The Best Animated TV Shows of the 21st Century, Ranked

From "Rick & Morty" to "Avatar," IndieWire ranks the best animated television series produced so far this century — for kids and adults alike.
The 20 Best Animated TV Shows of the 21st Century, Ranked—BoJack
The 20 Best Animated TV Shows of the 21st Century, Ranked—BoJack
The 20 Best Animated TV Shows of the 21st Century, Ranked—BoJack
Justice League
The 20 Best Animated TV Shows of the 21st Century, Ranked—BoJack
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READ MORE:  ‘Rick and Morty’: Dan Harmon Explains Why Season 3 Isn’t Ready Yet

5. “Archer”

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

Adam Reed’s slick, raunchy romp through the exploits of an accidentally capable super-spy has expanded far beyond the confines of a wood-paneled agency office, tearing through some of TV’s most finely crafted one-liners along the way. Perhaps what’s most impressive about “Archer” is that it has managed to continually weave an intricate linguistic tapestry to go along with the “Mad Men”-adjacent visual aesthetic it had at its outset. Through Reed’s writing and top-notch performances from a murderer’s-row voice cast, there’s a deep appreciation for its entertainment ancestors. (For every mini masterpiece set on a ill-fated blimp, there’s a Burt Reynolds or Christian Slater cameo.) Even in its own singular world — stretching from the heart of the jungle to outer space, straight through to its main character’s subconscious — “Archer” has become one of TV’s go-to cultural gateways. — SG

READ MORE: ‘Archer’ Finale Review: ‘Dreamland’ Ends Season 8 with A Message to Fans and A Bigger Mystery Than Ever

4. “Bob’s Burgers”

BOB'S BURGERS: Teddy organizes a day trip on his newly refurbished boat in an effort to impress his ex-wife, Denise. Meanwhile, Tina attempts to show that she is responsible enough for a cell phone by taking care of BobÕs prized eraser from the restaurant in the ÒSea Me NowÓ episode of BOBÕS BURGERS airing Sunday, Sept. 9 (7:30-8:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. BOB'S BURGERS ª and © 2016 TCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. CR: FOX

The beauty of “Bob’s Burgers” lies in how its wackiness gives way to the warm fuzzies that are completely grounded in relationships and the human experience. Whether it’s a man in love with a mannequin, Bob trying to potty train a turkey in his sleep or Louise wanting to assault her first boy crush, these moments are simultaneously hilarious and heart-rending. While “The Simpsons” have reigned supreme as the most iconic animated family, the Belchers are young upstarts on the scene who have reinvented the genre and made it completely their own. In a world where quirky is lovable, the Belchers make us want to slap them, grab their butts, name a punny burger after them or write them a song set to the sweet music of bodily functions. — HN

READ MORE: ‘Bob’s Burgers’: The Most Optimistic Show on TV? Cast and Creator Champion Positivity at PaleyFest

3. “The Simpsons”

THE SIMPSONS: When Marge becomes obsessed with a Japanese style of living, the Simpsons must part with any item that no longer brings them joy. For Homer, this means finding a new home for the family pig. For Lisa, it means saying goodbye to her beloved sax in the all-new “Pork and Burns” episode of THE SIMPSONS airing Sunday, Jan. 8 (8:00-8:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. THE SIMPSONS ™ and © 2016 TCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THE SIMPSONS ™ and © 2016 TCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. CR: FOX.

While some may argue the best years of “The Simpsons” were prior to the year 2000, that doesn’t really matter. Why? Because what has aired during this century still rivals the best of what’s out there. The citizens of Springfield deliver fresh stories, sharp barbs, and unique lessons on family, week in and week out — on a broadcast schedule, no less. They’re making more than 20 episodes a season while most other entries on this list are barely cracking 10, if that. That’s a lot of entertainment — good entertainment — with the added value of time. If anything, “The Simpsons” has managed to up its game via new groundbreaking story techniques, plus a faster turnaround time that now allows the show to make joke tweaks close to air. “The Simpsons” has always been there, and we hope it always will. — BT

READ MORE: ‘The Simpsons’ One-Hour Episode: Behind the Crazy Mash-up of ‘Empire,’ Mr. Burns, Snoop Dogg and F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. “South Park”

South Park Season 20 Episode 9 finale

If the key to longevity is originality, than consistency is the lock. And “South Park” has been nothing if not consistent over its two-plus decade run. Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s landmark Comedy Central series has crafted aggressively funny, impossibly sharp, and delightfully unpredictable episodes for such a long time we’re starting to take them for granted. But like the animation itself, the series has subtly developed over the years into a leaner, meaner, culture eviscerating machine, all without abandoning — or even aging — its fourth grade subjects. “South Park” is still a program we look to in times of turmoil. It always provides relief, and often gives great insight. May it last 20 more. — BT

READ MORE: ‘South Park’ Finale Review: A Post-Funny Era of Satire Is Not What We Need Right Now

1. “BoJack Horseman”

BoJack Horseman Season 3 Episode 4 taffy factory gif

How do we love this ongoing saga of everyone’s favorite anthropomorphic misanthrope? Each passing season makes it more impossible to count the ways. What began as a sly subversion of the animated sitcom has quickly morphed into a richly layered commentary on fame, awards season, society’s treatment of mental health issues and everything in between. BoJack continues to be a jewel in the Netflix crown not simply because of its big-picture look at these overarching issues, but because it continues to fill out this animal-driven world with more jokes than 100 Hollywood screenplays, with animal puns on movie posters, faux prestige titles on the whiteboard, and fictional locales like the Château Marmoset. At the same time, the series has turned its title character’s self-destruction into deeply moving art, all without ever losing sight of the deeply human emotion left in his wake. “BoJack” is a testament to the potent nature of the tragedy that often walks along hand in hand with the strongest laughs. — SG

READ MORE: ‘BoJack Horseman’ Creator Reflects on the Value of the Stories We Tell, Especially With Season 4 in the Works

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