While Marvel and DC fans will argue to no end about which cinematic universe has better films, there’s really no question about which company has better access to their characters.
Warner Brothers owns DC Comics, and therefore all the characters from that comic universe are free for involvement in the DC Extended Universe films. On the other hand, Marvel is a more splintered studio that’s still working to bring their characters’ rights under a single roof.
Which is why the DCEU films have done well with their villains, for which they operate on unlimited footing. Sure, no one is as well-known as Marvel’s Thanos, but the blame for that could go any which way.
Here are our picks for the best DCEU villains that we’ve seen so far and what makes each one such a compelling character.
It’s rare for a supporting character to overshadow the prime villain of a film, but the warrior Faora-Ul specialized in that rarity.
Her personality is one of a soldier who doesn’t question her superior’s motives, who’s dedicated to the goals of Zod’s plan. In turn, she’s trusted by him for her unfailing loyalty.
Her brutality and single-minded drive towards her goals saw Faora operate with remorseless savagery, cutting down anyone in her path like a farmer harvests corn.
Faora-Ul came across in Man of Steel as a terrifying warrior who’d stop at nothing to bring back Krypton. However, she had a deep respect for those who stood up to her, which lended to her likability.
7. Dr. Sivana
Dr. Sivana’s story has the dark shadow of a hero’s origin. After being summoned to Shazam’s fortress as a boy, he’s told that he isn’t worthy and is sent back to his life (with his cruel father and brother).
After years of searching for clues to get back to the fortress, he eventually finds his way back and absorbs the seven deadly sins—then uses their power to get revenge on those who treated him with cruelty.
As Shazam’s villain, he tries to defeat the hero and take his power from him, but he fails. In the process, he proved to be an underrated DC villain that was wonderfully portrayed by Mark Strong.
John Cena’s Peacemaker parades around as a hero but is the villain of The Suicide Squad.
At the behest of Amanda Waller—who herself blurs the line between good and evil—he turns on Rick Flag and attacks him over their mission parameters, eventually killing him with a stab through the heart.
Furthermore, he tries to kill Ratcatcher 2 due to orders before Bloodsport takes him down in a Mexican standoff.
Though Peacemaker is the hero of his own series, his actions in The Suicide Squad make him the bad guy and those actions are something he struggles with during the events of his own HBO show.
Yes, Batman! He’s the villain of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice when his hatred causes him to concentrate on bringing about Superman’s demise rather than looking at Kal for who he really is.
The lengths to which Bruce goes in order to destroy Superman highlight his intellect and show that Kal’s strength and speed count for nothing against an opponent prepared for his fight against him.
Batman draws Superman into conflict and handily beats the Man of Steel in the fight—but before the killing blow, Batman realizes that his skills have been misused and Clark is simply a boy searching for his mother.
4. General Zod
The first villain of the DCEU became a towering monster of a Kryptonian, one who was hell-bent on his sole purpose of restoring Krypton even if it meant all the inhabitants of Earth must die.
The final battle between Zod and Kal becomes a brutal one-on-one, with the collateral damage inflicted on the world around the warring Kryptonians devastating the city of Metropolis.
In the end, Superman kills Zod when he threatens to kill an innocent family—by snapping his neck. But the impact of Superman’s killing move left Kal in tears, with him being the last Kryptonian.
3. Steppenwolf (Snyder Cut)
It’s best to forget the awful version of Steppenwolf in the theatrical cut of Justice League. Fortunately, Zack Snyder’s rendition of the character proved to be much superior.
The aged uncle of Darkseid arrives on Earth, searching for the Mother Boxes that have woken in the absence of Superman. His sheer might makes him a threat of ultimate proportions to the League-sans-Superman, who struggle to match Steppenwolf’s skill and strength.
For much of the film, Steppenwolf appears unconcerned with the band of heroes and looks to destroy Earth. However, once Superman returns, Steppenwolf can’t match the Man of Steel’s strength and speed.
He’s unable to lay a hand on the Kryptonian, who beats Steppenwolf unrelentingly as he lays broken on the ground.
Orm is Aquaman’s half-brother and ruler of the underwater city of Atlantis. He looks to get revenge on the surface world for the way they’ve treated the sea.
Using his skills in diplomacy and underhanded methods to bring all the clans of underwater creatures together, Orm becomes Ocean Master and declares war on the surface world.
Patrick Wilson’s performance as Orm makes the character relatable and tragic as he struggles with his lineage, not to mention the environmental aspect of the story, which gives his mission credence.
1. Harley Quinn
Harley may not always appear to be a DCEU villain in her entirety, but that’s how she identifies herself. Who are we to deny it?
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is the jewel of the DCEU. She’s the most fun character in the universe’s roster, and Harley has become everything fans wanted Harley to be since Batman: The Animated Series.
Despite her villainy, her various story plots have seen Harley do the right thing on many occasions—though she remains connected to The Joker—and she now feels more like a standalone character, especially after her emancipation in Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.
Charming, witty, and lovable, Harley demonstrates a complex moral compass that makes her the most compelling character in the DCEU.