I’ve talked in depth about Batman’s theatrical movies, but he’s also had some solid direct to video films that I’ve been itching to talk about for some time. There are currently 25 animated Batman movies that have been released direct to video, and more keep coming every year. Thus, I’m going to keep this post simple, and just rank my current top 10 favorite animated direct to video Batman movies.
#10 “Batman: Assault on Arkham”
One of the most thoroughly entertaining entries is this animated adaption of the popular Arkham video game series. Presented in the style of a Japanese Anime, “Assault on Arkham” revolves around the Suicide Squad as they break into the prison and wreak havoc. The one thing keeping this at number 10 on my list is that Dead Shot is the lead character, while Batman himself is frequently moved over to the sidelines. Still, this animated venture puts the live-action “Suicide Squad” movie to shame with better rounded characters, and a stronger script. With its action-packed plot set in Arkham Asylum, a dark sense of hummer, and no shortage of cool Batman villains on display, "Assault on Arkham", is an imperfect, but highly entertaining entry in the animated Batman cannon.
#9 “Batman: Mystery of the Bat-Woman”
The third and final animated Batman movie to be directly adapted from the 90’s cartoon show, and it’s perfectly decent … although, it’s admittedly not on the same ground as it’s predecessors. When a Mysterious new Bat-Woman arrives on the scene, our hero goes on a mission to discover her identity, before she gets herself (or someone else Bruce Wayne loves) killed. There are some good twists, a thrilling climax, an engaging narrative, and all the good stuff you'd expect from Batman. However, the story was nothing special either, and the villains are very boring. It all adds up to an average, yet competently made Batman venture, and sense it’s the final bow from the classic 90’s series … it’s really something to saver for what it is.
#8 “Son of Batman”
When Batman discovers that his former love Talia Al Ghul bore a child, our dark knight takes it upon himself to raise the boy as his own son, and maybe teach him to be a new partner. It’s an aggressively violent, but competently made entry in the animated Batman saga, and a nonstop thrill ride from beginning to end. With Robin depicted as a vengeful youth, our hero as the conscience that guides him, and Slade as the evil mastermind pulling all the strings, "Son of Batman" is a worthy installment in the saga, and one that breaks away from the common formula’s associated with the character.
#7 “The Batman vs Dracula”
A unique crossover for Batman to say the least, and one that takes full advantage of what could happen when two legendary figures of the night collide. When Batman goes searching for mysterious disappearing people in the city, his trail leads to a covenant of vampires … lead by none other than Count Dracula himself. The chemistry and rivalry between Batman and Dracula is surprisingly well defined in the film, and it’s genuinely exciting to see the two most famous Bat-themed characters going into battle. There’s plenty of nods to the lore of both Batman and Dracula, and some well-placed characters from the Batman universe … including Vicki Vale, who was featured in the 1989 Tim Burton “Batman” movie. The music is dripping with Gothic atmosphere, the animation is stylish, there’s a spectacular dream sequence, everything moves at a fast pace, and its action packed. For the only movie adaption from "The Batman" TV series, it definitely ranks high as … maybe not one of the best, but certainly a personal favorite.
#6 “Batman: Gotham by Gaslight”
In an altar-net Gotham city, a Jack the Ripper type foe is slaughtering the woman of the city, forcing Batman to join forces with Selina Kyle to solve the mystery. However, in this alter-net universe, even Batman’s closest friends may be enemies. Setting both Batman and Gotham City in the Victorian Era was a creative, and very refreshing change of pace. It lends the film to a unique atmosphere, and is strung together with white knuckled action, a competent mystery plot, and some refreshing surprises along the way.
#5 “Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero”
A sudden submarine crash in the arctic shatters any chances for the wife of Mr. Freeze to come out of her frozen comma. Now, the villain has returned to Gotham, and is whiling to take any chance to save her … even if it’s at the coast of Bat-Girl’s life. Mr. Freeze is personally my favorite of all the Batman villains, and this film succeeded in telling a conflicting, even emotional story from his point of view. The only downside is that Batman has little else to contribute, and almost feels like a side character. Despite that, "SubZero" is still a worthy adaption from the classic 90's series, and a high point for one of the franchises greatest villains.
#4 “Batman vs. Robin”
Following after the events of “Son of Batman”, our hero is tying to form a bound with Robin as … not only his new partner, but also his son. Tragically, relations between the two gets strained, all while a mysterious new group of villains called the Court of Owls are taking control of the city from deep within the shadows. To make matters worse, they take Robin under their wing, and force him into a confrontation with the man who raised him. Focusing on complex themes of faith and family-ties over the typical comic-book formula, make this a stand out Batman film. Yet, it's still not without some first-rate visuals, atmosphere, and a menacing group of less popular, but noteworthy villains.
#3 “Batman: Under the Red Hood”
The first standalone animated Batman movie with no ties to a previous TV show, and it thrives to this day as one of his absolute best. When a new armed assassin puts Batman to the challenge, our hero discovers a horrific truth … that a guardian angle from his past has now come back from the dead … as a vengeful demon. It may be predictable, and full of used plot lines from other Batman films, but it’s still dark, brooding, action packed, epic, and full of great character complexity, which helps to make this a terrific gem in the Batman saga.
#2 “Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”
It’s the crossover no-one asked for or needed, yet turned out as one of the most consistently entertaining, creative and special of these animated DC ventures. There’s a self-awareness to the project, like the writers knew how odd this parring was, so they just went all out, with lots of jokes, lots of hard-hitting action, and some wildly creative sequences. I’ve loved both Batman and the Ninja Turtles ever sense I was a kid, yet I never realized how much they work together. Both study in martial arts, both of their main adversary’s command armies of ninja’s, and it’s a real treat to see individual characters work-off each other. Seeing Batman battle with the Shredder is a dream come true, and many of Batman’s adversaries feel like they fit right in with the Ninja Turtles universe. Also, seeing all of Batman’s classic rouges like the Joker, Mr. Freeze, Two-Face and Poison Ivy transform into mutants is something I never knew I wanted, but am so glad I got. If you’re a fan of either the Ninja Turtles or Batman … do yourself a favor, and don’t miss this one … it’s about as entertaining as they get.
Before I reveal my number one favorite, here are some Honorable Mentions …
"The Batman Superman Movie"
“Batman: Bad Blood”
“Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Part 1 & 2)”
“Batman: Year One”
“Batman: The Killing Joke”
#1 “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker”
An absolute masterpiece, as its dark and brooding, but it’s also very exciting, smart and manages to celebrate “Batman Beyond”, as well as the classic “Batman”. The long-established rivalry between Kevin Conroy’s Batman, and Mark Hamill's Joker truly was one for the ages, and this was the event that brought perfect finality to their legacy. However, the movie goes even deeper, focusing on the personal pain and loss that came with adorning the cape and cowl. There’s great focus on the characters, terrific action, and a stunning hero villain conflict at the center. It’s also quiet dark, violent, shocking and intense for a movie adapted from a children’s cartoon. This is a film that should have been released in theaters, because it’s right up there with some of the best Batman adventures ever. Personally, even if you’re not a fan of the “Batman Beyond” TV series, I still highly recommend checking this one out. In my opinion, it’s the absolute best of Batman’s direct to video ventures, and one of his all-time best movies.