Every superhero has at least one iconic nemesis. Superman has Lex Luthor, Spiderman has the Green Goblin, Captain America has the Red Skull and…you get the idea. Batman, on the other hand, has so many memorable foes that this faction of antagonists has been christened the Rogues Gallery. Their appearances, demeanors and motivations all differ wildly, but if there’s one thing these baddies aren’t, it’s forgettable. Some have powers, some use gadgets and some use pure mind tactics. While I would like to rank every villain equally, the list calls for me to select a top 5. So without further ado, here are the top 5 best Batman villains of all time, ranked!
5. Two-Face (Real Name: Harvey Dent)
Two-Face is one of Batman’s longer running foes, first appearing in comics in 1942. Formerly a high-ranking District Attorney, Harvey Dent’s life was changed forever when he had his face scarred by acid thrown at him during a trial. Overcome by grief, Dent became obsessed with revenge, particularly via determining fates with a coin. In some continuities, he has disorders such as schizophrenia, which tie-in to the idea of him being two-faced.
Two-Face has a lot going for him as a Batman villain. He has a good design, a strong backstory and a captivating name, all of which land him on the top 5 spot on the list.
4. Poison Ivy (Real Name: Pamela Isley)
Coming in at number four is Pamela Isley, AKA Poison Ivy. Debuting in 1966, Poison Ivy was notable for being one of Batman’s first female enemies, during a time where women did not have as much representation in comics. A well-respected botanist, Isley became Ivy when she was poisoned during a theft cover-up. Gaining an immunity to all toxins and green skin, she continued her crusade for Mother Nature, becoming a bio-terrorist.
With an exciting backstory and formidable powers, Poison Ivy not only is a groundbreaking villain, but also a charming one that ‘plants’ herself in your mind, as well as the fourth place spot.
3. Mr. Freeze (Real Name: Victor Fries)
The third spot belongs to none other than Mr. Freeze, who was once known as Victor Fries. While his original origin as Mr. Zero, with his first appearance in 1958, was not particularly exciting, to the point of leaving others a bit ‘cold’, Mr. Freeze earns this slot by virtue of his re-invention on Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. In this version, Victor Fries was a respected scientist, whose life took a turn for the worse when his wife Nora came down with a terminal illness. Desperate to find a cure, his boss discovered Fries’ theft of medical supplies and attacked him, leading to his skin turning blue and needing a sub-zero suit to survive.
With this turn in an exciting new direction, Mr. Freeze deserves his number three spot. His origin story and design all are exciting and pleasing to the eye respectively and he will forever hold a special spot in Batman’s history.
2. Harley Quinn (Real Name: Harleen Quinzel)
The runner-up of the list had rather unusual origins. She didn’t debut in a comic book OR a movie, instead making her first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. Indeed, Harley Quinn arrived on the scene as a henchwoman of the nefarious Joker and emerged a bona-fide fan favorite, eventually earning her own comic series. Once a staid, stern psychiatrist, Dr. Harleen Quinznel started ‘clowning’ around when she was tasked with shrinking the head of the Joker. After a few manipulative sessions later, wrought with altered backstories and crocodile tears, Quinzel abandoned her post and donned harlequin gear, dubbing herself the aptly titled Harley Quinn. Despite their often acrimonious relationship, Harley almost always stands by the Joker’s side.
Harley Quinn may not have the most conventional of origins, but it isn’t how one arrives, but what one delivers. Given that the delivery involves high-octane laughs, a tragic origin and all-around chaos, Harley rightfully sits at number 2.
1. The Joker (Real Name: Unknown)
It’s absolutely no joke when I declare the Joker the number one Batman villain. First appearing in 1940, the Joker has forever been Batman’s most iconic foe and the one that everyone from toddlers to grandmas can recognize. Clad in a purple suit and possessing garish white skin, emerald green hair and ruby red lips, the Joker wants nothing more than a good laugh and to prove that Gotham is full of nothing more than scum like him. He proves an endless headache for Batman, with the Dark Knight having to resist the urge to kill the clown every time they meet. While this isn’t a laughing matter, the Joker never fails to elicit a laugh. As he prefers a ‘multiple-choice’ past, neither his origin story, nor his name are consistent. But the personification of chaos doesn’t need either of those things, being as devilishly entertaining as he is.
The Joker absolutely deserves his number one spot on the list and it’s clear why. From his appearance to his plans, to his terrifying laugh, the Joker will always be THE Batman villain.