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The Dark Knight: Every Villain in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, Ranked

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, starring Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader, is regarded as one of the best-ever Batman movie franchises in the character’s on-screen history. Indeed, the trilogy was a triumphant marriage of Nolan’s trademark cinematic style and flawless character portrayals by the likes of Bale, Cillian Murphy, and Heath Ledger, among many other big Hollywood names.

Part of what made The Dark Knight an exceptional piece of superhero media was its portrayals of various major Batman villains. It goes without saying that every superhero movie generally needs to introduce a supervillain who will inevitably wreak havoc and tantalize the hero in every way until the end. When it comes to Nolan’s The Dark Knight universe, plenty of villains made their marks on Gotham and Batman. Here’s how they all rank.

Updated on July 31st, 2023 by Callum Jones: This article has been updated with additional content to keep the discussion fresh and relevant with even more information and new entries.

10 Selina Kyle/Catwoman

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Anne Hathaway's Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises
Warner Bros.

When she first appeared in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, Anne Hathaway’s take on Catwoman (real name Selina Kyle) made an interesting addition to the series, despite some initial backlash. Like her comic book counterpart, this version of the character is a crafty con artist and burglar that is, in almost every way, Batman’s (Christian Bale) equal.

Catwoman steals a pearl necklace belonging to Bruce Wayne/Batman’s deceased mother from the Wayne mansion, before leading Batman into the villainous Bane’s (Tom Hardy) trap. When Bane takes over Gotham City, Catwoman tries to flee but is convinced to stay and help by Batman. While she may be morally gray, Catwoman is more of an antiheroine than an outright villain. In fact, not only does she aid Bruce Wayne/Batman in his mission to stop Bane from blowing up Gotham, but by the end of the film, she has seemingly entered into a romantic relationship with him.

9 Carmine Falcone

Batman Begins (2005)

Tom Wilkinosn as Carmine Falcone in Batman Begins

Carmine Falcone is a mob boss that has a strong hold on Gotham’s criminal underworld. Appearing solely in Batman Begins, Falcone is depicted as a powerful man who has most of the city’s cops and officials in his pockets. Under his rule, Gotham has become a cesspit of drugs and criminal activity – just the way he likes it.

Owing to the fact that he is virtually above the law, it falls to Batman to bring him down and, by the end of the film, Falcone is incarcerated in Arkham Asylum and driven insane by Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow). His brief stint in the series, as well as the fact that he is later replaced as the head of Gotham’s criminal underworld, means that Falcone is a pretty weak entry in The Dark Knight rogues’ gallery. However, English actor Tom Wilkinson portrayed the character in the film with more than enough menace to earn his spot as one of Wayne’s enemies as well.

8 Sal Maroni

The Dark Knight (2008)

Eric Roberts as Sal Maroni in The Dark Knight

Carmine Falcone’s replacement as the head of the crime family is Sal Maroni, portrayed in The Dark Knight by Eric Roberts. Like his predecessor, he is slimy, unscrupulous, and sees himself as above the law. Though he doesn’t have the same amount of power as Falcone since Batman cleaned up Gotham’s streets, he also doesn’t suffer the same fall from grace.

He does literally fall though, when Batman drops him off the top of a building and breaks his legs in an attempt to gain information. Arguably, Maroni is just as responsible as The Joker for turning Harvey Dent into Two-Face, as it was his men that kidnapped Dent and Rachel Dawes, which ultimately led to the death of Dawes and sent Dent down a dark path. It is presumed Maroni was killed in a car crash caused by Dent, though this is never confirmed.

7 Joe Chill

Batman Begins (2005)

Richard Brake as Joe Chill in The Dark Knight

The character of Joe Chill receives not much more than a cameo in The Dark Knight series, however, his impact on the story of Bruce Wayne is far greater than what his limited screen time would suggest. Appearing in Batman Begins where he is played by actor Richard Brake, Joe Chill is the man responsible for the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, Bruce’s parents.

During a flashback sequence at the start of the film, Chill is seen mugging the Waynes as they leave the theater, before becoming trigger-happy and shooting them both dead, as a young Bruce watches. This traumatic event later prompts Bruce to fight crime as the Batman. Chill is killed by an assassin working for Carmine Falcone, depriving Bruce of his opportunity to finally have revenge, and rubbing salt into the already gaping wound. He may have only been a low-level criminal suffering the effects of poverty, by Joe Chill is undoubtedly Batman’s most personal foe.

6 Talia Al Ghul

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Miranda Tate/Talia al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises
Warner Bros.

Talia Al Ghul gets introduced as Miranda Tate in The Dark Knight Rises, who also happens to be a board member of Wayne Enterprises. Played by Marion Cotillard, Talia Al Ghul is a femme fatale who is initially introduced as Bruce’s love interest.

Of course, the truth about her true origins and motivations is soon uncovered and she is revealed as Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter, who has returned to Gotham to accomplish her father’s wish of annihilation. Talia herself did little to no harm to the city in The Dark Knight Rises, operating instead in the shadows and letting Bane be the face of her master plan. As such, she was relatively a lesser threat to the Caped Crusader.

Related: The Dark Knight: How Christopher Nolan’s Joker Came to Life

5 Two-Face

The Dark Knight (2008)

Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight
Warner Bros.

Two-Face was the alter ego of Gotham attorney Harvey Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart) in The Dark Knight. Primed with a tragic character backstory, Two-Face was one of the darker villains in Nolan’s Batman trilogy precisely because of how he represented one’s downfall in the face of tragedy, pain, and loss.

Dent started out as an attorney who vehemently believed in the criminal justice system, but when Rachel dies, he begins to see the cracks and ultimately loses faith in justice. The figurative trigger was pulled by Joker, and was, ultimately, enough to turn the once-decorated White Knight of Gotham into the paranoid corrupt criminal who left the fates of his victims up to chance.

4 Scarecrow

Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Cillian Murphy wearing glasses and a suit as Dr. Crane, or Scarecrow, in Batman Begins
Warner Bros. Pictures

Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow first appeared in Batman Begins as a seemingly unassuming psychiatrist, who, with cunning, came close to killing Batman. Impeccably portrayed by Cillian Murphy, Scarecrow harnessed the fears of his victims by intoxicating them with a hallucinogen dubbed “Fear Toxin,” a type of drug that created fear of everything and anything around its victim.

Specially fabricated from a rare blue Himalayan flower, Crane intended to intoxicate the entire decaying Gotham with his hallucinogen. Of course, his wicked plans are eventually crushed by The Dark Knight. As the first villain in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Scarecrow set the tone for the grittier and more thrilling franchise. However, he was also the only villain to appear in all three films.

3 Ra’s Al Ghul

Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Liam Neeson in Batman Begins
Warner Bros Pictures

Liam Neeson’s Henri Ducard a.k.a. Ra’s Al Ghul is initially introduced as a mentor to Bruce in Batman Begins, who equips him with the skills that ultimately helped him to become the Caped Crusader. Soon after, however, the character is revealed as the prime antagonist, someone who envisages nothing but the destruction of the crime-infested Gotham.

Naturally, despite being a formidable adversary to Batman, the League of Shadows leader Ra’s Al Ghul meets his end. However, his scheme of eliminating the city of Gotham lived on with the help of different villains like Bane and Talia.

2 Bane

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises
Warner Bros.

Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, portrayed by Tom Hardy, is the sole villain in the entire trilogy who was able to physically overpower Batman and, what’s more, accomplish more of Gotham’s destruction.

Indeed, Bane destroys Batman in unprecedented ways, from bankrupting his enterprise to breaking his back, which makes him a formidable foe in Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. The somewhat disappointing reveal that Talia was, in fact, the mastermind behind all of Bane’s actions all but holds him back from taking the top spot on our list.

1 Joker

The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger as the Joker in a scene from The Dark Knight
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Dark Knight featured Heath Ledger’s Joker as not just the best villain of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but also the best superhero movie villain for years to come. Ledger’s interpretation of Joker was so horrifyingly authentic that the actor earned a posthumous Academy Award for his performance.

Indeed, the actor left big shoes to fill for the character, who has since been played by Joaquin Phoenix in Joker and, briefly, Barry Keoghan in The Batman. Ledger’s Joker set the ultimate bar for all Batman villains to come precisely because of his complex nature and inherently evil motivations. He was unbridled chaos personified and proved a true physical and psychological test for Batman in ways that left him scarred thereafter.


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