The Best 10 Animated Shows for Adults
We’ve already flirted with the topic of cartoons for us grown-ups in our Best Cult Cartoons post from a little while ago, but this time, we’ve put the metaphorical kids to bed and are now ready to wade with reckless abandon into what we think are the best animated shows aimed purely at adults. So in no particular order, here we go!
Let’s just get this one out of the way because it’s probably the most glaringly obvious. Seth Macfarlane’s Family Guy was the first animated series to be nominated for the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy since The Flintstones, and it’s not hard to see why. Although it’s sometimes disparaged for its tangential humour (“this is almost as bad as the time that I…” yeah we get it) it nonetheless dominated FOX’s animated programming for a massive chunk of the 00’s. Varied and interesting plots, great supporting characters and plentiful retro pop-culture references keep this one a firm favourite here in the studio.
Our favourite episodes have to be the Stewie and Brian “Road to…” adventure series. Check out The Road to the Multiverse, not much by way of plot here but all sorts of interesting representations of different Quahogs and with them slightly different styles of animation keep it fresh and funny. You can’t miss the awesome Star Wars parodies too!: Blue Harvest and Something, Something, Something Dark Side.
Speaking of The Road to the Multiverse, Stewie and Brian end up in a Robot Chicken version of Quahog during their adventures. This is most likely down to Seth Green being both an executive producer of this show and the voice of Family Guy’s Chris! Robot Chicken takes beloved childhood icons like Sonic the Hedgehog, DC comics heroes, He-Man and more, twisting them in witty and often violent ways, all through the medium of stop-motion animation. Most of this is with real toys and action figures but a good chunk of it is claymation too, so it properly ticks all the boxes for us animation nerds.
There’s also a full Star Wars parody which preceded the Family Guy ones, a reminder Seth Green makes angrily (through Chris) during Blue Harvest. Definitely worth a look!
Iconic and controversial in equal measure, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s creation is the first thing in the minds of most when adult cartoons come up. It’s an impressive beast in many ways, not least for the fact that their production time is so incredibly quick. Remember that most animated episodes take anywhere from 6 months to a year to produce and South Park’s 5 days seems absolutely bonkers. They can actually write an episode about things that are happening in the news and tabloids right now. In fact, 2008’s episode About Last Night was completed in just 24 hours. This means that they created it in just enough time to see Obama win the presidential election on Tuesday and create an episode centered around his win for the following Wednesday night. This affords the show an unparalleled topical freedom experienced by nobody else in the industry.
Okay, this one may have had a pretty ropey first season – even the die-hard fans concede that much! So maybe just start your binge from season two, there’s still bags of great character-driven humour here. Produced by Loren Bouchard (Home Movies, The Ricky Gervais Show) Bob’s Burgers is a comedy sitcom-style show which incorporates a family model with a strong dose of workplace humour. We especially love the wordplay of the “Daily Specials” gag, a blackboard which has a different burger featuring a pun-stuffed name, think: the “Gourdon-Hamsey Burger (comes with squash & ham)” or the “Don’t You Four Cheddar ‘Bout Me Burger (comes with four kinds of cheddar).”
King of the Hill
Often viewed as something of a spiritual successor to Bob’s Burgers, King of the Hill might not be on the radar for many of you outside the United States. Yes, there’s plenty of cultural references and jokes that rely on the American zeitgeist but this can be a welcome change of pace to the quick-fire, lampooning style comedy featured by many of the others on this list. King instead prefers to go down a more naturalistic route, relying on recognisable, traditional family stories revolving around work, marriage and coming of age. Anyone who has ever been to the swelteringly hot Phoenix, Arizona will be able to agree with Peggy’s summation: “this city should not exist, it is a monument to man’s arrogance.” – an excellent example of the plentiful observational humour on offer here.
The Life & Times of Tim
Produced, written and voiced by Steve Dildarian who said of his creation: “we just tried to take an average guy and put him in a situation with the most conflict possible.” The result is a hilarious show which centers on Tim, a 20-something nobody working a soulless job in the city who finds himself in all sorts of silly bother. The narratives are often layered with gradual and heightening levels of awkwardness, reaching a cringe-worthy crescendo which keeps us coming back, hungry for more, just to see how far Dildarian will go.
The fact that Dildarian voices Tim himself paired with the sketchy, deliberately clumsy art and animation style, makes The Life and Times of Tim seem very genuine and gives the situations depicted an even more bizarre and unbelievable quality.
Created by Aaron McGruder and based upon his comic strip of the same name, The Boondocks is a poignant, sometimes controversial show, not scared to examine politics and race as brothers Huey and Riley Freeman and their grandfather address real issues in unconventionally humorous ways. Sometimes painful, always thought-provoking and often surprisingly sharp of wit, The Boondocks is an outstanding addition to this list because it dares to confront sensitive issues with a rarely-found confidence and within a jazzy, shadowy atmosphere which keeps you coming back.
This sci-fi cousin of The Simpsons created by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen is a hugely popular show in its own right. Philip J. Fry, a pizza delivery boy, accidentally cryogenically freezes himself and ends up waking in the year 3000. Futurama is like a comedic animated Star Trek, self-contained episodes in a retro-futuristic space setting. This isn’t to say that it is derivative, here is a critically acclaimed, vigorous show which hosts surprising emotional depth and draws humour from the comparisons between 31st and 21st century life. Plentiful pop-culture references and celebrity cameos ensure that it’s not just for science fiction fans either!
Rick and Morty
In a similar vein to Futurama, Rick and Morty is a sci-fi animated show with an episodic style. It follows the misadventures of unhinged alcoholic scientist Rick and his easily influenced grandson Morty, deriving comedy from the intersection of domestic family life and interdimensional travel. Here is another massively well-received show from Adult Swim which treads the line between dark and surreal humour with a truly refreshing and original twist, Futurama fans, this is for you, everyone else, this is for you as well.
Oh and if the excessive belching gets too much for you, don’t worry, Rick cools it down a bit as the first series progresses! Don’t let this stand in the way of an excellent series!
Leaning heavily into the retro spy and future tech genre such that James Bond, Austin Powers and Jason Bourne fans alike be satisfied, Archer is a sex and violence-filled quote machine with some incredible supporting characters and crazy plots spanning the globe. The artistic style borrows from American pop-art, with heavy lines and vibrant colours which are a perfect match for the show’s bold, unapologetic approach.
There you have it, our go-to animated shows! By all means drop us a message on Twitter if you think we’ve made a blunder and missed any other big ones out there. Still looking for a bit of a laugh? Have a mosey over to our Favourite Jokes in Disney Films post from the other week.