Ranked: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (TMNT) Movies

With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows about to hit theatres on June 3 (June 9 in you live in Australia… /cry), there’s a good chance that a lot of people out there are going to be breaking out their old Blu-Ray, DVD, Digital or VHS copies of the older TMNT films in order to relive them and get hyped for the new film.

Now, I’m not going to claim that I’m some sort of expert when it comes to these movies, or even the franchise, but I do love my Heroes in a Half-Shell. I’ve got all of the movies on Blu-Ray, I imported the entire set of the 1986 Cartoon series, I own a full set of TMNT Classics and a set of the 25th Anniversary re-releases of the toys, along with one mint in box Japanese Mutatin’ Donatello. Hell, one of my prized pieces of paper is an autographed reply from Eastman & Laird themselves for a drawing I submitted to the Archie TMNT Adventures comic during the ’90s.  So I do have some background in things TMNT.

What I plan to do is rank, IN MY OPINION, all of the movies that have seen some sort of release, from worst to best. That way, you can just skip the crap and watch the good stuff. So let’s take that dive into the sewers and enter the domain of all things TMNT.

But before the list, a couple of Special Mentions…

Special Mention: Casey Jones The Movie
I’m not a fan of the whole “fan film” thing for a great many reasons. Most of the time there’s some sort of self-imposed fan fiction character involved, or there’s the terrible acting, low budgets, rewriting of established canon to fit the previous things. However, this fan film about Casey Jones is pretty good. Solid acting, lots of attention paid to the source material, and a decent looking budget to keep things as accurate as possible. Plus, the tone of the film fit the character. We get to see Casey Jones and his past as we should: Dark and horrible. You feel for the character as he comes from a broken home, but he loves hockey and to kick butt. There’s even an appearance from Michaelangelo, which while not making much sense outside of the 2012 TV show, works really well. And to add to that, besides the mouth on the head of Michaelangelo being a bit off putting, it’s one of the better practical suits I’ve seen since the 1990 official movie version.

You can either give the whole thing a watch for free in the video above, or sling the people who made it $20 for a DVD copy over at http://www.caseyjonesthemovie.com

Special Mention: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012 TV Season 4 Episode 10 “Trans-Dimensional Turtles”
While this is not really a movie, I figured it was something worth mentioning as a “must watch” for TMNT fans. It takes the classic 1986 TMNT Cartoon Turtles and has them interact with the newest TV show Turtles. Plus it did something that the movie on this list didn’t: Bring back most of the original voice cast from the 1986 Cartoon. While the appearance of the 1986 Turtles in CGI is really weird and the animation used for the “classic” world is more like early Flash animation, it’s still worth looking into, well above watching Turtles Forever.

#6: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 (1993)
Alright. You all knew this one was coming. TMNT 3 is so universally panned that it’s right up there with Mei Pieh Chi (Venus) from Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation (Yeah, I might tackle TV shows ranked next) as one of the biggest blunders in the History of TMNT ideas. Honestly, who really wanted to see terrible TMNT suits in some bad looking version of ancient Japan? Everything in this movie is a mess. The Turtles themselves are terrible, Splinter looks like complete crap, the villains are so bad that this feels like some kids High School project instead of the follow up to 2 smash hit movies. This was the film that destroyed Turtlemania for over a decade.

#5 TMNT (2007)
14 years after TMNT 3, we finally got to see the Turtles on the big screen again… and it was “meh”. The plot revolved around an Immortal who unleashed 12 monsters into the world and he needed to capture them in order to end his curse and the curse of his fellow war buddies, who were turned into stone when the monsters appeared, but they can move and are immortal too. This pushed The Foot Clan, the long time enemy of the Turtles, into the background. Combine this plot with some weird “post era” style progression for the Turtles themselves (Donatello is IT tech support, Mikey is working as a “Turtle Party Clown” thing, Leo went on a self-discovery journey, and Raph went rogue) and even the stellar voice cast on hand for this was not enough to reignite the hype of seeing the bothers on the big screen.

#4 Turtles Forever (2009)
This movie gets the nostalgic seal of approval as it ticks just about every box needed. We got the “current” (2003) cartoon Turtles, the “classic” 1986 Turtles and even a special appearance from the “Prime” Comic Book Turtles. We saw Shredder, Krang, 2003 Utrom Shredder, Rahzar, Tokka, Bebop, Rocksteady, the Technodrome and a mutated Hun go up against 2 out of the 3 sets of Turtles that were in this movie. However, the let down of not getting any of the original 1986 voice cast back to reprise their roles really makes this film suffer; plus the 1986 Turtles are played way too dumb and over the top in their humor (something that happened in the later end of the 1986 series) for this movie to be a true recreation of the classic TMNT that a lot of us grew up with.

If you want to see something that is more “right” in a smaller timeframe, then check out the TMNT 2012 episode I mentioned above. Shame there is no way to combine the respect from the TMNT 2012 episode with the story from Turtles Forever, as it would then be a top 3 contender.

#3 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Yeah i can hear the air being ripped out of the room right now. The 2014 remake is one of the top 3 TMNT movies?! Well yeah, it is. While the Turtles themselves look like Shrek on steroids and there is a lot of Michael Bay stink on this movie from start to finish, it’s just not that bad. If you view it as it’s own entity, the movie is actually quite enjoyable. The Turtles have personality, Shredder is an actual threat near the end of the film, and…. I’m going to admit it… Megan Fox is actually pretty good as April. I know a lot of TMNT “pureists” hate this movie with a passion of a thousand suns, but once you get past that fan outrage, you can see this as a good popcorn flick.

#2 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze (1991)
TMNT 2 can be seen as one of 2 things: The fun and lighter sequel to the surprise smash hit first film, or what happens when big studios and parents groups clash with lawyers and legal issues. The second TMNT film was lightened due to outrage from parent groups who disliked the dark nature of the first film. The Studio (Golden Harvest) wanted Bebop & Rocksteady, but legal issues with the Cartoon contracts restricted Eastman & Laird from getting them used, thus we got Rahzar and Tokka instead. Sure there were more jokes in this film, and the sudden appearance of Vanilla Ice to promote the special track from the soundtrack called “Ninja Rap” was just wrong, everything is redeemed due to one thing: Super Shredder. I love the idea and hate that it hasn’t been revisited since this movie. That being said, this a a great lazy Saturday movie that entertains while keeping a lot of the spirit from the first film, and the franchise itself, intact.

#1 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Yeah, the original is still the best. Featuring the dark world of the comic books combined with the amazing work of Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop, this film is THE TMNT film that everyone should see. This film takes a lot of things back to it’s roots, and is done so well that a lot of TV shows and comics afterwards try really hard to keep to the look and feel of this movie.

It’s hard to really talk more about this movie as it is what it is: Dark, works with the original source material at a time where they could have used the popular cartoon, and it was a surprise smash hit that stands the test of time. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the ultimate TMNT film that everyone should be watching in order to get their live action TMNT fix.

So there you have it, the top TMNT films from worst to best. With Teenage Mutant ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows opening in just a week’s time, there’s no telling yet if we’ll have a new top contender or a new entry for the worst film in the franchise history. However, I do think that, just going from the trailers, it might end up somewhere in the middle. But the only way to know is to see it.

Keep an eye on The Outerhaven over the next week for more insights and articles about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles leading into the new film’s release and review.

About The Author

Karl Smart
Senior Editor / Reviewer

The main "Australian arm" of The Outerhaven. Karl primarily spends time playing and reviewing video games while taking time to occasionally review the latest movie or piece of gaming technology.