7. Catwoman (Batman Returns, 1992)
Played by: Michelle Pfeiffer
Once she steps into action, everything about this character is perfect. A sexy criminal who Batman finds intriguing, can fight him to a standstill or mesmerize him. Not really a bad person, she occasionally fights crime, and is a little off balance. Lots of cat themed puns and sexual innuendo, a little over the top, but that’s exactly how Catwoman is supposed to act. I don’t really like this movie, but have to admit they got Catwoman and Batman’s relationship pretty much perfectly. The “nine lives” stuff at the end is a little weird, but sort of makes sense in the context of the character, and she’s not really a cat burglar, but that’s all well and good. Personality wise, look wise, performance wise this is pretty much the perfect portrayal of Catwoman on the big screen. There’s just one major problem: Her origin. Creating a brand new origin for the film is perfectly fine, since Selina Kyle’s background keeps changing in the comics anyway. But the origin in this film is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen….they make her a freaking ZOMBIE! A ZOMBIE who is resurrected by cats after she dies! The scene where the cats come and revive Pfeiffer’s dead body is one of the stupidest things ever. And then they devote 10 minutes to showing her tearing up her apartment in a bizarre scene. The worst part is, the casual viewer now thinks that’s the real origin of Catwoman. Yikes. That being said, after the origin scene, everything is perfect.
6. Two-Face (The Dark Knight)
Played by: Aaron Eckhart
Well, you all saw this movie recently so you all know how good Eckhart’s performance is. The fact that he’s this high on the rankings despite only appearing in the villain persona for the last 15 minutes says a lot about the high quality film (and the general poorness of most of the other entries.) Despite Two-Face only appearing for the last few moments, he doesn’t feel shoehorned in like Venom in Spider-Man 3…in a way, the movie really is about Dent, moreso than it is about Batman or the Joker. Unlike Venom, the origin is the most important part of Two-Face. Everything about Eckhart’s performance is perfect, and the way the plot unravels makes you feel sorry for Dent as he fights the good fight, and terrified of what he becomes in the end. Once he becomes Two-Face, the portrayal is still great – his nihilistic views of everything being up to chance, the ominous coin flips, the ingenuity, and the make-up is spectacularly horrifying. This goes without saying, but this obviously puts the Schumacher version to shame: it explores all the tragic depths of this wonderful comic character, and is an integral part of creating one of the great superhero movies of all time. I wouldn’t change a thing about this portrayal or story – but in terms of villain rankings, he can’t go Top 5 because of the fact that he only appears in villain form for the last 15 minutes. (Oh, and he freaking died at the end.)
5. Dr. Octopus (Spider-Man 2, 2004)
Played by: Alfred Molina
Dr. Octopus is one of Spider-Man’s most feared villains. With Norman Osborn “dead” from 1978 until 1999, and Venom not appearing on the scene until 1989, he’s been Spider-Man’s most consistent enemy since his original appearance. (Well, Ock briefly died for two years during the Clone Saga, but let’s forget about all that) Spider-Man 2 brought this classic character to life in an unforgettable way – the fight scenes between Spidey and Ock were unbelievably awesome, and were like the best parts of the comic book brought to life. Casting Molina, a lesser known actor with regular guy appeal, instead of casting some of the brand name actors rumored for the job was a stroke of genius. Ock looked absolutely perfect, completely true to the comics, and the tentacles were a marvel of CGI, robotics and puppetry and were truly awe inspiring. Of course, there’s one deviation, and it’s a huge one: comic book Otto is ruthless, a villain to the core, and Molina’s Ock is basically a good guy corrupted by his tentacles. Some people have a problem with this, and I’ll admit seeing the pure evil and ruthless Octavius would be cool onscreen. But the problem with that is, Ock is the main villain of the movie, and thus needed a more compelling storyline and motivation than “My tentacles are fused to me now, time to wreak havoc!” It made for a wonderful story and a wonderful movie. Still, making one of Spidey’s only truly unredeemable villains into a good guy is going to bump him down a few in the villain rankings.
4. The Joker (Batman, 1989)
Played by: Jack Nicholson
Ask anyone who isn’t a comics fan (like, say, your dad) what the greatest comic book villain performance of all time is, and they’ll probably say Nicholson’s Joker. An iconic character who has stood the test of time and been one of the most resilient screen villains in motion picture history for almost 20 years. Making him the killer of Batman’s parents was kind of stupid, and unnecessary- they had already built up enough animosity at that point. But some people seemed to like it. Giving him a real name and a detailed origin story was kind of lame, but not a stretch – the Joker’s origins aren’t definite, (he wants his past to be multiple choice, after all) but there were many versions of the story where he was a petty criminal known as the Red Hood and falls into a vat of acid, so having him be a mobster wasn’t a huge stretch. Really, I’m not a fan of the Jack Napier origin they gave him in this movie…but its serviceable, and not horrifying stupid like the one Burton gave Catwoman, so I can live with it. The most important thing is, once he becomes the Joker, Nicholson gives an all-time performance here. Funny yet deranged, perfect adaptation in the looks department, some all-time classic one-liners. He’s over the top, but in a controlled way. It’s not fair that people are dismissing this great performance because of Ledger’s recent portrayal – this one is great in its own way. The only problem is that he’s more entertaining than scary, he’s more of an eccentric mob boss with established goals than a true deranged psycho, and the scene where he smashes stuff in the museum to Prince music is pretty lame. But still, this is an amazing performance – Nicholson takes over the movie, switches from point to point (amiable to threatening to hysterical, etc.) seamlessly in some scenes, and delivers a classic performance that rises above the just okay script.