The 16 best DC villains of all time, ranked

Forget the boy scouts, we want the baddies. Here are our picks for the best DC villains of all time, from Harley Quinn to Black Manta.

The best DC characters: Darkseid in Zack Snyder's Justice League and Harley Quinn

Sure, we all like a good superhero, but there’s something we love about baddies. From their questionable motivations and maniacal methods to the destruction and chaos they cause, the best DC villains are simply a joy. Heroes wouldn’t be heroic if they didn’t have someone properly awful to aim their righteous speeches at.

If the DCU wants to make some of the best superhero movies (and oh boy, do they need to), you need a big bad. Fortunately, we’ve watched the DC movies in order again and read some of our favorite comics, and it turns out there are plenty of unpleasant folk to choose from. These are the most vile and dastardly foes around, from some of the best Batman villains to the most underrated DC characters you might not have heard of before. Evil comes in many forms!

King Shark is one of the best DC villains

16. King Shark

King Shark has one element that unites many of the most intriguing DC villains: versatility. The prospect of a bloody massive sea creature with enormous jaws is sometimes hugely scary and intimidating. But there’s also considerable potential to make the character very funny indeed.

The latter has been more popular recently, with Sylvester Stallone stealing the show as a comedic – but still very violent – spin on King Shark in The Suicide Squad. Comedy legend Ron Funches has also voiced a hilarious version of King Shark in the Harley Quinn animated show, and we just love him.

But in his more badass form, King Shark has had some titanic battles with the likes of Superman and (of course given his watery origins) Aquaman. When it comes to Supes, King Shark’s bite is so strong he can even pierce Kryptonian skin. Yikes!

Best DC villains - Heath Ledger as The Joker

15. The Joker

Whether he’s played by Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, or Heath Ledger, there’s something irresistible about the Clown Prince of Crime. He has certainly been overused since Batman made the jump to the big screen, but that doesn’t stop us being fascinated by the Joker actors and their unpredictability. And that laugh!

The Joker represents chaos in all of its forms. He’s clever enough to come up with as many dastardly schemes as you want, but he also seems to take pleasure in allowing the inherent randomness of humanity to play into those plans as well. If anything, that just makes him even more dangerous.

It’s this sense of anarchy that has made Joker so tempting for those making Batman movies. He’s not just an every day arch nemesis; he’s a blank canvas of giggling insanity onto which individual storytellers can paint whatever they like.

Best DC villains - Court of Owls

14. The Court of Owls

Alright, so these guys are an organization rather than a singular villain, but this mysterious group living under Gotham’s rain-soaked pavements is well worth mentioning.

A secret society who have used architecture and assassinations to influence the city over centuries, they’re but a whisper on Gotham’s steely winds. With exceptional assassins known as Talons and members of the court mutated, this evil presence may be one of DC’s newer fictional creations, but The Court of Owls became a new classic in Batman lore.

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13. Poison Ivy

Eco-terrorist. Plant lady. Definitely moody on hungover Sunday mornings. Pamela Isley was a botany student who was changed forever when a poison that should have killed her changed her anatomy.

Poison Ivy has been around for decades, and her sultry, apathetic attitude toward humanity has made her a challenging foe for Batman or anyone else who dares draw her out from the green.

Aside from the creative look of the character and her far-reaching powers, Ivy’s lack of predictability is what has kept her on the chess board for all these years.

Cheetah and Wonder Woman

12. Cheetah

Wonder Woman isn’t known for her rouges gallery, but Cheetah is underrated. She didn’t have the best go of it in Wonder Woman 1984, but she still had intriguing motivations. That’s largely due to the genuinely upsetting backstory and relatable insecurity of the character.

There have been multiple versions of the Cheetah, but Barbara Ann Minerva is the most synonymous with her. Once a brilliant and bold archaeologist with a bright future, she fell into a raw deal with an ancient god, becoming his servant.

Her first task was to obtain Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth. Diana and Barbara have been sparring ever since. But Diana, the paragon of justice she is, has empathy for her, and the pair’s relationship is not simple.

Viola Davis as Amanda Waller

11. Amanda Waller

There are plenty of comic book characters who don’t have great live-action versions… Amanda Waller is not one of them. She’s not one to stay in bed; she’ll fill you with dread and will plant a bomb in your head! Really, though, that rhyme? She would explode us for that.

Waller, as she’s often called, is ruthless. The big boss behind The Suicide Squad, she’s truly not one to cross, and while she’s not void of emotion, you won’t win mercy from her with sentimental arguments or begging.

Viola Davis portrays her, and it’s looking like a Waller release date is on the way — her very own TV series. For more on this baddie, you can read our The Suicide Squad review!

The best DC villains: Granny Goodness

10. Granny Goodness

Yes, we know the name sounds hilarious, but Granny Goodness is actually a fearsome foe for anyone who crosses Darkseid and his Apokolips army. She is almost as maniacal and malevolent as her brutish leader and is responsible for developing new soldiers for the Uxas cause in her Orphanage and within the Female Furies team.

Granny Goodness was spotted in the background of Snyder’s Justice League, and if we ever got a sequel to it, maybe she would have a bigger role to play. For now, you’ll have to get your Granny Goodness fix in animated movies, TV shows, and comic books.

Best Batman villains: Catwoman

9. Catwoman

Okay, we’ll be the first to admit that there have been some ups and downs when it comes to the depiction of this sassy, feline-inclined villain. But for the most part, Catwoman has always delivered a uniquely seductive and menacing nuisance for Batman to deal with.

Their strangely heated love-hate relationship has had us on the edge of our seats ever since we first laid eyes on this beautiful and clever menace.

Everyone has their favorite Catwoman, but our first-place prize simply has to go to Eartha Kitt. Casting one of the most uniquely voiced and charismatic singers in American history to play this teasing villain was a genius movie, and she set the precedent for how we always want our Catwoman to be.

The best DC villains: Reverse Flash

8. Reverse Flash

Creating a villain that is basically the dark version of a hero can sometimes come off as lazy and cliché, but Reverse Flash totally works as the ultimate enemy to the Scarlet Speedster. Eobard Thawne, obsessed with Barry Allen and his alter ego of the Flash, recreates the accident that led to Barry’s superpowers and decides to use his own abilities for evil.

Twisted by rage and ego, Thawne loses his mind and makes it his mission to become the greatest arch-nemesis the Flash could ever face. We’ve seen Reverse Flash in the Arrowverse plenty, and hopefully, if The Flash 2 release date ever gets announced, he’ll pop up on the big screen too.

Best Batman villains: The Riddler

7. The Riddler

I’m sorry, but with all the “Joker-this, Joker-that” floating around since the dawn of time, we wanted to pay tribute to one of the greatest Batman villains who doesn’t carry around a pack of playing cards. On paper, the Riddler is one of the most memorable and opulent Gotham foes around, and the live-action performances have only emphasized this quality.

I mean, just take the Jim Carrey version, for example. The man runs around in a neon green unitard screaming riddles at people. What’s not to love? Even darker iterations of this strange being still hit the mark, with Paul Dano’s Zodiac-esque take on the character proving that the Riddler can, in fact, be a little scary, too.

The best DC villains: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta in Aquaman

6. Black Manta

Who would have thought that bringing Aquaman into live-action would work, never mind the fact that the underwater adventure movie also produced one of the DCU’s most effective villains?

Black Manta not only looks incredibly cool, but he’s a badass fighting machine with a brilliant backstory, too. As a child, he was kidnapped and mistreated by pirates, and he eventually ended up in Arkham, where he was subject to some pretty dodgy experiments. By the time he reaches his superhero era, he’s a merciless mercenary.

We can’t wait to see more of him when the Aquaman 2 release date comes around.

The best DC villains: Sinestro

5. Sinestro

Okay, the Green Lantern movie was pretty bad, and we’ve not been given much to work with when it comes to that avenue of the DC universe since, but Sinestro is a character who desperately deserves to be brought to life in live-action.

His story of corruption, going from the most powerful member of the Green Lantern Corps to their ultimate enemy, is an intriguing journey and one that we really hope will come to the big (or small) screen soon.

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4. Harley Quinn

Yes, we know there’s a certain Batman villain out there who we all expect to be on this list, but talking about the various Joker actors is a bit boring at this point. We much prefer discussing the merits of Harley Quinn, be it the Margot Robbie iteration or the newer version from Harley’s animated series on Max (which we love).

Harley is the perfect foil for Joker’s cynicism and cruelty, offering a little bit of humor and playfulness to proceedings. She is far more than just Joker’s sidekick, though, and excels when she breaks free of the Clown Prince of Crime to stand on her own two feet.

As proof of the pudding on that front, we think Birds of Prey is among the best movies DC has produced to date. Harley got the chance to shine alongside some more super-powered women and they finally cracked the tone in which Robbie’s version of the character could shine.

The best DC villains: Lex Luthor in the Superman animated series

3. Lex Luthor

You can’t have a good Superman movie without introducing Lex Luthor at some point. Gene Hackman did a great job at portraying the character in the 1970s, but the best version of the bald billionaire comes in the DC animated movies and TV series.

The thing that makes Lex more interesting than he at first seems is his narcissism. He hates Superman because he’s jealous of him, wants to be him, wants to… well, we won’t go that far. And his wealth allows him to take a stab at all of that and more. It’s like if Elon Musk decided he wanted to shoot lasers out of his eyes.

The best DC villains: Deathstroke in Teen Titans Go

2. Deathstroke

There are two ways to look at the character of Deathstroke; you can either appreciate the ruthless assassin for his deadly talents as most people do, or you can enjoy the fact he is a fourth-wall-breaking, hilarious cartoon character in the animated series Teen Titans Go!

Whether you’re a fan of one of DC’s best animated series or not, you have to love him. Either way, Slade Wilson is a winner.

The best DC villains: Darkseid in Zack Snyder's Justice League

1. Darkseid

This guy is the biggest of big bads in the DC universe, and he’s one hell of a scary fellow. We were promised so much for the arrival of Darkseid in live-action, and when Joss Whedon made a terrible Justice League movie, we feared we might never get to see that potential fulfilled.

Thankfully, Zack Snyder ended up releasing his cut, and the warlord shined. A Justice League 2 release date will never see the light of day, but we’re happy for the time we shared with Uxas all the same. His imposing physicality, the solid VFX, and his lack of humanity made the threat of him so real.

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That’s all the best DC villains for now, but if you want more superhero bad guys, dive into new movies coming from the DC universe, like the Joker 2 release date and The Batman 2 release date.

We’ve also got a guide explaining the upcoming DC movies that’ll be part of Chapter 1 Gods and Monsters, starting with Superman Legacy. Finally, be sure to read our article explaining how to watch all the Batman movies in order and learn how vampires got George Clooney his Batman role.