‘The Batman’ villains, ranked: Who was the best Catwoman, Penguin and Riddler?

Catwoman looks defiantly at Batman, who has grabbed her arm.
Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle and Robert Pattinson as Batman in “The Batman.”
(Jonathan Olley / DC Comics)
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Director Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” marks yet another onscreen reboot of Gotham’s caped crusader.

The film, out now, sees Robert Pattinson taking up the mantle as Batman early in his vigilante career. The story also reintroduces a number of other classic DC Comics characters, including villains such as the Riddler (Paul Dano), the Penguin (Colin Farrell) and Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz).

Longtime members of Batman’s rogues gallery, these villains were first introduced in various comics more than 80 years ago. And like Batman, each has been adapted for the screen a number of times in films, television and even video games. “The Batman” audience can decide on their own how these new incarnations measure up against these reigning best versions of the characters.


The Riddler

A man in a tophat, a man with an eye mask and a man in clown makeup
Burgess Meredith as the Penguin, left, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler and Cesar Romero as the Joker in 1966’s “Batman.”
(©20th Century Fox / Everett Collection)

Best: Frank Gorshin in the “Batman” TV series

Honorable mention: Cory Michael Smith in the TV series “Gotham”

Created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang, the Riddler made his comic book debut on the pages of “Detective Comics” No. 140 in the 1940s. This version of the Prince of Puzzles traces his obsession with games, riddles and puzzles to his childhood before his time working at the carnival led him to a life of crime. Although the character has been revamped over the years, Edward Nygma (also known as Edward Nigma and Edward Nashton) is known for his genius-level intellect that he can’t help but flaunt in his criminal endeavors by trying to stump Batman.

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The best onscreen versions of the Riddler have been on television, including Frank Gorshin’s portrayal of the character in the 1960s “Batman” series. Introduced as Batman’s “old arch-enemy” in the very first episode of the show, Gorshin’s Riddler repeatedly taunted the dynamic duo and was just as routinely thwarted — eventually. Befitting the campy nature of the series, this Riddler alternately donned a jumpsuit and mask and a more dapper suit and bowler hat. Gorshin, who portrayed the Riddler in “Batman’s” first and third seasons, was nominated for a supporting actor Emmy for his work on the show.

The Penguin

A man in a suit being photographed
Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin in “Gotham.”

Best: Robin Lord Taylor in the “Gotham” TV series

Honorable mention: Danny DeVito in “Batman Returns”

Another long-standing member of the Batman rogues gallery is the Penguin, who was introduced in “Detective Comics” No. 58 by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Although his backstory has been reimagined over the years, the Penguin is generally known as the alias of Oswald Cobblepot, a Gotham City crime boss with an affinity for fancy attire and deadly umbrellas. The Penguin has a reputation for being brilliant, ruthless and well-connected.

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Danny DeVito’s portrayal of the gruesome villain raised by penguins in 1992’s “Batman Returns” is plenty memorable, but Cobblepot’s rise as depicted in “Gotham” gives the edge to Robin Lord Taylor’s version of the character. Taylor’s Cobblepot starts as a low-level gangster working for a powerful mob boss. His cunning and patience, combined with his aspiration for greatness, make him incredibly dangerous as he climbs to the top of Gotham’s criminal underworld. Taylor’s Cobblepot is dark but also emotionally complicated. While he is not a sympathetic character, seeing the circumstances of his evolution into the Penguin in this origin series made him incredibly compelling.


Catwoman reclines in a black mask and bodysuit.
Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in “Batman Returns” (1992).
(Warner Bros. / Everett Collection)

Best: Michelle Pfeiffer in “Batman Returns”

Honorable mentions: Adrienne Barbeau in “Batman: The Animated Series”; Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt in the “Batman” TV series

Introduced in “Batman” No. 1 in the 1940s as “the Cat” by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Catwoman has a long and complicated history with Batman. Not only has Selina Kyle’s backstory changed over the years, Catwoman has oscillated between supervillain and antihero while also maintaining a longtime on-and-off romance with the caped crusader. In the comics, she’s generally been portrayed as a master cat burglar and skilled fighter whose arsenal includes a whip and clawed gloves. She’s also a well-known cat lover.


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Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle, who transforms from underappreciated secretary to slinky femme fatale in “Batman Returns,” remains one of the most memorable incarnations of the character. After her boss attempts to kill her, Selina is revived by a clowder and embraces her inner supervillain. A close second is the Selina Kyle voiced by Adrienne Barbeau in “Batman: The Animated Series,” who is depicted more as a socialite-turned-thief with a soft spot for animals.