10 Best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movies and TV Shows, Ranked

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10 Best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movies and TV Shows, Ranked

Since their creation in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) — Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael — have become an iconic and enduring pop culture phenomenon. With their unique blend of martial arts, humor, and camaraderie, the TMNT quickly captured the hearts of audiences, leading to a legacy that has spanned over three decades. The turtles’ initial success in comic books soon translated into a multimedia empire, inspiring many adaptations in movies and television series.

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From the beloved 1987 animated series that introduced the turtles to a global audience to the most recent 2023 reboot, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, which felt refreshing but paid homage to their comic book roots, the TMNT franchise has proven its timeless appeal. With their distinct personalities, adventurous spirit, and unwavering bond, the Ninja Turtles have left an indelible mark on popular culture, influencing countless adaptations and capturing the imaginations of fans.

10 ‘TMNT’ (2007)

Image via Warner Bros.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have disbanded after defeating their old enemy, The Shredder. However, they are forced to reunite when an ancient warrior named Yaotl threatens to plunge the world into darkness by releasing monstrous creatures upon Earth. The turtles must confront these supernatural foes and grapple with their personal internal conflicts and changing dynamics. As they face new challenges and powerful adversaries, they discover the importance of teamwork, family, and their unique abilities.

Critics and audiences appreciated its attempt to reinvigorate the franchise with a more mature approach. The movie’s visuals and action sequences were particularly well-received as it was the first CGI-animated TMNT movie. However, despite its unique animation style and attempt to mature the franchise, TMNT received mixed reactions. Some found the narrative convoluted and underdeveloped and were disappointed with the limited screen time given to certain characters. The departure from traditional designs and the darker tone also polarized audiences, leading to divided opinions about the film’s direction.

9 ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (1990)

Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo in a scene from 1990's 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'
Image via New Line Cinema

The 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie follows the adventures of the four anthropomorphic turtles trained in ninjutsu by their rat sensei, Splinter. They live in the sewers of New York City and battle crime, particularly against their arch-nemesis, The Shredder, and his criminal organization, the Foot Clan. The turtles’ lives become entwined with a journalist named April O’Neil and vigilante Casey Jones as they uncover The Shredder’s nefarious plans to take over the city.

The movie was well-received by audiences and became a surprise hit, grossing over $200 million worldwide. It was praised for its entertaining mix of action, humor, and nostalgia, capturing the essence of the original comic book series. The film’s success led to a resurgence in the Turtles’ popularity and sparked a franchise that continues to endure. And though the movie leaned towards a darker tone, it still had to be family-friendly to be suitable for viewers of all ages.

8 ‘Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (2018-2020)

Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Image via Netflix

The 2018-2020 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series is an animated reboot that follows the adventures of Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo as they battle the Foot Clan and other villains in modern-day New York City. The Turtles, trained by their rat sensei Splinter, face new challenges while uncovering the mysteries of their mutation. Alongside allies April O’Neil and Casey Jones, they strive to protect the city from threats both old and new, including the powerful Kraang and the Shredder.

The series was praised for its modern animation style, character development, and engaging storytelling that appealed to both new and longtime TMNT fans. It successfully captured the essence of the Turtles’ camaraderie while introducing fresh story arcs and compelling villains. Some purists may have had reservations about changes, but the series managed to strike a balance between honoring the original and offering a fresh perspective.

7 ‘Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie’ (2022)

rise-of-the-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-the-movie-cast
Image via Netflix

In 2044, the villainous Krang invaded the Earth and poses a threat to the city and reality itself. To confront this adversary, the turtles sent Casey Jones a few decades back in time to stop the invasion and find the answer that enabled Krang to come to Earth. Filled with exciting action sequences, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie showcases their growth and evolution as they rise to the occasion, reinforcing the importance of unity and embracing their mutant identities.

While Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is a sequel and continuation to the 2018 series of the same name, it is not necessary to watch the 2018 series before watching the 2022 movie. The 2022 movie works as a standalone piece with the exception of a few tweaks, such as the turtles possessing magical powers and Casey Jones’ relationship with the turtles.

6 ‘Turtles Forever’ (2009)

Turtles Forever (2009)
Image via The CW4Kids

The 2009 television movie Turtles Forever unites various iterations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles across different dimensions and decades. The modern-day Turtles encounter their counterparts from the original 1987 animated series, and together, they face a threat from an evil version of the 1987 Shredder. As the Turtles navigate these dimensional crossovers, they must work together to prevent the multiverse from collapsing and preserve their realities.

The movie pays homage to the Turtles’ diverse history, bringing together different versions of the characters while celebrating their impact on pop culture. Turtles Forever offer a nostalgic trip for fans by ingeniously merging various TMNT iterations in a fun and adventurous storyline, from the classic 1987 animated series to the edgier 2003 version. This nostalgic crossover contributes to its charm and demonstrates its ability to pay homage to the Turtles’ rich history while delivering an engaging experience that bridges generations of fans.

5 ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (1987-1996)

original tmnt teenage mutant ninja turtle series
Image via CBS

The 1987-1996 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series follows the classic adventures of the four mutated turtles. This version is known for its lighter tone, humor, and vibrant animation style, leaning more toward comedy and featuring exaggerated characters and colorful villains. Unlike some later adaptations, it often followed a formulaic structure, with standalone episodes and a focus on introducing various mutant characters.

The series stands out as one of the best in the franchise due to its significant impact on pop culture, introducing the Turtles to a global audience and making them a household name. It laid the foundation for the TMNT’s enduring popularity and paved the way for later adaptations. While it may not have delved deeply into complex storytelling, its charm, accessibility, and memorable characters contributed to its status as a beloved and influential part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ legacy.

4 ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (2012-2017)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012-2017 TV Series

The 2012-2017 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television series is an animated reimagining of the iconic TMNT franchise. It follows the adventures of the four turtle brothers and explores their growth, teamwork, and personal struggles while delving into their origins, bond with Splinter, and quest to prevent the world from falling into chaos.

The 2012-2017 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series distinguishes itself with its dynamic 3D animation style, modern character designs, and fresh storytelling approach. It delves deeper into character development, relationships, and internal conflicts, offering a nuanced perspective on the Turtles’ personalities while respecting the core TMNT essence. The voice cast also brought unique voices and interpretations to the characters.

3 ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (2003-2010)

The 2003 animated series version of the Ninja Turtles
Image via Fox

The 2003-2010 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television series arguably stands as one of the franchise’s best for several reasons. The series remains closely linked to the original but also introduces new storylines, which adds originality to its narrative and keeps it fresh. What sets it apart from previous adaptations is its deep dive into the turtles’ personalities, strained relationships, and the evolution of their combat skills.

Its commitment to maintaining a balance between mature themes and humor, along with using new animation techniques, enhanced its visual appeal. Its intricate plots, character-driven focus, and willingness to explore darker themes while still nodding to the original comic books make it a standout in the TMNT franchise.

2 ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’ (2023)

Group photo for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Image via Paramount

As the most recent addition to the TMNT footprint, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem has been dubbed as the best movie of the TMNT franchise due to its masterful balance of nostalgia and fresh storytelling. It pays homage to the beloved characters and their rich history while introducing modern elements that resonate with new and longtime fans.

The film further distinguishes itself from other TMNT movies through its cutting-edge animation and reimagining of the familiar while weaving a complex narrative that delves into their origins and challenges their relationships. Moreover, its star-studded cast, which includes the voices of John Cena, Seth Rogen, Ice Cube, Jackie Chan, and many more notable actors with distinctive voices, plays a pivotal role in its success.

1 ‘Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (2019)

The cast of 'Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'
Image via Warner Bros. Animation

In Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman teams up with the four ninja turtles when Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul join forces to unleash chaos in both Gotham City and New York. The Turtles, along with Batman and his allies, must unite their unique skills to combat this formidable alliance. As the two worlds collide, the heroes face unexpected challenges and confront iconic villains like Joker and Penguin, who have been transformed into mutants.

Based on the comic book miniseries by James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II, the movie drew praise for its faithful adaptation of the character’s personalities and the seamless blend of their respective universes. The film’s animation style, combining the grit of Batman’s world with the vibrant and energetic design of the Turtles, was successfully executed and particularly appreciated. By skillfully weaving together the iconic elements of each franchise and delivering captivating action sequences, witty dialogue, and engaging character dynamics, the movie stood out as a remarkable and highly rated TMNT adaptation that resonated with both fan bases.

KEEP READING:‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’ Finally Gives This Fan-Favorite the Spotlight

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