It’s hard to find a superhero who has more famous villains than Batman. With 80 plus years of comic history to draw on, the stories on screen have barely even scratched the surface of the back catalogue of Bat-villains.
The upcoming The Batman film from director Matt Reeves is set to bring a new Batman (Robert Pattinson), and Batmobile to cinemas but it will also herald the return of some of Batman’s classic foes. The Riddler (Paul Dano) and The Penguin (Colin Farrell) haven’t been seen in a live-action Batman movie since Batman Returns and Batman Forever in the 90s. Meanwhile Catwoman has had several famous iterations via Halle Berry, Michelle Pfieffer and Anne Hathaway, but the mantle will be passed to Zoe Kravitz in this latest adaptation.
The way villains are portrayed in a Batman movie comes down entirely to the tone of the story. Early adaptations like Batman and Batman Returns took a route that was very faithful to the comic depictions of villains such as Joker and Penguin, whereas, The Dark Knight trilogy took a realistic portrayal.
Reeves’ The Batman is expected to take a more noir approach with a focus on the detective side of Batman’s skill-set. Whether this means the film will be highly stylistic or more grounded is yet to be seen. But whichever direction The Batman and its following sequels chooses to go will largely determine how the villains are portrayed.
As rumors spread around about which other Batman rogues could be heading to the screen, the DCU Direct team have chosen our top picks for foes that could be facing the Dark Knight next.
Victor Zsasz is one of Arkham Asylum’s most famous and frequent inhabitants. He’s identifiable by the tally marks on his body, which he carves into his skin for every victim he kills. His deeper motives for killing relate to liberating people from the pointlessness of existence, which seemingly gives a point to his existence.
Fans may remember Zsasz as appearing in the most recent DCEU film Birds of Prey as Roman Sionis’ right hand man. Due to this it seems unlikely that another stab at Zsasz will be taken so soon, and if The Batman is to align with the DCEU, then the character canonically died at the hand of Helena Bertinellia in Birds of Prey. But more recent reports state that the Reeves’ Batman films will be a part of their own universe, leaving the door open for a new take on Zsasz to appear.
10. Hugo Strange
A highly intelligent doctor focused on chemistry and biology, Hugo Strange’s feats have ranged from lead psychologist at Arkham Asylum to experimenting on prisoners with artificial stimulants and mind altering chemicals. He is also one of the few villains who has learned that Batman’s alter ego is Bruce Wayne.
Strange has previously been seen on screen in Gotham and the DC animated films but also held the leading antagonist role in the Arkham City video game. With Robert Pattinson’s Batman set to have more of a focus on his intelligence and detective skills, Strange could be a worthy foe for the Dark Knight. While Riddler is ego-driven into proving his superior intelligence, Strange is more sly and ruthless in his pursuit to expose Batman and could possibly gain the upper hand by manipulating the other rogues into doing his bidding.
9. The Court of Owls
A little known group that hasn’t been explored in any of the big screen versions of Batman is the Court of Owls. Like all good conspiracies, the Court is a secret society of the rich and powerful in Gotham, dating back to the colonial era. Think of groups like The Family or the Illuminati and you’re on the right track. They are aptly named as they are said to be forever watching Gotham from above in the shadows, and to no one’s surprise, they wear owl masks.
The Talons are also an integral part of the Court of Owls. They are an assassin group who have sworn fealty to the Court and carry out their deeds. The Talons are genetically enhanced and highly skilled, making them difficult to kill and the Court have even developed a serum to bring them back from the dead. The Court of Owls often only have one active Talon at a time, keeping the others in stasis until they are called upon.
A shady secret organization could be the perfect investigative fodder that the new Batman needs. If Batman’s detective talents are to be integral to the new trilogy, he would have a challenge on his hands both physically and mentally by taking on the 1% of Gotham and their super-powered assassins. Not to mention the Court has a grudge against Bruce Wayne in the comics for attempting to revamp Gotham, so Batman could be facing a battle on both of his identities.
Deadshot has had a few on-screen iterations across DC history, including in Smallville and the Arrowverse, plus his famous portrayal by Will Smith in Suicide Squad. But whether The Batman will be canon with the DCEU is still to be confirmed, so it’s possible Deadshot could be rebooted again in the new trilogy.
Deadshot is known for his proficiency with a sniper rifle and, as his name suggests, he never misses a shot. He is a notorious gun for hire with a disregard for human life, making him one of the most dangerous assassins. He also has an odd fascination with his own death wish, which is to go out in a spectacular fashion. Despite this, Deadshot isn’t a clear cut villain and is often portrayed as an antihero, particularly when his motivations come down to his family.
His moral ambiguity and lack of loyalty makes Deadshot an interesting opponent for Batman. Deadshot is completely committed to seeing a job through to the end, no matter what it takes for him to finish it. He also cares little about his own life, and a man that has nothing to lose is a problem for a character like Batman, who has a hero complex.
One of the most tragic cases in the Rogues’ gallery, Harvey Dent was once a good man and Gotham’s District Attorney before he became Two-Face. Via a traumatic event whether it be acid thrown in his face in the comics or being caught in a fire in The Dark Knight, Two-Face has half his face burned off and subsequently descends into madness.
Drawing from this encounter, Two-Face becomes obsessed with chance and fate. Instead of passing judgement on his victims via evidence, as he would as the DA, he uses the flip of a coin as a decider. His dissociative identity and bipolar disorders means his personalities are literally split in half on the sides of good and evil. Sometimes he is rational, and other times he is merciless.
It’s been Two-Face’s personal connection to Batman that has made him one of the Dark Knight’s toughest opponents. Having worked together in bringing criminals to justice, Harvey Dent’s turn against Batman makes it all the harder for the hero to fight someone he once knew as a decent human being.
While Two-Face hasn’t been announced for the new The Batman movie, there are questions surrounding Peter Sarsgaard’s mystery character, Gil Colson. Sarsgaard has denied any rumors but as his character is also the district attorney in the film, as Dent was, it wouldn’t be a far stretch for Colson to become Two-Face following the events of The Batman.
After Bane became famous for his mumbling Tom Hardy portrayal in The Dark Knight Rises, it could be time for another shot at the monstrous villain. Bane is one of the more outlandish characters from the Rogues archive, gaining most of his hulkish power and appearance from a chemical known as Venom.
Many pass Bane off as being a thug thanks to his huge size and strength, but he’s actually very intelligent and strategic in his comic origins. Along with his penchant for murder, he was able to successfully climb the power ladder in prison and break out, multiple times. Bane is renowned for breaking Batman’s back in the Knightfall comic arc, which was also adapted in The Dark Knight Rises.
A rumored Bane spin off movie is potentially in the works but it’s likely he could make an appearance in Reeves’ trilogy as well. His mercenary prowess has already been shown off in the Nolan films, but it would be interesting to learn more about Bane’s origins or even see him ally with some of the other rogues in a Secret Six style team up.
Scarecrow is one of the most commonly used Batman villains, likely because his signature weapon of fear toxin makes for an excellent symbolic plot device. He was the first villain to appear in Nolan’s Batman Begins, has taken the lead antagonist role in Arkham Knight, and is even said to be appearing in the upcoming season of Batwoman.
When it comes down to it, Batman is intended to be a symbol of fear. As a child Bruce Wayne feared Bats after falling into a batcave, hence he became the thing he feared most in the hopes of also striking fear in the heart of criminals. Scarecrow is the perfect villain to reflect this symbol as he uses fear to manipulate his enemies. His comic arcs have led to some of the most twisted Batman storylines yet, leaving plenty of untapped potential for his next on-screen appearance.
Scarecrow and Batman face-offs are notoriously even-matched as Batman has so few fears that the villain can exploit. The exception to this being when Batman is unable to save someone he cares about, think Rachel Dawes or Jason Todd. Seeing as Reeves’ The Batman is set in the early days of Batman’s career, there’s plenty of opportunities for Scarecrow to be the villain who instills this fear in Batman.
Hush is undoubtedly one of the most disturbing villains in the DC universe. Growing up, Tommy Elliott was the mirror of Bruce Wayne, both born into rich families, highly intelligent, and best friends. After an attempt to murder his parents and inherit their fortune went wrong, Tommy began to resent Bruce for living the life he dreamed of, that is, becoming an orphan and getting rich.
Tommy went on to become an excellent surgeon but his deep sociopathic tendencies and innate hatred for his childhood friend lead to him adopting the Hush persona. Hush faked his death as Tommy and began wearing bandages around his face to disguise his identity. His obsession with Bruce Wayne led to Hush performing plastic surgery on his own face to perfectly replicate that of Wayne’s.
Hush has mainly appeared on television in Gotham and Batwoman, but has also had a DC Animated film dedicated to his iconic storyline. Many have been waiting for the Hush arc to be given justice in the live-action films, so giving Bruce Wayne his childhood friend in this latest version of Batman could be the best place to do it. As Robert Pattinson will be portraying a younger version of Batman, this gives the opportunity for Bruce Wayne and Tommy Elliott’s rivalry to be established before his descent into Hush in later films.
If Slade Wilson sounds familiar that’s probably because Deadpool/Wade Wilson is an intentional parody of the Deathstroke character. In a similar origin story, Deathstroke was a soldier who was given enhanced strength, speed and regenerative healing due to an experimental serum the army was using to try and create a metahuman army. Deathstroke also has improved brain function making him both physically and mentally strategic.
There’s a high chance that Deathstroke will be seen in the DCEU thanks to the post-credits tease from Justice League showing Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke in a meeting with Lex Luthor. Manganiello was intended to appear in the solo The Batman film while Ben Affleck was directing, but when Reeves’ came aboard and re-wrote the script, Deathstroke’s role became uncertain.
It would be a shame to see Manganiello’s Deathstroke get put aside while there’s still ample opportunity for him to face off with Robert Pattinson’s Dark Knight in The Batman. Slade Wilson’s battle with Batman is long awaited on screen and would force the caped crusader to bring all his skills to the table in order to win.
2. Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy is one of Batman’s most famous foes, so it’s hard to believe she hasn’t been seen in a Batman movie since Uma Thurman took the role in Batman & Robin. The character has frequently appeared in the DC animated universe, most recently in the Harley Quinn series, but her return to the big screen is long overdue.
It was rumored for a while that the next Birds of Prey film could feature Poison Ivy, considering Harley and Ivy’s long comic history. But the alleged Gotham City Sirens movie has been put on hold, meaning Poison Ivy’s next appearance could be in the upcoming The Batman trilogy.
Poison Ivy has the ability to control plants in the comics, which could be directly adapted in the new Batman depending on the tone. But a more realistic approach would be to feature Ivy as more of an eco-warrior/terrorist, and perhaps use her proficiency with toxic plants as weapons to poison her enemies. She’s quite often depicted as an antiheroine who does good things for the wrong reasons and this morally gray depiction of the character could be a good fit for a new age Batman.
Of course the number one spot has to go to the clown prince of crime. Batman and the Joker have been opposite sides of the coin since the first Tim Burton Batman film. He is the 'go to' Batman antagonist and has been portrayed by over 20 different actors, the most famous of which include Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix. The latter two have also received Oscars for their performances.
The reason Joker has become Batman’s most effective villain is how well he is set up as a foil for the Dark Knight’s character. The Joker lives without rules, his crimes are designed to incite anarchy with no remorse. Hence when he comes across Batman who lives by his ‘save everyone, no killing’ rule, the Joker is obsessed with pushing Batman to break his own code. Of course, Batman has killed before in various iterations, but seeing this particular dynamic and its consequences explored on screen is still largely uncharted territory.
The origin story in the 2019 Joker movie was an instant hit, having adapted certain elements from the famous ‘The Killing Joke’ comic arc. A logical follow up would be to use ‘A Death in the Family’, where Joker kidnaps and tortures Batman’s sidekick Robin.
At this point Joker fatigue is possible, with both Joaquin Phoenix and Jared Leto taking on the role within three years of each other. But there's already rumors that casting for a new Joker for Reeves' film is underway. Whether or not Phoenix or Leto will continue their roles as the Joker in other films is yet to be seen. One thing that's for sure is the Joker will continue to be around as long as Batman films are being made.