My Top Five Favorite Batman Villains of All Time
Within all of media, few villains in my opinion can match the brutality, complexity, and sheer terror and evil that is involked from Batman's extensive rogues gallery. These individuals are not only living examples of chaos and madness, they are twisted reflections of Batman himself. They are one of the many reasons why Batman is such an amazing hero; he is going up against some of the most terrifying figures of chaos imaginable, even by comic book standards. The following is a list of my top five, personnel favorite villains.
This was a hard list actually for me because there are so many great villains in the entirety of Batman mythology and lore and while I may have had one or two I knew right from the start, a couple of these were also hard to choose.
1: The Joker
My number one favorite is perhaps the most obvious one and shared by countless others, but it is none other than The Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime, and Batman's greatest enemy of all time. The Joker is a sadistic and cruel mass murderer and criminal mastermind with an agenda of chaos which unfolds as he embarks on his favorite sport; a cat and mouse game with his greatest enemy and friend, Batman.
What is it exactly though about this colorful character that makes him such a great villain? The main reason that always stuck out for me personally was that Joker is literally a representation of everything Batman is terrified of and made him who he is today; random crime and injustice. The Joker has no real motive beyond his need and love of causing death and destruction wherever he goes. He has murdered men, women, children, and his own associates simply for the thrill of it, seeing every crime he commits as an elaborate joke with Gotham as his stage and Batman caught in the punchline.
Batman lost his parents, at least in most versions of his origins, to a completely random crime perpetrated by the mugger, Joe Chill. If there is any real crime or evil to fear, it's the ones that operate for no grand purpose or design and is completely random and unpredictable. The Joker is random and unpredictable violence and crime personified in an already haunting image, a creepy and sadistic clown. He does not value money or power, though will use such things in his schemes, and only relishes in extreme acts of chaos and destruction.
To him, Batman is not a nuisance, he is his life. Batman is someone who will always be there for Joker in his sick mind; someone to have a battle of the wits with and who will never abandon or fail him as so many others have done to him, cultivating in a "very bad day" that made him into the iconic villain he is today. Batman can try to bargain with the Joker, but the villain will only reveal he desires nothing to bargain for. Batman can beat him to a pulp, but the Joker will simply laugh in his face and relish in his own pain and suffering. The Joker is almost unbeatable in this sense and is unlike any villain every made. He is truly a personification of evil, madness, and anarchy on a genius level. He is Batman's greatest threat, enemy, and my favorite villain in all of Batman media.
Ah, Two-Face; once a beacon of light for Gotham as District Attorney Harvey Dent. He was the sanity for Gotham in a legal setting. Yet, he ended up becoming the very thing he sought out to destroy as a result of a tragic, legal exploit that left Dent with a scarred face that amplified his multiple personality disorder as the villain Two-Face.
What exactly makes Two-Face such a compelling Batman villain? Well, for one thing, he was once a good friend to both Batman and Bruce Wayne, giving the villain a personnel connection to the hero of these incredible tales. If there is one villain I always feel sorry for, it is Two-Face because he is truly not all that bad. He still has a good side within him, but, unfortunately, it only comes out if his coin comes up on the good side. His iconic item, the coin, makes Two-Face almost as unpredictable as Joker because you don't know what he'll do until that coin flip is over.
He is a compelling villain because there is always some hope for him, even though most fans know he will never be truly cured. That is the true tragedy of his character and is a true hardship for Batman to embrace sometimes. Just when he believes Gotham may be getting better, one of his most trusted allies becomes just another one of his enemies and Two-Face is a constant reminder of loss and tragedy. If there's anything that can said about Two-Face, it's that he's hard to hate, which makes him such a great villain and character.
I honestly had this fearful spawn of evil second on my list until I remembered the true, compelling nature of Two-Face, but Scarecrow, formally known as Jonathan Crane, is another great Batman villain. Whereas Joker is a symbol of chaos and Two-Face is a symbol of good gone evil, Scarecrow is a symbol of fear. Fear, something that every single one of us has in various shapes and forms and the very aspect of life that Batman himself utilizes to prey on criminals.
Scarecrow is a remorseless man with his life's goal being to feel empowerment by watching his helpless victims panic to death from his paralyzing fear gas, a weaponized toxin that alters a person's perception of reality to one where his or hers greatest fears have control. Whatever you fear, Scarecrow will make it come out in the most terrifying fashion with his fear gas and his own appearance harkening to that of a horror movie icon.
He is also one of the primary villains to show that even Batman himself, who seems to be the master of fear and darkness, has some very deep rooted fears and can even become a victim of it. Scarecrow basically uses Batman's greatest weapon and advantage and turns it against him in a psychological battle that could lead to death. He is a psychically weak, but brilliant man, who will do whatever he can to advance his research into making people's greatest fears come to life and end their existences if it should come to that. A terrifying villain that makes horror movie icons such a Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees look like goofy clowns.
4: Ra's al Ghul
Who? Yes, not many people are all too familiar with this man, who may have more of an effect on the fate of the entire planet in the DC universe than most Batman villains. One of the reasons why Ra's is not as well known as other villains, and also makes him unique in his own right, is that he is not actually an Arkham Asylum, Gotham's institute for the criminally insane, patient. He is the leader of a secret organization called the League of Assassins (League of Shadows in Batman Begins) and seeks to wipe the world clean of crime and pollution by eradicating most of the population.
He is a terrorist, a brilliant strategist, an immensely wealthy and powerful business owner, and an expert in martial arts and most forms of fighting. He is the perfect match for Batman and symbolizes another universal weakness that even Batman shares; temptation. Ra's does indeed offer Bruce a tasty proposition as he often tries to enlist Batman as his right hand man and, eventually, his successor. He also has a beautiful daughter named Talia whom Batman is in love with and eventually has a child with named Damian Wayne. A part of Batman truly is tempted to join Ra's as he can stop all crime and be with the love of his life. However, Batman's strong moral and sense of justice know that Ra's is wrong and needs to be stopped at every corner.
The story behind Ra's is complicated with that of mystic fountains of youth and centuries worth of backstory, but that's not truly the main point as to why I think he is such a great villain. He is great because we can almost understand his points as they are not as diluted or violent as say The Joker or The Scarecrow. He is a sane man, for the most part, who truly wants to save the planet, but is going about it in a truly devastating manner. His offers to Batman are the true symbolism of temptation for the hero to use his methodologies in the wrong way and that is something unique to Ra's and him alone.
5: Mister Freeze
Some of you might be surprised by my final choice for my top five. Mister Freeze might seem like a cheesy and gimmicky villain, but he is one of the most brilliant and unique villains in Batman lore. He is a man not motivated by power, money, or the need to cause destruction, but by love and commitment. He is motivated by the purest form of our emotions as he attempts to save his wife, Nora Fries, from a cryogenic fate and cure her of a lethal illness. He is another tragic villain who will not stop until he saves his wife.
I love villains like this because it shows how even good intentions and pure motivations can lead to destructive ramifications. Batman could've easily turned into a vengeful man like Victor Fries after the horror of his parents' demise, but choose to help the world instead. Freeze is a man also consumed by vengeance and anger, to the point that his other emotions have become frozen, hence the name "Mister Freeze", but is still a very relatable villain for both fans and Batman himself.
So there you have it, my top five favorite Batman villains of all time. Batman indeed does have the best rogues gallery of any superhero in my opinion and some of the most popular, influential, and unique villains in all of media. If you ever need to remember just what makes Batman such a strong and great hero, just remember the monsters he is up against every dark night of his life. Take care guys.