A superhero is nothing without their villains. More often than not, the villain is one of the most interesting parts of a comic book’s story. Some evil-doers are even just as iconic as the heroes themselves. Lex Luthor, Magneto, and the Mandarin are all perfect foils to some of the biggest superheroes of all time and make for captivating conflicts. It’s also incredibly entertaining to see how characters overcome every obstacle thrown at them by an antagonist.
Batman unquestionably has one of the largest and most popular lineups of enemies. From the dark and gritty to the goofy and wacky, Batman has an extremely wide range of foes. Everyone has their favorites, but it’s still a bit of a challenge to figure out which ones are truly the greatest. Here is a list of Batman’s top ten villains:
Harvey Dent was Gotham City’s district attorney and an important ally to Batman and Commissioner Gordon in their fight to clean up the streets of Gotham before Sal Maroni threw acid in his face during a trial, scarring him and warping his mind. Two-Face being a glimmer of hope for Batman that then became part of the darkness is enough to crush Batman on a personal level.
His obsession with duality has been showcased during his schemes in fun and unique ways which makes for some entertaining bouts with the Bat. Being a former DA, Dent is extremely knowledgeable of the law, so he knows countless ways around it to be a thorn in the hero’s side.
9) Poison Ivy
A botanist who was mutated into a human/plant hybrid, Poison Ivy has always proved to be a formidable opponent to Batman. With her crusade to help the Earth against the damage humanity has done to it, her motives are justified. She has been a member of the Suicide Squad and is a love interest of the fan-favorite Harley Quinn. There’s no doubt that Ivy is an awesome character.
Not only has Poison Ivy caused destruction by creating plant monsters and poisoned countless civilians with toxic spores, but she has mind controlled people to do her bidding. She can create an army of plant monsters and mind controlled slaves rather effortlessly. She once controlled Superman and forced him to fight Batman. She has even been able to control Batman himself for brief periods of time, making her a huge threat to him.
8) Hugo Strange
Professor Hugo Strange is one of Batman’s oldest enemies since he originated back in 1940. He’s also one of his smartest. He may not be much of a fighter, but he’s experimented on Arkham inmates and turned them into monsters able to take on Batman. Strange is a master of psychology and can always predict Batman’s next move. Plus, he’s one of the few villains who has been able to figure out Batman’s true identity.
Between his monstrous experiments, his expertise with psychology, his pure insanity, and his obsession with Batman, he’s proven himself to be shockingly dangerous and unpredictable.
Hush is an especially fascinating villain, as he’s more of Bruce Wayne’s enemy than Batman’s. Tommy Elliot was Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend who grew jealous of his life. He wanted to be like Bruce so bad that he even tried to murder his own parents to inherit their fortune. As an adult, Tommy becomes the bandage-covered villain known as Hush.
As Hush, he takes his Bruce Wayne envy even further by surgically altering his own face to be identical to Bruce. He also gains enough pull with many other criminals to goad them all into attacking Batman at once. He also demands that no one else kills him since he wants to be the one to do so. Hush is clearly deranged, and his intelligence makes him that much more dangerous. Plus, changing his face to look identical to Bruce Wayne allows him to get close to those Bruce loves most and even slip through Gotham without anyone realizing who he really is.
6) Ra’s Al Ghul
Ra’s Al Ghul is easily one of Batman’s most dangerous foes. He’s a master martial artist, is extremely skilled with a sword, and has lived for hundreds of years thanks to the power of the Lazarus pit. He also leads the League of Assassins who are essentially an army of ninjas willing to die for him. He’s an international terrorist whose goal is to eliminate most of humanity to achieve perfect environmental balance within the world, and he certainly has the means to do so.
Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter, Talia, has been a love interest of Bruce Wayne and is the mother of Damien Wayne, the fifth Robin. Because of this, Bruce’s conflict with Ra’s is much more personal than with most other enemies. Plus, again, he has a fountain of youth and a ninja army.
Batman uses fear to intimidate the criminals of Gotham. It’s only fitting that one of his major villains uses fear against him. With his arsenal of fear-inducing chemicals, Scarecrow can force anyone to see their deepest fears. It’s pretty hard to fight while also living through your own personal nightmare.
Scarecrow, whose real name is Jonathan Crane, is also a professor of psychology who specializes in fear, so he knows how to use fear to torture his victims even without his toxin. That being said, the fact that his toxin can cause Batman to hallucinate proves how much of a worthy advisory he can be. Crane is such a master of fear that he was even made a Yellow Lantern at one point.
Bane is without a doubt one of Batman’s strongest enemies. With the help of his Venom super-steroid, he can easily take on anyone, including Batman. Bane is known as the one who “broke the Bat” for a reason. Bane broke Batman’s back in his original appearance, proving he’s one of the few villains capable of defeating Batman.
Bane isn’t just strong, but he’s also highly intelligent and is a master strategist. He has led his own army on multiple occasions and continues to come up with plans that Batman actually struggles to overcome. Bane has been one of Batman’s most popular enemies since he originated back in the 90s, and it’s no surprise why.
3) Mr. Freeze
Mr. Freeze is definitely one of the coolest villains around. With his freeze gun, he can instantly put anyone or anything on ice. It’s pretty hard for Batman to use his gadgets if they’re frozen. Plus, even Batman can’t live in sub-zero temperatures. Even when Batman does fight and win against Mr. Freeze, he has to do so while sliding on ice, which probably isn’t the easiest task.
The real reason why Mr. Freeze is such an interesting character, though, is his motive and backstory. Sure, he was originally made to be a gimmick villain and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s big screen portrayal of him didn’t do the character any favors. However, he became much more popular when he appeared in Batman: the Animated Series. There, he was given an emotional backstory about how he has his wife cryogenically frozen to give himself time to find a cure for her terminal illness. This made him a much more tragic character, and this even became canon to his character in the comics. Mr. Freeze being a stone-cold baddie already made him a fun villain, but the sympathetic motive made him truly beloved by fans.
Edward Nygma, otherwise known as The Riddler, is one of Batman’s most intelligent antagonists. Where Batman is the “world’s greatest detective,” it’s important that he regularly faces off against a major villain who’s just as smart as he is. Intelligence mixed with insanity can be extremely dangerous, even if Riddler doesn’t come across as much of a fighter. He did murder several people just to get his deck of playing cards back from them, afterall.
Riddler, obviously, is a fan and master of puzzles. Leaving riddles as hints at crime scenes and locking his foes in Saw-like deathtraps just to test their intelligence allows for a lot of fun for the reader or viewer. Not only does it put Batman and his allies in situations they would never be in when facing off against anyone else, but it also gives the audience the opportunity to figure out the puzzle on their own. Reading about some of the Riddler’s puzzles and trying to solve them feels like playing along with a gameshow on TV. The Riddler is smart, unique, twisted, and creates some of the most entertaining situations for Batman to be in.
How could the number one spot go to anyone else? The Crown Prince of Crime is Batman’s first villain and has always been his archnemesis. The Joker is the perfect opposite of Batman. Where Batman fights for justice and to keep order in the world, the Joker wants pure chaos. Where Batman is serious, dark, and brooding, the Joker is comical, colorful, and eccentric. Batman may be the world’s greatest detective, but even he can’t predict the Joker’s next move.
The Joker is just as evil as they come. He poisons innocent civilians with the same chemicals that turned him into the Joker, causing them to laugh as they die. He paralyzed and sexually assaulted Barbara Gordon and forced her father to watch a video of it on loop. He beat Jason Todd to “death” with a crowbar. He corrupted acclaimed psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel and turned her into Harley Quinn. He tricked the Bat Family into thinking they were eating their own severed faces. On top of all that, he does it all for the sake of a joke. He thinks it’s all hilarious. At times, he is actually really funny. He is a clown, afterall.
Like the Joker has said, he and Batman are destined to do this until the end of time. The Joker is the longest-running, most sadistic, and most iconic Batman villain ever. He may even be the biggest villain in comic book history.
There are definitely countless other Batman villains out there, but not all of them could quite make the cut. That being said, it’s really difficult to leave some out of the discussion when listing Batman’s greatest adversaries, so let’s take a look at some others and why they didn’t make the list.
Harley Quinn has become one of DC Comics’ most recognizable characters. However, as a villain she is more of an extension of the Joker. On her own, she’s more of an anti-hero. Catwoman is one of Batman’s classic villains, but she works better as another anti-hero and love interest to Bruce. She’s practically become a member of the Bat Family. Deathstroke is a total badass and can defeat Batman in combat. However, he originated as a Teen Titans villain and is usually a hired gun working for some other criminal. The Penguin is another of Batman’s most iconic villains, but at his core, he’s more or less just a fancy arms dealer. Villains like Clayface, the Ventriloquist, Firefly, Killer Croc, Mad Hatter, and Man-Bat are all incredible in their own right and are surprisingly underrated, but they’re just not quite as impactful as the ones who did make the list.
Did your favorite Batman villain make the cut? If not, who would you list as Batman’s greatest villains?