In every live action Batman movie I remember (other than Burton's first Batman), Batman is paired with two villains. Why is this formula used? Is one villain just not dynamic enough for Batman?

Burton Films

  • Batman Returns ('93) - Penguin and Catwoman
  • Batman Forever ('95) - Two Face and the Riddler
  • Batman & Robin ('97) - Mr Freeze and Poison Ivy (Bane is included, but is subordinate to Ivy)

Nolan Films

  • Batman Begins ('05) - Scarecrow and Ra's Al Ghul
  • The Dark Knight ('08) - The Joker and Two Face
  • Dark Knight Rises ('12) - Bane and Talia Al Ghul
  • 2
    What about the first Burton's movie? I think there was only Joker there. Jan 26, 2017 at 19:14
  • 3
    Dent was not a villain in the first Batman. The Joker was the only villain (edited). [What about BvS, BTW?]
    – Walt
    Jan 26, 2017 at 19:42
  • 2
    Catwoman is, as always, more of an anti-hero rather than a true Batman villain in Batman Returns. Jan 26, 2017 at 19:49
  • 1
    Right. If we're counting Catwoman, she was also in Dark Knight Rises.
    – Devar-TTY
    Jan 26, 2017 at 20:16
  • 1
    Batman (1966) featured more than two villains. And if you count the serials Batman (1943) and Batman and Robin (1949) I believe these each feature a single villain (not counting henchmen). Jan 27, 2017 at 2:15

1 Answer 1


Possibly it's a holdover from the era when he was paired with Robin.

If you think about it, in the Nolan films, it's not Batman against the two foes, it's Batman and Morgan Freeman against the two foes.

Also, Catwoman is never strictly a foe, but also shares a strong affinity for the Batman. Two Face is likewise complex.

Although Bane and Scarecrow are initially presented as the primary protagonist, in both cases they are revealed to be henchmen of the Ghuls.

Can't comment on Ivy, but that particular film does seem to include Robin.

The stature of the two directors in question may also be factor. Layering the antagonists raises the complexity of the narrative. Nolan is known for highly complex work, and Burton is certainly a director who works on multiple levels.

It would be interesting to find out if Nolan recognized this element of Burton, and decided to continue the tradition.

  • 1
    Schumacher used two villains as well, but has no talent at all for complex narratives. Still, good observation, and you're right that both Schumacher films include Robin
    – Torisuda
    Jan 28, 2017 at 0:06

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