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A Guide To The Best Of Animated Batman

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With Batman Begins now in theaters, I think this is a great opportunity to take a look at the excellent animated versions of Batman that Warner Bros. produced during the 1990’s and beyond. You’ll find that like Batman Begins, the 90’s animated version of Batman is closer to the spirit of the comic books than anything else. Unlike Batman Begins, however, most of these works are suitable for kids.

Batman: The Animated Series
Premiering on FOX in 1992, this stylish show set a new standard for “kids” television. It featured a dark, art-deco look (achieved in part by drawing backgrounds on black paper) and surprisingly serious, intelligent writing. The show had an excellent voice cast with the biggest surprise being Mark Hamill as the voice of The Joker. You’ll never think of The Joker the same way again after hearing Hamill’s chilling performance. This series ran for over 80 episodes and later spawned The New Batman/Superman Adventures on Kids WB.

Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm

This was the first Batman animated movie and it’s the only one to ever receive a theatrical release. Before the release of Batman Begins, Roger Ebert considered this film to be the best Batman movie ever made. Darker and a little more violent than the TV show, it’s also the perfect companion to Batman Begins. In this film, a Batman-esque vigilante known as The Phantasm is killing mobsters and Batman is getting the blame. Batman struggles to solve this mystery while Bruce Wayne deals with the return of a woman from his past. This film offers its own take on Batman’s origins. Given that this film and Batman Begins share a couple of plot elements (the origin of Batman, the woman from Bruce’s past), it’s surprising that Warner Bros. hasn’t yet reissued this film in a special edition on DVD.

Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker
This film is a good example of just how mature the animated version of Batman could be. It’s based on Batman Beyond, the futuristic TV series that has an elderly Bruce Wayne helping a new, teenaged Batman. Just as the title states, Batman’s greatest foe, The Joker, suddenly returns to Gotham City. But how could The Joker return when he’s supposed to be dead? This surprising, action-packed film received some controversy before its initial direct-to-video debut. Warner Bros. edited the film upon release because it wasn’t very “kid-friendly.” After fan outcry, Warner did release the uncut, PG-13 rated version of the film. If you aren’t watching this film with a young child, the PG-13 version is the one to watch.

These three are what I consider the best Batman animated releases. However, the other releases are also worth watching. Batman: Sub-Zero features Mr. Freeze as the bad guy in a movie that is a whole lot better than Batman & Robin. The Batman/Superman Movie is a double-length episode of The New Batman/Superman Adventures and has the World’s Finest working together for the first time. Batman: Mystery Of The Batwoman is the most recent direct-to-video movie release. It features Batman trying to figure out the identity of a new female superhero that takes the Bat name. The Batman, the newest Batman animated show currently airing on Kids WB, is now out on DVD. It features a version of Batman/Bruce Wayne that is younger than the ones of the previous animated shows. Also, you can get your animated Batman fix from the old-school show Challenge Of The Super Friends or the recent superhero hit Justice League.

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  • http://www.booklinker.blogspot.com dean

    Interestingly enough the movie Batman Begins is loosely based on the Frank Miller comic Batman: Year One while the excellent animated Mask of the Phantasm is loosely based on Batman: Year Two.

    Both movies and both comics are excellent.

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/dorksandlosers Tan The Man

    Mask of the Phantasm is a surpringly good movie. I hate Batman Beyond.

  • http://bvbbbbbbbbbbbuy amanda kally

    I love the movie batman it was an insparation, my family and i thourghly injoyed the movie and want 2 see batman again i another sequence.
    i think during the next movie they shoud have a slutty girl !!!!!! ashlee frauenfelder u can contact her on 45711261 and she will share her thoughts to the new movie batman2 thank you amanda kally

  • amanda kally

    hey ashlee has changed her number but it is now 45732713

  • Jimmy Smith

    Up until the recent Batman Begins I would have said that the animated Batman movies are the best Batman ever. The 60s series sucked, The first two movies were good but not great, the second two movies were awful. Mask of the Phantasm was a dark and very well done movie that deserved a theatrical release it got. My favorite is Return of the Joker. Mark Hamil was so chilling, the action was awsome, the plot was intelligent, and it had very clever dark humor “Lets dance Bozo.” The series was one of the best. The worst episodes were pretty good and some were downright great. The new Justice League continues the story and is also excellent. Tell Bruce Timm’s team keep it up its going great.

  • sara

    Thanks for the list, I was going around thinking that I must have missed something from my collection. Mask of the Phantasm is great, watched it as a kid and I still cant get over the themes. and ofcourse the series is the best thing from the batman franchise hands down.

    Why are the hollywood movies pathetic compared to the animation? honestly?

    Batman and Robin was painful to watch, the only Batman movie I purposefully didnt buy because it was just embarassing to sit through.

  • Dhruv

    Add Under The Red Hood to this list.

  • gtrrwyt

    batman beyond was the best animated batman i have ever seen