Who is the baddest Batman villain of them all?

Ka-pow! Batman is smashing Hollywood box-office records this weekend with his new film, 'The Dark Knight'. But the real star is the psychotic Joker, played by Heath Ledger in his last role before his death from a drugs overdose. The baddies often outclass the Bat, says Cole Moreton. But is this nasty Joker the best villain of the lot?

The Joker: Heath Ledger, 'The Dark Knight' (2008)

"This town deserves a better class of criminal," says the manic murderer, and boy, has Gotham got one. Cesar Romero was great on TV, Jack Nicholson magnificent in the 1989 film, but Ledger smears the make-up, cuts out the campery and makes the clown terrifying.

The Riddler: Jim Carrey, 'Batman Forever' (1995)

"Riddle me this, riddle me that..." How do you turn a delightful trickster into a pathetic waste of a villain? By letting Jim Carrey gurn. Clueless.

Poison Ivy: Uma Thurman, 'Batman and Robin' (1997)

Nice idea: a mood-swinging, plant-obsessed eco-terrorist with toxins in her blood. Bad idea: get Uma to play her for laughs (that never come) in a film so terrible that it destroyed the franchise for a while. How bad is it? A smitten Robin says: "I need a sign that you've turned over a new leaf." The green goddess replies: "How about, 'Slippery When Wet?'"

Ka-pow? No. Yuk!

Mr Freeze: Arnold Schwarzenegger, 'Batman and Robin' (1997)

Having to wear a cryogenic suit to stay alive is bad. Being played by Arnie is worse. The most ridiculous superhero movie of all time is full of terrible puns: "Ice to see you!"

Not cool. Not cool at all.

Two-Face: Tommy Lee Jones, 'Batman Forever' (1995)

Disfigured lawyer with a fixation for tossing coins and the number two. First seen in 1942. You get more of his good side in the new film, but he's still flipping mad.

Joe Chill: Richard Brake, 'Batman Begins' (2005)

No superpowers. No catchphrase. No plans to take over the world. But the small-time crook mugged and shot Bruce Wayne's parents in 1939, in an edition of 'Detective Comics', and a long-running legend was born.

The Penguin: Burgess Meredith, 'Batman' TV series (1966-68)

Oswald Cobblepot. Crazy name, crazy guy. Squawking great fun on the telly – "Waugh!" – before his dark reinvention by Danny De Vito on film. Nice umbrella.

Rha's al Ghul: Ken Watanabe, 'Batman Begins' (2005)

Leader of the ancient League of Shadows. The name is Arabic for "head of the demon". Loves violence, disguise and perverse mind games... just like Batman.

The Scarecrow: Cillian Murphy, 'Batman Begins' (2005)

Mad psychologist originally modelled on Ichabod Crane in 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'. Like others here, a villain from the Forties who has been reinvented many times. Terrifies his victims – not least with that lousy taste in costumes.

Catwoman: Michelle Pfeiffer, 'Batman Returns' (1992)

Acrobatic, flirtatious, clad in PVC, she has the power to cause heart attacks. Particularly in dads watching the film with their kids. A strong woman who cracks the whip on stupid men, she may be Batman's true love. They do share a specialist taste in clothing. "Meow!"

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