The Phantom Zone Criminals are major antagonists in Warner Bros.'s 3rd animated film The LEGO Batman Movie.
The Phantom Zone Criminals are an evil group composed of supposedly the most evil villains in the LEGO Multiverse, all imprisoned in the inescapable Phantom Zone. After being freed from their imprisonment by the Joker, they agree to become his minions and help him destroy Gotham and take revenge on Batman.
After not only having his latest plot foiled by Batman, but being rejected as the Caped Crusader's greatest arch-nemesis as well, Joker laments to Harley Quinn about how he isn't respected as a villain. While watching Lois Lane's news interview with Superman, Joker becomes frustrated at how Superman had a healthy hero-villain relationship with General Zod, yet Batman avoids having one with him. Towards the end of the interview, Superman states that he was forced to imprison Zod in the Phantom Zone, which also has some of the most evil villains of all time housed in it, getting Joker to formulate a new plan.
Over a long period of events, Joker and Harley Quinn psychologically manipulate Batman into stealing the Phantom Zone projector from the Fortress of Solitude and get him to use it to imprison Joker inside the Phantom Zone, resulting in Batman and his adopted son Dick Grayson being arrested. After happily descending into the Phantom Zone, Joker is scanned by the Zone's gatekeeper Phyllis and is introduced to the Zone's other prisoners. The other criminals take an instant disliking to Joker and try to have him killed, however, after Joker states that he knows how to get them out, they willingly agree to serve him in-exchange for their freedom.
After the villains are under Joker's service, Harley Quinn uses the Phantom Zone Projector to create a portal from the Zone to Earth. Joker, as a giant hologram, then tells Gotham that he intends to take over the city with the help of real villains, betraying his former minions, and unleashes his villain army on the city. As most of his minions run rampant, Joker has Sauron tell him the location of the Batcave (not realizing that Batman and Bruce Wayne are the same person) before heading there with his allies and destroying Wayne Manor, converting the entire Island into a Joker-themed amusement park. Batman, along with Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon and Alfred then begin to make their way towards Joker Island in order to stop Joker, however, they are constantly intercepted by Joker's minions. Batman eventually realizes that Sauron is watching their every movement and then tricks The Kraken into shooting a massive energy blast into Sauron's eye, destroying him as Joker and his other minions watch in horror. After using the Scuttler to forcefully send his allies away to prevent them from getting hurt, Batman infiltrates Joker's lair and is easily caught and banished to the Phantom Zone by Joker, before he and his minions take off with the bomb Joker tried to use earlier in the film, planning on destroying the city. Upon arriving in the Phantom Zone, Batman tries to tells Phyllis that he is a hero, however, as he is scanned for how evil he is, Batman realizes that he isn't the hero he thought he was when shown how antagonistic and mean-spirited he had been towards the people around him.
As Dick Grayson starts following his example and plunges head-first into danger, Batman bargains that, if he is released, he will return all the escaped prisoners to the Phantom Zone and then return to his imprisonment, to which Phyllis agrees to. Upon returning to the real world, Batman saves his friends from being destroyed by the villains from the Phantom Zone and regains the Phantom Zone Projector. Batman and his friends then prepare to defeat the villains and are unexpectedly joined by Joker's old henchmen, who want revenge on Joker for not taking them seriously. Batman and his allies then start to fight back against Joker's allies and eventually banish all of the criminals back to the Phantom Zone, although they end up being too late to stop Joker's bomb from destroying the city.
Despite the fact that he is stated to be imprisoned inside the Phantom Zone at the start of the movie, Zod is never seen nor mentioned to be in the Phantom Zone, possibly implying that he escaped prior to the Joker's breakout.
Aside from the in the video game Mortal Kombat vs DC or comic crossovers, The Lego Batman Movie marks the first time Batman, or any DC superhero has fought villains from an unrelated franchise.
Despite supposedly holding the most powerful and evil villains in the Lego multiverse, the film (for obvious copyright reasons) could not show villains that Warner Bros. did not already own or were public domain (like King Kong).