Who's the best Catwoman? Well, it's a tough one, but we're taking on the challenge.
Behind every great Bat is an even greater Cat! And with The Batman hitting theaters, the world will meet a brand new Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman! This time around, the felonious feline femme fatale is played by the illustrious Zoë Kravitz.
Let’s take a look at the best and worst portrayals of Catwoman throughout the character’s cinematic history! We also have a guide to the best Batman actors.
NOTE: For this list, only live-action films where Catwoman is a central character will be considered. So we are excluding animated films like Batman: Hush or TV shows like Gotham.
Without further ado, here is our list, ranked from worst to best... and don't miss What To Watch's The Batman review.
The best Catwoman stars — ranked worst to best...
5. Halle Berry
Stars in: Catwoman (2004)
In this segment of "What the Hell were They Thinking?" we examine the curious case of the catastrophic Catwoman. Directed by a filmmaker who solely went by the single name of Pitof, the movie was widely panned, sweeping the Razzies, and being considered by many to be one of the worst films ever made. We guess he “Pitof” more than he could chew, averaging 200-quick cuts during every dizzying, poorly angled shot!
Academy Award-winning actress, Halle Berry starred, not as Selina Kyle, but as an original character named Patience Phillips. WB probably had the foresight to try and not destroy the iconic Kyle character, and decided to make one up to implode instead. For those who didn’t see it (most likely many) Patience was an employee at a cosmetic company, who tried to stop a plot to release unsafe products, gets killed, and resurrected by Egyptian cats who give her cat powers to… er…play basketball and fight Sharon Stone.
Equipped with a ridiculously terrible S&M outfit, Berry hams it up with a horribly over-the-top, incredibly cheesy performance. Everything from her mannerisms and movements to her line delivery is cringeworthy. But at least she was a good sport about the mess that was this $100 million bomb, when she picked up her Razzie in person and admitted how awful the film was.
4. Lee Meriweather
Stars in: Batman The Movie (1966)
Oddly enough, during the original Adam West Batman series, Julie Newmar portrayed Catwoman, slinking her way into our hearts during the show’s first season. She ended up also continuing to portray the character in the show’s second.
However for a brief, shining moment in between the two seasons, Batman the Movie debuted, and Newmar wasn’t available to reprise the role due to a back injury. Enter Lee Meriweather, who does what she can to leave her stamp on this era of The Caped Crusader, but ultimately fell under the shadow of Newmar and legendary season 3 scene-stealer, Eartha Kitt. Meriweather’s performance picks up where Newmar’s leaves off, but overall, doesn’t do enough to separate herself from her predecessor.
3. Anne Hathaway
Stars in: The Dark Knight Rises
Arguably the most comic book-y character in all of the grounded Nolan trilogy, Hathaway was a terrific Selina Kyle. Some may even say she’s the best part of The Dark Knight Rises, breathing much-needed life into a film that could honestly be a bit of a slog at times (it is arguably the weakest chapter of The Dark Knight trilogy).
Charismatic, deceptive, sexy, and full of charm and life, Hathaway’s version of the character was a tough warrior who brought more humor and fun to an otherwise dour film. Her chemistry with Bale is off the charts, her action sequences are great, and given her terrific timing and inflection, she’s able to successfully land classic catty lines that would be completely cheesy coming from lesser actresses.
The only thing keeping her from getting the gold, however, is that for all the strengths Hathaway imbues into the character with her fantastic performance, there’s one other Catwoman who just does it all better.
2. Zoë Kravitz
Stars in: The Batman (2022)
In a closer than close second, Kravitz’s mark on the legacy of Catwoman has not only been made, but indelibly, unforgettably etched into the stone that is everything this role embodies.
Much like her predecessors, Kravitz’s take on the role is utterly charming, allowing her to deliver the catty lines of Selina Kyle with realistic panache, and deviously and unpredictably amoral as well. However, she has the great advantage of being part of a story that allows her to be vulnerable and complex — a version of the role affected by her own past traumas.
Interestingly enough, much like Batman Returns dives into the idea of making villains perfect foils of the different aspects of Batman’s persona (i.e. the Pfeiffer version being a twisted mirror of Batman’s vigilante persona), Kravitz’s version of Selina Kyle is one of many characters in The Batman that mirrors the orphan aspect of Bruce Wayne. But more than that, she’s also a reflection of Gotham itself, with Kravitz toeing the line between the heroic potential for good that exists in the city and an angry, tragic victim of its corruption as well. We look up to her when she does good things, and relate to and sympathize with her when she feels compelled to break the rules for justice or vengeance.
This is something that was somewhat implied but not as well executed in Hathaway’s The Dark Knight Rises performance (somewhat due more to the material than Hathaway’s portrayal itself). The difference in the performances however is relatability. We enjoy Hathaway because she’s a delight. But we relate to Kravitz because she imbues the role with more realism and humanity. The perfect blend of sympathetic and charismatic!
1. Michelle Pfeiffer
Stars in: Batman Returns
Some may credit the sleek and sexy, pitch-perfect costume. Others will cite Burton’s fantastical direction over Nolan’s grounded take. But we know for a fact Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman is so incredibly iconic because her multi-layered, complex, brilliant performance. It has absolutely ruined the role for any star who dares to follow.
Pfeiffer knows how to deliver her often darkly hilarious, seductive lines. She knows how to play unhinged, but relatable. And she knows how to bring out the chemistry she has with veteran actors like Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito.
The apartment transformation scene, where Selina reaches her breaking point after being shoved out of a building by Christopher Walken’s nefarious Max Shreck is a revelation of pure talent. And, as referenced in the Batman ranking article, her performance during the Christmas party scene, opposite Keaton’s as they both discover one another’s identities, is heartbreaking and beautiful for a multitude of reasons; her fatigue at putting up facades, her demented anger and confusion at confronting who she is versus who she’s becoming, and the look of pure shock and lament at the realization that the one person who understands her is also trying to stop her.
There has never been a villain in the Batman films that’s ever been as lovable as Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle. We may root for her and Bruce to get together. But more importantly, Pfeiffer makes us root for her as a character. Wonderful.
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Mike is a proud, sarcastic nerd with a penchant for comic books, comic book movies, and movies in general, and occasional delusions of grandeur. He's also a UC Berkeley graduate who decided to go into writing over pre-med because he figured he'd ultimately save more lives by not being a doctor. He's a Slytherin and a Pisces, so he's very emotionally sensitive, yet also evil, but can be defeated by exploiting his insecurities. His goal is to live one hell of a unique life, and it's been working so far! His proudest moments are being retweeted by James Gunn and Ryan Reynolds in the same week, and getting 999,999 points on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland.
You can find Mike's writing around the web at publications like The Nerds of Color, What to Watch, Spoiler Free Reviews, and That's It LA.