Although Batman is, himself, one of the most popular comic book characters ever and needs no further introduction, one of the things that certainly made him as appealing as he is are his villains. Batman’s Rogues Gallery, as some of DC’s most powerful villains are collectively called, contains numerous names that have appeared in the several decades long history of the characters. In fact, Batman’s villains are so good that people usually consider them to be the best villains in the comic book industry.
Here is the ranked list of the 20 best Batman villains in history. Enjoy!
20. Mr. Bloom
Debut: Batman #43 (2015)
We start off our list with a very controversial pick, as Mr. Bloom is a villain that is more enigmatic than any name on this list. Still, we are fans of Snyder’s run on Batman and we think that the mysterious and beautifully creepy Mr. Bloom deserves to be on this list. He is a very different version of the Joker in a way, a rival of Gordon’s Batman.
He is a superpowered monstrosity obsessed with flowers and blooming, which explains his name. The stories never revealed too much information about him, but what we saw was both dangerous and scary enough for him to land a place on our list.
Alias: Lonnie Machin
Debut: Detective Comics #608 (1989)
The young revolutionary anarchist, Lonnie Machin, is a child of wealthy parents that decided to reject his heritage and become the terrorist Anarky. There is a lot of mystery surrounding this character and although most secrets have been revealed since his debut, he is still a very inspiring personality and a character with a lot of charisma.
In a way, he fights for the same things as Batman – he wants a Gotham free of corruption and crime – but does it in the completely wrong way, which is why he landed on this list.
Alias: Slade Wilson
Debut: The New Teen Titans #2 (1980)
Slade Wilson’s rivalry with Batman is well-known. The two of them are quite similar, with the main difference that Deathstroke was “manufactured”, while Batman trained to become what he is.
Deathstroke is certainly both dangerous and popular enough to be placed higher on this list, but due to the fact that the modern version of the character is primarily associated with the Teen Titans (and Nightwing) and not Batman himself, we opted to honor his legacy with a lower spot, but still thought it necessary for him to be on this list.
17. Professor Pyg
Alias: Lazlo Valentin
Debut: Batman #666 (2007)
One of the more bizarre villains in Batman’s Rogues Gallery, Professor Pyg is a character that quickly became a notorious name on the list. He doesn’t really have any superpowers, but he is a bizarre serial murderer obsessed with perfection and that has a very well-established army and infrastructure behind him. His Dollotrons, mindless puppets he turns his victims into, are nigh-invincible and enable him to be as notorious as he is.
He isn’t really as dangerous as some other names on this list and he usually works as a henchman for other villains, but he is so morbid and scary that he certainly deserved a spot here.
Alias: Basil Karlo
Debut: Detective Comics #40 (1940)
Although we picked the Basil Karlo iteration of the character because it is the most well-known one, Clayface is a very important character in Batman’s lore. A normal guy that turned into a monster made out of clay, Clayface usually has some deep backstory that gives him a certain amount of depth.
Although he had some individual stories, Clayface was most often hired as a henchman for other, bigger villains and that is why he got was placed so low on our list; he even worked with Batman in one of the recent narratives. Still, Clayface definitely had to be on this list and that is why we included him.
15. Court of Owls
Debut: Batman #3 (2011)
The Court of Owls isn’t really one villain, it is a secret, ages-old organization that wants to control Gotham and uses the Talons as their foot soldiers. When Scott Snyder created the organization, we didn’t really think that it would become such an important part of the mythos, but it did and we can freely state that modern Batman comics would be unimaginable without the Court of Owls.
We placed them relatively low on the list because we still need time to evaluate them when compared to some “older” characters, but we’re certain that they will reach the level of notoriety necessary for a higher spot eventually.
14. Hugo Strange
Debut: Detective Comics #36 (1940)
Just imagine how dangerous a perfectly normal scientist has to be to land a spot among all of the freaks on here? Well, Hugo Strange did just that. Although he has not appeared in many stories – actually, two of his major storylines were, in fact, almost the same (the newer was a remake of sorts) – Hugo Strange has had a profound influence on Batman’s legacy.
He is a brilliant psychologist and a profile and is one of the few people in the lore that managed to figure out Batman’s true identity all by himself. Sadly, he became so obsessed with Batman that he wanted to become Batman and that insanity is what ultimately cost him his victories. Still, he got a spot on our list, so it’s something.
13. Harley Quinn
Alias: Harleen Quinzel
Debut: “Joker’s Favor” (1992)
Harley Quinn hasn’t had much alone time in Batman’s stories, which is why we ranked her so low on this list. And while she was a major character in some other series – especially related to the Suicide Squad – as a Batman villain, she was most often portrayed as a sidekick to Joker.
Her role is still substantial and she was a true menace in a lot of her appearances, but the sad truth is that as a Batman villain, she is highly underrated, especially when compared to Catwoman or Poison Ivy (see below). Still, Harley had to be on this list and this is the place we picked for her.
Alias: Thomas Elliot
Debut: Batman #609 (2003)
Hush, Hush… the villainous alter ego of one Thomas “Tommy” Elliot, a brilliant surgeon and friend of Bruce Wayne. The two of them had very similar circumstances growing up, but while Wayne lost his parents in a tragedy, Elliot’s involvement in his parents’ deaths is still a mystery.
At one point, he became so jealous of Wayne that he wanted to become him. Out of that hatred, the villainous Hush was born, a villain obsessed with destroying Bruce Wayne and Batman. Hush was a real threat in his own cult classic narrative and while he has not had a lot of major appearances, he is certainly one of the villains we had to list here.
Alias: Harvey Dent
Debut: Detective Comics #66 (1942)
Harvey Dent’s role in the evolution of Batman’s character has changed over the years, but he has always been an important factor in that aspect. He was generally portrayed as being Bruce Wayne’s friend, which is why his villainous transformation into Two-Face hit Wayne hard.
Two-Face had a lot of great and important storylines (The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, No Man’s Land) and he has certainly become an essential part of the Dark Knight’s Rogues Gallery. His coin, however interesting, is also his greatest weakness and that obvious element is why we put him in the lower half of this list, despite his important role.
Alias: Selina Kyle
Debut: Batman #1 (1940)
Catwoman is technically speaking not a supervillain in the same manner as all the other names on this list. But, she is an essential part of Batman’s lore and she isn’t exactly a heroine, although there have been instances where she did act like an antiheroine. Catwoman is a burglar who uses her acrobatic skills to get what she wants.
She is also quite handsome and charming, which is why she is able to manipulate the men around her. Her relationship with Batman is also what makes the character all the more interesting and the reason why we put her exactly here, in the middle of our list.
9. Mad Hatter
Alias: Jervis Tetch
Debut: Batman #49 (1948)
Jervis Tetch is just looking for his Alice. That’s fine, unless you’re a genius-level scientist who uses hypnotic substances or devices to kidnap young girls or women, which you then use to live out your twisted fantasies. Although Tetch seems small, fragile and more wacky than dangerous, he is not to be underestimated, as he is capable of causing a lot of trouble, as some stories have shown us.
He has a very specific motive behind his personality, which is also his weakness in a way, but he is still quite dangerous and, due to his maniacal tendencies, has been a big problem for Batman at times. It has been suggested that he is also a pedophile, but that was never officially confirmed.
8. Poison Ivy
Alias: Pamela Lillian Isley
Debut: Batman #181 (1966)
The highest-ranked female villain on our list, Poison Ivy doesn’t hesitate to use her charms to get what she wants. Maybe this is how she climbed up to spot number eight? Hm… never mind that now. Poison Ivy is an ecoterrorist; she usually has a very specific goal in mind and all of her actions are generally executed in accordance with that goal.
She is highly dangerous and, as all terrorists, she doesn’t have many limits, which is why she is so dangerous. Plus, she easily manipulates the predominantly male roster of DC’s superheroes with relative ease, which makes her deserving of this position.
Alias: Jonathan Crane
Debut: World’s Finest Comics #3 (1941)
Jonathan Crane is a very interesting villain. He was a brilliant scientist and lecturer, but at one point in his career, his interest in phobias turned into an obsession. He became sadistic in his experiments and lost everything, thus becoming the villain Scarecrow, spreading fear all over Gotham.
Thanks to his chemicals and toxins, which have a profound and destructive influence on the victim’s mind, Scarecrow became a symbol of fear and one of the biggest threats Gotham has faced. The fact that he sometimes has the tendencies of a megalomaniac certainly doesn’t help, but it does earn him a high spot on our list.
6. Mr. Freeze
Alias: Victor Fries
Debut: Batman #121 (1959)
As far as Mr. Freeze goes, he is one of the best-written Batman villains ever. His tragic backstory that perfectly fits the “ice” theme of his persona was something that amazed fans and made Mr. Freeze a fan-favorite villain.
He isn’t always intrinsically evil, despite what some recent stories suggest, and he has a very deep and traumatic motivation, but he is dangerous, he is a genius and he is highly unpredictable. Mr. Freeze is a villain we love and a villain that has consistently shown us that he is deserving of such a high spot on our list.
Alias: Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot
Debut: Detective Comics #58 (1941)
Penguin is here mostly due to tradition. He is a regular guy with a lot of money and gadgets, but he is also one of Batman’s oldest foes. Penguin’s role varied throughout the years, but what was always consistent was his presence in Batman’s stories.
Whether he was the main villain, whether he pulled the strings behind the curtains, or was just asked for assistance, Penguin has always been there, and seeing how some recent stories (Pain and Prejudice, Joker’s Asylum) added a lot of depth to his tragic backstory, Penguin certainly had to get a good position on our list.
4. Ra’s al-Ghul
Debut: Batman #232 (1971)
Whether you like him or not, Ra’s al-Ghul is inevitable. As old as history itself, this guy has managed to survive practically everything thanks to his Lazarus Pits. Exceptionally intelligent, a skilled fighter with magical powers and, what is probably the most important thing here, unbelievably patient, Ra’s al-Ghul is a villain that has caused problems for the whole DC Universe and his resilience is something that makes him a true threat, which is also why he is so high up on our list.
Debut: Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 (1993)
Bane was a villain that appeared out of nowhere during the (in)famous “Knightfall” saga. And while he might seem like a mindless brute with absolutely no additional qualities aside from his muscles and the Venom he is addicted to, Bane is actually one of the most dangerous foes Batman has ever faced.
The guy is exceptionally intelligent, he is a master tactician and he has managed to “break the Bat”, a feat that practically no other Batman villain has done. Bane has consistently shown to be a true threat, as he has been in complete control of Gotham City on more than one occasion, which is why he deserved to be this high on our list.
Alias: Edward Nygma (or Edward Nashton)
Debut: Detective Comics #140 (1948)
Now, some of you might agree that Riddler shouldn’t be on spot number two, but this guy has such a long-lasting tradition as Batman’s villain and has proven himself to be exceptionally intelligent and a truly compelling opponent of the Dark Knight.
With years, he evolved from being a gimmick villain obsessed with riddles and puzzles to a maniacal villain obsessed with riddles and puzzles, his plans and traps becoming all the more sophisticated and dangerous along the way. Today, the Riddler is a name that incites fear and Snyder’s “Zero Year” storyline has shown just why he is deserving of this spot.
Before seeing who has the first spot on our list (and you know who has it), let’s check out some less popular Batman villains that didn’t make our top 20 list.
Among the names that did not make it on our list is Firefly, the obsessed pyromaniac who has caused a lot of problems for Batman and his allies, regardless of the incarnation. Solomon Grundy, although envisioned as a Green Lantern villain, has several interesting clashes against Batman. The serial killer Victor Zsasz also didn’t make the cut, as well as Azrael, but that guy’s affiliation changed so he’s not always been portrayed as a villain. Killer Croc just barely missed out on a spot.
Due to them being connected with the Justice League more than Batman himself, we did not put the Dark Knights on this list, although both The Batman Who Laughs and the Robin King deserve a spot on this list because they’re awesome villains.
“Regular” villains, like Black Mask, The Ventriloquist, Carmine Falcone, or Sal Maroni, couldn’t really land a spot on this list, as well as Calendar Man, although the most recent incarnations of Julian Gregory Day certainly portray him as a dangerous foe. Man-Bat was excluded due to having varying affiliations throughout the series.
Debut: Batman #1 (1940)
It would have been more than blasphemous of us had we not put the Clown Prince of Crime on top of this list. But, with the Joker, it’s really not a matter of tradition or a long-lasting reputation – the guy really managed to outdo himself almost every time he crossed paths with the Dark Knight.
From a gimmick villain in his debut, to the maniacal interpretations of Scott Snyder and the most recent Joker War, Joker is deservedly the top name on this list, as he is not just Batman’s best villain, he is probably the best and most complex comic book villain ever created.