The 7 best modern cartoons

From Snow White to The Simpsons, the art of cartoons and 3D movies has inspired generation after generation of artists and designers. Now, thanks to channels such as Adult Swim and the availability of free 3D software, more animators and illustrators than ever are able to showcase their talents. 

Here, we look at the best animated cartoons to reach our screens in recent years. Let us know if we’ve missed out any of your favourites in the comments below…

01. Rick and Morty

  • First aired: 2013
  • Seasons: 2

Starting off life as a twisted take on Back to the Future entitled The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti, Rick and Morty came about when its creator, Justin Roiland, got together with recently-sacked Community showrunner Dan Harmon, and they reworked it for Adult Swim as the dimension-hopping adventures of alcoholic mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his nervous, dim-witted grandson Morty. 

It starts dark then really goes for broke around episode five of the first season, and it’s never less than blisteringly intelligent and riotously funny. There are two seasons to enjoy so far, with a third planned for this year. Rick and Morty have even made an appearance in The Simpsons, in an extended couch gag that turned out funnier than the episode it prefixed.

02. BoJack Horseman

You’ll believe a horse can go on a month-long drink and drugs binge
  • First aired: 2014
  • Seasons: 3

Focusing on the empty, meaningless life of the washed-up star of a smash hit 1990s sitcom, what really makes Netflix’s BoJack Horseman shine is its brilliant central conceit that it’s set in a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals exist side by side. 

And so BoJack is an actual horse; his agent, Princess Caroline, is a cat with an assortment of cat toys on her desk and a song from the musical Cats as her ringtone; and his friend Mr Peanutbutter is a Labrador with a tendency to chase postmen. 

The series centres around the bored and dissatisfied BoJack as he tries to shake off his sitcom past and make a new name for itself. It effortlessly skewers the vacuous, vicious and superficial world of celebrity life and takes us to some splendidly troubling places along the way.

03. Adventure Time

best modern cartoons

Jake the dog and Finn the human set out to become righteous adventurers
  • First aired: 2010
  • Seasons: 8

Set in the post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo and heavily influenced by the Dungeons & Dragons game, Adventure Time has proven popular with children and adults alike. Created by Pendleton Ward and starring John DiMaggio of Futurama fame, the show portrays the adventures of a boy called Finn and Jake, a dog with magical powers to change shape and grow and shrink at will.

04. Archer

best modern cartoons

Archer is known to royally screw over his co-workers (and a lot of ladies)
  • First aired: 2009
  • Seasons: 7

Hilarious, witty and deliciously wicked, Archer takes place at an international spy agency, where its main character regularly screws things up. It’s been described by its creator, Adam Reed, as “James Bond meets Arrested Development” – and indeed, the cast includes Arrested Development’s Judy Greer and Jessica Walter. Reed was also responsible for the brilliant Sealab 2021.

05. The Venture Bros.

best modern cartoons

Despite launching over a decade ago, The Venture Bros. is still a modern cartoon favourite
  • First aired: 2003
  • Seasons: 6

Created by and starring Christopher McCulloch, action-comedy cartoon The Venture Bros. follows the adventures of pseudo-heroic scientist Dr Rusty Venture, his highly strung bodyguard, and his two over-enthusiastic sons. The show first appeared on our screens 13 years ago but its modern approach and brilliant dialogue mean it remains a firm favourite.

06. Bob’s Burgers

best modern cartoons

Archer actor H Jon Benjamin also stars as Bob in Bob’s Burgers
  • First aired: 2011
  • Seasons: 7

Creator Loren Bouchard had already worked on shows such as Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist and The Ricky Gervais Show before launching Bob’s Burgers in 2011. In this brilliantly satirical look at running a burger restaurant the title role is taken by H Jon Benjamin, and who’s also the voice behind Archer (number 2 on our list).

07. The Amazing World of Gumball

best modern cartoons

Unlike many kids’ cartoons, this one is voiced by kids themselves
  • First aired: 2011
  • Seasons: 5

An award-winning cartoon sitcom for kids, The Amazing World of Gumball follows the chaotic misadventures of a regular family in an irregular town. Its creator Ben Bocquelet has won plaudits for its inventive use of various animation styles, which are effortlessly pieced together to create a heartwarming and hilarious show.

Contributions: Jim McCauley

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