Batman: The Animated Series: The 25 Best Episodes, Ranked
The 25 Best 'Batman: The Animated Series' Episodes
Over the last 25 years, there have been six Batman movies, multiple cartoons, dozens of toys, at least one massively successful video game franchise, and countless comic books. But it was Batman: The Animated Series — which premiered Sept. 5, 1992 — that provided this era's definitive version of the Dark Knight. Kevin Conroy's layered performance as Batman sounded both dedicated and capable, while Mark Hamill made the Joker both hilarious and terrifying in a way no one else has equaled. Over the course of 85 episodes, almost every major player in Gotham City got a showcase, as Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and the rest of the show's creators streamlined Batman's complicated and tangled history into one comprehensive story universe. In honor of the show's 25th anniversary, here are our 25 favorite episodes, ranked.
(Note: This gallery will follow the season-episode numbering listed on Amazon, where the series is available to stream now, and thus treats The New Batman Adventures — which also turns 20 on Sept. 13 — as season 4)
25. "On Leather Wings" (Season 1, Episode 1)
Right from the beginning, the show had a good sense of aesthetics and genre storytelling, portraying Batman’s battle with his opposite number, Man-Bat, like an old-school horror movie. —Christian Holub
24. "Double Talk" (Season 4, Episode 4)
So often throughout the series, much is made of how Arkham Asylum is basically a revolving door for Batman’s villains. They get out, Batman sends them back in again, and on and on. This episode is the singular example of Bruce actually succeeding at helping one of his enemies (the Ventriloquist) to escape that cycle of violence and depravity. —C.H.
23. "Never Fear" (Season 4, Episode 6)
Of all of Batman's rogues, Scarecrow (Jeffrey Combs) underwent the biggest aesthetic change in the season 4 revamp, becoming more nightmarish in the process. "Never Fear" introduces Scarecrow's new look and also makes a good argument for why Tim Drake (Mathew Valencia) is a great Robin when it falls on him to save the day by saving Batman from himself. —Chancellor Agard
22. "Riddler's Reform" (Season 3, Episode 23)
"Riddler's Reform" is a great example of what makes the Riddler (John Glover) stand out from most of Batman's rogues gallery. Like the Joker, he isn't motivated by money. He's way more interested in the chase and proving to the world, through his Rubik's Cube-like schemes, that he's the smartest person out there, and Batman is his worthiest opponent. Unfortunately, that compulsion is what screws up his attempts at going straight in "Riddler's Reform," which ends with Batman ingeniously outsmarting him yet again. —C.A.
21. "You Scratch My Back" (Season 4, Episode 5)
Of all the season 4 redesigns, no one changed more drastically than the artist formerly known as Robin. But even after Nightwing (Loren Lester) got his own operation and his own badass costume, he still wasn't mature enough to handle everything on his own. Then again, no one is. This episode doubles as a showcase for Nightwing and proof for why, as far apart as they may move, the members of the Bat family still need each other in the end. —C.H.
20. "Baby Doll" (Season 3, Episode 20)
Hot take alert: "Baby Doll," which aired in 1994, is the perfect episode for the TV industry's current revival craze. Written by Paul Dini, who's responsible for some of the series' most poignant installments, this heartbreaking episode is all about the dangers of clinging to the past. It explores the damaging aspects of nostalgia through Mary Dahl, a.k.a. Baby Doll (Alison La Placa), an actress who starred on a hit sitcom many years ago and suffers from a disease that prevents her from aging. No matter how hard she tries — i.e. kidnapping her former castmates and holding them hostage on the show's old set — she can't recapture the magic of the good years and ends the episode crying at Batman's feet. —C.A.
19. "Judgement Day" (Season 4, Episode 24)
Before he became Two-Face, Harvey Dent (Richard Moll) was Gotham's justice-seeking district attorney, and even though he's gone to the dark side, he hasn't lost that part of him. In fact, that side of him returns with a vengeance in "Judgement Day," which sees Harvey's already shattered psyche create a third personality called the Judge, a sword-wielding vigilante, to do what Batman couldn't: eliminate Two-Face and the rest of the Dark Knight's rogues gallery for good. It's rather fitting that the show returned to the tragedy of Two-Face for its final episode because Two-Face is the most important villain in Batman: The Animated Series; he's one of Batman's biggest failures and another reminder of everything he has lost. —C.A.
18. "Harlequinade" (Season 3, Episode 16)
Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) is a complicated character — it’s impossible to reduce her to something so simple as “the Joker’s abused girlfriend” or “smartass blonde.” This episode, in which Batman recruits Harley to help him stop the Joker’s solo plan, shows off her many sides — including her goofiest qualities, seen here mocking the always-serious Batman as he tries to stiffly explain their operation. —C.H.
17. "P.O.V." (Season 1, Episode 7)
Harley Quinn wasn’t the only original character this show introduced to the Batman canon. There was also Renee Montoya (Ingrid Oliu), the passionate police detective with a healthy respect for Batman. "P.O.V" and its Rashomon-style storytelling helped first establish Montoya as a presence, and she only grew from there. —C.H.
16. "Robin's Reckoning" (Season 2, Episodes 4 and 5)
Throughout the show's run, it was never really clear if the writers knew what to do with the Dick Grayson version of Robin, who always felt more like a plot device than an actual character. However, there were moments when things clicked, as they did in the Emmy-winning "Robin's Reckoning," which digs into Dick's origin story with an emotional maturity you wouldn't expect from a children's series and foreshadows the dynamic duo's eventual separation. Growing up, this was one of my favorite episodes of the series and it still is to this day. —C.A.
15. "Mad Love" (Season 4, Episode 21)
An adaptation of Timm and Dini's Eisner Award-winning comic of the same name, "Mad Love" dives into Harley Quinn's origin story and her toxic and dysfunctional relationship with the Clown Prince of Crime. It's tragic but very funny, and it's another great showcase for Arleen Sorkin, who does a fantastic job of differentiating between Harleen Quinzel and her alter-ego. —C.A.
14. "House & Garden" (Season 3, Episode 14)
Almost every appearance by Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) in this series acts as a commentary on patriarchy and the oppressive expectation of heteronormativity. Here, for example, Ivy only gets let out of Arkham once she settles down with a nice husband and gets incorporated into his nuclear family. At least, that’s how it seems — by the end of the episode, Ivy has transformed her white-picket-fence house into a phantasmagoria of body horror so grotesque it could make John Carpenter wince. —C.H.
13. "The Laughing Fish" (Season 2, Episode 6)
The Joker’s list of heinous crimes is long, from the time he beat Jason Todd to death with a crowbar to the time he tortured and crippled Barbara Gordon. But none of those crimes are so uniquely “Joker” as his plot to trademark Gotham City’s fish by branding them with his signature smile. The only thing the Joker loves more than destroying Batman’s loved ones is interrogating the assumptions of society — so why shouldn’t this work? As he puts it, “They share my face! Colonel Whatshisname has chickens, and they don’t even have mustaches!” —C.H.
12. "Shadow of the Bat" (Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2)
In the '90s, Barbara Gordon was confined to a wheelchair as Oracle, so the only place to see Barbara as Batgirl was on Batman: The Animated Series. Barbara (Melissa Gilbert) made her debut in season 2's "Heart of Steel," but she wouldn't go full cape and cowl until "Shadow of the Bat." As is the case with Harvey Dent, spending time with her before she embraced her comic book destiny helped us become invested in her journey. When the time came for Barbara to become Batgirl, B:TAS did a good job of differentiating her from Robin; whereas Robin is beholden to Batman, Batgirl is her own hero and she'll do this job even if Batman and Robin tell her no, which they both try to do in this episode. This is the perfect introduction to Batgirl, who would take on a much bigger role in season 4, which features more of Batman's partners. —C.A.
11. "Beware the Grey Ghost" (Season 1, Episode 18)
Ever since he was first created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, the Dark Knight has been handed down from one generation of creators to the next. Everyone does it differently (Frank Miller’s grim-and-gritty dark hero is a far cry from Grant Morrison’s psychedelic yogi) but nobody does it wrong. The least you can do is pay respect to those that came before, which is what makes this loving tribute to the late Adam West feel so sweet. —C.H.
10. "Second Chance" (Season 3, Episode 24)
B:TAS was often at its best when it found ways to explore both Batman and Bruce Wayne, and that's one of the reasons Harvey Dent is probably the show's best villain because it allowed the series to do that since Harvey was Bruce's best friend first before he became Two-Face. The show returns to that well in "Second Chance," which sees Bruce fighting to make sure Harvey has a surgery that could put him back on the path of rehabilitation. It's one of the few times we see Batman personally invested in a fight against a bad guy, to the point that he actually drops the Batman voice when he offers Harvey a choice, "The coin or me?" Unfortunately, Harvey chooses neither. —C.A.
9. "Sins of the Father" (Season 4, Episode 2)
The B:TAS version of Tim Drake is not exactly the same as the comics; the show creators basically combined aspects of Tim’s Robin with that of Jason Todd — notably the famously murdered Robin’s aggressive personality and tendency to fall in with the wrong crowd. Tim’s introduction was not the first episode of the revamped New Batman Adventures season, but his decision to continue the Robin legacy is what really marks the start of a new era. —C.H.
8. "The Demon's Quest" (Season 3, Episodes 4 and 5)
Perhaps the most unexpected development of Batman mythology in the 21st century has been the sudden centralization of Ra’s al Ghul. In the wake of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, every Batman origin story (and even some Green Arrow origin stories) depict him training with Ra’s as a formative experience on his way to donning the cape and cowl. The B:TAS version of Ra’s (David Warner) is a nod back to earlier versions of the character — here he still goes insane from the restorative powers of Lazarus Pits and is dedicated to a program of eco-terrorism — but making Batman’s encounters with him feel so epic and romantic surely helped solidify Ra’s position in the mythos, laying the groundwork for his future takeover. —C.H.
7. "Almost Got 'Im" (Season 2, Episode 18)
Most of the episodes on this list are incredibly sad, because Timm and Co. loved mining Batman mythos for all of its pathos. But what makes the series stand apart from pretty much every other recent adaptation is that it never forgot to have fun with the Caped Crusader as well. Case in point: "Almost Got 'Im." Humor abounds as Poison Ivy, the Joker, Two-Face, Penguin (Paul Williams), and Killer Croc (Aron Kincaid) gather to play poker and share stories about the times they almost killed Batman. Dini hits gold by digging into the more comical aspects of Batman's rogues, from Two-Face trying to kill Batman by strapping him to a giant penny to Killer Croc's hilarious brag that "I threw a rock at him!" Bat-Cat 'shippers will also get a kick out of Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau) saying "Almost got 'im" to herself after Batman rebuffs her advances yet again because he needs to grapple off and stop another bad guy. (P.S.: There's a card game based on this episode you should definitely check out) —C.A.
6. "Perchance to Dream" (Season 2, Episode 1)
It's easy to dismiss It's a Wonderful Life-esque stories because we've seen them done so many times to the point that they feel cliché; however, "Perchance to Dream," which is essentially Batman: The Animated Series' take on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' seminal Superman story "For the Man Who Has Everything," is the exception because of the emotional depth it displays. The Mad Hatter uses Batman's heart's desire against him, trapping him in a dream where his parents never died and thus he never became Batman. However, Bruce doesn't give into this temptation and rejects this world, choosing his dark crusade instead, which is one of the most heroic and heartbreaking things we'll ever see him do on the show. Furthermore, this episode is also a showcase for Kevin Conroy, who voices not one but three characters: Batman, Bruce Wayne, and Thomas Wayne. —C.A.
5. "Heart of Ice" (Season 1, Episode 14)
What's left to be said about this Emmy-winning episode that hasn't been said in the 25 years since? Written by Dini and directed by Timm, "Heart of Ice" is the episode you make your friends watch to convince them this is not just another children's animated series. It's a sympathetic exploration of how a heartbreaking loss can drive someone to madness, which ties into the show's overall concern with vengeance and justice. Mr. Freeze (voiced here with cold perfection by Michael Ansara) wants revenge for his hypocritical corporate boss' crimes against against him and his wife, which isn't too dissimilar to Bruce "I am the night! I am vengeance!" Wayne's own crusade (obviously Batman is trying to aid the rule of law and not transgress it). Before "Heart of Ice," Mr. Freeze was a punchline of a villain, but afterwards, he became this tragic and empathetic figure, and the show's backstory was integrated in the comic. Watching "Heart of Ice" now makes the arch portrayal of Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin even more disappointing. —C.A.
4. "Harley and Ivy" (Season 2, Episode 28)
Although much of B:TAS is purposefully anachronistic and often seems to be set sometime in the mid-20th century, it’s hard to miss all the ways ‘90s pop culture seeped in. Most memorably, the show reconfigured the plot and themes of Thelma & Louise to create a unique friendship between supervillains Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Harley and Ivy complement each other so well (including the priceless detail that Ivy alone is immune to the Joker’s laughing gas) you’re basically rooting for them by the end — especially when they shush a couple catcallers with a bazooka. —C.H.
3. "Two-Face" (Season 1, Episodes 10 and 11)
Timm and the rest of the team managed to have the best of both worlds when it came to Two-Face. Like Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight, their Harvey Dent is riven by tragedy and stands as a stark reminder of Batman’s failure to save his own friends. But like Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever, their Two-Face is also obsessed with gimmicks themed around the number "2." The combination of cartoonish villainy with real pathos makes Two-Face one of the show’s most compelling villains — perhaps second only to the Joker. That’s why you’ve seen him on this list so many times already. For full impact, the show introduced Dent early as one of Bruce’s few real friends, making his eventual fall (portrayed tragically here in the show's first double-header) so devastating it haunts Bruce for the rest of the show. —C.H.
2. "Over the Edge" (Season 4, Episode 12)
This is how you do a "it was an all just a dream" episode. Written, of course, by Dini, "Over the Edge" is a thrilling half hour that takes the viewer on an emotional rollercoaster as Barbara Gordon, who was doused with Scarecrow's fear toxin, has a vivid nightmare in which she dies while out in the field as Batgirl. Her death pushes her father over the edge and he embarks on a vengeful crusade to bring Batman, Robin, Nightwing, and anyone who helps down. He's so desperate that he eventually hires Bane to get the job done, which leads to one of the series' most brutal fight scenes. It's clear from the outset that this is all a dream, but that doesn't make it any less engrossing. Because Dini grounds the story in Barbara and Jim's relationship, this dream has consequences for the real world: Barbara wakes up and realizes she needs to tell her father she's Batgirl, which is one of the show's most tender scenes ever. One of the best things about season 4 is how it expanded the show's scope by focusing more on Batman's partners and making them just as fleshed out as him, and this episode is a great example of that strength. —C.A.
1. "The Man Who Killed Batman" (Season 2, Episode 23)
By temporarily removing Batman from the action, this Dini-penned episode shows how much the Dark Knight means to Gotham’s citizens in various ways. Perhaps no one is more offended by Batman’s apparent death than the Joker, who even puts on a fake funeral for his old foe (though he can’t resist planting a “Kick Me” sign on his empty coffin). Above all, the fact that Batman was seemingly killed by a third-rate nobody is what truly infuriates the Joker and crime boss Rupert Thorne. The very idea that accidents happen, that a nameless mortal could disrupt the mythic battles of superheroes and gods, threatens to upend Gotham’s entire fragile psychological ecosystem — at least until Batman returns at last to bring justice again. —C.H.