Ranking 35 Versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (35-28)
This year the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles enter their 35th anniversary.
They’ve had some incredible highs, gaining accolade and admiration across multiple generations. They became pop culture icons, rocketing to become a household name. Producing comics, video games, tv shows, movies, and more, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a billion dollar franchise.
The franchise has also suffered lows on par with The Partridge Family’s “VH1 Behind the Music.”
To celebrate everyone’s favorite Heroes in a Half Shell, I’m ranking the 35 most notable versions of the turtles to date! Keep checking back to see where your favorite ranks. Not every version of the TMNT is listed, I kept it to the most notable 35. Did yours make the list? What’s your top 5? Let us know in the comments below.
35 – We Wish You a Turtle Christmas (1994)
This shows that sometimes, even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are victims of their own celebrity. This straight to video is the worst version of the turtles. Worse than “Operation Blue Line,” worse than Venus DiMilo. The songs are awful but somehow stay lodged in your head for weeks after. Some scenes make you wonder if the TMNT murdered a group of teenagers.
You can find more of my thoughts HERE, but please understand if I never want to discuss “Turtle Christmas” again.
*Sings to self- “4 video games…” DAMN IT!
34 – Operation Blue Line (1990)
This is the only version of the TMNT that takes place in California. It was a VHS tape that promoted alternative travel systems like trains and buses. And that’s really it.
Sure it’s bad. The costumes don’t move at all and Donatello’s body is a different color than his limbs and head. But it has the voice cast for the original cartoon. And it’s only 10 minutes long. Eh.
33 – Coming Out of their Shells Tour (1990)
I feel like this is something I watched as a kid. Debuting at Radio City Music Hall, the tour utilized the turtles success to mix in Pizza Hut and pop music. I’m assuming they made a lot of money. Although the tour (and following home video) started about 3 months after the release of the original 1990 film.
However. The tour had a press tour. On the tour, they made a pit stop on Oprah. Again, this is 1990, so this is pre-President Oprah. President Oprah interviewed the turtles and Oprah, giving the future internet this wonderful bit.
The internet can be great. It can also be horrible. I’m still not sure where this lies.
32 – Mutant Turtles Gaiden (1995)
Part reboot of the original cartoon, part original creation, Mutant Turtles Gaiden was never released in the West. It’s one of the few TMNT properties not released by one of the big homes of the Ninja Turtles. Instead, it was published by Dengeki Comics.
Many elements were inspired by the original cartoon, but remixed in to a Japanese style. For example, in the ’87 cartoon, there’s an episode where the turtles are being impostered by thieves wearing paper bags. In the manga, the imposters are death robots.
The designs are all interesting and features great artwork. Shredder’s costume has a mouth hole, which might be one of my favorite Shredder looks. However, there are a few… less savory moments. In the first issue, Bebop wears a trechcoat and flashes April and her friend. And anytime April is alone with one of the villains, it feels just… well gross. And horrible. Yikes. You can find some English translations online.
31-Next Mutation (1997-1998)
Enter the now infamous Venus DeMilo.
Known mostly for the Power Rangers franchise, “Next Mutation” is supposed to be a loose continuation of the 2nd and 3rd movies. When I say loose, I mean the only similarities are the Lair and Splinter’s scars/
Shredder is still alive, but the turtles focus is now on an army of humanoid dragons know as “The Rank” led by the evil Dragonlord. Also, the turtles aren’t related by blood. Venus De Milo was in the same canister as the original 4 turtles, yet was still seperated from them at an early age. She still learned the art of ninja and joins her new brothers in combat.
The show only lasted 2 seasons, which is still long enough for a crossover with the Power Rangers. For the 2007 movie, Peter Laird had one direction. Don’t acknowledge Venus De Milo. Not even as a joke.
30 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/ Flaming Carrot (1993-1994)
The Flaming Carrot is a surreal character in comics that has crossed paths with the Ninja Turtles on a few occasions. First I thought that the Flaming Carrot was a throwaway character that was a bit too weird, but then I remembered I write for a site covering Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so here we are.
The Flaming Carrot appeared alongside Raphael in the Mirage Era Flaming Carrot comics, as well as a limited crossover series. In his series, he fights alongside Raph who takes on the persona “The Dark Avenger.”
The Flaming Carrot was almost featured in the 2012 cartoon, but the idea was scrapped by Nickelodeon. Ut!
29 – Mutant Turtles: Superman Legend (1996)
I’ll do my best to describe this version of the Ninja turtles from Japan.
Based on character designs from the original 1987 cartoon, Mutant Turtles: Superman legend quickly deviates.
The Ninja Turtles were summoned by the Neutrinos. They need to find the Muta Stone, which will transform them in to Super Turtles, but only for 3 minutes. And when all 4 Super Turtles combine, they become Turtle Saint, a giant mech. There are also Dark Muta Stones which transform Shredder, Bebop, and Rocksteady.
Then, in episode 2, the turtles, April, and Shredder travel to Japan to exterminate a ghost from a haunted house. I love Japan.
28 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Fans everywhere were excited to hear a new TMNT movie would finally come to theaters after a 7 year hiatus.
Then details started coming in.
The turtles were going to be aliens, bullet proof shells, and overall design choices were met with negative backlash leading up to the release. I felt like it largely fell flat , even with one of the more traditional Ninja Turtle stories. Shredder needs the turtles, turtles stop shredder and save Splinter/April. It felt like the movie wanted to celebrate the TMNT franchise, but tried adding in random bits of backstory for no reason other than to be different. April didn’t need to name the turtles. It’s fine, but it didn’t move anything forward. It feels like the Batman V Superman “Martha” moment. The personalities weren’t yet defined well enough and in a Ninja Turtles movie, it felt like we focus an awful lot on the humans in the story. Fine for comics and TV episodes, but in a movie I think you’d want more from your main characters.
The turtle appearance turned off most fans, myself included. It felt like they got the alien idea and ran with it. A fan on reddit posted a redesign on their noses, and I can’t help but wonder how different I’d have felt about the movie had they looked more like this.
Keep checking back because we have a lot more to go!
Do you agree with the list so far? I can’t wait to see the comments on this one! Let us know what you think and where your favorites stack up.