Ever since getting adapted from a serious-minded indie comic into a kids’ cartoon, humor has been a significant part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ success. When the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film came out in 1990, its uniquely specific blend of action and comedy made for one of the best comic book films ever and one of the top-grossing independent films of all time.
On August 2nd, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles return to the big screen with their seventh theatrical film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, produced by Seth Rogen. To gear up for the release, let’s dive into some of the funniest jokes and moments from all of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films…
The first film remains the series’ best — and funniest. One of its better gags comes early in the movie, with Donatello and Michelangelo awaiting the arrival of a pizza delivery guy. As Donatello tries to have a heartfelt conversation with his brother, Mikey ignores him and says, “Pizza dude’s got 30 seconds.”
When the Domino’s driver arrives a few minutes later, an unseen Michelangelo instructs him to slide the pizza into the sewer. Mikey then pays just $10 for a $13 pizza and offers the delivery guy some words of wisdom: “Wise man say, forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza.”
Cricket and Canseco
Most of the comedic relief from the Ninja Turtles films comes from Michelangelo and Donatello. Still, Raphael gets in some good jokes, too, especially squaring off with the vigilante/sporting-goods enthusiast Casey Jones (Elias Koteas). When Casey pulls out a cricket bat from his golf bag of weapons, Raphael quips, “Cricket? Nobody understands cricket. You gotta know what a crumpet is to understand cricket.”
Raphael was also ahead of the steroid-era hate, proclaiming, “A José Canseco bat? Tell me, you didn’t pay money for this.”
‘You’re Goin’ to LaGuardia, Right?’
After the showdown with Casey Jones, Raphael is chasing Jones through the street when he almost gets hit by a cab. While the cab’s passenger asks, “What the heck was that?” The old-school New York cabbie, who’s presumably seen everything, simply shrugs and says, “Looked like sort of a big turtle in a trenchcoat. You’re goin’ to LaGuardia, right?”
I Dream of Harry
Part of the reason the first film works is that it plays the absurdities of the franchise for laughs. When April O’Neil (Judith Hoag) first meets the Turtles and Master Splinter, she screams in horror and tries to convince herself that she’s dreaming. She then mumbles to herself, “Why don’t I ever dream of Harrison Ford?” a joke that has aged remarkably well.
Donatello and Michelangelo are watching a cartoon adaptation of Aesop’s The Tortoise and the Hare. The two get hilariously invested in the race, leading Mikey to shout at the tortoise, “Ninja kick the damn rabbit!”
Always Be Prepared
The first film’s most emotional moment is also responsible for its funniest joke. The four Turtles are in the woods around a campfire, trying to commune with their kidnapped, possibly dead, master. Leonardo is the only one who thinks it will work, with Raphael threatening, “If you brought us out here for nothing…” Donnie interrupts, saying, “Don’t worry, I came prepared,” revealing that he’s brought marshmallows for s’mores if solemness doesn’t get them anywhere.
Casey Jones’ Displays of Ignorance
Koteas’ Casey Jones is also good for some laughs, as the character is a bit of an idiot. During his first trip down into the sewers, Casey is clearly uneasy, leading Donatello to state, “You’re a claustrophobic.” Unfamiliar with the word, Casey angrily snaps back, “You want a fist in the mouth? I’ve never even looked at another guy before.”
Of Mutants and Motherhood
The 1991 sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze sees the Shredder make his own mutants to end the Turtles. While the new mutants are properly ferocious, they’re also moronic babies, and when Shredder commands them to call him “Master,” they call him “Mama” instead.
A Little Too Raph
Secret of the Ooze’s most memorable line is also its most nonsensical. After Raphael is captured, the other three Turtles break into the Shredder’s headquarters to rescue him. As they’re sneaking around, Leonardo remarks that the area is “a little too quiet” and that taking down the guards is “a little too easy.” When they finally spot Raphael, Donatello says, “It’s Raph,” causing Mikey to chime in, “A little too Raph.”
Hailing A Cab
A great moment from Secret of the Ooze comes when Tokka and Rahzar are trashing the city, and an older couple getting into a cab takes notice of their destruction. The husband asks, “Animals are knocking down the telephone polls. What do we do if they come over here?” Unimpressed, the wife simply replies, “Let them get their own cab.”
Look, the third Ninja Turtles film, featuring the foursome going back in time, is no one’s favorite. Still, it has its bright spots, several being provided by Corey Feldman, who returned as Donatello after sitting out the second film. Early on, when the Turtles arrive in the past on horseback, Donatello quickly falls into some mud and jokes, “I think I swallowed a frog. I hope it wasn’t an ancestor!”
The sometimes forgotten but solid 2007 film TMNT is a fairly serious take on the foursome, more in line with their comic book origins. It contains fun moments, though, like when Michelangelo begins working as a children’s entertainer, and Donatello gets a job doing over-the-phone tech support. The best bit from Donnie’s work comes when someone clearly dialed the wrong number, leading to Donnie arguing, “No, I’m not playing hard to get! I’m telling you, sir, it’s not that kind of phone line!”
The Elevator Ride
The 2014 Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film is a floating sewer turd. The turtles look hideous, and it’s a near-humorless spectacle akin to the worst of Bay’s Transformers films. There is, however, an island of fun in the ocean of despair: When the Turtles embark on a realistically long and awkward elevator ride, going up to their big showdown atop a skyscraper. To break the silence, Michelangelo begins tapping his nunchucks together and beat-boxing. The other Turtles join in, one by one, until the elevator finally dings open.
Bebop and Rocksteady Are Happy With Their Upgrades
Perhaps the most relatable moment for a guy in any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film came in 2016’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (which still isn’t good, but better than the 2014 film thanks, primarily, to the addition of Bebop and Rocksteady).
After human street punks Bebop and Rocksteady are transformed into a mutant warthog and rhinoceros, one of the first things they do is check to make sure their penises are intact after the mutation. While we don’t quite know what’s going on down there, it’s clear that they’re both happy with their newly-mutated manhoods, high-fiving each other and shouting, “My man!”
Michelangelo Gets Canceled
So far, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem looks promising, both for its dynamic art style and the youthful energy injected back into the franchise. The trailers have been delightful, with the funniest moment being Leonardo snitching on his brothers for sneaking out to get pizza.
“Leo! You ratted us out!” Mikey yells at him. To which an offended Splinter replies, “Hey! Don’t use that word that way!” In the background, we hear Donnie say, “I mean, it’s 2023, Mikey.”