In a time where the Marvel vs DC debate is very passionate and relevant, it is obvious that DC reigns king in regards to animation. Almost every feature released is regarded - at worst - as “good”, with their animated universe seems to be better coordinated than their live-action stuff. With the recent release of Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the upcoming adaptation of the popular graphic novel, Batman: Hush, DC and Warner Bros. have truly seized control of the animated superhero genre.
At the moment, Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is receiving mainly positive reviews, making Batman: Hush all the more anticipated. In preparation for the film's impending arrival, here is our list of top 10 Batman animated movies!
If you are any fan of Adam West’s time in the cape and cowl, then Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is a must-watch. Voiced by much of the original cast (including Adam West and Burt Ward), this animated movie perfectly captures the cheesy charm of the original series. The plot follows Batman and Robin as they attempt to thwart a plot from the Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman. However, things begin to take a strange turn when Batman has a sudden personality change.
The whole movie is full of corny lines, a zany plot, PSA’s, and ridiculous antics that were all common with the original TV series. Though not at all a serious take on the character, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is a very fun nostalgia trip that any fan of the TV series would be happy to see.
The original Batman Beyond TV series remains a fan favorite for many. The studio took a gamble introducing a younger Batman with Terry McGuiness; luckily, it proved to be a big success. The show also featured a darker tone and a much older Bruce Wayne (still voiced by Kevin Conroy) who served as a bridge to the original animated series. So, when the movie came out advertising the return of Batman’s most dangerous villain, the Joker, fans were pretty excited.
Furthermore, the movie did not disappoint. Seeing the Joker (again, voiced by Mark Hamill) terrorize Neo-Gotham, Bruce Wayne, and the new Batman made for a very wild ride and highly original story. The film also tells a more detective-driven story with a surprising amount of twists and turns for a kids movie. Terry is challenged in almost every manner by the Joker and, through his own means, is able to prove he is worthy to be called Batman.
Based on the comic storyline, Superman/Batman: Supergirl, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse also follows the reintroduction of Superman’s cousin, Kara into the world of DC. Following her death in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Kara wouldn’t reemerge until many years later, with other people filling in as Supergirl. This version of the movie chiefly adheres to the plotline of the book, yet doesn’t quite capture the true brilliance of Michael Turner’s art style.
While also following Superman very closely, Batman still has his moments to shine in both interpretations. The film really captures just how smart Batman is as he maneuvers around enemy strategies. It also shows just how threatening he can be through his confrontation with Darkseid. While not quite as good as its predecessor, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, this movie is still a fun ride that captures what everyone loves about Batman.
A year before Apocalypse came out, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies debuted. This animated movie follows the graphic novel of the same name and also sticks very close to the source material. While Apocalypse shows off more of Batman’s brainy side, Public Enemies focuses a lot more on drawing parallels between Batman and Superman. This allows for a deeper exploration of Batman’s humanity, while still incorporating a great, action-packed story.
The supporting cast is also significantly greater in Public Enemies, making it much more interesting to hardcore DC fans. While the art follows closely in line with the style in the novel, it’s classic cartoony feel can be hit or miss with some viewers. However, if you are a fan of the two characters, you especially won’t want to miss out on this great animated feature.
For whatever reason, many of the best Batman movies also feature Superman, and 1997’s The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest is no exception. Done in the popular styling of Bruce Timm’s art and featuring voices of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Tim Daly, this animated movie is a must watch for any fan of the original animated series. After the Joker and Lex Luthor team up, The Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel must also do so in order to thwart their evil plan and save Superman.
Much like Return of the Caped Crusaders, World’s Finest is another great nostalgia trip for anyone who revisits it today. It captures all the heart and humor that both original series did while also maintaining some more mature themes. For any fan of the 90’s cartoon, this is an essential watch.
To this day, people look to Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One graphic novel as the definitive origin story for Batman. This interpretation of Bruce Wayne’s early days as the Dark Knight is so popular, that many of this story’ details found their way into Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005). Fortunately for fans, the animated version of the story is very faithful to the source material, making this version a great place for newcomers to jump aboard and familiarize themselves with Batman’s early days.
Year One also captures the same tone as the comic and takes minimal liberties of its own. For fans of the comic, newcomers, or anyone looking for a great story in general, Batman: Year One is not to be missed.
Gotham by Gaslight takes the most liberties while adapting the story. Since the original is so short, a lot of material was added for the animated feature. The movie really succeeds in this regard as a lot of what is new is also interesting to see. Many of the changes help develop the world further without detracting from the main story. Gotham by Gaslight follows Batman in the Victorian era as he hunts down the infamous Jack the Ripper. Along the way, viewers are introduced to different interpretations of Batman’s supporting cast, such as the Robins and Catwoman.
The biggest difference between the animated movie and the original comic is in the identity of Jack the Ripper. While some fans had an issue with the twist, it’s not a major enough change to really warrant so much fuss, especially considering the fact that it is a “What if?” type of story. As a whole, Gotham by Gaslight stands as a strong Batman story in and of its own that would greatly appeal to those who like a twist on a classic character.
While Batman: Under the Red Hood definitely takes some liberties with its comic book counterpart, it is still one of the strongest animated adaptations to date. The differences are minor and are mostly made to make the film easier to approach for those who are unfamiliar with the comics. Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles even joins the mix as Gotham’s newest vigilante, The Red Hood. As Batman tries to discover the motives and identity of this new rival, secrets from the past begin to surface.
Under the Red Hood also covers a wide array of supporting characters once again. What makes it stand out among the others, however, is how well t adapts the themes of the book. In the comic version, many of Batman’s motives and reasonings are brought to question. The movie does an equally fantastic job of showing this side of the Dark Knight. Mixed with some stellar voice acting and stunning animation, Batman: Under the Red Hood is a hard one to miss.
A more faithful adaptation of a comic book than Batman: The Dark Knight Returns probably does not exist. Like with Year One, The Dark Knight Returns is another Frank Miller Batman tale. Among the comic community, The Dark Knight Returns is considered by many to be the best Batman story ever written. This time, the story focuses on an older Bruce Wayne who has retired the mantle of Batman. As things start to get worse and worse in Gotham due to the Bat’s absence, Bruce must once again don the cape and cowl to fight crime as the Batman.
The movie’s creative team showed such passion for the source material that they attempted to replicate every detail as best they could. This dedication definitely shows in the final product. Along with the movie being split into two parts, the similarities are uncanny. All of the emotional moments and action sequences transfer so well, while the tone and voice acting are incredible. Those who haven’t seen The Dark Knight Returns are truly missing out on one of the best that Batman and animation have to offer.
There’s love, loss, action, new and old villains, and generally great Batman moments. Like with World’s Finest, the movie is done in Bruce Timm’s art style, making it perfect for any fan of the 90’s series. While the big reveal may now be very predictable, the movie is still held in such high regard as it successfully launched a whole new era of Batman fans. Anyone who saw this movie in theaters as a kid can rewatch it to relive those fond memories.