Catwoman is unique among movie supervillains, and not just because she’s a woman, though that also matters. Her motives are much more mysterious than most, which makes her especially volatile and unpredictable. It also makes her alliances fleeting and her loyalty dubious. In all incarnations (Lee Meriwether in 1966’s Batman, Michelle Pfeiffer (pictured) in 1992’s Batman Returns, Anne Hathaway in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises), she and Batman share an attraction, but it’s the attraction of a pair of praying mantises, with the female likely to bite the male’s head off if they ever consummate. Like the Joker, she has a backstory that doesn’t explain the full depths of her malice and mischief. (After all, this cat has nine lives and is, especially in Hathaway’s version, eager to wipe the slate clean and start afresh.)
Is she a feminist avenger, out to emasculate the men who’ve underestimated her and shame the weak women who’ve betrayed their sex? Is she just a really skilled burglar who uses her slinky sex appeal as a weapon? Yes to both, but in the most intriguing incarnation (Pfeiffer’s), she’s also a damaged soul who finds a similarly wounded spirit in Bruce Wayne. Their fumbling attempt at kinky romance, up to the moment where they recognize (to their horror) who their latexed alter egos are, is surprisingly poignant. (Leave it to Tim Burton to turn a Batman adventure into a tale of two misfits in love). Other villains may break Batman’s bones or his spirit, but only Catwoman could break his heart.