Opinions differ, but if you were to ask a Batman fan what show they hold dear to their heart, it’s this one. Drawing inspiration from Tim Burton’s Batman vision comes a gangster-noir series that would leave its stamp forever. Let’s go through the best episodes of Batman: The Animated Series
As I said, opinions differ. The show is so good that there is no definitive top 10 list. Let’s take you through some of my favorite episodes that embody its themes while leaving a notebook for future incarnations.
“On Leather Wings”
One of the first episodes to air, a perfect introduction to the overall tone of the series. During its air dates, the studio would sometimes cater to episodes like “Christmas with The Joker” for its younger target audience. While episodes like this were for the adults.
Each season had its themes, with the first one focusing heavily on Gotham’s trust in the caped crusader. “On Leather Wings” enforces this with the public and most of the GCPD not knowing Batman very well. Does he kill? Is he friend or foe?
After trail’s that led to Batman’s M.O., our hero is faced with being framed by a being not yet discovered. This gritty entry to the series is great for understanding the early days of Gotham under the cape.
“Two-Face” Part 1 and 2
A textbook reinvention of the character, this two-part story gives us an emotional and in-depth origin of Harvey Dent’s other side. Taking place in a Gotham still filled with crime lords with not many of Batman’s rogues taking over just yet.
During Harvey’s successful political run, crime lord Rupert Thorne who of which is Dent’s target discovers a dark secret that could ruin the campaign. Forced to meet Thorne to settle scores, things turn bad real fast. Both episodes are ruled with emotion given the show establishes Bruce and Harvey’s friendship early on. Can Bruce save his best friend before it’s too late?
It’s hard to choose just one Joker episode, but this one takes the cake. A great dive into how vicious the character is regardless of the show’s rating. Mark Hamill is the perfect mix of clown and psycho of all portrayals. It was also the introduction of Harley Quinn, who quickly became such a favorite DC put her into the comics. Judging by how much of a household name she is now, this is an essential episode for all your Batman watch parties.
Charlie Collins, a man seeking a new outlook on life, chooses the wrong guy to cuss out on the highway. After being hunted, Joker offers Collins a haunting deal.
This nicely written piece offers a look at how the clown prince operates before he delivers the punch lines.
“Heart of Ice”
The beautiful tragedy of Victor Fries. Another reinvention that stole the hearts of many people. If you’re not the biggest fan of Mr. Freeze, this story might change that. How do you take a character no one cared about and make them one of the best? You humanize them.
There’s no possible way I could sell this episode and do it justice, you just have to watch it. The different directions and powerful storytelling brought acclaim that put the series on its deserving pedestal.
“Beware the Gray Ghost”
You can’t truly evolve without respecting the past. The Gray Ghost is a story about Bruce Wayne’s early hero inspiration and the power of the difference one person can do.
When a pair of bombings site the similarities of an old tv show, Batman revisits some actual good memories from his childhood. It reminds us about all the different ways someone can be a hero.
Naturally, it was great to see a mutual connection between the current Batman Kevin Conroy and the original one Adam West, who also voiced the Gray Ghost. Having Bruce team up with his hero and Conroy’s connection with West, added a sense of evolution for the franchise.
“Perchance to Dream”
Yet another reason why the series is so top tier is because it explores every important stage of Bruce’s life. Unlike other adaptations which mainly focus on his past. Perchance to Dream gives us a scoop of Bruce’s “perfect” life aka without Batman.
Waking up from an injury during his night out, Bruce has been caught in his own mystery. His parents are still alive, the bat-cave not existent and his soon-to-be partner Selina Kyle. Almost doesn’t feel real, perhaps it isn’t.
A darker, more realistic episode focusing on the truth of Bruce Wayne. Deep down he’ll always need Batman, he is Batman. There’s no such thing as a life without the cape. With great pace and an even better twist, a memorable entry among the best episodes of Batman.
“Almost Got ‘Im”
To nobody’s surprise, it’s on the list. It’s so favorited there’s a board game for it. The Joker, Two-Face, The Penguin, Poison Ivy and Killer Croc playing poker. Enough said.
The episode is told from the point of view of the villains all sharing stories about how they almost killed Batman. From one flashback to another, they compare who’s was most effective. Joker goes last of course reminding us why he’ll always be 1st to Bats.
In a twist, you won’t see coming, enjoy the art for what it is as a timeless piece that still holds up today among the best episodes of Batman.
“Harley and Ivy”
The first team-up between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy comes in the form of as you expect, chaos. A lighter-toned story that sheds Harley from The Joker and puts her with a more experienced influence in Ivy.
The two spend the episode getting away with schemes with nobody holding them back. The more crimes they do, the more aware Gotham becomes of the new duo. As The Joker finds their whereabouts, Batman has more to handle on his plate. Topping this off was a nice protagonist role they gave officer Montoya making her the one who apprehends them.
“If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?”
Like Freeze, The Riddler was another comic book character not taken seriously until adapted into this show. The costume, persona, riddles, you name it. Creating a whole new character in a sense, making him a worthy villain for the caped crusader.
Edward Nygma seeks revenge in his own way taunting his former boss and leaving riddles for Batman and Robin to solve. The duo has to think fast while playing Nygma’s game or else it leads to deadly consequences. This is definitely one of the best episodes of Batman.
Where Harley’s backstory began and shined a big light on domestic violence. Before being an episode, Paul Dini wrote a novel about it in 1994. Quickly becoming one of the best source materials anyone can read from the franchise. Harley Quinn went from villain to victim in her time with DC. A side character to her own franchise.
It’s about Harleen Quinzel, a psychologist who falls in love with her patient, The Joker. It focuses on the abuse and shows the manipulation he has on her.
Taking place during the show’s final days, it began to cater to older audiences a bit more. Use of violence and blood was utilized in this last season. It’s like the characters were growing with its audience who were with them since the early 90s when it first aired. Therefore, being able to show a graphic story like this one.
Best Episodes of Batman Overall
There are tons more episodes that stand with these, everyone has their take on the series and moments they love. That’s why it’s special. From the early days of crime lords to a packed house at Arkham, Batman: The Animated Series was the step in the right direction for its franchise and a blueprint for all future storytelling.