Is This the Best Batman Movie?

People love Dark Knight and Batman 89, but has the best Batman movie slipped under our radar? Nostalgia Critic takes a look at Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

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About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.

94 comments

  1. MidnightScreeningsman2014

    1st RockmanX3 take that!!!!!!!

    • Bah, I was gone for 4 days on vacation, but I’ll just hijack this spot to post my comments. 😀

      OMG YES. This is one of my favorite Batman movies EVER.

      • I was in my sophomore year in high school when this movie came out in 1993 and I remember my theater not being that packed like Batman ’89 and Returns were, but that didn’t detract how much I LOVED this movie.

        I remember getting CHILLS when Bruce first put on the Batman mask (Look up the scene on YouTube, it’s that incredible). Mark Hamill’s Joker was at his absolute best here, especially when he’s laughing near the end and I was blown away by the fact that this movie had BLOOD. It was like watching a nearly unrestricted episode of the Animated Series. I also remember constantly watching my VHS of this over and over.

        This movie is truly an underrated gem and great editorial, Doug. This movie really needs more exposure.

  2. I’m excited for next week. A year ago at Momocon asked about this one and here it is a year later. 😀

  3. Everyone knows the best Batman film is the 66′ film.

  4. I feel that only reason why Mask of the Phantasm tends to be overlooked is that it’s animated while those others are live action movies that are taken more seriously my main stream audience while animated movies even today have that stigma of being for kids.

    • Eeehh. I always loved cartoons and the show was one of my favorites. The idea of getting to see it with more grit and budget got me hyped but the movie still let me down. Outside the soundtrack and premise, I honestly think Mask of the Phantasm has some pretty large flaws. Like the plodding pace and wobbly, awkward sense of motion. That part where Andrea chucks Bruce would be even harder to take seriously in live action.

      Still, that opening choir.

    • With all of the recent animated series garnering adult audiences that stigma will continue to dwindle, and with it this movie will continue to gain the credit it deserves.

  5. This has been one of my favorites for years. I remember when I first saw it. A friend of mine had the video and we watched it together. That was only a couple years after it came out, and I had no idea it even existed until then. There really wasn’t any marketing for it that I can remember.

  6. Daemian Lucifer

    The best batman is lego batman.

  7. alex hernandez

    This movie is criminaly underrated. I am so happy I own it. This is my quintessential Batman movie and it is undiluted, pure batman

  8. fireinmysockets

    Heh. I find this movie’s minimal use of cgi rather ironic, considering how much it’s direct to video brother Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero loved to shoehorn the stuff into certain scenes. I mean it’s a decent flick and all, but those scenes looked awful.

  9. great review doug on batman, and thank for bringing awareness to NF in really means alot to me, i really appreciate it

  10. Nice video essay on a great movie, but I had a question: Why is royalty-free music playing throughout this video? Is it just so that the video doesn’t get taken down for copyright reasons? I like it better when Doug played actual music from the movies throughout his reviews… while I’m glad he briefly mentions Shirley Walker in this video, it would have been way cooler if her music from the film had been playing during this ENTIRE review, instead of some forgettable royalty-free music.

    • If you want to use clips, you have to be super careful about what sounds play and for how long as well as with what clips play and how long you use each segment because, despite it completely being fair use, there are TONS of automatic programs that will take down videos for just having a matching soundtrack or using a clip of a set length. Basically, it’s better safe than sorry when it comes to using music like this….

      • I understand, it’s just… I liked it better when Doug did it anyway. He had a lot more freedom in his earlier reviews to use whatever music and clips he wanted. But ever since he’s returned to YouTube, he’s had to play it safe when it comes to the soundtracks of his reviews. I guess the reason why it disappoints me is because the music from these movies is a big part of their *nostalgia* — which is, of course, what Doug’s whole schtick is about.

    • can you give me link to music in background ?

  11. dterribletwins

    Someone make a Change.org petition to get a blu ray release of this film! I Love this Movie!

  12. Sometimes it sounds like you have a Swedish accent.

  13. I saw Siskel and Ebert’s review of this on YouTube! The thing is, I actually did not watch “Batman: The Animated Series” as a kid, but even I was fascinated by this film! “The Dark Knight Rises” has a higher rating on the IMDb than “Citizen Kane”. OF COURSE it’s considered one of the best Batman movies. Even “Batman Begins” has a much higher rating than the Tim Burton Batman. Please do a Goodwill charity shoutout!

  14. Here’s my memory of Seeing Batman: Mask of the Phantasm in theaters. I remember seeing the TV spots on Fox Kids, which is the network they first aired Batman: The Animated Series. I was in the 1st grade, and I was so hyped to want to see it. Thankfully, while my mom, my sister and I were at the mall doing out annual after Christmas shopping, we stopped by the mall’s movie theater to see the movie, and we enjoyed it. I also remember months later when my mom got me the movie on VHS as a surprise; it even came with a mini-comic adaptation of the movie (I don’t have the comic anymore, because I wore it out). I don’t have the VHS anymore, because I later converted all of my VHSs to DVDs. I still love Mask of the Phantasm as much as the Tim Burton Batman films and The Dark Knight Trilogy, and I also consider is as one of MY favorite underrated classics.

  15. It’s been so long since I’ve seen this that I don’t really remember much of it. But as much as I love The Dark Knight, I have to say that in my opinion, and as of the date of this posting, the best Batman movie for me is Under The Red Hood.

    • I also love Under the Hood. To me, it’s like an animated take on The Dark Knight, but half as long.

    • I remember checking out Under the Red Hood at a local library once when my cable was out. My grandpa just sort-of went with it even though I could just tell that he was in the mindset of “Oh, it’s an animated movie about batman. I’ll watch it, but this is going to be completely goofy and just some kids film….” Then Robin died and things just got crazier from there. Under the Red Hood is freaking great and I loved every minute of it!

  16. Oh, jeez. Guessing who the Phantasm is so difficult to spoil it. I wonder who could be? Someone of the characters of always, or some of the new ones that appear in the movie?

    Now that I think about it….. it was very hard to guess when I watched it the first time. True, I was a little kid, but, even so…. I think the mistery was heandled very well.
    in a few seconds

    • Roger Ebert call this the rule of “no unnecessary characters.” As a kid it fooled me too. Now I know that if there is one character who feels superfluous (like every one else we follow seems to serves a purpose in the mystery except that one”, than it’s probably that person.

    • Dora the Explorer has more mistery than these movie. It’s actually really weak part of the movie

  17. Just bought this movie on digital download. Great film.

  18. Conroy will always be my Batman, just as Hamill will always be my Joker. They embody what the characters are. every time someone asks me who my favorite batman is and i say Kevin Conroy…they are like wait who? I meant live action. and im like don’t care… still conroy hahaha…

  19. As a kid I had a hard time following this movie. As an adult I could better appreciate what they accomplished because I did understand it was more about mystery the action. It’s funny that while everybody likes to make fun of the Adam West TV series simple because it was SUPPOSED to be campy, it’s really the only live action version of Batman I can think where we him go through the process of detective work. In the better live action movies, we see and hear him presenting the results of investigations he’s been conducting to show others what they missed, but never saw him doing much investigating saw we could piece together the clues along with him.

    Sadly, I only wish I enjoyed Mask of the Phantasm as much as so many others. I can’t dispute all the praise here. The acting, music and animation are all great, it’s wonderfully paced, the action is intense, and yet… by the end it leaves me underwhelmed. It didn’t seem like anything was really accomplished, save Batman having his name cleared. Without giving away anything; several people died and no one was saved. That all of the people who died were really bad people is cold comfort. There is no redemption and at one point did I feel like Batman made a difference.

    I not saying they needed a happy ended, but for me a really good superhero story to me should make the hero the greater force for good. For all his tendency towards brooding and roughness, Batman at his best is one of those few who can bring stability and justice to a crap shot world.

    While Heart of Ice had a sympathetic villain with no happy ended Batman still came off like the voice of reason who had to stop the villain from harming the innocent along with the guilty. Here when the Phantasm character tells Batman that YOU are the one living for revenge, I’m sorry there nothing in this movie that leads me to believe (whoever) is wrong. That he simple won’t kill doesn’t make seem that much better than (whoever). He just comes off as somewhat better adjusted. Admittedly you could say the same thing about the Tim Burton Batman and the villains in those movies, but at least there he managed to save some lives.

    This is a very good movie. It’s just a little too much of a downer for me.

  20. I do remember this movie, and I’ve already got it again on DVD. Shame it doesn’t get an update like enhanced visuals, digitally remastering, etc.

  21. When I was 8 my father and I saw it in theaters. Of course, he was as big of a fan of the animated series as I was. I bought the DVD 5+ years ago in the double-feature release with Sub-zero, but haven’t watched it since then. Guess I’ll have to dust it off and give it another watch.

  22. TippyToe Zombie

    I want to see a New Vs. New of the two live action Jungle Books that both just happened to decide to make Kaa female.

  23. but everyone already considers Mark Hamil as the best Joker, that’s pretty much why they brought him back for The Killing Joke instead of Troy Baker

    which adds to the irony of the best Batman movie stories tend to be the animated films yet everyone focus only on the Live Action flops even to this day

    • I feel like Hamill saying he was retiring from voicing the Joker after Arkham City was to try to more solidify that Joker was dead and make the twist in Arkham Knight more surprising. Rocksteady didn’t make Origins and it wasn’t planned to happen, and Hamill already gave his retirement announcement so they tried to find someone who could sound like Hamill’s Joker. Hamill also said that if they were ever going to do The Killing Joke properly he would come back in a heartbeat.

  24. Great review, I love this level-headed vids.

  25. I’m sorry, but Under the Red Hood is miles ahead of Mas of the Phantasm.

  26. I really need to watch this movie. I can get the dvd for about $7 on ebay and the movie is only about 76 minutes long. Awesome animation and music.

  27. It’s one of the movies I keep intending to watch but never actually do. Other than the budget stuff, much of what you said goes for B:TAS, as well. Conroy does a great job doing separate voices and speech styles for Batman and Bruce. Keaton did slightly raspy, Kilmer & Clooney didn’t bother, Bale went over the top with the rasp, and Affleck went with voice modulator (which I prefer to the others). With Kevin Conroy, both sound like real voices, but you wouldn’t peg them as the same person.

    The willingness to embrace the character’s entire history (including Adam West) made the show great.

  28. TragicGuineaPig

    As much as I like Mask of the Phantasm, I have to say I like Under the Red Hood more. There are reasons, not the least of which is that, in MOTP, you don’t have a definitive confrontation between the hero and the eponymous villain (he fights the Joker instead), and that takes a bit of the edge off the emotional conflict. Meanwhile, in UTRH, the conflict with the main villain is quite definitive and highly emotional. In this, I think UTRH takes full advantage of something that MOTP is missing.

    I also think that Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker gives MOTP a run for its money.

    • TragicGuineaPig

      Also, something to notice: the villain in MOTP is NEVER – not once – ever actually called the Phantasm. This villain is only ever referred to “Angel of Death.” Seriously, the word “Phantasm” is never once used in the dialog.

    • TragicGuineaPig

      And Batman and “The Angel of Death” never actually fight. They scuffle for about 2 seconds before the cops break them up, scare off the villain, and spend the next 15 minutes in one of the awesome awesome chase scenes ever!

    • TragicGuineaPig

      That choir is not singing in Latin. Do yourself a favor: don’t do any research about the actual text. There are some things that are much more awesome if you don’t know the secret.

    • I agree. Nothing against, MotP but Red Hood is just more enjoyable for me. Although I will give Phantasm points for being an absolutely stellar film noir.

    • Yeah, as much as I love MOtP, I remember being really disappointed when the Joker showed up the first time I saw it. I mean, Hamill’s Joker is fantastic, but I was really into this Batman-as-detective crime story partly because it *wasn’t* just another Bats and Joker fight. The Joker just doesn’t fit the atmosphere of the story they were already telling.

  29. I despise the Dark Knight, all the Nolan batman movies really. So Mask of the Phantasm has always been my favourite batman movie, even more than the Burton ones. Especially as a kid because I really didn’t like live action stuff in general. I still prefer animated works, but I’ve certainly come to appreciate live action stuff a lot more as I grew up.

    • Additionally, I was so happy to see the phantasm make a brief appearance in the justice league episode “Epilogue”. The choice of using that character there was just perfect to me.

      • TragicGuineaPig

        I used to think that it was strange that Phantasm would have followed that particular career path, to become an assassin. After all, the Angel of Death’s motive in MOTP is revenge.

        But then it occurred to me: maybe Phantasm has a personal reason to want to help Amanda Waller in her quest. Maybe she’s not so much a hired assassin as she is a willing accomplice because she agrees with what Waller is trying to do. But the fact that she isn’t really an assassin (as well as her connection to Bruce) ends up being the reason she can’t go through with it.

  30. Wow, a prime example of how important trailers and critics are. I need to find this movie. OH, and I’m glad that Old v. New is back. ^.^

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