Worst to First: Ranking the Batman Movie Villains

Batman Movie Villains

In the superhero genre, the Batman franchise stands out as one of the longest and most successful.  With seven movies since 1989 (not counting old movie serials, animated films or the sixties TV-show tie-in), the series has featured an array of colorful bad guys to challenge the Dark Knight.  In fact a common criticism of the series is that many of the movies belong to the villains while the hero disappears into the background of his own movie.  With the coming onslaught of movies set in the new DC cinematic universe, the floodgates have been opened on Batman villains.  Suicide Squad alone will feature several Arkham inmates.  Before that happens, let’s rank the Batman movie villains we have so far.

batman and robin Bane

15. Bane (Batman and Robin)

Portrayed By: Jeep Swenson

Summary: In the comic books, Bane is Batman’s equal in most respects.  He has a genius level IQ and his physical strength is enhanced by a drug called Venom.  Later on, a more faithful adaptation of Bane would appear in The Dark Knight Rises.  But for his first appearance in film, Bane was reduced to a mute henchman for Poison Ivy with perhaps the most obvious weakness in the entire genre.  Unplug his tubes and he immediately reverts to a scrawny weakling.

What’s Good: It was kind of cool to see Bane in a movie. Jeep Swenson had the physique for the part and the costume was reasonably faithful to the source material.  The luchador mask is preferable to whatever that was Tom Hardy had on his face.

What’s Bad: Everything else.  The only reason this character existed was to add another toy to the Batman and Robin toyline.  A mute Bane isn’t Bane at all.  They might as well have just given Poison Ivy a plant monster to order around.

Verdict: This Bane barely even counts as a Batman villain.  He’s a glorified henchman.



Posted on September 24, 2015, in Movies, sequels, Super Heroes, Worst to First and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 60 Comments.

  1. To me, perhaps the worst disappointment about Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face was that it was being played by Tommy Lee Jones. When Burton’s first Batman movie came out in 1989, I remember being so excited that they had slipped Harvey Dent into the movie. This created a sense of anticipation – like they were maybe building up the character for his future turn into Two-Face. And they even got Billy Dee Williams to play him! I was really looking forward to Billy Dee, but instead we got Tommy Lee. Kinda makes you wonder if somebody in casting just made a typo.


    • lol

      Billy Dee was pretty upset about that too. There’s an Internet Urban Legend that Williams got paid for NOT appearing in Batman 3, but he says that’s not true. The person who DID get paid not to appear in Batman 3 was…

      No, I’ll save that for another article. 😉

      I didn’t necessarily mind the casting change for Harvey Dent. I think Jones could have made a great Two Face if he had played it straight. The biggest problems with Batman Forever weren’t related to casting for the most part.


      • Billy Dee’s run as Harvey Dent in the Burton films – and the intention to turn him into Two-Face in a later Batman film – was one of the earlier examples of superhero universe building. Nowadays superhero movies are doing this all the time but back in ’89 that was still unusual. Not necessarily unprecedented, the first Superman movie set up General Zod and his gang as the main rivals for Superman II, but still an early example. I was somewhat disappointed that Billy Dee never got his shot at evolving into Two-Face but I got over it pretty easily when I realized Batman Forever is not a continuation at all but a reboot. Still, a lost opportunity.


        • Actually Billy Dee’s missed opportunity to play Two-Face reminds me: pretty much the same thing happened in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman series. As a huge Spiderman fan one of the things I really liked was that Raimi was setting up future villians in the background as the film series progressed, for example Dylan Baker in his supporting role as Dr. Curt Conner who turns into The Lizard in the comics. Such character building for future villians was also seen in the early Spidey comics that I grew up on, so I was tickled by that attention to detail. Dr. Conner shows up in all three Raimi Spidey movies as a continuing supporting character, and I was rubbing my hands in anticipation waiting for The Lizard to rise, but then… the Raimi-era series ended before Dylan Baker could get the opportunity to transform into The Lizard. I was much more bummed out by that than Billy Dee not playing Two-Face, to be honest. So what you’re left with when you watch those movies is this character in the background who will rise up as a major Spidey villian, except he doesn’t.


        • The funny part is, Raimi was looking to cast the Vulture if he made a Spider-man 4. There was talk that the Lizard may have been used too, but it’s entirely possible that Raimi was never going to get around to using him no matter how many Spider-man movies he made.


        • Of course as teased villains that we never really got to see, Dylan Baker as The Lizard is an even more disappointing loss. Raimi spent all that time establishing Dr Connors as a character in the Spider universe only to never get to use the excellent Baker in a primary role. Then right out of the gate the rebooted “Amazing” Spider-Man series gives us a truly awful version of The Lizard. Blecch!


        • I think Batman Forever is intended as a continuation of the Burton movies. Michael Gough and Pat Hingle are still present. Burton was given an exec producer credit. There are obviously casting changes and a shift in tone. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a reboot. WB saw it as a course correction.

          In 1989, I wasn’t a Batman fan at all. I knew the bad guys from the TV show. Since Two Face had never appeared on the 60’s show, I had no idea who Billy Dee Williams’ character was supposed to be or that they were setting anything up for him. As such, I missed him about as much as I did Robert Wuhl which is to say not at all. After Batman Returns, which I liked despite its obvious flaws, I got into Batman the Animated Series. That’s where I learned about villains like Two Face, Poison Ivy, Clayface and Ra’s al Ghul. By the time Batman Forever came out, I had forgotten that Billy Dee Williams played Harvey Dent in the first movie, so I really didn’t experience the disappointment Batman fans did.


        • “Batman Forever” is what I would consider to be a “soft-reboot”. Think of the Roger Moore Bond movies, which would on occasion, mention the character’s doomed marriage in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” with George Lazenby (i.e. the pre-credit title sequence from “For Your Eyes Only”) and had supporting actors held over from the Sean Connery era (i.e. M, Q, and Moneypenny).


  2. Won’t somebody finally come out and say ledger was overrated. I wonder how Leto will stack up


    • I think it depends on what you mean by over-rated. I thought Ledger’s performance was filled with brave choices. It was a big departure from any previous interpretation of a character who had been around for a long time. Plus, he had to know he was going to be compared to Nicholson. At the time, those seemed like some mighty big shoes to fill. It’s not for nothing that fans were disappointed when Ledger was cast in the role. But he ended up stealing the movie with relatively little time on screen.

      There was a lot of hoopla that followed. And I get really tired of seeing his picture on FB. There are people who mistakenly believe the character is in some way heroic. All of that, yeah, that was over the top. But take that away and I still feel Ledger’s performance was great. And let’s face facts, there’s a lot of terrible performances on this list. So it’s not like he’s facing stuff competition.


    • I thought he was great but I think Dark Knight was overrated. It is my least favorite of the Nolan Batman movies. How much of a threat the protagonist faces goes a long way with me and there was virtually no threat to Batman himself, and a relatively minor threat to the city compared to the other movies. That’s not to say it was bad, just not as amazing as everyone else seems to think.


  3. We’re ignoring Mask of the Phantasm then.

    The serialized nature of comic books allows for very gradual character development and since you don’t have to pay an actor each time the character shows up you can pretty much use them whenever it suits you.

    For whatever reason, filmmakers have decided that they can tell the stories of multiple characters in single movies and have ended up short changing both many characters and audiences. Both iterations of Two Face are examples of this. The Batman Forever version just didn’t need to be Two Face at all. As you mentioned, the character’s death at the end of The Dark Knight was an enormous waste of a well-conceived origin story. Dude was Two Face for about a minute.


    • No Mask of the Phantasm. Too much of an apples and oranges situation. In fact I considered breaking out the Burton/Schumacher era vs the Nolan era.

      Eckhart’s death was given so little thought that the actor had to confirm repeatedly that he was actually dead and not returning for the sequel. The movie wasn’t even clear that he had died!

      Having said that, I do think the Nolan films do a pretty decent job with the multi-villain approach. Scarecrow got the right amount of screentime. The Joker didn’t get short-changed. If Nolan had been willing to do more movies with Two Face, that could have worked out. To me, the biggest problem with the Nolan movies is that he wanted to do Batman’s whole career in a trilogy. That could have been a trilogy of trilogies instead of cramming everything into three movies.


    • I think one thing that the Christopher Nolan Batman movies may have improved upon from the Tim Burton-Joel Schumacher movies is that handling of multiple villains. I think that in superhero movies, it’s possible to have multiple villains in a single movie, but they don’t necessarily have to all be “A-tier”.

      The earlier Batman movies obviously got into the habit of showcasing their villains based on their perceived prominence. Since Joker is obviously, Batman’s number one enemy, he had to naturally be showcased in the first movie. And Penguin and Catwoman are perceived to be the #2 and #3 villains (and being it’s a sequel, he have to do whatever it takes to “top the original”), so they had to be in the first sequel.

      “Spider-Man 3” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” made the same mistake. In contrast, take a look at “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. Michael Keaton’s Vulture is the clear-cut #1 villain in the movie. And while there are other villains from the comics, they obviously have their specific roles as Vulture’s henchmen.


  4. The thing that strikes me as I read through this is that we have a similar situation to the Star Trek movie rankings–there just haven’t been that many Bat-villains in the films who were all that good. The two Jokers, of course, have to top the list, both excellent in their own way. But after that..

    I really liked Hathaway’s Catwoman; I haven’t seen Pfeiffer’s in quite a while but my memory of it is consistent with your evaluation. The thing is–and I admit that I’m not a comic reader so I’m going mostly on movie portrayals and second-hand info–Catwoman seems to me to be much more an anti-villain than a genuine villain. That’s certainly the case with Hathaway’s version.

    The other Nolan-verse villains seem to be more satisfactory than memorable. DeVito’s Penguin I don’t remember terribly well (again, haven’t seen it in a while). As for the Schumacher villains, probably the less said the better. Of that quintet, I probably can tolerate Tommy Lee’s Two-Face more than any of the others, largely because 1) Jim Carey’s style almost always rubs me the wrong way, and 2) it would take a terrific Riddler to make me forget Frank Gorshin from the 1960s TV series and spinoff movie.

    Great article.


    • Glad you liked it. I’ve been enjoying the W2F articles. I really like looking at the reader rankings as they come in. The ability to add that feature is what really pushed this to a full fledged series idea for me.

      It’s funny to me that the bad guys have traditionally been the selling point on Batman movies and yet we all agree that most of them weren’t very good. The two Jokers stand out in very different ways. I think most of the Burton/Schumacher villains tried to duplicate what worked for Nicholson so you ended up with a bunch of famous actors cackling in colorful costumes. Catwoman was different in that she also served as a love interest and Penguin was different, but not necessarily in a good way.

      The Nolan movies focus more on Batman and less on the villains. They are there to set up conflicts and themes. Aside from Ledger’s performance, they more or less get the job done, but they don’t necessarily shine.


      • My impression is that for the Schumacher films, what they did is look at Nicholson’s Joker and decided that all they needed was hammy villains (with, as you note, colorful costumes). What they missed is that Nicholson, being who he is, automatically delivers a degree of menace in his performance, no matter how much he hams it up. That’s entirely missing from the Schumacher villains.

        That little veneer of real danger and menace is also, I think, why I remember Frank Gorshin’s Riddler pretty favorably.


  5. I really liked Nolan’s Bane. The movie wasn’t very good but I ended up seeing it twice. Just because I enjoyed Bane so much and there weren’t any clips of his scens on youtube at the time. He’s like a Bond villain on literal steroids. The opening of Dark Knight Rises intentionally plays like a Bond movie I think. And I dug the sarcasm. There’s something satisfying about a muscly dude who doesn’t take any sh*t from the suites trying to boss him around. He was a bit too chatty maybe but nobody’s perfect.

    The movie dragged and felt rushed at the same time – it was a bit like a two part miniseries edited into one long movie. I got a fever and the only prescription is more matthew modine?

    But I think Bane started a trend of superhero villains having big, unusual voices. Like the voice is a really important part of it now. Ben Kingsley’s M̶a̶n̶d̶a̶r̶i̶n̶ comes to mind. Ultron. Dr Doom from the new Fantastic Four (which is terrible) had an awesome villain voice – bonus points for sounding vaguely eastern European.


  6. I find it funny – and very hypocritical – that upon meeting Jim Carrey the day before filming together, Tommy Lee Jones told Carrey in a very straightforward way “I hate you. I really don’t like you. I cannot sanction your buffoonery.”

    Jim Carrey confirms that Jones said this to him, and he was not joking around he was quite serious. Things didn’t seem to get any better during filming either. I find this hypocritical because Jones insults Carrey for his “buffoonery”, but…. what does he call what he was doing with the role of Two-Face in Batman Forever?? I CALL BUFFOONERY!! If I was Jim Carrey and had the sense to think of it at some point during filming together I would have turned to Jones as he was hamming it up as Two-Face and told him ‘I cannot sanction your buffoonery either.’ I respect Jones as an actor but that was incredibly rude and uncalled for from him to treat Carrey way.


    • Jones’ behavior was completely unprofessional. Jones has given some great performances, but the way he treated Carrey was uncalled for no matter what he thought. His bad behavior was rooted in fear. Jones knew he was in over his head. He knew Carrey was going to chew all the scenery in sight and that right after winning his Oscar, someone was about to steal a movie from him. So he tried to intimidate a relatively inexperienced actor who also happened to be a rising movie star. You can bet Carrey would shut someone down if they tried this with him today. But at the time, Carrey was still establishing his movie credentials whereas Jones had an Oscar on his shelf. In the end, Carrey had the last laugh. I imagine if Jones could go back and do it differently, he’d probably approach it more like Men in Black where he played the straight man.


    • 25 WTF Moments From Batman Forever:

      Two-Face Is Now White

      Though it was perhaps naive to expect total consistency between the Tim Burton and Schumacher movies, it was undeniably disappointing that Billy Dee Williams wasn’t retained to play Two-Face, considering that his Harvey Dent was very clearly established in 1989’s Batman.

      The original plan for Batman Returns was to have Dent appear and get transformed into Two-Face, setting up a third movie where he would be the main villain, but of course, this didn’t happen, and when Burton bailed from Batman Forever, Schumacher instead opted to cast Tommy Lee Jones as Dent.

      Perhaps the glaring change of actor and race might not have been quite so jarring had Jones not dialed up the camp to near-unimaginable levels and managed to make a mugging Jim Carrey seem positively tame by comparison.

      Harvey Dent’s Transformation Is Captured With Cinematic Camera Angles

      Bruce manages to catch footage on “GNN” of the incident when Boss Maroni threw acid in Harvey Dent’s face at a court hearing, transforming him into Two-Face. That’s all well and good, but did Joel Schumacher really need to insult the audience so much by showing clips that were clearly too cinematic to have ever been recorded by court photography?

      It may be a minor nitpick in the grand scheme of things, but overall it’s just showing a blatant lack of respect for the viewer’s intelligence. Perhaps the scene was originally supposed to be in the movie proper, but either way, it’s extremely lazy and cynical to just assume that audiences would swallow this down.

      Riddler & Two-Face Break Into Wayne Manner With Trick Or Treat Masks

      After Alfred indulges a number of young trick or treaters who have the balls to visit Wayne Manor without parental supervision, The Riddler and Two-Face take advantage of the open gate to sneak onto the grounds and knock on the front door, wearing Halloween masks (which they presumably stole from those kids) to further disguise themselves.

      Alfred stares through the peephole and, rather idiotically, believes the two super-villains to be small children, opening the door only to be smacked on the head, granting the pair access to Wayne Manor in the process in order to cause all manner of mayhem.

      Riddler & Two-Face Play Real-Life Battleship

      Batman and Robin head to Nygmatech in order to stop The Riddler and Two-Face, venturing there by air and sea respectively, at which point the two villains decide to play a little game of real-life Battleship in order to stop Robin making it to land. They eventually manage to hit Robin’s ship, but of course, he bails out unscathed.
      It’s pure, ridiculous, exhausting camp, and just doesn’t work logistically. Rather than split up the tasks of taking on Batman and Robin, they both waste several minutes trying to kill the Boy Wonder while Batman’s air superiority made it easy for him to get close (though he was eventually shot down as well).

      Batman Kills Two-Face… With Coins

      People love to complain nowadays about Bane’s abrupt death in The Dark Knight Rises, but he’s got nothing on the hilariously terrible demise of Two-Face in Batman Forever. Two-Face flips his trusty coin to decide whether or not to kill Bats, Robin and Chase, but as he does so, Batman throws a bunch of other coins at him, causing Two-Face to get confused, lose track of his true coin, and fall to his death as he fumbles around and loses balance.

      It’s easily the dumbest death of a major villain in any Batman movie, and more to the point, has Batman unashamedly causing someone’s death despite the well-known no-kill policy the character has. Batman may not have shot him in head or thrown him off a cliff, but he damn sure brought about the circumstances which caused Two-Face’s death.

      With respect though, this is also a basic aspect of the character that even Christopher Nolan’s movies have failed to respect, with him causing the deaths of both Ra’s al Ghul and Two-Face in the Dark Knight trilogy.


    • Ranking Every Batman Movie From Worst To Best

      Batman Forever

      While certainly a step up from the crazy-eyed, pun-spouting avalanche that was Arnie’s Mr. Freeze, the pair of villains assembled for Batman Forever ate all of the ham in the country before filming began, only to regurgitate it all over the screen when the director called “Action!” This proved, once again, that the villains would have a huge effect on the perception of Batman.

      Jim Carrey is an ideal Riddler for the Adam West era of Batman, because Carrey is the walking epitome of over-the-top camp. His portrayal of The Riddler really doesn’t offer much that he hadn’t already displayed (more suitably) in The Mask. He offers zero menace, instead reveling in his role as the pesky thorn in Batman’s paw.

      Which should open the door wide for Tommy Lee Jones to come in as the strong arm of the villainous duo. Instead, he chooses to play only one side of Two-Face. (Not entirely sure whether it’s the left or right side, only that it’s by far the shrillest side.) This might be the most exaggerated performance of Jones’ career, and it came at a time when Batman needed someone just a bit more subdued.

      There should have been a counterweight to Carrey’s whacky shtick, but instead Jones added another level of zaniness to a movie already overstuffed with it.


  7. Jones is known for his difficult behavior, Watching his interviews is cringe worthy hes so rude to interviewers. People say harrison ford is grumpy actually ford is nice hes jsut shy jones always has a chip on his shoulder. Jones said to carrey iam a classical trained actor you just comdien despite jones not having any training outside of few plays on Broadway. Never took class. Hes mean to his fan who ask for autographs every person i met who approached dosent have nice thing to say.


  8. Batman: 10 Worst Casting Decisions:

    Uma Thurman as Dr. Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin

    Uma Thurman has portrayed good characters in great films such as in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction but as the villainess Poison Ivy, Thurman’s performance is lacking in part due to a terrible script. Thurman does not make the most of her character through her portrayal despite the writing.

    Due to the poor characterization, the purpose of Thurman’s role is questioned as to why the second doctor turned villain in the film is even included. Her threat is minimal but is felt as being forced into becoming a complement to Mr. Freeze’s supposed jeopardizing presence. The result is a performance worth forgetting in a film that is hard to dismiss because it is terrible.

    Danny DeVito as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin in Batman Returns

    While the characterization is a separate issue, the casting of Danny DeVito as the Penguin in Batman Returns is the result of a common problem in the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman films, which is casting a well-known actor that is too obvious of a choice for the specific character the performer is portraying.

    DeVito is a talented actor but the decision to cast him in Batman Returns as the Penguin seemed to be based upon the assumption that the actor is right for the part because he has the natural qualities of the character he is interpreting. The result leaves fans wondering of what might have been if not only the right approach was taken on the character but if an actor were cast that would have created intrigue because the choice was unexpected.

    Jim Carrey as Edward Nygma/The Riddler in Batman Foreve

    While many fans may enjoy Jim Carrey as the Riddler in Batman Forever, the casting choice is another example of choosing a popular actor who may have been picked for the wrong reasons, in particular, because Carrey resembled the character based upon his mannerisms as an actor. The characterization of the Riddler in Batman Forever resembles the character played by actor Frank Gorshin in the Batman television show from the 1960s.

    If the character had been interpreted differently such as being more darker as in Batman: The Animated Series and had an actor been cast who was not such an obvious fit for the role, the outcome would have been different because with the proper characterization, the true nature of the Riddler character would have come to fruition.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr. Victor Fries/Mr.Freeze in Batman & Robin

    The casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin is perplexing and the decision can only be based upon casting a well-known actor to list as the leading actor in order to attract attention with the purpose being to earn money at the box office.

    Dr. Victor Fries is similar to Harvey Dent because both are good men who turn evil because of personal tragedies that befall each of them. Dr. Fries is not as idealistic as Dent, he could be viewed so in part from the perspective of his goals as a molecular biologist while Dent had goals to make Gotham City a better place as a district attorney prior to his transformation. Simply put, Dr. Fries is a character that should be portrayed as a tragic character as he is in Batman: The Animated Series. In Batman & Robin, Schwarzenegger plays a character whose attempts to be comedic, which the character should not be at all, are not successful and neither is the rest of the portrayal.

    Jack Nicholson as Jack Napier/The Joker in Batman

    The casting of Jack Nicholson as the Joker in Batman is the definitive example of casting an actor simply because he resembles the part on the surface. While Nicholson’s performance is beloved by many fans of Batman and the mainstream audience, the decision to cast him was too obvious and allows fans to wonder what if an actor had been cast to play the character who was more of a surprising choice such as the decision to cast Michael Keaton as Batman in the same film. While his natural acting abilities are amazing, as the Joker, Nicholson’s traits in the film come across as expected and do not offer much in terms of being unpredictable in comparison to another actor who played the same character, the late Heath Ledger.

    Ledger’s memorable portrayal of Batman’s greatest adversary in The Dark Knight is not only a better performance than Nicholson’s but it is a more accurate depiction of arguably the greatest comic book villain of all time and perhaps the greatest villain in all of fiction. The casting of Ledger was unexpected which allows the following question to be asked, should the same approach been taken before the decision was made to cast Nicholson in the 1989 film?

    The answer is yes because while taking into account that casting an actor or actress who may resemble the part is not necessarily a bad approach, on the other hand, there is nothing wrong with casting an actor or actress who fits the part but is also a bit of a surprise in terms of the casting choice. Neither way is wrong in terms of casting but the rewards are much greater and lasting when a casting choice is made that is unanticipated as it was with the casting of Heath Ledger to play the Joker in The Dark Knight.


    • 10 Best Batman Film Casting Decisions:

      Cillian Murphy – The Scarecrow

      In the comics, the character of Jonathan Crane was somewhat of a joke – a gangly, geeky villain with a secret fear of Batman; I never felt that they were making proper use of the awesome concept that was the Scarecrow. The rogue’s ghastly redesign in the 1997 fourth series of Batman: The Animated Series (The New Batman Adventures) and the later casting of Cillian Murphy as the villain in 2005’s ‘Batman Begins’ was what helped redefine the character as a sinister, psychopathic, threat.

      Murphy played the character as a cold-hearted, remorseless, monster who dwells in the very nightmares of his victims – the actor’s psychical appearance and reputation for playing sinister villains, helped in creating frightening believability, despite limited screen time. Even though ‘Batman Begins’ was a tremendous movie, I do feel as though they underused the Scarecrow, who in my opinion, was the most interesting villain in the film.

      Jack Nicholson – The Joker

      Casting Jack Nicholson as the Joker is essentially a non-brainer – the man IS the flesh-and-blood incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime. I’m one of the few people who believes that you can’t really compare Jack’s Joker with Heath Ledger’s – neither is better; neither is worse – they’re both fantastic performances, and it’s all to do with personal preference. It’s glaringly obvious that Nicholson came closer to the source material than Heath Ledger – some people dismiss Jack’s performance; claiming that it’s just him playing an exaggerated version of himself – similar to Jim Carrey in ‘Batman Forever’.

      I agree in-part with this statement – although, unlike Carrey’s Riddler; Nicholson’s Joker translated wonderfully to the big screen – plus, Jack IS The Joker… he was born to play that role in the same way Christopher Reeves was born to play Superman – why should he have to alter his acting style when playing the Harlequin of Hate? Just as Jack Nicholson’s Joker wouldn’t have worked in ‘The Dark Knight’, Heath Ledger’s would have fallen flat in ‘Batman’ (1989) – each contributed different character aspects to their individual films.

      Danny DeVito – The Penguin

      1992’s ‘Batman Returns’, the Penguin was re-imagined – no longer was he the comical gentleman of crime; but rather, a horrific reminder of high society’s obsession with aesthetics – also, a twisted parallel of Bruce Wayne, as both are born to Gotham’s elite; both lose their parents, except Cobblepot’s personally reject him whilst Wayne’s are stolen from him. From these moments of tragedy, both men’s lives run adjacent, however occasional comparisons are made throughout the film – Bruce sits by the open fire of his luxurious mansion, mournfully telling Alfred that he hopes Oswald will find his parents, and when the Penguin snarls at Batman later on “You’re just jealous that I’m a genuine freak… and you have to wear a mask!”. The strange spiritual connection between the two is an interesting dynamic, but unfortunately is not something greatly explored in Daniel Waters script – had they chose to delve deeper into the interconnection between these characters, we could seen Batman emerge as a more centric character, as opposed to a hero lost amongst the colorful characters of Gotham City. That was my main problem with ‘Batman Returns’ – the titular character was cast too deep into the shadows, to the point where the film quite literally became “Penguin: The Movie”.

      Regardless, Danny DeVito portrayed the Penguin to perfection; truly, I could not envision another actor in the role. Arguably, he is the darkest, most disgusting villain ever envisioned in the Batman franchise – with his foul snorts that punctuate his crass attempts at sexually ‘seducing’ Catwoman or the shocking scene of the Penguin biting the nose off of one of his political supporters; Devito lined the villain with a devilish unpredictability. Wearing a body suit – with a face covered in prosthetics; his character appearance was inspired by ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ with the disturbing features of Tod Browning’s 1932 film ‘Freaks’ – Devito’s Penguin is a villain we can’t help but feel pity for; despite the despicable nature of the individual. There’s something extremely tragic about Oswald’s final scene – as the emperor penguins lead their master into the pool to meet his icy grave; DeVito’s villain presents human failure – a being with clear intelligence and potential, forced into insanity by society. In a world where the murder of a boy’s parents creates Batman; a weird figure of the night – is it really surprising that a child being ostracized by his parents for his unconventional external appearance would create a deranged ‘Penguin’? These are the types of questions DeVito’s Penguin generates; and for that reason, he deserves a prominent place on this top 10.

      Michelle Pfeiffer – Catwoman

      Catwoman is a character I can confess to never being fond of in both comic book and animated adaptations – perhaps it’s the indecisive nature of her origin story; was she an amnesiac flight attendant, an abused wife, an African American prostitute or the daughter of mafia boss Carmine Falcone? Characters such as Robin/Dick Grayson, The Joker, Two Face and Mr Freeze have fantastic backstories – steeped in iconography – each explored by fantastic writers in such adaptations as ‘The Killing Joke’, ‘The Long Halloween’, ‘Dark Victory’ and for Freeze; the unforgettable Paul Dini-penned animated episode ‘Heart of Ice’. Catwoman on the other hand, is the only prominent figure in Batman’s rogues gallery that a fan might have trouble defining – even in the otherwise brilliant Jeph Loeb’s novels, I found the character’s cheesy, flirtatious quips lost amongst the fascinating overarching conflict of organised crime versus the criminally insane – generally speaking, Selina Kyle’s subplot just wasn’t very interesting.

      For me, personally, the only successful rendition of Catwoman’s origin is that presented in ‘Batman Returns’ – Selina Kyle; a bookish secretary – violently assaulted by her boss, Max Shrek; the character is mentally and physically ‘pushed over the edge’. Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of the femme fatale is perhaps the most disturbing example of mental scarring in any film of the Batman series – the dramatic scene where Selina trashes her apartment after a plunge from her boss’s top-story office; the image of the crazed woman taking objects sacred to the ‘old’ Selina Kyle – for instance; the fluffy soft toys that represent her previous, girly-innocence and adherence to societal norms met by the unhinged Kyle’s kitchen knife, is one an audience cannot help but find disturbing. Much like Edward Norton’s conflicted character in ‘Fight Club’ – the dull, mild-mannered, office worker rebels against her capitalistic enslavement – tearing apart the consumerist items that constructed ‘Selina Kyle’ in a state of psychological breakdown; utilizing the remnants to construct a new persona – a concept that is presented on screen as she stitches together a costume from the remains of an old black raincoat.

      This outfit becomes a ‘second’ skin and with a new found sense of sexuality, violence, bound with nihilism – she becomes the very opposite of the formerly introverted Selina Kyle – a slinky creature of the night, known only as ‘Catwoman’. Pfieffer’s ability to convincingly play both Selina Kyle and Catwoman is extremely impressive; even her appearance as the post-transformation Selina is dramatically altered. With dark make-up under her eyes, that contrast her snow-white complexion, connote an illness brooding inside her – in this case, mental sickness; evident as her blue eyes flutter, or the manner in which her body swaggers uncontrollably through the streets of Gotham – the beast inside her has seized control. Her cat-suit complete with a whip, references ‘kinky’ sexual deviancies – violent sex – sadistic aspects of a personality everyday people hide from the public; further empathizing ‘the beast within’ – in many ways, this makes Pfieffer’s Catwoman a more threatening adversary than DeVito’s Penguin. With Gotham’s waddling bird of prey – what you see, is essentially, what you get – with Selina Kyle, her alluring appearance lulls men into underestimating her potential for violence; her insane unpredictability makes her one of Batman’s greatest onscreen enemies – thus Michelle Pfieffer earns her place as fifth best casting choice.

      Heath Ledger – The Joker

      The only actor to have won an Oscar for his performance in a Batman movie – Heath Ledger was undeniably brilliant as The Joker. My first reaction to the news of Nolan’s casting in ‘The Dark Knight’ was one of confusion; could the Australian heartthrob – famed for his performances in ’10 Things I Hate About You’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain’ really pull off the sinister, psychotically frightening portrayal of The Joker we Batman-fans had so long yearned for? As further images, trailers, and clips from the film were released throughout 2007, the answer to my question was proved as ‘yes’ – like an amalgamation of Johnny Rotten, Charles Manson and Alex Delarge from Clockwork Orange; motivated by concepts of nihilism and anarchy – Heath’s Joker represented chaos in its purest form.

      Although the character’s appearance greatly diverges from the source material; the psychotic clown’s treatment in the screenplay is very much in sync with The Joker’s first appearance in Batman No.1. With a murderous presence, that looms like a specter over the film’s narrative – utilized sparing and effectively; simply every scene with Heath is a joy to watch. The actor’s bravery in tackling such an intense role (having never played a villain before) at such a young age, is truly commendable – as Michael Caine said “you don’t really want to follow Jack (Nicholson) into anything… unless it’s a nightclub”. While I enjoy both performances – for me, Heath Ledger has a clear edge over Jack Nicholson; even if he veers further from the classic perception of the character, I found the actor’s edgy, grungy, spin on The Joker incredibly creative, refreshing and in perfect matrimony with Nolan’s interpretation of Batman’s world. There’s little more I can say about this performance – it truly speaks for itself. Fantastic.


      • Batman Returns, the black comedy

        For me Batman Returns had always been the dark tragedy of Selina Kyle, with everyone and everything else (even Batman) as nothing more than background. It was the almost pitch black tale of a woman’s shattered innocence which is a big part of why it resonated with me. Don’t get me wrong it still does and it’s still my favorite movie and probably always will be but there’s so much more to the movie that I’m finally seeing that makes it that much broader and much more lovable to a crazy chick like me as opposed to Selina’s story just appealing to my own shattered innocence. The issue with all of this is I no longer see it as darker than dark or that “almost pitch black” that I used to. It’s crazy and colorful, but under a heavy shroud of darkness with a beautiful snowfall. Full on masterpiece. God I love this movie.


      • Michelle Pfeiffer – Batman Returns (1992)

        In all honesty, Batman Returns is a mess. Despite some of the best visuals of Tim Burton’s directorial career and a few brilliant casting choices that include pitting Batman against Christopher Walken, the plot is so clearly stitched together from multiple drafts that it verges on being incomprehensible. It even lifts the idea of the Penguin running for mayor from a classic episode of the Batman TV show, and there’s no way Burgess Meredith didn’t do it better than Danny DeVito. One thing that we can all agree on, though, is that Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance as Catwoman is justifiably iconic.

        With an incredible costume designed by Mary Vogt, Pfeiffer’s take on Selina Kyle is slinky, seductive, and far enough over the top that she fits right in with the rest of the movie. Small moments like jumping rope with her whip are awesome character bits, and even the costume’s signature stitches, inspired by Burton’s idea of a calico cat literally coming apart at the seams, work beautifully as a metaphor for the way Selina tears her life to shreds and then stitches it back together into something far more disturbing.

        The only thing holding her back is, well, the movie around her. Catwoman’s storyline is the most straightforward in the movie—lady gets thrown out of window by Christopher Walken, is licked back to life by cats, and sets out on a mission of petty larceny and revenge—but it also ticks off all the boxes on a checklist of “woman goes crazy” clichés in the process. On the other hand, Pfeiffer did legitimately put a live bird in her mouth during filming, and that’s got to count for something.


        • That’s my beef with the film, the way Selina Kyle was both mousy, then thrown out a window (I love Christopher Walken though, he always makes me want more cowbell; especially since when I rarely I put my pants on one leg at a time, but when I do that, I make gold records), then resurrected, like a zombie. Selina Kyle is a jewel thief, who happens to love cats. I thought Anne Hathaway’s portrayal was more accurate, though I’m not saying Anne Hathaway is BETTER than Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance, because I thought Pfeiffer’s Catwoman was fun, it’s just her origin story, I feel, got the short rope, and she was in a more uneven film.


    • 12 Dumbest Comic Book Movie Characters:

      Mr. Freeze

      Pun-happy ice-themed villain Mr. Freeze – played by Arnold Schwarzenegger – is one of the most frustrating things about Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. Instead of bringing any really threat to proceedings, he just dispenses lame dialogue like ‘let’s kick some ice!’, ‘cool party!’ and ‘you’re not sending me to the cooler!’

      He’s fooled by Uma Thurman’s Posion Ivy into thinking that Batman killed his wife, before agreeing to a ludicrous plan to freeze the city and let mutant plants take over. He’s not the sharpest tool in the box by any stretch. He’s of those unconvincing movie scientists who you really don’t believe is capable of inventing anything.

      Stupidest moment: “You know what killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!” is a display of truly terrible historical awareness.


      • 10 Lamest Ever Pre-MCU Superheroes And Villains

        Mr Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) – Batman & Robin

        Blockbuster formula dictates that every movie open with a ‘bang’, which in Batman & Robin’s case means a hockey game played between the dynamic duo and Mr Freeze’s minions. Not only does the sequence sum up how lame Mr Freeze is (seriously, hockey playing henchmen?), but it gives Arnie the chance to chew scenery and spit out the first of several bad puns (and in the process wreck his career).

        Need more evidence that the character is as threatening as a teddy bear? How about the scene where Freeze, wearing panda slippers and a dressing gown adorned with polar bears, leads his men in a singalong inside a giant freezer? Or his attempt at tough guy talk: “My name is Freeze – learn it vell, for it izzz the chilling zzound of your doom!”

        Every time the character opens his mouth, he drives another nail into the coffin of his credibility. “Za ice man cometh!”, “let’s kick some ice!” and “ice to see you!” are some of the more tolerable examples. In fact, dreadful one-liners appear to be his superpower – without them, he’s nothing.


    • Uma Thurman: 5 Awesome Performances And 5 That Sucked

      Poison Ivy – Batman And Robin

      Might as well get this one out of the way early.

      There’s been so much written about the soul rendering awfulness of Batman And Robin that there isn’t much more to be said. It was like some kind of vortex that sucked in all forms of quality and entertainment value until only garish sets, awful acting and bat nipples remained.

      Nobody – outside of the great Michael Gough as Alfred – gave a good performance here. George Clooney was a smug git as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Schwarzenegger was at his punning worst as Mr. Freeze and for Uma her role as Poison Ivy was a major career lowlight. In a script brimming with awful dialogue she was stuck some of the worst.

      She attempts to go for maximum ham to compensate but her delivery is so cringe inducing she sucks the life out of all of her scenes. Ivy is supposed to be the most desirable female alive which for Uma means bugging her eyes and exaggerating every facial expression. The character’s motivations don’t even make sense; she wants to return the planet to nature and she teams up a man who wants to freeze it. The two goals aren’t really that compatible.

      Uma’s career took a bit of a knock after her work here and didn’t fully recover until the Kill Bill movies. But then she made…


  9. A lot to digest here, and I don’t think many people can quarrel with the bottom of this list, although I agree it’s mostly the scripts for those films than the actual cast. I also agree that the way Talia is portrayed in “The Dark Knight Rises” is something of a misfire, since that isn’t how she is in other mediums (that includes the Arkham video games, which I think did a great job with the villains, even if some were shoehorned into various scenarios). Catwoman’s portrayal, being a skilled burglar vs. someone revived through a fantastical circumstance, sort of makes up for that plot twist for me. Yeah, Bane mask though: makes me think of primitive braces.
    I’m pretty much on board with everything covered in the write-up, except that I think the worst line in “Batman and Robin” is when Batman says “This is why Superman works alone”. Then again, that whole picture is a mess, so take your pick.


    • So far, reader rankings are pretty much in line with my list. I think we may have seen a bigger difference if I had room for all the bad guys in the reader rankings. Limiting it to ten forced me to throw out the al Ghuls who are kind of hard to rank.


  10. Ford a pothead lol. Now that i think about it his current interviews he does seem weird. lol. He dosent seem like a jerk in old interviews just shy and awkward but i never met him so I really cant say . lol I bet he would be fun to smoke weed wiht lol. Did your buddy say on what movie and what he did that was mean. lol.


    • She worked for him during some public appearances, not while he was making a movie. And she didn’t say he was mean. Just that he was out of it and kind of rude. Ford has a reputation for being very combative with the press. No one looks forward to interviewing Harrison Ford. Doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy. I’ve heard plenty of good things about him too. Just not that he’s “nice”. I’m sure it depends a lot on the situation. Frankly, I’m not called “nice” all that often either.


  11. What people forget to understand is celebrates are human and everyone has a bad day.Some people tend to take it out on others when they are upset. As for interviews its my perception but ford dosent come off rude to interviewers to me just uncomfortable. I know he is admitted hes painfully shy. I get the sense hes one of the celebrates that are uncomfortable with fame hate interviews rather let work speak for them self. But then again no one is perfect every has snaps once in a while,. I never heard stories in the news of ford doing anything horrible. I met people who got his autogrpah in a movie event he wasnt rude to people asking for autograph. He wanst talkative either. I know crowe jones and bruce willis has reputation for not be very friend with interviewers and interviewers dont like interviewing them. As for the weed use bill mahar mentioned ford weed use in convention. Looking at his recent interviews i can he seems out of it. His old interviews hard to tell


  12. I heard stories that make him like respectful guy . One of them he uses his helicopter to find missing children few times. He also an environmentalist. I find stories about celebrities encounters amusing. My co workers friend one of the makeup artist on Philadelphia apparently denzel not exactly very social on the set. He dosent like extras looking him straight in the eye. HAnks was apparently nice. In some instance i can understand celebrities snapping. Like when paparazzi try invading their privacy. These celbes deserve piracy there a line to draw. If an actor is eating dinner wiht his family he can politely as the fan he dosent want to bothered.


  13. The only change I would make would be to switch Nicholson and Pfeiffer.


  14. 10 Franchises That Killed Off The Wrong Person

    Harvey Dent In The Dark Knight

    Why he shouldn’t have died: Aaron Eckhart must hate Christopher Nolan. Right on the verge of a cushty spot amongst the villains in the director’s The Dark Knight trilogy, he manages about twenty minutes on screen as the iconic Two-Face before suffering an altogether ignominious demise by falling off some scaffolding.

    His career took a similar nose-dive soon after as he starred in blockbuster turkey I, Frankenstein. Imagine how different things would have been – and how much better a villain The Dark Knight Rises would’ve had – if Dent had survived to vex Batman another day. Especially since, sadly, Heath Ledger couldn’t return.

    Who should’ve died: This one is a little more tricky. Word on the street is that Nolan would’ve much preferred to have not done a third Batman film after Ledger’s death, and he intentionally avoided any references to The Joker within The Dark Knight Rises out of sensitivity and respect for his lost friend. But it might’ve made more sense to have him offed between films and bring Dent back.


  15. Wait, Ras didn’t have anything to do with killing the Wayne’s… Or did I forget something from a movie I haven’t seen in years?


    • Directly, no. He attacked Gotham’s economy which indirectly lead to the death of the Waynes. At some point in the movie, he had a speech where he linked himself to their death I believe. But like you, it’s been a while. I may have overstated the connection.


  16. In that speech, he mentioned trying to deal with Gotham before, but the efforts of the Waynes (and their influence on others) halted his plans.


    • Here’s the speech. It’s not quite as direct as I remembered. There may be another scene where he expounds upon his link to the Wayne’s death. But he says the League plunged Gotham into a depression which resulted in the death of the Waynes and that their death brought the city back from the brink.

      So, it wasn’t specifically Ra’s plan for them to die, but their deaths were caused by his actions. Indirectly.


  17. Every Batman Movie Villain – Ranked From Worst To Best

    Batman is constantly praised for having the best rogues’ gallery in comic book history. With the likes of the Joker, the Riddler and Catwoman (to name just a few), he’s got a better collection of nefarious nemeses than most other superheroes combined.

    Indeed, the likes of Superman and The Flash can only dream of having quite this many attention-grabbing evildoers to face off against; while most superheroes only have a handful of truly impressive adversaries, Batman could comfortably fill Arkham twice over with his enviable assortment of enemies.

    At the movies, we’ve already seen most of Bats’ main antagonists brought to life in live action form. Across the the gritty realism of The Dark Knight trilogy, the gothic landscape of Tim Burton’s films and the outright garishness of Joel Schumacher’s efforts, we’ve been treated to a bevy of Batman baddies over the years.

    But who’s the best of the best? And who’s the worst of the worst?


  18. You have any stories of costner or hanks being nice or rude.


  19. 8 Great Characters DC Movies Have Completely Screwed Up

    The Joker

    Jack Nicholson’s Joker is well loved, so I don’t doubt for a second that including him here will upset some. However, while there’s no denying the fact that the legendary actor delivered a terrific performance in Tim Burton’s Batman, this was not a particularly satisfying interpretation of the iconic comic book villain. The look and origin were all fairly spot on, but the filmmaker made one huge blunder by revealing his name.

    Part of me can appreciate skipping The Red Hood, but knowing who The Joker is makes him a lot less interesting (a big part of why Heath Ledger’s version was so compelling was because we all wanted to know where he got those scars, but were never told). Even worse than that was the decision to have Jack Napier be the one responsible for murdering Thomas and Martha Wayne; it felt forced and wholly unnecessary.

    Yes, the comics have often made things personal between these two, but their hatred and rivalry has never boiled down to that. The Joker is Batman’s opposite and they’re locked in an endless cycle until one of them dies, something Burton skipped straight to by having the Caped Crusader MURDER the villain. Nicholson’s great performance has ultimately overshadowed what was a pretty disappointing take on The Joker.


    • I don’t know, I love that Joker, and am totally fine with the Jack Napier angle. Obviously, the Heath Ledger Joker was a different interpretation, and I’m fine with that as well (he’s a maniac…man-i-ac!).


      • 12 “Important” Movies That Are Actually Terrible

        Batman (1989)

        There’s no denying that Tim Burton’s Batman was exactly what the character needed at the time, with the Adam West model still so prevalent in the popular consciousness despite the huge advances made in the comics. Even so, there’s also no denying that time has not been kind to Burton’s film, and when held up alongside today’s superhero movies it simply pales in comparison.

        Establishing the key problem that all Bat-movies would take until Christopher Nolan, the villain gets far too much of the spotlight. Jack Nicholson’s as entertaining as ever, but he’s doing his standard routine of basically playing himself, albeit with more make-up than usual. The new backstory cooked up to accommodate the actor result in a take on the Joker that’s considerably less interesting than we’ve seen since, and the character’s evil scheme is always a bit on the vague side.

        As for Batman himself: happily, Keaton’s interpretation still stands up as one of the best, though by modern standards the fight scenes look very awkward, and – yes, this old chestnut again – the hero seems way too happy to kill his opponents. And of course, there’s simply no excusing that ludicrously out-of-character moment when Bruce Wayne screams at the Joker, “do you wanna get nuts?”


        • I like the “Do you wanna get nuts…let’s get nuts!” line. Sure, is Bruce Wayne going to act like that in public? No, but he also knows he’s dealing with The Joker, so there isn’t a need to put up a front. Okay, so what if we have seen Michael Keaton act out a scene similar to that in say, “Night Shift” or “Gung Ho”, I still think it’s still pretty cool (and in that situation, something I could see myself doing).


        • I disagree. I still love Burton’s BATMAN.


  20. Lebeau I heard stories jones was rude to ford during fugitive is that true . I guess i never understood how someone would think ford is grumpy he is shy in interviews awkward but i never seen him snap or being rude to interviews tommy lee different story.


  21. Heath was AMAZING as the Joker. Despite his flaws, Tom Hardy’s Bane was the perfect villain for Dark Knight
    But I cannot imagine anyone but Liam portraying Ra’s. Liam brought a sinister grace to the role, truly my favorite character in the Trilogy


  22. Heath was just amazing as the Joker, though I liked Jack’s interpretation too. Despite his flaws, Tom Hardy ruled as Bane. But my favorite villain portrayal was Liam as Ra’s. He brought a sinister grace to the role that was so compelling.


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