5. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
This is easily not only one of my favorite DC animated movies, it’s also one of my favorite Joker based stories of all time. As always, Terry McGuiness is a fun character to watch, and remains so even in a movie that is so dark. It’s a dark and gritty world, yes, but it still manages to be a pretty fun movie. The plot is extremely tense, especially with all the mystery surrounding the Joker’s return to Gotham. The resolution of the movie is one that I didn’t see coming, and that is actually a good thing in a movie, at least in my opinion. Yes, it’s a lot of fun to watch, but it’s also a really, really dark movie. Especially the flash backs to when Bruce was still Batman, and the Joker captures Tim Drake. That was some heavy material. However, it was great to see right next to some of the more fun stuff. Return of the Joker manages to capture the best parts of comics. It is both a dark, gritty movie and a good deal of fun at the same time.
4. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
Some of my favorite DC stories stem from Lex Luthor gaining a position of power in a government, among them the comic that this based in and Superman: Red Son. Public Enemies is a dark story, and, again, can be fun. However, what makes this such a great story is that it looks at the role of superheroes in our world, especially Superman. The story is great in this movie, and it’s written quite well, but this movie’s biggest draw is the action. While it doesn’t trade action for story, the action is certainly this movie’s defining feature. There are a lot of great action scenes, from the battle in the graveyard to the Star Labs battle to the battle outside of Luthor’s compounds. All of these action scenes look brilliant, and are all extremely entertaining. And then there’s Power Girl’s side story. I’ve never really been a big fan of her character, however, this is one of the few stories where she actually gets some great character work. Her inner conflict adds a lot to the overall movie, and makes the overall experience far better.
3. Justice League: Doom
Tower of Babel is one of my all time favorite DC events. The four issue mini series both proves that
Batman can take down the entire Justice League, and is also a great story unto itself. However, while Doom is based off of Tower of Babel, it makes quite a few changes that make the movie feel fresh. Yes, it’s Batman’s plans that are stolen, and, yes, the Justice League does go down. However, the way they go down is handled extremely well. Vandal Savage, and his six member Legion of Doom, brings in each of the Justice League’s biggest foes. Each Leaguer gets the spotlight at some point in the movie, which is great. However, it’s not the six main Justice League members that really steal the show here. Rather, the most interesting character in the movie is Cyborg. Not being part of the Justice League, he isn’t a part of Batman’s plans, and, in many ways becomes the key to the League’s victory over Vandal Savage. Also, Vandal Savage’s plan raises the stakes quite high, and it adds a lot of tension to the movie.
2. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Parts 1 and 2)
It’s one of my favorite graphic novels of all time, and it’s nearly perfect translation into the animated movie universe easily makes this list. It’s an extremely dark, and gritty movie, especially once Part 2 rolls around. The Joker stuff is really great in the comic, and seeing it in a movie format actually adds to the effect of this scene. It’s in this movie that the Joker really beats Batman, in many respects. Joker’s pure insanity is extremely dark, yet at the same time, can be fun at times. In the first part, the Two Face segments are really great, and really delve deep into the roots of his character. What this movie does extremely well is the characters. Batman, Robin (Carrie Kelly, who is a lot of fun), Two Face, The Joker, and even Superman, are all characterized extremely well. In addition to this, Batman taking charge in the midst of chaos is great, and this movie is also something of a social commentary, and really embodies the rebellious spirit of Batman. It’s all overshadowed, however, by the final brawl between Superman and Batman.
1. Batman: Under the Red Hood
Under the Red Hood is such a good story because it explores the relationship between Batman and his former sidekicks. It takes place before Tim Drake becomes Robin, but it explores Batman / relationships with both Nightwing and the Red Hood. Sure, Nighwting is only around for the first twenty to twenty five minutes, but his relationship with Batman is still looked in to, and he also serves to lighten the mood. However, Red Hood is really the main focus of the movie, and Jason Todd is certainly a great character in his own right. At this point, Jason has gone completely insane, and, in many ways, is little better than the man that beat him to death for his resurrection by Ra’s Al Ghul. Black Mask is initially really entertaining, however, this movie’s real villain is the Joker, and the movie culminates in an iconic scene in which Jason puts Batman into a situation where he must choose between the Joker and his former sidekick. That scene dissects everything that all three of the characters stand for, which is explored throughout this truly excellent movie.