“Ranking the Top 20 Cartoon Network Shows of All Time

Saturday mornings with a bowl of cereal and Cartoon Network on repeat remain a high point in anyone’s life, regardless of age. While the network’s golden era has passed, it still hosts a deluge of series that have left their own notable imprint in recent years (one of which is ranked first on this list).

So, whether you still enjoy oldies like Dexter’s Laboratory or accept newer shows like Steven Universe with open arms, we’ve sorted through Cartoon Network’s back catalogue to compile a list of the network’s top shows from the past to the present. Here are the top 20 Cartoon Network shows from 1996 to 2023, ranked.

Adventure Time

In Adventure Time, the fun never stops. The show chronicles the adventures of Finn and Jake, a human and a magical dog, who dwell in the Land of Ooo. It is by far one of Cartoon Network’s most successful series, creating multiple spinoffs, theme parks, and more. From battles with the Ice King to days in Princess Bubblegum’s laboratory, Finn and Jake ride a roller coaster of mayhem that is both entertaining and poignant at moments. With each season, the show recognises a growing audience and delves into more serious issues such as found family, love, and even death. It also has fantastic world-building and narrative about how the Land of Ooo came to be, why Finn is the only human there, and how this reflects back to us on our own humanity. So join Finn and Jake on an endless voyage across many distant lands—you’ll be in tears before the series conclusion. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Ben 10

Ben, the coolest kid to ever do it, lived the life we all undoubtedly fantasised about as kids. Ben gains the ability to transform into different aliens after a curious watch latches onto him, and he uses his new superpowers to rescue the day. Ben has it all, from fire bending to speed that would put the Flash to shame. And, unlike his peers in the “mysterious object gave me superpowers” department, Ben possesses many powers corresponding to each alien kind he may transform into, easily outranking Spider-Man and the like with a single click of his Omnitrix. The original programme spawned multiple spinoffs, including Ben 10: Alien Force, Ultimate Alien, Omniverse, and even a 2016 reboot, but the original remains our favourite. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Class of 3000

Class of 3000, Cartoon Network’s underappreciated gem that deserved so much more, follows the day-to-day lives of exceptional children at Atlanta’s Westley School for the Performing Arts. The show is directed and written by the amazing André 3000 (yes, thee André) and is told through the viewpoint of music teacher Sunny Bridges (voiced by André) as he tries to mobilise his students for music and inspiration courses. The show’s soundtrack is unrivalled, with some songs being produced by André, and its animation was ahead of its time. Class of 3000 is a gorgeous tribute to Atlanta’s music industry, as well as a lesson in animation’s capacity to communicate stories that other genres often neglect. The reboot has yet to happen. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Codename: Kids Next Door

Codename: Kids Next Door is by far one of Cartoon Network’s most inventive outputs to this day, and it is one of the greatest series to ever accomplish it. The show revolves around five covert operatives who operate in an espionage-style organisation that protects children from anything grownup, from vegetables to flossing. Through their various tasks, KND’s main fivesome experience a chaotic roller coaster of mayhem that includes anything from snatching candy jackpots on Halloween to fighting their nemeses, the Delightful Children from Down the Lane. Each episode is a masterpiece, and we don’t say that lightly when we claim that seeing this show as a kid was a game changer. You honestly didn’t have a childhood if you weren’t fantasising about going on adventures with the gang, and to this day, we’re all still waiting for our KND recruiting letter. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Courage the Cowardly Dog

Dogs are man’s best friend, and Courage the Cowardly Dog proves this old proverb. A show that was far too disturbing for children, yet far too good to ignore, became one of the most memorable series to ever grace Cartoon Network. And it’s all because to the show’s fantastic writing, inventive universe, and cast of memorable characters.

Courage the Cowardly Dog is the right blend of heart and fear, a unique feat accomplished by few other animated children’s shows. The episode was a delight to watch, thanks to visits from the supernatural (as well as other strange beings), Courage’s odd relationship with Muriel and Eustace, and the drama that resulted from these two worlds merging. The series’ openness to explore unusual issues, as well as its ability to elicit genuine emotions from its audience, exemplifies Cartoon Network’s commitment to stretching the frontiers of animated storytelling. —Jake Kramer

Cow and Chicken

Cow and Chicken is by far the strangest series on this list, with an opening theme music that is one of the most memorable entrances to any Cartoon Network episode. The show depicts two anthropomorphic animals, Cow and Chicken, who were born from two human parents and are apparently biological siblings. Their father was proud, but he never questioned how, and perhaps he should have. The couple engage in crazy escapades, frequently involved with the Red Guy (a.k.a. the not-so-PG version of the Devil), and go about their days like any two humanoid animals might. The show is a Cartoon Network staple, even delving into “this episode makes a lot more sense as an adult” territory. And that makes for an odd, yet tastefully sentimental, replay. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Dexter’s Laboratory

Dexter’s Laboratory is a Cartoon Network favourite that follows the inventive exploits of a kid prodigy who has the coolest secret lab in his bedroom. Dexter is frequently pushed by his nosy sister, Dee Dee, and his foe, Mandark, and rises to the situation with innovative gadgets and comments that generally include a broken string or two. Dexter’s Laboratory is in the Cartoon Network Hall of Fame and has some of the studio’s most classic episodes and one-liners that we all remember (and quote) to this day. From Dee Dee’s call to action—”Oooh, what does this button do?”—to Mandark’s ageless laugh, Dexter’s Laboratory has far too many memorable moments to count. And it’s always worth revisiting. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Ed, Edd n Eddy

When it comes to childhood TV pals, few are as close-knit—and completely insane—as the trio in Ed, Edd, and Eddy. The series, which debuted in 1999, combined its unique balance of humour, likeable characters, and visually spectacular animation style to become one of Cartoon Network’s best shows.

The plot revolves around the main characters: Ed, the lovably clueless one; Edd (Double D), the intelligent and organised friend; and Eddy, the schemer who enjoys get-rich-quick schemes. The chemistry between these individuals, as well as their suburban neighbours, is a humorous goldmine, giving a diverse range of humour that appeals to a wide audience. It’s a classic series that children of all ages can not only connect to, but also enjoy, as it addresses themes of adventure, maturation, and, eventually, enduring friendship. —Jake Kramer

Evil Con Carne

Evil Con Carne, a long-forgotten Cartoon Network treasure, depicts the not-so-malevolent exploits of an evil billionaire who, following a catastrophic injury, lives through a purple circus bear that houses his final remaining organs—his brain and stomach. What can you expect from a show set in the same universe as The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy (there are even some crossover episodes)? Evil Con Carne may have been cancelled too soon, but the show’s two seasons are plenty of early 2000s nostalgia and funny escapades that you’d expect from an original Cartoon Network show. And if you believe you don’t remember it, watch a few episodes and the memories will flood back. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends

You didn’t have a childhood until you fantasised about going to Foster’s. The six-season comedy featured the mischievous exploits of an 8-year-old boy named Mac and his imaginary buddy Bloo as they comically crashed through the day-to-day existence at an orphanage for imaginary friends. The fivesome, who were frequently joined by their companions Wilt, Eduardo, and Coco, coasted through mayhem you could only dream of as a kid, and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends still stands up as an adult. The show is entertaining and frequently slips in witty gags that only more older audiences can properly appreciate, and it is the host to some of Cartoon Network’s most memorable episodes and characters. How could any of us have forgotten Cheese? —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Johnny Bravo

Johnny Bravo, the father of all himbos, is everyone’s favourite sunglass-wearing, muscle-flexing, Elvis-impersonating king. Another definite Cartoon Network classic, Johnny Bravo follows the eponymous lead’s futile attempts to swoon one woman at a time as he glides through life. Johnny gets into hilarious mischief with his mom, Bunny “Momma” Bravo, and his friendly neighbour Little Suzy as he goes out of his way to pine for Aron City’s stunning bachelorettes, only to discover that he genuinely loves himself more than anyone at the end of the day. Johnny Bravo, with his confidence and precisely pointed pompadour, is one of Cartoon Network’s most famous characters to this day. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Mike, Lu, & Og

This is a true throwback. Mike, Lu & Og, one of the final series produced under Cartoon Network’s Cartoon Cartoons label, following the adventures of its eponymous three as they get up to hilarious mischief on a distant island. Mike is a foreign exchange student from Manhattan who is eager to learn about the island’s traditions. While Lu is the island’s self-proclaimed princess, Og is a genius anxious to get his hands on his next invention. The show is the epitome of pure vibes and peak nostalgia, along with a highly memorable theme music that you could remember if you revisit it. And it’s a fascinating piece of Cartoon Network history. While the animation is “old,” Mike, Lu, and Og is still a lot of fun to watch. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Over the Garden Wall

Over the Garden Wall is Cartoon Network’s undiscovered gem. The show follows two half-brothers, Wirt and Greg, as they make their way through the Unknown wilderness after being lost. It is directed by a surprisingly star-studded ensemble. The boys are accompanied on their quest by Beatrice, a bluebird who is also attempting to undo a curse imposed on her and her family. Over the Garden Wall is the ideal cosy, autumnal viewing, complete with amazing animation and an emotionally charged plot culminating in a Reddit rabbit hole. There aren’t enough words to express exactly how wonderful this show is. It’s stunning. It’s touching. And its strange animals and mysterious unknown will leave an indelible imprint on your heart. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Regular Show

Regular Show, one of Cartoon Network’s most adult-oriented cartoons, chronicles the wacky adventures of Mordecai and Rigby, an anthropomorphic bluejay and raccoon who are best friends. The two twentysomethings work as groundskeepers at a local park and strive to escape work by any means possible, which frequently involves a supernatural incident or two. With similarly amusing side characters such as Skips, Muscle Man, and Hi Five Ghost, the show earns a TV-PG V rating, which allows for more mature jokes and innuendos. Regular Show is a series that can be enjoyed at any time of day, at any age (even more than a child would), and has quickly become one of Cartoon Network’s most enduring shows. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Samurai Jack

There are some classics. There are also timeless classics. And Samurai Jack is unquestionably one of them. The series, directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, recounts the journey of its titular samurai as he finds himself time-displaced and forced to navigate a bleak future in which he must confront the shape-shifting demon Aku.

The graphic perfection of Samurai Jack lies at the heart of the game. The animation style combines basic design with explosive action sequences, making it a visually stunning series to watch as a child. The show is also a masterclass in inventive storytelling, relying on dramatic images and evocative soundscapes rather than language to tell its story. Without delving too further into an excessively analysed take on the animated children’s series, just know that this programme is an incredible banger and must-watch if you like samurais inflicting havoc on their opponents. —Jake Kramer

Steven Universe

Steven Universe is an excellent example of animation’s ability to cross boundaries and appeal to people of all ages. The show follows Steven, a little child who lives among Crystal Gems in Beach City, as he grows up. The Gems are essentially mineral-based magical creatures with unique superpowers dependent on the stones they contain. Steven’s mentors are Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl, who help him uncover his actual powers as a half-Gem. Together, the trio defend Beach City from other magical villains and embark on an adventure that is both entertaining and touching. The programme has received praise for its LGBTQ+ representation, world-building, and even soundtrack, and it has some of Cartoon Network’s most important (and only) queer characters as well as a fantastic fantasy plot. If you ever thought you were too old for cartoons, Steven Universe is a seminal example of how the genre can capture people of all ages. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Teen Titans

Long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just a few projects dominated the superhero genre for children. And, of course, Teen Titans, the original series, was among them. It had a dominant run from 2003 to 2006, exposing the diverse ensemble of Robin, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and Cyborg to the audience and securing its place as one of Cartoon Network’s greatest shows.

Character growth was one of the series’ most notable aspects. Despite the fact that it had five strong characters, the writers made an effort to delve deeply into the nuances of their lives in order to examine issues of friendship, identity, and the conflict between personal desires and community responsibilities. The characters were captivating, and it was one of those shows where you could actually choose your “favourite” hero from among all of the stars. The show was so popular that it spawned a subsequent spinoff (which we won’t discuss here). However, the show’s lasting popularity, as well as its capacity to resonate with audiences of all ages, serve only to demonstrate the show’s legendary significance and legacy in the history of Cartoon Network. —Jake Kramer

The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy

Making this list was difficult due to the huge number of outstanding shows available on Cartoon Network in the early 2000s—and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy is no exception. The show is certainly in many people’s top 10, and while it didn’t make the cut in this one, that doesn’t take away from how fantastic it is. After defeating the Grim Reaper in a limbo match, Billy and Mandy embark on crazy adventures with their new friend, trekking to the underworld and beyond. Sure, the show’s premise is strange (and obtusely dark) in retrospect, but Billy and Mandy still delivers amusing episodes, fascinating characters, and a torrent of “blink and you’ll miss it” one-liners that you’ll only appreciate as an adult. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

The Powerpuff Girls

While there have been several subsequent reboots of The Powerpuff Girls, none have come close to the original programme. Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles are sister superheroes that protect the city of Townsville from rogue monsters and more notorious supervillains like Mojo Jojo. They are made of sugar, spice, everything nice, and a little bit of Chemical X. From the girls themselves to the show’s numerous iconic antagonists, which we can all still remember to this day, every facet of The Powerpuff Girls has become its own fixture in pop-culture iconography. It’s jam-packed with action. It’s classic. And it’s a show that will always have a place in Cartoon Network’s hall of fame, having remained one of the network’s most profitable IPs for well over a decade. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen

Total Drama

Total Drama is a funny satire of reality TV shows like Survivor in which a group of teens compete in a survival of the fittest tournament where backstabbing, elimination, and love triangles run rampant with over-the-top antics. Total Drama Island was such a hit when it first aired in 2007, that it spawned multiple spinoffs, including Total Drama Action, World Tour, and the freshly redesigned version of the show in 2023. The show’s challenges are ridiculous, and the mystique surrounding its host, Chris McLean, is worth its own rabbit hole. Plus, seeing this show on a weekly basis as a youngster and treating it as if it were reality TV was a fantastic experience that I wish everyone had had. While not all seasons of Total Drama are created equal, the show still delivers a punch, and we all have favourite characters who we hope will win one of the competitions soon. Gwen and Duncan were deserving of so much more. —Hamadeh, Yasmeen


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