Turtle Power! How To Watch Every Version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ever Made
From the classic show to all the movies and everything in between, here’s where to watch TMNT.
Generation X, Millenials, Zoomers, and even Generation Alpha share one thing in common – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Since 1987, these reptilian ninjitsu masters have been a massive part of our culture. Their influence spans five TV series and seven movies, as well as hundreds of action figures and comic books, bonding these different groups together into Generation Turtle!
With each iteration of the Turtles as unique as the four brothers, now is the best time to introduce these heroes in a half-shell to your kids. Here’s a guide on where to find every version of the Turtles so far! Cowabunga!
Update: In addition to the sources listed below, several versions of the TMNT are now streaming on YouTube for free, as of August 2023. Here’s the link to the official TMNT YouTube Channel.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)
Airing from 1987 to 1996, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was simply a game-changer. What started as a parody of grim 80’s comic books evolved into a life of its own, eventually taking the shape of a cartoon that ran for nearly 200 episodes.
Silly and kid-friendly is the name of the game with the original, even with the ninja teens bashing Foot Soldiers and a mess of other anthropomorphic baddies. As time went on, the series collided with the era of the cartoon X-Men and Batman: The Animated Series, causing it to become darker tonally and less goofy by the final few seasons, but it’s still very watchable for little ones.
It’s inconceivable to think this iconic series, which launched the Heroes in a Half Shell, is currently the hardest thing to find on this list. As of publication, there are no platforms legally streaming the original show.
The good update is Nickelodeon announced at SDCC 2023 they secured the rights to this elusive series, and streaming will commence extremely soon this year. Exact sites are still to be determined, but expect it on platforms like Paramount+, Pluto TV, YouTube, and similar venues, as well as additional locations internationally. There’s also a strong chance it might show up on Nickelodeon’s many channels as well, but in the meantime, those who prefer physical media can still rely on DVDs.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Before The Fast and Furious made it all about family, the first live-action TMNT film was all about brotherhood. Sure, they were green brothers with shells on their backs who battled teen criminals turned ninjas in downtown New York, but they were still family!
State-of-the-art animatronics, butt-kicking martial arts, and a strong story about kinship created a film that was among the highest-grossing in theaters in 1990 and paved the way for Turtlemania to explode to new heights. It ages like fine wine, and is appropriate for everyone while resonating in a special way with the kids who grew up on this film, and became parents today.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Toning down the action and increasing the comedy, The Secret of the Ooze gifted viewers with more action (albeit minus weaponry), more laughs, and the Ninja Rap.
Aside from a jump scare or two, TMNT 2 is appropriate for kids, maybe even more than the first. Far less dark visually as well as in the story, the sequel feels closer to the cartoon without being as over the top.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)
The final film in the original live-action trilogy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III sent the Turtles to the past to fight in a feudal battle with timey-wimey implications.
For younger children, the time-travel antics equal a fun 90 minutes. In the case of older kids and adults, leaving your brain in a different timeline will help make the threequel more watchable.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III is streaming on Max, Amazon Prime (if your account is connected to a Max account), or can be viewed on demand from places like YouTube, Redbox, Google Play, Vudu, and Apple TV.
Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (1997)
Easily the weirdest show on this list, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation was the singular live-action experiment in the Turtles franchise, at least when it comes to television.
Made by Saban, the same people who brought Power Rangers to America, The Next Mutation was intended to be a sequel to the original ’87 series, but shared little ties to it. While it lacks April O’Neill or Casey Jones, it offers Venus de Milo, the first female ninja turtle in the group. This paved the way for Jennika as the fifth turtle in the current IDW TMNT comics, where a new iteration of Venus also recently debuted as a very different character than her live-action counterpart.
The solitary season of Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation currently isn’t streaming anywhere, but there are ways to find it for anyone courageous enough to dare. However, the Turtles did a cross-over with the Power Rangers in Space that is very easy to find on Amazon, and it’s the best thing about this TMNT series.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)
The 2003 revival of TMNT was a hit all around, maturing the show enough to match the aesthetics and action of its contemporaries, but remaining accessible to kids seven and older. It’s got a great reputation among the fans for the animation, and faithfulness to the source material, while also taking liberties that made for seven seasons of great episodes.
This aged-up version has laughs and great action but leans on its comic book roots for more mature storytelling. While the original ‘87 cartoon eventually tried to match pace with gritty shows like X-Men, the 2003 series nails that from the start, while still being about a group of fun turtle bros who want to kick some shell and share a slice of pizza afterward.
The 2003 TMNT reboot also had a multi-part arc squeezed into a movie called Turtles Forever. Consider this the Turtle equivalent of Across the Spider-Verse, as the four main turtles leap across dimensions, meeting alternate versions of themselves from around the multiverse to aid in their fight against the biggest bads they’ve ever faced.
If you want dark and brooding, look no further than TMNT.
The first CGI Turtles film is about as serious as TMNT gets outside of the comics. The film starts with the family fractured, years after defeating Shredder. It takes a new threat to bring the group home, forcing them to work together as a fighting force and reunite as brothers.
This movie is like if the Turtles went through an Emo phase, but still kept taking martial arts classes in between listening to My Chemical Romance. Teenagers no more, this foursome brought the most maturity ever seen in the franchise, making it suitable for kids in their double-digits and older audiences who can follow a more downbeat and nuanced story.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012)
The 2012 reboot series was the first in the franchise to be CGI, and is considered a modern classic by many fans. While the original series and some of its successors overstayed their welcome, most agree this version ended too soon.
All the boxes can be checked off for this version – perfect voice acting (including the return of Rob Paulsen from the ’87 series), smooth animation, diverse and entertaining stories, all with a dash of signature Turtle humor. It offers a wonderful experience for fans of any age, all the way up to adult, and makes a perfect gateway to interest kids in the franchise.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles + Out of the Shadows (2014)
TMNT purists were leery of the Michael Bay-produced rendition, but the movie became the highest-grossing entry in the series at the box office and proved popular enough to warrant a sequel in 2016, subtitled Out of the Shadows.
Intense fight scenes, dizzying visuals, and hyper-realistic turtles aren’t for everyone, but for families already comfortable with Bay’s Transformers films, his version of the Turtles isn’t much of a departure from that. Megan Fox stars in both franchises, so maybe Mikaela Banes left Sam Witwicky to start a new life as a reporter in NYC, running into four fighting reptiles because her life is anything but boring.
Bay’s first TMNT film is available to stream on Amazon Prime and Paramount+. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows can be streamed on Amazon Prime, Paramount+, Hulu, Roku, and YouTube with a special Primetime subscription.
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2018)
The most recent animated TV series debuted on Nickelodeon in 2018. Friendlier and funnier to young children, some notable changes were made to this reimagined version of the show.
Raphael is the leader instead of Leonardo, and each of the brothers is a different species of turtle. The ninjas in training range from being 13 to 15 instead of sharing the same age, and utilize a few different weapons than their predecessors as well (no more nunchucks for Mikey). As the series progresses, the Turtles gain mystical powers to help them fight Baron Draxum (voiced by John Cena) and his villainous horde.
This show is more akin to the speed of a hummingbird than a turtle, moving at a breakneck pace to deliver loads of one-liners and brightly colored fight scenes. Fans of Teen Titans Go! will love Rise of the TMNT, although it does have an ongoing continuity that’s intriguing for those who fall deeper into its characters and lore.
Both seasons of the series are available on Paramount+. Netflix only has 26 episodes, but somehow is the exclusive streaming home of the movie from 2022. Some episodes from season 2 are available for free on Nickelodeon’s website, while others require signing in with a TV provider to continue watching.
Lost in the Sewer
If you want to learn all about the history of the series, check out Turtle Power on Paramount+. This great documentary gives you a “peek under the shell” with loads of great information on this wonderful series.
In 2019, Batman VS Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out of nowhere to produce a sleeper direct-to-DVD hit. These unlikely combatants combined their might to face The Shredder and Ra’s Al Ghul, in a story tied to family as much as martial arts mayhem. It’s a pairing long overdue, and a hidden treasure among the many versions of TMNT, worth it just to learn how Batman eats pizza. It’s not streaming anywhere, but it can be found in places like Amazon and most other on-demand platforms.
No TMNT list would be complete without a few anomalies. These oddities aren’t officially streaming anywhere but can be found on YouTube with ease. The same year the first live-action TMNT film was released, the Coming Out of Their Shells album hit shelves. You haven’t seen the Turtles until you’ve seen their concert video, rocking out in denim vests and breaking out their finest dance moves to defeat Shredder before he destroys music forever. It’s not required material for the assignment, but it’s certainly an experience.
And finally, Cartoon Allstars to the Rescue, an obscure 30-minute short featuring 80’s cartoon characters like Alf, Garfield, The Chipmunks, and others joining forces to battle the greatest enemy of them all – pot. Michelangelo joins the fray halfway into the short, confronting an addict teen under the influence of narcotics, voiced by George C. Scott. If that sentence wasn’t the best hook for this, did I mention Winnie the Pooh is also in it? It’s a trip, in the best sense of the word.
The Ninja Turtles will always have a place in pop culture, evolving with each generation who watches them. The most recent film produced by Seth Rogen, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, is a fresh take on a radical franchise that has done it all. What comes beyond that will be a welcome surprise, but their enduring legacy keeps them as hot and exciting as freshly made pizza.
The new film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem hits theaters on August 2, 2023.
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