In the DC Comics Universe, Batman villains come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with colorful names and costumes to match. Likewise, in the film franchise, Batman villains have been portrayed by a vast array of actors and actresses. Some performances are memorable, while some are worth forgetting. The following is a collection of some of Batman’s biggest villains and the actors who have portrayed them.
One of the most well known of all of Batman villains, the Joker is a sadistic sociopath who delights in antagonizin the Dark Knight. Over the years, the origin of this intelligently psychotic villain has varied. In some titles of the Batman comic book, the Joker started out as a criminal known as the Red Hood. In others, he was a chemical plant engineer who, after failing to help criminals commit a crime at the plant, falls into a vat of chemicals and emerges with bleached skin, green hair and a permanent smile. The Joker has been portrayed by many different actors over the years, but the definitive stand outs are Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. In the 1989 film by Tim Burton, Nicholson’s Joker is a criminal who falls into a vat of chemicals. The character is portrayed as a cool, cold blooded killer. In 2008’s “The Dark Knight”, Heath Ledger plays the villain as a calculating, psychotic sociopath who paints his face to cover the scars that give him an eternal smile. Ledger, who died shortly after filming, received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role.
Another in the long line of Batman villains, the Penguin originally appeared as a mobster who considered himself a gentleman. He ran a nightclub where most of Gotham City’s criminals spent their down time. Like the Joker, the Penguin’s origins vary. Some writers cast him as a villain who was bullied as a child for being short and fat. Others created an origin story in which the Penguin was born deformed, with flippers for hands and a beak-like nose. He would grow up to loathe society for their rejection of the grotesque man. In the 1992 film “Batman Returns”, director Tim Burton decided to use this origin for the character. The Penguin was played by Danny DeVito, who gave the character a somewhat human side in scenes where he is emotionally hurt by society’s ridicule.
Selena Kyle, also known as Catwoman, is a villain that isn’t insane, murderous or evil. Her reasons for committing crime are purely for the rush. In the comic books, as well as on film, Catwoman and Batman share a romantic attraction. This serves as a problem for the Caped Crusader, as she is still a criminal, and he has vowed to rid the city of such people. In “Batman Returns”, Michelle Pfeiffer dons the black leather costume and wields the whip of Catwoman. Her character starts out as a secretary for a prominent businessman who finds out her boss is planning on committing a crime. To keep her quiet, he shoves her out a window. Despite the fall, Selena survives and soon finds herself going after her old boss, being manipulated by Penguin, and facing off against Batman.
While prosecuting a high profile mobster, District Attorney Harvey Dent’s face is doused with acid during the trial. The entire left side of his face is scarred. This drives the D.A. insane, leading him to a life of crime in which all of his decisions are made with the flip of a double-headed coin. He adopts the name Two-Face and quickly appears on Batman’s radar. In 1995, Two-Face was brought to life on the silver screen by Tommy Lee Jones in “Batman Forever.” The character resurfaced in Christopher Nolan’s 2008 “The Dark Knight.” This time, Aaron Eckhart plays the district attorney whose face is disfigured. In this version, it is an explosion and gasoline courtesy of the Joker that causes Dent to go mad.