In discussions of the greatest Batman movies of all time, most moviegoers would likely point to Batman, Batman begins, the black Knightand The Batman as one of the strongest contenders for the first place. With good reason as they are all good to great in their own way. There are two films that are often overlooked by the general public, but most hardcore fans would agree that they need places on these lists: the cartoons Batman: The Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Beyond: The Joker Returns.
Phantasm was released in theaters but unfortunately did not perform well in its initial run and The return of the Joker was a made-for-video movie that ended up with two very different cuts. If most moviegoers haven’t heard of them, then it’s no real surprise. It just means you can introduce someone to what is sure to be one of their new favorite movies when the topic of Batman movies comes up. And nowadays, you can bet this topic will come up.
Since these are great movies in their own right, and great Batman movies in general, let’s take a look at the toy lines inspired by each movie. Generally speaking, most of them are really great figures, although there are a few real quirks and annoyances here.
11. Total Armor Batman: What is this even supposed to be? I almost admire him for his weirdness, but I can’t get over how ugly he looks.
10. Batman Lure: I don’t hate it, it just doesn’t surprise me. Instead of a “quick change” concept, it would be great to have a figure based on Bruce’s first night before he became Batman and just wore a ski mask and black outfit. The red snap batsuit here is kind of edgy, and the red paneling on the arms and legs is also cool. That cheap-looking grapple accessory doesn’t do it any favors, though, so swap it out for something better and this could move up the list.
9. Tornado Batman: Kind of random and not related to the movie at all. Because of that, it’s quite charming, with interesting costume design. Disc launchers are always fun too, though less so when they have those bulky cords.
8. Retro Batman: As a proto-Batman costume this looks pretty cool, with the simple Batsymbol on his chest and a brown belt that foretells The New Adventures of Batman design years before the cartoon hit the airwaves. The shiny silver of the suit is an interesting choice that holds the figure back from true grandeur, as are the stylish yet random accessories.
7. Gotham Defender Batman: Speaking of TNBA designs, this one isn’t too shabby at all. To be honest, I’ve never liked the brown belt, so it’s nice to see yellow here. A solid figure, albeit a rework from the main series toys, accessories and all.
6. Jet Pack Joker: It’s the little details that really make it, like the pants on the pants, the leg and chest straps, and the little leather hat and goggles. That this is ripped right from Mask of the Phantasm climax makes him even more appealing, in addition to being a great Joker figure.
5. Quick Attack Batman: It’s amazing what turning on the yellow oval can do. Like the retro Batman from before, this Batman figure also has a shiny silver finish. The fact that the black on the boots, gloves, hood, and trunks are a few shades darker makes it look better, and the oval breaks it up even more. It’s not a look I’d normally want from Batman, of course, but it really doesn’t look too shabby. Lots of accessories too which is also nice.
4. Arkham Assault Joker: No, this Joker design is not the best. Removing the red lips and giving him black eyes is an odd choice, as is removing the orange shirt under his purple jacket. That said, this figure looks great and translates the look from the cartoon very well. The giant launch card for the game is a fun touch, as are the two revolvers. It hasn’t been my go-to design for a long time, but I can’t deny a good figure when I see one.
3. Rapid Switch Bruce Wayne: This isn’t Bruce Wayne, this is Dick Tracy looking for his hat.
2. Gotham Knight Batman: In some ways, the way you know if an action figure is successful is if you strip away all the extras and accessories and it still looks great. That’s definitely the case here, as this is a really fantastic Batman Beyond figure. In fact, it was designed and sculpted so well that it was made Better by removing the accessories which are just randomly attached sticks. Give him some Batarangs instead and this can compete for the top spot, but he’ll have to settle for a strong second place instead.
1. Phantasm: Spoiler alert! Yeah, it’s a shame it ruined the movie’s big twist, although it’s not the only toy to ever do that. However, this is a perfect Phantasm figure, without any unnecessary extras or touches. It’s simple, elegant and kind of spooky, just like Phatasm should be.
All images sourced from Figure-Archive.net unless otherwise noted.