Get ready for the nostalgia in 3, 2, 1…Take a look at Indiewire's list of the best animated series of all time.
By Corina Mendoza
Animated series are an essential part of childhood, particularly from the age of 5 to 12, when the only things that matter in life is getting home from school and sitting down to eat while watching our favorite cartoons (or animes). When we were young, the importance of any given day was measured on whether Goku would defeat Frieza or not.
Now, with all of the responsibilities adulthood brings, a life consisting in going to work every day and taking the dog out for a walk, no longer leaves much room to enjoy the small pleasure of sitting in front of the TV to watch our childhood heroes. For the sake of those glorious years, here are the best animated series of all time, according to Indiewire.
Created by Greg Weisman, this is a rather complex series with dramatic plot lines that require a somewhat sophisticated viewer to fully appreciate and understand—whether that implies a focused child or an interested adult. The show includes many medieval references, history lessons, and even referrals to world mythology. It didn't exactly garner a big audience, though, due to its dark tone and the topic it dealt with. Even so, Gargoyles belongs in this list precisely because of that: it offered a different, thoughtful, intelligent content, even for its time.
Scooby Doo, Where Are You! (1969-1970)
Teen Titans Go! (2013 - )
The Flintstones (1960-1966)
Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000)
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (2010-)
If you're older than 6, then you'll need a pretty active imagination to enjoy this series. The story is about a group of ponies tasked with showing, episode after episode, the value of friendship and the importance of having friends (talk about pressure!) to the audience. Given that the show is inspired on Hasbro's famous toy line, it is produced by Hasbro itself. It has successfully aired in 12 countries—no small feat—so it's definitely one to take seriously. Parents do tend to find this series highly educational for their children.
Sealab 2021 (2000-2005)
Rocko's Modern Life (1993-1996)
Duck Tales (1987-1990)
Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008)
Though it features Japanese style motifs and aesthetics, the series was created and produced in the U.S. It was a massive success, due to its original setting, creative and alluring universe, and intelligent writing. The show's characters are able to bend natural elements and control the forces of nature in an exciting display of powerful abilities.
It touches on topics as complex as war and diplomacy, and as individual as temperance, maturity, peace, love, and friendship. The Avatar refers to the only person on the planet capable of wielding the full power of nature, who must learn master all four elements (air, earth, water, and fire). But before he's even close to becoming the world's savior, he must fight for his life as evil forces attempt to impose their will on every single being. Don't bother with the live-action adaptation, though. That was a complete failure that didn't make it past the first movie.
Samurai Jack (2001- 2017)
Gurren Lagann (2007)
The Boondocks (2005-2014)
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends (2004-2009)
This one's ideal for waking the viewers' imagination up, regardless of age. Foster's Home shelters every single imaginary friend that has been forgotten after their owners have grown up. Mac visits the home regularly, since his imaginary friend, Blue, lives there. This beautiful animated series is often gorgeous to look at, thanks to its colorful art and imaginative aesthetics. It's also fun, educational and, above all, terribly endearing.
Spongebob Squarepants (1999 - )
The Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005)
Over the Garden Wall (2014)
Sailor Moon (1992-1997)
The Moon warriors brought happiness to many. It's a long series, as Japenese animes usually are; yet its quality never really drops. In addition to her quest for saving the world and give Serena her memory back, the warriors have emotional moments of friendship, built upon rather sad and complex individual stories. Taken jointly, its varied themes and genres never disappoint. It's an intelligent show that's certainly worth a dedicated watch. Just recently, the show's producers launched the remastered version, called Sailor Moon Crystal, with the same praise and overall success as the original.
Home Movies (1999-2004)
Frisky Dingo (2006-2008)
Aeon Flux (1991-1995)
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends (1959-1964)
Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996)
This is hands down the great Japanese philosophical series, at least as far as we know. Evangelion is basically a thoughtful summary of east-asian cosmogony, portraying Japan's conception of the universe and their view on the future. It's a post-apocalyptic drama that's incredibly fun to watch. Evangelion is, simply put, a rare gem through and through. It's so deep and complex (yet entertaining) that it has inspired hundreds of academic thesis, all of which are dedicated to its analysis and comprehensive study. Yeah, the show is that important.
Ren & Stimpy (1991-1995)
Beavis & Butthead (1993-1997)
South Park (1997 - )
Mobile Suit Gundam (1979-1980)
Cowboy Bebop (1998-2000)
Though it's made by Japanese creators, the actual production is American. Nonetheless, these seemingly confusing elements do nothing to undermine the show's amazing content. It's only 25 episodes long, in which a bounty hunter travels across galaxies to catch bandits and dangerous criminals. In addition to the mandatory action sequences, Spike's life (the protagonist) is a mystery that slowly unravels as the show progresses, until it reaches both a romantic dimension and an intriguing betrayal. Netflix is currently planning a live action adaptation, and we can only hope it's as good and appealing as the original.
Phineas and Ferb (2007-2015)
Justice League (2001-2004)
Clone High (2002-2003)
King of the Hill (1997-2010)
Rick & Morty (2013 - )
Psychedelic, scientific, sarcastic, intelligent, irreverent… we can keep going. Its fans suggest that watching in different states of consciousness changes the experience completely. It's not only a compilation of pop culture, scientific, and historical references; it also features a unifying plot line that integrates the time-travel adventures by this extravagant grandfather and his loving grandson. Rick & Morty is unique among those of its kind—or among those of any kind, for that matter.
The Tick (1994-1996)
Adventure Time (2010-2018)
Gravity Falls (2012-2016)
The Critic (1994-1995)
Warner Bros. did a great job at teaching you all the U.S. states, capitals, presidents, artists, etc. In addition to enjoying Yakko, Wakko, and Dot's misadventures, the series included several other characters to make each episode incredibly fun.
Big Mouth (2017 - )
Bob's Burgers (2011 - )
Space Ghost Coast to Coast (1994-2008)
Steven Universe (2013 - )
This is one of the best series of the late nineties, animated or otherwise. Those years when we all wanted to change the world as we entered the excruciating pain of adolescence were made all the sweeter thanks to Daria. We could relate with her and her crises, and in her suffering we found ourselves redeemed as outcasts. Refreshing!
Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)
Archer (2009 - )
The Simpsons (1989 - )
BoJack Horseman (2014 - )
Deeply existential and intelligent show, although perhaps it's not really suitable for younger audiences, much less for teenagers—if what you're looking for is a good role-model kind of series. Bojack is a 40-year-old who was once a famous and important celebrity. As it happens, time goes by and Bojack becomes a has-been. He now has to deal with the decline of his career and his life's misery. This show is ideal for those among us who are 30 and above already—you know, the ones who want to stop feeling so anxious about the future.
Cartoons and animes are not only for kids. That's a myth we must stop believing and promoting. That a TV show has animations does not mean it's made for children (I'm looking at you, South Park, Family Guy, et. al). There's plenty in animated series for adults to enjoy. Especially that good old nostalgia trip.
Translated by Oliver G. Alvar