Top 10 Cartoons That Are Timeless
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Cartoons That Are Timeless.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most classic animated shows that are just as great now as they were when they first aired. Since standing the test of time is a criterion here, we won’t be considering newer series.
Before we get started, let us know what your favorite cartoon of all time is in the comments below!
#10: “Teen Titans” (2003-06)
There are very few animated kids shows as balanced as “Teen Titans.” The storylines are interesting and complex, the stakes are often high, and the lessons are easily digestible for younger audiences. No matter your age, this is a series that has everything you could want from teen superheros. Amid the heavier themes are just the right doses of humor, a sprinkling of romance, and some great relationship dynamics. There’s no need to even mention how fantastic the voice acting and animation is, but we will anyway! With anime influences, character expressions are nothing short of hilarious, and a dystinct, professional voice cast made for especially memorable characters.
#9: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2003-10)
Okay, put down your pitchforks. Yes, the 1987 series was the one that started it all and it has certainly withstood the test of time through merchandise and memorabilia, but as for the show itself… Ehh. A lot of the humor is outdated and some plotlines fall short of the stuff that came after it – not to mention how much it deviates from the comics. With that said, the 2003 “TMNT” is a little darker, with grittier narratives and the kind of tongue-in-cheek comedy that holds up through the generations. The turtles feel more like characters than caricatures, and it’s, overall, a very well-written show. Underrated as it is, this is a series worth your time, no matter when you get around to it!
#8: “Kim Possible” (2002-07)
While “Kim Possible” was certainly appreciated during its time, it’s easy to forget how good it is, even in today’s context. We all remember Drakken as one of our favorite campy villains, but the show also features a lot smart writing, good pacing, and some self-awareness that makes for a really enjoyable watching experience. There’s also some clever humor for older viewers sprinkled in and, though it never ventures into territory that’s too dark, we get the sense that Kim is in real danger sometimes. Not only was it encouraging to see a teen girl take on the role of hero at the time, but she was also tangible enough that she never felt invincible. If you’re feeling nostalgic for the early 2000s, KP’s got you covered!
#7: “Gravity Falls” (2012-16)
While a little more recent than some of the other entries on our list, this is a cartoon that’s still talked about all the time, and for good reason. “Gravity Falls” was one of the first major animated children’s shows to become serialized in some capacity, a structure that largely contributed to its success. There’s a mystery afoot, one that unravels beautifully over the course of the two seasons. It’s exactly the story it was trying to be and that’s what makes it so great. It managed to combine intricate world-building, impressive elements of horror, and loveable characters, all while making us laugh every few minutes. With puzzles, ciphers, and hidden details galore, “Gravity Falls” is always an incredibly fun watch.
#6: “The Powerpuff Girls” (1998-2005)
While Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup are totally famous in pop culture, their show is just as iconic as their character profiles. The original series combined cute and badassery without a hitch, incorporating witty humor at every turn and leaning into all the action-packed fights you could want from a trio of kindergarteners. With an esteemed cast of voices and thoughtful writing, it's unsurprising how well this show holds up all these years later. Things don’t necessarily translate as well in the reboot, but the 90s “Powerpuff Girls” has certainly earned its place in the cartoon hall of fame.
#5: “SpongeBob SqaurePants” (1999-)
If the fact that the series is still airing today is any indication, “SpongeBob” continues to defy generational gaps. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who can’t sing along to the theme song, which is a testament to both its popularity and perpetuity. Of course, the series has changed somewhat over the years, but its outlandish concept and zany characters are unlike anything else out there. While serialized cartoons are easy to get hooked on, “SpongeBob” is nice because you can turn on any episode for a few laughs whenever you need it. It’s no “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” but it’s not trying to be–and that’s probably why it’s stuck around for so long.
#4: “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005-08)
The holy grail of cartoons, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is a series no one will shut up about for… probably ever. And we wouldn’t want it any other way. As perhaps the first animated children’s show to have episodes follow each other–and to take place during an all-out war–“ATLA” isn’t held to such a high standard for no reason. The animation is stunning, the world-building is fleshed-out and complex, and it handles bigger, more mature concepts in ways kids can understand. The show not only has a strong moral compass and admirable characters audiences of all ages can look up to, but also a narrative that draws viewers in each and every time.
#3: “Scooby-Doo” franchise (1969-)
While not every “Scooby-Doo” show can be compared, the fact that the franchise as a whole has continued to reboot for over five decades worth of audiences is saying something. Admittedly, the dynamic of the Scooby gang does have some sort of magic to it, and watching them solve mysteries is always as entertaining as the last time we caught them on TV. Two series in particular have been praised among fans: the original 1969 “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” and “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” which premiered in 2010. “Mystery Incorporated” has some awesome storytelling and solid character development, while the original series has great nostalgia value and laughs aplenty.
#2: “Batman: The Animated Series” (1992-95)
And, here, we’ve reached the best of the best, the creme of the crop, the crown jewel of all Batman series. Not only does its animation feel timeless–a feat which it managed to achieve by combining styles both new and old–but the writing is also just superb. It fleshed out classic Batman villains, giving them more depth, while constructing high-stakes situations and earnest storylines. The effort put into this show is palpable. It worked in the 90s and it still works now, much to the relief of those of us are in the business of rewatching our favorite childhood cartoons.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“Justice League” (2001-04) & “Justice League Unlimited” (2004-06)
A Stellar Roster of Characters, Great Writing, & “Unlimited” Awesomeness!
“The Spectacular Spider-Man” (2008-09)
Despite Being Cancelled, This Is Largely Regarded as the Best “Spider-Man” Cartoon
“Phineas and Ferb” (2007-15)
It’s Even Better Now That We’re Older!
“Peanuts” franchise (1950-)
From Comics Dating Back to the 50s, We’re Always Happy to See the “Peanuts” Gang
“Over the Garden Wall” (2014)
You Might Only Want to Watch It in the Fall, but You Can Watch It Every Fall!
#1: “Looney Tunes” franchise (1930-)
It’s hard to deny that a franchise spanning from the 1930s to now is anything but timeless. While we’re sure there’s probably a lot of content in the older media that’s inacceptable, we like to think the franchise has evolved to fit the standards and humor of every era it reboots in. With such a giant roster of characters, there’s so much to explore and so many different ways to portray everyone. Probably the most famous series in the inventory is “The Bugs Bunny Show” which ran for a whopping forty years! (And we thought “Sponge-Bob” was long!) If you catch us in front of the TV on Saturday morning with a bowl of cereal and some “Looney Tunes,” just know that some things never change…