Top 5 Picks for Best Batman the Animated Series Episodes

1992-BatmanTheAnimatedSeries-keyartBatman the Animated Series is, if not the best translation of the character to the medium of film/television, the best remembered. BTAS gave us a fully fleshed out Gotham City that existed in perpetual night, populated by not just colorful super-villians, but a collection of characters culled from the golden age of cinema. This show gave many of us our first taste of film noir and with its top-notch voice casting (by the brilliant Andrea Romano), continued the tradition of radio dramas popularized in the 1930 and 40s. The people behind this show took it seriously and gave us a version of Batman that didn’t talk down to its audience, and because of this, we were treated to storylines that where not traditional children’s fare for the time. The writers and artists involved gave Batman the Animated series their best work, which is why the show still holds up today.

I could geek out about this show and its many spinoffs for hours, but I won’t. Instead, I’ve decided to compile a list of 5 of my favorite episodes from the series. It was tough witling it down to just five, but here it goes.

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Joker’s Favor

Poor schlub, Charlie Collins, is driving home from work, only to get cut off in traffic by some jerk. Tired of getting pushed around, he pulls up beside the inconsiderate driver to give him a piece of his mind. The jerk, as it turns out, is the Joker. Rather than murder the poor man outright, Joker decides to keep him under his thumb for years, telling him that a day will come when he will be called upon to perform a favor for The Clown Prince of Crime. Aside from the underrated animated film, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, this episode is perhaps the most terrifying iteration of the Joker in the series.

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Demon’s Quest

One of the many things I love about this show is that it doesn’t always take place in Gotham City, and this two-part episode spans the entire globe. Robin has been missing for two days, when Batman is contacted by Ra’s al Ghul, a powerful man, who informs the caped crusader that he knows his true identity and that he needs Batman’s help to find his daughter, who has been kidnapped by the same people who have Robin. This episode is a grand adventure that includes shades of Lawrence of Arabia and Raiders of the Lost Ark, painting Batman not just as a four-colored superhero, but a world class warrior.

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His Silicon Soul

Blade Runner and Batman. Yes please. This episode is littered with references to the Ridley Scott film and includes actor William Sanderson playing a part similar to J.F. Sebastian, the role he played in Blade Runner. His Silicon Soul finds The Dark Knight in pursuit of a Batman imposter and soon finds himself doing battle with a robotic version of his alter ego. While this episode is a continuation of the Heart of Steel storyline, it dispenses with the robotic conspiracies in favor of a more intimate tale. This episode is dark, philosophical, and leaves you feeling like you just watched a Batman episode as written by Phillip K. Dick.

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Beware the Gray Ghost

This episode gives us a glimpse at Bruce Wayne’s childhood and shows us one of the inspirations behind Batman. We get several flashbacks to Bruce’s favorite television show, “The Gray Ghost”, a program featuring a dashing vigilante who fights injustice. As crimes in Gotham begin mirroring episodes of the show, Batman tracks down hard-luck Gray Ghost actor, Simon Trent (voiced by Adam West) to gain leads in the case. This episode is heartwarming and heart-wrenching as Batman fights crime alongside the childhood hero, who inspired his crime fighting persona.

Perchance to Dream

Perchance to Dream

After tracking criminals to a warehouse, Batman is overcome by a flash of light and a shadowy figure. He awakens at Wayne Manor only to discover that his parents are still alive, he is engaged to Selina Kyle and that he is NOT Batman. Trying to settle in to his new situation  Bruce still has questions about his former life. Was it all a dream? Things get even weirder when he tries to read a book. I won’t spoil it, but this episode remains one of the very best of the series, reflecting the tragic past of Bruce Wayne and his constant yearning for a normal life.

Honorable Mention:

Showdown

Showdown

Showdown begins with Batman’s pursuit of Ra’s al Ghul and this premise serves as an entry into a western tale featuring bounty hunter, Jonah Hex. A flashback to the year 1883 finds Hex in pursuit of a criminal known as Arkady Duvall, and expands into a gritty tale of western justice with steampunk overtones. This episode is a refreshing detour in the series and ends on a note of mercy and respect between al Ghul and the Dark Knight.

Batman the Animated Series remains one of the most enduring presentations of the character ever created. While the show certainly has episodes that are weaker than others, the longevity and quality of the series as a whole is a feat for any program, let alone an animated one. Now if you’ll excuse me, Netflix just posted Justice League and Batman Beyond, so I have some catching up to do.

So these are my picks, what are some of yours? I’d love to hear some of the episodes you enjoy.

About author

Robert Walker
Robert Walker 152 posts

Rob Walker is a writer and filmmaker in Colorado, and is creator of the comedy web series Victorian Cut-out Theatre. He loves horror films and comic books (American Vampire, Jonah Hex, The Flash, Planetary). Rob has been a Sherlockian since the age of ten, is a Dark Tower junky and believes that Indiana Jones is the greatest cinematic hero ever created. You can follow him on twitter at: @timidwerewolf and see his other writings and videos at robwalkerfilms.com