After a three movies, Batman has battled his fair share of nutjobs. We are now going to rank those nutjobs. We count down the best of the worst, and examine who exactly is Batman’s greatest foe. Quick note, I didn’t include Selina Kyle. She may have stolen Bruce Wayne’s possessions, but she also stole my heart.
6. Miranda Tate/Talia Al Ghul
Of all the Batman movie villains, Talia was easily the weakest. The character was seriously underdeveloped, and although the reveal of her identity is a stunning twist, it had little emotional impact. Bruce had known her for all of five minutes before hooking up with her and leaving in the middle of the night. Had an actual relationship developed between the two, it would have been tragic and painful. Instead, it’s just a story beat.
The Scarecrow has always been a bit of a one trick pony, but damn does he do that trick well. And if you’re going to make a movie about fear, then look no further than Dr. Crane. His appearences in all three movies makes for a fun sense of continuity, and every second of Cillian Murphy’s performance is enjoyable.
Scarecrow is low on this list because he had a rather weak relationship with Batman. The two had very little interaction, and Crane was not much more than a pawn in a larger plot. That’s not a bad thing, it just means he has some stiff competition.
The Dark Knight is arguably a movie about Harvey Dent. His tragic character arc defines the movie, and it is Harvey that goes through the most development.
Aaron Eckhart does a great job with the material, and my only complaint is that his turn to the dark side is a bit too sudden. A little more understanding of his days in Internal Affairs would have helped lay a stronger foundation for the “Two-Face” moniker.
3. Ra’s Al Ghul
Nolan redefined the Batman universe by making steeping it in realism. How then do you portray an immortal terrorist? In a truly inspired move, Ra’s’ immortality is nothing more than a reliance on decoys and theatricality.
What made Ra’s such a powerful villain was his strong relationship with Bruce Wayne. After all, Ra’s spends the first third of Batman Begins as a mentor. The two share a common bond in their hatred of the criminal underworld and painful pasts. Ra’s just takes the campaign against evil one step further, hoping to destroy it entirely. Unlike the other villains, Ra’s had no costume or gimmick. He just had an iron will and a complex relationship with our hero.
Of all of the villains on this list, few could honestly expect take on Batman physically and expect anything other than a severe concussion and a cell in Blackgate. Not only can Bane withstand Batman’s assaults, he can dish out a severe amount of punishment. What’s worse is that he knows just how to break your spirit, using hope to cause the truest suffering.
Being physically imposing only goes so far though. Bane was fun to watch on screen with a dynamic presence and magnetic personality. What stops Bane from taking the top spot? His character motivations are somewhat murky. He wants to destroy Gotham to fulfill the legacy of Ra’s Al Ghul, but why? The man expelled him from the League. Is he basically trying to win the approval of a disapproving parent? How did he fall so far to annihilate an entire city? I never understand why he hates crime considering his capacity for cruelty. Ultimately, the reveal of the true mastermind downplays Bane as the greatest henchmen of all time, and his death shows that.
When push comes to shove though, rule of cool. Bane might just have highest awesome quotient of any villain on this list, and he truly earns the number two spot on this list.
1. The Joker
Could it ever be anyone else? Heath Ledger’s praises have been sung by Bat fans ever since his first reveal, and for good reason. Ledger gave an electric performance that stole every scene. Impossible to forget, the Joker remains the greatest villain Batman has ever faced.
It’s not just the performance that makes the Joker such a brilliant villain. He’s a complex character who has the most fascinating relationship with Batman. The Joker turned Bruce’s world upside down, murdering his loved ones, testing his wits and challenging his moral compass in a way no other villain could. Nolan perfectly presented a relationship that has lasted in comics for over 70 years, explaining that in a twisted way the two can co-exist. Both are outcasts of society, but they truly are polar opposites.
Separately, Batman and Joker are two great characters. Together? They complete each other.