6 Reasons Why The Original TMNT Movies Are Awesome (& 6 Ways The Michael Bay Movies Are Superior)

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Some of the very best ideas for movies or television shows come from the most random places, and, when it comes to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, that’s exactly what happened when it all began, with the inception coming from a casual conversation with a friend one night.

The first comic came out in 1984, the first original movie came out in 1990, and numerous sequels and re-boots followed suit. This explosion of success gave the 1980s and 1990s kids the opportunity to fall in love with not only the comics but the movies, as well. Sometimes, movies derived from comics fall short, but not these.

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RELATED: All 8 TMNT Movies Ranked (According To IMDb)

Most of the time, re-boots can’t hold a candle next to the original movies, but they can have their moments. When Michael Bay is involved, fans know they can expect adventure, thrills, and movies with lots of explosions. Fans may lean towards one or the other, but, without a doubt, the originals and re-boots both have the potential for success, a solid fan base, and, as always, the titular turtles in a half-shell.

Updated on April 25th, 2022 by Amanda Bruce: There has been plenty of debate as to whether the live-action or the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle projects are better, but the different mediums allow for different story elements to be included in those various adaptations. Likewise, Michael Bay’s approach to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles allows for a new take on the 1990s versions of the characters. Fans can compare the different live-action versions for themselves as the original ’90s movie trilogy is now available to stream on Netflix while Bay’s duology is available on Paramount Plus.


Why The Original TMNT Movies Are Awesome

The Original Movies Are A Snapshot Of 90s Cinema

Donatello and April in her kitchen in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Secret Of The Ooze

Having been more than 30 years since the original live-action movie debuted in theaters, there’s a certain element of nostalgia associated with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Whether movie audiences of today love the ’90s or not, there is a very specific feel to ’90s action movies that is reflected in the story.

April O’Neil might be an intrepid reporter, but she’s also someone willing to take in mutant turtles off the streets, and she plays the damsel in distress. The fascination with superheroes isn’t quite there yet the way it is in modern movies, so the average person in the story is just as scared of a Ninja Turtle as they are grateful to be saved by them. The action sequences are just as quippy as today’s, but the violence is more stylized than realistic. The story, of course, is also relatively family-friendly, which definitely isn’t the case for modern action movies.


They Are Faithful To The Comics

A split image features comic book Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles alongside the original live action movie depiction

When some movies are brought to life based on comics, storylines tend to change and characters may be added; with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this isn’t the case. From the very start, the fan base was huge based on the comics, the animated series, and then the 1990 movie. While the comics tended to steer toward a more violent storyline, the movies in the 1990s stuck close to the martial arts theme.

They also take the original storyline of the comics and make it into a more colorful, big-screen adaptation. In fact, some of the best moments in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles original movies are in the 1990 movie.


Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Did A Great Job On The Turtles

While there have been huge leaps and bounds when it comes to CGI and technological advancements in the film industry, there’s something nostalgic and great about the Turtles in the old movies. Leave it up to legend Jim Henson to create something so powerful, tough, and funny at the same time. He also had a hand in creating Splinter’s character, which is also an iconic character to this day. Looking back at Henson’s creatures, the Turtles are definitely among the most iconic.

There were two versions of the Turtles: “Stunt Turtles” and “Hero Turtles.” While the audience mostly saw the “Hero Turtles,” the “Stunt Turtles” were used for more rugged and complex scenes. Seeing these characters comes to life out of a comic book was something special, and Henson nailed it.


The Action Scenes Are Classic And Entertaining

There’s something about action scenes from movies in the 1990s that are so entertaining to watch and can be appreciated for the lack of CGI or technology backing the stuntmen and actors. Golden Harvest Production Company is famous for having a heavy hand in martial art scenes starring Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee in movies such as Enter the Dragon and Fist of Fury. These movies are iconic because of the incredible fight scenes.

There’s nothing quite like watching stuntmen somersault, cartwheel, and karate kick in the air, all while wearing a suit that weighs somewhere around fifty pounds. Throwing it back to before there were constant green screens is humbling and fun to look back on.

They Are Nostalgic And Are A Mix Of Dark & Light

It’s true that the old movies paid tribute to the black and white comics, but it did lighten up the mood on the silver screen as well. While the comics were often moody and violent, the movies were funny and could hold the attention of younger kids. Yes, there were fight scenes with weapons, but it was never too much that it couldn’t be considered a PG-rated movie.

RELATED: 10 Surprising Facts Behind The Making Of The 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie

Any “superhero” movie has a climax-based storyline that involves a villain that needs to be slain, but the Turtles just did it in a much more cool and child-like way.

The Turtles Were Teenagers, So They Were Relatable

Raphael holds a pizza just out of reach from his brothers in the 90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Tutles live action movie

The original movies were such a blast to watch as a younger kid into teen-hood for the sole reason that the Turtles had the personalities of teenage boys. These days, most superheroes or heroes, in general, are grown-ups, which gives the younger audience something to look up to, but it was special that the heroes kids idolized were supposed to be a few years older than them.

Also, the fact that the Turtles were obsessed with pizza is huge, because what kid doesn’t like pizza?

Why The Michael Bay TMNT Movies Are Superior

Stephen Amell Is A Perfect Casey Jones

Like the 1990s movies, hockey mask-wearing vigilante Casey Jones makes an appearance in live-action. This time around, he’s played by Stephen Amell. Elias Koteas does a great job as the character in the original movie, but his presence feels more like a love interest than a vigilante. Amell’s version of the character manages to balance both aspects of the character in his portrayal.


The audience–likely used to seeing him play the more brooding vigilante Oliver Queen in Arrow at the time–would have seen a slightly lighter character from him here. He manages to be capable, sarcastic, and fun without overshadowing Megan Fox’s April, and he feels more like a genuine ally.

They Provide A Different Take On Current Superhero Movies

The Ninja Turtles in an elevator in the Michael Bay movie

These days, the likes of Marvel and DC have released extremely successful superhero movies that follow the course of the comics, but they tend to stick to a similar narrative of seriousness and humanized superheroes.

When it comes to Michael Bay’s version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, his film stands out among the masses and made a name for itself in today’s movie industry just for the fact that they are creatures and not any old human-being with special powers.

They Give Today’s Generation A Chance To Fall In Love With TMNT

A closeup of the modern Ninja Turtles in Michael Bay's movie

People that were kids in the 1980s and 1990s had the pleasure of growing up with some pretty iconic characters, but, these days, there is so much to see that it’s hard to hone in on one beloved show or movie and idolize it until adulthood. With Michael Bay’s version of the Turtles, he brought back the nostalgia and hilarious characters that adults today can appreciate and reminisce with.

Bringing back beloved characters is a tricky feat, and, if it’s not done right, the cast and crew will hear about it. In terms of how the re-boots worked out, Bay did a pretty good job of taking aspects from the old movies and making sure they stayed present in the updated movies. While Michael Bay is known for some pretty iconic movies, he should be given credit for taking on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.

The Turtle Actors Are Charming & Funny

Michelangelo removes his mask in the 2016 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action movie

Even though the re-vamped Turtles were bulkier and stronger, that didn’t take away from the fact that they were still goofy, relatable, and charming characters. The Michael Bay movies were the best in the entire franchise, but at least the Turtles were a good pick to lead the movies while still remaining youthful, with each character having their own personality and qualities.

RELATED: 20 Awesome Facts About TMNT’s Michelangelo

What’s even better is that, while they are definitely turtles, the re-boots tap into a more humanized form of the characters, making potentially-alienating characters seem all the more human.


The Turtles Got A Refreshing Makeover

A split image compares the 90s live action Ninja Turtle design to the 2016 design

The original look of Raphael, Leonardo, Donatello, and Michaelangelo will forever stay in the hearts of early fans, but it wouldn’t make sense that Michael Bay would recreate these important characters to look exactly like they once were in the 1990s. While fans know how much butt the Turtles can kick, it was refreshing to see them more bulked up and tough in the Michael Bay movies.

It works in today’s society, without them being overly scary or intimidating, so kids and parents can both watch the films without one of them crying in terror. Another plus? They have really cool gadgets that are needed in this generation’s action movies.

The Action Sequences Are Big

The live action turtles jump out of a plane in the Micheal Bay movie

Even though the action and fight scenes in the original movies will be remembered as iconic, there’s nothing quite like action scenes that come from a Michael Bay movie. Some of Bay’s most underrated (and overrated) movies have the fan bases they have because of his over-abundance of thrilling scenes, and, when it comes to his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, he goes big.

There is never a shortage of explosions, use of gadgets, weapons, and one-liners to keep the viewers going when it comes to Bay movies, which continues to keep fans lining up for more tricks and trades of the Bay clan.

NEXT: 10 Differences You Never Noticed About The 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Vs Today)


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