I do not want to be too presumptuous, but I have a pretty good feeling about The Batman, which released its thrilling second trailer during the 2021 DC FanDome. One reason that I am especially excited to return to Gotham City is the DC movie’s portrayal of Catwoman - an alluring burglar whom the Dark Knight has rarely been unable to resist, often leading to partnerships (both professional and romantic) between them.
The popularity of Selina Kyle’s alter ego has transcended DC Comics, thanks to iconic interpretations in various Batman movies and TV shows - including Zoë Kravitz, who voiced the character for The LEGO Batman Movie in 2017. Before she puts on the catsuit for real in director Matt Reeves’ new film, let’s explore some of her predecessors whose portrayals are considered purrr-fect.
Julie Newmar As Catwoman On Batman
Catwoman made her live-action debut on Season 1 of the Batman TV show in 1966, with Julie Newmar in the role. The star of stage and screen was noted for her keen sense of humor, which made her a perfect fit for the series’ signature campy tone. While the now 88-year-old would later reprise Selina Kyle in two DC animated movies (Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders in 2016 and 2017’s Batman vs. Two-Face), she is not the only actress to steal the heart of Adam West’s Bruce Wayne.
Lee Meriwether As Catwoman In Batman: The Movie
With Julie Newmar unable to appear in Batman: The Movie - a direct spin-off of the TV show released theatrically in 1966 - Lee Meriwether joined the cast to assist The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), and The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) in a sinister world domination plot. However, while the Emmy nominee and former Miss America is playing Catwoman, she is not exactly playing Selina Kyle, because the supervillain disguises herself as the Russian Miss Kitka to lure Bruce Wayne into a horrible trap. Regardless, Meriwether’s devilishly funny and tastefully seductive performance makes for a memorable big screen debut of the character.
Eartha Kitt As Catwoman On Batman
Lee Meriwether would also appear on the Batman TV series, but in an entirely different role, because Catwoman had once again been recast by Season 2. Emmy nominee and recording artist Eartha Kitt (whom younger audiences might recognize as Madame Zeroni in Holes or as the voice of Yzma in The Emperor’s New Groove) would make history as the first Black actress to play the supervillain in 1967. Her performance is just as historical, nailing the character’s most essential traits with a scenery-chewing glow.
Michelle Pfeiffer As Catwoman In Batman Returns
Even though Batman Returns goes hog wild with its interpretation of Selina Kyle by making her a murdered secretary magically resurrected by cats turned into an agent of chaos, many fans still call Michelle Pfeiffer their favorite Catwoman to this day, and it is easy to see why. For one, among the strongest elements of Tim Burton’s otherwise controversial 1992 sequel is its refreshing examination of Selina’s relationship with Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), as two people from opposite sides of the law bound by their own respective identity struggles. Plus, the line “I am Catwoman, hear me roar” saw the beginning of a new wave of feminism in superhero movies.
Adrienne Barbeau as Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series
The success of Tim Burton’s live-action Batman movies (1989’s first installment, really) led to the creation of Batman: The Animated Series, which boasts the quintessential version of the Dark Knight (voiced by Kevin Conroy) in many fans’ eyes. I would say that the Emmy-winning cartoon’s iteration of Catwoman (voiced by Scream Queen Adrienne Barbeau) is the first to really get the character right in all facets, from her stunning thievery (aided by one intelligent feline) to her romantic connection with Bruce Wayne that feels even more authentic and naturally well developed overtime than even Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer’s pairing, if you ask me.
Eliza Dushku As Catwoman In Batman: Year One
Selina Kyle (voiced by Eliza Dushku) and Bruce Wayne (voiced by future Gotham cast member Ben McKenzie) only share one direct interaction in 2011’s Batman: Year One that is very fervent and shows neither of them in costume. However, this animated favorite, based on Frank Miller’s acclaimed reimagining of Batman’s origin has, just about, the most grounded and grittiest take on Catwoman we have seen yet, portraying her as a sex worker from the seedier areas of Gotham City who turns to crime to help make ends meet.
Anne Hathaway As Catwoman In The Dark Knight Rises
Of course, it is tough to deny how grounded and gritty Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway’s take on Selina Kyle in the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy turned out to be. To be frank, I actually believe her consistently earnest and faithful approach to playing Catwoman as a conniving, ruthless femme fatale who finds she has a soft spot for Christian Bale’s Batman is one of the few reasons why 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises is worth revisiting.
Camren Bicondova As Selina Kyle On Gotham
There are plenty of reasons why fans love to revisit Gotham - the Batman prequel series that aired on Fox for five seasons - and its own take on Catwoman is certainly one of them. This version of Selina Kyle (played by Camren Bicondova before Lili Simmonds takes over in the series finale) is a teenage orphan who befriends a young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and becomes his ally in the early days of his crusade against crime… when she is not dabbling in crime herself.
You may have taken notice of the fact that Halle Berry’s Razzie-winning performance in 2004’s Catwoman as Patience Phillips (not Selina Kyle) is nowhere to be seen on the list above. It was actually not until recently that I learned some audiences might take offense to her exclusion, as they find the portrayal to be exceptional and even important to the character’s legacy and Zoë Kravitz’s eventual casting. Well, I am happy that they feel that way, but, personally, I am thankful for how dramatically different and more accurate to the source material this upcoming portrayal in The Batman - set to come out March 4, 2022 - promises to be.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.