Ever since she first appeared in 1940’s Batman #1 – simply “The Cat” back then – Catwoman has risen to the top as one of the most memorable and beloved characters from the DC universe.
Is she a villain? Is she an antiheroine? Or, is she just a misunderstood woman trying to survive? Gotham City’s most famous femme fatale has been all of that over the years, along with being a fan-favorite love interest for Bruce Wayne.
In 1966, Catwoman leapt out of comic books and onto the small screen for the TV series Batman, the campy iteration starring Adam West and Burt Ward as the dynamic duo. Julie Newmar was the first actress to portray a live-action version of the feline fatale.
From there, Catwoman has always been lingering in cover of night, being played by several other actresses over the years. Michelle Pfeiffer is definitely a favorite of many, and Camren Bicondova recently gave us a glimpse of Selina Kyle’s early years as a teen.
Now, Zoe Kravitz is putting on the cat ears for Matt Reeves’ The Batman. This time around, the Dark Knight is being played by Robert Pattinson. Other stars include Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, and Colin Farrell. It’s early in Batman’s crime-fighting days, as he’s uncovering corruption in Gotham and pursuing the Riddler (played by Paul Dano).
It’s also in the early years of Kravitz’s character.
“[The film is] very true to the character of Selina Kyle. She’s not yet Catwoman, but all the elements of how she’s going to become Catwoman are there,” explained director Matt Reeves when talking to Pedestrian.
Zoe Kravitz’s casting was announced back in October of 2019, and filming started in January 2020. Unfortunately, the film’s release was delayed twice from its initial June 2021 date. But hey, better late than never, right?
Now that we’ve got the sultry Catwoman on the brain, let’s talk about all the different women who have slipped into the catsuit over the years!
Actress Julie Newmar played the first on-screen live-action Catwoman for the TV series Batman. This is the classic, campy show starring Adam West and Burt Ward! She donned the catsuit for the first two seasons, in 1966 and 1967. That now-iconic catsuit she wore was actually modified by Newmar herself. She placed the low-slung belt around her hips instead of the waist to emphasize her hourglass figure.
Although she was purr-fect for the role, she didn’t hit the big screen with the rest of the cast for the 1996 Batman movie. Newmar was already committed to another project in the UK, and production replaced her with another actress. Newmar returned for season 2 of the TV series. After that, she didn’t return for season 3. It was supposedly due to a scheduling conflict with another film.
While that was the last time we saw Julie Newmar as a live-action Catwoman, she did eventually return to the role. She provided the voice of Catwoman in the animated film Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders in 2016. She voiced the character again in the 2017 sequel Batman vs. Two-Face.
After Julie Newmar dropped the cat ears temporarily for another project, former Miss America-turned actress Lee Meriwether filled the role for the 1966 movie Batman. In it, Catwoman teams up with the Riddler, Penguin, and Joker to create a dangerous gathering of the most powerful villains!
Although Meriwether only donned the catsuit for the movie, she did appear on the TV series in another role. During season 2, she played Lisa Carson, a love interest of Bruce Wayne’s. She appeared in the episodes “King Tut’s Coup” and “Batman’s Waterloo.” During this same time, she co-starred on the sci-fi series The Time Tunnel, as scientist Dr. Ann MacGregor.
Julie Newmar said goodbye to the Catwoman role for good by the time season 3 of Batman rolled around. Eartha Kitt brought her fabulous purr-sonality to the role, donning the catsuit for three episodes in 1967 to 1968. Although she channeled some of Newmar’s serious, sultry tones, Kitt brought her own character interpretations to the small screen. Kitt’s Catwoman was ruthless!
Eartha Kitt was already a well-known celebrity with an extensive career as a singer and actress. However, her playing Catwoman was groundbreaking, as she was the first person of color to take the role.
“This was 1967, and there were no women of color at that time wearing skintight bodysuits, playing opposite a white male with sexual tension between them!” her daughter, Kitt Shapiro, told Closer Weekly in 2018. “She knew the importance of the role and she was proud of it. She really is a part of history.”
Oh, Michelle Pfeiffer. When Tim Burton returned Batman to the big screen with 1992’s Batman Returns, he also brought us a new kind of Catwoman. Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance is often lauded as the greatest portrayal of the character of all time.
Gone was the charming, pretty sex kitten. Instead, she was a nihilistic, twisted anti-heroine in a dramatic bondage-inspired latex catsuit. She’s post-psychotic breakdown, and she’s bent on revenge. And while there is obviously sexual tension between Batman and Catwoman, the two really cement that relationship in Batman Returns.
There were actually more than 60 catsuits made for filming, and they were created around a body cast of Pfeiffer so that they would fit perfectly. Unfortunately for Pfeiffer, it was one of the most uncomfortable experiences of her life, having to cover herself in talcum powder just to squeeze into the tight costume. It was then painted before every take to keep that extra shiny look! She would wear it for 12 to 14 hours to film, removing it only for a lunch break. And yes, that’s the only bathroom break she got, too.
Halle Berry was the next actress to take over the role of Catwoman. This time, she’s not Selina Kyle but Patience Phillips, a woman that accidentally stumbles onto a conspiracy at the cosmetics company she works for. She’s murdered, but Egyptian Mau cats revive her and grant her superhuman cat-like abilities that she uses to become a crime-fighting Catwoman. Yep, she’s the hero in this one.
Even if you’ve never seen 2004’s Catwoman, you can probably guess it wasn’t the best Catwoman we ever saw. It currently has a whopping 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was a critical and commercial failure and won four Golden Raspberry Awards (it was nominated for seven!).
Hey, at least Halle Berry looked good in her “sexy warrior Egyptian cat goddess” costume. And these days, several critics have reevaluated the film and looked at it in a more positive light in the years after its release.
Fun fact: the Catwoman film was initially conceived as a Batman Forever spinoff starring Michelle Pfeiffer. After Tim Burton passed on the project, Pfeiffer backed out, too. It went through a lot of changes before it became this movie.
When it was first announced that Anne Hathaway would be the next actress to slip into a catsuit, I wasn’t too sure about it. It’s a little far off from movies like Disney’s The Princess Diaries or The Devil Wears Prada. Regardless, Hathaway did a pretty purr-fect job as Selina Kyle, a skilled cat burglar who just wants to pull a heist and afford a normal life. She did add an extra hint of sweetness to the role.
This time around, she’s never actually referred to as Catwoman. She does happen to have a pair of goggles that flip up to look like cat ears, though.
The 2014 TV series Gotham provided a look at the early days of James Gordon at the Gotham City Police Department, Bruce Wayne following the murder of his parents, and the beginnings of a whole slew of Batman villains.
Of course, you can’t have all these characters without including Catwoman. Here, she’s not exactly Catwoman yet, but a much younger Selina Kyle. As a homeless kid living on the streets, she’s a thief doing her best to survive. She befriends and bonds with the recently orphaned Bruce Wayne, who takes her in. The role was played by Camren Bicondova, who was just 14 when the show started.
With 2022’s The Batman, we now have a new Selina Kyle! Zoe Kravitz is the most recent actress to step into the role, opposite of Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne/Batman. This time around, Selina Kyle is a nightclub waitress, dealer, and cat burglar who, according to Kravitz, is “figuring out who she is, beyond just someone trying to survive.” She’s mysterious, with moral ambiguity and unclear motivations.
Although this is Kravitz’s first time in a live-action Catwoman role, it’s actually not the first time she’s played the character. She also voiced Catwoman in the popular The Lego Batman Movie.
We may see Kravitz’s Catwoman again, too. The Batman already has two sequels planned. HBO Max also has two spin-off TV series in development.