is not the scariest or most brutal Batman villain. But he is fun and adds a sense of genius playfulness to the dark, gritty world of Batman, and that helps to explain the popularity of The Riddler. After all, who doesn’t love his rhymes and riddles? For sheer campiness and good times, it’s hard to surpass The Riddler.
3. The Penguin
Another classic and campy Batman villain is the Penguin. Real name Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, Penguin has alternately been portrayed for laughs (Actor Burgess Meredith in the 1960s TV show) and as a grotesque sewer dweller who is evil to the core (actor Danny DeVito in the 1992 movie Batman Returns). The character first appeared in Detective Comics in 1941 and has been a frequent villain of Batman ever since. Basically a thief who rises in the Gotham City underworld to become a gangster, Penguin likes to bill himself as a “gentleman of crime.” Regardless, he has proven himself to be one of Batman’s most enduring and memorable villains, and he has transcended time and remain relevant for more than 70 years.
Speaking of grotesque villains, is there anyone scarier or more haunting to look at than Two-Face? Gotham City district attorney Harvey Dent, a former friend and confident of Bruce Wayne, is portrayed as the most tragic of the Batman villains. Disfigured by acid, the previously crusading lawyer is transformed into a twisted, mangled and evil villain known as Two-Face, who uses the flip of a coin to decide the fate of his many victims. His tragic backstory, gruesome appearance and the use of the coin make Two-Face one of Batman’s most memorable characters, one who is definitely difficult to forget. Not surprising, Two-Face has appeared in almost everything involving the Dark Knight and has remained a fan favourite since his first appearance in Detective Comics in 1942.
1. The Joker
No surprise here. The ultimate Batman villain has to be The Joker. Not only has The Joker been memorably portrayed in the movies by heavy hitting actors such as Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger (who won a posthumous Academy Award for his portrayal), but The Joker is also the subject of some of the most beloved Batman comic books of all time, including Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and A Death In The Family, where The Joker kills the Jason Todd version of Robin. The character’s popularity must have something to do with the fact that The Joker is totally insane and will go to any lengths to get what he wants and cause trouble for Batman and the residents of Gotham City. That, and the fact that the character is quite scary, have made The Joker Batman’s arch nemesis since he appeared in Batman comic #1 back in 1940. Really, The Joker and Batman have been linked together since the very beginning. The Joker will be seen in two movies this summer – in the animated version of The Killing Joke (voiced my Mark Hamill), and portrayed by actor Jared Leto in the live action blockbuster Suicide Squad.