Without a doubt, Batman is one of the most iconic fictional characters of the past century. Since his first appearance in the 40s, his stories have been retold countless times in various comics, movies, and television shows. With Matt Reeves’ The Batman right around the corner with a new take on the character, it may be a good idea to get a crash course, so you’re not completely lost. So here are five animated Batman films to watch before seeing The Batman!
1. Batman: Year One
Every hero has to start somewhere. Batman: Year One tells the story of Bruce Wayne’s early days of crime-fighting, including his return to Gotham after training, his transformation into the Caped Crusader, and his first run-ins with the elusive Catwoman, the mob boss Carmine Falcone, and the then-Detective James Gordon.
With The Batman being confirmed to take place during Batman’s second year of crime-fighting, this story does a lot to flesh out what inspired Bruce to don the cape. It also gives the audience a look at how he became the hero we know him to be today.
2. Batman: Hush
Adapted from the iconic comic book arc of the same name, Batman: Hush sees Batman investigating a mysterious foe known simply as Hush. This strange new antagonist threatens Batman’s true identity and uses this knowledge to launch personal attacks on both sides of his personality.
What’s more, Hush is a fun story to dive into because of how much it explores the relationship between Batman and Catwoman. The two have always had a tumultuous history in the comics — one that appears to be the focal point of The Batman. This story helps to not only flesh out both characters but also dig into a recurring narrative that their relationship is always doomed.
3. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
If you grew up in the 90s or early 2000s, you probably watched Batman: The Animated Series. With its unique gothic-style art, iconic character portrayals, and masterful blend of dark and light tones, it’s a series that truly stands the test of time.
Mask of the Phantasm sees Batman face off with the Phantasm, who is targeting Gotham’s crime bosses. It also sees Bruce reuniting with an old love, Andrea Beaumont, who left Gotham before the start of the series after their engagement.
Similar to Year One, Mask of the Phantasm looks into the origins of Bruce Wayne. It also focuses on how he became Batman and how his previous traumas and troubles influence the man he is today. It also explores his sense of loneliness and the compulsion that seems to drive him as a superhero, for better or worse.
Mask of the Phantasm also features a well-written, engaging plot. With plenty of twists and turns, it will keep you guessing who the villian and hero are right up until the very end.
4. Batman: The Long Halloween (Parts 1 and 2)
Considered one of the definitive Batman tales ever told, the 13-issue comic The Long Halloween was adapted into this beautiful two-part tale of Batman’s mission to track the elusive killer Holiday, who is targeting one of Gotham’s most notorious crime families.
This story features a number of prominent members of Batman’s rogues gallery, including the origin story of the infamous Two-Face. The Long Halloween also sees Bruce’s transformation from a crime-fighter to a detective who must learn to solve problems with more than just his fists.
What’s more, this story heavily includes the characters of Carmine Falcone and Catwoman. So this film is an excellent resource to brush up on some of the lore surrounding these characters before seeing them in The Batman. In particular, it really digs into the tenuous connection between Bruce’s family and the Carmine crime family, showing how Gotham reached the point where it needed the Dark Knight.
5. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight
Unlike the other stories on this list, Gotham by Gaslight features an alternate version of the Caped Crusader. Set in Victorian-era Gotham City, Gotham by Gaslight Sees Batman tracking none other than Jack the Ripper to end his reign of terror on the city.
Similar to Hush and The Long Halloween, this story prominently features the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. It’s gothic tone and noir-film style is a key part to the story’s success since it keeps you guessing right up until the end.
The story is a fun take on many of the classic characters in the Batman franchise. It can also be a nice palette cleanser before seeing the more modern adaptation that Matt Reeves is going for in his film.
What are some of your favorite Batman stories? Give us some examples in the comments below, and see you next time!
Featured image via Marcin Lukasik on Unsplash