The 10 best modern cartoons

The likes of Ren & Stimpy and SpongeBob are already regarded as iconic. But what modern cartoons will be joining them?

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. Adventure Time

best modern cartoons

Jake the dog and Finn the human set out to become righteous adventurers in the Land of Ooo
  • First aired: 2010
  • Seasons: 5

Set in the post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo and heavily influenced by the Dungeons & Dragons game, Adventure Time has proved 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.

02. Archer

best modern cartoons

Archer is known to royally screw over his co-workers (and a lot of ladies)
  • First aired: 2009
  • Seasons: 4

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.

03. Venture Brothers

best modern cartoons

Starting 10 years ago, The Venture Brothers is still a modern cartoon favourite
  • First aired: 2003
  • Seasons: 5

Created by and starring Christopher McCulloch, action-comedy cartoon The Venture Brothers 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 10 years ago but its modern approach and brilliant dialogue has enabled it to continue to be a firm favourite.

04. Regular Show

best modern cartoons

Creator JG Quintel was only 28 when the show first aired
  • First aired: 2010
  • Seasons: 4

Regular Show follows the surreal daily adventures of a Mordecai the Blue Jay and Rigby the raccoon, as they attempt to cope with their mundane jobs as groundskeepers at the local park. Created and starring JG Quintel, the cartoon largely grew out of his own life and college experiences.

05. Gravity Falls

best modern cartoons

Flight of the Conchords' Kristen Schaal voices Dipper's sister Mabel
  • First aired: 2012
  • Seasons: 1

Produced and premiered on the Disney Channel, Gravity Falls tells the tales of 12-year-old Dipper and his sister Mabel, who are dropped off to live with their Great Uncle Stan. Dipper finds a mysterious book in the forest that helps him to uncover the mysteries of each episode. The series has just been renewed for a second series and with Flight of the Conchords' Kristen Schaal starring, what more could you ask for?

06. Phineas & Ferb

best modern cartoons

The Disney channel has once again produced a modern cartoon classic
  • First aired: 2007
  • Seasons: 4

It took creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh 16 years of pitching anarchic and acerbic spy spoof Phineas and Ferb to everyone at Disney before the channel decided to put it on air. And we're so glad they did, as this witty cartoon with sharp dialogue and outlandish scenarios has since gone on to become a modern classic, popular with kids and adults alike.

07. Bob's Burgers

best modern cartoons

Archer actor H Jon Benjamin also stars as Bob in Bob's Burgers
  • First aired: 2011
  • Seasons: 4

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).

08. Superjail!

best modern cartoons

Another winner from Adult Swim is the very surreal Superjail!
  • First aired: 2007
  • Seasons: 3

Not all cartoons are for kids - and with psychedelic shifts in setting and plot and extreme graphic violence, this cartoon is definitely for adults only. Set in a large maximum security prison that houses all sorts of eccentric characters, Superjail is yet another legendary animated offering from Adult Swim.

09. The Amazing World of Gumball

best modern cartoons

Unlike many kids' cartoons, this one is voiced by kids themselves
  • First aired: 2011
  • Seasons: 4

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.

10. China, IL

best modern cartoons

China, IL stars Hulk Hogen. What more could you want?
  • First aired: 2008
  • Seasons: 1

Creator Brad Neely had previously worked on South Park before branching out on his own and writing the brilliant China, IL, set in a school where the teachers are crazy and the students just want to learn. Starring Hulk Hogan, the show featured Neely's existing characters from the China, IL web-series and special. We adore the minimalist illustrative style with this one.

Words: Sammy Maine

Sammy Maine is the reporter at Creative Bloq and has also written for the likes of Computer Arts, HUCK magazine and SFX magazine.

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Did we include your favourite modern cartoon? Let us know in the comments box below!