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The 10 best animated shows for adults, ranked

From Adult Swim to Netflix, streaming services have plenty of cartoons adults can enjoy too

Bojack Horseman and Princess Caroline
Netflix

Cartoon shows used to be aimed directly at children and younger demographics. The colorful artwork and carefree aesthetics of animation help to draw these audiences in and engage them with TV storytelling. As more respect has been given to this style of series, animated shows for adults have become more popular, often even surpassing the live-action counterparts they used to pale in comparison to. Cartoons can often discuss the same themes as any other show, making audiences think, laugh, cry, and grow with the characters they watch every week. We thought with the animation medium exploding right now, it would be a great time to celebrate the 10 best adult animated series, ranked from worst to best!

10. Archer (2009)

10. Archer
tv-ma
14 Seasons
Genre
Comedy, Action & Adventure, Animation
Stars
H. Jon Benjamin, Judy Greer, Amber Nash
Created by
Adam Reed
Watch on Hulu

One of the most uniquely conceived shows in recent memory, Archer analyzes the spy genre through main secret agent character Sterling Archer. While most adult cartoons use a middle-class family setting as their thematic basis, Archer stood out from its peers by incorporating a lot more niche entertainment tropes. The animation style is considered limited animation, another differentiating factor from other cartoons.

9. Adventure Time (2010)

9. Adventure Time
tv-pg
10 Seasons
Genre
Animation, Comedy, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Stars
Pendleton Ward, Olivia Olson, Jeremy Shada
Created by
Pendleton Ward
Watch on Hulu

Adventure Time is actually the most kid-friendly entry on this list, with it originally airing on Cartoon Network after Nickelodeon turned it down. Finn and Jake are a human-dog sibling combination that traverses a fantastical realm of monsters, imaginary beings, and colorful lands. With a diversity of fun themes and storylines covered in this series, Adventure Time is a family-friendly cartoon that people of all ages will want to watch. 

8. The Boondocks (2005)

8. The Boondocks
tv-ma
4 Seasons
Genre
Action & Adventure, Comedy, Animation
Stars
Regina King, John Witherspoon, Cedric Yarbrough
Created by
Aaron McGruder
Watch on HBO Max

The Boondocks isn’t for everyone. Not many adult shows have had the courage to satirize racism, classism, and politics in the shrewd and crude manner that Aaron McGruder’s does. The show has no problem using slurs, inappropriate name-calling, and disgusting rhetoric to make fun of the relations between white and Black people in real life. If you can get over these surprising choices, you’ll find that the show is one of the most sharply written adult animated series of all time. 

7. Family Guy (1999)

7. Family Guy
tv-14
21 Seasons
Genre
Animation, Comedy
Stars
Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green
Created by
Seth MacFarlane
Watch on Hulu

Love it or hate it, Seth MacFarlane’s most popular series has stood the test of time, still pulling in millions of viewers live and in re-runs more than two decades after it premiered on FOX. Family Guy often uses the lowest common denominator of humor to get the cheap laughs it elicits from a variety of age groups. Farts, vomit, sex, drugs, and homophobia make up the potpourri of jokes to come out of the mouths of the Griffin family and their friends. If the show is really rolling, the characters might actually make an astute point about something happening in pop culture, but don’t expect this to override the more prominent potty humor.

6. King of the Hill (1997)

6. King of the Hill
tv-pg
13 Seasons
Genre
Comedy, Animation
Stars
Mike Judge, Kathy Najimy, Pamela Adlon
Created by
Mike Judge, Greg Daniels
Watch on Hulu

If it feels like King of the Hill has Simpsons vibes accompanied by political critique, that’s because Greg Daniels wrote for the latter before co-creating the former. It follows the Hill family and their daily trials and tribulations in the world of daily American blue-collar work. The show manages to satirize both sides of the political spectrum without becoming too preachy or offending anyone on either the liberal or conservative side. It has a definite Texas vibe due to its setting; therefore, anyone from the South should enjoy some of the more region-specific jokes and gags.

5. Invincible (2021)

5. Invincible
tv-ma
2 Seasons
Genre
Animation, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Action & Adventure, Drama
Stars
Steven Yeun, Sandra Oh, J.K. Simmons
Watch on Amazon

What starts out as just a basic superhero story in the pilot expands into something engrossing, exhilarating, and unforgettable throughout the series. Invincible sees Mark Grayson trying to live up to the legacy of his father, Omni-Man, but as he dives deeper into the hero world, he sees there was a lot more darkness in his family line than he could have ever imagined. This series was a revelation for Amazon Prime video in 2021, and the second season should premiere later in 2023. 

4. Futurama (1999)

4. Futurama
tv-14
9 Seasons
Genre
Animation, Action & Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Stars
Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal
Created by
Matt Groening
Watch on Hulu

One of the biggest cult-favorite cartoons ever made, Futurama centers itself on what the world will look like in the year 2099 through the eyes of a pizza delivery man named Philip J. Fry. Because it’s created by Matt Groening of The Simpsons, you can expect a lot of the humor to draw inspiration from that series. It also incorporates elements of inside jokes that are going to be appreciated more by audiences who are passionate about science fiction tropes and television shows. 

3. Rick and Morty (2013)

3. Rick and Morty
tv-14
6 Seasons
Genre
Animation, Comedy, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Action & Adventure
Stars
Justin Roiland, Chris Parnell, Spencer Grammer
Created by
Dan Harmon, Justin Roiland
Watch on Hulu

Rick and Morty has transcended adult animation and become one of the defining shows of the 2010s, no matter what genre or medium we’re discussing. The rich dynamic between scientist Rick Sanchez and his grandson, Morty Smith, is the heart of the show, one which isn’t afraid to get weird, wild, and cultish from time to time. The exit of co-creator Justin Roiland due to sexual misconduct allegations does throw a wrench into the future of the series, though.

2. BoJack Horseman (2014)

2. BoJack Horseman
tv-ma
6 Seasons
Genre
Animation, Comedy, Drama
Stars
Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Alison Brie
Created by
Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Watch on Netflix

BoJack Horseman is perhaps the most thematically deep animated series on Netflix or any other streaming platform. It follows an anthropomorphic horse who struggles with many of the traumatic experiences of the human condition, such as addiction and depression. Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad voices one of the only asexual characters in TV or movie history, Todd Chavez.   

1. The Simpsons (1989)

1. The Simpsons
tv-pg
35 Seasons
Genre
Family, Animation, Comedy
Stars
Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright
Created by
Matt Groening
Watch on Disney+

Don’t let the last decade-plus of bad Simpsons episodes fool you: This is still the best adult cartoon in TV history by a country mile. Homer Simpson’s clan experiences all of the same hallmarks of American life that you and I do, but the razor-sharp humorous analysis of these events never stops being funny. The Simpsons is the rare show that can make you laugh and cry in the same episode. No matter how washed-up it gets, the first 10 years of the series will live on forever.

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Shawn Laib
Shawn Laib is a freelance writer with publications such as Den of Geek, Quote.com, Edge Media Network, diaTribe, SUPERJUMP…
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