DC Comics have become known for their darker themes when it comes to adapting their characters to the big screen. With this in mind, many of the villain characters have had ample opportunity to fully showcase their sinister personalities on the big screen.
Amongst the current DC roster of films, there are plenty of repeat offenders such as Joker, General Zod, and Lex Luthor who have all appeared in several films under different interpretations.
In this list, we will be counting down the best portrayals of the villains DC has showcased in their films.
10 – Lex Luthor – Superman Returns
To start the list off is Lex Luthor in Superman Returns. The now-disgraced actor, Kevin Spacey’s performance as Superman’s antagonist is undeniably one of the best aspects of the film.
The character was portrayed masterfully capturing the sinister intentions of Luthor while housing enough charisma to keep the audience engaged and believing the trope of this mad scientist.
Comparing this portrayal to the others, especially Jesse Eisenberg’s attempt in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it’s clear that Superman Returns homed the best Lex Luthor to grace the big screen.
9 – Two-Face – The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is arguably the greatest Batman film of all time and a big part of that is thanks to its intricate villains. While Joker takes center-stage in this flick, audiences were shown exactly how Harvey Dent became the villain Two-Face throughout the film.
Sharing this journey with the audience provides justification and a degree of empathy for his actions later in the film, sold by a fantastic Aaron Eckhart perfomance, dominating the screen. This is a character who in past interpretations wasn’t like by fans or critics, but director Christopher Nolan’s vision along with the casting was a perfect formula to reinvent Gotham’s White Knight.
8 – The Penguin – Batman Returns
In the ‘90s Tim Burton’s Batman trilogy bought The Penguin to the big screen for the first time. In Batman Returns, Danny DeVito makes his debut as the character, but for many, this performance is unrecognizable for the actor who holds little back while taking on the persona of this iconic villain.
In the film, The Penguin attempts to find his place in a world that previously cast him out and during this story, the villain gets up to some disgusting stuff while he takes on Gotham’s hero, Batman.
It would be hard to top this performance from DeVito and it doesn’t seem like we will be seeing another attempt anytime soon. The Penguin takes the number 8 spot on our list.
7 – General Zod – Man of Steel
In 2013 an attempt was made to bring Superman back to the big screen with the film Man of Steel. With Henry Cavill donning the cape, Man of Steel was had its critics upon release.
One of the films most praised featured came with the portrayal of its villain General Zod. The character was portrayed by Michael Shannon who kept the intensity and ferocity in his performance. Many viewers felt that at points the character even acted more heroically Superman! It was a joy to see Superman do battle against someone able to match his physical strength and power.
6 – Catwoman – Batman Returns
While The Penguin was Batman Returns‘ major villain, his performance was outdone by another foe in the film – Catwoman. While she may not have been at the center of the plot, Catwoman was integral to the movie and the performance by Michelle Pfeiffer was perfectly executed.
This interpretation of the character had a flirtatious charm and was captivating. The performance itself was enough to sway many people away, despite the film giving the character an origin story that resembled little of her true origin from the comics.
Pfeiffer’s Catwoman will likely go down as the best portrayal of the character to ever be showcased on the big screen.
5 – Steppenwolf – Justice League (The Snyder Cut)
While Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) wouldn’t have made this list upon the release of Justice League in 2016, after seeing how Zack Snyder was able to redeem the character in the Synder Cut, Steppenwolf takes the number 5 spot on our list.
Having given the audience enough time to be introduced to the character and have his motivations understood, Steppenwolf was a great choice for the important film that would bring the Justice League together. Another thing that dramatically improved this character was the upgraded appearance in the Synder Cut in construct to the awful CGI showcased in its theatrical cut.
4 – Dr Sivana – Shazam!
The newest villain on this list, Dr Sivana was first introduced into the DCEU during 2019’s Shazam!. Portrayed by Mark Strong, this villain was both comedic and deadly serious at the same time. Overall the film itself has the most upbeat tone of any DC film to date, but Dr Sivana was a big part in still showcasing the very real threat looming over the movie.
3 – Bane – The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is arguably the greatest to date and it came to its conclusion during The Dark Knight Rises. Played by Tom Hardy, Bane is bought to life in a performance that is astoundingly close to the character present in DC Comics.
Hardy’s performance was phenomenal and even spawned some lines that were repeated over and over in real life. If you’re a fan of Bane and want to check out the character on the big screen we suggest you steer clear of earlier interpretations of the character and jump straight to The Dark Knight Rises.
2 – Joker – Batman
At a time when Superhero villains were more comical than to be feared, Jack Nicholson wowed villains by making the Joker far more dark and sinister.
In Tim Burton’s Batman, Joker was masterfully executed on screen in a film that broke records and led to every other DC film to come after. While remaining funny yet demanding fear, Nicholson’s Joker was beloved by fans and thought of to be the golden standard when it came to playing the character on screen.
1 – Joker – The Dark Knight
There could be no other character to top our list than Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker, and while it wasn’t the easiest to pick, Heath Ledger’s portrayal in The Dark Knight takes the number one spot on our list.
Despite Jack Nicholson’s iconic portrayal of the character, Ledger takes that base and kicks it up to 11. Everything about his portrayal of the Joker was perfectly sinister and captivating for audiences from his brutal acts to his striking appearance.
If you’re looking for the ultimate villain in any DC film then look no further than The Dark Knight.