Batman strikes terror into the hearts of Gotham's criminals, so is it any surprise that his villains should be just as—if not more—horrifying?
Batman has, perhaps, the most iconic rogues gallery of any superhero. No comic book has produced so many iconic villains, nor has one comic book inspired so many iconic cinematic villains. The Batman films, all iconic in their own right, have brought to life countless frightening villains. But for every Joker and Scarecrow, there are countless Batman villains who have never been adapted to the screen.
For the intentions of this list, only the films count. If these villains have appeared on screen, they do not count. This includes characters like Killer Croc and Zsasz, who have had minimal screen presences, but presences, nonetheless.
But let's stop beating around the bush: what tormenting Batman villains have yet to appear on the big screen?
There is something undeniably perverse about a man who obsesses over abducting girls.
First appearing back in Batman #49, Jervis Tetch is obsessed with the children's novel Alice in Wonderland. He has a fetishistic drive to find his personal Alice to complete a ritualistic recreation of events from the novel. To these ends, he will drug his victims, stalk them, and even drive a trainful of people to commit suicide.
What makes Hatter so traumatizing is how easily he represents the perversions of innocence. Something pure like a children's story is twisted into pure evil through his actions. That's not even taking into account the fact he is obsessed with dominating the will of innocent girls for his own twisted ends.
You'd be permitted the mistake of assuming Jane Doe's most horrific feature is her skinless face, which looks like something straight out of Clive Barker's Hellraiser. However, with this "empty-souled" serial killer, her tough-looking appearance and trail of bodies is the least horrific thing about her.
This serial killer has the ability to shapeshift into the likeness of her victims, mimicking their behavior and voices with uncanny skill. This ability to completely dive into the identity of someone else adds to the paranoid allure of this character since she can be anyone around her and you'd never know.
Killer Moth is not a scary villain. For years, he was presented as something of a joke character who even Barbara Gordon on her first mission could out-smart.
That is until Necron, a demon from Hell, offered the villains of DC a chance to sell their souls for power. This led this Batman villain to ask for one thing: to be taken seriously.
And did Necron deliver.
As Charaxes, Killer Moth became this grotesque moth monster who needed to feast and ensnare victims in moth-like cocoons. He became barely human, making him easily rank among Batman's most frightening villains.
Clayface is a Batman villain built for the big screen. There are several Clayfaces out there, but they all share one key thing in common: the ability to shapeshift their claylike body into the likeness of another.
The body horror at work here is pretty undeniable. Clayface is able to shift his entire bulk and flesh around at will. But it gets worse than that. In one episode of Batman the Animated Series, Clayface spawned off a child with a will of its own who Clayface assimilated into his own bulk. Essentially, Clayface's very anatomy can take on a will of its own. Which adds a whole dimension of horror to this villain so rarely tapped into.
Pyg is a monster, through and through. This serial killer is a surgeon who desires to lobotomize people, replace their faces with those of a doll, and manipulate them to obey his bidding.
Pyg was at first just a one-off villain made by Grant Morrison, but the sheer terror inspired by this insane villain has projected him into the mainstream for new Batman villains. It seems inevitable that, in some way, Pyg may make an appearance in a Batman film. Still, it seems hard to imagine this nightmare being brought to life in a mainstream film.
Despite being a long-lasting character in Batman's extended rogue's gallery, it wasn't until the New 52 (and Scott Snyder's brilliant run) that Doctor Death really found his place in Batman history.
An ex-Wayne Enterprises employee who blames Bruce Wayne for the death of his son, Death consumes a serum that results in his bones to grow in an uncontrollable fashion. He then uses this serum on his victims. In both cases, the serum creates something out of a Cronenberg horror film. Bones sprout out, twisting and distorting musculature until what remains can barely be regarded as human.
Batman knows many things. Gotham City was one thing he ended up not knowing as well as he thought, though.
The Court of Owls is an Illuminati-esque organization that long ago infiltrated Gotham City, manipulating and controlling every element of the city. They stand on the fringes of sight, living in floors-between floors and rooms between walls, all in order to manipulate every element of Gotham for their ends.
What makes the Court of Owls so chilling isn't anything they can do, but how they carry out their business: under plain sight. Paranoia fuel personified.
Man-Bat is one of the oldest of Batman's enemies. This horrific creature is a man transformed into a grotesque human-sized bat creature. Like many Jekyll-and-Hyde creatures, there is an internal battle between man and beast within scientist Kirk Langstrom's head. And the beast, it seems, is winning.
What makes Man-Bat so paralyzing is that internal struggle. In the end, neither Langstrom or Man-Bat are truly evil. They just are both driven by their instinctual drive to exist. But that instinct results in a brutal, horrific death.
Another creation of Grant Morrison in Batman 666 (much like Professor Pyg), Flamingo is a flamboyant killer who can take on the Dynamic Duo one-on-two. He drives a sick motorcycle, wears bright suits... how is this guy scary?
Oh yeah, He's a cannibal who peals faces off with his bare teeth and eats them before the tears of terror finish running down their viscera-exposed cheeks. There's something so brutal and demonic about a man who draws your eyes, only to murder you as you stare in disbelief over the whole things. Something unnatural, like out of the blackest nightmare.
Hugo Strange is often regarded as one of Batman's most underrated villains. A brilliant strategist and scientist, he has used psychological warfare to torment Batman, genetically twisted and mutated people into grotesque nightmares...
But the worst thing about Strange is that he is clever. With his brilliant deductive skills, he figured out Batman's identity. The fact he elected to tell no one, however, is not a comfort, as he knows he can inflict more harm with the knowledge kept secret than by telling a soul. This malignant, evil spirit strikes fear in the hearts of Batman and readers alike. The big screen Batman villains wish they could be as stone cold a monster as Dr. Hugo Strange.