Riddler – Every Actor Who Played Him: From Jim Carrey to Paul Dano
Matt Reeves’ The Batman brought one of Gotham’s favorite villains back into the spotlight. Not only is he obsessed with clever puzzles and taunting riddles, but he’s also desperate to get Batman’s attention. His latest on-screen presence has us pretty spooked, so it’s natural that we’re curious about the folks who have played him before. Here’s a guide to every actor who has ever played the Riddler, from Jim Carrey to Paul Dano.
Who Is The Riddler Anyway And Why Do We Care About Every Actor Who Has Played Him?
The Riddler, created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang, made his first appearance in 1948 with Detective Comics #140. Edward Nigma, the Riddler’s “real” name, started out as someone who was just desperate to outwit everybody around him and prove his genius. This led to evil intentions overshadowed by challenging riddles which are, of course, how he earned his name.
This is a character who is well-known to comic book fans, but less so to casual theater-goers. So, he doesn’t have quite as many on-screen portrayals as the Joker. Could it be because portraying a man who wears a bright green, question-mark-covered costume threatens to add a layer of goofiness to a usually dark franchise? Maybe. Fortunately, the latest actor to take on the role of the Riddler, Paul Dano, seems to make it work. But first, let’s take it back to the beginning.
Image via Fox
Frank Gorshin First Brought The Riddler To The Screen In Lots Of Green
There have been a lot of Batman on the big and small screen, but Adam West’s portrayal in Batman might go down in history as the most iconic, if only for its nostalgia factor. The 1960s series also has the honor of being the first to include the Riddler.
Frank Gorshin portrayed the Riddler across ten episodes of Batman. He reprised the role again in the 1966 Batman film, directed by Leslie H. Martinson. He was quite the over-the-top villain, dressed head to toe in green. The portrayal earned him an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy. He lost to Don Knotts for The Andy Griffith Show.
Gorshin played the role one last time in 1979 in an episode of Legends of the Superheroes.
John Astin Fills Big Shoes As The Next Name In Every Actor Who Has Played The Riddler
Actors can get busy, especially when they’re as talented as Gorshin. When Batman needed the character to appear in more episodes after its first season, Gorshin found himself unavailable. The studio ended up casting John Astin, who was best known for playing Gomez Addams in The Addams Family, to take over the role.
John Astin only played the part for two episodes as Gorshin was available by the time the third season rolled around.
Image via ABC.
Michael Bell And John Glover Find The Riddler’s Voice And Path The Way For Other Voice Actors
Notable voice actor Michael Bell briefly voiced the Riddler in Challenge of the Super Friends in 1978 and then again in Super Friends in 1980. He gave Batman’s foe a memorable and maniacal laugh and kept up with the puzzling shenanigans, paving the way for the Riddler’s future in animated shows.
The next actor to involve himself with the Riddler is John Glover. The actor voiced the villain in Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, and then again for the video game The Adventures of Batman & Robin in 1994. John Glover loves his comic book adaptations and has gone on to play roles in titles like Batman & Robin, Shazam! and Smallville.
The Riddler would find his way to animated series again in 2004’s The Batman. Robert Englund, memorable for his performance as Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street, voiced Riddler in a handful of episodes.
A more recent voice-acting job saw television host Conan O’Brien voice the Riddler in The LEGO Batman Movie in 2017. The Riddler falls from the spotlight in this film, as Zach Galifianakis’s Joker takes the lead villain role.
Jim Carrey Brings Us Back To Live-Action
Jim Carrey is a pretty memorable guy, and the Riddler is a memorable villain. It seems like fate that the actor would find his way to the role eventually. He finally did in 1995’s Batman Forever, opposite Val Kilmer’s Batman.
The film was considered a huge box office success and the time earned enough praise for its campy fun. Carrey’s enthusiastic performance was also praised for bringing some needed charisma to the film. Despite the positive response at the time, its popularity has faded more than other older big-screen Batman tales. Carrey never returned to the role, but after his recent villainous performance in Sonic the Hedgehog, we’d be happy to have him try again at another DC character.
Image via Warner Bros.
Wally Wingert Takes Us To Some Video Game Riddles
Another exciting way to bring an iconic villain to our attention is through video games. There have been plenty of Batman-themed games, and a good number of them have included Riddler as a foe that you find yourself up against.
Wally Wingert is often associated with in-game Riddlers. He provided the voice acting for games including Batman: Arkham and Lego DC Super-Villains. In addition to video games, Wingert voiced the role in the animated films Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders in 2016 and Batman vs. Two-Face in 2017.
Cory Michael Smith In Gotham Joins The List Of Every Actor Who Has Played The Mysterious Man
One of the most criminally underrated pieces of superhero media is Gotham. It ran for an impressive hundred episodes and featured plenty of our beloved characters that find themselves in the titular city. Included amongst the gang is Edward Nygma/The Riddler. Cory Michael Smith took on the role as a series regular for part of the show’s run.
Cory Michael Smith brings a new life to Riddler. He’s a bit more charming than versions like Paul Dano’s but more realistic than ones like Carrey. We could watch him take on the villain for a hundred more episodes.
Image via Fox.
Paul Dano Is Our Latest Actor On The Big Screen
The Riddler has always been a frightening character, though his on-screen portrayals have leaned more towards campy or outrageous. When news broke that Matt Reeves would be directing a grittier, darker Batman tale and that he’d be featuring the Riddler, we knew that it would be a more intense version than ever before. But who could play him convincingly?
Paul Dano seemed like perfect casting for the Riddler from the start. He’s been the handsome love interest before, but he’s also been intense and terrifying, too. Performances like Paul and Eli Sunday in There Will Be Blood and Alex Jones in Prisoners convinced us that he was ready for the role, and The Batman proves it.
You Can Watch The Riddler in The Batman In Movie Theaters Now.
Every actor who has played the Riddler so far, whether it is Dano, Wingert, or one of the many others, has brought a unique take on the iconic villain. Paul Dano may be the latest version, and we hope to see him play it again in the future, but we’re sure that the character will live long enough to let this list keep growing.
Readers, let us know who your favorite on-screen portray of the Riddler has been in the comments below.
Featured image via Warner Bros. Pictures.
Meghan Hale is the kind of movie lover that has a "must watch" that is a mile long... and growing. When she isn't talking about the latest film and television news she is writing one of her many in-process novels, screaming film trivia at anybody who will listen, and working as a mental health care professional. Follow her on Twitter @meghanrhale for some fun theories and live reactions to all things entertainment.