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In 1988, comic book movies were considered box-office poison. The stink of flop Howard the Duck was still pungent in the air, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace had just sentenced the Man of Steel to movie jail and Tim Burton’s Batman was still a year away from revolutionizing the genre.

So it’s no surprise every major studio in Hollywood turned up their noses at a movie about four talking turtles who do Ninjitsu, eat pizza and live in the sewers beneath New York.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles survived script fights, horrific-to-wear 70-pound costumes, and a major studio pulling out at the last moment. After opening 25 years ago, on March 30, 1990, the $13.5 million film went on to break the record for the highest-grossing independent film of all time, and for many fans, it remains the definitive big-screen depiction of Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello.

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