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DCEU Villains Ranked Worst To Best

You can't have a superhero movie without a villain. This is a truth that's been reinforced for decades, and the DC Extended Universe is no exception. Over the course of its many movies, the DCEU has delivered a number of baddies ripped straight from the comics who range from fiendish gangsters to some of the most powerful aliens in existence. These characters also vary greatly in terms of notoriety. Some of these antagonists are among the most famous foes to ever grace the DC Comics canon, while others are obscure entities who had little pop cultural presence before their feature film incarnations took center stage.

Given how many villains the DCEU has already produced, not all of them can be winners. But by the same token, not all of them are washouts either. The villains of the DCEU go all over the map in terms of quality — a fact that only becomes more apparent when ranking these characters from worst to best. How do these baddies stack up against each other? Read on to find out.

15. Lex Luthor

The concept of Jesse Eisenberg portraying Lex Luthor in the DCEU was an exciting one, once upon a time. He may be wildly different from prior actors who have taken on the character, but that's what made this casting so intriguing — as well as Eisenberg's consistently impressive prior work. Unfortunately, the final version of Eisenberg's Luthor is a jaw-dropping misfire on nearly every conceivable front.

For starters, Eisenberg's performance in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" is a far cry from his thrillingly unnerving work in movies like "The Social Network" or "The Art of Self-Defense." Instead, Eisenberg goes full-on kooky by doing what is allegedly a Max Landis impression, filling the screen with tics and strained attempts at comedy. None of these details generate laughs or make this version of Luthor into an intimidating foe. 

Worse, this role relies on tired ways of coding Luthor as villainous. These include evoking stereotypes associated with autism, as well as suggesting that much of Luthor's evil stems from childhood abuse at the hands of his father. These derivative ways of painting a character as "bad" are just a few of the many unimaginative flourishes that have tanked one of the most conceptually promising pieces of casting in this entire franchise.

14. The Joker

When the first images of Jared Leto's Joker hit the internet, the initial response was ... not kind. The appearance of this incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime is so drastically different from any other version of the Joker that it was bound to prove controversial. Once audiences got to see this new take on the character in action in the actual "Suicide Squad" movie, however, it turned out that being such a visual departure from prior Jokers is actually the least of this character's worries.

The Joker in "Suicide Squad" fails on every front, including being any kind of intimidating. With the vocal stylings of Jim Carrey and the body mannerisms of Pete Davidson, Leto's Joker is a comical caricature that the performer is taking way too seriously. To make a bad situation extra terrible, he's superfluous to the actual plot of the film: It's like he's around just to give the movie a promotional boost. Worst of all, "Suicide Squad" comes across as being unaware of how toxic the Joker's relationship with Harley Quinn actually is.

13. Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf isn't a fan-favorite comic book villain. Even among other characters who hail from his home domain of Apokolips, Steppenwolf has never been as beloved as, say, Mister Miracle or Granny Goodness. No matter which version of "Justice League" you watch, the movie can't erase the question of why this character was chosen as the first-ever baddie for the Justice League to fight. His presence as a big, blockbuster villain goes totally unjustified.

From a design standpoint alone, Steppenwolf is a bore. Largely indistinguishable from other big CGI baddies like the MCU's Thanos or Incubus of "Suicide Squad," his drab color palette is as ugly to look at as it is an insult to his comic incarnation's brightly colored design. Talented performer Ciaran Hinds is wasted in the part: He never gets to inject any real personality into this larger-than-life beast. The decision to remind viewers that Steppenwolf works for Darkseid also undercuts his urgency as a villain. Steppenwolf comes across as a temporary foe, meant to appeal only until the real big bad arrives. Once again, we're forced to ask the crucial question: Why was Steppenwolf picked as the "Justice League" villain again?

12. Enchantress

"Suicide Squad" centers Enchantress as its villain, who doesn't do much beyond dancing around in an empty subway station. The overstuffed nature of this production hinders several aspects of "Suicide Squad," but it really hurts Enchantress. With so many people competing for the spotlight, she is shunted to the back: Even the fact that the human she's possessed is Rick Flag's girlfriend feels like an afterthought.

Then again, no amount of screen time could salvage the character's ridiculous visual appearance. Departing heavily from the comics, Enchantress is surrounded by shadowy clouds and decked out in a bunch of grimy chains that eventually transform into a mystical bikini. It's a strange-looking outfit that is tediously lacking in color, not to mention clearly made for the male gaze. With a boring costume and no real personality to speak of, you'd be forgiven for forgetting Enchantress is even a part of "Suicide Squad," let alone the main villain.

11. Cheetah

Barbara Minerva enters "Wonder Woman 1984" with a lot of promise: She's played by beloved actress Kristen Wiig, has an interesting relationship to Diana, and holds a unique job. All that potential gets squandered. Minerva ends up being a disposable element of the production, right down to her obligatory transformation into Cheetah for a climactic fight scene with Wonder Woman. In fact, that magical, villainous change happens off-screen and has no real consequence to the plot. The only thing memorable about Cheetah's time in "Wonder Woman 1984" is how disappointing it is.

Further undercutting this villain is Wiig's performance, which feels ripped from her most neurotic "Saturday Night Live" characters. It's a distracting acting decision that produces no real laughs and makes Minerva feel like she wandered in from another movie. Given that Wiig has had no problem delivering more grounded performances in movies like "The Diary of a Teenage Girl," it's puzzling she chose not to execute something more tangibly realistic here.

10. Darkseid

Legendary DC baddie and hall-of-fame overlord Darkseid makes his first full-fledged feature film appearance in "Zack Snyder's Justice League." Despite being a central piece of the movie's marketing, however, Darkseid is a smaller part of the actual film than you might expect. 

In what screen time the character does get, Ray Porter delivers reasonably commanding voice work, and the character's visual design is perfectly acceptable. Unfortunately, despite being the inaugural live-action appearance of Darkseid, there's really nothing much to say about this incarnation of the character. He's just not on screen enough to leave an impression for good or for ill. He's the walking embodiment of a coming-soon sizzle reel, rather than a standalone character. Even Porter's performance can't inject real distinction into this character — especially since his vocals are so heavily modulated. The fact that the script doesn't give him a discernible personality beyond "vengeful" only exacerbates these problems.

9. Erich Ludendorff

Actually based on a real-life German general from World War I, Erich Ludendorff is a classical bad guy. This complements the traditionally heroic worldview Wonder Woman leaves Themyscira with nicely. He's also eventually revealed to be a red herring antagonist: Ares is the real bad guy here. Ludendorff performs his function well, but he never quite surpasses it to become a compelling villain in his own right.

That's not too much of a problem, as the movie keeps its focus on Wonder Woman discovering the world of man and her rapport with Steve Trevor. Still, examining the character as his own creation, Ludendorff does cry out for an extra injection of personality. This is especially true in light of his performer: Danny Huston is clearly game for anything in this role. He reaches a real peak when he maniacally cackles over leaving a broken gas mask for test subjects enduring his new, ultra-deadly mustard gas. This kind of vivid personality makes Ludendorff a fine villain, but it also suggests he could have been a great one.

8. Dr. Isabel Maru

Ludendorff's right-hand woman, Dr. Isabel Maru (Elena Anaya) is not the most exciting villain to grace the DCEU. However, the fact that "Wonder Woman" leans into her being a regular human does provide some interesting moments. Maru's power doesn't come from a mechanical suit or divine favor — it comes from her enormous intellect, which can concoct things like a poisonous gas capable of eradicating the human race.

Even better, the character's final scene in "Wonder Woman" is a thoughtful one: Ares uses her as an embodiment of how bad humanity is and why it shouldn't be saved. Wonder Woman choosing to spare Maru is the ultimate symbol of her goodness, as it proves she's embraced the idea of using love to change the world instead of her fists. For most of "Wonder Woman," Maru is your usual evil scientist. But by the end of the film, she informs the unique qualities of the entire production — plus, she's got a seriously memorable appearance.

7. Maxwell Lord

Pedro Pascal's performance as Maxwell Lord is one of the redeeming qualities of "Wonder Woman 1984." This film's attempt to channel classic comic book movies has mixed results, but Pascal totally nails evoking older, hammier performances of this genre, like Jack Nicholson in "Batman" or Danny DeVito in "Batman Returns." Instead of embracing gritty realism, Pascal relishes every syllable of lines like, "I'm a forgiving man!" There's a reason his joyful execution of the "Life is good ... but it can be better!" mantra turned into a meme: It's just so much fun in the hands of this actor.

However, Pascal's performance can't compensate for the glaring shortcomings of this character's writing. Lord is just not a very compelling villain, what with his magic wishing rock and the wobbly amount of supernatural power it gives him. Worse, the script attempts to paint Lord as a sympathetic figure the audience should want to see reunited with his estranged son at the very last minute. It's a bold move to attempt, but it's not earned. Sadly, this undercuts Pascal's gusto-filled performance.

6. Ares

Arriving in his true form in the third act of "Wonder Woman," Ares doesn't have a ton of screen time to himself. Once he dispenses with his disguise as Sir Patrick Morgan, he emerges as a largely CGI creation who engages in a generic fight scene with the titular heroine. It's a pity the production resorts to such a tired superhero movie staple, since Ares is actually pretty interesting before he gets his gigantic suit of armor.

Much of this comes down to David Thewlis, who provides equal levels of conviction to the Patrick Morgan guise and Ares' true form. Thewlis doesn't need to make things explode to convey a sense of assured confidence, which is quite unnerving when the character talks about mankind being a lost cause not worth saving. Ares isn't an all-time great comic book movie baddie, but Thewlis does a lot of heavy lifting to make the foe serviceable. 

5. General Zod

There is a striking moment at the climax of "Man of Steel," when the film's villain, General Zod, exhibits a shocking amount of vulnerability. The Kryptonian leader turns to Superman and notes that this is what he was made to do. With his purpose genetically ingrained into him before his birth, Zod was always destined to keep Krypton alive by any means necessary, including destroying Earth. 

This is only a brief flicker of the inside of this character's mind, but it's an intriguing one that gives Zod a bit more complexity than your average comic book villain. It's also the kind of dimension Michael Shannon is gifted at handling, and he brings the moment to life splendidly.  The rest of Zod's screen time in "Man of Steel" is far less thoughtful than that, especially since poor Shannon gets saddled with a lot of clumsy expository dialogue in the second act. Still, the better moments involving Zod in "Man of Steel" do make him one of the more complicated and interesting foes in the DCEU.

4. Black Manta

Sometimes, all a character needs to be memorable is a really good costume. That's exactly what elevates Yahya Abdul-Mateen II's performance as Black Manta in "Aquaman." In a big action set piece set in Italy, his character dons a suit of armor with gigantic red eyes, ripped straight out of the comics. Not only is it a faithful recreation of the source material, it's a glorious outfit to behold. Framed in the bright sunlight, you can appreciate every detail of Black Manta's unforgettable attire.

Sadly, Black Manta vanishes from the feature after this fight sequence, with the brief exception of a mid-credits scene. But Abdul-Mateen II makes the most of what screen time he does get, even when he's not in the dazzling costume. The actor has a natural charisma director James Wan makes good use of, which bodes well for future films. Black Manta's charms aren't just limited to his supervillain costume ... but that outfit certainly doesn't hurt!

3. Ocean Master

No one will ever accuse Ocean Master of being a particularly deep villain, but darn it if he isn't a whole lot of fun to watch. Director James Wan intelligently leans into the ridiculous and entertaining in "Aquaman," and that goes double for Ocean Master. The half-brother of the titular superhero makes no bones about his nefarious plans: He's bad, he's ambitious, and he's good at getting what he wants. Once he gets into his villainous outfit, he practically emanates evil from his fingertips.

Patrick Wilson's enjoyably unapologetic performance informs much of the character's entertainment factor. Wilson has always been game to throw himself into over-the-top genre fare, and that commitment works wonders here. Some actors would sleepwalk through this kind of part, but Wilson relishes the chance to bellow out undersea evil at the top of his lungs. "Aquaman" is wall-to-wall nonsensical fun, and Wilson's Ocean Master does a fine job keeping pace with such a unique and brightly-colored approach.

2. Black Mask

Roman Sionis, better known as Black Mask, makes his first major film appearance in "Birds of Prey." Portrayed by Ewan McGregor, the character is reconfigured to be the personification of the male entitlement and misogyny that keeps the lead characters down. What results is spectacular.

Consider the scene in which Sionis torments a waitress at his club. Here, the focus remains on Sionis' pathetic desperation as he lords his power over others, while the woman he's mistreating isn't framed in an exploitative or leering manner. This sort of thoughtful filmmaking is apparent all throughout "Birds of Prey," as is Ewan McGregor's delightfully weaselly performance. An actor who's never been afraid of going for broke, McGregor throws himself into the sliminess of this part to wonderful effect. This incarnation of Black Mask is an unabashedly over-the-top comic book movie baddie, but the way he evokes real villainy is what makes him a standout antagonist in the DCEU.

1. Dr. Sivana

Some comic book movie villains awkwardly wander into a movie during the third act. In contrast, Dr. Sivana in "Shazam!" is anything but extraneous — in fact, he gets to be the centerpiece of the film's prologue. This sequence establishes how and why Sivana pursues the powers of the Seven Deadly Sins, and sets up a great baddie for Billy Batson to fight once he dons his cape.

Sivana's hatred for everything related to the very concept of family makes him a fitting contrast to Batson, whose strength comes from familial love. Even better, Mark Strong is in charge of bringing this character to life. A veteran of playing villains, Strong lends a unique sense of personality to Sivana that makes the character stand out among the baddies of the DCEU. Toss in the fun ways he uses his Seven Deadly Sins minions, including a gnarly scene depicting a bunch of executives getting viciously devoured, and you've got someone who's leaps and bounds above your average villain.