Reviewing the Best Animated Batman Movies on HBO Max

The DC catalog on HBO Max is enormous and, honestly, a bit intimidating. There’s so much to choose from, and it can be hard to know where to start. Clicking around leads to some pretty interesting findings though.

For instance, DC seems to enjoy plucking Batman out of his usual setting and dropping him somewhere new just to see what happens. Mixing things up like this gives writers a chance to play around in ways that canon might not necessarily let them. Plus, when good writers are allowed to stretch the bounds of their imagination, it always means a good time for audiences. Let’s look at three animated Batman movies that are definitely a good time.

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)

Released nearly 30 years after the one-shot by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola, the animated movie Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an alternate universe tale about Bruce Wayne investigating Jack the Ripper (yes, that Jack the Ripper) during his first days as Batman in 19th-century Gotham City. It’s shorter than one would expect from a modern movie, but most of DC’s animated features run under 2 hours. It works though – Gotham by Gaslight is just long enough to tell the story it wants to tell without the unnecessary padding that sometimes comes when writers have too much time to fill.

It’s colorful but muted, appropriate for the grim subject matter, with an animation style reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series. No surprise as Bruce Timm serves as a producer on both the classic tv show and this movie – he even has a cameo role in the film! That throwback style feels appropriate for a story that takes place 200 years in the past. There’s something old school about its animation that fits this old tale and harkens back to B:TAS.

Hit the Gas, Bruce!

The cast is well-suited for the movie, with Bruce Greenwood leading the charge as Batman/Bruce Wayne and industry vets like Yuri Lowenthal, John DiMaggio, and Grey Griffin backing him up. Jennifer Carpenter’s Selina Kyle is scaled down from the very comic book-y performance that Grey Griffin usually gives, but it works well for this darker, more grounded story. Scott Patterson is just as convincing as James Gordon, the upstanding police commissioner and often one of the most noble and admirable characters in any Batman story. While the story’s plot might be a bit predictable, there is a surprise element to the story that rips a new chapter into the Batman mythos.

It’s fun to see Dick, Jason, and Tim as street urchins who Alfred recruits to help bring supplies to Batman — and especially adorable when Alfred later informs Bruce he’ll be adopting them (all at once). Perfect way to end the movie, no notes. 10/10.

Batman: Soul of the Dragon (2021)

This movie came out in 2021, but it is incredibly ’70s. This goes without saying considering the time period in which it takes place, yes, but wow. The music, the style and character design, the dialogue — it’s all there! Everyone who worked on this movie fully understood the assignment, but that’s what’s so cool about DC’s animated films. They’re all like that. Every element is designed to immerse you in the story.

Soul of the Dragon’s story has certainly been done before — a secret organization steals a cursed relic and, as is usually the case with secret organizations and stolen cursed relics, the whole world is at stake. Globe-trotting super spy Richard Dragon (an homage to Bruce Lee) recruits former classmate Bruce Wayne and two others to help him track down the organization and save the world. Simple, but the ’70s kung fu movie vibes make it fun.

Making the Right Choice

The most interesting aspect of this movie is that when the “Chosen One” is revealed, the one whose destiny is tied to the fate of the world, it’s not Bruce but Richard. It’s a surprising choice – this is, after all, a Batman movie – but not a bad one. It feels right for the story that Soul of the Dragon tells and doesn’t take away from Bruce’s heroism.

David Giuntoli steps in as Bruce Wayne, and he does a wonderful job. His voice feels lighter than is typical for the character, like the world weariness hasn’t set in yet. Mark Dacascos (Richard Dragon), Michael Jai White (Ben Turner), and James Hong (O-Sensei) are all great additions to the cast whose voices also seem to just feel right. Plus Kelly Hu is a perfect Shiva, but then Kelly Hu is just perfect, period.

Overall, Soul of the Dragon is a lot of fun, and it shows that Batman stories don’t need to be gritty and dark in order to be good.

Batman Ninja (2018)

This movie looks so cool. Nothing else matters, it’s that pretty. That said, the plot is over the top and makes no sense at all – it has time travel, Megazord-style castles, mind control and memory loss, and ninja. So in other words, it’s perfectly on brand for an anime. To try to put it simply, Gorilla Grodd creates a time travel device that he hopes will help him take over Gotham, but in a fight with Batman, it malfunctions. Bruce suddenly finds himself in Sengoku-era Japan.

“Concept art brought to life”

Somehow, two years pass without Batman and in that time, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Deathstroke, Two-Face, and The Joker & Harley Quinn have all become feudal lords who are vying for control of … well, everything. Catwoman, Alfred, and the Robins ally themselves with a sect of ninja who await the arrival of a foreign bat ninja who will restore order to the country (see where this is going?) and together, they try to keep the Rogues from completely rewriting Japan’s history. It’s a lot.

A review on IMDB calls the film “concept art brought to life” which is valid — the star here is very clearly the art direction. It is truly a visual spectacle, so much so that the wild plot almost becomes secondary to just looking at everything. That being the case, it still shouldn’t be so hard to explain what’s going on in the story, so if we have to give strikes, that would be one against the film. It might be the only one though.

The Rogues Are At It Again

The cast is pretty solid: Roger Craig Smith’s Batman is weighty enough to feel like the Batman we expect but with just enough drama to fit this movie’s very particular vibes. It’s just the right counterpoint to Tony Hale’s Joker who is flamboyant as ever but maintains that sinister tinge that makes the character scary. Grey Griffin brings Selina to life with all the sass and flair that we know and love her for. And some of the cast is pulling double duty: Yuri Lowenthal, Tom Kenny, Fred Tatasciore, Tara Strong, and Adam Croasdell all play at least two speaking roles and do so in a way that makes each character sound unique. It’s impressive but not surprising considering how long and how well these actors have been entertaining us all.

Overall, Batman Ninja is a fun, unique adventure that exemplifies the kind of exciting things DC can really do when they let their talent flex. The novelty of the movie makes it the best of the three — it’s completely unlike everything else, and the boldness of it can only be applauded.

Hopefully, DC will continue to try new and fun things, not just with Batman but with other characters on its roster too. Batman Azteca: Choque de Imperios has been on our geeky radar for a while, but no release date has been set.

Animation is a medium with endless potential, and it would be so fun to see what new and imaginative stories DC can tell. What are your favorite DC animated movies or shows? Share your thoughts with other fans at, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!