Cartoons used to be considered entertainment strictly for children, the lowest common denominator if one would. In the last few decades, however, that has changed substantially. Many cartoons have been created for the target demographic of adults, with kids not even being considered. After so many years, it’s clear that there’d be many great cartoons oriented toward adults. But because this list only calls for five, I will follow suit. Without further ado, here are the top 5 adult cartoons of all time!
5. Beavis and Butthead
In the early 1990s, the only significant adult cartoon on TV was The Simpsons. An immense success, it nevertheless inspired a significant amount of controversy for its satirical depiction of the average American family. But in 1993, it would look far tamer next to MTV’s Beavis and Butthead.
Beavis and Butthead starred the titular duo, two rebellious teenagers who care primarily about rock music and ‘scoring’ with women. As they got into various misadventures along the way, they also critiqued real-life music videos as well. Sound unique? That’s because it was at the time of its airing.
While it hasn’t aged entirely well, Beavis and Butthead is still an enjoyable series about the adventures of two best friends who want nothing more than simple pleasures. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s a lot of fun.
4. The Simpsons
Family sitcoms used to be fairly straightforward affairs. A mom, a dad and 2.5 kids who quarreled every episode, but reconciled during the last 22 minutes. In 1989, that would all change. The Simpsons, which is the longest-running cartoon in the United States, dedicated itself from the start to deconstructing and tearing apart every sitcom cliche. Judging by its long run, it’s safe to say it has succeeded.
The Simpsons has shown its age in some ways, with a lot of its gags that were once revolutionary now feeling stale and the groundbreaking changes to family dynamics now being the cliches, ironically.
Still, fair is fair and the earlier episodes were uniformly stellar. While everything inevitably will show its age at some point, that doesn’t take away from the impact it once had.
3. South Park
Throughout the 1990s, Beavis and Butthead routinely earned the ire of authority figures everywhere for the reckless behavior of the titular duo. Just when it seemed that no show could top the total anarchy of the duo, South Park arrived in 1997 to prove all skeptics wrong. Starring four school-aged boys named Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny, the show concerns their adventures in the titular town as all sorts of oddities occur.
South Park has aged far better than the two shows that precede it on this list. This is perhaps ironic since its humor relies heavily on current events and pop culture. It’s the rapid-fire approach to its jokes that ultimately helps it stand strong. All in all, South Park is solid.
2. King of the Hill
It’s been said that King of the Hill could easily exist as a live-action sitcom and it’s not hard to see why. With its preference for finding humor in mundane situations over outrageous shenanigans, King of the Hill is a delightfully subdued show that centers around the Hill family, featuring father Hank, mother Peggy and son Bobby, as they navigate everyday situations throughout their lives.
Unlike the previous shows listed, King of the Hill thrives because of its character-driven nature. There is no consistent idea that needs to be targeted or a ludicrous plot that the gang has to deal with. Instead, it’s all about embracing the quirkiness of the average. And that will always age well.
1. Bojack Horseman
Without question, Bojack Horseman is the greatest adult cartoon of all time. Not only does it master King of the Hill’s preference for character-based comedy, but it also features continuity that allows for a more fluid and engaging story to emerge. Starring the eponymous Bojack Horseman, a washed-up sitcom star who appeared in a show entitled Horsin’ Around in the 1990s, the show concerns Bojack’s efforts to better himself as a person, while his many friends try to do the same.
Bojack Horseman takes a grounded, nuanced approach to emotional growth and regret, which is ironic, given that half the cast is comprised of anthropomorphic animals. But that’s irrelevant, as it tells a gripping story from start to finish and emotionally resonates with its audience.