There are a few things in life that will always be true. Rent is always due, weekends are too short, and Batman is awesome. However, the Dark Knight had a particularly awesome heyday in the 90s with Batman: The Animated Series. From the epic theme song to the groundbreaking animation, this show had everything. This is even where Harley Quinn was first introduced as a character!
Most importantly of all, Batman: The Animated Series was not afraid to take risks. It pulled no punches, literally, and delved into some dark and emotional places. This tied in perfectly with some exceptional writing and a real eye for how to utilize the animated medium. This meant we were treated to some absolutely amazing scenes. There are way too many to list in one place, but here are the best of the best in our opinion.
- Ep: Feat of Clay Part 2
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This one comes right out of the gate for Batman: The Animated Series. It’s the conclusion of the very first two-part episode in series history. We were treated to the creation of the amorphous shapeshifter Clayface, but it is how Batman defeats him that is really special.
For those of you who don’t know: Clayface is the evil alter-ego of actor Matt Hagen (at least in the series). Because of exposure to experimental face cream, Matt mutates into a horrific monster and cannot return to his normal life. Since this is Gotham, he turns to a life of crime and it is up to the Bat to bring him down.
The big question then is…how do you bring down a shapeshifting ex-actor? You go after his ego! Batman lures Clayface into a viewing room and bombards him with images of himself. This causes Clayface to become more and more erratic. He shifts wildly between his old characters and eventually breaks down.
With the fluid shape-shifting animation and the emotional climax, this scene is chilling even before the twist ending! You completely feel for Clayface and understand his pain. The writers sort of humanized the character, which is important as he once was completely human. Again, this was one of the first episodes of the entire series!
Traps and Masks
- Ep: The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
Batman makes a habit of popping up unexpectedly. The appearing and disappearing around Commissioner Gordon is iconic! Yet in this scene, Batman goes full-on “Mission Impossible” by disguising himself as a crime boss.
In this episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Batman faces off against a free agent known as ‘The Interrogator.’ The character has been commissioned to hunt down the Bat and take his cape and cowl. He uses a series of improbable traps to outsmart Batman and eventually ends up with his prize.
All seems lost! But is it? Batman proves once again he is the best by revealing he’s been playing Interrogator the whole time! He teaches him how it feels to be “the interrogated,” rather than the interrogator.
Holy Iterations, Batman!
- Ep: Beware the Grey Ghost
Adam West may have been the best person to ever live. He played a more campy version of Batman in the live-action Batman television series from the 1960s. West has always been a great sport and even returned to voice the character in an animated film shortly before he passed away. Yet this was not the first time West used his voice in an animated Batman project.
In this episode, someone is pulling crimes reminiscent of an old TV show called ‘The Grey Ghost’. The Grey Ghost depicts the adventures of a masked crime fighter and brilliant detective. Sound familiar? It doesn’t take Batman long to make the connection with the titular actor of the show.
Enter Adam West as Simon Trent, who is now retired and selling his Grey Ghost memorabilia. West and Batman team up to take down the imitation villain and learn about the impact the legacy of one person can have.
Touching, clever, featuring two of the best Batmans on TV, this scene is epic.
Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!
- Ep: Christmas with The Joker
This is an article revolving around Batman: The Animated Series, so no list like this would be complete without the Clown Prince of Crime: The Joker. Played to perfection by Mark Hammil, this Joker could easily warrant a list all to himself!
To us, holiday episodes are often the best parts of any TV show. You get to see all sorts of traditions and colorful pageantry blown to insane proportions and it is always a good thing. This Christmas-centric episode of Batman: The Animated Series is no exception!
It starts off with The Joker happily decorating a tree in Arkham Asylum. That in itself just promises good things to come. At this point, Joker leaps onto the tree and it launches like a rocket out through the asylum skylight. What follows may be the best line Robin has ever delivered: “You really think he’s gonna make his move on Christmas Eve?”
Do we think The Joker is going to make a big spectacle on an important holiday? Yes, Robin. Yes, we do.
Joker ends up taking over the airwaves with a Christmas special of his own, reminiscent of old-school variety shows. He is dressed in a festive sweater and even has a captive audience to provide a laugh track. There’s snow, holiday cheer, and even a creepy robotic Santa mounted on a tank.
Merry Christmas, Batman!
Now You See Him
- Ep: See No Evil
Batman: The Animated Series was never afraid to step away from the larger-than-life villains and take a closer look at the subtle evils in everyday people. Sure, when we think of Batman, we often think of his Rogues Gallery. It is the best in comic book history, so it makes sense. Yet not every bad person in this world is a super-villain. That is the message “See No Evil” was trying to send.
A convicted criminal stalks his family after gaining the power of invisibility. It gets spooky as he slowly gets more and more manic. He even abducts his young daughter at one point! However, it can be argued that the best part has to be the opening scene.
A disembodied voice talks to a young girl as objects float around the room. It could be right out of a horror movie and really sets the tone for this unseen adversary.
A World With Waynes
- Ep: Perchance to Dream
Anyone even slightly familiar with The Dark Knight knows that his heroic ways started when his parents were murdered. We don’t often get to see a world where the Caped Crusader is raised by anyone other than his doting butler, Alfred. However, in this episode, we get a glance of the world that could have been when Bruce Wayne comes face to face with his parents!
Batman wakes up after an encounter with a couple of crooks goes awry. Very quickly he can tell something is amiss when none of his secret passageways will open. Alfred doesn’t seem to remember anything about Batman. Then, his dearly departed and doting parents suddenly walk into the room. Neither quite as dead as they should be.
Bruce’s world spirals out of control as he finds himself engaged to Catwoman and even sees another Batman protecting the streets of Gotham. What is absolutely spectacular about this episode are the clues the writers, animators, and even the score have hidden throughout the episode.
Watch carefully and you might just pick up on the twist ending!
Mazes, Riddles, and Batman
- Ep: If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
What’s green and purple and loves puns? It’s the Riddler! This episode happens to be his first in a series of notable appearances in Batman: The Animated Series.
Edward Nygma is completely screwed over by his job. His boss takes his work and exploits it for millions of dollars. Wait, am I suddenly feeling sorry for The Riddler?! Obviously, this corporate take-over drives Nygma to don the green bowler and question mark cane in a bid for revenge. Clearly, Gotham is not a place that fosters the healthy expression of feelings.
Riddler lures his old boss into a deadly maze and it is up to Batman and a computer game-obsessed Robin to make the world safe for capitalism once more!
This episode is full of great moments. Between the wacky Riddler puns and the nostalgic style of video games, there is never a dull moment on screen. Yet it is at the end of the episode where the writing really shines. Though Riddler is outsmarted, he manages to escape. His boss, who has not technically committed any crimes, is sent home by Batman.
It would seem that corporate greed and deception have won out. Until the final scene plays and we see that this greedy man can never rest easy knowing the monster he created could be coming back for him. Truly, this is poetic justice at its best.
Two For One
- Ep: Two-Face – Part II
We jump back into another two-part episode. It’s only fitting because this awesome moment involves the dual-natured Two-Face.
When Gotham’s most prominent district attorney Havey Dent starts acting weird, Batman rushes to help his friend. Harvey slowly unravels as it’s revealed that his repressed anger is becoming a separate personality. The moment is sullied a little when it’s revealed that this personality is called ‘Big Bad Harv’ but you can’t have it all.
Eventually, Harvey suffers a terrible accident which leaves him disfigured. Big Bad Harv takes over and Two-Face arrives on the scene. As cool as Batman villain origins are on their own, what sets this transformation apart is how Batman feels about it. Batman is no stranger to having created his own worst enemies. However, with Two-Face, things are different.
This used to be a good man. He stood for justice and order. Two ideals Batman certainly embodies. Plus, Harvey Dent was a friend of Bruce Wayne’s. We get to see Bruce struggle with a change in his friend and try to figure out how to help him. Ultimately, we see him fail to pull his friend back from the edge.
This struggle is beautifully illustrated in a dream sequence in the second half of the episode. Batman watches his friend literally topple over the edge. Then, after watching Harvey fall, Bruce’s parents look up at him. Two more people he couldn’t save. It is hauntingly well done. It teaches us that sometimes, you cannot stop fate but must still live on.
Who Are You Calling A ‘Dummy’?
- Ep: Read My Lips
Okay, stay with me on this one: Batman fights a ventriloquist. It’s about as crazy as it sounds, but it is all kinds of creepy fun!
There are a lot of weird-themed villains in Batman. Looking at you, Condiment King. It’s a fun part of the lore and leads to some really neat theming in some of the Dark Knight’s enemies. However, a ventriloquist dummy takes things a bit far. Even with other creepy dummies in pop culture, you want to think that Batman could take on a puppet.
We’re not sure why, but somehow this episode makes it work.
As you’re watching things unfold, you have to wonder who is the puppet and who is the puppeteer. A meek and quiet ventriloquist holds a brusk and loud dummy and even implies that he’s being held against his will. You can’t help but question your own preconceptions. Honestly, it’s hard to do this bizarre moment justice. Go watch it to see for yourself!
Growing The Perfect Husband
- Ep: House and Garden
Poison Ivy is and will remain, one of the greatest Batman villains. End of statement. Some fans were dismissive of her in the comics but Batman: The Animated Series truly allowed her to shine.
This red-headed eco-terrorist never fails to bring the green-powered villainy. Due to her sympathetic cause, she walks a blurred line of ethics. This leads to her most amazing moments. ‘House and Garden’ shows Ivy starting a new life after her release from prison.
She’s gotten married, adopted two kids, and seems to genuinely want to get her life together. Due to his past with her, Batman is understandably skeptical. This leads to an investigation into her perfect life and a reveal that is right out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Batman descends into her hidden lair to find that Poison Ivy has been growing clones in order to fake her rehabilitation. It turns out her husband and two sons are all fast-aging plant-creatures. This also means that she is acting like a mom to these plant kids and then becoming their wife when they’re old enough, but let’s not look too closely at that.
The Cabbage Patch kids these creatures ain’t, because they mutate into giant monsters so Batman can take them down with some weed killer.