We have said that Adam West is the best Batman ever. A big reason for that is the gallery of rogues that popped up on the television series from 1966–68.
Celebrities lined up for the chance to play nefarious baddies on William Dozier's camp classic. In fact, Frank Sinatra and Mickey Rooney almost played the Joker and Penguin, respectively. While that casting never came to fruition, the actors who eventually filled the roles came to define these comic book villains in the flesh.
Over the course of 120 episodes, Batman and Robin faced off against a good deal of Gotham's worst. We culled together a list of the 37 primary guest stars listed in the episodes. When coming up with our ranking, we factored in the actors, the costumes, their henchmen, their schemes…
Of course, it's all subjective. They are all great in some way. Who are your favorite Batman villains?
37. The Puzzler
If the Puzzler seems like a bootleg knock-off of the Riddler, that's because he is. His two second season episodes were meant to be Riddler scripts. However, Frank Gorshin left the show in 1966 due to salary disputes. The character's name was simply changed and veteran Shakespeare actor Evans slipped on a suit. He's no Riddler.
36. Nova Clavicle
Appearing in just one episode, Clavicle had a plan to destroy Gotham City for insurance money with the aide of mechanical mice. Unfortunately, the episode is largely an excuse to poke fun at the women's lib movement.
The vain, new-age boyfriend of Dr. Spellcraft was more moral support than valued assistant, as he cooed to her with sweet nothings like "Doccy Baby."
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Running an evil spa, Minerva, the final villain to appear on the show, relied on the lure of her "vitamin scalp massages" to peek into the brains of Gotham's upper class with her gizmo, the Deepest Secret Extractor. Of course, she called everyone "Darlings." Couldn't she have splurged for a little more than plain white T-shirts and pants for her crew?
33. LORD MARMADUKE FFOGG
This anti–Sherlock Holmes had two tricks up the sleeves of his plaid Inverness cape: 1) a pipe that spewed fog and 2) fooling people into thinking he has gout. His name is pretty fantastic, though.
32. LADY PENELOPE PEASOUP
Saddled with the least intimidating name in villain history, Peasoup was actually Fogg's more magnetic better half. She seemed to be the one with more power in Londinium, the fake English metropolis to which Batman and Robin must travel. The whole caper is more of an elaborate spoof of the British Invasion.
31. LOLA LASAGNE
What's up with all the older women being named after comfort foods? Merman wielded a parasol as her weapon, which made her an obvious, if superfluous, sidekick to the Penguin.
30. CALAMITY JAN
This feisty sidekick to Shame was further removed from Calamity Jane than a missing "e." The real Wild West legend was a tough frontier companion to Wild Bill Hickok. Jan was more of a model for costume Western wear.
He's a one-man musical and Renaissance fair, which hardly strikes fear into superheroes. Does he really have to sing about everything? Johnson was an All-American film star of the 1940s, who years earlier had showed off his pipes in Brigadoon.
Hey, it's Ed Norton as Robin Hood! The Honeymooners star played this "merry malefactor" for laughs. Only this Robin Hood steals $10 million intended for the poor in the second season opener. Where's Green Arrow when you need him?
27. DR. CASSANDRA SPELLCRAFT
Lupino was the only woman to direct an episode of The Twilight Zone, and helmed the great 1953 noir film The Hitch-Hiker. As the cunning Dr. Spellcraft, she wielded a ray gun that could turn people two-dimensional. (In the original script, it was called the Ronald Ray Gun.) She also has pills that make her invisible. Her major weakness is her fawning, dippy husband, Cabala.
Rennie, who formerly played Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still, looked dashing in his fur coat, as he teamed with Catwoman. (You'd think she'd be anti-fur.) "Dr. Somnambula" has sleep-inducing powers, and also takes his moniker literally with a sand trap for Robin.
25. OLGA, QUEEN OF THE COSSACKS
Baxter was the only guest star fortunate enough to portray two different Batman villains. As Olga, she was the Queen of the Bessarovian Cossacks, an ally of Egghead, who tried to marry Batman and cook Robin and Commissioner Gordon in a borscht. That's pretty twisted. Speaking of borscht, her monochrome costume is rather fabulous. Later, she tries to feed her adversaries to a dinosaur.
24. Chandell / Harry
It's a shame more stories did not cast Liberace as a villain. He doubled up as both the pianist Chandell and his evil twin Harry, who forces his brother into a life of crime. The musician has a plan to take over the Wayne inheritance by marrying Aunt Harriet and killing off Bruce and Dick.
23. MARSHA, QUEEN OF DIAMONDS
Jones was perfect as Morticia Addams, who would have made for a great Batman villain, come to think of it. Her Marsha character was not quite so dark, instead using love potions to get her way. What's the deal with everyone trying to marry Batman?
Gifted with the hypnotic powers of her voice, Siren has no intentions of marrying Batman. She's smart enough to just trick him into signing over the Wayne fortune. Collins was fresh off a classic appearance on Star Trek. She's Joan Collins, which alone merits points in our book.
21. Black Widow
The aging screen legend would die a year later, which makes her appearance all the more special. Mostly, we admire Black Widow's commitment to the whole spider theme, with her nerve toxins, webs and whatnot. We are really creeped out by spiders.
20. Mr. Freeze
Mr. Freeze remains one of the more iconic villains of the Caped Crusader; however, the production did not quite get the character right on the first try. Sanders looked more like an astronaut with a fire extinguisher. However, the colorful freeze effects in his episodes are pretty cool.
19. Colonel Gumm
Roger C. Carmel
Carmel wins major points for his pink attire and twirl-able mustache. We also have to admit that his character jumps up a few spots because the Green Hornet and Kato appear in his episodes. Carmel was also quite memorable as Mudd on Star Trek.
18. Zelda the Great
It's Baxter again, in her first guise! Zelda was one of the earliest villains on the series, a magician desperate to master new tricks for her act. She's willing to go to any length to buy new secrets, including kidnapping Aunt Harriet.
Shame, a spin on Shane, was little more than a Western caricature, but Robertson has such fun in the role. He pops up twice, with two different posses, using tricks like a cattle stampede to try and take down the Bat. He also tosses insults such as "Your mother wears Army shoes!" Robertson would go on to play another comic book character as Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man.
16. Ma Parker
A few years later, Winters would go on to star as real life criminal Ma Barker in Roger Corman's pulp classic Bloody Mama. In some ways, this was a warm up, as she leads her three sons and daughter on a crime spree before purposefully being caught and taking over a prison. She also plants a bomb in the Batmobile, set to trigger at 65 m.p.h., à la Speed.
15. Clock King
Clock King has a long history in DC Comics, and his two episodes on television were scripted by Bill Finger, co-creator of Batman. He is a man dedicated to his theme, from stealing paintings about time to the clock embedded in his hat.
14. False Face
False Face is one of the few genuinely creepy villains on this camp series. Throne's actual face is never seen in his two-parter, only obscured through one of those eerie translucent Halloween masks.
13. The Riddler
After the emergency rewrite that led to the Puzzler, the production decided to recast the role of the Riddler. Astin, best known as the head of the Addams Family, was fun in the role, but he had big question mark–covered shoes to fill.
12. Mad Hatter
His top had popped open to reveal a pair of eyes that could shoot a hypnotic beam. The Hatter, based on the Alice in Wonderland character, dates back all the way to 1948. He's obsessed with getting his hands on Batman's cowl, which seems a little bizarre and minor, but you can't say he's not dedicated.
11. Louie the Lilac
The comic made only two appearances on the series as the purple gangster, but his personality and bright pop of color sticks in the memory. The character was created for the show, and would go on to become part of the Batman canon. That's thanks to Berle.
Like Astin, Kitt's major hurdle was taking over a beloved role. The singer-actress amped up the feline nature of the thief, purring her way into the eternal debate of "Which Catwoman do you prefer?"
Bookworm was another character created for the television series who made the leap into the comics. Brilliant character actor McDowall will forever be associated with the Planet of the Apes series, but his literary-themed villain made an impression, too. We love the reading lamp on his hat.
8. King Tut
Tut is one of the more underrated Batman villains, one of the definitive TV adversaries who should turn up in the comics more often.
7. Mr. Freeze
Wallach was one of the greatest character actors to ever grace the screen. He was a chameleon, able to go from playing the sinister bandito in The Magnificent Seven to Don Altobello in The Godfather III. The weight of his resume, and his gleeful scenery chewing, almost puts him over the top when it comes to Mr. Freeze, however…
6. Mr. Freeze
Like Ida Lupino, Preminger was an esteemed director who stepped into the role of a camp Batman villain. The stage legend gave a theatrical flair to the Freeze character, making him one of the more truly sinister baddies on the show. The debate about the greatest Mr. Freeze will carry on, but the official Mr. Freeze action figure is modeled after Preminger.
It's Vincent Price. With an egg-shaped head. We shouldn't have to say more.
The Joker will forever remain the definitive Batman villain. So why do we knock him down to number four? Well, for starters, there's Romero's resistance to shaving his mustache, which just looks a little odd. He also has the misfortune of having serious big screen competition in the role. We can all admit he's a lot cooler than Jared Leto's take.
3. The Penguin
Wah! Wah! Wah! That iconic laugh become a part of the character, which Meredith dove into with such cigarette-holder-chomping glee. He also appeared in 20 episodes, the most of any villain.
This is a no brainer. Newmar was perfection in the role, playing one of the few characters who could truly get under Batman's skin.
1. The Riddler
Gorshin appeared in nine episodes, far fewer than Meredith; however, he did earn an Emmy nomination for his work. As the only actor singled out for such an honor, he deserves a place at the top.