The 15 Best Animated TV Shows on Netflix

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The 15 Best Animated TV Shows on Netflix

Animated television used to be solely for the kids. But a quick look at the best animated shows on Netflix reveals everything from adorable animals and Jedi knights to hard-drinking international spies. This may be the only list where My Little Pony shows up next to Archer.

But Netflix has both children and adults covered when it comes to animated shows, including a couple of original series that we highly recommend. Fox may claim animation domination, but Netflix has accumulated quite a line-up of cartoons, including some of Fox’s Sunday night best.

Also see The Best TV Shows on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and HBO.

Here are the 15 Best Animated TV Shows on Netflix:

15. Puella Magi Madoka Magica


Creator: Akiyuki Shinbo
Known amongst fans simply as Madoka, which is also the name of the show’s lead character, this dark tale focuses “magical girls,” the anime fan lingo for young women with superheroic powers. However, this is not your average heroes-save-the-day show. In fact, it can be quite tragic. Madoka focuses on the turmoil that unfolds when the girls sacrifice more than they expect taking on their roles and world-savers. Meanwhile, one girl struggles to decide whether or not she too should agree to enter the magical girl life. With only 12 episodes, this is a perfect series for a one-day marathon. Make sure to check out the related films, also on Netflix, when you’re done.—Liz Ohanesian

14. F is for Family


Creators: Bill Burr, Michael Price
Stars: Bill Burr, Laura Dern, Justin Long, Debi Derryberry, Sam Rockwell
Original Network: Netflix
F is For Family presents the long-awaited premium cable/streaming vehicle for comedian Bill Burr, one of America’s foremost stand-up masters. Co-created by Burr and long-time Simpsons scribe Michael Price, the animated series stars Burr as Frank Murphy, the ill-tempered, Archie Bunker-esque patriarch of a blue-collar family in 1973. Taking cues from the celebrated Norman Lear comedies of the era, the writing mixes broad humor with more cutting insight into societal mores and generational divides. In keeping with the Netflix model, however, the series also boasts several serialized plotlines, including Frank’s struggle to prevent a union strike and Murphy matriarch Sue’s (Laura Dern) ongoing rumination on the state of her marriage. Much like Burr’s stand-up material, the series’ humor is confident and coarse (albeit, skillfully so) while never feeling overly mean-spirited or disingenuous. F is For Family is no game-changer, but—along with NBC’s exceptional The Carmichael Show— it’s a fully realized, fresh take on what’s often considered a retro genre. Not to mention, the show features one of the absolute best, most loaded opening credits sequences in recent memory.—Mark Rozeman

13. Powerpuff Girls


Creator: Craig McCracken
Stars: Cathy Cavadini, Tara Strong, E.G. Daily, Tom Kenny
Original Network: Cartoon Network
While Cartoon Network was already a going concern by the time the first episode of Powerpuff Girls aired in November 1998, this fast-paced explosion of bright colors, female forward energy, anime-inspired graphics, and pop culture savvy put the network on the map. And while it never reached the surreal levels of its spiritual cousin Adventure Time, it drew in a multi-generational audience week after week to delight in Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles’ manic adventures protecting the denizens of Townsville from all manner of baddies.—Robert Ham

12. Gurren Lagann


Creator: Kazuki Nakashima
Anime studio Gainax mastered the art of the giant robot-heavy action series. Back in the 1990s, they were responsible for the now-classic franchise Neon Genesis Evangelion. Around the turn of the century, they hit big again with the bizarre action-comedy FLCL. Unfortunately, neither of those is currently streaming on Netflix. However, Gurren Lagann, the studio’s 2007 series, is and you should watch it. The adventures start underground when Simon, a young teen in an earthquake-plagued community, discovers unusual technology. Along with his overconfident pal Kamina and a brave, young woman named Yoko, Simon embarks on an adventure.—Liz Ohanesian

11. InuYasha


Creator: Rumiko Takahashi
A demon-heavy time-travel saga, InuYasha is a beloved, and lengthy, series based on the manga by Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura). Kagome Higurashi’s life takes a weird turn when the teenager falls down a well and ends up in the Warring States period of Japan, where she encounters half-demon Inuyasha. As she goes back and forth between the modern world and the past, Kagome learns a lot about who she is while encountering a host of unusual characters and some frightening battles. InuYasha mixes a lot of different elements, from its beginning as a Wonderland-style adventure through its evolution as a romantic comedy-meets-action series.—Liz Ohanesian

10. Phineas & Ferb


Creator: Jeff Marsh, Dan Povenmire
Stars: Vincent Martella, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ashley Tisdale, Dan Povenmire, Caroline Rhea, and Alyson Stoner
Original Network: The Disney Channel
Tucked among The Disney Channel’s horrific lineup was an 11-minute show packed with intersecting plot lines, adventure in suburbia, intrigue and a pet platypus doubling as a super agent. With a wonderfully manic ska theme song that ends with their sister Candace complaining, “Mom, Phineas and Ferb are making a title sequence,” each show captures Phineas’ latest ambitious plan to pass the summer days—whether it’s building a giant tree house that transforms into a giant robot, or filming a movie, or creating a time machine. And even though the stepbrothers’ grand plans escape the attention of their parents and drive Candace nuts, Phineas and Ferb remain completely guileless, telling their disbelieving mom and dad what they’ve accomplished and always looking out for Candace. Refreshingly, the siblings have a deep-seated affection for one another and for their parents. And the secondary plot of each episode—Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz’ dastardly schemes involving awesomely designated devices of pure evil (the the Ugly-Inator, Age-Acclerator-Inator) are thwarted by super agent, Perry the Platypus. The subtleties of the relationship are pitch-perfect. When Perry busts in on Doofenshmirtz when his blind date is about to arrive, Perry accommodates his rival by pretending to be his pet (“She doesn’t know I have a nemesis”). Creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh met while working on The Simpsons. Povenmire later worked on Family Guy, and the cleverness of both shows—and particularly the pacing of Family Guy—has worn off on both, making it one of the smartest shows on TV for people of any age.—Josh Jackson

9. The Boondocks


Creator: Aaron McGruder
Stars: Regina King, John Witherspoon, Cedric Yarbrough, Gary Anthony Williams, Jill Talley
Original Network: Adult Swim
Based on writer, producer and cartoonist Aaron McGruder’s popular comic strip of the same name, The Boondocks’ four season, 55-episode run saw brothers Huey and Riley—transplants of inner city Chicago—navigate black culture in the fictional white suburb of Woodcrest. Part of Cartoon Network’s late-night comedy block on Adult Swim, the series was a brazen attack on the white American establishment and an unabashedly black satire that honed in on the complicated conversations surrounding racial identity, stereotypes, class, celebrity and viewpoint. From November 2005 to the end of its run in June 2014, the series unquestionably earned its reputation as one of the most controversial and culturally significant pieces of modern American comedy through its unapologetic approach to blackness, painfully honest humor, and clever subversion of traditional cultural dialogue.—Abbey White

8. Star Wars: The Clone Wars


Creator: George Lucas
Stars: Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, Tom Kane
Original Network: Cartoon Network/Netflix
Contrary to popular belief, Lucasfilm did manage to create an engaging storyline set in the “prequel” universe. Enter Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Acting as a bridge between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the show finds Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, along with new character Ahsoka Tano, battling against the forces of Dooku and General Grievous. What started as a series full of fun, exciting space battles, however, soon grew into a much deeper and richer story that explored the complications and brutality of war. Moreover, The Clone Wars did more to set the stage for Anakin’s inevitable turn to the Dark Side than any moment in the films. While the show’s brand of photo-realistic animation may not be for everyone, there are few who will deny that the sophisticated storytelling on display would not have been greatly welcome in the traditional Star Wars movie universe.—Mark Rozeman

7. Family Guy


Creator: Seth MacFarlane
Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green, Mila Kunis, Mike Henry
Original Network: HBO
It’s the show that made Seth MacFarlane a household name, and unfortunately, the one it seems he’ll never top. This is with good reason. MacFarlane created a family that’s easy to relate to despite the fact that it includes a talking dog (sniff) and an inexplicably British, bloodthirsty infant. Combine the characters’ eccentricities with jokes that (sometimes literally) won’t quit, and you’ve got one of the most important cartoons to grace the small screen.—Austin L. Ray

6. South Park


Creators: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Brian Graden
Stars: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes
Network: Comedy Central
The South Park of the 1990s was quite a different show from the one it grew into over the years. In its earliest episodes, it was absolutely committed to raising as much controversy as possible, which was certainly a success in terms of media coverage alone. But the main characters were also quite a bit different—Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman were more innocent characters back then, truly childlike in many ways, less mature and grizzled from the insane experiences of living in their “quiet mountain town.” The early episodes are focused much tighter on those central characters as well, while just beginning to dip into pop culture parody (such as “Chinpokomon”) and episodes dedicated to supporting characters (such as “The Succubus”). The ’90s show hadn’t quite grown to its full potential, but it’s still easy to miss some of these character-driven stories compared to South Park’s more recent product, which so often dedicates whole episodes to Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s opinions on a single trend, celebrity, film or limited subject matter.—Jim Vorel

5. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic


Creator: Lauren Faust, Bonnie Zacherle
Stars: Ashleigh Ball, Tabitha St. Germain, Tara Strong, Andrea Libman, Cathy Weseluck, Nicole Oliver
Original Network: The Hub
When Lena Hall accepted her 2014 Tony Award for her performance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, she boldly and tearfully declared to the world at the end of her speech, “Friendship is magic.” Of course, this is just one small, example of the incredibly (almost terrifyingly) far-reaching effects of this little show about a unicorn pony named Twilight Sparkle, and her adventures in Ponyville, Equestria. There are many great shows on this list that have permeated the pop culture sphere, and have the devotion of adults and children—but with brony culture, countless critical essays and analyses, and that ridiculous Bob’s Burger’s episode (oh, “The Equestranauts”), none can claim quite the impact as this one.—S.H.

4. Archer


Creator: Adam Reed
Stars: H. Jon Benjamin, Jessica Walter, Judy Greer, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, Amber Nash
Original Network: FX
Archer has succeeded as a hilarious parody of both James Bond and Mad Men with the comedic sensibilities of FX’s best. After upping its own ante with Archer Vice, Archer’s sixth foray into spy hijinks (spyjinks?) surprisingly focused on Archer’s reluctant march toward adult responsibility, interrupted, of course, by run-ins with Japanese holdouts, Irish assassins, cybernetically enhanced operatives, Welsh separatists, and Lana’s parents, among many, many others. And then came Archer P.I.—sorry, the Higgis Agency. The jokes are as sharp as ever, though the animation has never been crisper, and the action has rarely been better. Most of all, the stakes have never felt so grounded. Maybe making parenthood the real heavy here is a risk, but for Adam Reed, it pays off.—Paste Staff

3. Futurama


Creator: Matt Groening
Stars: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, David Herman, Frank Welker
Original Network: Fox
In the year 3000, robots are our best friends, numerous aliens walk city streets and Nixon’s head is in a jar. In case you need more encouragement, Futurama is an example of smart writing and a talented cast. But with lax support from FOX, Groening’s second cartoon was canceled in 2003. With reruns, DVD sales and overwhelming fan support, the show revived and moved to cartoon-friendly Comedy Central with the original cast in tow. Futurama provides family-friendly humor and deep-seated cultural satire with 1000-year perfect hindsight.—Darren Orf

2. Bob’s Burgers


Creator: Loren Bouchard
Stars: H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, John Roberts
Original Network: Fox
It’s weird to think that Bob’s Burgers, a show centered around a constantly failing business and the proprietor’s eccentric and unpopular children, has become a bit of an institution. Despite this fact, it’s barely beginning to show its age, and rather than becoming by-the-numbers Bob’s Burgers has become stranger and more willing to step away from the Simpsons-esque format that’s always centered its storytelling. The show’s cast keeps getting more distinct as time goes on, and as a result the humor has veered away from the inevitable broadening that’s occurred for just about every other animated show Fox has aired. There’s no attempt at making the Belchers into an every-family, and while that might explain the show’s declining ratings, it’s also kept its jokes and episodes remarkably consistent six years in.—Sean Gandert

1. Bojack Horseman


Creator: Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Stars: Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Amy Sedaris, Paul F. Tompkins
Original Network: Netflix original
BoJack Horseman is one of the most underrated comedies ever made, and it almost pains me that it doesn’t earn more praise. Right from the title sequence, which documents BoJack’s sad decline from network sitcom star to drunken has-been—set to the beautiful theme song written by the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney—this is one of the most thoughtful comedies ever made. Which doesn’t mean it’s not hilarious, of course. Will Arnett is the perfect voice for BoJack, and Paul F. Tompkins, who is in my mind the funniest man on planet Earth, could not be better suited to the child-like Mr. Peanut Butter. This is a show that isn’t above a visual gag or vicious banter or a wonderfully cheap laugh, but it also looks some very hard realities of life straight in the eye. There are times when you will hate BoJack—this is not a straight redemption story, and the minute you think he’s on the upswing, he will do something absolutely horrible to let you down. (There’s a special irony in the fact that a horse is one of the most human characters on TV, and the unblinking examination of his character makes “Escape from L.A.” one of the best episodes of TV this year.) So why isn’t it loved beyond a strong cult following? Maybe it’s the anthropomorphism that keeps people away, or maybe it’s the animation, but I implore you: Look beyond those elements, settle into the story, and let yourself be amazed by a comedy that straddles the line between hilarious and sad like no other on television.—Shane Ryan

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