Batman films have taken on a new face since the revival of the franchise by Christopher Nolan in 2005. The dark, gritty style has spawned three new movies since Nolan’s first Dark Knight film Batman Begins. Although the films drew critical acclaim, there is still room for improvement, and considering all of the Batman villains created throughout the years, there is an opportunity to really get the franchise going with some great writing and character development.
In order for a character to be convincing, the actor portraying him/her should fit the description. Casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze all but killed the 80s-90s generation of Batman films, so we need to find the next great villainous actor to keep the series afloat.
Let’s take a look at some of the great Batman antagonists from the past and present that would kick up the franchise and fill up seats in theaters, while also suggesting great actors who would do the these villains justice in the next line of Dark Knight films.
10. The Ventriloquist (Larry David)
As is the case for most of Batman’s antagonists, Arnold Wesker, better known as The Ventriloquist, is a complete head case. Alongside his maniacal marionette, Scarface the Puppet, Wesker was a terror in Gotham, channeling all of his frustrations and anger through his wooden puppet. Although he is just a doll, Scarface was in control of Wesker, often committing robberies and murders while doing all the talking.
The resemblance to Larry David is uncanny, and his unstable nature and dark comedy is very reminiscent of a classic Batman villain. Larry David’s self-deprecating nature also lends itself to Arnold Wesker who is constantly being bullied by his own puppet.
9. Calendar Man (Bruce Willis)
Julian Day (better known as Calendar Man) is an over the top public nuisance more than anything. Day commits petty crimes with the larger focus being on gaining infamy rather than financial gains. What makes Calendar Man particularly interesting is that this Batman villain chooses to cause his chaos exclusively around notable calendar events.
Bruce Willis shares the over the top personality that Calendar Man boasts, plus he’s a bad ass, which you have to be if you plan on having routine run-ins with the Dark Night. Bruce Willis channeled his inner antagonist for Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, and it would be a welcome sight to see him do it again in a Batman film.
8. Professor Pyg (John Goodman)
Ugh. This guy gives me the chills, a perfect trait for a Batman villain. Since the Professor Pyg character was created as recently as 2007, I couldn’t bring myself to put him at the top of this list, but his sheer repulsiveness makes him a must-add. If he is ever incarnated into a feature film, it would probably have to go the Deadpool route and carry a Rated-R designation.
John Goodman is best known for his jolly, comedic roles, but I would argue that he’s at his best when he is playing the antagonist. An intimidating, imposing, and LARGE man, Goodman would put on the pig mask and strike fear in the hearts of everyone short of Batman himself.
7. Solomon Grundy (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson)
Zombies are all the rage these days, so it could be a great idea for DC Comics to revive one of Batman’s greatest foes, Solomon Grundy. Originally a merchant named Cyrus Gold, he was murdered, buried in a swamp, and revived 50 years later. A towering monstrosity, Grundy could crush a man with his bare hands and has often been a formidable foe for not only Batman, but Superman has had his fair share of confrontations with the Zombie.
A fan-favorite from the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, better known as “The Mountain”, is a perfect actor to play this giant undead villain. At 6’9” and over 400 lbs Björnsson is a perfect physical specimen for the character, and as seen in his role on Game of Thrones, he has the acting chops to carry a lead antagonist role in a major motion picture.
6. Mr. Freeze (Bryan Cranston)
I promise, no bad ice puns here. Mr. Freeze was famously ruined by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joel Schumacher in the 1997 summer disaster Batman and Robin, to the point where another Batman film wouldn’t be released for another eight years, the longest gap in Batman movies since the late 80s.
It’s been 20 years and I think we’re ready for another shot at Mr. Freeze, but it has to be done right. The only person I could come up with who could fix the damage done by Schwarzenegger is Bryan Cranston. Cranston showed us just how dark and menacing he could be in the AMC hit show Breaking Bad and if he brings that intensity to Freeze, comic book fans and movie goers would be ecstatic. And that’s cool with me… No pun intended.
5. Victor Zsasz (John Malkovich)
Victor Zsasz is as close to pure evil as you will get when considering Batman villains, and it is seen by his self-mutilation. Zsasz is distinguished by his countless self-inflicted wounds which he carves into himself, one for every victim’s life that he takes. Much like Professor Pyg, this villain would be best suited for a Rated-R film. One disturbing quirk of Zsasz’s is truly horrifying; he likes to leave his victims in life-like poses after he murders them.
An actor playing a character this psychotic would have to have instability of his own, and John Malkovich fits the bill. Playing an unstable role in most of his films, Malkovich would almost certainly do Victor Zsasz justice on the big screen.
4. Jane Doe (Danai Gurira)
Observing her victims’ mannerisms and personality, killing them, and then becoming them is Jane Doe’s calling card, but the way that she does it is what makes her an ultimate Batman villain. Doe is a serial killer who is locked away in Arkham Asylum for peeling the skin off of her victims, and wearing the flesh in order to become them. Doe excels in mimicking speech and body language, suggesting that she is both smart, and extremely demented.
Danai Gurira is known for playing the sword-wielding femme fatale Michonne in AMC’s The Walking Dead. You may not recognize her without her dreadlocks, but she is a polarizing figure who puts her acting chops on display while dismantling zombie corpses. This leads me to believe that she can take care of business portraying one of the sickest villains in the Batman universe.
3. Doctor Death (Benedict Cumberbatch)
Doctor Death is one of the oldest Batman villains as he debuted in 1939. Using his genius-level intellect Doctor Death is known for creating scientific experiments and testing them out on himself. He was Batman’s first reoccurring adversary and has shown up in multiple forms throughout the Dark Knight’s history. Later in Doctor Death’s timeline he is disfigured by an experiment that makes his bones grow uncontrollably which gives him a menacing look, something that could really make his part in a film fascinating.
Benedict Cumberbatch has seen quite a bit of popularity primarily stemming from his role as Sherlock Holmes, but he has yet to break into super-stardom, and a major role in a Batman film could launch him into the stratosphere.
2. The Black Mask (Rick Genest)
Things started out grim from the get-go with Roman Sionis, otherwise known as the Black Mask. The day he was born his parents dropped him on his head—and they did not care. As a child he was bitten by a rabid raccoon—and his parents still did not care. As a matter of fact, Sionis’ parents were neglectful of their son and often ashamed of him, which led him to murdering the both of them by burning his family’s estate while they were still in it. A demented mind like this would be captivating on the big screen.
Judging from physical features alone, actor/body modification enthusiast Rick Genest would be perfect for the role (and he would save the studio some money on CGI). There isn’t a huge resume for Genest as far as acting, but with the help of some good writing, I’m sure he could pull it off.
1. Hush (Dolph Lundgren)
Hush (also known as Dr. Thomas “Tommy” Elliot) is a skilled surgeon and has been known to perform plastic surgery on himself to look like other people—including Bruce Wayne. Hush was a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne and would often play strategy games with him, teaching that in order to get the upper hand on an opponent, you must figure out how they think. Hush is a tactical villain, who plans out his attacks with precision using his heightened intellect.
Hush is often depicted donning bandages that cover his entire face, so appearance is not a qualifying factor for choosing an actor to portray him, but what is necessary is someone who is intelligent, and imposing. Dolph Lundgren is best known for his beefy stature and as Sylvester Stallone’s opponent in Rocky IV, but what many do not know is that he is an extremely intelligent actor. Lundgren’s IQ is rumored to be at a genius level of 160, and he has multiple college accolades including a chemical engineering degree from Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology.