Batman Beyond is set in the chronological future of the DC animated universe (despite being released before Static Shock, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited), and serves as a continuance of both Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures.
Batman Beyond is said to explore the darker side of many Batman projects, playing on key elements such as emotions, personal relations, fear of the unknown, to cyberpunk and sci-fi themed elements such as issues and dilemmas of innovation and technological and scientific progress affecting society, and to the disturbing psychological elements of the character of Bruce Wayne. As such, it was considerably darker than most other children's programs at the time, although producer Bruce Timm recalls it was conceived as a kid-friendly Batman cartoon. It is also the first Batman series to portray the hero as a teenager.
IGN named the show 40th on their list of "Top 100 Animated TV Series." The premise of Batman Beyond has been used in various comic book stories published by DC Comics, including an ongoing series beginning in 2011.
The pilot episode begins in the late 2010s in 2019. Batman, despite being in his late 50's, continues to fight crime in a new high-tech Batsuit. In the rescue of a kidnapped heiress, Batman suffers a mild heart attack and, at risk of being beaten to death by one of the kidnappers, is forced to betray a lifelong principle by threatening to use a gun. Ultimately, Bruce reluctantly decides that his time as Batman is over and vows "never again" as he shuts down the Batcave. By this time, his allies (Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner James Gordon, Lucius Fox, Leslie Thompkins, Renee Montoya and Harvey Bullock) have either died of natural causes or retired. His partners Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Selina Kyle and Tim Drake are still alive and have grown up and left or had falling-outs after their retirement from their alter-egos. All of his enemies such as the Joker, Harley Quinn, the Penguin, Two-Face, the Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, the Riddler, Killer Croc, Deadshot, Clayface, the Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, Bane, Ra's al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, Rupert Thorne, Hugo Strange, and the Man-Bat, are either retired, in prison, in exile, or dead, and he has severed his ties with Superman and the Justice League.
The story fast-forwards 20 years later to 2039 in Neo-Gotham, a futuristic megalopolis featuring staggering high rises and flying vehicles. Bruce is now an old man in his 70's and a recluse living in bitter isolation in Wayne Manor, with no companion but his guard dog Ace. Terry McGinnis is an athletic 16-year-old high school student and reformed troublemaker with a deeply ingrained sense of personal justice. Living on poor terms with his father Warren McGinnis, Terry disobeys his curfew one night to meet up with his girlfriend Dana Tan, only to incur the wrath of a group of the Jokerz gang harassing them. A high-speed motorcycle chase between Terry and the Jokerz leads them to the grounds of Wayne Manor, where they run into the elderly Bruce Wayne. Bruce and Terry fend off the Jokerz side-by-side, but the exertion aggravates Bruce's heart condition. Terry helps Bruce back to the manor and, while exploring the mansion, stumbles upon the entrance to the Batcave and thus discovers Bruce's secrets, only to be chased out by a recovered and angered Bruce.