“South Park” cartoon characters

"South Park" cartoon characters (Photo by Savvapanf Photo on Shutterstock)

It’s hard to believe, but cartoon series with more adult-oriented themes have been around since as early as the 1920s, with the Walt Disney Company creating risque shorts usually revolving around the current, at the time, Prohibition era. There were also cartoons such as Betty Boop, who were seen as sex symbols rising in popularity through the 1950s. Of course, now that the idea of adult-themed animated shows is old-hot, with classics such as “South Park” and “Family Guy” reigning supreme, it can be daunting to know where to start with these types of shows, which is precisely why we have compiled a list of the best adult cartoon series of all time. 

Of course, when it comes to adult cartoons, you’ve probably been around the block a few times. According to a recent study, TV shows from the end of the 20th century are still more popular than anything on the air today, with many claiming that the era harbored most of their beloved shows. But what does this have to do with adult cartoons? The survey in question helped compile a list of the top 20 greatest shows of all time, and of that list, four of them were adult-oriented cartoon series, with shows like “American Dad” and “Bob’s Burgers” making the rankings.

Nostalgia also plays a crucial role in making these shows successful. At the same time, nostalgia has been a buzzword for a while, with the concept taking off in terms of entertainment during the pandemic. It appeared most Americans couldn’t help but turn back time and watch the classics when it came to pandemic entertainment. On average, Americans have re-watched a staggering 30 TV episodes and 14 movies during the pandemic. So, which timeless shows and movies are people catching up on again? While “Seinfeld” topped the list, trailing not too far behind were the always popular “The Simpsons” and “South Park”, showing the popularity and audience once again for these timeless comedies. 

Ready to enter the universe of animated comedy? The best adult cartoon series of all time can leave you in stitches with their mature themes, all while maintaining an air of nostalgic animation. Don’t agree with our list? No worries! We would love to hear from you in the comments below!

woman lying on bed while eating puff corn
A woman watching TV (Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash)

The List: Best Adult Cartoon Series, According to Experts

1. “South Park” (1997 – )

Making the top of the list for the best 90’s cartoons of all time, it was only fitting that “South Park” would see the top of this list as well, with over two decades of episodes under its belt. “‘South Park’ is essentially the opposite of ‘Family Guy’ in every single way. It’s true that they’re both comedies, but they’re radically different in terms of approach. What allows ‘South Park’ to be way better is the fact that their jokes stay within the story, which is a necessity for a show to be not just good but great. The series has yet to lose its spark despite having initially debuted nearly thirty years ago. Continually relevant and always able to capitalize on and criticize current events, ‘South Park’ is one of the best in the business. No other adult cartoons in history have achieved what ‘South Park’ has become,” writes ScreenRant.


“South Park” (1997-)

“‘South Park’, part machine/part rage against the machine, has been a huge part of our lives for over 20 years. It ignited controversy, birthed catchphrases, and opened our eyes to the horrors of Harley-Davidson bikes, Chipotle, George Lucas, Honey Boo Boo, and basically anything mass-produced for the brainless. You might not always agree with the foul-mouthed antics of Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Kenny, but there’s usually always a hypocritical ideology to harass, a ‘sacred cow’ to bash, or a celebrity to roast,” reports IGN.

“If modern satire went by any other name, that name would be ‘South Park.’ Since 1997, the flagrantly funny adult cartoon has put every facet of society in its crosshairs and hit the bullseye more often than not. Even after 22 seasons, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone still manage to pull off a handful of brilliant episodes. Who knew that four foul-mouthed grade schoolers could render such lasting cultural impact?” adds ManOfMany.

2. “Rick & Morty” (2013 – ) 

Focusing on the duo of a mad scientist and his grandson as they go on adventure after adventure around the universe. “‘Rick and Morty’ is arguably Adult Swim’s most significant hit, at least in recent memory. Most episodes deconstruct and poke fun at another TV show, movie, genre, or scientific concept. As the titular duo explores infinite universes, their adventures spark as much introspective self-exploration as they do hilarious jokes,” notes CBR.

"Rick & Morty" (2013 - ) 
“Rick & Morty” (2013 – )

“‘Rick & Morty’ represents the natural evolution of contemporary storytelling in adult cartoons. ‘Rick & Morty’ combines science fictionfamily dramedy, meta humor, storytelling, and even improvised comedy to arrive at a truly unique series. Sure, it can be hard for viewers to wait for new seasons, but it is always worth it in the long run, as these episodes are always spectacular,” comments ScreenRant.

“Adult Swim’s ‘Rick and Morty’ is already a modern-era juggernaut. Following the dangerous and debauchery-ridden (and sometimes reality-altering) adventures of narcissist/uber-genius Rick and his cringing moral-compass grandson Morty, this subversive series has not only given us some of the smartest laughs in a long time but also some of the smartest sci-fi,” adds IGN.

3. “BoJack Horseman” (2014 – )

While we are not going to flat out say “BoJack Horseman” is Netflix’s best adult cartoon, we are definitely saying it is up there with the greats. With not only a unique set of characters but a unique storyline, the show is “set in a world where talking animals and humans co-exist. It tells the story of ‘Bojack Horseman’, a once-popular TV star who now lives in a state of perpetual malaise. As Bojack navigates his way through Hollywood in search of love, success, and a reason for being, show business gets satirized from every conceivable angle,” says ManOfMany.

“BoJack Horseman” (2014-)

“‘BoJack Horseman’ certainly has elements of dark humor and satire, but it’s also a very honest take on themes like depression, addiction, racism, sexism, trauma, and the general human condition. The series received accolades for its writing and plot and is often considered one of the greatest animated shows of all time by critics. ‘BoJack Horseman’ is also often credited as contributing to the rise of the sad-com,’ blending both comedy and sadness to create a new genre. So, if you’re looking for an animated show that will make you laugh and maybe even cry, ‘BoJack Horseman’ is your best bet. It simply puts the ‘adult’ in ‘adult cartoon’ more than any other show,” adds MovieWeb.

‘BoJack Horseman’ is one of our personal favorites. This cartoon serves as a mockery of showbiz and a harsh reality check on how alienated people are, and it pokes through the façade of the happily-ever-after ending—there needn’t be a window opened when a door is closed,” explains HoneyCombers.

4. “Futurama” (1999 – )

It’s time to join Fry, Leela, Bender, and the rest of the gang in the year 3000 as we dive into this 24-year-old classic. Created by Matt Groening, “Futurama” follows “Fry, a New York pizza delivery boy, who is cryogenically frozen following an accident in a lab. He wakes up 1,000 years in the future, in a 31st-century New York populated by androids, aliens, and humans. Fry’s sole descendant, a deranged mad scientist who owns a small cargo company, takes him in. Now, Fry works for the Planet Express delivery service along with some other lively employees, including a lobster-esque alien and a one-eyed captain,” explains Refinery29.

“Futurama” (1999-)

“This animated sci-fi sitcom masterfully blends humor, heartwarming moments, and futuristic absurdity to create one of the most memorable family dynamics between its diverse cast of characters. With witty dialogue and a stellar voice cast featuring Billy West and Katey Sagal, ‘Futurama’ takes you on a hilarious ride through space while exploring themes of love, friendship, and what it truly means to be a family,” describes Ranker.

“‘Futurama’ has been entertaining audiences for over two decades with its self-deprecating humor and hilarious satire of life in the future. With an A-list voice cast, the fan-favorite sitcom has never been one to turn away from pushing boundaries, delighting viewers with its slapstick jokes and black comedy while also exploring and paying homage to ‘legitimate literary science fiction concepts,'” notes MovieWeb.

5. “Bob’s Burgers” (2011 – )

Now serving up our final adult cartoon, the beloved “Bob’s Burgers.” “Bob’s Burgers” is a simple enough concept, following an ordinary family’s day-to-day of owning a burger joint. “Serving as a bridge between animated and live-action family sitcoms, ‘Bob’s Burgers’ views absurdity from an ultimately realistic but still often surreal lens, which ultimately arrives at a truly relatable ensemble of characters. Compared to most other adult cartoons, this deceptively simple caricature of the American family is the one that’s sure to surprise first-time viewers,” writes ScreenRant.

“The Belcher family came out swinging in 2011. America’s favorite family features lovably weird personalities with instantly iconic voices. From the nervous, hormone-charged Tina to the terrifyingly clever-for-her-age Louise, ‘Bob’s Burgers’ showcases familiar working-class woes through the lens of an original and energizing cast of characters,” raves Paste Magazine.

“This New England coastal town is rich in lovable losers and will leave you craving another bite after each episode. This show’s signature holiday episodes and musical numbers, along with an A-list cast of supporting characters, are a recipe for success. Coming up on their 13th Season, there are plenty of episodes to go back and watch again or stream for the first time, so fire up the grill top and get cookin’,” concludes CherryPicks.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Jilly Hite

Janelle is a freelance writer from New York. Her writing focuses on parenting, tech, business, interior design, education, and telling people’s inspiring stories. Janelle has written for Mustela and Newton Baby and has bylines in Pregnant Chicken, Syracuse Woman Magazine, the Baldwinsville Messenger, and Family Times Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in literacy from the State University of New York at Oswego.

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