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TMNT: How to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies & TV shows in chronological and release order

Cowabunga, dude

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Image credit: Nickelodeon

So, you want to watch the adventures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, do you? Well, that might be more complicated than you might expect.

Since their on-screen debut in 1987 — just three years after the characters debuted in a self-published comic book, impressively — Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo have appeared in multiple television series and movies, both live action and animated, with multiple reboots, reimaginings, and revisions along the way. “Your” flavor of Turtles might say a lot about the version onscreen when you first discovered them, with some pretty big tonal differences to be found between the multiple versions… and yet, at the core of everything are four brothers who like to kick back and eat pizza between saving the day.

Of course, that just raises the question: which Turtles are you looking for? And, for that matter, where do you start when trying to catch up? My dear mutated friends, we’re so glad you asked. Keep reading.

How to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies & TV shows in release order

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Image credit: Nickelodeon

There are, of course, multiple incarnations of the Turtles across big and small screens, but if you want to catch them all, this is how to do so in release order. (Take a deep breath; this is a long one.)

The original animated series debuted as a five-episode miniseries before expanding into a full series the following year; it’s the Turtles as most people of a certain generation remember them, helped by the fact that this show inspired a comic book spin-off of its very own (from Archie Comics, no less), as well as multiple revivals onscreen, as well… but we’ll get there soon enough.

In the midst of the first flush of Turtles-mania — during which Turtle toys sold so well that the brand became the third highest-selling toy line in the U.S. at the time, behind G.I. Joe and Transformers — music video director Steve Barron got together with Muppets creator Jim Henson to bring the Turtles to live-action movie life. 1990’s TMNT movie was such a hit — it grossed more than $200 million on a $13.5 million budget, and was for a while the highest grossing independent movie of all time — that two sequels quickly followed, to increasingly disappointing box office returns. A fourth movie was briefly in the works, but plans were abandoned due to the failure of the third feature.

Although the live-action movie series had run aground years earlier, a live-action television series that added a fifth Turtle — a girl called Venus De Milo — was a very short-lived attempt to reboot the franchise. It lasted just one season, and is arguably most memorable for having a crossover with the series Power Rangers in Space. Consider this a curio for hardcore fans.

A far more successful reboot came with Fox’s animated revival of the franchise in 2003, which eschewed the approach of previous adaptations and went for a more serious tone that closely matched the original comic book series. The series would prove to be impressively malleable, reinventing itself multiple times across its run — the fifth, sixth, and seventh seasons all had new subtitles and status quos, with the sixth and seventh having new art styles and storytelling approaches, and by the seventh season, the characters had been redesigned to more closely resemble the cast of the 2007 TMNT movie despite existing in its own separate continuity.

Featuring a big name voice cast (including Chris Evans, Patrick Stewart, and Laurence Fishburne, amongst others), the first animated feature for the Turtles was enough of a hit that a trilogy was planned before Nickelodeon bought the property in 2009 and wanted a clean slate. Before that happened, though, we got…

Ostensibly an epilogue to the 2003-2008 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, Turtles Forever is actually a crossover multiverse movie in which the 2003 Turtles meet the '80s animated Turtles, and the villains from both animated shows team up to cause trouble. It’s as much fun as it sounds, and a sign that there’s a lot of love for the entire history of the franchise at play from everyone who works on it.

Somewhat surreally, the 1980s animated continuity is also visited in the second and fifth seasons of Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the first-post purchase reboot of the franchise. The series was a hit, and the show’s tight, time-traveling continuity kept fans excited enough that a made-for-TV movie epilogue set in a post-apocalyptic future, Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse, was created to tie up some loose ends.

Critics weren’t kind to this live-action reboot of the movie franchise, which featured Megan Fox as April O’Neil and the voices of Johnny Knoxville and Tony Shalhoub as Leo and Splinter, respectively, but it was enough of a hit that a sequel was rushed to theaters… only to reportedly lose the studio $75 million when it tanked in theaters.

The afore-mentioned epilogue to the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, which flashes forward into a future reality where humanity has been transformed into a tribe of mutants via a mutagen bomb, which… when you come to think about it, shares no small amount of DNA with 2023’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem…

Within a year of the previous animated series ending, the franchise was rebooted and redesigned for a brand new TV series intended to be lighter, funnier, and skew younger than the more serious previous version. The show lasted two seasons, initially on Nickelodeon and later Nicktoons, although a spin-off movie would debut on Netflix two years after the fact. Those Turtles, always on the move…

And so we get to where we’re at today; this year’s (amazing) Mutant Mayhem is intended as a reboot that will span movies and TV, with the small screen Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles spin-off already in the works for next year, alongside a big screen sequel to the movie. This is the new era for the Turtles, and let’s be honest: it looks amazing.

How to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in chronological order

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Image credit: Nickelodeon

As you could tell above, a lot of the different Turtles movies and shows exist in their own continuities, but that’s not exactly the case for all of them. Here’s how to watch the Turtles in chronological order:

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (10 seasons, 1987-1996)
  • Turtles Forever (2009)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (AKA Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) (5 seasons, 2012-2017)

The '80s Turtles reappear in two different shows 20 years after the fact, which makes their continuity the most difficult to keep track of. Think of this as Into The Spider-Verse, but for Turtles. Into the Turtles-Verse? (I admit it, 'Into the Sewer-Verse' has a certain ring to it.)

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)

The '90s movies are a complete continuity in themselves.

  • Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (1 season, 1997)

There’s a school of thought that The Next Mutation is a continuation of the 1990s movies, for two primary reasons: it’s another live-action version of the franchise — and one where the Turtles are notably older than they’re traditionally portrayed — and, perhaps more curiously, one of the projected titles for the mooted-but-never-happened fourth live action movie was ‘The Next Mutation.’ Nonetheless, this is canonically its own thing. Sorry, continuity nerds.

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (10 seasons, 1987-1996)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (7 seasons, 2003-2008)
  • Turtles Forever (2009)

By dint of the 2003-2008 show crossing over with the 1980s cartoon in Turtles Forever, this counts as a continuity of sorts, even if you ignore the 2012 series…

  • TMNT (2007)

Again, a complete continuity in and of itself.

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (10 seasons, 1987-1996)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (AKA Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) (5 seasons, 2012-2017)
  • Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse (2017)

Crossing over with the 1980s cartoon and including the Mutant Apocalypse epilogue makes the 2012 series a very tonally complex canon, when taken all together.

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)

The second live-action movie outing for the Turtles couldn’t quite manage the trilogy of its predecessor, but these two movies remain a curiously watchable double act continuity.

  • Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2 seasons, 2018-2020)
  • Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (2022)

If ever any Turtles animated series feels like it should have gone back to cross over with the 1980s original, it’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; unfortunately, it just exists in a continuity all of its own, with two seasons and a movie.

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023)
  • Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2024)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem untitled sequel (TBA)

Mutant Mayhem was the opener to a whole new Turtles canon on screen, and who knows how big this one will get across the next few years…

Where can I watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Image credit: Nickelodeon

In the U.S., the streaming home for Nickelodeon, which owns the Turtles, is Paramount+. Not every Turtles offering is available on there due to rights issues, however; we’d recommend you use the Amazon links above in the Release Order section to catch up with those that are missing.

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About the Author
Graeme McMillan avatar

Graeme McMillan

Staff Writer

Popverse staff writer Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.