WARNING: This article contains… dum dum dum… SPOILERS!
We’ve been through the various actors who have played, or are still to play, Batman. However, no superhero would be complete without a villain to stop. And in the Batman films, there have been plenty of villains! Let’s do this in order of the films…
Who dares to go toe-to-toe with the Dark Knight?
“You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
What better actor to play Batman’s most famous, clown-like nemesis? Jack Nicholson seems to have been born to play this role and play it he does! The entire time he’s on screen you can’t help but think that Nicholson had a really great time playing this part!
His portrayal of the Joker is very reminiscent of Cesar Romero’s 1960’s version, both in looks and attitude, but Nicholson adds a touch of unpredictability to the character that truly makes him a villain to be feared. Surly no one else could ever play The Joker again after this…
Best Non-Batman Role: The Shining (1980)
“The liberation of Gotham has begun!”
After Batman did so well with Jack Nicholson as The Joker, the team behind Batman Returns needed to pull out all of the stops and they did by introducing two villains to the mix. One of those was The Penguin!
Once again, Tim Burton gets it spot on. Danny DeVito played such a realistic Oswald Cobblepot, AKA Penguin. His stature, mixed with his terrific make-up and costume and disgustingly brilliant portrayal of the character made The Penguin one of the highlights in the Batman Franchise.
Best Non-Batman Role: Big Fish (2003)
“Life’s a bitch… now so am I.”
In Batman, the only female character worth mentioning was Bruce Wayne’s love interest. For Batman Returns, they made the great decision to introduce a stronger, more integral female – Catwoman!
Let’s face it, we all love Michelle Pfeiffer in that catsuit. But it’s not just her looks and her skin tight costume that made her great for the role. It was her personality. Pfeiffer made the character of Catwoman her own. She created a villain with a real passion for what she did, strong yet still able to feel vulnerable, and a brilliant backstory revealing why she became the woman in black.
Best Non-Batman Role: Scarface (1983)
“One can never have too much power.”
Often forgotten against the more extreme villains in Batman Returns, Christopher Walken plays the power hungry Max Shreck. Walken is on top form as the scheming businessman, but then, Walken is always on top form!
Getting the Tim Burton make-over, Walken’s costumes, make-up and hair all add the eccentric character that he plays so well! He makes it so believable that he is that nasty character, that when he gets his comeuppance, we cheer!
Best Non-Batman Role: The Deer Hunter (1978)
“Riddle me this, riddle me that, who’s afraid of the big, black bat?”
And then things go a bit weird. Tim Burton and Michael Keaton dropped out of the third film in the franchise and you can see why. Batman Forever takes a more comical approach to the films. Jim Carrey as The Riddler is not such a ridiculous idea – especially if he was playing it today now that he has toned down his act.
The problem with Carrey was that he was far too slapstick and far to extreme. I love Carrey’s outlandish style in films like The Mask or Ace Venturer, but in Batman it just seemed a little too OTT. And he had some very unflattering outfits as well! Not terrible by any means, just not good either.
Best Non-Batman Role: The Truman Show (1998)
“For your dying pleasure, we are serving the very same acid that made us the men we are today.”
A huge disappointment and a huge misdirection for a brilliant actor. The problem Batman Forever had is too many ‘wacky’ characters. Jim Carrey playing crazy is understandable – it’s what he does best. But Tommy Lee Jones? Crazy? Those two words don’t go together.
I can’t blame Jones for this as he did his best with what he had to work with. I’d have liked to have seen his sulky, moody side portrayed in the character of Two-Face instead of another Joker.
Best Non-Batman Role: No Country For Old Men (2007)
Debi Mazar – SPICE >
Two-Face’s girls, Sugar and Spice, play on his angelic and demonic sides. Sugar, played by Drew Barrymore (still before she became really famous), gets more screen-time, but they both add an interesting element to Two-Face’s good/bad character that the film should have played on more.
Both actresses play the parts well, Barrymore doing her ‘sweet’ and ‘innocent’ act, whilst Mazar gives us a sultry bondage temptress.
Drew Barrymore’s Best Non-Batman Role: Donnie Darko (2001)
Debi Mazar’s Best Non-Batman Role: Goodfellas (1990)
Batman & Robin
“Tonight’s forecast… a freeze is coming!”
Now we move on to the disaster that was Batman & Robin. By this point everything that was great about Tim Burton’s first two films had gone. Mr Freeze could have been a great villain and Arnold Schwarzenegger was an interesting choice to play the villain and we all hoped he could pull it off. But then the script happened.
Arnie is the king of cheesy one-liners but the dialogue in this monstrosity was just plain awful. Arnie hams it up and does the best he can which, in this case unfortunately, isn’t very good at all. All-in-all it was a bad mix of bad ideas.
Best Non-Batman Film: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Batman & Robin
“Men! The most absurd of God’s creatures!”
Batman & Robin adds a second villain to the mix with the sultry Poison Ivy, played by Uma Thurman. Poison Ivy is one of the most intriguing and dangerous villains in the Batman world and Thurman should have been the best choice. She’s a great actress, has a great look and does sultry really well.
But once again, the terrible script and bad direction let Thurman down. Awful innuendos and bad poor jokes make Thurman’s Ivy nothing more than something good to look at. But she does look good.
Best Non-Batman Role: Pulp Fiction (1994)
“Is your mind playing tricks on you… or am I? “
Batman began again with Christopher Nolan’s much darker series. Cillian Murphy played Dr. Crane AKA Scarecrow. Although appearing in a fair number of films, including 28 Days Later, Murphy was still a relatively new face to cinema goers. Yet his dark, twisted portrayal of Scarecrow left a lasting impression on fans and his career.
It would have been nice to see more of Scarecrow in the film, but with an origins story, sometimes villains have to take a back seat. Murphy still used the screentime he had to strike fear in us all and show us that he can play bad really good!
Best Non-Batman Role: 28 Days Later (2002)
“If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, you become something else entirely.”
He’s played a Jedi, a member of the A-Team, a legendary Lion, the saviour of the jews… and now he’s gone and trained Batman! Liam Neeson is the perfect choice to play Ducard, the man who taught Bruce Wayne all he knows and then turned out to actually be the villain Ra’s Al Ghul!
Neeson is always reliable to pull of the performance required of him for the film and his part in Batman Begins is no exception. And he plays the role of an ass-kicker far too well!
Best Non-Batman Role: Schindler’s List (1993)
“Why so serious?”
It was impossible wasn’t it? For someone to play The Joker after Jack Nicholson had done it so well. And even more impossible that it would have been Heath Ledger? How we were wrong! Ledger became The Joker. He was frighting, intriguing and oddly humorous all at once. He played a different kind of Joker to any we’d seen before and it was terrifying!
Ledgers tragic death before the release of The Dark Knight only made his character more fascinating and would ultimately store his name forever in movie history.
Best Non-Batman Role: Brokeback Mountain (2005)
The Dark Knight
“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
This is the way Two-Face was meant to be played! It’s hard to actually put Eckhart’s portrayal of Harvey Dent in the villains list because, for most of the film he is the good guy. The best of guys in fact. Eckhart plays the role charmingly, he is handsome and heroic. Which makes it all the more tragic when The Joker turns him into Two-Face.
Eckhart again shows us how great an actor he is by switching now to a vengeance fuelled tragedy with nothing left to lose. His take on the two faced fiend is brilliant, if under-shadowed slightly by Heath Ledger’s Joker
Best Non-Batman Role: Thank You for Smoking (2005)
The Dark Knight Rises
“We will destroy Gotham and then, when it is done and Gotham is ashes, then you have my permission to die.”
Bane was always an imposing figure (except for the disaster in Batman & Robin) so Tom Hardy bulked up for the role. And he is very imposing! It’s hard for an actor to play a role with only your eyes visible on your face but Hardy pulled it off.
It’s also hard to create great villain after such a memorable character such as The Joker. Luckily Bane was completely different to The Joker. Hardy played him very serious, very motivated and very threatening. You would not want to mess with Bane! Yes, the voice was a little weird.
Best Non-Batman Role: Inception (2010)
The Dark Knight Rises
“A man who doesn’t care about the world doesn’t spend half his fortune on a plan to save it.”
The character of Miranda was introduced as a possible love interest for Bruce Wayne but turned out to be the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul out for vengeance. Cotillard is a brilliant actress able to play the woman you want to marry, and murderous villain perfectly. Especially when she twists that knife into our hero… seriously, don’t mess with Marion Cotillard!
I would have liked to have seen more of her playing the villain in Dark Knight Rises as we only go a glimpse of her dark side towards the end. Still, her performance is solid and fits well into the world of the bat.
Best Non-Batman Role: Rust and Bone (2012)
Written by Joseph Monahan – writer/director at Berry Productions
Download Joe’s comedy sci-fi book, Intergalactic Terrorist.