Top 10 Darkest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Moments Ever

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Top 10 Darkest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Moments Ever

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Darkest Moments on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For this list, we'll be looking at scenes from the “Turtles” TV shows and movies where the pizzas and cowabungas took a backseat to something more menacing. This means a few spoilers, dudes. Our countdown includes a defeat, Master Splinter's kidnapping, turtle injuries and more!
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Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Darkest Moments on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For this list, we’ll be looking at scenes from the “Turtles” TV shows and movies where the pizzas and cowabungas took a backseat to something more menacing. This means a few spoilers, dudes. What do you think is the darkest “Ninja Turtles” moment? Let us know in the comments!

#10: Dregg Defeats Turtles?
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1987-96)


The 1987 animated series was more lighthearted than the original comics and most subsequent shows. The final three seasons took a drastically darker turn, though, with sharper angles, ominous backdrops, and the arrival of a red-eyed alien warlord named Lord Dregg. Although not as memorable as Shredder and Krang, Dregg at times posed a greater threat. In the penultimate episode, it briefly appears that Dregg succeeds in his evil endeavor. Freezing the Turtles in place, Dregg shatters our heroes in a half shell into pieces. Dregg celebrates too early, as it turns out he only destroyed extremely realistic holograms. Don’t you love Saturday morning cartoon logic? Nevertheless, seeing the Turtles vaporized (even as holograms) was still darker than what viewers had come to expect.

#9: Teenage Mutant Road Warriors
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2012-17)


“Mad Max” meets “Ninja Turtles?” It’s an odd yet awesome combination, which is what this franchise is all about. We’re used to seeing the Turtles save New York and even the world. In this alternate reality three-parter, the world is already essentially lost. A mutagen bomb has turned Earth into a barren wasteland where humanity is no more and mutants inherit what’s left. Raph is a crusty old man while Donatello requires a robot body to survive. After believing his other brothers are dead, Raph finds Mikey, who’s seen better days. Mikey still looks better than Leo, whose memories and mind have been traded for a hulking bod. While the ending is optimistic, there’s still a bittersweet sentiment that things will never be the same.

#8: Splinter Taken
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1990)


The 1990 live-action film found the ideal balance between the cartoon’s comedy and the grittier comics. That said, when the film wanted to throw something heavy, it didn’t hold back. One moment that sticks with us sees the Turtles return home, finding their lair torn apart. With their master missing, Raph can’t control his anger. As the camera circles around the angsty turtle, we experience all of his rage, guilt, and sadness. Although Splinter isn’t dead, seeing him imprisoned isn’t much easier to watch. The film effectively makes viewers believe that Splinter might not survive as the Turtles gather around a campfire. Communicating through astral projection, the Turtles share what might be their final moments with their father. Thankfully, Splinter lives to fight another day.

#7: Shredhead
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2003-09)


Coming off a more comedic animated show, the 2003 “Turtles” series caught viewers off guard with several shocking instances. The first major “oh snap!” moment comes during Season 1’s climactic battle against the Shredder. With Splinter in rough shape, the Turtles set out to put down Shredder and the Foot once and for all. For one victorious moment, it appears they have. Armed with the Sword of Tengu, a vengeful Leo slices through Shredder with the villain’s helmet falling off in silhouette. It’s not as gruesome as it sounds. Shredder’s body eventually gets back up, retrieving his head! The revelation that this Shredder isn’t human is jaw-dropping in its own right, but it’s the image of the helmet collapsing that’s burned into our heads.

#6: Shredder Strikes
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2012-17)


Building upon the darker tone of the 2003 show, the 2012 series is perhaps the most mature “Turtles” interaction outside of the comics. In the Season 2 finale, our heroes endure everything that can go wrong. The Kraang invade, the Turtles’ lair is discovered, and Irma undergoes a freaky transformation we were not expecting. The darkest moment comes as Leo confronts Shredder. Leo fights admirably against the Foot-Bots and other mutants, but he doesn’t anticipate Shredder striking him from behind. The downhill spiral continues as Leo gets tossed through a window at April’s apartment with his shell cracked. The Turtles ultimately lose this battle, being forced to flee New York with a wounded Leo while Splinter is reluctantly left behind following another Shredder match.

#5: Karai Stabs Leo
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2003-09)


Leo has taken a lot of punishment over the years. In this case, Leo doesn’t face off against Shredder, but his adoptive daughter Karai. Torn between her honor and father, Karai takes the darker path after Leo saves her from falling. Shredder intervenes in the fight, kicking Leo towards Karai, who unintentionally stabs Leo with his own katana blade. Between the piercing sound and defeated look on Leo’s face, this may be the most violent combat moment in the series. Granted, the blade appears inexplicably clean as Karai removes it from Leo, but this still hurts to watch. The injury has lasting consequences, as part of Leo’s shell is broken. Leo is also left with PTSD, coming to terms with his failure over multiple episodes.

#4: Splinter & Karai’s Origins
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2012-17)


Although Splinter’s origins have always been dark, the 2012 series added another layer of tragedy. As a human, Hamato Yoshi lost his beloved Tang Shen and daughter Miwa to friend-turned-enemy Oroku Saki. Even when time travel enters the mix, the show doesn’t retcon Shen’s death. However, Splinter learns years after this loss that his daughter survived. The Shredder kidnapped Miwa and renamed her Karai, pinning the death of her mother on Splinter. World domination is one thing, but lying to a child and raising them to hate their real parent is another level of evil. When Karai learns the truth, she’s ready to turn over a new leaf. Just as Splinter gets his daughter back, he loses her again as Shredder mutates Karai.

#3: Baxter Stockman’s Body
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2003-09)


In some versions, scientist Baxter Stockman is mutated into a fly creature. The 2003 series went in another direction, but it retained an element of body horror worthy of David Cronenberg. Every time Stockman fails Shredder, another part of his body is removed. It eventually gets to the point where Stockman is just a brain and eye in a tank, but that’s far from the darkest part. After constructing a new body, Stockman begins to fall to pieces all over again. This time, his mind begins to unravel as well with visions of his late mother haunting him. After Stockman falls to his apparent demise, Agent Bishop revives his brain. By this point, though, Stockman just wishes he had been left to rot.

#2: Donnie in The Darkest Universe
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2003-09)


The great thing about alternate reality episodes is that showrunners can go as dark as they want without lasting repercussions. “Same As It Never Was” takes full advantage of this. In a story arc that sent each turtle somewhere different across space and time, Donatello got the short end of the Bo-Staff. The smartest turtle winds up in a dystopian future where Shredder reigns supreme. 30 years have passed with Mikey losing most of his arm, Raph losing an eye, and Leo looking like Neo. With Splinter and Casey dead, enemies join forces in a last-ditch mission to bring Shredder down. Following a trail of bodies and shells, Donnie defeats Shredder while April is left to pick up the pieces of this grim reality alone.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Leo vs. Raph, “TMNT” (2007)

A Sibling Rivalry Reaches Its Boiling Point

The Rat King’s Demise & Splinter’s Hallucination, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2012-17)

Just When You Thought Rats Couldn’t Get Creepier

Za-Naron Disintegrates Donnie, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2012-17)


Who Knew April Could Be So Scary?

Tiger Claw Loses An Arm, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2012-17)


Good Thing He Has the Other Claw… Otherwise His Name Would Need Retooling

Demonic New York, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2003-09)

Arguably the Darkest Season Climaxed with Hell on Earth

#1: Splinter’s Last Stand
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2012-17)

With a franchise like “Ninja Turtles,” it’s rare that a main character dies and stays dead. Season 3 of the 2012 series ended with Shredder slaying Splinter before the world is sucked into a black hole. Thanks to time travel, the Turtles save the world and their father. After that, it seemed increasingly unlikely that the show would fully commit to killing off Splinter. This made it all the more shocking when Splinter faced Super Shredder the next season. Following years of built-up animosity, Splinter seemingly bests his old enemy. Everything changes in a flash as Shredder sneaks up, impaling Splinter and throwing him to his doom. Leo soon avenges his father and although Splinter resurfaces as a spirit, there are no resurrections this time.
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