Step into the dark side of the DC Universe as we delve into the minds of its most infamous villains.
From the Joker’s chaotic reign to Lex Luthor’s cunning strategies, this comprehensive ranking brings you an insider’s look at the best DC villains.
Discover their notorious exploits, uncover their unique abilities, and understand the chilling impact they’ve had on our favorite superheroes.
Whether you’re a die-hard DC fan or just curious about comic book lore, this article promises an immersive journey through the twisted, captivating world of DC’s top antagonists.
30. Black Zero
While there have been a few versions of the entity known as Black Zero, the first list entry belongs to the original bearer of that name.
Part of the Earth One timeline and dating back to 1968, Black Zero is responsible in many ways for Kal-El becoming Superman. A “space saboteur”, Black Zero was the one hired to destroy Krypton.
While the appearance of the original Black Zero is fairly minimal, his actions were very much the catalyst that caused the events that lead to the birth of Superman.
Since his debut, Black Zero has been a term adopted by Kryptonian Military groups and terrorists. It was also the name of a virus that infected Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, as well as an evil clone of Superboy.
Very much the anti-Superman, Bizarro is probably not intentionally a villain. He earns a spot on here nonetheless.
Making his debut as a teenager in a single comic strip about Superboy, Bizarro was conceived as the literal mirror image of the man of steel. This includes his use of speech having opposite meanings (bad means good etc.) and inverse powers to that of Superman.
Having several origins, Bizarro came about after Superman’s exposure to Lex Luthor’s duplicating ray. While he ultimately tries to do “good”, he often causes destruction and havoc as a result.
Bizarro is most certainly a caricature. But he’s a light-hearted villain that contrasts with DC’s usually dark and more adult tones, making him a refreshing character in the lore.
28. Ocean Master
Also known as Orm Marius, Ocean Master is the evil half-brother of Aquaman. His rage and villainy are fuelled by his lust for the throne of Atlantis.
Unlike his half-human sibling, Marius believes humans should be subservient to the Atlanteans. Initially the King of Atlantis, he lost his crown to his half-brother when he tried to initiate an invasion of the surface world.
After escaping his imprisonment following the failed invasion, he founded the City of Dagon, a haven for Atlantean outcasts.
Villains that share a family bond present complications within all stories. It’s his relation to Arthur Curry that makes Ocean Master a potent villain, not to mention his ever-growing underwater army.
DC’s answer to Marvel’s Taskmaster, Amazo is a retro Detective Comics villain.
Primarily an enemy of the Justice League of America as a whole, Amazo was created by Professor Ivo. The “world’s first official android”, Amazo has absorption cell technology within him.
This allows him to copy the powers of any superhero (or villain) he encounters. He can also replicate certain equipment linked to those powers like Green Lantern’s power ring.
What makes Amazo so dangerous is that he has no real motive. After outgrowing his initial purpose and programming, he became aimless.
He exists simply as a monster, just waiting to cause trouble for any number of DC’s heroes.
26. Lady Shiva
One of the world’s greatest martial artists and assassins, Shiva has dedicated her life to the study of combat.
Having been affiliated with many different organisations including the Brotherhood of the Fist and the League of Assassins, Shiva usually ends up duelling with Batman and Question. She’s also mentored a number of DC characters to improve their prowess.
Oddly similar to Ryu from the Street Fighter video game series, Shiva travels the world looking to test her skills against the best challengers it can offer. She combined her mentoring with her desire to train by helping Batgirl. She later demanded that her protege fight her to the death in the future.
Shiva lives for the fight, so her motivation is purely to serve her own will at the time. Her immense hand-to-hand skills make her a threat to any hero she crosses paths with.
Acting as one of Darkseid’s primary henchmen and also his torturer, Desaad is a loyal follower of the God of Apokolips. Having been slain many times by his master, Desaad is consistently revived by Darkseid to be used in his next set of plans.
Often sent on vital errands like obtaining artefacts or distracting a hero’s gaze from his true intentions, Desaad does whatever Darkseid asks. However, his lust for power is as intense as his master’s.
Desaad has betrayed Darkseid several times to take power for himself, but often proves too weak to wield it.
Though he lacks the fear-inducing power of Darkseid, Desaad is not to be taken lightly. His cunning and subterfuge should not be underestimated.
24. Mister Mxyzptlk
Straight from the fifth dimension, the mischievous Mxyzptlk is always causing Superman trouble at the most inconvenient times.
A prankster imp who has the power to bend and alter reality, Mxyzptlk is often messing with worlds for his own entertainment. First appearing in the Post-Crisis Earth, he deceives Lois Lane into marrying him. This only causes ire for Superman.
A common trait of Mxyzptlk is that he can only be sent away by saying, typing, or spelling his name backwards. However, when he appears, he often states that the criteria for sending him back to his dimension change upon each visit.
Mister Mxyzptlk is nowhere near the level of evil of The Joker or General Zod, but he doesn’t exactly make Superman’s life any easier either.
One of the most powerful beings in the Multiverse, the Anti-Monitor is the “evil” counterpart to the Monitor, who controls the Antimatter Universe.
Created at the dawn of time on the moons of Qwad, the Anti-Monitor exists in parallel with his brother after Krona’s explosion created the Multiverse. Using evil and negative energy as fuel, the Anti-Monitor seeks to rule and destroy all at any cost.
His most prominent appearance was during the Crisis on Infinite Earth arc where he sought to destroy all beings and life within the Positive Matter Universe before finally being defeated by the Spectre.
The Anti-Monitor poses a threat to every life form within all the universes. Few villains can claim to have such a devastating reach.
Former leader of the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro turned to the power of Fear and betrayed many of those who once called him “friend”.
A native of the planet Korugar, Sinestro is often dubbed “the greatest to ever wear a power ring”. After acquiring said power ring from a crashed alien ship on his home planet, Sinestro became a Green Lantern and guardian of Sector 1417.
Using his will to turn his home planet into a “paradise”, Sinestro unknowingly became a dictator. He monitored all communications and created an army of robots to keep the peace for his people and his family.
After Hal Jordan reported Sinestro’s actions to the Guardians of the Universe, he was banished to the Anti-Matter Universe. It was from here that he became the first Yellow Lantern of the Sinestro Corp, utilising the power of Fear to maintain galactic order.
June Moone is a pleasant person to be around. But the spectral Enchantress that possesses her is a different story.
After being granted powers by the being Dzamor, June was able to transform into Enchantress by speaking her name. Being something of a split personality, Enchantress lies semi-dormant within June. Often manipulating her to increase her power, the spirit of the Enchantress can overpower and take over June’s body to do as she pleases.
Wielding an assortment of dark magic, Enchantress is continually seeking any way to become an even more powerful being.
Similar in concept to Bruce Banner and his Hulk persona, Enchantress is self-motivated for power. Enchantress has been known to be on the side of good in the past. But she will happily do evil if she has something to gain.
In recent arcs however, Moone has gained more of a handle on her darker side.
Responsible for the Multiverses (and the existence of evil), Krona is a former member of the Guardians of the Universe who is a prominent enemy of the Green Lanterns.
Born a Malthusian, Krona became a scientist due to his hunger for knowledge. His need to know more and more led to his longing to understand the origins of the universe. He conducted experiments to witness the dawn of time and/or the universe, and subsequently created the Multiverse along with all evil.
He was punished by his people by being converted into an energy form and doomed to infinitely travel the universe. Since then, he has sworn revenge on the Guardians of the Universe and the Malthusians.
Not as well known as Sinestro, but Krona is basically responsible for everything wrong in the DC universe.
Popularised by Idris Elba’s live-action portrayal in The Suicide Squad, Bloodsport has a much darker past connected to real-world events.
After his brother replaced him during the draft for the Vietnam War and lost several limbs, Robert DuBois is racked with guilt and becomes severely mentally unstable. Being manipulated by Lex Luthor, he was given Kryptonite weapons and technology specifically designed to kill Superman.
Due to his instability, DuBois adopted the moniker of Bloodsport and created a persona where he was a hardened veteran of the war.
The name Bloodsport has also been adopted by Alexander Trent, a fanatical racist who bore a strong hatred for DuBois.
Not intending to act as a menace, Bloodsport’s mental instability makes him a ticking time bomb who can easily be used as a puppet by more powerful villains.
18. General Zod
Perhaps the man who hates Kal-El the most, General Dru-Zod II seeks vengeance on the man of steel for the perceived betrayal of his father, Jor-El.
He is formerly a leader of the Military Defence arm of the Kryptonian Science Council. Zod placed Superman’s father under arrest for his experiments to determine the instability of the planet.
After learning Jor-El was correct in his theories, he tried to stage a coup but was thwarted. He was then banished to the Phantom Zone along with Non and Ursa, inadvertently surviving Krypton’s destruction.
After learning Jor-El’s bloodline survived in the form of Kal-El, he escaped the Phantom Zone and swore to put an end to Superman’s life.
Villains that have a personal vendetta against a hero are often the most dangerous. This is certainly the case with General Zod.
17. Mister Freeze
A villain born from a personal tragedy, Mr Freeze does not care for money or infamy. He endures a personal and painful search to save the woman he loves.
A former cryogenics researcher, Victor Fries was working on a cure to save his wife Nora while suspending her in cryostasis. After a lab accident, he became unable to survive unless constantly subject to sub-zero temperatures. He used his research knowledge and inventions to construct a suit, as well as weapons and technology.
Any of his crimes are usually done to fund his experiments and tests to save his wife. He also makes alliances with other criminals, performing tasks in exchange for access to tech or money to help him.
Freeze has a much more personal vendetta against Batman. Events of one story have him fire his ice gun at the Dark Knight, only to accidentally damage his wife’s stasis pod. It was events like this that caused him to harbour great resentment towards the Dark Knight, despite Batman’s attempts to help him.
16. Poison Ivy
Specifically an “eco-terrorist” rather than simply a villain, Dr Pamela Isley sees her mission to defend Mother Nature at all costs, even if that means disposing of the human race.
After a botany lab accident turned her into Poison Ivy, she possesses the ability to control all plant life around her. She can also release pheromones to seduce the men she encounters. Batman and Robin have (almost) fallen victim to this more than a few times.
Poison Ivy has spent most of her time dwelling within Arkham Asylum, and hasn’t managed to cause too much destruction (yet). However, she often teams up with other criminals to get what she wants, making her a cunning collaborator.
Bearing a grudge against Batman in two ways, Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot has hatred in equal measure for the Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne.
Starting out as another one of Gotham’s many criminals, Penguin slowly amassed a small army of henchmen. Eventually, he rose to one of the kingpins of organized crime within the city. This makes him a common thorn in Batman’s side.
Often portrayed as the anti-Bruce Wayne, Cobblepot’s wealth is shown to have spoiled him, turning him greedy and selfish. His plans often don’t extend beyond the borders of Gotham or neighboring cities, but this doesn’t make him any less of a threat.
His actions cause pain and suffering for the people of Gotham, and that’s something Batman will never stand for.
14. The Riddler
A man who favors smarts over strength, Edward “Riddler” Nigma obsesses himself with trying to outsmart all those around him, in particular Batman.
Starting out as a criminal informant, The Riddler worked for Carmine Falcone before eventually establishing himself. Constantly leaving clues and riddles at the scene of his crimes to mock and taunt those trying to catch him, this calling card often proves to be his undoing.
The Riddler’s antics don’t usually factor too high on the Dark Knight’s list, but stopping him is often a piece of a bigger puzzle. By joining forces with other criminals like Hush, Penguin, and Poison Ivy, the threat he poses is amplified.
The Riddler’s thirst to prove his superior intelligence is unquenchable, meaning he’ll be forever pitting his wit against Batman’s, desperately vying for his attention.
13. Hugo Strange
Despite having no superpowers, Hugo Strange is one of Batman’s greatest adversaries. Having immense intelligence and being inhumanely obsessed with the Dark Knight makes for a deadly combination.
A former professor of psychiatry at Gotham University, he was fired after he was discovered to be conducting experiments in genetic engineering. This was a precursor to him creating an army of Monster Men, deranged cannibals who had to be routinely fed.
Looking to create the next step in human evolution, Strange sees Batman as the perfect specimen. This is what drives his obsession, as he sees him as the template from which the next stage of humanity can be crafted.
He’s also one of the handful of people who have been able to deduce Batman’s secret identity of Bruce Wayne, an extremely powerful piece of knowledge.
A master of fear, Jonathan Crane wants to reveal the deepest, darkest fears that the Dark Knight harbors.
Starting out as an academic professor of psychology, Crane was exiled after being deemed to take his experiments too far when researching people’s fears.
He later became the head psychologist at Arkham Asylum, allowing him to freely experiment on the patients there. He was also partly responsible for the worsening condition of Thomas “Hush” Elliot.
His primary weapon is his fear toxin, which he has perfected over the years. Causing mass chaos in Gotham, it has affected many heroes as well, including Batman. In more recent years, he has been able to transform into the Scarebeast, a monstrous version of himself with increased powers and strength.
Created by the World Forger, Barbatos, also known as the Bat-God, is a being that can consume entire universes.
When the Positive and Anti-Matter universes came to be (along with the respective Monitors), the World Forger was also created. Tasked with keeping watch over the universes and creating new ones, it resided in the Dark Multiverse.
As some universes’ energy faded, the World Forger would send his dragon demon Barbatos to devour the universe and recycle the energy into the other universes.
However, Barbatos’ own hunger surpassed his master’s control. He turned on him, also leading other unstable universes to combine with the Dark Multiverse.
Much like Marvel’s Galactus, Barbatos’ need to consume and destroy worlds means he poses a threat to all heroes.
10. Lex Luthor
The arch-nemesis of the man of steel, Lex Luthor is the classic and quintessential evil genius.
After orchestrating the death of his parents to inherit a life insurance policy, Alexander “Lex” Luthor established LexCorp, an engineering firm that became a multinational corporation. He would go on to use criminal, political, and legitimate connections to further his position as the most powerful man in Metropolis.
After being publicly humiliated by Superman after an arrest, Luthor was hellbent on revenge against the Son of Krypton.
Luthor has tried a wide array of methods to dispose of Superman. This includes cloning him (creating Bizarro), weaponising Green Kryptonite, and even becoming President of the United States.
One of the most intelligent beings in the universe, Brainiac has outsmarted some of the Earth’s mightiest heroes.
An alien hailing from the planet of Colu, Vril “Brainiac” Dox was a scientist seeking constant answers and technology, much like Krona. He cloned himself numerous times, and journeyed the galaxy looking for life to study and experiment on.
This lead to him capturing live specimens to observe, as well as shrinking down entire cities. The most prominent was the city of Kandor from Superman’s home world of Krypton.
Brainiac is a genuine threat as he can take many forms, including technological and mental. Using his array of psychic abilities to control superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman makes him incredibly dangerous and almost impossible to hinder.
One of The Hands from the Omniverse, Perpetua is feared even by other Gods.
Mother of the two Monitors in the Positive and Anti-Matter universes, Perpetua is a celestial being created by the Source of All Things. Her purpose was to create life within the Voids by establishing the Multiverse.
After all the beings had fulfilled their duties, they were to return to the Source of All Things. Perpetua refused and turned rogue.
Perpetua is the ultimate puppet master, orchestrating some of the most critical crises known to humanity. She has been the one known to “whisper” in the ears of beings like the Anti-Monitor, The Batman Who Laughs, and Barbatos to name but a few.
Although he’s openly mocked by Marvel’s Deadpool, Slade Wilson’s reputation as one of the world’s top mercenaries isn’t diminished in any way.
A former soldier in the United States Army, Wilson underwent a super-soldier experiment that led to his increased powers of strength, speed, and intelligence. Frequently at odds with the Teen Titans and the Justice League, his code of honour was destroyed after the death of his wife.
More recently framed as an anti-hero than a villain, Deathstroke also sees Batman as a true challenger of his skill.
Unlike many other villains, Deathstroke values his family above all else, humanising him far greater than other DC characters.
6. Ra’s al Ghul
Meaning in Arabic “Head of the Demon”, Ra’s al Ghul is an immortal being and a substantial (and important) foe of Batman.
Believing the human race to be a flaw, his aim is to wipe out modern society. Hundreds of years old, he uses the mysterious technology of the Lazarus Pit to be continually “reborn” and sustain his life.
Over these centuries, he’s established the League of Assassins, a society of mercenaries who follow him near blindly.
Batman’s attempts to subdue him are complicated immensely by Ra’s daughter Talia, with the two being romantically involved and being the mother of his child, Damian Wayne.
There aren’t many enemies that pose as big of a threat to Batman as Bane does. Equally strong in both brains and brawn, the behemoth has even crippled the Dark Knight once before.
Born and raised in the Santa Prisca prison, Bane saw Batman as his only worthy adversary. As such, he became obsessed with defeating him to prove himself. This came to fruition in the Knightfall storyline, where the giant managed to break Batman’s spine.
Using the experimental steroid Venom to enhance himself further, Bane’s sheer strength alone is enough to cause Batman problems. This is without factoring in his genius-level intellect.
4. The Batman Who Laughs
A sick and twisted version of the World’s Greatest Detective, The Batman Who Laughs is an agent of pure chaos.
Spawning from the Dark Multiverse (specifically Earth -22), this former version of Bruce Wayne is a product of severe trauma and infection. After killing the Joker in his universe, he became infected with the Joker toxin, slowly turning him insane. In his world, he murdered many other superheroes, leaving few to oppose him.
Seeking to rule and wreak destruction across all the multiverses, he allied with the God Barbatos and later Perpetua to form the Dark Knights, a collection of all the twisted versions of Batman.
There aren’t many DC villains who have caused as much mayhem on an interdimensional level as The Batman Who Laughs.
The mighty ruler of Apokolips, Darkseid is a literal God. He is one of the most feared entities in the DC universe.
Drawing parallels with Marvel’s Thanos, Darkseid’s ultimate goal is to gain control over the Anti-Life Equation. This would allow him to vanquish the concept of free will throughout the universes, giving him full control over all life.
He believes humans to be an integral part of this equation, further bolstered by the power of Green Lantern and his will. This leads to him constantly target Earth, causing intense conflicts with the Justice League and its many heroes.
Existing outside of normal reality, Darkseid is an existential threat to all life. He will do whatever it takes to gain full control over life as we know it.
While Lex Luthor is often considered Superman’s arch-enemy, he’s never been able to actually kill the man of steel. Doomsday, on the other hand, has.
Created by the scientist Bertron, Doomsday is an extremely powerful entity who can regenerate after death. Each time he is reborn, he develops an evolutionary resistance to the last thing that killed him. This will slowly render him indestructible, potentially even to Kal-El himself.
Rising to prominence as the antagonist of the Death of Superman arc, Doomsday and Superman managed to simultaneously kill each other. However, neither would remain dead, and would do battle numerous times after.
The fact that Doomsday can never truly be killed and has actually succeeded in vanquishing the Son of Krypton shows just how feared he should be.
1. The Joker
The personification and embodiment of pure evil, malevolence, and chaos, The Joker is possibly the most iconic comic book villain of all time.
Almost more like a spirit than man, The Joker’s true origins have never actually been revealed. While there are many versions, none are definitive starting points to the Clown Prince of Crime.
From his purple and green aesthetics to his whimsical demeanor and the unusual kinship he has with “Bats”, The Joker is the villain all other villains aspire to be.
He also serves an important role in enforcing the moral code of Batman. Despite having caused him so much pain, sorrow, and guilt, Batman will never kill one of his foes.
The unstoppable force to Batman’s immovable object, The Joker functions as the ultimate test of the Dark Knight’s will.
Check out our guide to the most powerful Marvel villains.