Catwoman is one of Batman’s most popular adversaries — a role many fans preferred her in, despite the eventual turn into ally. While she always had something of a moral code, there was no doubt from her earliest representations that she worked on the opposite side of Batman’s sense of right and wrong. Naturally, when filmmakers got serious about portraying her, they were attracted to this facet of her personality. That’s why, 50 years after her first portrayal, you’re still seeing her turn up in new forms, such as the upcoming Shakira portrayal in The Lego Batman Movie as well as the Telltale’s Batman series of video games (as voiced by Laura Bailey).
Over the years we’ve seen many interpretations of the character in live-action TV and film as well as animation. This frequency raised the question of how the many different faces of Catwoman measure up, and at long last, we’re putting curiosity to rest. Here is Every Catwoman Adaptation Ranked, From Worst to Best. See if you agree!
19. Halle Berry – Catwoman
Okay, there aren’t many other words for this version of Catwoman than disastrous. Building on the dominatrix dynamic director Tim Burton brought to life in Batman Returns, Pitof’s Catwoman goes a little further in that direction, but reduces the clothing material to an offensive level that single-handedly demonstrates why comics have such a hard time creating and retaining female readers.
Patience Phillips is the new Catwoman for this film incarnation. Once again, she is killed and brought back to life with catlike reflexes and seeming invincibility (within feline limits, of course). The film was an undeniable disaster at the box office. Produced for the sum of $100 million, it only grossed $82 million in worldwide box office. We’re not sure how many more millions were spent marketing, but clearly audiences were not convinced they had to see it. Critics didn’t help it either. Rotten Tomatoes currently has it at 9%.
18. Jane Webb – The Batman/Superman Hour
Jane Webb, or Joanne Louise, as she was known by her stage name, appeared briefly as Catwoman on the short-lived animated series, The Batman/Superman Hour. Known more for her contributions on that series as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, she nevertheless stepped into the proverbial suit when the somewhat limited animation called for it. The Batman/Superman Hour was produced by Filmation and released 34 episodes during its short 5 month run.
At this same point, the studio was working on other DC properties like Aquaman, The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, The Adventures of Superman, The New Adventures of Superman, and The Adventures of Batman. Webb’s work here is serviceable, but she did most of her Filmation work through Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Hardy Boys. Really, her experience as Catwoman was so limited that the only thing saving her from being last place is the film above. Yet another blow to the film’s rep. Nice work, Pitof!
17. Melendy Britt – The New Adventures of Batman
Melendy Britt was in a similar position to Jane Webb when she stepped into the role of Catwoman. She had to pull double duty as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl in The New Adventures of Batman, and the characters didn’t sound different enough to warrant consideration higher up on this list. Of course, the simplicity of the series is partly to blame. Filmation was never known for pouring every last resource into a cartoon they did — licensed or otherwise — and it shows here.
It is difficult to take any of the 1960s and ‘70s Batman fare seriously. That’s ever so true in this case. Whenever Batmite is a legitimate character, you’ve got problems. The whole shebang ran only 16 episodes, and that was in spite of getting Adam West and Burt Ward back for the Batman and Robin roles. Our favorite part for Britt is, and will always be, She-Ra: Princess of Power, so don’t think you’re missing anything if you’ve yet to hear what Britt sounds like as Catwoman.
16. Maggie Baird – Birds of Prey
Criminally underused, this Catwoman would probably be higher on this list if not for the fact that we just get flashbacks and an opening moment of her lying dead on the street, the victim of a stabbing at the hands of Clayface (hired by the Joker). The opening explainer for the 13-episode series Birds of Prey shows dreamlike interpretations of both Catwoman and Batman. The costume is very much reminiscent of Pfeiffer’s in Batman Returns, albeit with pointier ears.
We’re not even sure if Baird would have had the acting chops to give a meatier version of the Cat a go. She does have a lengthy resume that would cause us to think so, with credits in films like Tom Selleck’s An Innocent Man and video game work voice work on EverQuest II: Desert of Flames and Saints Row. Most of her time in Hollywood has been spent in front of a camera for the small screen, with turns on L.A. Law, JAG, White Dwarf, and Picket Fences to name a few.
15. Cristina Pucelli – DC Super Hero Girls
Cristina Pucelli does part-time work as Catwoman on the DC Super Hero Girls series. What we’ve seen and heard of this version of the character is fun, though undeniably minor. What we do like about this adaptation of Catwoman, along the other DC Super Hero Girls, is the positive work they are doing to expand the comic fanbase to be more inclusive of young girls. Too often female characters have been drawn with an eye toward oversexed teen and pre-teen boys just discovering their bodies (best-case scenario) or low-class basement dwelling deviant adults (worst-case scenario).
Here we get famous DC characters in their high school forms with a writing bent angled at the middle school and elementary crowd. It’s a smart series that deals with the daily work of growing up through the lens of superpowers. Catwoman’s portrayal on it — when she’s on anyway — is as a loner finding her way into the strange new world of friendships. Definitely a more touching and lighthearted version of the character.
14. Julia Rose – Julie Newmar/Catwoman in Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt
You could tell when Julia Rose stepped into the dual part of Catwoman and Julie Newmar in the made-for-television reenactment Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt that she had spent a lot of time studying Ms. Newmar. One of the best scenes of the film is when Rose explains why Catwoman and Batman should never get together. She “teases,” she “purrs,” Rose says in that distinctive Newmar-as-Catwoman voice, “But she never gives up her heart.” After she has turned the Adam West stand-in to mush, she flippantly looks back at the producers and says, “See what I mean?”
Newmar had a great deal of say over how her character was portrayed and brought so much of herself to the part. This scene perfectly encapsulates it, and it is a credit to Rose that she can do such a convincing Newmar since, by most accounts, the woman was one of the most drop dead gorgeous stars to come out of the 1960s.
13. Stephanie Sheh – Bat Man of Shanghai (DC Nation)
Stephanie Sheh provides the voice of this Elseworlds-style version of Catwoman, who appears in the Cartoon Network’s series of shorts that take place in a reimagined Shanghai. She is more adversarial in this incarnation, but she isn’t alone as Bane joins her hunt for a mysterious and powerful scroll. The Bat Man has some somewhat supernatural qualities, seemingly appearing and reappearing as a pack of bats before taking on or taking leave of his human form.
Catwoman has a red, gold and white costume as opposed to the black and/or purple we’re accustomed to seeing. Unfortunately, there were only a handful of Bat Man of Shanghai shorts produced, but we’d definitely love to see more. As far as Sheh’s voice work, it’s pretty limited, but coupled with the unique rendering of the character, it’s certainly well ahead of the other entries on this list. If you’d like to hear more from Sheh, check out her work on DC Super Hero Girls as Katana.
12. Nika Futterman – Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Nika Futterman’s version of Catwoman from Batman: The Brave and the Bold floats back and forth between hero and villain — mostly villain — before eventually wedding our hero in a flash-forward episode that sees the two as Damian Wayne’s parents. When they both die, the younger Wayne is then forced to take up the Robin mantle and join the new Batman (Dick Grayson) in fighting for justice. It’s a darker episode for a series that mostly plays with the lighter side of the DC Universe, and it’s one of several appearances that Catwoman makes throughout the 65-episode run.
Here, she wears the purple masked feline costume, pointy ears and all, that we’ve grown to love so dearly. Futterman’s voice work is equal parts charming and dangerous. It’s a shame we never got to see her do more with the part, because she gives a true voice to the character.
11. Lee Meriwether – Batman: The Movie
Meriwether was tapped to play Catwoman for the big screen leap of the 1960s Batman television series. In an unusual move, the producers decided to capitalize on the theatrical movie during the first season of their show rather than waiting for the whole thing to wrap. The series would run three seasons altogether, with Julie Newmar playing the part in seasons one and two and Eartha Kitt taking over for season three.
Placing Meriwether in the thick of things for the film version that coincided with season one was a memorable move, but unfortunately her performance is the weakest of the three. While Newmar had strong ideas for how to interpret the character, Meriwether feels like she’s just doing her best Julie Newmar impersonation. Sure, she looks incredible in the part, but her Catwoman doesn’t have any claws compared to her predecessor’s interpretation, nor Kitt’s for that matter. Still, she gets the job done.
10. Eliza Dushku – Batman: Year One and DC Showcase: Catwoman
Dushku’s Catwoman is a more mature version, despite of taking the animated form. That’s because the movie is a straight-up adaptation of the Batman: Year One storyline from Frank Miller. Miller reimagined Batman’s first year of existence in the 1980s and thus began one of the most influential adaptations of the character as well as his supporting cast, which includes Catwoman.
Miller’s Cat is a high-end jewel thief, who gets the idea of wearing a costume after she sees Batman in action. So begins a tense adversarial relationship that mixes respect and romance with a sense of duty. Dushku’s handling of the vocals in Batman: Year One (animated) is a utility as Selina Kyle is more of a doer than a talker in this arc. We just dig the look and the faithfulness to Miller’s original work more than anything else. And we wouldn’t mind seeing Dushku turn up as a live-action Catwoman one day.
9. Tress MacNeille – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Tress MacNeille provides the vocals for an aging Selina Kyle in the follow-up to Batman: Year One: The Dark Knight Returns. Like its predecessor, the film is faithful to the Frank Miller source material, which takes place sometime in the future. Batman/Bruce Wayne is 55 years old, and Selina Kyle is no longer Catwoman. She now runs an escort service and is a far cry from her svelte and athletic former self.
The Joker makes light of this, telling her “the years have not been kind” after planting a kiss on her lips using mind control lipstick. She is next seen bound and gagged, dressed as Wonder Woman, in a humiliating display meant to enrage Batman. Our last scene with her is at Bruce Wayne’s funeral after she believes him killed. She is distraught. Of the various endings that DC has given Catwoman across an array of media, this is probably the most depressing, and Tress MacNeille does a phenomenal job of capturing the anguish.
8. Gina Gershon – The Batman
Gina Gershon is definitely of a rare minority on this list — voice actors we actually want to see suit up for a live action take on the character. She has the physicality, and her attitude in The Batman version of the character leaves us wanting more. Visually, her character is rendered with a similar cat-ear and face mask ensemble to go with the hug-curving bodysuit that Pfeiffer wore in Batman Returns.
She is portrayed as more of a villain in this animated series. Similarly, if you were going to put Gershon in the live-action role, she would absolutely have to be a villain. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spend very long with Ms. Gershon in the role. The Batman ran for only 65 episodes– she’s in about five of them and in only one is she a true adversary of the Bat. Still, her ranking reflects the impression she made and the potential she showed.
7. Grey DeLisle – Infinite Crisis and the Batman: Arkham video games
Grey DeLisle’s work in Infinite Crisis and the Batman: Arkham video game series deserves a special mention here. We know there have been a lot of video game incarnations over the years and not to disparage other portrayals, but DeLisle gets the right mix of camp and intimacy in her Catwoman rendering. Part seduction, part menace, she sort of makes the player forget that it’s a video game while watching the various renderings.
DeLisle has an extensive resume with film, animation, direct-to-video stuff, and, yes, video games. Catwoman is also not the only character from the DC Universe she has gotten a crack at. You may also recognize her as Wonder Woman and Lois Lane from the DC Lego partnership and as Black Canary in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, among others. Her credits include Betty Rubble from The Flintstones, Ms. Marvel, and Asajj Ventress from Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
6. Eartha Kitt – Batman Season 3
We absolutely love the fact that producers of the 1960s Batman TV show cast Eartha Kitt in the role for season three. Julie Newmar had to back out due to other commitments she had made — the same reason she didn’t star in the 1966 film adaptation — but instead of going to Lee Meriwether for the last run of shows, the decision was made to put the cat suit on Kitt, an African-American songstress with a penchant for speaking her mind in a time when that sort of behavior wasn’t exactly encouraged.
In fact, Kitt once made anti-war comments at a White House luncheon to Lady Bird Johnson herself. It didn’t do her career any favors, but by then Batman had wrapped anyway. It’s unlikely she would have been invited back for a fourth season as a result, but she made enough of an impact on us in the one year she had the part that we’ll never be able to forget her. Kitt looked darn good as Catwoman, and is known for the distinctive trill to her Rs that made her purr-ific.
5. Camren Bicondova – Gotham
Gotham, the Batman prequel series, has taken a lot of missteps during its run, but one thing it consistently gets right is the Selina Kyle character. Camren Bicondova seems to be more at ease in the role than any of her castmates. She is pretty much how you would envision Catwoman as a younger girl. Mischievous, always into things, flirty, and definitely “not nice.”
One of the best scenes to capture the Bruce Wayne-Selina Kyle dynamic is one on the staircase of Wayne Manor in the aftermath of Bruce’s parents’ murders. Bruce tells her she’s “not nice,” but qualifies it by adding, “I don’t mean you’re a bad person, you’re just not a nice person.” Selina has never had someone summarize her like this, and it’s unsettling how accurate Bruce is in his assessment. That’s why she follows with “Screw you, orphan.” It reminds us of the longstanding dynamic from the 1960s Batman TV series, where Catwoman wants Batman, but she doesn’t want to be the person she has to be in order to have him.
4. Adrienne Barbeau – Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures
We don’t have many regrets around here, but if we had to pinpoint just one, it would be that Adrienne Barbeau never got a chance to play Catwoman in a live-action film. We’ll take her in Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, but if you ever caught a glimpse of Ms. Barbeau in her heyday, there would be no question as to her credibility in the part. She had the physicality and the dark, edgy draw that Catwoman (circa 1980) would have needed to turn us to mush. Still, she does a fine job with just her voice.
Barbeau was 49 years old when the series began, but she had no trouble producing that same strong, sexy voice that you remember from films like The Fog and Swamp Thing. As a testament to her ageless appeal and her “rightness” for the part, three years later — just short of her 52nd birthday — she gave birth to two perfectly healthy twins. Talk about a superwoman. Maybe there’s still hope we can see it for real.
3. Anne Hathaway – The Dark Knight Rises
Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises benefits from the edginess of previous films — most notably Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal — but her costume is more tactical. Don’t get us wrong. While Hathaway looks very good in the bodysuit and mask, but this is something easier to buy in a fistfight. The character here has more to do than look pretty and make bad puns, and Hathaway rises easily to the challenge. Unfortunately, the film takes itself too seriously at times, seeming more like an assault on the senses than a fun, escapist superhero flick, and of course, the Aurora theater shootings cast a dark pallor over our memories of it.
But if you isolate Hathaway in the part, there is a lot to recommend here. The backstory and the relationship to Batman are both authentic to the Cat’s first representation in the pages of Batman comics, but it’s colored with a pro-feminist palette, and Hathaway is the ideal person to bring that blend to life.
2. Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns
Catwoman’s first appearance in Batman #1 several decades ago featured many of the trademark personality characteristics we’ve come to love about her, but it wasn’t quite as extreme as what Tim Burton turned her into in 1992’s Batman Returns. By that point, the character had gone through a lot of changes and the dominatrix thing was starting to overtake her appearance. Burton built on the comic book portrayal and Pfeiffer borrows from the Batman television series in the way she toys with Batman and hams up some of the dialogue, but the attitude is different.
Pfeiffer juxtaposes the camp with a modernistic bad-girl facade that pays homage to the past while being uniquely suited to Burton’s world. The backstory also goes through something of a revitalization, with cats essentially bringing Catwoman back from the dead, so there is a supernatural aspect we don’t often see but it works in the context. It all granted license to future comic writers and artists to have as much fun with the character as possible.
1. Julie Newmar – Batman season 1 and 2
It’s hardly debatable that Julie Newmar is the quintessential Catwoman. Unlike the Batman TV show’s other two versions of the character, she fit the personality as well as she did that shapely villainess costume. While Eartha Kitt and Lee Meriwether certainly seemed to enjoy themselves in the part, Newmar’s movements and corny dialogue delivery felt more natural. She had a believable chemistry with Adam West, and brought a surprising amount of sorrow to Catwoman’s inability to do things the right way. You got the sense from watching Newmar that she wanted to be good and that she wanted something with Batman, but the draw to be herself trumped all else.
If you miss Ms. Newmar in the role, you’ll be glad to know that in October, she will be reprising her role — albeit in animated form — as the voice of Catwoman in Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. Adam West and Burt Ward will also star.
So there you have it, gang, the very best versions of Catwoman from television and film. You may now agree with us repeatedly in the comments section. (Or voice your disagreements, but just know ahead of time, you’re wrong.)
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