It’s said that Batman has the greatest rogue’s gallery of villains from any comic book series, and it’s true. They’ve also had varying appearances in the eleven theatrical Batman movies, and sense I’ve talked about the movies, lets see how I’d personally stack the theatrical totem pole of Batman rogues. This is going to be a big countdown, with twenty-five movie villains total. I won’t be including minor villains like mob bosses, or that random mad scientist from “Batman & Robin”. It’ll just be a straight forward ranking of all the main Batman villains that have appeared in the theatrical movies, and again, I must reiterate … this is just my own personal opinion on how there arranged. Also, that Doomsday monster from "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" doesn’t count, as it was just a monster that appeared during the climax, and nothing more. If you feel he should be on this list, then just put it at the bottom of the stack for me.
#25 Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (from “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice”)
One big issue with this film was a noticeable lack of Batman villains. In fact, this might just be the very first Batman movie to feature no villains from his Rouges gallery. All we have is this movie’s really odd portrayal of Lex Luthor, and his vague motivations. I’ll give Jesse Eisenberg some credit, he’s at least committed to the role, he’s trying to make this something unique and maybe even menacing in his own way, but the result was far more annoying than intimidating.
#24 Jeep Swenson as Bane (from “Batman & Robin”)
Next is the humanized juggernaut Bane played by the late Jeep Swenson. He serves as the muscle for Poison Ivy, and could have been a potentially cool B villain, but unfortunately, he’s reduced to a big lumbering fool that makes Frankenstein groans. Truthfully, Bane is so underutilized that when I first saw this movie as a kid, I thought he was made up for the film, and had no idea he was a larger character from Batman’s rouges gallery.
#23 Marion Cotillard played by Talia Al Ghul (from “The Dark Knight Rises”)
Now in general, I do love that this films main villain has a connection to the villain of the first movie, as it makes everything come full circle. However, there are some call backs to “Batman Begins” that just didn’t work for me. Case in point is a new female character named Miranda who’s played by Marion Cotillard. She comes off as a potential love interest for Bruce Wayne, but is secretly aiding Bane. Worse yet, she’s actually Talia Al Ghul, the doubter of Batman’s late nemesis Ra’s Al Ghoul. Now she has her place in the story, but she also gets in the way of other characters that I prefer. Talia’s relation with Bruce gets in the way of his more interesting relation with Cat-Woman, and Talia’s villain status also undermines Bane, as she’s actually the real mastermind behind everything. More than anything, I just hatted how poorly the twist reveal was handled. Personally, I think this was a perfect opportunity to see Batman’s detective side and have him figure out her identity beforehand. Then he could have dealt with her, and Bane could resume his proper status as the main villain. In short, Talia Al Ghul just doesn’t leave much of an impression and it’s a lousy way to introduce a character that not too many people outside of Batman fans would know about. This doesn't ruin the movie by any means, it's just something I could have done without.
#22 Christopher Walken as Max Shreck (from “Batman Reutrns”)
This villain unfortunately ranks very low for me on the theatrical Batman villain totem pole. In my opinion, the evil business tycoon Max Shreck should have just been removed completely from this film. Seriously, between Cat-Woman and the Penguin, why is this the guy with the big evil plans against Gotham city? His motivations to build his powerplant are also very boring, and whenever this plot line comes up, I always tune out of the film until the next entertaining set piece takes shape. This was actually a character created for the movie, as he wasn’t initially part of the Batman lore. This makes it all the more irritating when he takes screen time away from the other classic villains and even Batman himself. Now it is a little exciting to see Bruce Wayne battling a villain in the business world, but the rivalry between the two unfortunately never amounts to anything truly engaging. The one saving grace to this character is that he’s played by Christopher Walken, and to his credit, he’s excellent in the role. He’s naturally creepy just by whispering to people in that monotone voice, and by looking at characters with that blank, empty stare of his. It doesn’t quite redeem this pointless character, but it’s just enough to save him from being completely useless. Also, for whatever reason, whenever I think about Christopher Walken, the first image that always comes to mind is him with that goofy grey hair and pin-striped suit.
#21 Frank Gorshin as The Riddler (from “Batman The Movie”)
I have to be honest, he’s the most useless of the four villains from this movie. Really, he’s just there because he’s one of the popular Batman enemy's, but still it’s fun to have him present with the other bad guys. All these villains are enjoyably over the top, but I think Gorshin is trying too hard to overact everyone around him. The real saving grace of the Riddler in this film are his loony riddles. Seriously, it’s a real joy seeing Batman and Robin figure them out so quickly without even taking a moment to think. Actually, my favorite line is when Commissioner Gordon is reading one of the Riddler’s riddles … "What weighs six ounces, sits in a tree and is very dangerous?", to which Robin responds to by saying "A sparrow with a machine gun." That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard and I love how Robin makes it sound like such an obvious answer.
#20 The Rouges (from “The Lego Batman Movie”)
While Joker is really the only main villain of the movie, just about everyone of Batmans other iconic foes make select appearances. This movies version of Bane looks just like the comics, but with a voice and personality that’s clearly based off Tom Hardy’s portrayal from “The Dark Knight Rises”. Thank goodness this film remembered to include Mr. Freeze, but I do wish he had a bigger role rather than some walk-by cameos in the background. Still, I’m glad to see my favorite Batman villain was present in some form.
The Riddler in this movie is voiced by Conan O’Brien, but the relevance of this is questionable as he barely has more than two lines. Actually, the real crime in regards to a snubbed voice actor is Billy Dee Williams, who in this movie supplies the voice of Two-Face. Now he originally played the character Harvey Dent in Tim Burton's original live action “Batman”, but never played his evil alter ego. Now here he is finally bringing life to Two-Face, and the movie barely dose anything with him ... that really sucks. Other noteworthy villain’s present in the film include Poison Ive, Cat-woman, Scarecrow, Clayface, the Penguin, Killer Crock and even Egg Head makes an appearance, which was a great little call back to the classic 60’s show. While I wish select characters could have gotten more attention, it’s still great to see so many iconic Batman villains all together in one film. Heck, the movie goes out of its way to reference the really obscure Batman villains that never even made it paced the comic books.
#19 Danny DeVito as The Penguin (from “Batman Returns”)
Now before I get into my issues with this character, let me just say that from a casting point of view, Danny DeVito as the Penguin is one of the all-time greatest that the superhero genera has to offer. He fits the role like a glove, and really turned out one of the most memorable Batman villain performances in the series. That’s not to say his delivery is always subtle, as he certainly has his hammy moments, but he really nails both the menace and even the pathos of this character. For us kids in the 90’s, the Penguin was the stuff of nightmares, and the makeup design for his Penguin features were outstanding. Unfortunately, with all that said, as a character, I found Penguin to be a very missed opportunity.
No joke, there was actually a lot of potential for the Penguin to be one of Batman's greatest movie foes, but he's bounded by an uneven script. His grand scheme is to win the hearts of Gotham and have all the people turn against Batman, which is a new and interesting motivation for a villain, but it also wears out its welcome really fast. After so many scenes of his grouchy voice, ugly features and exaggerated performance, you begin saying to yourself “please, no more Penguin!” Also, I think the Penguin would have been a lot more interesting if he was just a sad and confused misfit trying to find his place in the world, but that’s not the case here. We see that the Penguin won’t hesitate to run over a defenseless old lady when he takes control of the Bat-mobile, and he freely admits to Batman that “He’ll play the city like a harp from hell”. We even see this guy collecting the names of all the first-born children, so he can kidnap them and drown them in the sewers, completing his vengeance on the normal people of the world that treated him so cruelly. So, in other words, what could have been an interesting, even complex character gets reduced to being another typical bad guy for Batman to beat. We actually see him do a number of evil things well before the crowds turn against him, like kidnapping and killing an innocent young girl, framing Batman, scheming with the other villains, and even biting a guy’s nose off.
#18 Cesar Romero as The Joker (from “Batman The Movie”)
Perhaps the most celebrated villain of all is The Joker played by Cesar Romero. Of course, the Joker will go on to become the biggest, most recurring villain of all the Batman villains, one of the all-time greatest bad guys in film and this is the guy who started it all. There’s nothing dark or menacing about this Joker, he’s just an over the top goofball, but he is still a lot of fun to watch. He may not seem like much when compared to other portrayals of the character, but this really was one of the break out villain performances of the 1960’s. According to Adam West, Romero was also starring in another show, where he needed his prized mustache. Thus, he refused to shave it off, and as a result, you can clearly see it under all his makeup, which is hilarious. Now you’d think that Batman’s most famous foe, would get a big part in this film, but he’s constantly upstaged by the other villains. He doesn’t even fight Batman, instead he’s stuck fighting Robin … what’s up with that?
#17 Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face (from “Batman Forever”)
Back when I was a little kid, the first thing that drew my attention to this film was actually Tommy Lee Jones in the role of Two-Face. After growing up with so many of his movies in the 90’s like “Men in Black”, “Volcano” and even “Small Soldiers”, he became one of the first actors that I knew by name, and decided to be a fan of. Naturally, back then he was one of my favorite things about the film, but looking back as an adult, he actually represents what is ultimately the biggest issue with the movie. It seems that half the people involved are trying to make a serious Batman movie, while the other half are paying homage to the campy 60’s show.
In fact, Two-Faces loony, over the top performance, along with his colorful design can easily fit right alongside Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin or any of those goofy talents from the Adam West days. I suppose in that regard, he can actually be kind of amusing to watch. Then again, it’s also kind of depressing, because I could see a post Oscar winning Tommy Lee Jones killing it as a serious portrayal of one of my favorite Batman villains. He’s definitely chewing the scenery in this film, and honestly, he makes Jack Nicolson’s portrayal of the Joker look subdued by comparison. I should also note that while Two-Face is marketed as the film’s main antagonist, he really doesn’t do a whole lot outside of killing Robin’s family. He’s mostly just hanging around in the background, while the other bad guy steals all the spot light. One very confusing element to this character is that he always talks like his body is being shared with someone else, always addressing himself as “us” or “we”, which has potential, but not conveyed very well. Never the less, Tommy lee Jones is still kind of fun to watch on some level, but he can’t hold a candle to most other villains from the Batman films.
#16 Zach Galifianakis as The Joker (from “The Lego Batman Movie”)
Naturally this is the fifth theatrical Batman movie to feature The Joker, and this time he’s voiced by Zach Galifianakis. Surprise, surprise, this is yet another great portrayal of a classic character in this Lego universe, as it captures the spirit of the Joker, while also being very original in the process. It’s a Joker that’s obviously unleashing his evil on the city, but his goal is so much more personal as he simply want’s Batman to realize that they complete each other’s lives. It's actually kind of a heartbreaking scene when Batman flat out tells the Joker that he means nothing to him. I really love how passionate this version of Joker gets to prove Batman wrong, and to see their relationship progress over the course of the film is very amusing. It all ultimately builds to an obvious, yet poignant statement that the Joker really isn’t his greatest enemy after all … it’s really Batman himself who’s our heroes worst enemy. Also, as a bone’s, it was great to finally see Harley Quinn in a Batman movie. Even though it’s only animated, it’s still one of the most appealing aspects of the Joker, to have his loony girl friend at his side.
#15 Lee Meriwether as Cat-Woman (from “Batman The Movie”)
While The Penguin is the one leading the united alliance of evil, the movies primary antagonist is actually Cat-woman. There's a sub-plot in which Cat-woman has a relationship with Bruce Wane, but it's only leverage, and in the end, it becomes her most powerful weapon against our hero. Cat-woman’s also the only player to have a cast change from the TV show. Originally, she was played by Julie Newmar in the TV series, but she was too busy at the time, so she was replaced with Lee Meriwether. I must confess, in my opinion, she is the sexiest actress to play Cat-woman. No-one movies around in that skintight outfit while purring as well as her. On that note, her purring can get a little irritating at times, as it honestly sounds like a siren you'd hear on an ambulance. While her performance is equally hammy like everyone else, Cat-woman can at least be genuinely menacing at times. Half the time, you get the impression that she’s the only villain who actually poses a threat.
#14 Jim Carry as The Riddler (from “Batman Forever”)
Back in the 90’s, Jim Carry was the king of comedy, and one of my all-time favorite actors. While Tommy Lee Jones is what drew me to this film as a kid, it was my introduction to Jim Carry that mad the biggest impact. After this, I absolutely fell in love with his comedies like “The Mask”, “Liar, Liar”, and especially “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”. So that’s two nostalgic ties this movie has going for it, my introduction to the Batman franchise, and my introduction to one of my all-time favorite comedians. His portrayal of The Riddler again is very over the top, but I’ll give this one a pass, as it’s Jim Carry, and that’s just what he does best. Looking back, I do wish he put a little more restraint into the performance, and that skin-tight costume of his just looks ridiculous. The biggest misstep with this character is that the movie gives us his detailed backstory from the ground up, when there should have been a lot more mystery to the character. Throughout the film, the Riddler sends Bruce Wayne a collection of clues that ultimately build up to our hero discovering his true identity. Again, this could have been very exciting, but it’s all spoiled because we the audience see exactly how he becomes the Riddler from the start, which spoils any surprises. I’ll give the Riddler this much credit, he at least accomplishes more than most other Batman villains. As a kid, seeing him inter the Bat cave, and destroy it from within was actually kind of intimidating, although the scene would have held up much better if it turned down the comedy.
#13 Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy (from “Batman & Robin”)
Proving once again that the villains are the best of the worst characters in this film is the deadly Poison Ivy played by Uma Thurman. Now from a casting point a view, you couldn’t have picked a better late 90’s actress for the role then Uma Thruman.
She does capture the essence of the character and especially looks the part. Whenever she’s on screen it’s like “oh yeah, that’s Poison Ivy without question”. Unfortunately, for all her potential, she just can’t get around a really bad script. For some reason she’s written with an irritatingly horney personality, and while she looks like Poison Ivy, she feels more like a live action version of Jessica Rabbit. In fact, even her music theme sounds just like Jessica Rabbit’s jazz theme from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. On that note, as a kid I always imagined Poison Ivy, Jessica Rabbit, Tina Carlyle from “The Mask”, and Holli Would from “Cool World” getting together to form their own night club, and maybe call it “The Shady Daisies”. Now much like Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy was another one of my favorite villains from the animated 90’s series, and I can’t help but feel like I need to savor this live action version of the character, because even though it’s not that great, it’s still currently all I’ve got. Now one of the biggest highlights of Poison Ivy’s character from the show was her variety of monstrous killer planets, which are sourly lacking in this film. About the most we get is a scene where Batman gets pulled up by vines, and that’s it … it’s kind of pathetic.
#12 Michelle Pfeiffer as Cat-Woman (from “Batman Returns”)
Of this films three villains, it’s Michelle Pfeiffer as Cat-Woman who stands out as the most awesome thing the film has to offer. Michelle Pfeiffer is just on fire in the role, her costume is great, her screen presence is captivating, and even though her back story is different from the source material, this is easily the presentation that made Cat-Woman a fan favorite for a new generation of viewers.
She begins as this really pathetic woman but then goes through quiet the transformation after she’s murdered by the sinister Max Shreck. Now it’s never clearly explained, but through the power of cats crawling all over her dead body and chewing on her fingers, she suddenly comes back to life as a supernatural Cat-person who’s actually blessed with the gift of nine additional lives. Again, there’s no real context as to how this actually came to be, but I’ve always liked the idea of her being a literal Cat-person, and this is just that kind of world where anything can happen. What I don’t like are her motivations, as for no real reason at all, she suddenly has a vendetta against Batman, and forgets all about taking vengeance on Max Shreck until the tail end of the film. Her only consistent character trait is that she’s crazy, and that for me doesn’t make for a very compelling character. In the plus column, she’s one of the few villains to actually engage our hero in battle, and she proves to be quiet the bad ass with a whip. Seriously, the fights between Batman and Cat-Woman are some of the best the series has to offer, especially their first fight on the rooftop.
#11 Cillian Murphy as The Scarecrow (from “Batman Begins”)
Cillian Murphy, who is downright chilling in the role, even before he puts on his mask. He has a very natural talent for playing creepy guys like in Wes Craven's 2005 movie “Red Eye”. It was a real treat to finally get a darker and scarier villain then all the cheesy, colorful bad guys of before. He wasn't loud or goofy, he didn't crack jokes and instead he was calm, sinister and kept in the shadows. His best parts are when he sprays people with his fear inducing gas that makes people see their worst fears. The imagery and visuals of the Scarecrows fear toxin are the closest the film gets to feeling like a comic book movie, but it works in the context of the story. While all the creepy visuals are great, I personally think they could have been a little more creative. The downside to Scarecrow is that he isn’t present enough in the film. In fact, he doesn’t even do much during the climax, and has no real confrontation with Batman at all. Instead it’s the girlfriend of all characters that takes him out. I actually like that, because we don’t often see girl friends in superhero movies take out villains, but it does still undermine the Scarecrow as a worthy foe for Batman.
#10 Burgess Meredith as The Penguin (from “Batman The Movie”)
Leading this films alliance of evil is The Penguin played by Burgess Meredith, who personally is my favorite of the group. Despite being paired with so many colorful characters, Burgess Meredith simply steels the show with every scene he’s in. Whenever all the villains are together on screen, I just can’t take my eyes off him. It’s actually kind of funny I say that, because of all the villains from Batman’s rouges gallery, The Penguin has always been my least favorite. Well, in this film it’s the complete opposite as Burgess Meredith just shines in the role. No one bites on a cigar while speaking with that awesome grouchy voice as well as him.
#9 Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze (from “Batman & Robin”)
Let me start by saying that of all the Batman villains in general, Mr. Freeze has always been my personal favorite. He was my favorite character from the animated 90’s series, and he always came off to me like the Darth Vader of Batman villains. He looked threatening, had a signature weapon, and best of all was just how complex and multi-layered he was. After all, the best villains are those born of tragedy, similar to the way Batman himself was born from horrific events. So, as for Mr. Freeze’s as portrayed in this film … well, he still has some remnant of a deeper story, with his wife’s life being the driving force of his motivations and all, but the presentation is a bit too goofy to really get invested in the emotional side of the character. However, while this is technically a lame duck version of my favorite villain, Arnold Schwarzenegger in my opinion is the saving grace that makes him the highlight of the film.
Compared to all the other actors in this movie, Arnold is clearly having the time of his life in the role and that just makes him fun to watch. He’s the only one who feels committed to the part, he doesn’t feel bounded by a script, and he brings a terrific level of energy to the role, which is impressive considering he was stuck in a suit that weighed 75 pounds. Also, when closely observing the other actors in this film, they all seem to stop acting once there done delivering their lines, but that’s not the case with Schwarzenegger. He actually has some lengthy scenes, where he’s not saying anything, but he still feels very in-character, and is even able to convey some subtle emotion. Also, while other actors of the time, like Patrick Stewart would have seemed better for the role, the character would have still been written poorly, so it really was for the best that Schwarzenegger got the part. Yes, this is technically still a stupid villain, with a grab bag of silly puns, but Schwarzenegger really took the role, and created a unique entity with it, and was consistently entertaining to watch. To be perfectly honest, of all the villains from the first four Warner brother’s Batman movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze’s is my second favorite behind Jack Nicolson as the Joker ... which reminds me.
#8 Jack Nicholson as The Joker (from “Batman”)
Unlike his compatriot Michael Keaton, Nicholson was a very obvious casting choice, but Jack is still great in the role. He’s completely crazy, entertaining, unpredictable, funny and has a captivating screen presence of his own. It may seem strange that a clown is Batman’s greatest enemy, but if you think about it, they’re a perfect match. One is a noble hero who hides in a dark, monstrous form, while the other actually is a heartless monster that hides in a bright and colorful form. Sense he’s the only villain, there’s a lot of room for a good hero villain rivalry, which for me comes off as a mixed bag.
It’s a very standard setup with Batman learning Joker killed his parents, while Joker in return is angry at the hero for ruining his plans and former life. Personally, I find this kind of a cheat to make Joker the killer of Batman’s parents, as that makes him our hero’s nemesis by default, and not because of a built rivalry. Having said that, it all balances out by having Batman unintentionally create the Joker, because now we have the duality of the hero and villain forging their own greatest enemies. I find that very intriguing indeed, and it leads to one of Batman's best lines ... "I made you, but you made me first". Unfortunately, one of the films biggest missteps was giving more focus, and even a bigger character story to the Joker then our main hero. Also, Joker in this film comes off more like someone just looking for attention, rather than a villain with a deeper, sinister plan. With all that said, Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the Joker can still be regarded as iconic in its own right, and he definitely has his shining moments. I think his most memorable kill is with the hand buzzer that he uses to electrify one of his enemy's. Not only does the guy get reduced to an electrified skeleton, but he also talks to his fried corps afterword, and then strangles it with a neck tie for good measure … now that's crazy!
#7 Liam Neeson’s Ra’s Al Ghul (from “Batman Begins”)
A very welcome change for this movie was that it didn’t market a popular villain, it was sold on its story, and the hero’s journey alone, which is the sign of a superior installment. Having said that, the actual villain in this movie, while one of the least popular, is still in my opinion one of the absolute best from any of the films. The great Liam Neeson plays Ra’s Al Ghul, who leads the league of shadows, and was Bruce Wayne’s personal mentor. From Batman’s point of view, this was the man who helped him become a hero in the first place, so there’s more on an emotional connection between the two that we don’t get from his other foes. On the flip side, Ra’s Al Ghul doesn’t even see himself as a villain, in his mind he’s enacting justice, but with no moral principles. He views Gotham as a city that’s beyond saving from crime, and the best thing to do is destroy the city itself so it’s evil can never spread. Granted, he has a very comic bookish plan to poison the water and set lose a chemical agent that will make everyone go mad, but it’s the motivations behind the character that make this work. Liam Neeson naturally shines in the role, and it was kind of a daring departure from his usual film roles. One minor annoyance is that he goes by the name Henri Ducard throughout most of the film, and there’s always a decoy on screen taking his real name, which can make it really confusing for non-Comic book fans that don’t know the character.
#6 Anne Hathaway as Cat-Woman (from “The Dark Knight Rises”)
Less of a villain, and more of a wild card, my favorite character from this movie is Cat-Woman played by Anne Hathaway. Speaking personally, this is my absolute favorite portrayal of the character by a mile. This Cat-Woman just gets everything right, as she’s not a villain, nor is she a hero, she’s just a wild card who does whatever is in her interest. Sometimes that means aiding either the hero’s or villains, and that’s how I’ve always felt Cat-Woman should be. I also like that she’s just a small-town cat burglar who just wants to make a new life for herself. She and Batman also have perfect chemistry. Well, their romantic side is just “ok”, but as two vigilantes working together … they’re just a dynamite pair. Whenever there on screen fighting together, infiltrating a bad guy base, or just plain walking together, it’s an absolute thrill. On a side note, I really love how subtle the costume is, as she’s incredibly beautiful to look at without ever coming off as slutty, unlike her two theatrical predecessors. It’s also a nice little touch that her goggles come up above her head and become her cat ears. Now I came from a generation that grew up with Anne Hathaway in Disney movies like “The Princess Diaries” and “Ella Enchanted”, so I couldn’t even imagine her pulling off a great Cat-Woman, but she really did. Every inflection she gives as this character is spot on, she has a lot of energy, and is clearly having a blast with this role. So, while obviously not on Oscar standards, this is still a shining performance in the actress’s carrier.
#5 Stacy Keach, Jr. (and Dana Delany) as The Phantasm (from “Batman Mask of the Phantasm”)
This was a villain created for the movie alone, but he’s become a fan favorite from Batman’s rouges gallery. This is a great example of how originality can go a long way when adapting a comic book. By creating an original villain, the writers can do whatever they want without upsetting a devoted fan base.
It also adds an interesting mystique to the film as The Phantasms identity is completely shrouded in mystery, which only gets us more excited to discover more about him. This is also a rare case in which we have a villain that isn’t attacking Gotham city itself, nor does he have a vendetta against Batman. He’s actually a representation of Batman himself if he ever crossed the line and brutally killed in order to seek some form of justice. The Phantasm also has a great design, miring a death like image, with a skull face, a sharp blade on his arm and he's equipped with a teleportation device that he triggers with a puff of smoke … which is all together awesome! I especially love how he greets his prey with those chilling words, “Your angel of death awaits.” Now despite being the main antagonist of the movie, he really isn't on screen that often, but for me, that only makes it more exciting whenever he appears.
#4 Tom Hardy as Bane (from “The Dark Knight Rises”)
Now “The Dark Knight” previously featured one of cinemas most iconic villains, yet Bane managed to escape the shadow of his predecessor and has become a generations favorite comic book villain. In general, while Bane was known by comic book fans, he still wasn’t a very popular villain from Batman’s rouges gallery. All that changed with this film, because now Bane’s become a house hold name. Personally, as far as performances are concerned, I think Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane is right up there with the best, like Heath Ledger’s Joker and Danny Devito’s Penguin. He just has this larger than life screen presence, and those burning eyes of his just convey so much.
It’s a very theatrical performance, and Tom Hardy just throws himself out there. There’s something very entertaining about a villain that delivers lengthy evil monologues, and subsequently has no shortage of quotable lines. Putting aside the powerhouse presentation, I also like that Bane is Batman’s metaphorical brother in this film. They both received the same training from the league of shadows, yet it was Bruce who emerged as the best student, while Bane was excommunicated. This gives our hero and villain more of a connection, and I love that Bane is basically picking up from where Ra’s Al Ghul had perished in the first movie as recompense for failing the league of shadows. This actually book ends this trilogy, the same way the Nazi’s did in the Indiana Jones trilogy. Another great detail about this trilogy is how every villain provides a different challenge for our hero. In the first movie the villain was an emotional challenge. Then in the second movie the villain was a psychological challenge. Now here in the third film the villain is a physical challenge. You really feel that Batman has met his match, and it was interesting to see our hero frightened by a stronger and all-around superior adversary.
#3 Heath Ledger as The Joker (from “The Dark Knight”)
While he ranks at number three, I certainly don’t want to undermine the Joker, and his iconic, Oscar winning portrayal by the late Heath Ledger. Without a doubt this is one of the generations defining performances, and one of the most iconic villain portrayals in film history. Also, it’s probably the first and only time an actor will ever win an Oscar for playing a comic-book character, as that’s something that never happens. While Heath Ledger had his share of fans over the years, no-one would have expected him to not-only excel as the Joker, but also be a legitimately terrifying screen presence.
While other versions of the character had their menacing highlights, they were never this frightening or intimidating. Just the way he looks at someone while liking his lips was intense. Aside from the performance, the Jokers motivations were equally intense. His goal isn’t to destroy either the hero or the city, but to corrupt them. He’s not after power or wealth, he just wants to prove a point, that anyone, no matter how good they are can be just as crazy and evil as him. I love that Alfred of all people is the first to understand this villain for what he really is, and his eerie story in which he compares the Joker to a diamond bandit adds so many frightening layers to the character. It’s a tail that conveys something of a dark reality and it makes the Joker feel less like your typical comic-book bad guy. He’s like an unstoppable force of nature that can’t be reasoned with. He was also a smart mastermind who keeps a city in a state of panic, he intimidates mobs, breaks himself out of prison and no matter how hard the hero’s try to stop him, the Joker is always one step ahead. He also has a dark sense of hummer that makes him consistently fun to watch, and his gallery of quotable lines are easily some of the best ever spoken by the character. My favorite aspect of the Joker is that his backstory changes every time he interrogates someone. This made his mystique all the more frightening as we just have no grasp on who this guy is. Was he born this way, did something happen, dose the Joker himself even know his own origins? All this mystery just adds to the dark and complex fascination of his character.
#2 Mark Hamill as The Joker (from “Batman Mask of the Phantasm”)
Who would ever think that Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars” would pass for a great Joker, but he’s so perfect in the role. His evil joker laugh is amazing, and his voice fits the character seamlessly. This is just the icing on the cake, because honestly, the movie is worth watching just for Mark Hamill’s incredible Joker performance. He masters the dual nature of the character, coming off as both funny and terrifying in equal measure.
His vocal talents are also perfectly matched with the energy in the animation, and I just can’t take my eyes off the character when he’s on screen. Despite coming late into the film, he still completely steals the show. My favorite parts with the Joker are when he’s just talking out loud to himself in his hide out. It’s almost like an improve game, just see how many random and entertaining things he can do. Now it goes without saying, but every actor that’s played the Joker has always shined and brought something iconic to the role. However, for my money, Mark Hamill is the most classic. He’s always the first talent that comes to mind whenever I think of the Joker. Again, that’s not to put down any of the other talents, as they’ve all been great. It’s just that Mark Hamill’s performance has always stuck with me the most, and he’s easily one of the all-time greatest animated villains.
#1 Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face (from “The Dark Knight”)
Two-Face played masterfully by Aaron Eckhart is personally my favorite villain from any of the theatrical Batman movies. In general, as a long time Batman fan, I’ve always liked Two-Face a little more than the Joker, mostly because I prefer villains that are born from tragedy. Two-Face is perhaps the most tragic of Batman’s enemies, as well as a dark reminder of Batman’s failures. The first thing this film got right is that we don't even see him as Two-Face until the last half hour of the movie. This gave us the chance to know his better half, the District Attorney Harvey Dent, and how he pushed himself to create a better Gotham.
This was a man that symbolized hope and lighting a city’s darkest hour. Then without warning, tragedy struck and he became a vengeful monster who was convinced that the only morality in the world is chance. It’s such a frightening concept, to think that any great world leader with noble intentions can fall without warning. The digital makeup-design is outstanding, in fact it’s downright uncanny how good it looks. It also makes him a perfect fusion of what both Batman and the Joker stand for, one side righteous and the other side unjust. In short, I was beyond pleased with this films portrayal of the character, and it’s the kind of villain I’d like to see more of. He isn't an evil mastermind that's after the city, instead he's a broken human who has been transformed by the loss of a loved one, and I always find that more engaging. In all honesty, while this is still an all-around excellent film, it probably wouldn’t be my personal favorite Batman movie if it wasn’t for Two-Face and his story.