The Dark Knight has enjoyed a level of success that stretches well past his comic stomping grounds. While most notable is his live-action theatrical films, Batman has had an equally successful run in the world of animation. While mostly straight-to-video, some of Batman’s animated movies have been praised as the best adaptations of the Caped Crusader. Animation allows filmmakers to enjoy a level of creativity that isn’t present in live-action. While there are countless to choose from, here are the ten best animated Batman movies.
10. The Killing Joke
It is telling when one of the most requested animated Batman movies ended up being the most disappointing in the eyes of many. The animated adaptation of The Killing Joke includes an opening that wasn’t present in the comic, and fans universally hated it. The beginning shows Batman and Batgirl in a relationship and has little to no bearing on the actual story. Once this prologue of sorts is over, then things get good. The remainder of the movie is simply The Killing Joke brought to life, and that is what fans love. Hearing the iconic voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill deliver the lines from the legendary story is pure bliss. The sour taste of the beginning deters a lot of fans, but if they choose to skip it, then there is a great time to be had.
9. Return Of The Caped Crusaders
Batman has evolved many times over the years. While today, he is known as a dark and brooding character, at one point, he was campy and cheerful. This is referring to the classic Adam West series from the ’60s. While most modern fans prefer the darker tone of modern Batman, this cheesy series still has tons of fans. These fans were ecstatic when the classic series returned in the form of an animated movie. Return of the Caped Crusaders sees Adam West reprise his role as Batman in an all-new adventure set in the world of the ’60s. This animated Batman film serves as a parody of the original series while also paying loving tribute. Burt Ward also returns as Robin, including Julie Newmar as Catwoman.
8. Bad Blood
While most of Batman’s animated adventures stand on their own, some follow a linear storyline. A good example is a trilogy that follows Bruce’s son, Damion, as he becomes Robin and learns to abide by Batman’s rules. Son of Batman and Batman vs. Robin are the first two, with Bad Blood finishing things off. Bad Blood is a loose adaptation of the Batman comic Battle for the Cowl. The story sees Bruce Wayne go missing, presumed dead. It is up to Nightwing, Robin, and newcomers Batwoman and Batwing to follow in Bruce’s footsteps and discover the truth of what happened to him. Even though this is technically the end of a trilogy, Bad Blood stands on its own and does a great job shining a light on the other members of the Batfamily, and is one of the only Batman movies to do so.
One of the best mysteries to ever grace the pages of DC comics was the Batman series Hush. The beloved comic made the jump to animation in 2019. While this adaptation does take some liberties, fans still take to it and agree it is a good time. Batman is hot on the trail of a new threat, someone calling themselves Hush. Hush uses Batman’s greatest enemies to their advantage, and it seems all of Gotham is used as pawns in his game. This is one of the best examples of Batman using his detective skills and even features one of the most brutal moments lifted straight from the comics.
6. Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker
Batman Beyond is the sequel series to the beloved Batman: The Animated Series. The show follows an elderly Bruce Wayne as he assists a new Batman as he fights crime in a futuristic Gotham. The series saw the return of many of Batman’s greatest foes except one. The villain was the Joker, and he finally appeared in a feature-length movie. Return of the Joker shows why Joker has been missing all these years and what happens when he makes his triumphant return. This movie is enjoyable all-around and serves as a fantastic finale to the story of Batman and Joker from the animated series. This movie also contains one of the darkest moments to ever come out of anything related to Batman: The Animated Series.
5. Year One
In the ’80s, it was time for Batman to lean away from the campiness of the ’60s and go back to his darker roots. One of the key comics that helped usher in this new era was Year One. This classic Frank Miller story was the basis for many Batman movies to come, receiving a straight adaptation in the form of animation. Year One follows Bruce Wayne as he makes his debut as Gotham’s protector. Also featured is James Gordon, a new lieutenant who plans on cleansing the GCPD of corruption. This movie is just as beloved as the comic, and has even received a recent anniversary 4K release, meaning now is a great time for fans to check out one of the best Batman movies.
4. The Dark Knight Returns
Another Frank Miller Batman story that changed the Dark Knight forever is The Dark Knight Returns. This classic comic was at one time a highly requested adaptation. However, unlike The Killing Joke, Dark Knight Returns delivered. The story sees an older Bruce Wayne who has long since retired from crime-fighting. In Batman’s absence, crime has reached an all-time high, and a street gang known as The Mutants has left the city in fear. Bruce decides it is time to suit up, and Batman once again takes back the city. This is one of the gold standards of Batman tales, and the animated movie more than does it justice. Dark Knight Returns is without a doubt one of the best Batman movies.
3. Under The Red Hood
One of the most shocking events in all of the comics was when fans voted for Joker to kill the current Robin, Jason Todd, in 1988. Years later, Batman faced a new threat named Red Hood. Red Hood is none other than Jason, who is now an adult seeking vengeance. This later story arc was adapted into one of the best Batman movies, Under the Red Hood. This adaptation shows how much Jason’s death and return affected Batman. Many believe the best aspect is when Batman’s morality is tested, as he has to choose between the lives of his former sidekick or his greatest enemy.
2. The Long Halloween
Even though Long Halloween is the latest in the animated series, it has quickly become known as one of the best. This two-part movie is based on the legendary comic of the same name. The story follows a young Batman as he must investigate a mysterious killer. This killer, known only as Holiday, only kills on holidays and is targeting members of the mob. This is arguably the best mystery story Batman has ever taken part in, and this adaptation is no different. The movie changes some aspects, so even fans of the comic will not know what twists are coming. Long Halloween also features debatably the best version of Two-Face’s origin story, showing just how tragic the character is. This story was a significant inspiration behind Matt Reeves’ The Batman, so fans of that film will have a lot to love about this one.
1. Mask Of The Phantasm
Mask of the Phantasm is the only one of the animated Batman movies on this list to have been released theatrically. This film is a theatrical continuation of Batman: The Animated Series and has much of the same crew working on it. This is so much more than just a long episode of the series. Mask of the Phantasm is a mystery that pits Batman against his own past. A new killer has emerged that is targeting members of the mob. Batman must figure out who this new threat is while also dealing with the return of a past love. This film also features flashbacks, showing Bruce’s final transformation into the Dark Knight. It has received a massive cult following, and many consider this to be one of the best Batman movies of all time, animated or otherwise.