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Aside from The Simpsons, I’m pretty sure that Batman: The Animated Series is the greatest American cartoon that we’ve ever had. There was just something about it where you knew, even as a kid, that it was special. In fact, when it comes to Batman in general there are some fans (myself included) who would argue that the ‘90s cartoon was the best Batman has ever been in his 77 years as a character. And, there were just so many outstanding episodes that it’s kind of difficult to pick the very best episodes of the series.
But, that’s what I aim to do here today. Out of the 85 episodes and two seasons, I have boiled this list down to the 10 best episodes. What makes these the 10 best? Well, I think it all comes down to the ones that I think most fans would agree upon, two of which even won Emmys they were so excellent. Now, keep in mind, even though there were two seasons of the highly regarded cartoon, Season 1 had a whopping 65 episodes, and all the picks on this list come from that season.
I’m also including two-parters as one single ranking, since those story arcs were completed in those two episodes. So, with that said, let’s get to it. And, yes, I hear you Avatar fans who think THAT’S the best American cartoon. Don’t worry. I covered the ten best episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, too. I also love Avatar, but this list is all about the Bat! Let’s get to it!
Oh, and no major spoilers. If you haven’t watched the series, you can see all of these episodes on HBO Max.
10. “Two-Face: Parts 1 and 2,” Episodes 10 and 11
Spoiler alert for a 13-year-old movie, but one thing I disliked about The Dark Knight was the addition of Two-Face. It’s not that he was bad. It just felt like he needed to be in his own movie, because Two-Face is a very complex character. You get to see that complexity play out fully in “Two-Face: Parts 1 and 2” where we see the good Harvey Dent, running for re-election, and then “Big Bad Harv,” which is the psychopathic side that he’s trying to hide. It’s brought out in grand fashion when he’s physically scarred in a chemical plant explosion.
What makes this two-parter superb is the way it tackles multiple personalities. Moon Knight fans will only be so lucky if the new Disney+ show handles that character’s Dissociative Identity Disorder this well. We see Harvey Dent really struggling with his second personality, and Batman, who knows Harvey Dent personally, wants to do everything in his power to help his friend, only to find that it might be hopeless. We get a full arc in these episodes, and it’s just two great examples of how adult this “kid’s show” could be.
9. “Beware the Gray Ghost,” Episode 18
You know the saying, “Don’t meet your heroes”? It’s meant to imply that the people you look up to are really just human and will likely be a colossal disappoint once you meet them. Well, in this stellar episode, Batman gets to not only meet his hero, The Gray Ghost, who is voiced by none other than the first TV Batman, Adam West, but he even gets to work with him. After the Gray Ghost sells off some of his merch because he’s strapped for cash, somebody starts using one of the items in malicious ways, and Batman and the Gray Ghost need to stop him.
This episode is fantastic because we learn about the happier days of Bruce Wayne’s childhood, where he himself had a hero. This episode is also, in a way, super meta since it reflects our love of watching Batman, and how even Batman has his own hero to look up to. It’s a sweet episode.
8. “The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne,” Episode 37
What happens when a superhero’s secret identity gets revealed? Well, unlike Tony Stark, who flat out just revealed who he was at the end of the first Iron Man, Batman wants to keep his identity a secret. That plan gets dashed when he goes to a vacation spot, and Dr. Hugo Strange learns who he really is. Not only that, but once he finds it out, he’s willing to sell the information to the top bidder. Drama ensues.
This is a great episode, because this really would happen if superheroes existed and their identity was exposed, as this information would be worth top dollar. There’s a nice little twist at the end, and the episode is just well-written, overall. Plus, I like this version of Hugo Strange. He’s sinister, but not too sinister. It’s a cool interpretation of the character.
7. “Blind as a Bat,” Episode 59
The what if Batman was Daredevil episode, Batman is blinded at an air show by the Penguin, and he finds a way to “see,” because he can’t rest while the Penguin is still on the loose.
This is a very harrowing episode. Batman’s face alone when he’s blinded is quite terrifying. But, it’s also a very empowering episode as well, because while being blind is a challenge, this episode proves that any obstacle can be overcome, even the loss of one of the most vital senses.
6. “The Man Who Killed Batman,” Episode 51
Picture this. You pride yourself on being one of the greatest criminal masterminds in all of Gotham City, and your greatest nemesis, the Batman, seems like an indominable force. Half your time is just finding ways to try to kill him, but you can’t do it. Then, some nobody kills Batman BY ACCIDENT. That’s the plot of this phenomenal episode where the guy who “kills” Batman is derided and loathed by every villain in Gotham City for being the one who “killed” the Bat.
This is one of the more comical episodes of the series. The Joker, who is undoubtedly Batman’s greatest villain, is really great in this one, since he’s super pissed off that HE wasn’t the one who killed Batman. It’s an episode that really begs the question, what’s your ultimate purpose in life, and what if somebody else took it from you, purely by accident? It’s great in its life-is-one-big-cosmic-joke approach to storytelling.
5. “Robin’s Reckoning: Parts 1 and 2,” Episodes 32 and 33
Revenge! Everybody knows Batman’s story about how his parents were murdered, but not everybody knows that Robin’s story parallels Batman’s in that he, too, was orphaned at a young age. Well, in this two-parter, we learn about that history of how Robin came to live with Batman, and we also see Robin struggling with the idea that Batman is keeping the murderer of his parents from him so he doesn’t seek vengeance. It’s a great couple of episodes.
In fact, Part 1 was so great, that it even won a Primetime Emmy Award. A lot of emotions are packed into these two episodes, and it all crescendos with a very emotional turn from Batman that you rarely get to see, on either the big screen or the small. This episode hits hard.
4. “Feat of Clay: Parts 1 and 2,” Episodes 20 and 21
This is like the drug addiction episode. Bruce Wayne is framed, but it turns out it was a famous actor who can change his face to look like anybody else’s. When things go awry after the actor is given too much of the chemical that gives him this gift, he turns into the goopy, disgusting mess known as Clayface. It sounds like one of your run-of-the-mill bad guy transformation episodes, but it’s actually super tragic.
I’ll never forget the way this episode ends with all the TV screens. This is a potent episode about wanting too much, and yet, wanting so little that it seems like too much. Batman is very sympathetic in this episode, and you truly feel for the villain. Plus, Clayface is just one of Batman’s coolest antagonists, and one who I’d love to see in one of the future live-action Batman movies one day. Please?
3. “Perchance to Dream,” Episode 30
I love anything about dreams, so you know I’m a big fan of this episode, where Bruce Wayne wakes up one day to find that everything in his life has changed. He’s no longer Batman, his parents are alive, and he’s engaged to Catwoman. Sounds perfect, right? Then why is Bruce Wayne so troubled by all of this? This is a really creepy episode, and probably the closest the show ever got to being like The Twilight Zone.
Probably one of the most unsettling episodes, there is one scene in particular that has always stuck with me, and it pertains to reading books in dreams. That’s all I’ll say about it, but this episode gives me the chills.
2. “Heart of Ice,” Episode 14
Another Emmy Award Winner, this episode tackles one of Batman’s most tragic villains, Mr. Freeze. In another episode where Batman tries to prevent somebody from murdering their enemies, Batman must stop Mr. Freeze before he kills the person who ruined him and basically killed his wife. It’s a tear-jerker.
If anything, I think that “Heart of Ice” fully legitimatizes Batman: The Animated Series as one of the most mature cartoons aimed at children, because the subject matter is so melancholy. I would call this episode the show’s finest moment, but there’s one more episode that I think is greater. And that would be …
1. “Almost Got ‘Im,” Episode 46
The Penguin, The Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, and Killer Croc play Poker together, and talk about the times they almost killed the Batman.
That’s all I’m going to say about this episode. What makes this one so great is the stories within the story, as well as the way it humanizes these villains to the extent that they all just hang out and chill together. But, the ending of this one is what makes it legendary. Please, just watch this episode. Trust me on this one. It’s the best.
Those are the top 10 episodes. But what do you think? Sound off in the poll below. For news on upcoming DC movies or even the best Batman: The Animated Series villains, make sure to swing by here often.
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Lover of Avatar (The Last Airbender, not the blue people), video games, and anything 90s, he will talk your ear off about Godzilla, so don't get him started.
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