Cartoons aren’t just for kids. In fact, I would argue that some should definitely never be seen by kids. But for adults, cartoons provide the perfect format for limitless comedy. Anything the writers think is funny can come to life with animation. And with adult cartoons, it’s usually obscene and raunchy!
However, when ranking the best adult cartoons, I am not going just to be considering how funny a show is or how good the animation is, although those are certainly factors. Popularity and impact will also play a significant role in my decisions; some shows aren’t for everyone, but their impact can be undeniable. And I am going to look at plotlines, whether they are engaging either comedically or dramatically.
So, without further ado, let’s go through my list of the top 10 best adult cartoons of all time.
10. Aqua Teen Hunger Force
This is one of the weirder entries on this list. Aqua Teen Hunger Force is an adult cartoon about a milkshake, a box of french fries, and a ball of meat getting themselves into shenanigans. I know, it sounds like it wouldn’t work on paper… or maybe it does? Aqua Teen Hunger Force builds on its strange narrative foundation to create a unique adult cartoon. You can’t help but at least chuckle at the absurdity of the concept, and the show turns that chuckle into a laugh.
With a fresh art style and ridiculous scenarios, the cartoon certainly isn’t what I’ll call mature comedy. But the hilarious voice acting brings the low-brow comedy to life in an extraordinary way. It isn’t the funniest show that’s ever graced the adult cartoon genre, but it has character and is more than worth watching if you want a laugh.
9. Rick and Morty
It’s ok. Go ahead and blow up the comments. Rick and Morty is only ninth on this list of best adult cartoons for one major reason – I don’t think it’s very funny. It has a great joke every now and then, but I think it lacks overall. But, if I’m considering popularity and impact, I would be foolish not to include Rick and Morty. Rick and Morty are undoubtedly one of the most popular and acclaimed adult cartoons around.
Very few shows can claim that they influenced fast-chain giant McDonald’s to bring back to life Szechuan sauce not just once but twice. Rick and Morty have commercials that promote huge video games such as Death Stranding. Actually, one of the creators even made a video game. Rick and Morty have had an immense cultural impact, and it deserves a spot on any list of best adult cartoons.
8. Big Mouth
Big Mouth is really funny and full of ridiculous scenarios. Although the story chronicles the ordinary lives of preteens, there are ghosts, horny monsters, and talking sex pillows. And that’s all great, but the show really shines in one particular way – the comedy is an excellent basis to explore the awkward and challenging experience that is puberty. Those horny monsters are representations of the kid’s desires for sexual experiences. Big Mouth tackles topics like masturbation, a girl’s first period, sexuality, and much more. It’s all-important yet uncomfortable stuff, but the show makes you laugh along the way.
After all, these experiences are awkward, and everyone experiences them, which lends the topic well to comedy. We can all laugh because we all hated puberty. The fact that Big Mouth is actually an accurate and heartfelt representation of this transition is the cherry on top of one of the best adult cartoons ever.
7. Bob’s Burgers
Bob’s Burgers is certainly not the most adult cartoon on the list, but I definitely wouldn’t let my younger siblings watch it. But the show has an appeal that derives from its simplicity. Gene loves farts, Louise is a low-key sociopath, and Tina is just…strange. Bob and Linda are both just goofy parents struggling to raise their three kids while keeping their small burger joint open for business. It’s a concept that everyone can cheer for, and that makes the viewer feel comfortable.
I don’t watch Bob’s Burgers when I am looking for something progressive and radical. I watch Bob’s Burgers when I am in the mood for an adult cartoon but don’t want all the complicated baggage that comes with some of the others on this list. It’s a hilarious show that has some really eccentric characters. That’s all. It’s always there for a good time, making it a no-brainer when considering the best adult cartoons ever.
6. F is for Family
From the incredibly talented but enraged mind of Bill Burr, F is for Family is about a – guess what- family in the 70s. The cartoon has a unique style of animation, as well as a colorful cast of characters. Those characters are voiced by some pretty big names, like Sam Rockwell, Vince Vaughn, and Justin Long. They all impeccably deliver a hilarious script that is both raunchy and lewd. But, beneath the surface, there is a heartfelt story about Family.
The characters will start to garner your sympathy and support even while you are laughing at them. Being a family isn’t easy – F is for Family knows it, and we all know it deep down. Burr’s adult cartoon caters to older audiences not just with risque comedy, but with mature messages about the struggles of raising kids, maintaining a healthy marriage, and much, much more.
5. Family Guy
Family Guy has had a tumultuous history that includes multiple cancellations, and the show’s quality has dipped recently. Still, I am not afraid to claim that Family Guy is one of the best adult cartoons ever made. After all, there is a reason that the show has survived for 18 seasons. It has the same set-up as many cartoons do – there is a family with (always) three kids, with each family member having a unique and eccentric personality. But unlike, say, F is for Family, Family Guy has absolutely no deeper meaning. It’s just really, really funny.
Peter is one of TV’s greatest idiots, and all the characters have their hilarious and memorable moments. The cutaways give Family Guy a special structure that allows for jokes completely out of the realm of the show. In my opinion, seasons 5-10 are the high point of the series. In that span of time, every episode was uproarious. Even today, when the episodes don’t quite have that same impact, you know there will be a joke or two that will make you laugh. So, for more its legacy than its current state, Family Guy lands in the top 5 greatest adult cartoons. But there is one that made it all possible…
4. The Simpsons
Ok, so get ready to blow up the comments again. I don’t think The Simpsons is very funny. Not just the later seasons, but all of them. But, even though it might not be my cup of tea, I cannot deny the immense impact The Simpsons has had on adult cartoons. In fact, this list wouldn’t exist without it because all the shows on here took cues from this radical series. Family Guy has always been accused of ripping The Simpsons off, but who hasn’t? The two-parents-and-three-kids formula that is the foundation of many cartoons, was invented here. Just generally, The Simpsons showed the world that cartoons aren’t just for kids.
As a consequence, even though I don’t, the show is funny, I praise The Simpsons. Yet if the show has encountered some controversy lately, it set the foundations for adult cartoons as we know them today. And since it built the foundation, it merely is one of the most influential cartoons of all time.
I remember suffering from the heartbreak that is a high school break-up and wallowing in my own self-pity. Nothing, I thought, could cheer me up, and then I found Archer. I watched one episode and then a season and then multiple seasons. I couldn’t stop, and I still can’t to this day. Archer, the world’s greatest secret agent who is by no means a secret, is the most egotistic, intelligent yet hopelessly asinine character. The supporting cast is incredible, and the plotlines for each episode and entire seasons are entertaining and engaging.
Does Archer have a deeper meaning, something that rewards scrutiny? Hell no. Archer is just one of the funniest cartoons, if not shows on TV. Each episode is packed to the brim with jokes, so much so that you can’t even understand them all the first time through. Watching Archer a second time allows you to discover jokes you never noticed before. Same with a third time. Once I’m finished writing this, actually, I might make my way through the show a fourth time and see what small but priceless jokes I will discover.
2. South Park
South Park has come a long way since its pilot episode. Originally full of fart jokes and funny voices, the cartoon has developed into something much greater. Now, don’t get me wrong: South Park still has its fart jokes and funny voices, and those are still important to the show’s quality. But the show cuts deeper with piercing and relevant satire.
South Park takes things to ridiculous levels, not just for a great laugh but to make a point. If the AARP attacks the town of South Park because its citizens won’t let the elderly drive, maybe the show is trying to make a point about the responsibility of treating older people with respect, but also imploring older folks to realize their limitations. If South Park has Cartman (one of the best characters to ever grace TV screens, by the way) fake Tourette’s syndrome so he can curse, the show is trying to promote understanding for the disability and condemn those who do not take it seriously.
But all of these points are delivered with incredibly good jokes, humorous situations, and eccentric characters. Their ability to make entire episodes in a single week allows them to respond to current issues very quickly, and also makes us gawk at the talent of Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and the entire team. So if you combine the perfection of immature humor, mastery over satire, and topicality, you have yourself one of the greatest adult cartoons ever. It’s raunchy, almost unforgivably obscene, but all too poignant.
1. Bojack Horseman
Bojack Horseman is hilarious. Taking place in a world with talking animals, the show is concerned with Bojack, a has-been TV star from the 90s. All the characters are goofy and entertaining, and the shenanigans the characters get themselves into are classic. For example, one of the characters literally dates three children stacked on top of each other in a trench coat. If that’s not funny, I don’t know what it is.
But what gets Bojack Horseman the number one spot on this list is that it is more human than most shows, not just cartoons, on TV. It has some of the most realistic depictions of Depression and addiction that has ever graced the medium. For every laugh you howl, you get an emotional punch in the gut. Watching the characters struggle to navigate the world is hard because you care about them so much. Watching them spiral out of control is even worse. You will cry to Bojack Horseman. Yes, it may be about a cartoon horse, but you will cry.
To conclude, Bojack Horseman isn’t just the best adult cartoon of all time. I would argue it is one of the greatest TV shows of all time. To use the old adage, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry because very few shows have found such a delicate balance between hysterical comedy and heartbreaking drama. I bet many never will. Bojack Horseman is a masterpiece – get up and watch it now.
And that’s my list! I know some of these might be a bit controversial, so I really want to hear your thoughts in the comments below. I want to hear about your favorites, your least-favorites, and everything in between. So put your fingers to the keyboard and let us know what you think!
I am an English (Writing Specialization) major at the University of Nevada, Reno, and I also LOVE video games. I’ve been playing everything I could get my hands on since I was a kid playing my Nintendo GameCube. When I’m not playing the latest titles or replaying Dark Souls for the umpteenth time, I am usually trying to write my novel or write and edit for clients as a freelancer.