There are lots of dark people hiding in the streets of Gotham City, from the rooftops to the back alleys, with little light to illuminate the darkness. There, we have vengeful crime-fighting bats who ominously patrol—as well as stray cats who litter all around.
The Bat and The Cat have a long and storied history with one another, with the vigilante often finding himself aligned with Selina Kyle’s anti-heroic jewel thief. However, if we were to take the Dark Knight out of the equation, who would Catwoman be at her core?
Any actress who steps into the role of Catwoman has a challenging puzzle to solve. The iconic DC character is one who has a rich and varied history on-screen, but remains somewhat nebulous.
Certain actresses have understood her better than others, managing to bring Selina Kyle to life with the complexity and depth that she deserves. Here’s our take on which actress played Catwoman the best and what each one brought to the character.
7. Halle Berry
The 21st century’s fascination with superhero projects have given us several memorable films… and some not-so-brilliant ones. But even the lesser movies—like Thor: The Dark World or Suicide Squad—weren’t met with the kind of critical derision that Catwoman got.
Catwoman remains a complete mess, with Halle Berry’s leading role as Patience Philips a metaphor for everything wrong with the film. The less said about the disastrous 2004 picture, the better. It’s a role that even Berry mocks, admitting that she’s the George Clooney of Catwomen.
6. Lee Meriwether
Lee Meriwether is the actress who stepped into the heels of Catwoman in 1966 for the first Batman movie, back when neither Eartha Kitt nor Julie Newmar were available for the production. Fortunately, she did what she needed to do with great fun.
The issue with the 1966 film is that Catwoman had no real personage—no background or any other story—meaning she existed solely as Catwoman, not Selina Kyle. A passable choice for the time, but not in a world where Michelle Pfeiffer’s incarnation exists.
5. Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt joined the classic Adam West Batman series after Julie Newmar dropped out of the role. Much like Lee Meriwether, she played the role perfectly for a character who lacked backstory.
Out of those three Catwoman actresses, Lee Meriwether even put Eartha Kitt forward as her choice for the best of them, saying that Eartha had “the voice and the purr.”
The film nor the series ever addressed the changes in actresses, which gives the trio a link through the otherwise linear story—and implies that the three are playing the same incarnation of the character.
4. Julie Newmar
The first actress to ever portray Catwoman on a screen, Julie Newmar’s performance in the first two seasons of the classic Batman series became the base that both Eartha Kitt and Lee Meriwether would follow on.
Hers wasn’t a bad performance by any means, but it was forcibly shallow because of the lack of Selina Kyle within the Catwoman. Fortunately, it was still fun because of the slapstick nature of the series and film.
3. Camren Bicondova
The Gotham series doesn’t follow Batman’s adventures through the crime-infested city, but rather focuses on the rise of Jim Gordon through the police department. However, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are both prominent in the series, the latter played by Camren Bicondova.
Bicondova gave the character a curiosity that helped round out what a younger version of Kyle would have showcased, all while retaining the moral ambiguity that Catwoman showed throughout her comic history.
Her performance as Selina is a gradual build to a character whom the audience is already familiar with from earlier films and series.
2. Anne Hathaway
The duality of Selina Kyle and Catwoman has layers to it. Unlike Bruce Wayne and Batman, she knows full well that she’s using both personas to suit her lifestyle: she’s a thief using the alter-ego to hide from dangerous criminals and to benefit Selina Kyle’s goals.
Anne Hathaway’s incarnation defined that description more clearly than any other before her. She gave her Selina Kyle a mask to hide behind in broad daylight while outwardly showcasing her ruthlessness to ensure her safety. But there’s more underneath—a caring nature, buried.
During her film’s finale, she rides back to help Batman when he’s about to be killed by Bane, thus proving herself to be a hero on some level (though not without her use of deadly force).
1. Michelle Pfeiffer
Tim Burton’s iteration of Batman and the surrounding world of Gotham may not strictly be comic-book-accurate, but his adaptation of the material had an originality that few comic book films have.
When Batman Returns called for a Selina Kyle, Michelle Pfeiffer got a very late call. (Anette Bening initially took the role, but dropped out due to her pregnancy.) In retrospect, it’s hard to see anybody else as Catwoman. Pfeiffer meshed well with Keaton, Walken, and DeVito around her.
Her incarnation became indicative of the chaos surrounding her life, which gave her Catwoman a razor-sharp and brutal edge, with a sense of unpredictability that defines the character in even Batman’s eyes.
Pfeiffer’s final scenes with Max Schreck and Batman in The Penguin’s lair are spectacular, as Bruce tries to get through to her—and almost succeeds before she lashes out, unable to set her hatred aside.