Batman: The Animated Series is an extremely successful Batman cartoon which originally aired in 1992. The critically acclaimed show was a huge hit with audiences when it first hit television screens and it has retained its popularity to this day.
The series made its debut the same year that Tim Burton’s Batman Returns arrived in cinema screens, and took some inspiration from Burton’s interpretation of the Caped Crusader. However, over the course of time, Batman: The Animated Series would go on to influence the movie series, with storylines and ideas that were later adapted into live-action.
Below is a list of episodes of Batman: The Animated Series which contain story beats that have also featured in live-action Batman movies. These episodes are perfect for fans of the films, and show different ways in which some ideas and themes have been explored.
For the purpose of this list, I’ve listed two-part stories together as one.
Feat of Clay – Part 1 & 2
First up is the two-part story, Feat of Clay which introduces the character Matt Hagen, who becomes the shapeshifting villain, Clayface. This episode sees Hagen addicted to a face cream called Renuyu, which seemingly has miraculously transformative abilities.
If you have watched the 2004 movie, Catwoman, this might sound a little familiar. In Catwoman, the cosmetics company, Hedare Beauty produce a skin cream called Beau-line, which has the ability to reverse ageing.
Both creams have deadly side-effects and become an important plot point in their respective storylines.
Although Feat of Clay does not feature Catwoman, this two-part adventure is extremely compelling, and also very tragic. It is one of the best two-part episodes of Batman: The Animated Series.
Two-Face – Part 1 & 2
Next up is another two-part story, this time detailing the origin of Two-Face, better known as former District Attorney Harvey Dent. In this double-episode, Harvey’s journey from upstanding member of society to tragic villain is explored in great, psychological detail.
Two-Face’s origin has been covered in the live-action movie, The Dark Knight (2008), as well as Batman Forever (1995), but those origins don’t go into as much detail as Batman: The Animated Series does. If you want the story in great detail, then check out the two-part story, Two-Face.
And as a side note, during a climactic showdown between Batman and Harvey Dent in Two-Face, Harvey pulls out a coin to help him decide how to deal with the Caped Crusader. To disable Two-Face, Batman throws a number of coins in Harvey’s path to stop him from seeing the result of his coin toss. A similar idea was used during the climax of Batman Forever.
Heart of Ice
Prior to 1992, Mr. Freeze was just a regular villain. However, in the episode, Heart of Ice the character was given a tragic backstory (a recurring theme in Batman: The Animated Series) which introduced his wife, Nora Fries.
This backstory was reworked for the 1997 live-action movie, Batman & Robin. In fact, all of Mr. Freeze’s origin was lifted from the show.
Beware the Gray Ghost
This episode does not feature story beats that have appeared in a live-action movie, however I have included it on the list because of one specific cast member – Adam West. The former Batman star, who appeared in the 1966 Batman TV show, as well as spin-off film Batman: The Movie (1966), plays a large role in this tale which focuses on a former television star who has fallen on hard times.
Beware the Gray Ghost is an outstanding piece of television which offers an affectionate nod to the Adam West-era of Batman stories. It is a must-watch for any Batfan or those who adored Adam West.
Batman: The Animated Series was responsible for introducing a number of key characters and storylines into the Batman mythology. One of these was Harley Quinn who was an original character created purely for this show.
Harley’s origin was touched upon a couple of times in the series, before it was finally laid out in detail in the episode Mad Love. If you have watched the movie, Suicide Squad (2016) then you will be familiar with Harley’s backstory, which links all the way back to Batman: The Animated Series.
Dreams in Darkness
The majority of the episode, Dreams of Darkness focuses on Bruce Wayne and his unexpected descent into madness at the hands of the Scarecrow. However, towards the end of the episode it is revealed that the Scarecrow has a plan to disperse his fear toxin into the water system of Gotham City.
In the movie Batman Begins (2005), Ra’s al Ghul works with the Scarecrow to terrorise Gotham City. His plan is to cause mass fear and panic throughout the city, by introducing a fear toxin into the water system.
Different stories, but the same plot point.
The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
In The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne, Dr. Hugo Strange uses a mind manipulation device to discover Bruce Wayne’s secret connection to Batman.
A similar idea was utilised in the movie, Batman Forever in which the Riddler uncovers Batman’s secret identity through mind manipulation.
And finally, in The Mechanic the origin of the Batmobile is explored through an introduction of Batman’s go-to mechanic, Earl. But that’s not what I want to focus on here – instead, I want to highlight one of the core elements of this episode which revolves around the Penguin.
In The Mechanic, the Penguin takes control of the Batmobile, trapping the Caped Crusader in a vehicle he can no longer control. In the movie, Batman Returns, the Penguin gains control of the Batmobile, and yep, you guessed it – he takes Batman on a deadly ride through the streets of Gotham.
While the content of the episodes featured above differs greatly from the live-action films, there are clear influences between Batman: The Animated Series and the live-action movies. The eight episodes I have selected above are great stories in their own right, but are perfect for fans of the films who want to explore the origins of some of these tales.