The Dark Knight has graced all forms of media for decades, from film to TV to video games, and he has been particularly successful in producing quality animated films. They have ranged from excellent (Mask of the Phantasm) to disappointing (The Killing Joke) and downright terrible (Batman and Harley Quinn), but at VultureHound we have been searching for the best of the best.
Here are the top 10 animated Batman movies to date:
10: Batman: Year One (2011)
Adapted with detail and care, Frank Miller’s seminal tale about the first year of Batman focuses heavily on the trials and tribulations of James Gordon. Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham to begin his war on crime as Batman while James Gordon has also arrived due to a transfer, and what follows is a year-long tale about both Batman and Gordon facing down criminality and corruption while also crossing paths for the first time. Frank Miller’s origin story helped pave the way for how the Dark Knight is traditionally portrayed nowadays in the modern age of comics, and this film comes close to capturing the feel and essence of that story. Plus, Bryan Cranston as Gordon is easily a win.
9: Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)
Based on the one-shot Elseworlds graphic novel by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola, Gotham by Gaslight sees a steampunk Batman surge his way through the seedy, fog-bound streets of Victorian Gotham in search of Jack the Ripper. This may sound like an incredibly goofy concept to swallow, but the execution in both style and characterisation makes this film that is not to be missed. The plot is quite different from the book, but still totally engrossing, perfectly capturing the tone and atmosphere, as well as delivering a fresh take on beloved characters.
8: Batman vs. Two-Face (2017)
Batman vs. Two-Face is a worthy entry in the universe of the 1966 Batman series, embracing the camp, goofy charm that made that series so iconic and beloved to begin with. William Shatner’s Two-Face/Harvey Dent was solidly portrayed and fits in well with this particular take on the Batman canon, but it’s a welcome delight to see Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprise their iconic roles and remind us why they were so spectacular when they started all those years ago. As ever, Adam West delivers on the affable charm and sly humor, even if it is for one last time. A fitting send-off for the Bright Knight himself.
7: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)
Return of the Caped Crusaders is another light-hearted romp that revels in the charm and absurdity of the 66′ Batman series. Just like its sequel, this sees Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprise their respective roles and they are all having a blast, while the animation brings the vivid colourful world to life in all its crazy glory. Both this and the sequel are highly recommended for any worthy Bat-fan or old-chums.
6: The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
Oh, LEGO movies, why is it that the Academy Awards hate you so much? Probably the funniest Batman movie to date, this film expands upon the Batman seen in the original LEGO Movie, portraying him as the arrogant, self-centred manchild whose grief affects him and those around him, while also rapid-firing on the jokes big time. The movie takes shots at Batman’s long history, while also embracing it, delivering something that is up there with the best of the Batman movies we have to date. It’s a joyously frenetic and superbly unhinged celebration of all things Batman, yet it’s so much more than that as it finds new and fun ways of approaching these classic characters.
5: Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998)
Serving as the sort of-finale to the original Batman Animated Series, this film sees Mr. Freeze pushed to the brink of saving his wife, going so far as to willingly sacrifice Barbara Gordon/Batgirl’s life in order to save her. This film brilliantly builds upon the two Mr. Freeze episodes from the series and delivers a satisfying conclusion to his story… that is until they somewhat ruined it in the New Animated Adventures revamp and Batman Beyond. Nevertheless, this serves as a great finale to a wonderful series.
4: Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
Based on the controversial storyline, writer Judd Winnick took his original comic storyline and adapted it himself for this epic animated tale about a particular dark chapter of Batman’s life. We learn about the rebellious misfit known as Jason Todd, who became the second Robin and was way more vicious than Batman could comprehend, until he met his unfortunate demise at the hands of the Joker. Born from this tragedy is the vigilante known as the Red Hood, and what we have is a great Batman story that truly understands Batman’s character and motivations perfectly, as well as his dynamic with the Joker. The 2015 video-game, Batman: Arkham Knight, tried to do its own spin on the story, but even that couldn’t come close to capturing the true surprise and unique freshness this story brought.
3: The Dark Knight Returns (2012-13)
Arguably the greatest Batman story ever told, Frank Miller’s ultimate masterpiece is finally translated in this two-part animated blockbuster, which sees a retired Batman don the cape and cowl once again to save the city he loves from a vicious gang and a not-so-reformed Harvey Dent/Two-Face with the help of a new female Robin. However, this results in the reawakening of the Joker and an ultimate climatic showdown between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel, Superman. The voice acting was superb, the animation was incredible, and the action was some of the best seen in a DC animated movie to date. 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice sneakily tried to adapt several elements from it, but they only served as a reminder as to why this legendary tale stands on its own, and this animated translation sure did get the star treatment.
2: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
Set after the popular Batman Beyond TV show, Return of the Joker sees the Batman of the future, Terry McGinnis, and his mentor, Bruce Wayne, cross paths with a seemingly resurrected Joker who has returned to terrorize Gotham once again. The whole mystery about the Joker’s return, his supposed death and how Bruce’s former allies were affected comes to light in this dark yet enthralling mystery. Batman Beyond was an amazing TV show that was a worthy spin-off from the main animated series, and this film is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best story told within that futuristic world that also helps to bridge the gaps between the original series and this one, and seeing Mark Hamill become the Clown Prince of Crime once again is a worthy treat.
1: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Usually, general audiences would point to either Batman Begins, The Dark Knight or Batman ’89 as the best representation of the character, but honestly, they should really check out this film to be absolutely sure. Cashing in on the success of the incredibly popular animated series, Mask of the Phantasm takes place within the same universe, even having the same characters, voice cast and writers on board, and what we have is a very worthy companion piece to the groundbreaking series. This film understands the true core of what Batman is and what his world is about, and it’s all perfect; it has compelling drama, huge stakes, deep pathos, witty comedy, impeccable writing, great acting, beautiful animation, and it’s completely faithful and respectful to its source material whilst also not being afraid of adding new elements. Plus, we have one of the best uses of the Joker ever in a movie, showing us in just 15 minutes how both scary and funny he can be. While it is true that films like Batman ’89, Begins and Dark Knight were more groundbreaking in the chances they took, this film truly did Batman the most justice, and is without a doubt the most accurate representation that you’re ever going to get.
That’s our list but what did you think? What are your personal favourite Batman animated films so far? Let us know below in the comments.