Gotham City may be famous for its heroic cops, brave vigilantes, and an insane bat population, it is also home to a diverse criminal population. Between its dangerous crime lords and their underlings to its colorful insane criminals, Gotham City’s crime rate is sky high. Thankfully, the Gotham City Police Department under Commissioner James Gordon’s leadership is there to quell the crime. However, if there is a massive Joker laughing gas attack or if a squadron of Ninja Man-Bats is causing chaos on the streets, the Gotham City Police Department calls in reinforcements in the form of Batman and his family of allies.
Since the Batman (1966) television series, dozens of actors portrayed or voiced members of the Dark Knight’s colorful rogues’ gallery in numerous forms of media. There have been some incredible interpretations such as Mark Hamill & Heath Ledger’s Joker, Arleen Sorkin’s Harley Quinn, Burgess Meredith’s Penguin, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. Sadly, there have been abysmal casting decisions that lead to some of the best actors in the business destroying some of Gotham’s top criminal masterminds. CBR has found awful performances of 15 actors who brutally destroyed these iconic villains on both the small and silver screens.
15 MATT NABLE AS RA’S AL GHUL
Since Liam Neeson portrayed both Henri Ducard and Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins, the Demon’s Head stock has gone up quite considerably thanks to those two appearances. Both Arrow and Gotham’s series creators have included him in their respective series. However, while Gotham’s Alexander Siddig has delivered a fantastic Ra’s Al Ghul, the Arrowverse failed greatly with its selection of Australian actor Matt Nable to portray the infamous villain known as the Demon’s Head.
Yes, Mr. Nable’s Ra’s was a formidable opponent to Green Arrow and his team as he killed the Emerald Archer at the conclusion of Season Three’s fall finale, but the way he carried himself and delivered his dialog proved that he was the wrong choice to portray the immortal crime lord.
14 CILLIAN MURPHY AS SCARECROW
Up until Batman Begins was released in theatres nationwide on June 15, 2005, the Scarecrow was only featured as the main villain in Batman related cartoons. Cillian Murphy had the golden opportunity to be the very first actor to portray the Scarecrow in a live-action adaption of Batman’s adventures. Producers hired 28 Days Later actor Cillian Murphy to portray the villainous mad scientist for the first chapter in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy.
While Murphy’s Scarecrow was in all three parts of the trilogy, the actor was not the right choice to portray Gotham’s Master of Fear. His mask was not intimidating and he played Dr. Crane as a pompous corrupted public official instead of the sinister outcast that DC Comics creators have brought to life for over 76 years.
13 TOMMY LEE JONES AS TWO-FACE
Where do we begin with Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones? First off, the actor stole the role from Billy Dee Williams, who was promised to portray the fallen public figure in future projects. Secondly, his abysmal approach to playing Two-Face in Batman Forever made fans unhappy. Two-Face is one of Batman’s deadliest adversaries, and Joel Schumacher asked Tommy Lee Jones to make him cartoonish.
Next, he was shoved to the side when Jim Carrey’s Riddler barged his way into the film more than halfway through the film. This probably frustrated Jones to no end. Years later, Carrey stated on a Norm Macdonald Live podcast that Jones was envious of Carrey’s sudden rise and confronted him before filming their first big scene together in Batman Forever. These factors might have been the reason why Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face was immature.
12 ANNE HATHAWAY AS CATWOMAN
Anne Hathaway was the latest actress to portray Batman’s favorite feline felon in The Dark Knight Rises. Ms. Hathaway had the difficult job of maintaining Catwoman’s legacy, as well as cleaning up the mess that Halle Berry left on both the character and the box office. While Anne Hathaway did a good disassociating her Selina Kyle from Patience Phillips, there were several flaws in her performance.
It seemed that she did not produce any fireworks with Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne or his Dark Knight. In addition, she was not a particular good cat burglar as Bale’s billionaire playboy caught her in the act multiple times in the film such as the Wayne Manor and a society ball, where Batman’s alter-ego recaptured the pearls that Ms. Kyle stole from him.
11 MIA SARA AS HARLEY QUINN
Actress Mia Sara was not only Birds of Prey’s main villain but also the first performer to portray Harley Quinn for a live action show. But Ms. Sara’s Harley was very different from both comics and cartoons. As Dr. Harleen Quinzel, she was Helena Kyle’s court ordered therapist who treated her for anger management issues. But she was also Harley Quinn, New Gotham City’s top crime boss and lover to the Joker.
Viewers took issue with Sara’s Harley as the actress portrayed her more as a Kingpin-type character who was ruthless to the core. By ignoring Quinn’s fabled bubbly personality, the Birds of Prey showrunners alienated veteran Batman fans and caused more fans to turn away from the show, which lead to Warner Bros. to cancel the series entirely.
10 LEE MERIWETHER AS CATWOMAN
Shortly after the end of season one, Batman (1966) transferred its adventures from the small to the silver screen. A majority of the original cast signed on for the TV series’ big screen adaptation, but one major actress was missing in the line-up: Julie Newmar. The first Catwoman actress had prior commitments and was unable to reprise the fan-favorite villain.
Producers hired Lee Meriwether to take over the role, and while she did her best with the feline felon, fans had a hard time accepting the former Miss America as their beloved Catwoman. Also, she did not have any spectacular chemistry fireworks with Adam West’s Batman and made Catwoman a communist for the film. Thankfully, Julie Newmar returned to take part in season two's filming process!
9 JOHN ASTIN AS THE RIDDLER
Many hardcore Batman fans see Frank Gorshin as the ultimate Riddler. However, the legendary entertainer was mysteriously absent from the show’s sophomore season, as he demanded a higher salary for his performance. Instead of giving into Gorshin’s demands, show producers awarded the coveted role to actor John Astin for the particular two episodes: “Batman’s Anniversary” and “A Riddling Controversy.”
Mr. Astin had great shoes to fill when he stepped into Riddler’s signature green unitard. While he showcased his superb singing voice by mockingly singing “Happy Anniversary” to the Dynamic Duo, Mr. Astin did not portray the role with the same finesse and high energy that Frank Gorshin brought to the character. Fans were delighted to see Frank Gorshin back as the Prince of Puzzles to menace Batman, Robin, and Batgirl for the show's final season.
8 DANNY DEVITO AS THE PENGUIN
When it was announced that Warner Bros. Pictures wanted Tim Burton to create a sequel to Batman, screenwriter Sam Hamm co-written Batman Returns’ screenplay with Danny DeVito in mind to portray the Penguin. On paper, it was a no-brainer to have the legendary actor to portray the legendary feather fiend. However, Tim Burton decided to give the classic Batman foe a monstrous makeover that was 180 degrees away from Burgess Meredith’s jolly gentleman.
In Batman Returns, The Penguin vowed revenge on the Gotham aristocracy who rejected his deformities by running for Mayor of Gotham City. When that plan failed, Penguin vowed to kidnap sleeping children and send them to a “deep, dark watery grave.” DeVito’s Penguin was atrocious to the core and not the smooth talker that fans loved to hate.
7 ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER AS MR. FREEZE
The legendary actor and bodybuilder who headlined both Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator franchise was transformed into one of Gotham City’s resident frozen villain for the 1997 box office bomb known as Batman & Robin. Instead of Mr. Freeze being a cerebral tragic mad scientist to a character described by Joel Schumacher as a man who was “big and strong like he was chiseled out of a glacier.”
Also, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman wrote horrible puns for Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze that were sprinkled through the film. Fans cringed when they heard Schwarzenegger say: “Alright everyone, chill!” and “Always winterize your pipes.” While Freeze did have some redeeming qualities such as his devotion to his bride, Nora, and even gave Batman (George Clooney) the cure to MacGregor’s Syndrome to save Alfred from dying.
6 MICHAEL ROWE AS DEADSHOT
Until Gotham debuted on Fox, Arrow had access to some characters from Batman’s rogues gallery. The Arrowverse has adapted some incredible heroes and villains from the DC Universe and made these characters more than three-dimensional. However, when they touched Deadshot, it was a disaster. Michael Rowe failed to bring Floyd Lawton’s Deadshot from the comic book page to the small screen.
Sure, Mr. Rowe added a particular combination of crazy and swagger with his interpretation of one of the Arrowverse’s deadliest assassins, but many fans thought that the character was bland. While Deadshot was seemingly killed off in “Suicidal Tendencies,” Rowe’s Deadshot returned to the Arrowverse to haunt John Diggle in season five’s “A Matter of Trust.” Thankfully, there are no plans for bringing this boring character back.
5 PIERA COPPOLA AS POISON IVY
Since her debut in Batman, vol. 1 #181, “Beware of Poison Ivy,” Poison Ivy remains one of Batman’s deadliest adversaries to menace the Dark Knight and his allies on numerous media platforms. What makes Poison Ivy an intimidating force is that she has her doctorate, has telepathic relationships with plants, and is well-versed in toxicology.
However, The Batman creators decided to dumb down the eco-terrorist when she appeared in the season three two-parter “Batgirl Begins,” which also marked Batgirl’s first adventure in The Batman universe. In Ivy’s past incarnations, she was a confident woman. But, Ms. Coppola portrayed Ivy as a spoiled self-centered brat that wants to give Mother Nature muscle through enlarging plants and not giving them Little Shop of Horrors styled makeovers.
4 KIRK BALTZ AS CLAYFACE
One superhero television series from the ‘00s that fizzled was the WB’s short-lived Birds of Prey. The show focused on Huntress (Batman and Catwoman’s daughter from Earth-Two), Oracle, and Black Canary’s adventures in New Gotham City. Sadly, the Birds of Prey producers decided to use a few villains from Batman’s fabled rogues’ gallery as antagonists for the series.
The second to last episode featured Clayface. If done properly, Clayface would have been one of the most intimidating foes that the Birds would ever encounter if the show had a special effects department. Sadly, all fans got was actor Kirk Baltz in full head-to-toe make-up as the series’ sorry excuse for Clayface. In addition, this Clayface was not an actor…but a murderous sculptor who murdered Catwoman!
3 JARED LETO AS THE JOKER
The late Heath Ledger delivered probably the best performance of the Clown Prince of Crime in modern-day cinematic history. After his death, many fans set their expectations astronomically high on the actors that would follow for future films. Oscar-winning actor and singer Jared Leto put on a particular brand of Joker make-up for 2016’s Suicide Squad. Despite having steaming chemistry with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Leto’s tattooed Joker was not as frightening as his previous predecessors’ interpretation of the character.
Also, he was not as psychotic. Leto’s Joker seemed more like a hustler than a loose cannon who happens to be Gotham City’s Kingpin of costumed criminals. While Leto’s Joker reunited for Harley Quinn at the end of Suicide Squad, we do not know if the Oscar-winning actor will continue to be involved in the DC Extended Universe.
2 LEXA DOIG AS TALIA AL GHUL
In all honesty, Talia should have been introduced in Gotham, she is after all, one of Bruce Wayne’s most recognizable love interests. But since the Gotham producers decided to introduce fans to their interpretation of Ra's Al Ghul at the end of the series’ third season, it looks like fans will have to wait to see their interpretation of Talia.
Meanwhile, the Arrowverse casted Andromeda & Stargate SG-1 actress Lexa Doig as the Demon’s Head’s loyal and doting daughter. In previous incarnations, actresses portrayed or voiced Talia as a confident and calculating woman who commanded respect from her followers and was her own independent woman. Arrow’s Talia seemed like a second-rate villainess who tagged along with Prometheus because Oliver Queen killed her father.
1 JEEP SWENSON AS BANE
In 1993, Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan introduced a villain that changed Batman’s life for the worst. Bane, a Santa Prisca criminal mastermind was a strongman and thanks to the enhancing drug known as Venom; he became a formidable opponent who broke Batman’s back. Three years after his creation, Bane made the jump from the comic book to the silver screen when he was included in Batman & Robin.
However, Joel Schumacher and company made Jeep the Wrestler’s Bane just a brute henchman serving the interests of Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. Both Schumacher and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman destroyed Batman’s greatest '90s nemesis by robbing him of his ability to speak and his great intelligence that would have masterminded the Dark Knight and his allies’ ultimate defeat.
Which of these castings is the worst to you? Let us know in the comments!