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When thinking about female superheroes and villains, there’s a wide span of variety. Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch, and many more; but one stands out. Not only for her unpredictability, but as one of the few females to side with a hero and battle him at times. Selina Kyle, more commonly called Catwoman, is one of the most mysterious female heroes/villains of the DC Universe. She has been portrayed by several actresses over the years, with each portrayal being different from the last. With Zoë Kravitz playing Catwoman in 2022’s The Batman, I thought it was only fitting to look back at the past lineage of women—from worst to best—who have portrayed the infamous whip-wielding burglar.
Michelle Pfeiffer; Batman Returns (1992)
There was something about Pfeiffer’s portrayal that didn’t sit right with me. The actress made the role her own and is the only one to play Catwoman wearing a stitched suit. In an interview with Screen Rant, the actress told the interviewer she would return to the role if someone asked her to. She was too cheesy for me, and her origin story was so plain and stereotypical. Catwoman was originally called “The Cat” and was presented as a jewel thief trained in martial arts surviving on Gotham’s streets. Her reputation as a cat burglar gave her the name Catwoman. She first appeared in the 1940 comic Batman Issue 1, where she first met Batman and Robin while attempting to steal a jewel. In Batman Returns, Pfeiffer’s character is pushed out of a window by her boss, where she’s then brought back from the dead by a bunch of cats.
However, like the original vision, Pfeiffer did an excellent job with her on-and-off romance with The Caped Crusader, which often confuses Catwoman for a hero, villain, or vice versa.
Julie Newmar; The Batman Series (1966-1967)
In the 60s, the sleek burglar can be seen sporting the traditional black bodysuit and burglar mask accompanied by cat ears. Now well into her 80s, Newmar says landing the role was all too easy as the TV business was desperate to have someone play Catwoman. “Television is a fast and furious business… It took only a weekend between whoever said, ‘Can you show up on Monday’ and my brother, who had come down from Harvard with his friends to New York, where I was living, to practically pushing me onto a plane. By Tuesday, I was fitting into costumes. It happened so fast,” she told Fox News in 2019. She was the first to portray Catwoman on the big screen. Staying true to her comic character, Newmar was a more romanticized Catwoman commonly attempting to seduce or trick Batman into falling for her charm. While sometimes she acted out of her own self-interest, other times she was literally in love with the hero, making her extremely unpredictable and dangerous.
Halle Berry; Catwoman (2004)
Oh boy, Berry’s performance is difficult to weigh against others as it was received with heavy criticism and negative reviews, with the actress even admitting the film was not so great at the RAZZIE Awards. Berry’s role as the femme fatale was the only one to introduce the character under a different name, but as the film suggested, many other women in history were considered “catwomen” or those with cat-like abilities and senses. Berry’s character was highly sexualized without even trying to hide the fact that her outfit was to exemplify certain portions of her body. She fought rival Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone) with her classic whip and claws only to sink low at the box office.
Camren Bicondova; Gotham (2014-2018)
Bicondova played a young Kyle finding herself and fighting between being the hero and the villain. She befriends a young Bruce Wayne fighting her way off and on Gotham’s streets and rooftops with a whip in hand. Although her portrayal wasn’t the best I have seen, it’s the only one so far to show Kyle as a teen and represents how she became a modern Robinhood-like character. Because of this unique take on the character, she’s rated fairly higher than most portrayals.
Eartha Kitt; The Batman Series (1967-1968)
The actress who later went on to have an illustrious singing career, Kitt, was one of the best portrayals of the catsuit-wearing criminal. She was the first African American portrayal of Catwoman and was one of the more dramatic portrayals. Kitt rolled her “R’s,” hissed, and showed her claws to keep up the act after replacing Newmar’s role. Her wits and clever rhetoric allowed her to capture Batman and Robin on several occasions and she even outsmarted Batgirl at one time or another. Her role proved that Catwoman was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, villain ever to face Batman.
Anne Hathaway; The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The classic anti-hero/half-time hero returned to the big screen in Christopher Nolan’s ending to the beloved Dark Knight Trilogy, with Hathaway donning the outfit this time around. She’s the best version of Catwoman so far, even though she didn’t have a whip, claws, and was never referenced as Catwoman the whole time in the movie—granted she was called Selina Kyle. Her chase scenes in The Dark Knight Rises assisting Batman’s (Christian Bale) defeat of Bane (Tom Hardy) and Talia al Ghul (Marion Cotillard) will remain memorable for Catwomen to come.
Featured Image: Taylor Sheridan
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