Animation isn’t just for kids, and the best animated shows today prove that the medium is for mature viewers, too. Adult animated series can push the boundaries of the small screen with grown-up humor, brilliant social commentary, and complex storytelling and characters. And while the unique niche has grown over the years, there are some adult shows that stand out from the rest.
From satirical works to long-running favorites to dark dystopian dramas, there’s no shortage of incredible adult animated TV shows to choose from. Whether audiences are long-time fans of the medium or complete beginners, these fan-favorite and critically acclaimed series are a great place to start.
Love, Death & Robots is Netflix’s hit adult animated anthology series that delivers incredibly diverse and stunning visuals and intriguing stories with each new episode. Often revolving around the sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and occasionally, comedy genres, the show is essentially a collection of short films made for mature audiences.
Some fan-favorite episodes like Zima Blue, The Witness, and Good Hunting, are not just gorgeous from start to finish, but they also have haunting and thought-provoking narratives. Many of these complex stories are unsurprisingly adapted from already acclaimed short stories. With each season only pushing the boundary of artistry and storytelling on the small screen, only time will tell what creators David Fincher and Tim Miller will come up with next.
It’s easy to forget that Aqua Teen Hunger Force is a spinoff of another Adult Swim series, Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Now considered one of Adult Swim’s best shows, Aqua Teen has a loyal fanbase that always looks forward to the hilarious and often surreal antics of its three main characters – the anthropomorphic fast food trio, Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad.
In their run-down suburban neighborhood, the three roommates encounter zany and absurd situations, sometimes involving their middle-aged neighbor Carl Brutananadilewski. Other times, it’s two destructive and villainous aliens that come down from the moon, aptly known as The Mooninites. Whatever the situation is, there will be rapid-fire and riotous humor involved, which has gained the cult classic series a reputation for being unapologetically unconventional.
A favorite among 90s kids, Beavis and Butt-head captured slacker culture perfectly and is beloved for its lowbrow humor that relies on the titular duo. With low intelligence and low interest in anything aside from heavy metal and causing trouble, the two main characters’ stories reflect and satirize the teenage experience of that time.
Beavis and Butt-head’s rebellious humor preceded the inevitable wave of shows that would take similar subversive approaches to humor. This unique brand of comedy appealed to fans who could see the wit beneath what initially seemed to be a low-effort show. Its recent revival on Paramount+ proves there’s enduring interest in the biting animated series. It’s especially popular among those looking for nostalgic TV shows that capture the ’90s.
La la la la la. That’s all it takes for fans to recall the clever, sardonic, and bizarrely lovable teenager, Daria Morgendorffer. Highly intelligent and mostly sarcastic, Daria brought a one-of-a-kind character to life on the small screen, who became relatable to other eccentric high school students.
Daria tackled the absurdity and superficiality of suburban American life through the lens of a non-conforming student who would rather go her own way. Its main character was the symbol of rebellion and individuality, and the cool animated TV series as a whole is remembered for its sharp wit and entertaining delivery of social commentary that’s still relevant today.
Family Guy is one of the longest-running animated sitcoms ever by creator Seth MacFarlane. The satirical show about American family life introduced the world to the hilarious Griffin family, made up of the bumbling Peter Griffin, his underappreciated wife Lois, their quirky children Meg, Chris, and Stewie, and their talking dog Brian.
Known for its offbeat humor paired with social commentary, Family Guy has always been among those series that are not afraid to air controversial episodes. It’s a cultural touchstone and a beloved staple of adult animation that continues to stay relevant by taking gut-busting jabs at everything from pop culture to politics. With its 22nd season currently airing, it’s a great time to revisit the Griffin family’s wackiest storylines.
It all starts in the present when modern-day slacker and pizza delivery worker Philip J. Fry is accidentally cryogenically frozen and wakes up in the distant future in Futurama. The show follows his experiences alongside a lovable crew of Futurama characters that include his one-eyed love interest Leela and the foul-mouthed robot Bender.
Futurama has taken Fry and the gang on many misadventures throughout the years, which can be enjoyed by both adult and younger audiences. An aspect of the series that more mature viewers will appreciate is its surprisingly emotional moments, especially as relationships between the characters change over time – not to mention everyone’s good boy, Seymour.
Netflix’s original animated series, BoJack Horseman, is still among the platform’s best offerings, as it showed a surprisingly dark, nuanced, and thoughtful approach to mental health that appealed to fans and critics alike. The show is centered on the titular character, a washed-up ’90s actor and humanoid horse living with alcoholism and depression.
The award-winning series has been hailed for its realistic portrayal of a variety of mental health conditions, which affect BoJack’s self-destructive tendencies, as well as other characters in the series. Each season only gets more emotional as audiences become attached to the flawed characters, whose transformative arcs turn them into seemingly completely different individuals by the end of the show.
Rick and Morty is a sci-fi sitcom that became a global phenomenon thanks to its wonderfully weird humor and totally original characters. The massively popular Adult Swim series tells the story of the mad scientist Rick Sanchez, who takes his impressionable grandson, Morty Smith, on perilous, surreal, and wild adventures through the show’s own wacky multiverse. These “quick in and out” trips unsurprisingly take a toll on Morty’s well-being, not to mention his relationships with the rest of his family.
Aside from serving as a satirical commentary on science fiction and pop culture, the show also deconstructs traditional sci-fi tropes to tell its hilarious stories. Rick and Morty also veers toward existential themes, mixing philosophy and science to create smart storylines that just happen to be laugh-out-loud funny.
Created by Matt Groening, The Simpsons is a long-running animated sitcom that needs no introduction. Since its debut in 1989, it has produced numerous iconic episodes, parodied pop culture in witty ways, poked fun at current events, and more. Featuring the titular family living in the fictional town of Springfield, The Simpsons depicts the dim-witted but endearing Homer Simpson, his overly patient wife Marge, their mischievous son Bart, their intelligent daughter Lisa, and their sweet but quiet baby Maggie.
“Simpsons did it” has become a popular saying among fans because of how the enduring series has lampooned pretty much every aspect of modern life. The show has won several Primetime Emmy Awards, Peabody Awards, and more, with its “golden age” in particular being praised as the best of the series. More importantly, countless aspects of it have become part of the cultural lexicon, with The Simpsons undoubtedly cementing its place in pop culture for decades to come.
Anyone going down to South Park knows they’re about to have a good time; one that’s not exactly kid-friendly. The long-running animated series created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone has achieved legendary status for its trademark irreverent humor and countless controversies. It features the antics of a group of friends – Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick – who get into strange situations in the titular town.
From mocking celebrities and politicians to portraying figures like Saddam Hussein in scandalous ways, South Park has always been known for its razor-sharp social commentary and fearless satirical comedy. No major political and cultural event is safe from the animated series’ quick comedic insights made for adults’ eyes only.
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