One of the most iconic and beloved cartoons ever, the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles captivated and captured the imaginations of kids growing up in the '80s and '90s. This bodacious franchise has exploded so much in popularity that it's become a major brand, spawning a variety of toys, games, films, and more modern animated series featuring our favorite pizza-loving mutants turtles.
Yet, it's tough to beat the classic cartoon show, which was largely responsible for this franchise blowing up into the ether of Dimension X in terms of popularity. It took an obscure dark comic book concept, made it more colorfully appealing, and fleshed it out to perfection.
While there are a ton of awesome moments in TMNT, we'll attempt to distill this long-running show down to its overall most entertaining and memorable episodes.
10 Enter The Rat King (Season 3, Episode 9)
Much of the charm of TMNT is the vast array of amusing and memorable villains. Such is the case with this episode during what's arguably the peak of the show's run; Season 3.
This fun little romp hinges on the strength of one of the show's more entertaining villains, the Rat King. April O'Neil gets captured by the overgrown mutant rat as he's angered by the way his fellow rodents are treated. It's rat vs rat as Splinter joins up with the Turtles to fight him and save April. The episode contains a nice blend of goofy Turtles-brand comedy and fun action - and it's neat to see Splinter and the Turtles team-up, which doesn't occur all too often in the show.
9 The Big Blow Out (Season 3, Episode 47)
Not to be confused with that crazy crossover episode of the Nickelodeon TMNT 2012 finale, this conclusion to the "Big Trilogy" closes out the already memorable Season 3 with a bang - in more ways than one.
It's the culmination of an epic showdown between the Turtles and the band of main villains - Shredder, Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady. The Turtles scramble to stop the massive Technodrome, which is rolling through New York and destroying all in its wake. Michael Bay-style explosions, chases, and plenty of action-laced fights comprise this thrilling finale, which keeps fans engaged from start to finish.
8 The Day The Earth Disappeared (Season 10, Episode 7)
Ah yes, the world is in danger from Dimension X once again, and it's on the Turtles to save the day! In one of the trippier and simultaneously most epic episodes of the show's long run, Dregg threatens to send the entire planet into the Dimension X solar system. This episode brings the usual action and thrills of TMNT, with an added sense of urgency thanks to the ominous presence of a space warp that threatens to engulf Earth in mere hours.
Between Dregg, the Batmen, and Mung, "The Day The Earth Disappeared" features a myriad of cool foes for the Turtles to face-off against, with a pretty awesome premise and backdrop to boot.
7 The Old Switcheroo (Season 3, Episode 6)
Rather than leaning on epic premises and thrilling fights, "The Old Switcheroo" is one of those classic episodes that reminds fans just how appealing this show can be with its lighter side, ie - amusing gags, wacky concepts, and funny moments from our favorite Turtles.
Basically, the fact that this episode contains a rapid-fire pizza maker and Shredder and Splinter swapping bodies tells you all you need to know about the silliness of this one. We also get some classic moments from Bebop and Rocksteady here, who are in prime form.
6 Raphael Meets His Match (Season 4, Episode 17)
This makes for a uniquely fun episode to watch; not just because of the atmosphere of the yacht party, and the array of amusing costumes its inhabitants are dressed in, but because it's the first to play with the idea of a sort of female counterpart to the Ninja Turtles. No, we're not talking about April, but a similar mutant reptile/amphibian cheekily named Mona Lisa.
Mona's fiery nature and drive add a neat dynamic to the 4 Turtles, particular with Raphael, who she develops something of a bond with. Together, they fight to get back at the owner of the yacht, Captain Filch, who had kidnapped and caused her to turn into the human-salamander hybrid she's become.
5 Shredder & Splintered (Season 1, Episode 5)
As this classic dates all the way back to early Season 1, airing in December of '87, the animation and overall production might seem a tad archaic to our eyes and ears nowadays. Still, the enjoyable plot and fun banter throughout this charming episode proves timeless.
It also tosses in some cool gadgetry, including Shredder's Ray Generator and the Molecular Amplification device. This toying with crazy sci-fi premises and tech is part of what makes the show so appealing and unique, and it's pulled off excellently here.
"Shredder & Splintered" also features a couple of iconic firsts, like Shredder's first utterance of the classic line "tonight I dine on turtle soup!" and the introduction of the Turtle Blimp, crafted by the tech-whiz Donatello.
4 Bye, Bye, Fly (Season 3, Episode 44)
There are a number of amusing elements in this Season 3 adventure, "Bye, Bye, Fly;" from an ancient space temple to the always entertaining appearance of Baxter Stockman, who hilariously turns Shredder into a fly with his mutagen ray gun.
Much of the episode plays out as an elaborate chase scene, as the Turtles, including a gerbilized Michelangelo, hunt down Baxter while geared up in protective space suits and overcome him. After this, they ditch the ship, which leads into a clever payoff of the mutant fly man falling into the clutches of a gigantic spider web. It's very "classic Turtles," and it's still fun to watch.
3 The Starchild (Season 7, Episode 15)
This Season 7 episode runs full-throttle with the wacky sci-fi formula that often makes for the most entertaining plots in TMNT, featuring an ET-esque alien that has crash-landed on Earth, named Quarx.
The viewer is left wondering as to this strange alien's origins and its motives, while another alien attempts to defeat Quarx before informing the Turtles that the latter is in fact, the most dangerous thing in the universe. We tend to wonder about this ourselves after we see Quarx tossing the Ninja Turtles' weapons around - with his mind.
Things quickly escalate to a fever pitch, as much of the episode plays out as a thrilling skirmish between rival alien factions and bounty hunters looking to stop Quarx. It's an exhilarating ride from beginning to end and contains one of the most interesting payoffs in the show's history, which involves a surprise appearance by Splinter.
2 The Case Of The Killer Pizzas (Season 2, Episode 6)
What begins as a seemingly harmless pizza bake-off quickly mutates into a showdown between the Ninja Turtles and one of the classic baddies featured on TMNT, the "Pizza Monsters," which emerge as a result of Dimension X eggs being planted by Krang. Fans of the equally awesome video game, Turtles In Time, will recognize these large, fanged yellow monsters as one of the more annoying flying enemies that populate the sewer level.
This is significant in that it's one of the few instances where the Turtles actually team up with Shredder, along with Baxter, to take out a common threat - at least initially. There's plenty of thrilling action to keep things interesting in this crazy episode.
1 Cowabunga Shredhead (Season 3, Episode 18)
It's usually a safe bet you'll be watching a pretty solid episode when it comes to the 2nd and 3rd seasons of classic TMNT in particular. "Cowabunga Shredhead" further proves this notion, as it features one of the most entertaining "dudes" in the show, Michelangelo, at his very best. After pigging out on their stash of pizza, Splinter attempts to teach the Turtle self-discipline, hypnotizing him so that he "craves pizza no more."
This also features a hilarious bit with Shredder attempting to clone Mike, only to have his device backfire, causing him to think he is the Nunchaku-wielding ninja. This really has it all - from the engaging story to awesome action to chuckle-worthy gags.