Whoever said cartoons are for children only are so far from right. These days animation has become such a wild field that shows tend only to the adult demographic and keep people across the globe entertained. Whether you are looking for some light-hearted comedy, heartwarming shows or even highly intellectual philosophy – the list below has a show that can cater to your need.
Another advantage of animated shows is that they go on for much longer since they do not have liabilities like actors, locations and other things. This also opens up avenues for fantasy, imagination, magic and even talking animals to be easily incorporated into the show.
Here is a compilation of the 20 best-animated cartoon series for adults to watch and enjoy.
1. Family Guy (1999- present)
Set in an absurd, far from normal town in Rhode Island, Family Guy revolves around an odd and highly dysfunctional family getting through the mundane tasks of everyday life. Their struggles aren’t unique or unheard of, but their way of dealing with it sure is as they put themselves in crazy and bizarre situations.
The entire show is filled with ridiculous situations and iconic scenes that have made its way to people’s hearts over time – across ages and time. Often spur-of-the-moment incidents in the show will lead to the best comedic timing and dialogues that will keep you laughing even long after switching off the show.
This family is wildly different and consists of six members: Peter the father, Lois the mother, Stewie the homicidal baby, Chris, the son, Meg the daughter and Brian, the dog who is often the smartest out of all of them. Peter, the head of the family, is also the best at passing statements that will make you laugh and wonder how the show even came to be made.
2. Daria (1997-2002)
Although targeted for adults, this animated sitcom stars a high-school girl – who is standoffish and smart and couldn’t care less for the status quo among her peers. The character was first featured in another show ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ and gained enough traction to show her.
The series follows the life of Daria Morgendorffer, a smart and highly cynical high schooler. She is witty, sarcastic, and highly prejudiced about the other kids in her school and is wary of most of them. This leaves her out from most cliques, and she is ridiculed and judged by the popular kids that she disdains in the first place. Her struggles with her moral integrity and her family and school life come from a place we can all relate to. On top of this all, her bratty younger sister, Quinn, idolizes the very people she hates. Atleast she has a best friend – Jane Lane, who is equally witty and cynical and always ready to one-up their foolish schoolmates.
3. Beavis and Butthead (1993-1997, 2011)
Beavis and Butthead follow two teenagers who go through life caring about literally nothing – not school, social life or anything at all. However, this show created by Mike Judge became one of the most iconic shows after its launch in 1993 by MTV.
You would think that an adult cartoon about two mind-numbingly senseless youngsters who have nothing of intellectual value to add might be a drag. But, this show will prove you far from right. There are moments when the two watch videos on their television and make hilarious comments in the background. There are also a range of characters on the show like their stringent gym teacher who always tries to get them in trouble, their hippy teacher who tries to teach them about hard work, their aging neighbor Tom Anderson and another neighbor Stewart who is younger than them and wants to be their friend.
4. Rick and Morty (2013-present)
When a slightly mad scientist Rick Sanchez arrives at his daughter’s house after almost 20 years, they take him in and even let him use the garage as his laboratory. What follows is a bunch of maybe dangerous but mostly fun adventures that involve many trials and some errors.
Not many adult cartoons have captured the attention of thousands across the globe, and age demographics like this one has. Who would have thought that the wild journeys through time and space of an alcoholic mad scientist Rick and his grandson Morty would be gripping, hilarious, and even be a media sensation for years to come. Its fans often quote phrases from the show, and if you watch the show, soon you will too. WubbaLubba Dub Dub!
5. South Park (1997-present)
One of the best modern satire for adults, South Park, is a show that will keep you wholly occupied. Not only does this show have a range of elements it talks about, but the facts it says are also usually spot on and undeniable in today’s society.
Born from the creative geniuses of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the show follows four crude children that have more to say and comment on than most adults in real life. Set in South Park, Colorado, the adventures of 4 fourth-graders: Eric Cartman, a rude, obnoxious, vicious, racist, fat kid; Stan Marsh, a soft kid with a huge crush on Wendy Testaberger and a very sensitive stomach; Kyle Brofloski, a religious Jewish kid who his friend often bullies for his beliefs; and Kenny, the orange parka-hooded kid who gets in an accident every episode. Each episode has its fair share of crazy, unrealistic and haphazard events that take the four on a wild ride from beginning to end.
6. The Simpsons (1989-present)
Widely regarded as more than a great adult cartoon – some claim that The Simpsons is arguably the best show ever. In particular, the first ten seasons knocked the ball out of the park in terms of comedic timing, characters, storylines and everything. The jokes are timeless and quoted to date for being eerily applicable even 20 years after its release date.
The Simpsons are an unorthodox and enjoyable nuclear family. Their kids are Bart, a dumb fourth-grader who has made the school’s principal his arch-enemy, Lisa, the bright and responsible eight-year-old, and Maggie, the baby of the family. The family is headed by Homer, who is just clumsily getting through both his professional and family life along with Marge, his bossy but the responsible wife. The show is filled with well-done cartoon sketches that have evolved over the years, as well as wacky plots that seem to be both far and too close to real life to understand.
7. Gravity Falls (2012-2016)
Gravity Falls follows the lives of two siblings, Dipper and Mabel Pines, when they go to their great-uncle Stan’s shop in Gravity Falls, Oregon, for the summer. Their idea of a boring summer soon turns around when they discover a journal laying in the woods filled with secrets about the town and its residents.
Filled with many wacky happenings in this quaint little town, the show has a great mix of humor and story that will keep everyone engaged. Gravity Falls contrasts supernatural happenings against the backdrop of adolescence and the struggles of growing up. The siblings are voiced by Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal and make a great pair of hilarious voice actors. Most adult cartoons cannot be enjoyed by kids, parents and others alike, but Gravity Falls hits that sweet spot.
8. Bojack Horseman (2014-2020)
Although the show starts as a comedy with no solid story – it is gripping from beginning to end and surprisingly deeper than your average philosophical show.The show follows the life of BoJack, an actor known for his role as a single dad in an old sitcom, after which he has lost all fame and respect he once enjoyed. Looking for acceptance and appreciation, he decides to pen a memoir of his better days and turns to his family and friends for support.
The reality of his current life takes a toll on him. The common folk on the showdepicted as humans; however, the upper-class people of fame are portrayed as animals. The contrast in this depiction is parallel to the difference in lifestyle of the elite vs. the common folk and how the upper class can’t relate or understand the commoners’ lives.
9. Futurama (1999-2013)
If you find yourself wondering what the future might be like in the years to come, this show might scratch your itch. Made by the creator of The Simpsons, Matt Groening is anything to go by – it is ridiculous and hilarious all at once. Following a pizza delivery boy called Philip J. Fry – it is the story of how he wakes up in the year 2999.
Far from his old life in New York City, Phillip discovers that he has been cryogenically frozen for one thousand years. When he starts to get adjusted, he meets Turanga Leela, a caring and pretty one-eyed alien, and falls for her. He also begins to hang out with other creatures that he could not have imagined before this. This includes Bender, a robot that runs on liquor, Farnsworth, an old genius that is slowly turning senile, Amy Wong, a rich Martian intern, strict Hermes Conrad and Dr. John Zoidberg, the doctor. The adventures, mishaps and fun that follow make the show all the more enjoyable.
10. Regular Show (2009-2017)
The show stars a bird and a raccoon in the main roles and follows their mundane, surprisingly human-like lifestyle. They work as groundskeepers at the local park and spend their time talking about life and tasks.The show is by no means boring; in fact, even boring things like shoveling leaves or mowing grass takes the two on whirling adventures and fun journeys. Even though the duo tries to stay out of trouble, they often do not find themselves lurking at the edge of it.
Meant to be a cartoon for adults; the show’s entire premise is smart, poignant and mind-numbingly funny. Regular Show as a title fits the bill perfectly for a show about day-to-day chores, ranging from making food to cleaning and organizing. The main characters live in the moment with a very negligent sense of consequence and somehow stumble through their tasks and get them done, much to the dismay of those around them and the audience.
11. Bob’s Burgers (2011-Present)
A show about the owner of a burger joint, Bob is a hilarious recounting of his life when nothing much seems to go right. It gives the audience a reason to forget their worries as they immerse themselves into the ocean of problems Bob has and how he can’t seem to have a moment of peace to himself.
Bob seems to perpetually have a case of bad luck and gets through life running his Burger restaurant. His family adores him but is always ready to argue and cause problems of their own. When his family life seems to be going well, Jimmy Pesto, the rival restaurant owner, is always ready to give Bob new issues handle. His family consists of his wife Linda, a singer, and his three mischievous children – Gene, his son, is eleven, Tina, the eldest, is 13, is on the lookout for love, Louise, is the youngest and mildly crazed 9-year-old girl.
12. Big Mouth (2017-Present)
Adolescence is a time for many changes – bodily, mentally and emotionally and this show is all about those. Meant solely for adults, Big Mouth follows the lives of teenage friends as they navigate the wonders and horrors of hitting puberty and discovering new things about themselves and others around them.
Co-created by Nick Kroll (who also voices a character), this explicit Netflix show is the narration of teenage puberty and coming of age in the most graphic sense yet. It tells the story from several perspectives of different boys and girls, with their respective struggles, emotions and even desires (physical and otherwise). Another hilarious aspect of this series are two hormone monsters named Maurice and Connie that comment on the happenings of the show and the people in it as they grapple through this new life.
13. F is for Family (2015- present)
Created by well-known comedian Bill Burr, the show is set in the 70s and told from an exaggerated autobiographical perspective of his own life. Full of foul language and crude remarks, the show follows an Irish-American called Frank Murphy, that lives in the suburbs.
Frank loves two things and two things only – his family and his TV. The typical American household drama unfolds with a dad who must provide for the family working at the job he can’t wait to quit. His wife must be responsible and uphold all the values that society says is important while also parenting her kids. The kids are also not far from reality – one is an angsty teenager who likes rock-n-roll, the middle child wants to have fun sometimes at the expense of others, and the youngest e girl is far the typical girl and is pampered the most. The 70s do come alive in the episodes of this show.
14. The Ren & Stimpy Show (1991-1995)
Lost in the progress of time, this show once held the flag of widely known fame high above its head. Ren and Stimpy are the stars of the show and are unique creatures on their own. One is a hyperactive, intense and annoying Chihuahua, and the other is his slow, boneheaded, happy-go-lucky feline friend. This show was a great hit and well known all around.
Crude and even disgusting in its way, the two go on very different adventures, some that might even make you gag, and along the way, they get into all sorts of misfortunes. Some even say that the show’s animation style, plots and groundwork paved the path for other popular cartoons like “SpongebobSquarepants.” Their repulsive adventures often include hairballs, soiled litterboxes, goblins, farts, spit, dirt, vermin and literally all other sickening and dreadful things.
15. The Flintstones (1960-1966)
The Flinstones was the first cartoon series to feature in a primetime slot, and true to that, the legacy has lived through the edges – enjoyed by children and adults alike. The show is set in simpler, much older times and tells simple stories of family, friendship and adventure that will keep the entire family engaged and amused throughout, from beginning to end.
The show features two main families – the Flintstones and the Rubbles from the modern stone-age time. The men of the families – Fred and Barney work at Slate and Company, a mine where they mine rocks for a living. When Barney and his wife Betty want to adopt a baby, Fred lends him some money, so when one of them are chosen to become the new associate vice president, Barney pays Fred back by switching his answers with him.
However, much to their collective dismay, after Fred gets the executive role, he is slowly set up to be the fall guy for his boss’s embezzlement over the years. However, taxing his job, Fred Flintstone always returns home to his loving wife Wilma and adorable daughter Pebbles. Betty and Wilma are best friends and spend most of their time with each other.
16. Archer (2009-present)
Archer is an animated series starring spies who struggle with their lives to provide some comedic relief. Contrary to intuition, the show is not scary or thrilling at all as more than the star’s mission, and Archer goes on the hilarious people he interacts with often take a front seat in the storyline.The star of the show is Archer, a bachelor and an experienced deadly spy who lives for the mission. But more often than not, he is getting drunk or trying to score in the hilarious adventures.
Archer and his co-workers disrupt each other’s missions just for laughs. The show seamlessly transitions into a recount of the ups and downs of lives and friendships from the serious world of espionage and investigation. Archer’s mother, Malory, is also his boss, and as if that is not enough to deal with, he is also often faced with troubles from his ex-girlfriend, Lana Kane and her new boyfriend. Th show is meant for adults and delivers on every front that you would expect from it.
17. Avatar: The Last Airbender
One of the few series from a complete fantasy genre, Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the most popular shows on television right now – among young adults, kids and adults alike. If you, like most others, grew up reading fantasy novels and watching movies about a world that doesn’t exist, this show is surely the best pick for you!
Many thousand years ago, the world was divided into four equal supremacies: Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads. Each community had Benders, gifted individuals with the ability to manipulate the element of the tribe they belonged to through martial arts and magic. This started to disintegrate rapidly when the ruler of the Fire Nation began to get greedy and set out to conquest the rest of the world.
To prevent this, they needed Avatar, the incarnation of Light itself – who is the only one who can master all the elements. But when needed the most, he disappeared – leaving the world to crumble. One hundred years later, Katara and her older brother Sokka discover Aang, the Avatar frozen in an iceberg for all these years. They then set out to help him master all the elements before the Fire Lord Ozai can claim victory through his final but deadly attack through a comet that will destroy the world.
18. King of the Hill
Another one from the creator of Beavis and Butthead, Mike Judge, this series is hilarious in its way. Following the story of a propane salesman Hank Hill, and his family and friends – it is set in the city of Arlen, Texas (fictional, wacky and everything you can imagine.) Known as one of the funniest cartoons for Adults – this show is worth the watch.
Hank Hill is a propane gas salesman and is constantly plagued by his neighbor’s and friends’ eccentricities and only seems to find a break when he is alone with his own family. His wife, Peggy, is a substitute Spanish teacher at the local school; they share a son Bobby, who is as awkward as one can get. They also have their niece-in-law Luanne Platter living with them. The story is relatable and will make you giggle mor often than not at the plight of the only sensible one, Hank.
19. Adventure Time
Imagine the adventures that a 12-year-old boy and a 28-year-old magical dog can go on with each other in an imaginary, post-apocalyptic land of Ooo. The series involves complex storylines and a range of hilarious, unique characters, each with entertaining and relatable adventures of their own.Prof. Simon Petrikoff goes mad, and a magic crown keeps him and his demon daughter marceline alive for long after the human world is destroyed.
A new world ruled by a cynical and strict Bonnibel bubblegum is formed with monsters and demons roaming free a Thousand years later. Finn and Jake, the two adventurers, become friends with Marceline, Bubblegum and Simon, and they uncover several truths about themselves and their past. The group must then put their lives and everything they know at stake when Bonnibel’s evil uncle declares war to try and prevent another apocalypse from happening.
20. Aqua Teen Hunger Force (2000-2015)
The bizarre story of three food items – a shake, some fries, and a meatball is the backbone of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The three together form the Aqua Teen Hunger Force and are amateur detectives based in South Jersey.
Master Shake is the short-tempered and skeptical leader of the trio; Frylock is calm and smart and often does all the work; Meatwad is funny but dumb. The three must work together to ward off the villains from the evil Dr. Weird’s lair. The show brings together humor, adventure, friendship and the long known and loved the story of good triumphs evil and will remind you of the cartoons from your childhood days.
That is why even as children, we prefer watching animated shows on the television. Animated characters are often meant to uplift our mood and bring a smile to our face on the days that it seems hardest. So, pick any storyline that amuses you and piques your interest and give it a try. Either by yourself, with your friends or even your significant other and family! If you are looking for a show to wind down with at the end of a hard day at work, any of the above can get you laughing and amused even if you had a subpar day.