There are a lot of animated superhero movies. Going all the way back to the 1940s with the Superman animated shorts from Fleischer Studios, superheroes have often worked best in a theatrical structure. Over the years, we’ve gotten animated superhero movies on both the big and small screen. And with Incredibles 2 about to hit theaters, we decided to sort through these flicks and find the ones you need to see.
These are the 11 greatest animated superhero movies of all time.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
You’ll see quite a few Batman movies on this list, but the best of the bunch is Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. This feature-length spinoff of the classic 1992 animated series is highly regarded by fans as one of the best Batman films ever made. Centering around a mysterious new foe called the Phantasm, this film delves into Batman’s origins and a love story that has as more pathos than anything we’ve seen in the live-action Batman films. With stellar animation, incredible performances, and a narrative that is legitimately powerful, one could argue that Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is the greatest animated superhero movie of all time.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
Batman Beyond was a radical series thanks to its idea of expanding the Batman universe into the future. When the time came to give Terry McGinnis his own film, the writers decided to resurrect Batman’s greatest foe, the Joker. This is an excellent finale for the television series, but it’s also a shockingly dark and disturbing look at where Bruce Wayne’s story ended up. If you seek this out, make sure to watch the uncut version as it delivers one of the most horrific moments in the entire Batman animated canon.
The Powerpuff Girls Movie (2002)
The Powerpuff Girls is a phenomenal superhero series that has continued to remain a staple of pop culture for nearly 20 years. When the girls got their own movie, the creators felt they needed to explore the origins of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup in a prequel. It’s a rousing film that captures the energy and fun of the show with a distinctly more stylized sharpness. Throw in the series’ most popular villain, Mojo Jojo, and the entire movie ends up being a celebration of this unique superhero property.
The Incredibles (2004)
No list of animated superhero movies would be complete with Disney/Pixar’s triumphant The Incredibles. Writer/director Brad Bird captured the optimistic aesthetic of the 1950s and translated it into a movie about family and what really makes a hero. Thanks to some excellent world-building and well-defined characters, The Incredibles is an original superhero story that feels like it belongs right alongside any of the classic comic book fare.
Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
DC is constantly putting out animated adaptations of their most celebrated comic book stories. One of the best is Batman: Under the Red Hood. It deals with the death of Jason Todd, one of the many young men to don the Robin costume, and the appearance of a murderous vigilante who has taken on the historic garb of the Red Hood. The animation is strong and the storytelling is tight. Plus, the emotional core of the film works even if you aren’t familiar with Batman lore. This is a solid entry in the sometimes shaky DC animated features lineup.
DreamWorks Animation takes a witty spin on the Superman mythos with this flick and it turns out to be a pretty strong picture. The titular Megamind is played with goofy charm by Will Ferrell, and the film actually delves into the relationships between heroes and villains in a rewarding way. It’s all lighthearted and flighty but in the best of ways. Megamind is easily one of the better films to come out of the DreamWorks Animation studio.
Planet Hulk (2010)
We did get an abridged version of this story in Thor: Ragnarok, but Planet Hulk actually tells the story of the big green guy’s exile from Earth and subsequent rise to power on the planet Sakaar. To be honest, a lot of the Marvel animated fare hasn’t held up extremely well. However, Planet Hulk is the rare Marvel animated film that has withstood the test of time. It’s an action-packed sci-fi story that offers up a lot of the interstellar craziness that people love about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2 (2012/2013)
Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is one of the most important graphic novels in history. When the time came to adapt it into a feature, the folks over at DC figured that one film couldn’t do it justice. Splitting the epic story into two films, this adaptation is as close to a literal translation as you can get. Standout elements include the stellar animation and the performances from Peter Weller as Batman and Michael Emerson as the Joker. You’ll also get a much better fight between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel than you saw in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Disney took this original sci-fi superhero concept and blew it up into a massive feature film. Set in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo, the story follows young robotics expert Hiro Hamada as he joins forces with other scientific geniuses in order to stop an evil masked villain. It’s full of the usual Disney fun but also employs tons of visual flair and stirring action. Big Hero 6 is a great introduction to superhero flicks for young viewers.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)
The ’60s television version of Batman is undeniably iconic. Adam West and Burt Ward put a permanent staple on the characters of Batman and Robin. When the time came to do an animated feature set in the same world as the ’60s show, the filmmakers bent over backward to make a film that felt fresh and respectful of this particular iteration of the Caped Crusader. What follows is a delightfully comedic and loving tribute to Batman that every fan should see. It’s also just a solid comedy that any superhero fan can enjoy.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017)
The farcical hero finally made his way to the big screen in 2017 and it was jaw-dropping how excellent Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie ended up being. Full of absurdist animation and quick-witted charm, this is basically Deadpool for youngsters. It’s a ridiculously relentless slice of superhero silliness that never stops finding new ways to surprise and delight. If you need a goofy smile on your face, this is the flick to seek out.