A Definitive Ranking Of The Batman Animated Films


Batman vs. Robin, the latest DC animated movie is out next week (and this Tuesday if you want to buy it digitally). It’s hardly the first Batman animated film, just the latest in a line of many animated films featuring the Dark Knight. If you wanted to get pumped up by watching previous DC animated movies that featured Batman, It might be a good idea to know what the top ones are, so through my expert analysis (of which I honestly have none besides having watched all the films), I have ranked all the Batman animated films to date.

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This list only pertains to Batman-focused films, so any films where Batman is part of a larger team is out (i.e. any Justice League films). Also, Batman: Assault on Arkham gets dropped from the list because it’s clearly a Suicide Squad film where Batman barely makes an appearance. The good news is for the most part all the Batman films are at least pretty good, so it’s hard to go wrong with the majority of these. So without further ado, here’s the list!

#12. The Batman vs. Dracula: Yeah, remember where I said most of the Batman animated films are pretty good? This is one of the few exceptions. The main problem stemming from the fact that it’s based off the pretty mediocre, “The Batman” cartoon show which featured things like a Joker that looked like a Rastafarian wannabe and a Penguin that was a martial arts expert (both of which feature heavily in this film). Deep sigh. Anyways, it features the usual hilarious misunderstandings of the Gotham police easily believing Batman has become evil and chasing him down while Batman tries to defeat the real criminal, who is of course Dracula. That’s been done so often, it’s pretty lazy writing at this point, especially since at the point the story takes place, he’s been protector of Gotham for several years. It’s also just filled with dumb little coincidences, such as Batman being soundly thrashed by Dracula only to be saved by the rising sun (which he didn’t make any attempt to stall for, it just happened to be that time), and while he develops an anti-vampire seurm (because of course he does), it doesn’t actually work on Dracula so he has to lure him to his PROTOTYPE SOLAR ENERGY MACHINE HE JUST HAPPENED TO HAVE BEEN WORKING ON. That’s actually worse than “shark repellant spray”. Still, it’s probably perfectly ok for younger Batman fans, just the more discerning fan who appreciates a good animated film may want to look elsewhere.

#11. Batman/Superman: Apocalypse: My first problem with this movie is the animation style really rubs me the wrong way. Just look at Superman, he looks incredibly feminine. There’s something seriously off-putting about how Batman’s mouth is drawn. And hey, if that’s what they were going for, I don’t even have an issue with that, but I seriously doubt it. Secondly, the title is a bit of a bait and switch as while Superman & Batman are certainly in this and a major part of the story, it’s mainly a story about Supergirl. I’d love a proper Supergirl story, but this isn’t it. As a result, it feels unbalanced and under-representative of the whole Apokolips story as Big Barda has a cameo, but no appearances from say Mr. Miracle or even Kalibak. Just a poorly disjointed film for the most part.

#10. Batman: Mystery of The Batwoman: This is easily the weakest of the Batman: The Animated series era films. And it’s another mildly misleading title, as a great origin story of Katherine Kane becoming Batwoman and introduced to the Batman: The Animated Series continuity would be a welcome sight indeed. Instead, we got a ho-hum tale about a mystery woman parading around as some new vigilante named “Batwoman”, with a twist so glaringly obvious Inspector Gadget should’ve figured it out 5 minutes into the movie, but it takes Batman way longer. Also, we get the usual thing of Batwoman being totally incapable of handling things herself and basically being more of a hindrance to Batman than anything else rather than a valuable ally. Pretty much the only positive I can think of is that Bane is presented as a legitimate threat, which he often isn’t in most of his animated portrayals to date.

#9: Batman: Gotham Knight: Gotham Knight is an anthology of six shorts that are tied into the “Nolanverse” trilogy of Batman films, though they aren’t really considered canon. It’s six films done by seperate studios in distinctly different styles. And it gets some points for that, being unlike any other Batman film to date and at least theoretically offering something for everyone. The problem with Gotham Knights, as is the problem with many anthology collections such as this, some segments shine way brighter than others. “Have I Got A Story For You”, for example, is an often repeated idea of kids having crazy theories about what Batman is really like that was already
done way better in the original series. “Field Test” is kind of nonsensical, as Batman has a new bullet-proof technology thanks to Lucius Fox, but gets all bent out of shape when a Russian mobster gets hit by a ricochet of his own making. He’s not dead mind you, just wounded. This barely gels with most versions of Batman in any medium, let alone the Nolanverse one. The mobster was just as likely to get crippled fighting Batman in the first place. The rest of the pieces are pretty solid, especially “In Darkness Dwells” and “Deadshot”. It’s a perfectly worthwhile collection of films overall with just a couple weak spots really, but that still makes it come up low on this list.

#8: Batman/Superman: Public Enemies: Here’s where the movies start getting really good, and it’s probably strictly a matter of taste what order you’d rank them in. Public Enemies is a shallow story with a thin excuse for a lot of fighting, but it’s damn good fighting. Basically, Batman & especially Superman are framed for murdering Metallo by Lex Luthor, who offers a huge bounty on their heads, so of course every criminal lowlife wants to get their payday. But a team of superheroes is after them as well. The public and the criminals is one thing, but any superheroes believing Lex Luthor is a stretch (Power Girl has doubts, that’s it). It’s also missing heavy hitters as their most serious challenge is probably Captain Atom, who is powerful sure, but not really a match for Superman, let alone the combined force of Superman & Batman. Nevertheless, once the fights start going, it’s an exciting time.

#7: Batman: Year One: Batman: Year One is such a promising movie, it really only falls short because at a mere 64 minutes of running time, it doesn’t flesh itself out quite enough. But what it manages to pack into the those 64 minutes is pretty good. It’s pretty much the only animated film that really explores a history between Batman and Jim Gordon, and doing a good showing of how they became allies (along with Harvey Dent) against a corrupt system. In fact, a lot of elements present in Batman: Year One are in the current TV show Gotham. Hell in a bit of meta casting, Ben McKenzie who currently plays young up and comer Detective James Gordon on Gotham, played Batman in this movie. It also shows that Batman wasn’t always the near perfect crime-fighting machine he is in modern day, making plenty of mistakes his first few times out. A great pick for someone looking to see Batman in his early years and my only wish was that it was longer,

#6: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: This was a little hard to rank initially, because it’s split into two parts, released months apart. Part One is incredibly good and pretty faithful to the Dark Knight Returns story by Frank Miller, considered one of the best Batman stories of all time. Where it falters some is in part two, which isn’t bad in any way, just Part One was SO good. And a little like Batman: Year One, I think the only reason Part 2 is inferior is because it just has so much crammed in there that it feels just a tad rushed. But a superb adaptation of arguably the definitive Batman story that no Batfan should miss out on.

#5: Son Of Batman: Another Great adaptation of a fantastic story straight from the comic books. Son of Batman is the prequel to the next DC animated film, Batman vs. Robin. It would have to be good to warrant a direct follow-up, and it’s definitely one of the better Batman animated films. It changes some stuff that in the in the end is mildly inconsequential, but one important omission from the comics is Tim Drake. There’s a whole big subplot involving the relationship between Tim & Damian, since Tim is Bruce’s adopted son & Damian is his biological offspring, and it’s a shame the movie just entirely skips over that. Still an excellent film overall though and while probably not completely necessary, a good idea to watch if you are also planning on watching Batman vs. Robin when it comes out.

#4: Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero: Admittedly like many I place the seminal Batman: The Animated Series on a very high pedestal, so that may affect my ranking at least a bit when it comes to these movies, but there’s little doubt the superb but awkwardly titled Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero still holds up after all these years. After all, it was Batman: The Animated series that made Mr. Freeze so much more than a silly guy with a freeze ray, and Sub-Zero really explores Victor Fries as a tragic figure who’s only real motivation is to cure his wife from her deadly disease, sometimes regardless of the cost. Still easily the best portrayal of Freeze to date, hopefully they’ll do him justice if he ever gets a chance in the new DC cinematic universe.

#3: Batman: Under The Red Hood: Easily my favorite of the more modern Batman animated movies, Under The Red Hood strikes that rare balance of being a more adult and mature Batman movie without overdoing it on violence or melodrama. It just hits all the right notes along with some incredibly creative voice casting such as Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing and John DiMaggio manages to do great justice to the Joker without sounding like a poor imitation of Mark Hamill, who has defined that voice for so many years. Under the Red Hood is also a faithful adaptation without being a slave to the material, which is a trap many other animated films based on comics fall in to. Even if you weren’t a fan of Jason Todd being brought back from the dead in the first place, Under The Red Hood is a thrilling, well told tale that you should give a chance, it might even change your opinion.

#2. Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker: I think the only thing stopping this from being #1 is that it’s Terry McGinnis vs. The Joker, not the big animated showdown between Batman & Joker we should’ve gotten during the days of The Batman: Animated series if not soon after. This is such a great film though, and I feel it doesn’t get quite as much love from fans as it should because Batman Beyond never got the praise it deserved in the first place. Terry McGinnis is a great Batman, he’s just not the Batman of old and this movie is a great showcase of why he works on his own terms, as well as a fantastic chance for Mark Hamill to really shine as the Joker for a full movie. It’s an original story appropriately dark and sinister, yet filled with sly humor and lots of great fan service as well (NANA HARLEY!). Bottom line if you haven’t checked out Return of The Joker yet you are missing out, it’s easily one of the best Batman movies out there period and makes a pretty strong case for being number one, really.

#1. Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm: Do I really need to explain this one? I mean, its essentially the movie equivalent of Super Mario 64. They hit it right out the park with that first effort and everything since then has basically been an attempt to capture that magic again. It’s just an excellent story that still holds up and it had the unenviable task of introducing a brand new villain, the Phantasm, but made the Phantasm a compelling villain that was a fan favorite and would continue to pop up in various shows and comics. It was nominated for best animated film the year and constantly makes appearances on numerous “bests” lists. Mask of The Phantasm set the bar for animated superhero films incredibly high, and I can only think of a couple that come anywhere close to matching it, and none of them star Batman. Mask of the Phantasm might even be argued as the best Batman film of all time. It certainly stands with any of the better live action movies, in my opinion. An absolutely essential must-own for any fan of great comic book movies, animated or otherwise.

And that’s the Batman Animated movies, ranked. Totally final word, never going to change. You know, except when I watch them again and switch a couple here and there. Feel free to rage in the comments about how one particular film shoud be way higher or way lower. Where will Batman vs. Robin rank among these mostly great films? We’ll see when it releases in just a few days…

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