Animation is a storytelling medium unlike any other. It isn’t restricted by budget or bound by logic. The only imitations are that of the imagination. A child didn’t understand that Speed Racer was animated on 3’s, saving time and paper but giving it an unnatural motion that’s been parodied dozens of times. They didn’t give a shit because the car was cool and there was a monkey in it. No kid cares why Bugs Bunny can talk or why the Simpsons are yellow. They’ll accept it because it’s animated. Cartoons have to ability to suck us in but also present a world that we’ll instantly accept. Nothing taps into the imagination like cartoons, Whether it’s old school like The Ruff and Reddy Show (Not on the list) or brand new like The Happy Fun Times of Bojack Horseman (That’s not the title), animation has been here since the beginning and it shows no signs of going anywhere. Here’s my list of The 100 Greatest Animated Shows Of All Time.
20. Dragon Ball Z
You know those arcade games that were needlessly hard just to gobble up your precious quarters? Well, this the animated equivalent to that but instead of punishing difficulty, it’s stretched out battle scenes that last entire episodes and instead of pocket change, it’s your entire afternoon.
There’s few anime or any TV show for that matter, that has the cult of reverence that this show has acquired. Consisting of well over 300 episodes, the saga of Goku and his quest to rid the world of evil, is a gargantuan adventure that may take half of your lifetime to complete but it’ll be worth it.
19. Duck Tales
There’s four things I hate:
1. The rich ass 1%.
3. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures and beliefs.
4. The Scottish.
Duck Tales incorporates three of my biggest bugaboos but still found its way high atop of my list. How did this happen? Is it his tophat? Does it tap into a deep seeded desire I have to swan dive into some money? I have no idea but what I do know, is that none of the Disney animated classics of the 90’s (Darkwing Duck, TailSpin, Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers) would exist without it and it’s still the best of the bunch.
18. The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show
Debuting one year before The Flintsones, this was the first cartoon that not only appealed to children but their parents as well. Layered with in jokes and pop culture references for the adults and loaded with plenty of silly humor aimed at children. It’s like the Neapolitan ice cream of cartoons. Except minus the chocolate because that’s the worst. Shots fired.
Comprised of different segments including the titular moose and squirrel, the incompetent Russian spies Boris and Natasha, the equally incompetent Dudley Do-Right as well as the ne’er-do-well Snidley Whiplash. There’s also the time hopping Peabody and Sherman and probably the best segment: Fractured Fairy Tales.
Although the animation was choppy and unpolished, that never seemed to bother anyone. Some critics even referred to it as “a well written radio program with pictures.” Which goes to show how well written the show actually was. When kids can close their eyes and still follow the story, that’s a show firing on all cylinders.
17. Ren and Stimpy
Based on the numerous behind the scenes problems including the creator getting fired off of his own show because of missed deadlines, constant complaints of violence and offensive humor and the show switching networks, it’s a miracle it even exists.
Ren and Stimpy is about a hyper violent Chihuahua that sounds like a cocaine addicted Peter Lorre and his best friend who’s a dim witted house cat that talks like Larry Fine if someone replaced his bones with rubber.
What the two do from episode to episode is a bit hard to explain considering there’s hardly a plot but imagine if Rocko’s Modern Life was way more subversive and was animated by PCP addicted worker monkeys and you’re in the right ballpark.
Just like an unwanted prom night dumpster baby, the show refused to die and was highly controversial but damn was it entertaining to look at.
Created by Matt Groening in between rounds of counting his excessive mound of Simpsons money, Futurama was essentially his brilliant idea to take the simpsons and set it in space.
Because when you exhaust every punchline imaginable, the only logical step is to set that shit in space. A place homer has only been to a couple of times, max.
Futurama is about a pizza delivery guy named Fry, who’s cryogenically frozen and awakes 1000 years into the far future. A future of mutants, aliens and affordable suicide booths. He eventually partners up with a sexy cyclops and a smart ass robot and they get into the wildest adventures. I’m talking Cra-zy. They even meet a bodyless Beck. That’s how crazy their adventures are.
Some of the later seasons get a bit shaky but it’s one of the few animated shows to have a perfect ending.
Oh and that episode about Seymour destroys my tear ducts every time.
15. Death Note
The director of the recent live action adaptation actually quit Twitter upon receiving copious amounts of death threats. I would never support that level of harassment, I am, however going to use that fact to describe how rabid the fanbase of this show is. Is. Present tense. Even though the show ended a decade ago, and only had two seasons, the fans are just as obsessed today as they were when it originally premiered.
The show is about a genius high school student named Light who finds the aforementioned “Death Note” and quickly discovers that if he writes the name of anybody in the book, they will die within seven minutes. It doesn’t take long before he decides to become the ultimate vigilante god and tries to create a utopia free of crime.
Obviously things get a bit complicated when a detective named L decides to take on the case. It turns into a brilliant cat and mouse game that constantly keeps the viewer on edge.
Anime is a hard thing for most to jump into but Death Note is one of those anime that appeals to any demographic.
14. Beavis and Butt-head
Starting as a short film called Frog Baseball that originally aired on MTV’s Liquid Television, Beavis and Butt-head had its proper debut one year later in 93 and lasted four years.
This is ground zero. A show about two stupid ass slackers cracking wise and watching whatever video MTV wanted to plug became the impetus for everything that came after. There’s no South Park, no Rick and Morty, no Adult Swim without Beavis and Butt-head.
The slacker version of Statler and Waldorf (those two cranky ass puppets slinging insults in The Muppets), these two were a voice of a generation. If they said something was cool or sucked, that was the gospel. It wasn’t cool to like a band they ragged on and you definitely went out and bought a Metallica or AC/DC shirt to be hip.
Generation X had no idea what it was doing or where it was going but at least we had these two to lead the way.
13. The Flintstones
The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show might’ve gotten there first, but it was The Flintstones that brought the cartoon to primetime. If Beavis and Butt-head was instrumental in paving the way for the controversial aspect of animation, The Flintstones are clearly the precursors to everything.
Clearly borrowing heavily from The Honeymooners, The Flintstones is essentially an animated sitcom. Cartoons before this were either a collection of shorts or had a vignette format but The Flintstones bucked the trend. This was a legitimate TV show airing on primetime and it was a massive hit. It was destroying almost every other show on the air. Which is mind boggling. A cartoon was the most watched TV show in America at one time.
Yabba Dabba Doo.
12. SpongeBob Squarepants
This will be the most controversial cartoon placement on the list. I feel like the tide has turned on Spongebob where the younger generation is pushing against it to seem cool and the older generation has already forgotten how much they loved it but there was a time that this was the heir apparent to Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. SpongeBob has taken up the mantle passed down from the legends of the past and he’s successfully held it for almost 20 years.
I know it’s hip to hate on the sponge but you can’t deny the cultural impact he’s had. Nickelodeon is essentially the SpongeBob network now and they’ll continue milking that sea cow till it dies. The younger generation will love it as much as you did when you were younger and you’ll be as baffled by as you are now.
11. Rick and Morty
Take the sci-fi shenanigans of Futurama and add the bleak nihilism of Bojack Horseman, shake till your hands get carpal tunnel and voilá, you got yourself a Rick and Morty.
I tried to be objective as humanly possible when compiling this list by weighing influence against nostalgia and determining what kind of impact and longevity it had but when a show is as good as Rick and Morty is right out of the gate, there’s no reason to wait to put it as high as it is.
Almost every episode is better than the last, with episodes alternating between heartbreakingly realistic to insanely funny. Since Rick Sanchez is not only the smartest man in the galaxy but across all alternate dimensions, his unique world view comes off as cold and uncaring but there’s a level of sadness and deep love for his grandson that hides just below the surface.
It’s a show I can dedicate hours upon hours discussing because every episode can be dissected and examined to find layer upon layer of hidden jokes and references to future episodes. It’s an intricate Russian nesting dolls esque show of visual jokes and callbacks and Justin Roiland improving whilst drunk as fuck. One layer overlaps into the other to create the perfect storm of comedy. It’s a masterpiece that’s only getting better.