Like cartoons for children, cartoons for grownups can be wildly diverse. The following list includes shows about suburban families, mad scientists, teenage delinquency, talking food and super secret agents. Despite their differences, what connects them all is their content, which is decidedly adult in nature.
“Adult” usually implies profanity, violence, sex or some kind of gross out humor, but best adult animated shows aim higher. They do that by introducing surprisingly well-developed characters, biting political satire or a surreal and wildly anarchic sense of humor.
This is Screen Rant’s list of the 15 Best Cartoon Series for Grownups.
15. Aqua Teen Hunger Force
The world’s only TV show about anthropomorphic fast food, Aqua Teen Hunger Force follows a trio of roommates: Frylock, a hovering box of French fries; Master Shake, a selfish milkshake; and Meatwad, a simpleton meat ball. Together they face everyday problems and fight various villains, most often The Mooninites, evil aliens from the Moon.
As with many other titles on this list, Aqua Teen Hunger Force was made for the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim line-up. Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro created the show as a spinoff series, using supporting characters from another Adult Swim show – Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Aqua Teen Hunger Force debuted unannounced in the December of 2000. It ran successfully for 11 seasons until August of 2015. It was also the first ever Adult Swim cartoon that was turned into a feature length film, released in April of 2007 under the title Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters.
14. BoJack Horseman
Way back in the 1990s, BoJack Horseman was a horse starring in his own sitcom. Decades later, he’s a depressed, bitter alcoholic with good intentions and a self-destructive need for approval. In this satirical version of Hollywood, populated by both people and anthropomorphic animals, BoJack wants to revive his career with a help of a human ghostwriter and his feline publicity agent.
BoJack Horseman is an animated sitcom created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, with characters designed by cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt. The series premiered on Netflix in August of 2014. Despite initially mixed reviews, BoJack Horseman proved itself popular enough that it got renewed for second and, in July of 2015, a third season. The series features numerous celebrity guest appearances, mostly by comedians and actors such as Stephen Colbert, Lisa Kudrow, Patton Oswalt, Amy Sedaris, Amy Schumer and J. K. Simmons.
13. Venture Bros.
Dr. Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture used to be boy-wonder, adventuring around the world with his super-scientist father. He grew up into a failed inventor surrounded by obsolete 1960s inventions. His sons, Hank and Dean, are good-natured, but not really bright. Their hyper-masculine bodyguard Brock Samson protects them in a world populated by heroes, villains and monsters who battle each other as much as their own comical inadequacies.
Venture Bros. was originally conceived by Christopher McCulloch as a comic book and then unsuccessfully pitched as a TV show to Comedy Central. The series draws inspiration from superhero movies, comic books and TV shows, simultaneously mocking and celebrating them. Venture Bros. first aired on Adult Swim on February 16, 2003. with most of its 60 episodes written by McCulloch (credited as Jackson Publick) as well as by Doc Hammer and Ben Edlund. The sixth season is scheduled to premiere in January of 2016.
With its deadpan caustic comments, MTV’s Daria became a voice of a particular subset of 1990s teenagers. Smart and misanthropic, Daria Morgendorffer was a high schooler cursed to see her family, her school and her entire town of Lawndale as some sort of hell of suburban mediocrity and conformism.
Daria originally appeared in mid-1990s as one of the supporting characters in Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head. In 1997, Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn came up with an idea of a spinoff series centered around Daria. Although Mike Judge did allow them to use his character, he wasn’t actually involved with the show’s creation, and Daria made practically no references to Beavis and Butt-Head. Daria premiered on MTV in March of 1997 and aired for five seasons until January of 2002.
11. Beavis and Butt-head
Controversial throughout their initial TV run, teenage delinquents Beavis and Butt-Head are probably Mike Judge’s most famous creation. In each episode, the titular duo embarks upon a variety of gross, violent and hilariously stupid adventures cleverly used by Judge to criticize hypocrisy and stupidity of everyday life. Critics simultaneously loathed and praised Beavis and Butt-Head, cementing its status as a cult classic.
Beavis and Butt-Head was developed from a short film by Mike Judge titled Frog Baseball. The series first aired on MTV in March of 1993. Highly popular during its original eight season run, the show was turned into a feature-length animated movie called Beavis and Butt-Head Do America in 1996. Beavis and Butt-Head was revived in October of 2011, but due to the changes in the MTV’s target demographic, it failed to attract an audience. The revival series was canceled after a single season.
10. The Boondocks
A satirical look at the class and social issues, The Boondocks follows the African-American Freeman family as they move into a mostly white suburb. Huey Freeman is a wise and serious kid inspired by radical left-wing thinkers. His mischievous younger brother Riley, influenced by hip-hop and pop culture, causes all kinds of trouble for his family. Meanwhile, their grandfather Robert Freeman takes care of both children, exasperated by their never-ending antics.
The Boondocks was created by the cartoonist Aaron McGruder in 1996 as a comic strip for the website Hitlist.com. His strip became syndicated in daily newspapers in 1999 and got turned into an animated TV series in 2005. It premiered on Adult Swim in November of 2005 and aired for four seasons. During its run, The Boondocks caused no small deal of controversy due to its satire of racial stereotypes as well as its portrayals of various celebrities.
9. Robot Chicken
Star Wars. Transformers. G.I. Joe. Star Trek. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. These are just some of the many, many shows mercilessly lampooned on Robot Chicken. Inspired by commercials, toys and junk TV shows, this stop-motion animated series is made out of short, darkly surreal sketches making fun of once beloved pop culture properties that, in hindsight, often look rather silly.
Robot Chicken was created and produced by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich. It first aired as a part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim line-up in February of 2005. Throughout its run, the show featured numerous celebrity voice cameos including, among others, Conan O’Brien, Bruce Campbell, Bryan Cranston, Snoop Dogg, David Hasselhoff, Scarlett Johansson, George Lucas, Simon Pegg, Burt Reynolds and Patrick Stewart. Robot Chicken won three Emmy Awards and it is currently in its eighth season.
8. Bob’s Burgers
The Belcher family can vouch that running a hamburger restaurant is no easy business. Accidental fires, vermin infestations and stiff competition by other diners, such as Jimmy Pesto’s Pizzeria, are just some of their problems. But Bob, his wife Linda and their three kids – awkward Tina, cheerful Gene and trouble-making Louise – all help each other make a living. They even have a small but steady group of regular customers, including the local mortician Mort and handyman Teddy.
Loren Bouchard, creator of animated TV series Home Movies, conceived Bob’s Burgers for Fox. Envisioned as a mix of family sitcom and workplace comedy, Bob’s Burgers debuted in January of 2011. During its first season it received mixed reviews and was criticized for its vulgarity and lackluster pacing. However, in subsequent seasons, reviews became much more favorable. Bob’s Burgers received one Emmy award, and it is currently in its sixth season.
7. King of the Hill
Set in the fictional town of Arlen, Texas, King of the Hill follows the everyday life of the Hill family. Hank Hill is the dutiful father of the family, working as a manager at the company that sells propane. His wife Peggy is somewhat self-centered, but kind-hearted. Peggy’s naive niece Luanne avoids her problematic parents by staying in the Hill household where she helps take care of the Hills’ only son, Bobby. For a cartoon series, King of the Hill presents surprisingly realistic look at the suburban blue-collar family, establishing its humor primarily through its characters.
King of the Hill was created by Mike Judge with a help of The Simpsons veteran Greg Daniels. The show first aired on Fox in January of 1997. The series was popular and critically acclaimed, winning two Emmys and running for 13 seasons before its cancelation in May of 2010. Throughout its run, King of the Hill featured numerous celebrity guests such as Pamela Anderson, Kathy Bates, Johnny Depp, Lindsay Lohan, Brad Pitt, Burt Reynolds, Alan Rickman and Meryl Streep.
6. Rick and Morty
Are there better ways to explore wonders of time and space than flying around with your alcoholic grandfather? Probably, but they aren’t nearly as entertaining as Rick and Morty. Rick Sanchez is a brilliant, callous scientist exploring the galaxy for fun and profit. He’s accompanied by his easily cowed grandson Morty. Rick is cynical, manipulative and abusive, but his worldview is the only one making sense in their crazy – and crazily funny – universe.
Rick and Morty is an animated TV series created for Adult Swim by Dan Harmon (Community) and Justin Roiland, based on Roiland’s animated short lampooning Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future movies. The series often features celebrity voice cameos, mostly from comedians like Jemaine Clement, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver or Patton Oswalt, as well as actors such as Christina Hendricks and directors like Werner Herzog. Rick and Morty premiered in December of 2013 and it is currently between its second and third season.
Loosely inspired by the James Bond franchise, Archer follows misadventures of elite secret agent Sterling Archer, who is as suave as he is selfish. Set in a deliberately undefined time period that combines sixties fashion, Cold War-era technology and modern day office politics, Archer chronicles the titular character’s dysfunctional relationships with his work colleagues, like his fellow secret agent and former girlfriend Lana Kane, or his overbearing mother, who also happens to be his boss.
Archer was created by Adam Reed as a spoof of the spy genre. His previous animated TV shows Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo similarly made fun of 1970s Hanna-Barbera adventure cartoons and superhero comic books. Archer premiered on the FX Network in January of 2010. In 2015, the show has won its first Emmy and was renewed for its seventh season.
Philip J. Fry is an ordinary pizza delivery boy until he gets accidentally frozen in cryogenic chamber. He wakes up thousand years later in New New York – a vast metropolis populated by aliens and robots. Fry finds a job at Planet Express – an interplanetary delivery service owned by his distant descendant, Professor Farnsworth. Together with the cynical robot Bender and the hyper-competent alien Leela, Fry experiences all the silliness of the 20th century science fiction.
Matt Groening came up with the idea for Futurama in late 1990s and developed it with a help of David X. Cohen. Futurama premiered on Fox in March of 1999 and aired for four seasons before being canceled in 2003. However, the series was successfully revived five years later by Comedy Central, where it aired for additional three seasons from 2008 until 2013. During its run, Futurama won six Emmy awards.
3. Family Guy
The Griffiths are an ordinary suburban family consisting of a bumbling father, Peter, a stay-at-home mother, Lois, their teenage children, Meg and Chris, as well as baby Stewie, who just happens to be an evil super genius. Also, there’s Brian, the family’s talking dog, who desperately wants to become a writer. With a family like that, bizarre adventures are to be expected on a weekly basis.
Family Guy is an adult cartoon series created by Seth MacFarlane. The series originated as the animated short The Life of Larry that MacFarlane made while studying animation in the 1990s. It first aired on Fox in January of 1999 but got canceled in November of 2003 due to low ratings. However, high DVD sales convinced Fox’s executives to give Family Guy another shot. One decade, three Emmys and ten seasons later, Family Guy remains one of the most popular animated shows on Fox.
2. South Park
Surreal, funny, controversial and often disgusting – South Park is all this and more. The show follows four Colorado boys: Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, Stan Marsh and Kenny McCormick. In their hometown of South Park, they regularly face grotesque events that satirize hot topics of the week, from religion and real-world political issues to pop culture and ephemeral fashion trends.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone originally created South Park during their college days in early 1990s as an animated short titled The Spirit of Christmas. The concept was later turned into a TV series that debuted on Comedy Central in August of 1997. South Park quickly became a huge hit all around the world, leading to the release of the feature length film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut in 1999. Since then, South Park has aired for 19 seasons, remained as controversial as ever and also won five Emmy awards.
1. The Simpsons
The Simpsons are probably the most famous fictional family on the planet. For almost thirty years, this satirical subversion of the ideal nuclear family has made people laugh all over the world. And if the show manages to mix emotions with laughter, so much the better. People may criticize The Simpsons for becoming too formulaic these days, but they only need to look at the show’s stellar early seasons to see why it became such an institution.
The series was created by Matt Groening in late 1980s as an animated sketch for The Tracey Ullman Show. Groening then developed the concept into its own series with a help of James L. Brooks and Sam Simon. The Simpsons first aired on Fox in December of 1989. Since then, the series won over 30 Emmy awards and featured guest voice appearances by pretty much everyone: actors, comedians, pop stars, politicians, scientists and astronauts. With 27 seasons and counting, The Simpsons is, by far, the longest-running American scripted TV series in prime time.
What are your thoughts and comments? What are your favorite cartoons for grownups? Share them with the others in the comments!