In this post I will be ranking what I consider to be main villains, their sidekicks, and partners. But not henchmen or molls, otherwise this list would go into the 100s!
I will be taking into account all interpretations of the villains, in full-length TV and film projects relating to the Batman TV Series, so that includes;
Batman TV Series (1966-1968)
Batman: The Movie (1966)
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)
Batman vs Two-Face (2017)
Other projects set in the world of the Batman TV Series are included in the Honourable Mentions section at the end of the blog post.
#40 Harley Quinn/Dr. Harleen Quinzel
Voiced by Sirena Irwin
Included as a character in Batman vs Two-Face, we see her as Harleen Quinzel, and the start of her villainous intentions, but do not actually see her transformation into Harley Quinn in the Straight-to-DVD film properly. She does appear in full costume and make up in a special feature on the Blu-Ray, but even including this we don’t really see her as a full-blown villain, and as such she ranks lowest in this list.
#39 Calamity Jan
Portrayed by Dina Merill
More than just a henchman, or Moll, Calamity Jan is Shame’s wife and instrumental in getting him out of jail in Shame’s Season 3 story. Her characterisation is dependant on Shame’s and she does not feel like her own distinct character ranking her quite low on this list.
#38 Dr. Hugo Strange
Voiced by Jim Ward
Another character from Batman vs Two-Face, Hugo Strange is not a main villain but is important to the development of Two-Face’s character in this film. Other than one particularly funny line, his character is not of much note.
#37 Aunt Hilda
Portrayed by Estelle Winwood
Marsha, Queen of Diamonds’ Aunt Hilda assists her in her schemes with her skills in magic. She is styled like a old style witch in all black with a traditional witches hat and her behaviour is kooky, she is a good counterbalance to her prim and proper niece.
#36 Freddy the Fence
Portrayed by Jacques Bergerac
Freddy the Fence appears in a Catwoman story, and in the final episode of the series, which is a story with Minerva as the main villain. He is skilled in both fencing, the sport, and fencing, the act of being a middle man between a between thieves and buyers, knowingly dealing in stolen goods. Enough basis for themed Batman villain! Even combining his footage we don’t get to see a lot of Freddy the Fence, and as such, as interesting as Freddy is in his scenes, I can’t rank him any higher than I have.
#35 Eivol Ekdal
Portrayed by Jack Kruschen
Eivol Ekdal is arguably the true villain of the Zelda the Great episodes with his mentoring and manipulation of Zelda, however, the story revolves around her. Eivol is a criminal genius and the greatest magician ever, there’s not much more to his character otherwise and as such ranks at #35 on this list.
Portrayed by Howard Duff
Much like Calamity Jan, Cabala exists as the significant other to a more prevalent villain. He appears higher in my ranking than Calamity Jan as he is simply funnier than she is. Him swaying and clicking along to Dr. Cassandra’s countdown in the prison and him repsonding “What a pity”, to Batgirl stating she feels like she’s “getting flat” are two particular highlights that spring to mind.
#33 Black Widow
Portrayed by Tallulah Bankhead (credited as Miss Tallulah Bankhead)
Black Widow, whilst a villain with her own theme, her own schemes and her own story, just doesn’t resonate with me as much as other villains. There are some good, fun moments in her episodes but to me they come from Batman and Robin themselves and people’s reactions rather than her performance.
#32 The Puzzler
Portrayed by Maurice Evans
Although he has a Shakespearean element to his character, it is clear that this story was intended for the Riddler, and so being a 2nd rate version of a better character he doesn’t make much of an impact as a villain.
#31 The Clock King
Portrayed by Walter Slezak
The Clock King, obsessed with watches, clocks and time, is a fine performance, with gravitas and is outlandish where it needs to be, I can’t fault his performance, it’s just that anything he does well, he is outclassed by other characters on this list.
#30 The Archer
Portrayed by Art Carney
The Archer starts off Season 2. Following the astounding movie was not an easy task and the task was taken up by The Archer! As the name would suggest The Archer is an archer. He also speaks in a medieval way which even impacts upon the words that appear on the screen during the fight scenes. Such as Whack-Eth! The Archer’s speech pattern and interactions with his henchmen and Maid Marilyn are funny and it’s great seeing The Archer and Alfred in an archery competition.
#29 The Minstrel
Portrayed by Van Johnson
The Minstrel, the first of a few music-obsessed villains on this list uses Music scientifically, and his little ditties make for an interesting change of pace when taunting and threatening the dynamic duo.
#28 Lola Lasagne/Lulu Schultz
Portrayed by Ethel Merman
Lulu Schultz, who has renamed herself as Señora Lola Lasagne, is established as having known the Penguin since childhood. This enables for some interesting back and forth between the two. Her theme/obsessions seem to be horses and parasols. Parasols being very similar to umbrellas, The Penguin’s obsession is another interesting parallel. Her wanting to raise herself up and leave her past behind is a great source for comedy too.
#27 Nora Clavicle
Portrayed by Barbara Rush
Nora Clavicle is the main villain in an episode focused around feminism and is a very funny episode, her performance, much like the rest of the episode is over the top and cartoonish, in a good way, but there are simply people on this list that have done over the top better.
#26 Lady Penelope Peasoup
Portrayed by Glynis Johns
Lady Penelope Peasoup appears as the sister of Lord Marmaduke Ffogg. Her character is dependant on her brother’s, but there are moments where she shows more intelligence and cunning than him showing herself as important to the story, her brother is just more focused upon in the story.
#25 Ma Parker
Portrayed by Shelley Winters
A very simple character in that her whole schtick is that she’s a mother and her gang are made up of her actual children. Some great comedy comes from this, and her bias towards her sons and dismissal of her daughter, Legs.
Portrayed by Zsa Zsa Gabor
Though not exactly the same Minerva has a love for diamonds, much like Marsha, Queen of Diamonds. Her scheme revolves around extracting secrets from millionaires’ minds so she may steal there diamonds and other valuables. She is a particularly vein character and aware of her allure, even getting the commissioner to walk with her arm in arm as she is apprehended at the end of the episode.
#23 The Sandman
Portrayed by Michael Rennie
The Sandman’s theme is sleep. His chemistry on screen with Catwoman is funny, especially as we as an audience see that neither can be trusted to truly cooperate. Him managing to become betrothed to J. Pauline Spaghetti and his seemingly inevitable demise, as all her previous husbands have died in strange circumstances, is also a great source of comedy.
#22 Zelda The Great
Portrayed by Anne Baxter
Anne Baxter’s first appearance on this list! Zelda The Great is an aspiring magician, and interestingly one of two villains on this list who seems manipulated into crime and one who seems truly remorseful of her criminal activity.
#21 Dr. Cassandra Spellcraft
Portrayed by Ida Lupino
Dr. Cassandra Spellcraft from a long line of failed alchemists aims to be the first success in her lineage. She is also very take charge with both her husband and the other villains she releases from Gotham Penitentiary.
#20 Olga, Queen of the Cossacks
Portrayed by Anne Baxter
Anne Baxter Again! Olga, more boisterous than intelligent is a brilliant counterpoint to her partner Egghead in Season 3.
Portrayed by Cliff Robertson
Shame, the villainous cowboy, like The Archer, also, in a funny way, seems inauthentic with what he is trying to be.
#18 The Siren/Lorelei Circe
Portrayed by Joan Collins
The Siren, the closest thing to a villain on this last with an actual super power, uses a particularly high note to bend men’s wills to her own. She starts under The Riddler’s employ but the next episode gets her own story, even bending the will of Bruce Wayne/Batman himself!
#17 Marsha, The Queen of Diamonds
Portrayed by Carolyn Jones
Marsha, much like The Siren bends men’s wills to her own. Her obsession with Diamonds fueling much of her schemes. Her interactions with The Penguin, Batman and her Aunt Hilda are all great sources of entertainment.
Portrayed by Lesley Gore
In the episodes “That Darn Catwoman” and “Scat, Darn Catwoman!”, Catwoman gets her own protege. Pussycat’s lack of experience in crime and her seduction of Robin and her desires to be a singer are a great source of comedy.
#15 Lord Marmaduke Ffogg
Portrayed by Rudy Vallée
Lord Ffogg is a British villain with his theme being Fog. His man-made fog pipe covers his and his sister’s tracks when leaving the scene of a crime. He has an aftergrass lawn, also known as a fog lawn. His exaggerated British accent, his faked gout, his blatant disdain for Batman, and his treatment of his house staff is all a great source of entertainment.
#14 Fingers/Chandell & Harry
Portrayed by Liberace
I toyed with the idea of including these characters as two twins as separate listings, but as they are so intrinsically linked and indeed portrayed by the same person I decided against it. Harry is blackmailing his piano playing, more sensitive brother into a life of crime. Chandell’s attempt to woo Aunt Harriet allows for some brilliant scenes for both characters. Liberace’s portrayal of Harry as a supposed tough guy is absolutely brilliant to watch as it is so over the top.
#13 The Bookworm
Portrayed by Roddy McDowall
Voiced by Jeff Bergman
The first villain on this list to have appeared in the TV series and in Batman vs Two-Face. Whilst we don’t see much of him in Batman vs Two Face, Jeff Bergman manages to capture the feel of the character brilliantly with his weedy, scheming mind and somewhat shrill voice. The Bookworm prides himself on his intelligence and extensive knowledge of books and exhibits ridiculous skills in speed reading. Much like many others on this list, him realising his inferiority compared to Batman is a brilliant moment.
#12 Two-Face/Harvey Dent
Voiced by William Shatner
The highest ranked villain that appears solely in Batman vs Two Face. William Shatner as District Attorney Harvey Dent and Two Face is brilliant. The duality of the two roles is so well done. His interactions with Dick Grayson, in which he is sure, as one of Bruce’s oldest friends he has more of a rapport and connection with Bruce, and his suave nature as Harvey Dent are one interesting facet to the character. His Two-Face is played like an amazing cartoon monster, and the scene where he is fighting between the two sides of his personality are a highlight of the film.
#11 Colonel Gumm
Portrayed by Roger C Carmel
Colonel Gumm, on the surface obsessed with stamps and glue also is a master of disguise. He is one of many characters played so over the top that it allows for the deadpan deliveries of Batman, Robin , Green Hornet and Kato to bounce off him brilliantly.
#10 Louie the Lilac
Portrayed by Milton Berle
The highest ranked villain to make their debut in Season 3. Louie the Lilac is a gangster obsessed with flowers. His mostly deadpan delivery and pretence in thinking/pretending he is more intelligent than he is allows for him to irradiate a sense of confidence.
#9 The Mad Hatter/Jervis Tetch
Portrayed by David Wayne
The Mad Hatter obsessed with hats and headwear, mainly the apprehension of Batman’s cowl has a compelling back story with his wanting to steal all the hats of the jurors who put him away. His vocal and physical delivery just borders on being ridiculous, only just seemingly like how an actual person would speak!
Portrayed by Vincent Price
Egghead’s character is one that seemed to develop throughout his appearances. Starting as simply intelligent and obsessed with eggs, in Season 3 added a cowardly, weak and henpecked element to the character. Each appearance is prime ridiculousness and well worth watching.
#7 Mr. Freeze/Dr. Schivel
Portrayed by George Sanders , Otto Preminger and Eli Wallach
Mr. Freeze was portrayed by 3 different actors in the TV Series with the 2nd being over the top and cartoonish, and the 3rd being easy to anger. The 1st however, being my favourite interpretation. Though the other two are fun to watch, George Sanders’ version of the character is the one time I feel that a villain was pitched as deadpan in their delivery as Adam West was as Batman, and for that his episodes stand out as 2 of my personal favourites, because they have a different feel to them than others.
#6 King Tut/Professor William McElroy
Portrayed by Victor Buono
Voiced by Wally Wingert
King Tut, like Bookworm, is also featured in both the TV Series and Batman vs Two Face. His use in Batman vs Two Face is interesting with him having a dual identity similar to Two Face, Wally Wingert captures the character well. When knocked on the head Professor of Egyptology William McElroy becomes King Tut. The most over the top villain on this list with an unrestricted sense of self importance and self righteousness, every moment King Tut is on screen is delightful.
#5 False Face
Portrayed by Malachi Throne (credited in the episode “Holy Rat Race” as ?)
Also portrayed by Various
False Face’s talent for mimicry allows for him to take on the guise of other people, a handy trick in fooling the dynamic duo. His disdain for anything truthful is entertaining. His almost grotesque mask and delivery through that mask does allow for some great imagery, and is the closest thing to episodes of Batman feeling creepy.
Predictably my top four do consist of “The Main Four”, the United Underworld, from Batman: The Movie, so the only surprise from here on out is what order I placed them in!
#4 The Joker
Portrayed by Cesar Romero
Voiced by Jeff Bergman
The Joker is a worthy adversary to Batman, manipulative, cunning, taunting, and with an ecstatic laugh. Everything he does, he does brilliantly, it’s just the three people above him in this list embody those characteristics more. Jeff Bergman manages to capture Cesar Romero’s essence well in the animated movies of the 2010s.
#3 The Penguin
Potrayed by Burgess Meredith
Voiced by William Salyers
The Penguin, perhaps the most inventive villain on this list. Not only does he try and pretend at going straight, he attempts it more than once! Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me! His episodes where he is running for mayor against Batman are a particular highlight as it seems the flashy nature of The Penguin’s character and campaign strategy may actually win him the electoral race, as Batman’s dull, just the facts, no frills presentation puts even Chief O’Hara to sleep!
William Salyers voices the Penguin in Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs Two Face and captures the seedier elements of The Penguin brilliantly.
Portrayed by Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt
Voiced by Julie Newmar
As Adam West himself says in his appearance in The Simpsons, “The only true Catwoman is Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether or Eartha Kitt”! The Batman 66 Meets Wonder Woman 77 six issue mini series and to a lesser extent the Batman 66 comics in general treat all 3 versions of Catwoman as the same character. Indeed in the show they are each referred to as Catwoman and no mention is made of her being a different Catwoman each time. All three women played the character very differently. Eartha Kitt seemed more vicious, purred more and seemed to have a bite to the way she spoke. Lee Meriwether played with the element of dual identity, or even triple identity in the movie, as it is clear her real name isn’t Catwoman and that Miss KITKA is a facade too. Though Lee Meriwether would actually be able to kiss Batman in the movie, Julie Newmar would have brilliant rapport and interaction with Adam West’s Batman as she toyed with her feelings for Batman and her calling as a criminal. Julie’s Catwoman also seemed a tad unhinged which added an extra element of danger to her portrayal.
#1 The Riddler
Portrayed by Frank Gorshin and John Astin
Voiced by Wally Wingert
…and the winner is! Three Actors, one character. The best moments undoubtedly coming from the originator Frank Gorshin. John Astin would replace Frank Gorshin in two episodes/one story in Season 2, and bring perhaps a more grounded energy to the character, along with the charm he so brilliantly displayed as Gomez Addams in the Addams Family. Wally Wingert captures the voice almost perfectly in both Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs Two Face, it really feels like the essence of Frank Gorshin. However the best of the best Frank Gorshin was quite simply maniacal in the role. His maniacal energy allowing for him to play comedic moments to perfection, sadistic moments with an element of real danger, and allowing him to turn moods and moments on their head before you knew where to look. Frank would reprise his role in Legends of the Superheroes, an often maligned set of TV specials, but even in those TV specials his portrayal of the character still shines through. Too many great moments exist for me to list in this blog post, so honestly I recommend watching any episode or movie that features this portrayal of The Riddler
The following are not ranked as they do not constitute full 60s TV Batman projects for different reasons, but still involve villains that those interpretations of Batman, Robin and/or Batgirl faced off against on TV;
Batgirl (1967 ABC Network Presentation)
Portrayed by Tim Herbert
Killer Moth and his henchmen face off against Batman, Robin and Batgirl in this Network Presentation intended to sell ABC on the idea of Batgirl. Batgirl had been recently introduced in Detective Comics #359 at the prompting of and with some involvement from William Dozier (Batman TV Series’ Executive Producer and Narrator), and in that issue “The Million Dollar debut of Batgirl”) the villain is Killer Moth. As this Network presentation is only 8 Minutes in length and did not air, he has not been ranked. I feel, had he been used in a full episode Killer Moth could have worked as a decent villain against the Terrific Trio, his theme, is no more outlandish than Vincent Price’s Egghead or Victor Buono’s King Tut, and I feel he brings a similar level of quirkiness to the role as the two gentlemen listed.
Legends of the Superheroes (TV Specials)
The Legion of Doom:
Weather Wizard: Portrayed by Jeff Altman
Sinestro: Portrayed by Charlie Callas
Mordru: Portrayed by Gabriel Dell
Dr. Sivana: Portrayed by Howard Morris
Solomon Grundy: Portrayed by Mickey Morton
Giganta: Portrayed by Aleshia Brevard
Batman and Robin interacted with the above listed villains and The Riddler, collectively known here as The Legion of Doom. As they are not strictly Batman villains, I have not ranked them. In my own personal opinion, Solomon Grundy and Sinestro are worth watching, the TV Specials are not particularly great, but in many instances they are the first live action interpretations of many hero and villain characters for DC, and so, as much for curiosity sake, are worth a watch.
Supergirl: Season 5 Episode 9: Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One
Portrayed by LaMonica Garrett
Although he is not physically seen, The Anti-Monitor wiped out Earth 66, in the opening segment of Supergirl: Season 5 Episode 9, with his anti-matter wave. So in terms of impact, he’s done more than any of the villains listed above, but we don’t see him interact with Dick Grayson on Earth 66 so I didn’t include him in the list properly but felt he was worth a mention. He proves to be an intimidating and very effective villain when he actually appears later in the crossover.