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The 18 best Batman villains of all time, ranked

We've gone through Bruce Wayne's Rogues Gallery and picked the best Batman villains from Gotham. DC baddies don't get weirder than this.

The Dark Knight. The Caped Crusader. The Batman. DC’s vigilante has amassed many nicknames over the years as Gotham’s watchful protector, defending the innocent from hordes of the best Batman villains trying to overrun the city he loves.

Countless writers, artists, and filmmakers in the DCU have unwrapped his tortured psyche in some of the best superhero movies. Bruce Wayne is one of the best DC characters, but his enemies are so eccentric and warped that they’ve become as popular as the Dark Knight himself. Arkham Asylum is full of entrancing weirdos, so let’s rank them.

Best Batman villains: Talia al Ghul

18. Talia al Ghul

A lot of Batman villains get their reps because they have cool monikers or great style, but Talia al Ghul is truly a formidable foe. Not everyone was able to break Bruce Wayne’s heart, after all. As the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, Talia was able to worm her way into Batman’s affections and toyed with him more than a puppet on a string.

What’s more, she’s even the mother of his child, Damien Wayne. You’re never quite sure if Talia truly loves Batman or if she’s playing with his mind, since she’s saved him numerous occasions while also being his foil.

Best Batman villains: Mr. Zsasz

17. Mr. Zsasz

Otherwise known as just ‘Zsasz’, this is one creepy serial killer with a penchant for showmanship. He’s a sadomasochistic and psychopath, who makes a tally mark on himself for every person he kills. But, like most, he wasn’t always this way. In fact, his backstory isn’t too dissimilar from Wayne’s own, having been a wealthy man with a family at one point.

But when his parents died in a boating accident, Zsasz spiraled out of control. After loosing his money to Penguin, he completely lost all sense of reality and eventually believed that by killing people, he was giving them a gift. Perhaps not a lot of stylistic flare compared to some of the others on this list, but scary nonetheless.

Best Batman villains: Hugo Strange

16. Hugo Strange

Hugo Strange is one of the earliest Batman villains to appear in the comics, going back as far as 1940. He was also one of the first to discover Batman’s secret identity, making him one hell of a threat. He’s appeared in multiple forms over the years, but never in a major live-action feature. (Maybe there’s room for him down the line!)

Many Batman villains were scientists first and foremost, and Hugo’s no exception. A scientist and a criminal mastermind all in one, he doesn’t have much of a backstory, but he’s smart enough to go against the Caped Crusader, who even dubbed him as the most dangerous man in the world at one point. Yikes.

Best Batman villains: Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze in Batman & Robin

15. Mr Freeze

While Mr Freeze gets a bad rap thanks to his appearance in one of the worst movies in DC history, Batman & Robin, he’s an amazing character with a tragic backstory. In fact, we’d argue that out of all of the best DC villains, he’s the most enduring and the one we feel for the most.

The alter ego of cryogenics expert Dr Victor Fries is the ultimate wife guy whose actions come from a place of misguided love rather than evil. Desperate to find a cure for his wife, Nora, his physiology changes after a lab accident, and he turns to crime to find a solution to save her. While we don’t condone breaking laws, we do want Mr Freeze to save his one true love in the end. So let’s give Mr Freeze the love he deserves.

Best Batman villains: Colin Farrell as The Penguin in The Batman

14. The Penguin

Oswald Cobblepot is a steady fixture when it comes to Batman foes and is an S-tier criminal. But what makes him stand out isn’t his strange bird-like profile or odd physique, it’s how realistic he is as a crime boss compared to some of Batman’s more outlandish and dramatic foes.

The Penguin is manipulative, a con man, violent, and selfish. And no matter how many times Batman beats him down, he comes back crueler and more devious than before. He will try to talk his way out of everything, kill you in the blink of an eye, and have spurts of rage if you look at him the wrong way.

It’s no wonder there’s now a The Penguin show in the works, with Colin Farrell starring. The Penguin is the villain we all love to hate and can’t get enough of.

Poison Ivy in DC comics

13. Poison Ivy

And you thought The Hulk was the meanest and greenest around… wrong. Poison Ivy is a bit of an anomaly among Batman’s villains in that her motives are more abstract from personal stakes or vendettas against the Bat Fam. Ivy is an eco-terrorist and will remove any obstacle in her way to further ‘the Green’. At her best when she’s hostile with just one Achilles heel (Harley Quinn), Ivy is one of Batman’s subtler foes.

Throughout decades of storytelling in animated formats and on-page, Ivy has been occasionally open to compromise, and while it’s rare, she does open herself up to a limited number of allies.

Ivy’s aptitude for solitude and her total disinterest in the broody goings on in Gotham makes her stand out, and she’s easy to underestimate; her control over plant life may not sound scary on paper, but she can wreak havoc if she chooses to.

Kaley Cuoco as Harley Quinn in season 4 of the animated series

12. Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn has, thankfully, gone through a lot of evolution over the years. These days, she’s more of a chaotic neutral force in comics, new movies, and the Harley Quinn animated series on Max (which we love). But at the end of the day, she’ll always be unhinged and unafraid of bloodshed — particularly if Ivy needs some corporate weeds whacked.

First brought to life by the late Arleen Sorkin who inspired her characterization in a myriad of ways, Harley went from compelling Joker decoration to one of the most successful DC properties of all time.

Whether you prefer her as an outright bad guy or are more attuned to the more nuanced depictions in the likes of Stjepan Šejić’s Harleen, there’s no denying her impact across mediums.

Best Batman villains: Carmine Falcone in Batman Begins

11. Carmine Falcone

Carmine Falcone. He’s one of the most powerful mob bosses in Gotham City and has most of the GCPD on his payroll. In the comics, he’s Bruce’s first target in Batman: Year One because of his grip over the city and its criminals. He’s the logical place to start for any costumed vigilante.

Falcone doesn’t need an absurd costume or a deranged agenda; he just wants to bleed Gotham dry for all it’s worth — which easily earns him a spot on this list. Tom Wilkinson does a great job of showing Falcone’s power in one of the first DC movies in order, Batman Begins, before another member of this list usurps him, but we’ll get to that later.

Best Batman villains: Two Face in The Dark Knight

10. Harvey Dent/Two-Face

Harvey Dent is another famous member of Batsy’s rogues gallery, and he’s largely important because he’s proof that the city’s darkness can corrupt even Gotham’s finest. Aaron Eckhart plays him in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (aka: one of the best movies of all time), and he perfectly captures Harvey’s good side for most of the film.

He starts as a symbol that Batman could be irrelevant if the right officials are dedicated to crime fighting. But when he gets caught up in Joker’s schemes, he winds up becoming yet another agent of chaos. Two-Face is pretty terrifying, not just because he’s unhinged after Rachel Dawes’ death, but because he’ll happily kill anyone if his lucky coin dictates it.

Best Batman villains: Scarecrow in Batman Begins

9. Scarecrow

Oh, Jonathan Crane. You wonderfully insane doctor, you. Scarecrow is a psychiatrist obsessed with the effects of fear and what it does to the human brain — it’s a fascinating concept for a villain who sticks a burlap sack on his head.

Considering Batman’s whole thing is utilizing the instinctual fear of creatures of the night, there’s a lot to unpack with Crane’s same tactics being used for evil.

The enigmatic Cillian Murphy plays him in Batman Begins, and he shows how fear can pull a city to its knees. His fear toxin turns his victims into quivering cowards as they see a warped version of reality — and Scarecrow’s maggoty mask is a big part of that. Gross.

Best Batman villains: Red Hood in Batman: Under the Red Hood

8. Red Hood

Jason Todd, my poor, misunderstood boy. For anyone not familiar with Red Hood, he’s a former Robin who died at the hands of the Joker only to come back to life after a dip in the Lazarus Pit. After Ra’s Al Ghul (we’ll get to him) heals him, he makes a beeline for Gotham to take revenge on both the Joker and Batman himself for not avenging his death.

He dons the identity of the Red Hood and quickly wrestles the criminal underworld under his control with lethal force. One of the best DC animated movies, Batman: Under the Red Hood, does a perfect job of exploring how damaged Jason is after his ordeal, and it’s absolutely worth your time just for Jensen Ackles’ performance.

Best Batman villains: Liam Neeson as Ra's Al Ghul

7. Ra’s Al Ghul

See, we got to him. Ra’s Al Ghul is a beguiling force in the DC Universe, as he’s the leader of the League of Shadows — he’s also immortal thanks to the resurrection powers of the Lazarus Pit. In Nolan’s films, he’s masterfully played by Liam Neeson, who decides that Gotham has grown too corrupt and needs to be razed to the ground.

Ra’s and Bruce’s conflict works a treat because they have similar thoughts about Gotham; it’s just that our bat-eared hero has more hope that good people can turn the city around. It’s a shame the series didn’t lean into the actual Lazarus Pit to properly bring Ra’s back, but he works well as a figment of Bruce’s tortured subconscious in The Dark Knight Rises.

Best Batman villains: Catwoman in Batman Returns

6. Catwoman

As soon as Michelle Pfeiffer stepped into her iconic leather suit to play Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, she was destined to be immortalized in pop culture. Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle relishes in her seductive nature, knowing that she has everyone eating out of her claws.

She has an incredible dynamic with Michael Keaton’s Batman since they both understand the need to wear masks after going through trauma.

Sure, Anne Hathaway’s goggles flipping up into cat ears is pretty cool in The Dark Knight Rises, but Pfeiffer set the bar incredibly high back in 1992. However, Zoë Kravitz’s version in The Batman has plenty of potential. You can also read why we think Michelle Pfeiffer is still the best Catwoman.

Best Batman villains: Bane in The Dark Knight Rises

5. Bane

Of course Bane was going to be on this list; he’s the man who broke the bat! Bane was already a beloved character in the comics and TV shows, but Tom Hardy’s transformative performance as the ruthless terrorist quickly became iconic — pushing Bane to be known as one of the best movie villains around.

His masked voice has been imitated the world over, but he’s not messing around with his plan to wipe Gotham off the map. The Dark Knight Rises uses the No Man’s Land storyline to pay off the League of Shadows’ plan to burn the city to the ground, with Bane leading the charge.

He’s proof that sometimes an enemy simply can’t be beaten with fancy gadgets. Bruce has to sacrifice himself (sort of) to stop Gotham from being destroyed in a nuclear blast.

Best Batman villains: Paul Dano as The Riddler in The Batman

4. The Riddler

Alright then! We’ve got some bad news for fans of green lycra. While we love Jim Carrey’s manic take on Edward Nygma, it doesn’t really hold a candle to Matt Reeves and Paul Dano’s newer take on the puzzle-obsessed menace.

Channeling serial killers like the Zodiac, Dano’s version of the Riddler is bone-chillingly unhinged. He may be more of a radicalized incel forum reader than a physical threat to the Dark Knight, but this new version of Batman’s smartest nemesis is a recognizable real-world villain.

Best Batman villains: Phantasm in Batman: Mask of Phantasm

3. The Phantasm

If you’re not familiar with the Phantasm, we highly recommend you stop reading, go watch the animated movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, then come back.

The spooky-looking villain is actually wealthy socialite Andrea Beaumont, Bruce Wayne’s ex-fiance. She breaks off their engagement when a gangster murders her father, but she returns to the city as the Phantasm to wage war against the underworld because they robbed her of a happy life with Bruce. It’s such a fascinating dynamic to explore between Batman and one of his villains that it needs to be seen to be believed.

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2. The Joker

Okay, we finally got here. He was always going to rank high on this list because he’s Batman’s eternal nemesis. Inspired by Conrad Veidt’s Gwynsplaine in the 1928 movie The Man Who Laughs, there’s something about the deranged clown that has struck a chord with audiences around the world.

The wonderfully deranged thing about this villain is that he’s entirely open to interpretation. There’s Jack Nicholson’s clean-cut mafioso in Burton’s Batman, Heath Ledger’s disturbed loose cannon, Jared Leto’s bling-clad gangster, and Joaquin Phoenix’s misunderstood comedian. No matter who you think the best Joker actor is, there’s something for everyone.

Best Batman villains: Joe Chill

1. Joe Chill

Sorry, let’s face it, Joe Chill is the ultimate Batman villain. Without the desperate criminal, there wouldn’t be a caped crusader at all. Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murder has been depicted in film, TV, and animation so many times that we’re all just waiting for another slow-motion shot of Martha’s pearls falling to the floor in Reeves’ The Batman.

In all seriousness, Joe Chill is the personification of everything wrong with Gotham City. In Nolan’s Batman Begins, Richard Brake’s version of the mugger is a destitute man pushed to the point of desperation when he kills Bruce’s parents. No matter how much future filmmakers, writers, and artists remix Bats’ story, there always has to be a Joe Chill.

Dive into everything we know about James Gunn’s new DCU with Chapter 1: Gods and Monsters, including Superman: Legacy and The Brave and the Bold.

Or spend some more time in DC’s cities with our guides on how to watch all the Batman movies in order and the Superman movies in order. We also have a list ranking the best Batman actors of all time and have The Brave and the Bold release date to look forward to.