Like a favorite Batman, Joker, or Spider-Man, many people have in their minds a preferred version of Catwoman — the version whose voice one hears when reading her dialogue in comics. At the outset, it may not seem as such, but the famed cat burglar has an extensive history of being depicted on screens both large and small; it’s a history that is nearly capable of rivaling the Caped Crusader himself. These numerous on-screen performances vary from live action film and television to animated projects and video games. Depending on each individual project itself, the sound and demeanor of Selina Kyle may differ drastically from other interpretations.
Some versions of the character see her portrayed as an overt seductress or suggestively playful. Meanwhile, there exists other iterations that depict Catwoman as cartoonishly mischievous, oftentimes to a fault. In truth, there is likely not a definitively bad version of the character as she has, thus far, been represented in cross media ventures. However, there are undoubtedly a few interpretations that can be considered superior to others. The list below, then, examines 15 of the most significant on screen Selina Kyle/Catwoman performances, ranking them in order from the worst to the best.
15. MELENDY BRITT (THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN)
As the second actress to voice Catwoman, after Jane Webb in The Adventures of Batman (1968) animated series, Melendy Britt’s tenure as the thief on The New Adventures of Batman (1977) was still in the wild west of comic adaptations. Furthermore, the campy remnants of Silver Age comics remained relevant in the art form; thus, these remnants were well represented in cross-media projects. This is especially true of Britt’s Catwoman portrayal.
She voiced the character as purely villainous — none of the nuance now expected from Selina Kyle was ever evident. Britt’s Catwoman speaks slow, somewhat methodically and will periodically meow. It’s a challenge to think of it now without laughter ensuing, particularly because her meows sound as though they’re from an actual feline. This depiction of the villain/hero hybrid works within the zeitgeist in which it was created, but, thankfully, the character’s evolved beyond such simplicity.
14. HALLE BERRY (CATWOMAN)
Halle Berry isn’t a bad Catwoman, per se. She is enjoyable to watch; the stealth-driven scenes and some of the action is well done, even by today’s much higher standards. The problem equates to literally everything else. Narrative is sorely an afterthought, leaving other aspects of the film seeming over-the-top. Berry wasn’t able to disappear into the role of a costumed cat burglar, because the folks behind the camera failed to give her the opportunity.
This version of is not Selina Kyle, but Patience Phillips and is a seductress at her core, first and foremost. Therefore, it’s easy to see how she may have been able to get under the Batman’s skin. As far as taking him on proficiently in combat or being his tactical counterpart… based on what’s featured in 2004’s Catwoman, it seems unlikely.
13. JULIE NEWMAR (BATMAN)
As the first actress to play Selina Kyle/Catwoman in live action, Julie Newmar set precedent and paved the way for all those who would take the role after her tenure on the Batman television series. Is it then fair to contend that Newmar’s stint as Catwoman is wholly special due to her being the first? Possibly. She looks the part, and her and Adam West’s chemistry closely matches that which is expected of the typical Batman and Catwoman dynamic. Why she’s featured on the lower end of the list is a matter of the performances that followed hers so deeply evolving the character.
Apart from aforementioned qualities such as appearance and chemistry with Batman, little of Newmar’s performance reflects Catwoman character as a whole. Her voice is ordinary with no carefully pronounced inflections. Additionally, the performance itself doesn’t exactly stand out when considering other live action portrayals.
12. TRESS MACNEILLE (THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS)
The Dark Knight Returns’ version of Catwoman does not depict her as she is most commonly seen. In fact, this older iteration never suits up, accurately resembling the Selina Kyle on display in Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel. Thus, aptly comparing and contrasting Tress MacNeille’s performance to those of other actress’ in the role bears some difficulty. However, the time MacNeille spends voicing Selina, minimal though it may be, deserves acknowledgement.
This Selina is a shell of her former self; she’s tormented and no semblance of the confidence and spirit that she typically wears is evident. Her scene opposite Joker, wherein he poisons her with a kiss, as well as her venerability with Batman, showcases Selina’s collapsed emotional state. Tress MacNeille conveys the despair gracefully, acting as a hallmark for what it means to do much with the little that’s been given.
11. NIKA FUTTERMAN (BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD)
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a return to the Gold and Silver Ages of comics; by proxy, this version of Catwoman reflects the tenets from those two bygone eras. Inevitably, she, like innumerable other characters from the show, is relegated to a rather one note caricature. Within the context of what the series pays homage to, Catwoman cannot have been better written or portrayed.
Actress Nika Futterman streamlines her performance as the character’s behavior is cartoonishly mischievous. Here, Catwoman’s more sensual nature receives a toning down, yet Futterman still finds a way to subtly and suggestively voice lines of innuendo shared with Batman without it seeming overt. The chemistry between the two characters is also where the nuances of Catwoman as morally gray reside; their encounters sometimes lead to flirtation, allowing Futterman to soften Catwoman in a manner that can only be viewed as endearing.
10. LEE MERIWETHER (BATMAN: THE MOVIE)
The release of Batman: The Movie in 1966 debuted a new actress in the role of Catwoman, Lee Meriwether. Though she only played the character for a brief period of time, and had to share the film’s villainous exploits with the likes of the Joker, Penguin and Riddler, Meriwether did leave her mark.
Batman: The Movie’s Catwoman is cat-like in her behavior, more so than Julie Newmar’s portrayal. She often imitates the graceful movement of a feline while walking, gesticulates in a manner worthy of her namesake, and is seen licking her hands to soon thereafter wipe her face. It was zany, sure, but Meriwether also laces the character with another layer by going undercover as Kitka. It’s an interesting play on Batman and Catwoman’s love affair, one that doesn’t too often get the recognition it deserves.
9. EARTHA KITT (BATMAN)
Taking on the role of Catwoman opposite Adam West’s Batman after Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether was actress and singer, Eartha Kitt. Kitt’s portrayal differed greatly from what Newmar and Meriwether had previously brought to the table, as she adjusted Catwoman’s mannerisms and speech patterns.
This version of the character, introduced in Batman’s third and final season, appears and sounds more stylized. There is an assertive quality to her not plainly on display in past live action iterations, which makes Kitt’s Catwoman seem threatening and alluring all at once. However her performance is interpreted, it worked. Without question, Eartha Kitt remains a fan favorite in the role of the cat burglar, and no one can forget the effortless purr that would occasionally emerge during longer instances of dialogue.
8. ANNE HATHAWAY (THE DARK KNIGHT RISES)
Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is the most grounded of the live action iterations we have seen, which is befitting of the character’s existence in Christopher Nolan’s vision for Batman. Debuting in the third film of Nolan’s trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, Hathaway as Catwoman is a departure from the norm. Minus her title, the garb she wears, and a few choice one-liners, there is not too much that can be considered cat-like about her. However, she’s still undeniably Catwoman through and through.
This version exudes cleverness and tactical prowess rivaling that of Christian Bale’s Dark Knight. She’s also a forced to be reckoned with in combat, making her a threat in and out of the suit — a detail not often explored to the fullest extent. It’s a shame more couldn’t be seen of Hathaway in the role.
7. ELIZA DUSHKU (DC SHOWCASE: CATWOMAN)
One of the better depictions of Catwoman is in DC Showcase’s Catwoman short film. The 15-minute short delivers a compelling story, where Selina behaves as more of a vigilante and less of a thief. Heroism suits her well, and many wonder why a longer project was never developed out of the showcase. The animation’s beautiful, the action is incredible and there’s a nicely crafted twist waiting at the end. One highlight that doesn’t get enough attention is Eliza Dushku in the starring role.
The Buffy alum conveys all of the character’s strengths: proficiently callous and calculated, and seductive only when necessary. An additional facet of Catwoman is shown as well, one not often explored elsewhere — warmth. This, too, Dushku sells wonderfully and it serves as a reminder that Catwoman deserves another chance at a full-length feature. Honestly, Dushku would be a good choice to lead such a venture.
6. GINA GERSHON (THE BATMAN)
Setting aside The Batman being criminally underrated, a facet of the animated series too often overlooked is the depiction of Selina Kyle/Catwoman. The character plays the role of a con well, and the comparison between her and Bruce Wayne leading similar dual lives is wonderfully delved into. Of course, the execution of these successes would not work without an impressive performance seeing it through.
Gina Gershon’s Catwoman is more than a mere thief; she’s a con-artist, who artfully uses duplicitous identities. This isn’t new territory for the character, but it’s one of the few instances that places just as much stock in Selina Kyle as it does Catwoman. As such, akin to Bruce/Batman, Selina’s normal speaking voice does not match the one she uses while masked, allowing the cat-inspired aspects of the character to truly shine during her nightly escapades.
5. LAURA BAILEY (BATMAN: THE TELLTALE SERIES)
The inclusion of Laura Bailey’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman in Batman: The Telltale Series offers perhaps the deepest dive into the character that’s been seen in a project beyond the comics. Telltale’s Catwoman isn’t much different from other common interpretations, but there’s a mystique to her that continues to intrigue. While she’s morally gray, Selina also errs on the side of decency, allowing for an emotional depth that’s sometimes cursorily explored to seep through.
Bailey strongly conveys the duality of the character, who struggles with her own corruptness and still recognizes and praises the good in others. Because of this Catwoman’s more grounded characterization, little room is left for her to actively display a cat-like demeanor; instead, such behavior, though minimal, is reflected in combat and stealth maneuvers. Thus, the bulk of Bailey’s performance rests on conveying the aforementioned emotionality in scenes opposite Troy Baker’s Bruce Wayne/Batman.
4. CAMREN BICONDOVA (GOTHAM)
Gotham remains somewhat divisive amongst fans, but the show continues to win people over. Inarguably, many of the series’ characters have experienced the same highs and lows, one of which is Camren Bicondova’s Selina Kyle. What many assumed would be the show’s weakest asset, following Bruce Wayne’s childhood post the Wayne murders, may turn out to be one of its greatest strengths, as evidenced by Selina’s fascinating character development.
Yes, audiences have witnessed a vulnerable Selina Kyle prior to Gotham, but never like this. She’s fiercely loyal, loves hard and harbors trust issues—in short, the character’s mature beyond her years. And Bicondova sells it perfectly. Through her performances and an understanding of who Selina will become in a decade’s time, we see how Catwoman develops into the morally ambiguous and remarkably capable character that so easily clashes with/stands by Batman.
3. ADRIENNE BARBEAU (BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES)
Adrienne Barbeau is the first actress to voice an animated Catwoman who isn’t a one-dimensional caricature. To match the show, Batman: The Animated Series’ Catwoman can’t help but be a multifaceted, complex character who leaves even the Dark Knight puzzled as to her motives and what side of the law she resides on. Her back and forth with the Bat, then, would be ineffective if the performance bringing her to life isn’t comparable to Kevin Conroy’s. Needless to say, Barbeau does not disappoint.
The Catwoman in BTAS makes viewers yearn for more of her story to explore the many layers of nuance. But Barbeau excels at what she’s given. Catwoman can be harsh when an opponent necessitates such behavior, loving towards her cat, Isis, and flirtatious with Batman all in one episode; this is a testament to both the writing and Barbeau’s performance.
2. MICHELLE PFEIFFER (BATMAN RETURNS)
In many respects, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman represents a culmination of all the character’s live action that came before her 1992 performance in Batman Returns. She’s both cartoonish and relatively complex, evidenced by Selina Kyle’s going from idealistic secretary to a callous vigilante after being killed by her boss. This evolution of the character, solely depicted within Batman Returns, is made all the more compelling thanks to Pfeiffer’s masterful portrayal.
Pfeiffer plays a timid and somewhat insecure Selina, who becomes a seductress willing to commit the most heinous acts for vengeance. To call the dichotomy thrilling to watch would be an understatement; Catwoman is the highlight of the film. Small touches that can in other iterations feel bizarre, such as Catwoman meowing or licking herself, works surprisingly well. Too bad Pfeiffer in the role was a one and done deal.
1. GREY DELISLE (ARKHAMVERSE)
The Arkhamverse’s Catwoman is a perfect mixture of all those that have come before. She’s feline-like, but not to a fault, seductive, yet it’s never overdone, and is a powerhouse intellectually and in combat. Arguably, outside of the comics, she’s never been more of a match for the Dark Knight.
Grey DeLisle’s performance heightens the above and it’s a pity the series never depicts Catwoman without the mask. Despite the missed opportunity, Catwoman is still written and portrayed as complex; the nuances that make her fascinating easily translate to Rocksteady’s vision of Batman’s world. DeLisle’s voice work especially sells it. Opposite Two-Face and other thugs, she’s cruel but playful; put her in a room with Poison Ivy and their history, though hardly detailed, is evident primarily thanks to Catwoman’s friendlier tone; meanwhile, with Batman there’s warmth, sincerity even. She’s another reminder that Catwoman deserves stories of her own.
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