Every Major Villain In Batman Live-Action Movies, Ranked Least To Most Terrifying

Summary

  • Each actor who has portrayed the Joker in live-action movies has added something to make their version intimidating, whether it be Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger or Cesar Romero.
  • Some Batman villains, like the Riddler and the Penguin, are more comical than scary, with their iconic outfits and goofy antics.
  • The most terrifying Batman movie villain of all time is the Joker from The Dark Knight, portrayed by Heath Ledger, who creates anarchy and laughs while driving Gotham into madness.

Batman has a large catalog of phenomenal villains that have been adapted for live-action movies, but some of them are more frightening than others. The Caped Crusader is a captivating DC hero by himself, but his villains are what make his stories more intriguing. From the Joker to the Riddler to Two-Face, each villain has a unique way of delivering destruction and chaos to Gotham while being a true challenge for Batman. Since Batman made his way to the silver screen, there have been multiple adaptations of villains that have either added to their menace or taken away from what made them great.

For example, The Joker remains Batman’s most popular villain, but each actor who has portrayed the character has added something that made their version more intimidating, whether it be Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, or Mark Hamill. Not every Batman villain has worked and there are a few that are funnier than they are scary. Still, Bruce Wayne has fought many terrifying foes throughout his time as Batman, and some have even given audiences a fright. Here is every Batman live-action movie villain ranked from least to most terrifying.

22 Talia al Ghul (The Dark Knight Rises)

Talia al Ghul is the surprise twist villain of The Dark Knight Rises, but she isn’t given enough time to prove that she is the heir of Ra’s al Ghul. She is initially treated as the love interest of Bruce Wayne until she reveals her true colors when she stabs him. While he is temporarily wounded by the stabbing, he bounces back quickly and Talia is quickly defeated before she can make herself seem intimidating.

21 The Riddler (Batman: The Movie)

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It’s hard to be scared by any villains from 1966’s Batman: The Movie as it has the tone of a cartoon rather than a dark, gritty Batman film. Out of the many villains in this film, The Riddler is the least scary, donning a green outfit with a question mark that looks hysterical today. He is more of an annoyance for Batman and Robin as they solve his riddles before he can do too much damage.

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20 The Penguin (Batman: The Movie)

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Similar to The Riddler, The Penguin in this film looks so ridiculous that it’s hard to take him seriously. He is accurate to the early comics but not everything translates well to the silver screen. Still, he gets the edge over The Riddler simply because Burgess Meredith’s performance makes him slightly more menacing.

19 Bane (Batman & Robin)

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Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies have an exuberant, cartoonish tone and that is most present in Batman & Robin. Bane is a victim of this over-the-top tone as he is turned into a super-strong behemoth who struggles to speak and wears what looks like a Mexican wrestling outfit. While he is a powerful foe in this film, he’s ultimately the worst villain in the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies.

18 Catwoman (Batman: The Movie)

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Catwoman does bounce around from villain to anti-hero, but here she is entirely a villain. While not overly powerful, Lee Meriwether does give a performance that makes this version of Catwoman a haunting and conniving villain, despite the film’s goofy tone. The way she switches from the seemingly innocent Miss Kitka to the clever cat burglar proves how clever she can be in throwing people off her tail.

17 Max Shreck (Batman Returns)

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Max Shreck is a character that Christopher Walken puts everything into. He is a threatening businessman who is willing to kill anyone who he sees as an obstacle, including Selina Kyle. While he is a danger to Gotham, he is easy for Batman to defeat, even if he has much of the city in his back pocket.

16 The Joker (Batman: The Movie)

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Cesar Romero’s performance as The Joker puts the clown in the clown prince of crime. He uses plenty of props and gags to mess with others and also has an iconic laugh. However, he doesn’t have the same intimidating presence as other versions of his character and comes across as more of a dangerous prankster than a frightening villain. Still, Romero does an excellent job in the role considering the film’s tone.

15 Two-Face (Batman Forever)

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Tommy Lee Jones delivers a completely unhinged performance as Two-Face, a former lawyer who starts to deliver his own violent version of justice after becoming disfigured. Unfortunately, this decision to portray this character as a deranged goofball takes away from the complexities that make Two-Face so intriguing. His design isn’t intimidating either as he looks like he got attacked by a gumball. Plus, in Batman Forever, Two-Face is overshadowed by The Riddler, who takes over the film as the central villain.

14 Poison Ivy (Batman & Robin)

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Poison Ivy is one of Batman’s scariest villains as she can control plants to her will and deliver a poisonous kiss that makes someone her slave. While those powers are demonstrated in Batman & Robin, Uma Thurman doesn’t deliver the threatening presence that this femme fatale deserves. Schumacher could also be to blame for how he adapted the character as her dialogue and delivery is more awkward than unnerving.

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13 The Riddler (Batman Forever)

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Similar to the other Schumacher villains, this is a hilariously exaggerated version of the Riddler and is only emphasized by Jim Carrey’s performance. Edward Nygma is often chaotic in his determination to outsmart Batman, but Carrey takes it to another level. Additionally, it’s hard to take him seriously while he’s wearing tight, leotard outfits that are riddled with question marks.

12 Mr. Freeze (Batman & Robin)

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Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze is another villain that is hard to be intimidated by especially when he is constantly yelling ice puns. However, Mr. Freeze’s suit does look cool even if it’s overkill, and he is a legitimate threat to Batman and the people of Gotham. Other iterations of the character are more haunting and sinister, but Schwarzenegger does the best with what he’s given.

11 The Penguin (The Batman)

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Colin Farrell’s unrecognizable portrayal of Oswald Cobblepot is somewhat creepy, but he hasn’t reached his full potential yet. In The Batman, Penguin is still an underling of Carmine Falcone, the true king of Gotham’s criminal underworld. However, with Falcone out of the picture, there is a new fight to be the top dog, and Penguin could emerge as a chilling enemy for Batman in The Penguin Max streaming series.

10 Carmine Falcone (The Batman)

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Carmine Falcone is normally seen as a typical gangster who holds power over Gotham and its many corrupt police officers and political leaders. In The Batman, Matt Reeves makes his character more frightening by connecting him to Batman and Catwoman, showing how his violent and manipulative actions impacted so many lives. Falcone is also willing to kill anyone to stay ahead, including people he has a close attachment to. He might not be physically powerful but his intelligence and lack of morality made him extremely dangerous.

9 Catwoman (Batman Returns)

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Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman is iconic and has yet to be topped. While she can be quite haunting while donning the leather outfit, she isn’t too frightening simply because she is more of an anti-hero than a full villain. Still, viewers couldn’t decide whether they were scared of her or in love with her.

8 Scarecrow (Batman Begins)

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Dr. Jonathan Crane isn’t exactly terrifying, but he’s a completely different monster when he puts the scarecrow mask on. His toxin makes one experience their worst nightmare which is a horrifying predicament and can manipulate the most powerful heroes. However, after he is defeated by Batman, he becomes more of a pest for the rest of the trilogy instead of a true villain.

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7 Ra’s al Ghul (Batman Begins)

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Ra’s al Ghul isn’t creepy, but he holds a massive amount of power as the leader of the League of Shadows. He trained Bruce Wayne to become Batman and is a foe who is equally matched against the Caped Crusader. While Batman defeated him in Batman Begins, his legacy lived on and came back in the form of Talia and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

6 The Penguin (Batman Returns)

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Danny DeVito’s Penguin is a ridiculous villain. He commands an army of penguins and is even disfigured in ways that make him look like a penguin. However, Tim Burton gave this character a lot of chilling moments and his sharp teeth and crooked nose lived in the nightmares of people who saw Batman Returns. It’s easy to laugh at him, but that could lead to him biting someone’s nose off in a terrifying, bloody manner.

5 Two-Face (The Dark Knight)

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Aaron Eckhart’s Two-Face is often an underrated villain. He has an incredible design as his half-burnt face not only looks authentic, but also horrifying. Additionally, Dent is a more tragic figure; a once honorable attorney who turns to a form of corrupt justice after losing everything. Christopher Nolan’s version of Harvey Dent/Two-Face is a terrifying visual but also an eerie reflection of what people can do when they have nothing to lose.

4 Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)

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While villains like the Joker can attack Batman mentally, Bane is frightening because he is one of the few villains who can take on Batman on a physical level. He defeats Batman in their first fight and delivers a back-shattering final move that leaves the hero immobilized. Bane’s fear factor is diminished once it’s revealed he’s working for Talia, but he is still a menacing foe, especially with his mask and booming voice.

3 Joker (Batman)

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Jack Nicholson is scary enough when he plays villainous characters, and it’s heightened here as he plays a Joker, whose face is constantly stuck in a smile. There are moments where he is absurdly goofy, such as the art museum scene and his laugh. However, he still brings terror to the screen, especially with his gas which causes people to laugh to death, a fate that looks about as eerie as it sounds.

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