Greetings! It is I, Josh “Thunder” Shaver, making my return to the printed page. Recently, I watched the new TMNT Mutant Mayhem film and actually loved it. I know a lot of purists out there are mad that things were changed, but when the multiverse is cannon, anything is possible. In fact, there is no actual TMNT cannon, as it changes with every iteration. Sometimes Splinter was previously a man, sometimes he was that man’s pet. In the original comics, April was a living drawing. For this ranking, I’m just looking at the movies, live action and animated, and the TV series too. Here they are in order from my least favorite to my most preferred version of the brothers. Let’s kick it off with the one movie I hate the most and a reminder that these are my own personal opinions.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)– I have so much disdain for this movie, I don’t think I will ever have anything nice to say about it. The boys don’t just look bad, they’re fugly. The story is slow paced and retcons everything to be aliens. I know my whole soapbox is there is no real canon but this one is just too extra for it’s own good. Boo this movie, Boo this movie into obscurity.
Rise of the TMNT series & movie- This one tried some radical shit and I also hated it so I will be brief as to not throw this whole article into negativity. They decided to do the inexcusable, Raphael and Leonardo have now change personalities. Leo is the angry loner and Raph leads the team. Also, in a move that I would call desperate, they have magic powers. I didn’t watch much of this one or the Netflix movie that acted as an ender for the series but what I did see left me asking “what the fuck even was that?”
Next Mutation- This atrocity literally killed the Eastman/ Laird ownership of the turtles and their friendship too due to the differed opinions over the new 5th and female turtle, Venis de Milo. This short lived, live action series crossed over with Power Rangers in Space but didn’t do much else. I remember it being on after I got home from Karate practice on Fridays and watching it just because it was Turtles.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – Honestly who asked for this sequel? Still fugly, still missing the mark. I did however enjoy Stephen Amell as Casey Jones, which is the only thing keeping this movie above Next Mutation and Rise. Extra shout out to my boy Shaemus. Fellaaaaaa.
TMNT (2007) – I had to be convinced that this is the canonical 4th movie, and it took a lot of convincing, but its part of the official movie box set. In this one an older group of Turtles fight against some ancient evil, giant monsters, and internal conflict. In my opinion this one was more more serious than fun, but not in a great way. The CGI animation flowed well, but I felt like I was looking at Geckos with shells on. I still say watch it and form your own opinion.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012 series)- I didn’t watch this one until that certain global pandemic sent me home to work. I had it on in the background but it definitely took my attention a few times. This series had several great story lines and that’s what saved it from being a few steps higher on the list. These turtles had some great adventures, one of which involving the original animated series Turtles joining up for an adventure. The end story arc was super depressing, that should have definitely has a “this was just a dream” ending but instead, we got existential dread.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3– I don’t have a lot to say about this one that I wouldn’t repeat for the first and second movies. I watched them nonstop as a kid, but this one was always my least favorite. The time travel aspect was a little cool but it wasn’t as cool as the fight against the shredder to my child self. think of this movie as the grey area for this list because the rest of the entries were all good.
TMNT meets Batman- Apparently this one counts as it is also now included with the other four movies in the five movie box set. Shredder and Ra’s Al Ghoul team up for some generic bad guy stuff in Gotham and the Turtles follow the Foot’s trail, right to Batman. This is an adaptation from a comic that was created jointly by IDW and DC so you know it does both sides justice. Mikey super fan boys over Batman and Batman decides Mikey is too obnoxious and ignores him until he proves himself to be a real hero. Also, Batman totally just stomps all over Shredder, and that makes me happy.
Mutant Mayhem- This is the new hotness right here, so funny in all the right places, and serious when it needed to be too. I really liked that this was the kind of movie that was made for both me, a 35 year old man child, and my children. I know a lot of people are upset about it online, but that’s the internet, everyone is upset about something. Mutant Mayhem is a fantastic “origin story” for a new age of TMNT. For the first time I really felt like the Turtles were really teenagers instead of just having it in the name. No Foot Ninjas, No Shredder, No mystic arts, just some mutated Turtle brothers and their weapons, trying to make their mark on the world. Supposedly a launching point for a new TV series, a sequel film has also been greenlit. No spoilers but Id like to see where they take this timeline because its a lot of different, but in a good way.
Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze- Of the first 3 live action movies, this one is second best. This one had a much better balance of humor and action. But they changed suits and the actress for April plus,Casey was a no show for this one, and that makes it fall in the middle of the Three original movies. Still great, still super nostalgic, still high on the list. Big ups for giving the world Ninja Rap.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987 Cartoon series)- This is where it started with me, to me these are the turtles of my childhood. I watch this one quite frequently as I own the series digitally and it always brings a smile to my face. Sure there were lots of animation and continuity errors with this cartoon that was created to sell toys, but these cartoon Turtles were built to last. Recently at SDCC2023, it was announced that Nickelodeon had acquired the right to air this series and would begin doing so very soon and virtually every 35-40 year old man lost their shit all at once. that should show you how much staying power this series has. Sure it’s a silly thing to fight over, but its the Turtles to some people, and its going nowhere.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)– Not just a classic and iconic film for the Turtles, but for movies in general. This was one of the movies that shaped my personality as a young child, and made me curious about how movies are made. Not only were these the first live action turtles, but Jim Henson made the suits that were used for filming, just look at how dope they look! I am thankful for digital movie libraries as I have long since wore out my VHS copy with countless re-watches. I love this movie as it is a big part of me. The only thing that could top this one would be a perfect adaptation.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 series)– This is the perfect adaptation of the original comic book with lots of story beats taken directly from the comics. Not only focusing on the turtles vs the foot clan, we get the battle nexus, a few times and plenty of crossovers with another Mirage comics title, Usagi Yojimbo. There’s a Triceraton invasion and everything. Shredder did have a totally different and new origin in this timeline, but I feel it was a good change and he feels more menacing this way. There was a really bad season, as most shows have, that revolved around the Turtles being sent forward in time, but they eventually come back for one last season. There was a fantastic end series movie that is my all time absolute favorite turtles media. No spoilers, just check it out for yourself.
That’s it, there’s my list. just remember kids, nothing is cannon in turtles except to the series/movie/comics itself. As always, let us know what you think and how much you agree or disagree with my list.