NINJA TURTLES Recap! – Complete History of Every TMNT Film

NINJA TURTLES Recap! - Complete History of Every TMNT Film

Our Ninja Turtles Recap is here! The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been fighting the Foot Clan for more than 40 years, and in this video we breakdown their history, and their films–form the classic 1990 Turtles movie, to the Michael Bay franchise that wasn’t.

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Written by Jack Piccone @jackienobrakes
Hosted by Ryan Arey (
Edited by Harriet Lengel-Enright, Randolf Nombrado, Lee Mazzio, Sofien Dami, and Brianna McLarty

#NinjaTurtles #TMNT #recap

Since the indie comic first introduced the world to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1984, there have been A LOT of adaptations. TV shows, video games, you name it — but so far, there have been only six theatrical films. Mutant Mayhem — an animated movie produced by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and James Weaver — will be the 7th big-screen take on the Turtles when it comes out.

THAT film is set in a new timeline we haven’t seen before, not connected to any of the previous movies or TV shows. But this isn’t the first time the franchise has been rebooted. Depending on who you ask, the previous six films take place in either two or three different timelines.

Doug: Depending on who you ask? Like who, the Watcher?

Ryan: I’ll explain what I mean in a bit, when we get to the first reboot in the franchise. But now you got me wishing Jeffrey Wright DID host a What If? type show with alternate Ninja Turtles dimensions. That would be radical.

Doug: It’d be totally tubular.

Ryan: It’d be bodacious.

[Ryan and Doug high-five and COWABUNGA!]

Let’s go through each of the six theatrical Ninja Turtles movies, in chronological order. We’ll skip the straight-to-video movies, like 2019’s Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for now.

I’ll also go through how these films adapted the comics in their own ways: sometimes similar, sometimes VERY different. This could give us a good idea of how Mutant Mayhem will be its own new thing, but also a part of the shared legacy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I’m assuming you guys already have some basic idea of what the Turtles even are, right? They’ve been such a pop culture phenomenon for pretty much four decades, so it’s kind of a given. Just in case, the very basic premise that began with the comics — and pretty much is the case for most adaptations — is this: Four baby turtles were mutated with a radioactive ooze that made them smarter and stronger.

They grew up in the sewers of New York City, and were raised by a rat named Splinter, who also taught them Ninjutsu. The turtles are named Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael.

Doug: Oooh, they’re all named after famous characters from The Sopranos.

Ryan: What, no, they’re named after Renaissance artists. And they each have a weapon they specialize in: Leonardo has katanas, Raphael the sai, Donatello the bo, and Michelangelo, the nunchucks.

The Turtles typically use their ninja skills to protect New York, and sometimes the entire world. Their archnemesis is the Shredder and the Foot Clan, and most adaptations also involve mutant and/or alien villains as well, like Bebop, Rocksteady, and Krang. Allies, like April O’Neil and vigilante Casey Jones, are also usually part of the Turtles’ story. Especially April, who is typically a lab assistant or journalist of some kind.

It’s a story that lends itself well to adaptation. It’s got a strong core premise that can be tweaked in all sorts of little ways, just like other pop culture icons like Batman or Spider-Man. Even details like where the Turtles mutated, who named them, or even whether Splinter was originally a rat or not, change from story to story.

This flexibility in the canon can make some of the movies feel VERY different from one another. Especially since they adapt not just the original comics, which were pretty dark and mature, but also the hit 1987 cartoon that really launched the franchise into the mainstream.

THAT version was a Saturday morning cartoon primarily meant to sell as many toys as possible, and was very different from what Ninja Turtles creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman originally envisioned. The movies, in their own ways, take different elements from both the darker comics and the kid-friendly cartoon and combine them into something entirely new.

So let’s start with the very first theatrical movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which came out on March 30, 1990. Directed by Steve Barron and written by Todd W. Langen and Bobby Herbeck, the movie was fairly low budget, made for less than 14 million dollars.

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