Movies & TV / Columns

Ranking Every Villain From the Batman TV Show

July 27, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Cesar Romero Joker Eartha Kitt Catwoman Batman 1966

A column about the 60s Batman television show? Guess I need the obligatory POW! BAM! BOOM! Yes, this week we’re diving into the baddies that made the show a classic. While Adam West and Burt Ward held their own, it was these 37 villains below that kept the action moving. We definitely had some classics and a whole lot of…not so classic characters played by some of the biggest names in Hollywood. 

A couple of notes before we begin. Who’s NOT on this list?  Lee Meriwether, who played Catwoman in the 1966 movie. Who else didn’t make the list? Tim Herbert who played Killer Moth. What? You didn’t know this? In order to get ABC executives to bring Batgirl on as a regular, they shot a short film with Yvonne Craig (Batgirl) and Herbert as Killer Moth. It never officially made it to TV so it doesn’t get a spot. 

Here’s a quick fun fact for you as well. Producers did have plans to introduce Two-Face into the show but never found the right time, especially having to navigate the makeup for the character with broadcast standards. The rumored actor who was going to play Harvey Dent/Two-Face on the tv screen? Clint Eastwood.  

37. Lola Lasagne (Ethel Merman)
While the name has charm, nothing about Lasagne stands out. She played second fiddle to the Penguin for 2 episodes in the third season and waving her parasol around did little to distract Batman and Robin. I wish they could have given the great Ethel Merman more to do. 

36. Nora Clavicle (Barbara Rush)  
Appearing in 1 episode in season 3, Clavicle somehow got the Commissioner job and attempted to bring down Gotham City with a convoluted plan that involved an insurance claim thanks to mechanical rats and a police force made up of housewives…actually, the plot is a lot more worse than I remembered and a “one and done” appearance for Nora Clavicle is more than enough. 

35. Cabala (Howard Duff)
Cabala was content with taking a backseat to things and letting his wife, Dr. Cassandra Spellcraft, do the heavy work. More interested in his looks, he was never a threat to the Dynamic Duo and his one appearance in season 3 doesn’t make a blip when compared to other baddies. 

34. Zelda the Great (Anne Baxter) Anne Baxter owns the bragging rights for being on the show twice, playing different villains. Unfortunately both were forgettable. e show’s only guest villain to ever return to play a different villain on the show later. Zelda made a two-part appearance in the first season and her big idea was to kidnap Aunt Harriet. 

33. Colonel Gumm (Roger C. Carmel)
The original Mr. Pink, Colonel Gumm showed up in season 2 and would have slipped away from mention but he lucked out by having his episodes include the crossover with Green Hornet played by Van Williams and another character named Kato played by Bruce Lee. You’d think that for a crossover that big they’d have brought in one of the big villains instead of a guy who loved the color pink and was really into stamps. 

32. Lord Marmaduke Ffogg (Rudy Vallee)
The good Lord Ffogg had a nifty weapon called the Pipe of Fog. It’s power? It could fill a room full of…fog. Appearing in episodes 11, 12, and 13, of season 3, Ffogg and his sister, Lady Penelope Peasoup, caused more trouble than you’d expect from people with those titles. One thing Ffog had going for him was the alibi that his foot was in a cast and unable to commit crimes. 

31. Olga, Queen of the Cossacks (Anne Baxter)
Here’s Anne Baxter again! As Olga, she worked (and played) with Egghead. Baxter seemed to have more fun with this role but never really did much to stand out other than cheer on her man (Eggman?) and annoy Batman and Robin more than anything else. 

30. Minerva (Zsa Zsa Gabor)
Batman brought in some big names and while some really had fun with it, some just played…themselves. Such is the case with Zsa Zsa Gabor and Minerva. They gave Minerva a decent story and had her commit a number of robberies that perplexed the Dynamic Duo so much that they had to bring in their trusty backup, Alfred to go undercover. In the end, the character is memorable thanks to Gabor’s natural charisma. 

29. Dr. Cassandra Spellcraft (Ida Lupino)
The real brains behind the team she was in with her husband, Cabala, Dr. Spellcraft had a cool backstory at least. Wanting to be known as the best alchemist there ever was, the good (bad?) doctor puts her aims on Batman. She got a single episode in the third season so you know how well that went. Still, Ida Lupino made the most of it and went on to do some pretty amazing directing.

28. Calamity Jan (Dina Merrill)
There might be one of two of you out there that might be wondering why Calamity Jan, played by Dina Merrill is on the list and not Okie Annie played by Joan Staley. That’s a valid thought. I consider Annie to be more of a sidekick to Cliff Robertson’s Shame. They gave Jan a little more to work with and she showed she had wit and ability, but ultimately tied herself to close with Shame and paid the price for it. 

27. Marsha, Queen of Diamonds (Carolyn Jones)
You might be surprised to know that Carolyn Jones’ Queen of Diamonds character got 5 episodes in season 2. Her big “trap”? It’s a long story but getting Batman to decide whether or not to say I do. If he does say it he’ll be married to Marsha and give away the location of the Batcave, though if he says no he’ll risk losing Chief O’Hara, Robin, and Commissioner Gordon forever as they’ll stay in Marsha’s clutches as she’ll not have the Bat Diamond. Fun fact: Zsa Zsa Gabor was originally going to play Marsha. 

26. Lady Penelope Peasoup (Glynis Johns)
Don’t be fooled, while Lord Marmaduke Ffogg looked like the main baddie in those 3 episodes in the third season, it his sister, Lady Penelope Peasoup that carried the team and the reason to watch.  Glynis Johns wasn’t given much to work with but she came out the better sibling. 

25. Black Widow (Tallulah Bankhead)
Before Scarlett Johansson we had Tallulah Bankhead. Black Widow would be Bankhead’s final performance and she went out in style. The Black Widow character was given a nice backstory and with all her gadgets we can assume she’s a bit of a scientist herself. Her two-part episodes are fun to watch as she vamps it up on screen. 

24. Shame (Cliff Robertson)
SHAME! As a kid I found the cowboy dynamic a little jarring with the Batman TV universe. I get they were riffing on the classic movie Western Shane but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the character. Cliff Robertson got episodes 25 and 26 in season 2 and episodes 21 and 22 in season 3. A different posse each time with the same results. 

23. Siren (Joan Collins)
Look at what we got here! Joan Collins got a couple of episodes in season 3 and actually managed to bring something to the Siren character. Before being the Siren, she was simply Lorelei Circe a world famous singer and musician (played the harp) but unfortunately decided to use her voice to pursue a life of crime. Introduced as a sidekick to The Riddler, she went and made a mark with her powers and sexy stylings. The character had legs and could have appeared more. 

22. Chandell (Liberace)
Was Liberace playing Liberace here? Yes but with Batman’s camp style, it was a perfect fit and one I wish they’d have brought back. Appearing in episodes 15 and 16 in the second season, Liberace has a lot of fun with the role and takes to the villainous vibe surprisingly well. Who knows what might have been if he had pursued that more. For the inquisitive minds out there, when they found out that Chandell was using a player piano during the White House concert, Robin yells, “Holy Paderewski!” You should know that Ignace Jan Paderewski was, in real life, Liberace’s professional mentor.

21. Sandman (Michael Rennie)
Not that Sandman. GIven two episodes in the second season, Michael Rennie’s Sandman had plenty of potential, especially when you consider he had hypnotic sleeping powers! The only problem? He overshadowed by Julie Newmar’s Catwoman and no way is he winning that battle. Still, points for a cool fur coat.

20. Ma Parker (Shelley Winters)
What could have been a one-note character was given extra life thanks to the performance of Shelley Winters. A country lady who was backed up by her sons, Pretty Boy Parker, Machine Gun Parker, and Mad Dog Parker, they were surprisingly efficient giving Batman and Robin a hard time. And let’s not forget the daughter, Legs Parker. Ma Parker was another one that I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of. 

19. Louie the Lilac (Milton Berle)
When it comes to actors playing themselves, no one outdid Milton Berle playing Milton Berle in the Louie the Lilac character. Over-the-top and to the hilt, Berle fills the space he’s given and hits the high notes in the two episodes he appears in. Thanks to Berle, the character went on to appear in five episodes of the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

18. Puzzler (Maurice Evans)
Maurice Evans’ Puzzler might seem familiar thanks to his puzzles, games, and tricks but it’s no riddle that he’s his own character. Or is he? Word is Frank Gorshin wasn’t interested in playing The Riddler anymore so they created The Puzzler to fill in for him. This is odd since they replaced Gorshin with John Astin for a couple of episodes until Gorshin returned in season 3. No matter, The Puzzler did the best he could and even threw shade at The Riddler. Unfortunately we never got The Puzzler vs The Riddler crossover episodes we deserved. 

17. Clock King (Walter Slezak)
Remember how I mentioned the show would attract some bright talent from time to time? Look no further than the Clock King played by Tony Award-winning actor Walter Slezak. Slezak made Clock King his own and created a worthy version to the one in DC comics. He got episodes 11 and 12 in season 2 but I could have taken more thanks to Slezak’s relishment of the role. 

16. The Archer (Art Carney)
Art Carney’s Archer led things off with episodes 1 and 2 of the second season and he certainly brought the humor. While his character was a play on Robin Hood and his Merry Men (Archer had Maid Marilyn, Big John, and Crier Tuck), Carney kept things light as he stole from the rich and gave…to himself. Fun fact: In his episode, Dick Clark makes an appearance while Batman and Robin are climbing down a wall. Batman does not recognize him but says he must be from Philadelphia by his accent.

15. Bookworm (Roddy McDowall)
It’s no surprise that Roddy McDowall took a throwaway character like Bookworm and gave him some much needed charisma. The character was created for the show but thanks to McDowall’s take, Bookworm crossed over to the comic books. OK, Bookworm didn’t make the jump from television to comic books for a couple of decades but I’m still giving McDowall some credit. 

14. Mr. Freeze (George Sanders)
Here we go! Now we’re getting to the big names. We got 3 versions of Mr. Freeze and unfortunately George Sanders got the short end of the stick. Appearing in season 1, episodes 7 and 8, Sanders is hampered by an abysmal costume. Seriously, it ruined the allure of the character and I couldn’t get over how much they missed the mark on it. Still, he was a better Freeze than Arnold. 

13. Minstrel (Van Johnson)
Minstrel appeared in episodes 5 and 6 in season 2 and Van Johnson didn’t waste his time making him memorable. The Musical Master of Crime abhored violence, refusing to indulge in any fights. This made for an interesting character and Johnson’s acting made Minstrel seem both different and engaging. Too bad audiences didn’t agree and we never saw the character again. Still, when Minstrel was finally captured by Batman and Robin, he went peacefully into police custody. He did, however, promise a jailbreak and revenge in a song composed for a television interview.

12. Mr. Freeze (Otto Preminger)
Otto Preminger’s Freeze was good but taken in a bit odder direction than was expected. In a bit of gossip, Preminger wasn’t well liked behind the scenes and according to Adam West himself, Preminger was “despicable” in his autobiography “Back to the Batcave”.  Still, Preminger’s appearance was the basis of the Batman ’66 comic version and nearly all merchandise, as his portrayal is the most compatible with the modern perception of the character.

11. The Riddler (John Astin)
Filling in for Gorshin, John Astin donned The Riddler suit for a two-episode stint in the second season. While we didn’t get much to work with, I remember Astin’s Riddler well and a lot of the charm he brought here is seen in his version of Gomez Adams in The Addams Family. Given more episodes to work with he might have really put his stamp on the character. 

10. Mad Hatter (David Wayne)
Coming in at #10 is David Wayne’s Mad Hatter, an underrated character on the show. Showing up in season 1 in episodes 13 and 14 and season 2 in episodes 35 and 36, respected acting veteran Wayne brought the goods and just the right amount of camp to the role. Hatter was set on possessing Batman’s cowl and did all he could to make it happen. His Mesmerizer hat is straight out of the comics and just the amount of silliness for the show. 

9. False Face (Malachi Throne)
I’ll admit, Malachi Throne only played False Face for two episodes but I never forgot him. I was really freaked out by his appearance and was unsettled every time he was on the screen. No idea why they didn’t use him more often but what we got was plenty. 

8. Mr. Freeze (Eli Wallach)
For me, Eli Wallach was the Freeze to watch. His two episodes closed out season 2 but he really captured the wickedness of the character and paired it nicely with the one of the show. Wallach’s Mr. Freeze hammed it up just right and I wish he was given more episodes to play with as I felt the Mr. Freeze character could have been bigger on the show. 

7. King Tut (Victor Buono)
Perhaps a bit of a surprise, Victor Buono’s King Tut was pure Batman 60s camp. This character could have easily strayed into the eye-rolling department but Buono fills the scenes with plenty of laughs and caught on with audiences. Appearing in episodes 27 and 28 in season 1, episodes 7, 8, 53, and 54 in season 2 and episodes 6 and 23 in season 3, he was over-the-top and always memorable. This was all due to Buono understanding what made the show work and relishing the characters potential to entertain the audience. 

6. Catwoman (Eartha Kitt)
Not many could step into the shoes of Julie Newmar and take over a character she made famous but Eartha Kitt not only did it, she made her own impression with the character that became just as popular. And she did it with just 3 episodes in the third season. Kitt’s Catwoman sexed it up with the best of them but she was a little more serious, a little more dangerous when it came to the Dynamic Duo. Given another season or two, this Catwoman would have been a big problem for them. 

5. Egghead (Vincent Price)
I know this might be a controversial pick for the Top 5 but Vincent Price’s Egghead is a gem. Appearing in season 2 in episodes 13 and 14 and season 3 in episodes 8, 9, and 15, Price “got it”. He knew how far to take it, when to camp it up, and when to draw back. Egghead is one of my favorite characters from the show and that’s thanks to Price. As far as the character, he lived his gimmick. From his lair to his gadgets, he was an egg that just wouldn’t crack. 

4. The Riddler (Frank Gorshin)
Let me point out that I loved how Gorshin wore both the Riddler suit and the Riddle costume. It gave the character depth and Gorshin did it with glee. He had plenty of time to craft the character, appearing in episodes 1, 2, 11, 12, 23, 24, 31, and 32 in season 1 and in episode 2 of the third season. When you talk about the Riddler, people still have Gorshin’s image in mind and that’s a testament to the actor.
Gorshin’s Riddler would appear in the pilot for the Batman series, which has been credited to being one of the most successful pilots, in terms of TV ratings, ever seen AND he was nominated for an Emmy for his role as the Riddler, being the only actor to be nominated for such an award in the series. Gorshin said, “The first overnight ratings were phenomenal, and we knew then that this was going to be something special…. I certainly enjoyed the success and the exposure but it has been a cross to bear. I was nominated for an Emmy for playing the Riddler in that first episode, I did not win however, I was just so thrilled to be nominated. But people identified me as being the Riddler for a long time.”

3. The Penguin (Burgess Meredith)
Burgess Meredith IS The Penguin. Like Gorshin, he’s what people remember when you talk about him. Meredith appeared in more episodes than any other villain with a whopping 20! Burgess talked about the role saying, “I did Batman for two reasons, one of which was salary. The other was that, after its first few episodes, Batman became the in-thing to do. Everybody including Frank Sinatra would either play a villain or appear as himself in that cameo showcase where a celebrity would poke his head through the window of a building that Batman and Robin were climbing. I even remember Otto Preminger saying to me, “My god, My son won’t speak to me unless I get a job on Batman” Eventually, he got in! Actually, we didn’t get as much money from the show as you might think, although we were paid decent money for the feature film version. The main impetus to continue appearing on Batman – beyond the desire to get some T.V. work – was that it was fashionable.”
Oh, and that “Penguin laugh”? Meredith had given up smoking some twenty years before but the character was required to smoke with a cigarette holder. The smoke would get caught in his throat and he would start coughing. Rather than constantly ruin takes in this matter, he developed the laugh to cover it up. Acting!

2. Catwoman (Julie Newmar)
Julie Newmar’s Catwoman appeared in 13 episodes and “inspired” more than a couple of generations of boys. Her natural talents made an indelible impression and she, in one way or another, still influences the character to this day. In talking about a scene from “Catwoman Goes to College/Batman Displays His Knowledge”, where Newmar’s Catwoman tempts Batman she relates, ““I remember doing that entire sequence that The Catwoman as Julie Newmarven to this day amazes me… The dialogue in it was a seduction of Batman, and I remember it was late in the day with no rehearsal’s. You would just go out there and shoot it, which is probably why I was good, because being a dancer and choreographer, when it comes to movement, I know how to cover space and use good timing and hit every mark that the camera needs me to hit… I would do everything in one take… The fact that it all came off was a miracle.”
“It was so wonderful being on that show, because you could be nasty and mean, and in the fifties women could never, unless you were in some B pictures actress, be mean, bad, and nasty. It was so satisfying , I can’t tell you how satisfying it was.” Meow. 

1. The Joker (Cesar Romero)
Could it be anyone else? Cesar Romero appeared as The Joker in 19 episodes and is still in talks of Most Popular Actors to Portray The Joker. The green hair, white make up, and his laugh have become classic and let us not forget that he refused to shave his mustache for the role. Played with glee and spirit, Romero’s Joker is still the standard bearer and looked like he had a great time doing it.