Nowadays, you don’t have to go too far to stumble across an animated Batman movie. The character has been adapted into animation countless times, either in solo stories or as team-up tales with other heroes.
In fact, Batman has appeared in so many movies that it is no longer the case of trying to find a film featuring the Caped Crusader, it is more the case of trying to find the right film with the Caped Crusader. And that’s where this post comes in handy.
Today I am taking a look at six animated Batman movies that everyone should watch. These are films that collectively showcase who Batman is – from heroic Caped Crusader, to brooding Dark Knight and everything in between.
The movies that are listed below tell vastly different stories, use a range of animation techniques, and make it clear that as a character, Batman can be shaped and moulded as the writer sees fits. This isn’t a list of the ‘greatest’ Batman stories ever told, but rather a list of movies that offer different interpretations of the Dark Knight.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Released theatrically in 1993, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is often referred to as ‘the best animated Batman movie of all-time’. Why? Because a.) it offers up a note perfect take on the Dark Knight and b.) it details the character’s origin while introducing a new, compelling villain.
Many have seen this movie, but for those who haven’t it is must see material. To truly understand who Batman/Bruce Wayne is, what drives him, and what sacrifices he must make in order to be the best hero possible, you need to watch this movie.
Mask of the Phantasm is a back-to-basics Batman adventure loaded with story and a real insight into what life is like as a brooding hero. It presents a classic version of the character, in the best possible way – through strong animation and good storytelling.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
Onto movie number two and this time it is a film which shows the opposite end of Batman’s career. While Mask of the Phantasm depicts the early adventures of Batman, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker demonstrates what it is like for Bruce Wayne during his twilight years.
In this story, Bruce Wayne is no longer Batman, that particular position is filled by Terry McGinnis. However, Bruce still plays a very important role in ensuring Gotham City’s safety, especially when villains like the Joker are back on the scene.
Return of the Joker is a must-watch movie because it offers up a look at what Bruce Wayne’s life is like post-Batman. It also details one of the darkest moments in the Caped Crusader’s history, and showcases that Batman is more than just one man – the ideals he represents can be passed on to the next generation.
Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
Batman: Gotham Knight is a unique entry on this list, because instead of offering just one tale this anthology film presents six short stories. The shorts – Have I Got a Story for You, Crossfire, Field Test, In Darkness Dwells, Working Through Pain, and Deadshot – are produced by four different Japanese animation studios, resulting in a patchwork piece that is like no other Batman movie.
In its 76-minute running time, Gotham Knight effortlessly demonstrates how Batman can be translated to film with wildly different results, all depending on who is putting pen and pencil to paper. The movie is visually stunning, with stories that will connect with different audiences for different reasons, and make it clear that Batman comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Justice League: Doom (2012)
Movie number four is on this list for one very specific reason – it looks at the way in which Batman’s mind works. Let me explain.
In Justice League: Doom, the League is being targeted by a group of villains. The villains know all of the League’s weaknesses, and have devised an almost fool-proof plan to disable the team.
Answer: It’s not their plan – it’s Batman’s plan (they’ve simply stolen it).
Batman values his place within the Justice League, but he also understands that he works alongside the most powerful beings on the planet. The only true way to protect the world from threats, is to devise a contingency plan that accounts for every super power – even if those powers belong to his colleagues.
You want to get into the mind of Batman? Then you must watch Justice League: Doom to understand the lengths Batman will go to, to ensure everyone is safe.
The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Batman has a reputation for being a dark avenger, but there are many, many stories in which Batman is a much lighter, more approachable hero. This light version of the character is just as popular as the dark take on Batman, and as such if you want to see Batman from every angle then you must view one of these lighter tales.
The best of the bunch? The Lego Batman Movie, which borrows from both the light and dark sides of his mythology to serve up a fun film, which sits somewhere in the middle. The Lego Batman Movie is packed with heart, character, and lots and lots of villains.
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)
And finally, no tour through the different facets of Batman would be complete without an Elseworlds tale – an alternative universe story which sees Batman reworked for a different era. In Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, Batman is still a caped avenger, but this time his stories take place during the days of Jack the Ripper.
This film appears on this list because it is a great example of how the basic premise and core values of Batman can easily be picked up and transported to a different period. As such, it becomes clear that Batman is a character who is more than just a super hero, he is a literary icon that can be adapted and re-adapted to fit any story, any place, and any time.
The six best animated Batman movies everyone should watch are:
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
- Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
- Justice League: Doom (2012)
- The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
- Batman: Gotham Gaslight (2018)
Should you want to watch further animated movies that offer up completely different takes on the character, I recommend you check out:
- Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018)
- Batman Ninja (2018)
- Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)
Batman has appeared in a long and ever-expanding collection of animated features, with many great titles to choose from. The six that I’ve showcased in this post are the movies which I feel best represents the different facets of the character, while at the same time ensuring an entertaining experience.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you would like to learn more about the animated Batman movies, I recommend you check out my post: ‘The best order to watch animated Batman films’. This post will provide you with a rundown of every animated Batman adventure – from his time in the DC Animated Universe through to his feature-length escapades with Scooby-Doo and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.