Long gone are the days when cartoons were made solely for kids' Saturday morning viewing pleasure. Thanks to the likes of The Simpsons, Beavis and Butt-Head, and South Park, adult-oriented animated programs have been proliferating for quite some time, with favorites like Family Guy, Rick and Morty, Bob's Burgers, and Tuca & Bertie broadening the scope of just how hilarious all of those drawn characters can be. And anime and animated shows often tackle more mature themes, including sex and violence. These cartoons are definitely not for kids.
Netflix has also become a solid provider of adult-friendly cartoons. Here are some of the streaming services best options for grown-up fans of animation.
To get this out of the way: Yes, Avatar: The Last Airbender was a show that aired in Nickelodeon's Saturday morning cartoon lineup. But the series has had a massive renaissance since it was added to Netflix earlier this summer, and it's not difficult to see why. Avatar is set in a world divided into four nations, each represented by their connection to a different element — the Fire Nation, the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, and the Air Nomads. It's a world plagued by war and ruled the totalitarian Fire Nation, and only one 12-year-old kid, Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen), the last person alive capable of manipulating (or, as it's referred to in show, bending) all four elements, can put an end to it. The story and animation are captivating at any age, but Avatar also has a pretty evergreen relevance rare for a kids' show, dealing with very real, very adult themes like genocide, classism, and rebelling against a militaristic, fascist society. — Allison Picurro
If the anthropomorphic world of BoJack Horseman was seen through the eyes of a Japanese anime, featured animals devouring each other, and was turned into a terrifying murder mystery filled with metaphors about gender and power, then, uhhh, it wouldn't really be BoJack Horseman at all, would it? It would be Beastars, a twisted and fascinating Netflix anime about a world filled with animals living as humans and under a treaty that dictates predators don't eat prey... until an alpaca is brutally murdered by someone who can longer resist his carnivorous urges. A wolf takes it upon himself to solve the murder, and befriends a cute little rabbit along the way. Feeling emerge, but are they romantic or something more sinister? WHO THINKS OF THIS STUFF!?!?! - Tim Surette
There's nothing scarier than going through the disorienting, awkward, and downright disgusting process of puberty, but Big Mouth manages to make the whole thing pretty hilarious while keeping it raunchy. By personifying things like hormones and hair follicles from down there into real monsters, the show gives new life to all the body changes and sudden urges that making growing up so, um, hard. There are three seasons plus one Valentine's Day special on Netflix as of March 2020, but the streamer must love what it sees, because there will be a lot more to come; Netflix renewed the series through Season 6.
What happens when animals take over the world? Why, they act just like us of course! BoJack Horseman centers on an aging former sitcom star who is jaded by the whole Hollywood institution and his floundering fame and takes it out on everyone he comes across. Thanks to its bonkers visual gags, sharp dialogue, and some surprisingly touching moments of emotional introspection, the show is worth sticking with.
Fans of the hit video game Castlevania were in for a treat when Netflix decided to give it the anime treatment, with all the requisite violence and adult language the dark subject matter deserved. The series centers on a vampire-hunter who aims to stop Dracula from taking out his vengeance over his martyred wife on everyone in his path, and the action scenes alone make this one well worth the watch. Season 3, which debuted in March 2020, is being hailed as its finest yet.
Matt Groening brings his signature style to the very distant past with Disenchantment, a medieval fantasy series about the misadventures of a wayward princess and her sidekicks, an elf and a demon. For those who have enjoyed the gentler situational comedy gags of The Simpsons and Futurama but want to see them in a fantasy setting like Game of Thrones, the show is a must-watch.
As its title hints, F is for Family plays fast and loose with the four-letter words, as it chronicles the gnawing frustrations and resulting rage episodes of its hilariously unhinged patriarch Frank Murphy (voiced by show co-creator Bill Burr). He's not always the most lovable guy on Earth — and you're bound to cringe at how uncomfortable he makes his long-suffering family at times — but beneath all the cynicism is a story with heart and lots of laughs.
Those with a taste for oddball police comedies should get a kick out of Paradise PD, which is in the same vein as Roger Black and Waco O'Guin's other animated series Brickleberry, but with much more lewd and crude humor.
This stop-motion animation series aims straight for the feels. It centers on a woman named Kaoru (Lana Condor) who struggles with some very typical twenty-something problems, like an unsatisfying job and self-esteem issues, but who has a trio of living (but still quite cuddly) teddy bears — including the eponymous Rilakkuma — at home to help her through. As a bonus, Netflix is also currently streaming Aggretsuko, another story about a stationary character, this time a red panda from the world of Sanrio who finds her own unique ways of coping with the pratfalls of office life in her 20s.
Reality competition enthusiasts will no doubt get a kick out of Total Drama, a tongue-in-cheek parody series built in the image of Survivor. Even though it boasts a kid-friendly rating, there's enough suggestive dialogue and situations to make it a hoot for adults to enjoy as well. The Canadian cartoon series was even popular enough in its initial run to spawn two sequel series, The Ridonculous Race and Total DramaRama, both of which debuted in America on Cartoon Network.
Thanks to the vocal talents of Ali Wong and Tiffany Haddish and the vibrant landscape of this animated original, the title birds in this new series create a hilarious lens for all manner of real-life experiences for women in their 30s. The BFFs deal with everything from tragedy to humiliation to addiction, while, yes, talking to anthropomorphic plants and riding in a caterpillar subway. The only bad thing about this show is that was canceled way too soon, which may or may not have been a result of the wonky algorithm that managed to overlook recommending the series to people of interest — including its own creator, Lisa Hanawalt. The good news is that it has now been picked up for Season 2 at Adult Swim! So after you check out Season 1 on Netflix, know that there's still more to come.
Stop searching, start watching! TV Guide's Watch This Now! page has even more TV recommendations.