So you may or may not have wondered what my next big stupid project was after watching the entire Arrowverse, over 25 Christmas movies and all of Dawson’s Creek. Obvious the only way to follow these up was by watching all 42 Scooby-Doo movies.
Are you seriously trying to tell me that you didn’t know that they’ve been making almost one Scooby-Doo animated movie a year ever since 1998?
Well I suppose that’s for the best because they vary wildly in terms of quality. I spent the last month watching every Scooby-Doo animated and live-action movie, just so I can point out the few actually fun ones.
What goes into a Scooby-Doo movie?
Scooby-Doo movies, much like the series, see the Mystery Incorporated team in a new location solving a new mystery. Normally after arriving somewhere new, they or the locals are assaulted by some sort of spook, and after a series of comedic capers they are revealed to be some man in a mask. Main motivators include real estate schemes, revenge and treasure, but occasionally the group are coerced into saving the world.
Obviously these are much longer than their normal 20-minute slot, so the pressure is on to the maker of any Scooby-Doo film to make something that manages to maintain your attention for the full run-time of a movie. You know you’re watching one of the terrible movies when you’re thinking to yourself that this could have easily been a normal episode that’s been stretched for an extra hour.
They try to break up the formula as much as possible, either through heavy critisism of the show as a whole or through introducing real monsters. Despite Velma’s insistance that there’s no such thing, the gang manage to meet an awful lot of real monsters over these movies.
Expectations are everything when it comes to these movies. You take a cool sounding title like Legend of the Vampire and you might think that you’re about to watch something exciting and a bit dark, only to have one of the most sleep-inducing films I’ve ever slogged through. Meanwhile the much dumber sounding Where’s My Mummy? blew it out of the water, having an actual mystery with stakes, some great twists and giving a decent challenge for a Velma-less gang out in the deserts of Egypt.
The Definitive List
Here it is, the list itself. I’ve marked all the non-animated movies in bold, just in case you’re not a fan of cartoons. If you disagree with any of my placements feel free to let me know, I’m fairly comfortable to defend any placements here.
I would watch anything in the top 20 again for sure, but I would say the ones following aren’t quite as enjoyable. Everything past 30 is mostly terrible, and should only be watching if you really like Scooby-Doo, I know I won’t be going back to them any time soon.
- Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
- Scooby-Doo! The Sword and the Scoob (2021)
- Scooby-Doo & Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018)
- Scooby-Doo! And Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery (2015)
- Daphne & Velma (2018)
- Scooby-Doo! Shaggy’s Showdown (2017)
- Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy (2014)
- Scooby-Doo (2002)
- Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon (2012)
- Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase (2001)
- Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost (2019)
- Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster (2010)
- Scooby-Doo! in Where’s My Mummy? (2005)
- Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire (2012)
- Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost (1999)
- Scooby-Doo! Stage Fright (2013)
- Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo (2010)
- Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery (2014)
- Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island (2019)
- Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. (1998)
- Scooby-Doo! and WWE: Curse of the Speed Demon (2016)
- Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness (2015)
- Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur (2011)
- Big Top Scooby-Doo! (2012)
- Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins (2009)
- Scooby Goes Hollywood (1979)
- Scoob! (2020)
- Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! (2006)
- Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School (1988)
- Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare (2010)
- Scooby-Doo! and the Gourmet Ghost (2018)
- Scooby-Doo! and the Samurai Sword (2009)
- Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders (2000)
- Scooby-Doo! and the Loch Ness Monster (2004)
- Scooby-Doo! and the Legend of the Vampire (2003)
- Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo! (2020)
- Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico (2003)
- Chill Out, Scooby-Doo! (2007)
- Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers (1987)
- Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King (2008)
- Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf (1988)
- Aloha, Scooby-Doo! (2005)
The good, the bad and the ugly
While other people might not be so generous as to call any of these great movies, you can at least admit when some of these Scooby adventures are of a higher quality than the rest. As someone who’s now watched over 40 of these, you can really tell when they don’t care about the story, or are just going through the motions. The early 2000s were full of these lame ducks, Monster of Mexico and Loch Ness Monster might as well be normal episodes, and that makes their longer runtime even more painful.
My preferred movies were all a bit more tongue-in-cheek. Shaking up a seemingly normal mystery in fun ways gives the writers room for great subversions and twists. None of these films are more outlandish than Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery. This starts in typical Scooby-style, the gang investigating some break-ins at the new Kiss-themed amusement park, the criminal seemingly after a large jewel being held by the band. At the half-way point though everything changes, as it’s revealed that not only are Kiss amazing detectives in their own right, they are alien warriors from another dimension, gifted with Sailor Moon-esque powers in order to defend the magic jewel. This just a little out of the norm for the gang’s usual modus operandi.
A wacky premise isn’t always enough though, you need good writing and a solid script to back it up. Where’s My Mummy? and Stage Fright are more like a typical mystery the gang would solve, but aproach it in new ways. Stage Fright is very small scale, focussing on Fred and Daphne’s relationship, combining The Phantom of the Opera with The X Factor. Meanwhile Mummy? expands the adventure, making the mystery take them across the harsh desert and into deep lost Egyption cities, and has a few great twists at the end.
A big twist can’t always fix a boring mystery though, Camp Scare had a very surprising twist, but the movie wasn’t exciting enough to make up for it, feeling more like a very well-animated long episode. Meanwhile The Sword and the Scoob ended on an anti-climax after an exciting adventure with King Arthur, but this was deliberate and played for laughs.
The two WWE crossover movies (WrestleMania Mystery, Curse of the Speed Demon) are pretty hilarious in their own right too, Shaggy nerding out over famous wrestlers never fails to amuse. The fact that these particular movies are packed to the brim with the real voices of the celebrities really adds to the comedy. These cameos aren’t always done so well though, Happy Halloween forced scientist Bill Nye into the cast as their tech-support, and it’s very distracting.
The five best Scooby-Doo movies
Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
Scooby and Shaggy ruin the reputation of Mystery Incorporated during a robbery at the Coolsville Museum press launch. To gain the respect of their team, they set out to solve the crime on their own. As their past foes return one-by-one as genuine monsters, they realise they have bitten off more than even they can chew.
Scooby-Doo! The Sword and the Scoob (2021)
Whilst on a trip to England, the gang are sent back to the times of King Arthur by the witch Morgan le Fay. Trapped in the past, they must learn to adapt to the King’s court, Daphne becoming a brave knight while Velma has a dabble at sorcery under Nick Frost’s Merlin. Is there really such a thing as magic?
Scooby-Doo & Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018)
Recognising their amazing crime-solving skills, Batman himself approaches Velma and the team to join his squad of intellectual super-heroes. Faced with a strange scheme by the Riddler and his gang, they must split up and search for clues, this time joined by a variety of iconic and niche DC heroes.
Scooby-Doo! And Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery (2015)
As things begin to go wrong at the new Kiss theme park, Daphne brings the team in to investigate (partially just so she can meet Starchild). Also hearing about the mystery, Kiss themselves arrives, apparantly being a world-renowned mystery solving squad in their own right. As things grow more wild, they are revealed to be an interdimensional race of aliens, here to defend a magic jewel. Or maybe it was all a dream?
Daphne & Velma (2018)
See the untold story of how Daphne and Velma became the best of friends long before they met up with Shaggy and Fred. A pair of outcasts they stick together in their hyper futuristic high-school, while students seem to be growing less human by the day. A fun kids film with a nice depiction of female friendship that the crowded Mystery Machine doesn’t often have space to show off.
While it may be strange to be thinking about Mystery Incorporated as characters, seeing as they’ve been hardly touched in terms of development since they were made back in 1969, after watcing over 40 of these movies you really see which of these teens (sometimes young adults) commits to the team.
Scoobert “Scooby” Doo
For the titular character, Scooby doesn’t actually have an enormous impact in the majority of the movies, and his characterisation isn’t super consistent either.
Sometimes he’s just as big a coward as Shaggy (2002) other times he’s far braver than his master, stepping up to save the day when Rogers refuses (Scoob). He’s normally a pretty good driver (Camp Scare, Moon Madness) but other times he’s absolutely dreadful (Brave and the Bold) so you better check the writers before he gets behind the wheel.
There are a few films where they play up his animal side like Zombie Island and Camp Scare, where he’s chasing cats and even leaping to attack the villain as he runs away, but these are rather rare.
Norville “Shaggy” Rogers
While joined seemingly at the hip, Shaggy has just a little more going on than his canine companion. Character development is a little bit difficult when most of these movies are stand-alone, but the writers have had a play around with Shaggy, trying to explore new sides to him outside the cowardice and the hunger.
My favourite Shaggy movies are the ones where Shaggy really comes out of his shell, normally through his ever-growing number of hobbies. Shaggy is a huge fanboy, seen in the WrestleMania Mystery and Mask of the Blue Falcon, where he’s over the moon to go and meet his favourite TV characters live in the flesh. He’s also pretty good at trying new things, as long as they aren’t monster based, like in Shaggy’s Showdown where he takes it upon himself to learn how to ride horses and even win the local Rodeo.
The worst movies for Shaggy have him as a pure wuss, moaning constantly while the writers almost have to force him to be in the movie (Scoob, Reluctant Werewolf). You can use this fear as a basis to make things interesting though. For example, Legend of the Phantosaur starts by exploring his fear-based mental health damage, pushing him to need hypnotherapy to function, accidentally creating a daredevil split-personality.
Velma is one of the more hit or miss characters as far as the movies go. She walks a very fine line between endearing and annoying.
While Daphne has changed voice actor a few times, they are never incredibly noticable, probably because it’s not quite as difficult a voice to emulate. Velma on the other hand sounds significantly different every time they change her actor, and it really does effect her character. The most recent (2015 onward) iteration, voiced by Kate Micucci, is just a little too smarmy in her charactisation for my liking, really rubbing in the fact that she’s the brains of the group (Shaggy’s Showdown).
When she isn’t being big-headed though, Velma’s a solid character, and is often one of the more explored characters. Whether it be her romantic side in Monsters Unleashed or revealing her secret family history in Frankencreepy, she’s got more going on under the hood than some of the movies give her credit for.
The films really struggle with her because she should really be able to solve everything all by herself, so lots of times just have her not resolving the problem as quickly as she should. Where’s My Mummy? and Frankencreepy got around this problem by having Velma removed from the gang fairly early, doubling as personal motivation and forcing the others to grow a little.
Daphne Blake is the definitive best character in the Scooby-Doo franchise. While people tend to assume that Velma is the only reason the gang solve any mysteries, it’s Daphne that actually has to keep things moving in the mean time. If someone needs a non-fact-based skill then the film will always give it to Daphne.
These include martial arts, motor-cycling, singing, lock-picking, this woman does it all. While clearly a homage to her actresses’ Buffy origins back in the 2002 live-action movie, ever since then Daphne has had the most fight-scenes of any member of the team.
Two of the movies where Daphne really shines are Curse of the 13th Ghost and The Sword and the Scoob. You could complain that this makes her a Mary Sue, but as these films are so consistent that Daphne is really competent I’m never annoyed when she breaks out another talent.
Fred struggles throughout the movies. He doesn’t get to be the smart guy because Velma exists and he doesn’t get to be the muscle because Daphne exists. Scoob and Shaggy tend to be the ones who actually catch the culprit, so Fred really gets a raw deal in terms of contribution.
The normal thing they do with Fred is to do make him obessively in love with either the Mystery Machine (Frankencreepy, Return to Zombie Island) or with the mechanics of traps (Shaggy’s Showdown, Brave and the Bold). It’s in Fred’s romance with Daphne he gets the most room to grow, although they don’t draw upon it much.
Seeing an adult Fred working with Daphne as her camera-man in Zombie Island gives them a healthy working relationship, along with any romantic intentions that may have come later. One of their preferred jokes is to have both Fred and Daphne flirt with someone new for the movie to annoy the other (Zombie Island, Witch’s Ghost), which while occasionally amusing is somewhat overdone at this point. Stage Fright actually has them say the words out loud, and is all the more appreciated for getting to the point, being packed with some good romantic moments.
Scrappy Cornelius Doo
Scrappy isn’t a problem and people need to get over the Scrappy hate train. He’s not in many of these movies, and hasn’t appeared since he was the villain in the first live-action movie, but the fanbase is far too harsh on him. He brings some much needed pep into Scooby and Shagggy’s dynamic, misinterpreting their cowardice as genius and accidentally forcing them into solving their particular mysteries (Ghoul School, Boo Brothers)
It’s sad to see the reunion movies like 13th Ghost cutting out Scrappy when he was one of the main characters in that particular run of the show. Most of the 2010s movies have been critiquing the classics, so if people hate Scrappy so much then why not bring him back and ‘fix’ him?
These movies are very much family films, but by no means is that an insult. No, this isn’t going to be a life changing cinematic experience, but if you want a bit of nostalgia or you want to show a new Scooby-Doo story to your kids then take a look at some of these gems.
With super disapointing cinema releases like Scoob! and the strange announcement of a Velma adult-oriented show over on HBO Max, it’s nice to see a bunch of more traditional stories just waiting to be discovered, and good new ones coming like Sword and the Scoob that just released this year!
Image Credits: Hanna Barbera & Warner Bros. Productions