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The 50 Best Animated Series Of All Time

From "The Flintstones" to "BoJack Horseman," animation serves up an incredible array of excellent, wide-ranging stories.

bojack cowboy bebop daria

Netflix/YouTube/MTV

10. “Animaniacs” (Tom Ruegger, 1993-1998)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFXOUi-3YRg

“Animaniacs”

Warner Bros./Amblin

While “Tiny Toon Adventures” was the first beloved animated series coming from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Animation, that series still played off of the legacy of the classic Loony Tunes shorts. “Animaniacs” became a wholly new beast: a sly animated variety show with short skits featuring completely original and imaginative characters. Strange siblings Yakko, Wakko, and Dot led the way with their manic hijinks and catchy songs and catchphrases, but enhanced lab rats Pinky & the Brain became the breakouts with their constant foiled attempts to take over the world. From a giant chicken masquerading as a man to a curmudgeonly squirrel whose cartoon stardom has long since dimmed, these bizarre and addictive creations captured the imaginations of an adult audience. The series was so popular that Hulu has given a reboot a two-season, straight-to-series order that will land in 2020. – HN

9. “Big Mouth” (Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett, 2017-present)

Big Mouth

“Big Mouth.”

courtesy of Netflix

Matching the vague uneasiness and unpredictability of puberty made animation the perfect venue to tackle all the swirling ideas within this Netflix gem. Shocking as much in its honesty as its willingness to show preteens in their most vulnerable time of “chayyyyyyyyyyynges,” there’s always a wink and a nod to the idea that those who lived through that transition are more than maturing adults — they’re survivors. However crazy the monstrous hormones (and Hormone Monsters) driving these kids get, “Big Mouth” always returns to common ground: the embarrassing urges that show we all have precious little control over where our romantic whims take us. Toss in some sharp observations about family and the benefits of a more progressive worldview, and there’s some real substance underneath a monster-fueled exterior. – SG

8. “Bob’s Burgers” (Loren Bouchard, 2011-present)

BOB'S BURGERS: The Belchers cater their first wedding. When things donÕt go as planned, Linda tries to save the day in ÒSomething Old, Something New, Something Bob Caters for You,Ó Part Two of the season finale of BOBÕS BURGERS airing Sunday, May 20 (9:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. BOB'S BURGERSª and © 2018 TCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. CR: FOX

“Bob’s Burgers.”

Fox

The Belchers are just trying to figure things out, but at least they have each other — aside from the food- and pest removal-based puns, that’s the foundation of what’s made this a long-running delight. Even when events beyond their control threaten the restaurant or place any number of unforeseen obstacles in their way, there’s a spirit of family togetherness that might be more laid-back than TV shows usually have, but heartwarming all the same. With such clearly defined characters — timid, blunt, and eccentric all — it’s no wonder the show’s managed to sustain its appeal for the better part of a decade. – SG

7. “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” (Mike Lazzo, 1994-2008)

There are very few shows on this list as influential as “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” the fount from which all of Adult Swim’s “random” stoner humor springs. Premiering all the way back in 1994, the series set the tone that would define Adult Swim at its launch in 2000 and continues to resonate in the animation block’s programming today. Repurposing animation from the little-remembered 60’s Hanna-Barbera space opera, “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” saw the titular superhero retired from adventuring and hosting a talk show alongside his conquered foes Zorak and Moltar. Improvised interviews with real-life celebrities were integrated into the show, turning episodes into a hilarious mish-mash of awkward pauses and cringe comedy, and creating a show that was ground-breaking and completely ahead of its time. – JS

6. “Steven Universe” (Rebecca Sugar, 2013 – Present)

"Steven Universe"

“Steven Universe”

Cartoon Network

In this coming-of-age story, Steven Universe (based on Rebecca Sugar’s own brother and an animator on the series) is a young boy who lives with the magical humanoid aliens known as Crystal Gems. As a half-Gem himself, he’s learning to tap into his own powers as he and his friends go on adventures. This heartwarming series has received acclaim for its design, music, and voice acting, while its LGBTQ-friendly and body-positive themes and narratives are what really set it apart. Cartoon Network’s groundbreaking series is its first solely created by a woman, who later revealed herself to be non-binary. With that creative pedigree, it’s no wonder that Emmy-nominated “Steven Universe” is one of the most inclusive shows ever. – HN

5. “Batman: The Animated Series” (Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, 1992 – 1995)

"Batman: The Animated Series"

“Batman: The Animated Series.”

Warner Bros. Animation

The makers of this landmark WB series didn’t set out to make a cool kids show. They tried to tell the best damn Batman stories to date, and damn if they didn’t do just that. With an uncanny mix of menacing sharp edges and mysterious moving images, the animation captured the beauty of Bob Kane’s original creation and put the Dark Knight in a world that felt as dangerously real as the power-less superhero bravely faced. The soundtrack struck all the right notes, the voice acting outpaced any live-action interpretations, and the consistent depth in each new episode built grand, meaningful half-hour arcs that still resonate, whether you watched as a child or tuned in as an adult. “Batman: The Animated Series” spawned a generation of similar stories, from “Superman” to “Justice League” and beyond, but its influences are still being felt today. After all, no one would hold up “Batman vs. Superman” to “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.” No matter the intended audience, “BTAS” holds its own. – BT

4. “Daria” (Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn, 1997-2002)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Mtv/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5874779d)Daria (1997)Daria - 1997MtvUSAAnimation

“Daria”

Mtv/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

It’s hard to think of a portrait of teenage ennui more sensitively drawn than the MTV animated series, even when compared to the live-action world. From the perspective of Daria Morgendorffer, the world is a garbage fire, and she’s screwed because she’s the only one smart enough to know it. Life isn’t made easier by her eclectic friends, clueless but well-meaning teachers, and a family that loves her but doesn’t understand her — but fortunately, firm principles and a razor-sharp wit make her an unforgettable protagonist who was life-altering for an entire generation. Daria’s dry droll was unique, but her angst made her universally relatable. – LSM

3. “Archer” (Adam Reed, 2009-present)

ARCHER -- "Auflösung" -- Season 8, Episode 8 (Airs May 24, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured (l-r): Cyril Figgis (voice of Chris Parnell), Sterling Archer (voice of H. Jon Benjamin), Len Trexler (voice of Jeffrey Tambor). CR: FXX

“Archer”

FXX

Spy spoofs are nothing new, but Adam Reed’s particular brand of referential boundary-pushing has made this far more than a workplace comedy about intelligence agency misfits. Even as the team behind the series has dreamed up ways to pull Archer, Lana, Mallory, Pam, Krieger, Ray, and Cyril through disparate realities — 1940s LA noir, tropical biplane adventure, “Smokey and the Bandit”-themed coke ring operation, just to name a few — the show’s steady stream of callbacks keeps it tied to a whip-smart comedic DNA that never fails to surprise. Plus, it’s anchored by one of the most dependable voice casts of any show on this list. (Give them all the awards they, for some reason, have never won yet.) – SG

2. “The Simpsons” (Matt Groening, 1989-present)

THE SIMPSONS: After getting struck by lightning, Bart receives visits from ghosts, who want closure only he can provide in the all-new ÒFlandersÕ LadderÓ season finale episode of THE SIMPSONS airing Sunday, May 20 (8:00-8:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. THE SIMPSONS ª and © 2018 TCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

“The Simpsons.”

Fox

When you’ve been on the air as long as “The Simpsons,” every year brings another milestone. The show has already surpassed “Gunsmoke” by producing the most episodes of a primetime scripted series in history, has hit its landmark 30th season, and next year has even managed to match up its 30th “Treehouse of Horror” installment to run as the show’s 666th episode. Everything’s coming up Milhouse for “The Simpsons,” which continues to rake in the D’oh for all involved. The citizens of Springfield will soon fall under Disney ownership, which could mean a whole new chapter for what is easily one of the most influential TV series of all time. Purists may argue when the show “peaked,” and what season remains the best. But “The Simpsons” still delivers reliable laughs, sharp satire, and self-deprecating parody. Without “The Simpsons,” the majority of the shows on this list wouldn’t even exist — and comedy wouldn’t look the same. After all, no TV and no beer make Homer something something. – MS

1. “BoJack Horseman” (Raphael Bob-Waksberg, 2014 – present)

BoJack Horseman Season 4

“BoJack Horseman”

Netflix

Perhaps it’s too soon to call “BoJack Horseman” the best animated TV series of all time. Perhaps five stellar seasons of 12 episodes each, arguably improving with each subsequent entry, aren’t enough of a sample to hold against series that either ran for decades or withheld scrutiny for just as long. Perhaps a serialized existential drama about a washed-up Hollywoo horse looking to salvage his career along with his life shouldn’t be compared to kids’ shows and episodic satires. No matter. “BoJack Horseman” has accomplished more in five seasons than most TV series, animated or otherwise, do in twice that span, and it does so with the most economical storytelling every put to screen. From the five-second spans of dialogue that bridge heartbreak and hilarity, to the hidden jokes populating every square inch of the frame, to the inventive, eye-catching animation that builds worlds without a drop of exposition, “BoJack Horseman” is an incredible story to behold. That it makes us laugh and cry in unprecedented amounts is almost secondary to how much is being offered. We may never catch up with every astounding facet of this young series, which means it’s not too soon to list it at No. 1. If anything, we’re already late. – BT

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