Batman has some of the best villains in all of pop culture. With characters like the Joker and Mr. Freeze, the Dark Knight’s Rogues Gallery is almost as famous as he is. People have argued over who is Batman’s greatest villain for years. Now, The Nerd Stash is ending the debate with a definitive list of our own. We carefully considered each of these characters and their impacts on both Batman AND DC Comics before compiling them here.
Some were included because of the hold they have over Gotham City. We added others thanks to the threat they pose to the world at large. Others we included simply because they’re just really good at ticking Batman off. Whichever way you spin it, each of these villains has left a lasting impression on the fans and Batman alike.
Before we get into the rankings, it should be noted that three very popular characters were left off this list. While readers may be disappointed not to see Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy included, they were left out purposely. These days, all three of the Gotham City Sirens toe the line between hero and criminal far too frequently to lump them with these villains. But for more content with your favorite antiheroines, check out this collection from DC.
But who else in Gotham City is considered the worst of the worst? And who has had the greatest impact on Batman’s life? Take a look down below and see for yourself!
TOP VILLAIN RANKINGS
10. Thomas Wayne
A warped version of Wayne from a timeline where Bruce died in his place, this version of Thomas Wayne became his world’s Batman. In his own world, he was far more violent and unforgiving. Some time travel shenanigans ended with him in the normal timeline where he died and Bruce was Batman. Unwilling to watch his son waste his life by fighting criminals, Thomas took part in an all-out assault on Bruce. Working with Bane, his schemes toyed with his son’s psyche in hopes of breaking his Batman habit. Instead, he nearly broke his son. He even tried to resurrect his wife with a Lazarus Pit. Thomas was even complicit in the death of Alfred Pennyworth in this collection from DC. If that doesn’t earn him a spot on the list, what does?
9. Hugo Strange
As one of Batman’s first recurring villains, Hugo Strange is a brilliant psychiatrist nursing an obsession with the Dark Knight and he definitely deserves a spot on this list. The only thing that matches Strange’s intellect is his instability. He’s privy to some of Batman’s greatest secrets. Strange was one of the first villains to deduce Batman’s secret identity. His own sick experiments have resulted in countless deaths thanks to his mutated Monster Men. But his villainy isn’t limited to the comics. B.D. Wong gave a memorable performance as the twisted scientist in the Gotham series. And Strange was one of the primary villains in the Arkham City video game, using his knowledge of the Dark Knight to push him to his limits. His greatest stories are collected here by DC Comics.
8. Mr. Freeze
No list of the Top Ten Batman villains is complete without Mr. Freeze. A fan-favorite villain from Batman: The Animated Series, Victor Fries was a brilliant cytogeneticist before he turned to a life of villainy. He uses his signature freeze gun to commit crimes so that he can fund the research needed to cure his beloved wife. While this compelling backstory came from the animated series, its popularity with fans struck a chord. It’s since been the basis for most of Freeze’s incarnations and adaptations. Freeze is a cold-blooded killer, but his love for his wife melts even the coldest hearts according to ScreenRant. Hopefully, his role in Gotham Knights will be equally compelling.
Jonathan Crane, a brilliant psychologist and biochemist. He’s also the one man who knows fear possibly better than even Batman. Crane employs his terrifying fear toxin to strike terror into the heart of Gotham and the Dark Knight. One of the Dark Knight’s most enduring foes, he’s making a comeback in the comics right now, as you can see here on CBR.com. Cillian Murphy expertly portrayed Crane in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films and was the only villain to appear in each movie. He was also the primary villain in Arkham Knight, capping of the critically acclaimed franchise with a healthy dose of frights.
Oswald Cobblepot is often considered Batman’s second greatest or most well-known enemy after the Joker. With his wealth and connections, Penguin is essentially the Kingpin of Gotham City. Oswald’s greatest strength is the fact that he’s traditionally saner than most of Batman’s other foes. His keen strategic mind and cunning intellect make him an apex predator in the Gotham underworld, despite his unimposing frame. In many ways, Oswald is a mirror image of Bruce as someone born into Gotham’s elite. But while Bruce used his resources to better his city, Oswald is a case where wealth and privilege go horribly wrong. This contrast makes Penguin quite the compelling foe. Plus, no fan could forget his iconic portrayal by Danny DeVito in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns.
5. The Riddler
Edward Nigma is arguably Batman’s most intelligent foe, earning him a spot in the top five. With his conniving intellect, Nigma challenges Batman in ways that few can, and his penchant for puzzles constantly keeps the Dark Knight on his toes. Edward’s compulsive need to prove himself smarter than everyone else makes for an interesting Achilles’ heel. The Riddler is so smart that he deduced Batman’s identity himself in some continuities. With his role in next year’s The Batman, Riddler’s star seems to be on the rise once again.
Harvey Dent earned his spot on the list as one of Batman’s greatest failures. Tragically, Two-Face was once Bruce’s close friend both in and out of costume as Gotham’s District Attorney. His disfigurement at the hands of a mob boss sent Gotham’s White Knight over the edge, turning him into one of the worst criminals the city has ever seen. Despite the horrific acts he commits, his dual personality still manifests itself using his signature coin. But Harvey’s struggle between the monster he is and the good man he was mirrors Batman’s own struggle with the line between order and chaos. Two-Face’s rivalry with the Penguin also makes for an interesting dynamic in Gotham’s crime scene. Two-Face’s tragic portrayal by Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight cemented him as one of Batman’s most nuanced baddies, and we can’t wait to see what Josh Duhamel brings to the role. He and Batman’s greatest battles can be found in this collection from DC.
3. Ra’s al Ghul
Once referred to by Batman as “The Most Dangerous Man Alive,” Ra’s al Ghul is one of the few men Batman truly fears. He is the head of the League of Assassins, a master combatant and strategist, and a genocidal ecoterrorist. Ra’s is nearly immortal, spending his life amassing limitless resources and legions of followers. Despite their rivalry, Ra’s treats Batman with respect as a possible successor. He even deduced Bruce’s identity and refused to reveal it out of honor. As the father to Talia, the mother of Batman’s child, he’s also Robin’s maternal grandfather. Ra’s is so dangerous that he even stole Batman’s emergency plans and used them to nearly crippled the Justice League. This collection from DC contains some of his greatest schemes.
Bane nearly claimed the number one spot on this list for multiple reasons. He is equally intelligent and equally determined as the Dark Knight. Both orphans, he was raised in a prison to serve time for his father’s crimes, Bane came from nothing while Bruce was given the world. Bane had to teach himself how to survive. His primary claim to fame is that he broke the Bat. In their first conflict, he sent Batman through a gauntlet of enemies only to later cripple him in his own home. Years later, in this storyline from DC, Bane would beat and string up Nightwing, Red Hood, and Robin in the same Batcave for Bruce to find before later waging psychological warfare against Bruce with the help of Thomas Wayne. He left Bruce emotionally broken after manipulating Catwoman into calling off their wedding and he even killed Alfred with his bare hands in front of Robin.
1. The Joker
There’s only one man that could top this list. The Clown Prince of Crime. The Jester of Genocide. Most fans would expect Joker to be number one, and they’d be right. At this point, he’s even a big enough character on his own that he can stand alone without Batman if 2019’s Joker was any indication. Definitively Batman’s most well-known enemy, Joker’s list of crimes goes on and on. He killed Jason Todd and he crippled Barbara Gordon. Heck, he even killed Commissioner Gordon’s wife. And just last year, he learned Bruce’s identity and stole all of his money. On top of that, his never-ending list of fan-favorite portrayals includes such greats as Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Hamill, and Jack Nicholson. Whether or not he’s your favorite, it’s no joke that the Joker is Batman’s greatest enemy.
Do you agree with our rankings? And are there any villains you feel we’ve missed? Head down to the comments below and share your rankings with us!