There are many reasons why comic book readers hold their favorite superheroes in such high regard. Their most impressive deeds, iconic lines of dialogue, most incredible costumes, and greatest storylines play a huge part in their likability factor. We always get a kick out of reading about DC's costumed vigilantes saving the day, especially when they come up against the fiercest members of their Rogues Gallery. When the bad guys and gals concoct their latest evil plans, the action ramps up and the stakes are raised to an insane degree. The best DC villains are known far and wide for being complete dirtbags who will do anything in order to get the upper hand on the do-gooders. We're here to celebrate the evil beings that inhabit the DC Universe and make the lives of their biggest rivals hell on a regular basis.
The 16 Best DC Villains of All Time
First Appearance: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #134 (December 1970)
To kick off this list of the best DC villains, we're going to take you all the morbid and depressing planet of "Apokolips." And who resides over that good vibes killer of a home? Why it's the "New God" that regularly makes life a living hell for the likes of Superman and the rest of the Justice League, Darkseid. Enslaving the multiverse, getting rid of all that silly hope & free will, and using his "Omega Beams" to disintegrate anyone & anything that opposes him define the best (worst?) of Darkseid. Killing the Old Gods, killing Batman, and using the "Amti-Life Equation" for his dastardly deeds are just a sample of the mass amount of evil that embody this scary dude.
First Appearance: Cameo - Crisis on Infinite Earths #2 (May 1985) and Full Appearance: Crisis on Infinite Earths #6 (September 1985)
1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline had the biggest stakes at the time when it came to the continuity of the DC Universe. And at the heart of the multiverse-spanning event was the almighty Anti-Monitor. This energy-absorbing dynamo has a pretty hefty kill count - his devastating superpowers have led to the deaths of the original Supergirl, Barry Allen (The Flash), Darkseid, and many more. As long as the anti-matter persists, Anti-Monitor's presence will be constant. And that's pretty damned scary considering the damage he can do even when the strongest heroes across the multiverse rise up to oppose him.
3. Lex Luthor
First Appearance: Action Comics #23 (April 1940)
Lex Luthor's unfounded paranoia that's primarily centered around Superman has always been a character trait that makes him a top pick on any list of the best DC villains of all time. Some of the other things he's known for are his high level of intelligence, calculated political maneuvering that keeps him in a prominent position, and his ability to shockingly work well with others. His partnerships with the rest of Superman's Rogues Gallery (Metallo, Parasite, and Bizarro) and membership with the Legion of Doom shows just much of a team guy he is. It just sucks that his team-building skills are usually applied to getting rid of Supes by any means - when Luthor dons that "Warsuit" of his, you know he means business.
4. The Joker
First Appearance: Batman #1 (Cover-Dated Spring 1940; Published April 25, 1940)
It's gotten to the point even the most dedicated Batman defenders wish he'd do away with this guy already. The Joker's continued existence had resulted in pure anarchy within the confines of Gotham City and beyond. The "Clown Prince of Crime's" maniacal demeanor, uncaring attitude when it comes to his allies & main squeeze Harley Quinn, and his love for high levels of destruction have given Batman the hardest obstacles to overcome. Joker's reign of terror in Batman: The Killing Joke is enough to get him on this list. But when you consider his killing off of Robin (Jason Todd) and giving kids poisoned cotton candy, this face-painted menace is by far the most sinister member of Gotham City's villains lineup.
5. Reverse Flash
First Appearance: The Flash #139 (September 1963)
When it comes to toxic levels of pettiness, Reverse Flash's name pops up when it comes to his consideration on a list of the best DC villains. This dude wields the same superspeed abilities that The Flash relies on, as everyone knows. But Reverse Flash's (real name Eobard Thawne) hate-filled reasoning for becoming Barry Allen's vicious foe is what makes him the worst of the worst. Jealousy drove him to reenact the same event that gave Allen his powers. And in the process, Thawne's acquired abilities led to him killing Allen's mother, his beloved Idris West, and even his second wife! Reverse Flash's notoriety is definitely well-earned.
First Appearance: Green Lantern (Vol. 2) #7 (August 1961)
Thaal Sinestro just couldn't help himself when he wore a Green Lantern ring and worked to protect the universe at large as a member of the Green Lantern Corps. His abuse of power led to him being exiled from the intergalactic police force, which then resulted in him rebelling against them and creating the feared Sinestro Corps. The Yellow Rings he and his fellow crewmates utilize embody pure fear and make the beings they target have to confront the elements that frighten them most. Sinestro's worst acts have resulted in galactic genocide, mass kidnapping, partnering with the Anti-Monitor, and more. Sinestro's totalitarian nature has led him to do the worst things DC fans have ever come across in comic book form.
7. Ra's al Ghul
First Appearance: Batman #232 (June 1971)
Batman's got it bad, doesn't he? A select few members of the best DC villains just so happen to clash with the "Dark Knight" on a regular basis. And the one we've chosen to highlight here right now is the leader of the League of Assassins and the man whose name is translated as "Head of the Ghoul." Ra's al Ghul has been responsible for centuries of pain and suffering thanks to the use of his prized Lazarus Pits, which have kept him alive long enough to hone his skills in battle, military tactics, and more. Add his ability to transfer his soul to others and you have a despicable being that does his best to live as an immortal that takes aim at Batman every chance he gets.
First Appearance: The New Teen Titans #2 (December 1980)
Once a DC fan starts thinking about the best assassins in the comic book giant's universe, one name immediately springs to mind - Deathstroke. Slade Wilson's alter-ego (who was terrifyingly once referred to as Deathstroke the Terminator) is a highly proficient killer-for-hire. After being "blessed" with superhuman enhancements from the H.I.V.E., Deathstroke reached high levels of infamy for trying to capture or kill the Teen Titans. Besides trying to off those young do-gooders, Deathstroke has taken aim at other DC saviors such as Black Canary, Green Arrow, Zatana, and several more. Deathstroke is cold, and calculating, plus he looks pretty great in orange.
First Appearance: Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 (January 1993)
We're so used to comic books featuring oversized brutes with the brain power of a house fly. Imagine how shocked we were when the world of Batman was turned upside down when the massive baddie known as Bane popped up and put his mix of intelligence & brawn to great use. It's pretty terrifying having to deal with someone who can crush your spine and tap into his mental prowess to further ruin your day. With "Venom" running through his veins, Bane has beaten the life out of Batman. His other wicked acts have consisted of freeing the inmates of Arkham Asylum, murdering poor old Alfred, and even becoming the Batman himself to place Gotham City under his (enormous!) thumb.
First Appearance: Action Comics #242 (July 1958)
Aliens freak us out and so do android/cyborgs. Brainiac is a combination of those two things, so you already know his presence always ruins our mood. We're sure Superman is never all that overjoyed to see this guy pop up from time to time - Brainiac tends to shrink cities from across the galaxy, which explains his reasoning for continually trying to shrink Supes' beloved Metropolis. What's even worse is that Braniac also shrunk and stole Kandor, the capital city of Superman's home planet Krypton, and even destroyed Krypton at some points in his character continuity. Brainiac is one of Superman's best rivals and obviously one of the best DC villains.
11. Vandal Savage
First Appearance: Green Lantern #10 (December 1943)
If you watched Legends of Tomorrow on the CW, then you're pretty familiar with this guy. If not, here's a quick primer on the guy - Vandal Savage is a Cro-Magnon warrior who, after coming into contact with a meteorite, acquired two god-tier superpowers: advanced healing abilities and immortality. Ever since then, he's caught the ire of fellow immortals such as Immortal Man and Resurrection Man. Savage is pretty much a master manipulator that has existed for centuries and is a reoccurring foe for the majority of the heroic side of the DC Universe. We're pretty sure the Injustice Society and the Legion of Doom love him, though. The Justice Society? Not so much.
12. Amanda Waller
First Appearance: Legends #1 (November 1986)
Amanda Waller doesn't have any superpowers whatsoever. But you know what? That doesn't even matter! She rules with an iron fist and has the authority to use Task Force X aka the "Suicide Squad" to handle the dirty work that the world's superhero contingent wouldn't dare touch. Besides being a completely ruthless individual, she's also known for having some sort of ulterior motive that ties into whatever dangerous task she's "requested" of her assorted band of supercriminals. We'll never forget how she blackmailed Fire (Beatriz da Costa) into being her own personal assassin and almost revealed Batman's secret identity to the world at large. Miss Waller is one of the best DC villains simply because she's so demanding, cutthroat, and willing to do anything to get what she wants.
First Appearance: Detective Comics #66 (August 1942)
"It's not about what I want, it's about what's fair! You thought we could be decent men in an indecent time. But you were wrong. The world is cruel. And the only morality in a cruel world… is chance. Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair." Whoa...just whoa. We've watched The Dark Knight a million and one times, yet that Two-Face quotable still gives us chills. Harvey Dent's twisted psyche came to the forefront after he got a face full of acid from mob boss Sal Maroni. With his newfound scarred face, a dissociative identity disorder diagnosis, and penchant for making major choices based on the two sides of a coin, Two-Face was born. Murdering Jason Todd's father, coming within inches of killing Dick Grayson, and pouring acid in Batman's eyes are among his most despicable acts.
14. Black Manta
First Appearance: Aquaman #35 (September 1967)
We totally get why Black Manta's eternally pissed at Aquaman - the sea-faring superhero is the cause of Manta's father's death, after all. Even still, some of the things that this dude has done to get back at his arch-nemesis are so over the top and plenty of reason enough to have him on this list of the best DC villains. As a cold-hearted mercenary with one of the comic book medium's most powerful battle suits in his possession, Black Manta has caused plenty of strife in Aquaman's life and others. The dude killed Aquman and his wife Mera's baby Aquababy! It doesn't get any worse than that when it comes to obscene acts done by the most disgusting individuals that call the DC Universe home.
15. The Riddler
First Appearance: Detective Comics #140 (October 1948)
What The Riddler lacks in strength, he damn sure makes up for it in smarts. Whenever he pops up in Gotham City, a well-thought-out plan with some of the hardest breadcrumbs to track and riddles to solve will surely emerge in his wake. Batman's claim to fame as the "World's Greatest Detective" is put to the ultimate test whenever this quirky villain wants to endanger the lives of him and the city at large. The worst thing he's ever done is bring Gotham City to its knees by destroying its power reservoirs, overloading the city with water, and causing it to go back to an age where Mother Nature reigned supreme. And all the while, he still found the time to create a crazy method towards powering Gotham City back on just to screw with Batman once more.
16. Black Adam
First Appearance: The Marvel Family #1 (December 1945)
Black Adam has good intentions - he simply wants to protect the good people of Kahndaq from outside forces. But the way in which he does it isn't very nice, to say the least. His sense of superiority always puts him at odds with those who seek to relinquish him of his ruling spot, plus he has a sort of "unfriendly" rivalry with Shazam since they wield the same powers gifted to them both by the gods. He has no need for other villains to exist in his world, which is why he's done a lot of killing to make the world a better place in his eyes. We can't help but crown him as one of the best DC villains for some other reasons, such as convincing Atom-Smasher to become a killer, betraying the Justice Society, and wrecking the country of Bialya.