Gotham City’s nightly savior is considered fabled among the massive pantheon of iconic superheroes.
Time and time again, Bruce Wayne’s alter ego Batman has battled against seemingly insurmountable odds and come out at the end of them the victor. His many adventures have produced a collection of the greatest stories in the vast comic book medium. And thanks to the animation wizards at Warner Bros, many of those same legendary plotlines have been adapted into animated movies. Plus there’s been a good number of films that offer entirely original storylines that place Batman and his many allies against the best Rogues Gallery in all of comics. It’s pretty daunting to find all of those movies and watch the very best of the best.
We’ve decided to come to your rescue and rank all of “The Dark Knight’s” animated films.
The shocking demise of Jason Todd during his tenure as Robin is still talked about to this very day. Batman: Death in the Family retells that story in animated movie form and also gives viewers the chance to change its outcome however they see fit. While that choose-your-own-adventure style experiment is cool, this film simply pales in comparison to its predecessor Batman: Under the Red Hood.
It’s always cool to follow one’s favorite superheroes and their Rogue’s Gallery once they revert to a past time period. Batman Ninja goes that route by sending The Dark Knight, his most trusted allies, and his most dangerous villains to the age of feudal Japan. The visual stylings of this film are certainly striking, which lends itself well to some jaw-dropping action sequences. The story being told here and the overall pacing of Batman Ninja isn’t as strong, however.
As a Batman film meant to entertain younger audiences, this selection gets the job done. If you’re a much older Batman fan, then Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem probably didn’t appeal to you as much as the other picks on this list. All in all, this film ends up being a solid watch that features a fun mixture of Batman’s best characters and some additional DC icons. Chances are you’ll at least find some enjoyment in watching Batman fight hard to foil Joker’s latest madcap plan.
The first entry in the Batman Unlimited film series ends up being a much better watch for young and old fans alike. Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts gives The Penguin a formidable force to rule over as he pits Batman against an army of mechanical beasts. There’s a decent amount of fun to be had here as you watch Batman, The Flash, Green Arrow, Nightwing, and Red Robin engage in some exciting battles with the more animalistic side of the DC Universe.
And now we have arrived at the final (and best) entry in the Batman Unlimited trilogy. This time around, Batman and his fellow heroes have to go big (literally) in order to save Gotham City from Mr. Freeze and his massive (literally again!) monsters. Towering versions of Bane and Killer Croc engage in some Kaiju-inspired clashes with Batman and Green Arrow’s Megazord-like battle suits, which leads to this film’s strongest moments. Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants’ super-sized fights make it an easy watch.
Batman and Harley Quinn is quite the shock for those who used to watch Batman: The Animated Series. The art style present in this film harkens back to that classic cartoon, plus a lot of praise must be directed at this film’s strong voice work from everyone involved. But the more sexual themes take things completely left with some raunchy content that could have been left on the cutting room floor. This unexpected team-up film still produces a fun ride though thanks to Harley’s outlandish antics.
Batman: Soul of the Dragon is pretty much an animated nod to classic 70s martial arts flicks, which gives it a personality of its own to stand on. A celebrated martial arts master goes missing, which pushes his student to head into action and find him. Bruce Wayne/Batman, Richard Dragon, Ben Turner, and Lady Shiva engage in some exciting clashes that perfectly pay homage to its many inspirations. The second half of his film may not be as strong as the first, but this movie still manages to be worth watching.
The 60s Batman TV series still remains a fan favorite thanks to the zany ways its characters acted and interacted. There’s been a few animated Batman films that adopt the beloved themes and character interpretations of that classic show. One of those movies is Batman vs. Two-Face, which provides a different take on the origin story for Harvey Dent’s evil alter-ego. This movie is an enjoyable swan song for Adam West that retains the humor and charm the 60s Batman series is known for.
Batman: The Killing Joke is regarded as one of the greatest graphic novels in the comic book medium. Expectations were through the roof once the animated movie adaptation was announced. While the overall presentation of this movie is decent enough and the ionic dialogue present in the source material is recited well here, the added story beats and the awkward relationship between Batman & Batgirl hampers the movie as a whole. The second half of this film is what keeps it from being a complete wash.
The Batman animated series that ran from 2004 ‘till 2008 is one of the more underrated TV shows based on DC’s finest night savior. That rendition of Batman’s cartoon career got the movie treatment in a film that pitted him against a horror movie icon. The Batman vs. Dracula provides a strong visual presentation that’s delightful for any and all viewers. The younger audience will get a kick out of the predictable and surface-level story being presented here, while older fans may be let down by that aspect of the film.
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight adopts one of the better “Elseworlds” stories ever. The film sticks to the dark and brooding themes present in the source material, which helps it stick out when compared to the other picks on this list. Batman’s adventure within this movie takes place in Victorian-era Gotham City and puts him on the trail of the infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper. The mature elements from this film can be hit or miss, so keep that in mind while it unfolds.
This anthology of different interpretations of Batman is an interesting experiment that’s still worth checking out. Josh Olson, David S. Goyer, Brian Azzarello, Greg Rucka, Jordan Goldberg, and Alan Burnett all come together to show “The Dark Knight” in a different light while he confronts a new danger. Crossfire, In Darkness Dwells, and Deadshot definitely stand out as the best segments within this compilation, while the other six minifilms are decent in their own right.
The Bat Family earned itself a new member here as Batwoman, a night stalker that aims to stop crime and forgo Batman’s rule to never kill. This new heroine forces Batman to stay on her trail and figure out her true identity while at the same time trying to stop The Penguin and Rupert Thorne’s latest scheme. The classic 90s art style from the Batman cartoon returns here, thankfully. While enjoyable in parts, Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman ends up being one of the more forgettable films from DC’s animated efforts. The voice acting and action sequences are still worthy of applause, though.
The first animated movie take on the 60s Batman TV series arrived in the form of Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. The zany and altogether groovy world that Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin), and Julie Newmar (Catwoman) once inhabited gets the cartoon treatment in the best way possible here. The usual suspects from Batman’s Rogues Gallery pop up here to add to the fun of it all. This film will definitely appeal more to those old enough to remember the 60s Batman show.
Damian Wayne, the young son of Talia al Ghul and Bruce Wayne, is born to lead the League of Assassins. But a chance encounter with Deathstroke puts him on a different path that sets him up as Batman’s newest version of Robin. The fight sequences that play out in this film are exciting, which comes as no surprise considering the key players starring in it. The more comedic vibes this film tries to give off can be bothersome. But once Son of Batman gets serious, you’ll find yourself sucked into everything happening on screen.
It’s a rare sight to see the entirety of the Bat Family come together to uphold justice and combat the latest threat trying to take over Gotham City. Batman: Bad Blood brings them all together for this film and it ends up being an entertaining romp. Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Batwoman, and Batwing’s combined efforts give this film a ton of life. As far as fight scenes and storytelling goes, Batman: Bad Blood largely succeeds.
A whole slew of Batman characters and a dark figure from Bruce Wayne’s past come together for the Batman: Hush graphic novel and made it an interesting read. And thankfully, that engrossing mystery has been given the animated movie treatment. Batman and Catwoman come together to get to the bottom of who Hush is, which places them in a bunch of wild situations that result in some surprising developments and epic battles. The source material for this film has been adapted perfectly, plus there are a few welcome changes to the story’s formula.
The crossover comic that brought the nighttime heroes in Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is awesome and you need to check it out when you get a chance. As for the animated film adaptation of that awesome team-up, it’s just as good as the comic book miniseries that inspired it. Batman and his two closest allies eventually align themselves with the “turtles in a half shell” to clash with Ra’s al Ghul and Shredder. The action put on display here is off the charts and the humorous moments will actually get viewers young & old to elicit a few laughs.
The dreaded Court of Owls plays the part of the main baddies here in this heated disagreement between Batman and his young son that dons the Robin moniker. The drama that plays out in this film between father and son is gripping, as is their furious search for Gotham City’s version of the Illuminati and their chosen Talon. The adult themes present in this film match the dark mood that this mature animated movie exudes, which is what makes it worth delving into.
One of Batman’s smartest and most cunning enemies is Mr. Freeze. This 90s throwback film has the two face off as Batman looks to save Barbara Gordon from Mr. Freeze’s plan to use her life force to bring back his dying wife. Warm feelings of restored nostalgia will enter your soul as you watch this movie unfold – thankfully, it still holds up thanks to its compelling version of Mr. Freeze and its inclusion of all the best aspects that Batman: The Animated Series are known for.
The Long Halloween storyline derived from the Batman comics follows his early days as Gotham’s “Caped Crusader.” The mysterious villain at the heart of that tale is an individual named Holiday, who chooses to harm his victims on…well, holidays. The tale that’s told in that story gets split up over two parts in a cinematic form, which helps the big revelations carried over from the first film’s mysteries hit hard upon their reveals. This epic conclusion wraps things up nicely as it retells one of Batman’s more mature-rated capers.
The adult-oriented animated Batman films clearly stand out as the best entries to date. Batman: Year One provides even more proof of that widely held belief. Just like the graphic novel it was adapted from, this film follows Bruce Wayne’s initial transformation into the superhero moniker we all know so well and pre-commissioner James Gordon’s move to Gotham City. While this film’s runtime is shorter than one would expect, it still manages to make the most of its time thanks to some compelling interactions between Batman & Gordon. Plus the action sequences also impress.
Both parts of The Long Halloween animated movie saga are great as a package deal. The first part in that overarching plot adapts the legendary graphic novel perfectly and creates the perfect cliffhanger for the second installment. The movie’s striking art style offers a nice change of pace from other Batman films and sticks to the grim nature that accompanies his crusade against the deadly Holiday.
Batman has his hands full with this particular case. While he’s hot on the trail of a bomb-toting Joker, Batman also has to contend with Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad. If you’ve played the Batman: Arkham games, then you’ll get a kick out of watching all the madness unfold between Task Force X, Batman, and a few additional members of his Rogues Gallery. Batman: Assault on Arkham plays out like a madcap heist film that’s full of dark humor, likable anti-heroes, and explosive action scenes.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is considered legendary among devoted Batman fanatics and DC animated filmgoers. You can tell the creatives behind it wanted to make a strong first impression since it’s the first film in the DC Animated Universe. This Batman: The Animated Series-themed movie follows our hero as he faces a mysterious vigilante that takes out Gotham’s most feared criminals. The animation, the storytelling, the dialogue, and everything in between are masterfully done here.
There’s just something incredible about the films that expand the Batman universes put forth by their cartoon series. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker reprises the characters introduced in the beloved late 90s show and adds in the boisterousness of a returning Joker. This film showcases Bruce Wayne and Joker’s obsession with each other in great detail, plus it gives both Batman’s a proper sendoff within the Batman Beyond universe.
One of the greatest and most influential graphic novels of all time is Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Thankfully, the entirety of that monumental storyline gets perfectly translated into one of DC’s best animated films. The first movie in that two-part saga encapsulates a version of Batman that’s at his darkest on a psychological level and showcases his long-awaited return to crime-fighting post-retirement. This film certainly does right by its source material.
Red Hood’s introduction quickly turned him into one of the most celebrated DC characters of all time. His tragic backstory paves the way for a vicious anti-hero that’s justified in his feelings toward his former mentor. Batman: Under the Red Hood embraces the character’s dark and brutal nature as it delivers some of the best action sequences you’ll ever see within the DC Animated Universe. Everything is top-notch here – the animation, the emotional story beats, and the tense interactions between Batman & Red Hood make this film a bonafide classic.
The second installment in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns earns the honor of being our favorite animated Batman movie of all time. It continues the incredibly riveting struggle established in Part 1 and raises the stakes accordingly. Batman’s continued war with Joker and his memorable clash with Superman are the two main story threads that afford this film its legendary status. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 wraps up things in the most efficient manner possible and gets you giddy for a possible animated sequel rendition of The Master Race.