Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movies Ranked from Worst to Best (Including Mutant Mayhem)
4. Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (2022)
Few things better demonstrate the enduring appeal of the Ninja Turtles concept than the many, many reboot attempts it has survived. Although the basic premise stays the same, the tone and even line-up can vary across series and films. In the Nickelodeon series Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the brothers gain mystical powers to prevent the coming of the demonic Shredder. The series ran for 39 episodes, and received a direct-to-Netflix follow-up film in 2022, two years after the series finale.
Although it does build on the series, the Rise movie works surprisingly well as a standalone film. It follows Casey Jones (Haley Joel Osment), here a freedom fighter from a future conquered by the alien Krangs, going back in time to rally the Turtles against this extraterrestrial threat. The story gives the heroes a clear mission and arc for Leo (Ben Schwartz), suffering a crisis of leadership confidence. But Leo’s story does drown out most of his brothers, made worse by Schwartz’s irritating performance. Fans of the series may not be bothered by the focus on everyone’s least favorite Turtle, but the movie will inspire few newcomers to go back to the show.
3. TMNT (2007)
Speaking of continuation films, there’s 2007’s animated movie TMNT. Directed by Kevin Munroe, TMNT serves as a sequel to the live-action movies… sort of. The film picks up a few years after the death of the Shredder, and the boys have all decided to follow their own paths. Leo (James Arnold Taylor) protects a small village in Central America, Donny (Mitchell Whitfield) has a steady job as an online IT guy, Mikey (Mikey Kelley) does kids’ birthdays in a turtle costume, and Raph (Nolan North) fights crimes as costumed vigilante Nightwatcher. But when the Foot Clan begins attempts to resurrect an ancient general, the four must reunite, along with their allies April (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Casey Jones (Chris Evans).
An animation veteran, Munroe understands the fundamentals of storytelling, giving the movie the best fight scenes in the franchise. And despite the muddy green/gray color palette, TMNT boasts interesting character designs, making it exciting to look at throughout. However, all of those pluses must work against a nonsense storyline (also written by Munroe) that fudges basic plot mechanics. In the end, TMNT’s refusal to directly continue previous films or clearly reboot the franchise leaves the audience confused, wondering what they’ve missed.
Every TMNT entry has understood that the heroes were Mutant Ninja Turtles, but the Teenage part sometimes went overlooked. Sure, they said “Cowabunga” and ate pizza, but they always felt more like a 45-year-old’s idea of adolescence as opposed to the actual thing. Not so with the latest Turtles movie, Mutant Mayhem. Produced by perpetual teenagers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who co-wrote the script with Dan Hernandez, Benj Samit, and director Jeff Rowe, Mutant Mayhem gives us awkward adolescent Turtles raised by a worrying dad voiced by Jackie Chan.
Rowe takes a striking approach to the look of the movie, all thick lines and odd shapes to give it a real sense of texture. While that visual style can sometimes be messy, reducing action pieces to pure chaos, that works for a story about a bunch of teens. Add in voices from a cast of actual young people, and Mutant Mayhem becomes the most energetic and wonderfully youthful take on the Turtles we’ve ever seen.