80s Cartoons: 20 of the Most Awesome Animated Series, Ranked!

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Animation has been back in the news recently due to the king of all characters — Mickey Mouse (his Steamboat Willie incarnation, to be exact) — entering into the public domain after 95 years of copyright protection. But 80s cartoons still hold a special place in many of our hearts.

Through the years, other animation houses and franchises have captured the imaginations of little ones and grown-ups alike: Bugs Bunny and his Looney Tunes gang; Charlie Brown, Snoopy and their Peanuts crew; Shrek and Fiona; the Pokémon universe; and SpongeBob SquarePants and his Bikini Bottom friends, just to name a few. Who doesn’t love escaping into those colorful, imaginary worlds for a fun 30 minutes or so?

The bonus? Watching these 80s cartoons may even be beneficial to us in these stressful times. “They can help restore optimism and give someone a break from worrying or feeling sad, all of which can elevate [your] mood,” Laurel Steinberg, PhD, a New York–based psychotherapist, explained to Vice, noting cartoons’ potential to help “reduce anxiety and depression.”

Sounds great to us! So let’s all take a breather together and look back at some 80s cartoons that brought so many of us so much joy in our more carefree days. Spot any that you used to love? Don’t worry if you don’t. Dive on in and discover some new favorites as we revisit these 80s cartoons that are sure to draw you in…

20. My Little Pony (1986)

“My Little Pony, My Little Pony, what will today’s adventure be?” With its earworm theme song, this Ponyland-set series was a “mane” attraction in the world of 80s cartoons and for the crowd that went crazy for the toy line as well.

Nancy Cartwright, who went on to voice none other than Bart Simpson, provided her talents for several characters here, including Honeysuckle, Baby Heart Throb, Gusty and Baby Cuddles.

Watch My Little Pony on Youtube now!

19. Mister T (1983)

We pity the fool who never got to enjoy The A-Team star’s animated series, which found him teaming up with a teen gymnastics squad (the G-Team?) to fight crime all over the world. The series was full of action, life lessons and, well, gold jewelry.

Watch Mister T on Amazon Prime now!

18. Care Bears (1986)

Blasting off to the land of Care-a-Lot in the Kingdom of Caring sure sounds like an inviting trip these days! Sure, there’s the pesky Lord No Heart to consider, but he’s no match for Tenderheart Bear, Braveheart Lion, Share Bear and the rest of their feel-good pals in this 80s cartoon.

Watch Care Bears on Tubi now!

17. Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo (1979)

Beloved radio host Casey Kasem voiced Shaggy for this series, which featured Scooby, his nephew Scrappy-Doo, and the rest of the gang (Fred, Daphne and Velma) doing what they do best: proving to be “pesky kids” with a knack for solving spooky mysteries. “I did come up with the ‘Scoob, ol’ buddy of mine, ol’ pal’ thing [but] I have never used the word ‘zoinks’ ever in my everyday conversation,” Kasem once shared about Shaggy’s catchphrases.

Watch Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo on Tubi now!

16. Heathcliff (1984)

The legendary Mel Blanc (who gave voice to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety and more for Looney Tunes) also helped bring “the original orange cat” to life for this series, which featured the street-smart Heathcliff getting in and out of trouble with his Catillac Cats pals. Bonus kitty treat: The series also offered up pet-care tips to viewers!

Watch Heathcliff on Amazon Prime now!

15. Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983)

In this show’s theme song, Simon, Theodore and Allllllllllvin promised to “bring you action and satisfaction” that was “guaranteed to brighten your day.” The series introduced the Chipettes (Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor) and even led to an album titled Songs From Our TV Shows, which featured the mini musical mammals squeaking out high-pitched versions of hits like Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl,” the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”

14. Garfield and Friends (1988)

Jim Davis, the food- and sleep-loving character’s creator, says his famous feline thrived in the 80s. “I think people liked Garfield because it was the Jane Fonda era — everyone was being told to exercise and eat less. Garfield was saying, ‘Take a nap.’ ‘Have a donut.’ He rebelled against the fitness trend and a lot of people needed that to relieve their guilt for being couch potatoes,” Davis shared in a 2017 interview.

Watch Garfield and Friends on Tubi now!

13. Beetlejuice (1989)

The hit 1988 film spawned one of the most unique and spooky 80s cartoons, developed and produced by Tim Burton himself. Composer Danny Elfman also adapted the film’s theme music for the small-screen incarnation, which scares up some action as the titular ghost and his pal Lydia share plenty of adventures together, on Earth and in the Neitherworld.

Watch Beetlejuice on Youtube now!

12. Jem (1985)

“Jem is excitement! Oooh, Jem is adventure!” She’s also glamour and glitter, and her music, thanks to her bandmates the Holograms, is not only contagious, but outrageous! This colorful and musical series was the top-rated syndicated cartoon for a few years, and the title character was so popular that she even gave Barbie a run for her money in the toy aisle for a while.

Watch Jem on Tubi now!

11. Inspector Gadget (1983)

Go Gadget, go! An often bumbling bionic police detective who uses crazy gadgets to battle an evil organization? Sounds like the perfect job for Get Smart’s Don Adams, and it eventually was, as the actor was brought on to voice the title character. Gadget’s niece Penny and a dog named Brain were along for all the fun and adventure.

Watch Inspector Gadget on Pluto now!

10. The Real Ghostbusters (1986)

Who you gonna call for some Saturday morning entertainment? Ghostbusters! This series was proton-packed with fun, picking up the action from the hit 1984 film. Peter, Ray, Egon, Winston, and Slimer report for gooey duty as they chase supernatural leads over New York City. Arsenio Hall brought Winston to life for the first three seasons, while Full House’s Dave Coulier voiced Peter for a few seasons down the paranormal road.

Watch The Real Ghostbusters on Amazon Prime now!

9. Transformers (1984)

Have you noticed a toy-to-cartoon pipeline yet? Well, this energetic series was no different. Featuring cool robots from Cybertron that turn into vehicles and assorted other objects, it helped kids escape into the wonderful world of Megatron, Thundercracker, and, of course, Optimus Prime. Keep an ear out for Scatman Crothers, who gave voice to the fittingly named Jazz!

Watch Transformers on Tubi now!

8. Dragon Ball Z (1989)

The adventures of Son Goku are at the center of this classic Japanese anime series based on the Dragon Ball manga. “This program is like a love letter to those who enjoy a good brawl between good and evil,” gaming and media site IGN.com raves, noting that it contains “some of the most elaborately choreographed fight scenes in cartoon history.”

Watch Dragon Ball Z on Amazon Prime now!

7. The Smurfs (1981)

Laugh-In’s Ruth Buzzi and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s René Auberjonois were among those who provided voice work for this cultural phenomenon cartoon series, which kids would talk about until they were, well, blue in the face. Based on a comic series by Belgian cartoonist Peyo, the show introduced us to Papa Smurf, Smurfette and their friends, who were just trying to live life in their mushroom homes while avoiding the evil doings of Gargamel.

Watch The Smurfs on Tubi now!

6. She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985)

This short-lived but popular series 80s cartoon was so popular that it led to a Netflix revival series, She-Ra and the Princess of Power, in 2018. This girl-power spin-off from He-Man (see below) was created to appeal more to young ladies, and it follows Princess Adora and those in her Great Rebellion as they fight to liberate Etheria.

Watch She-Ra: Princess of Power on Amazon Prime now!

5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)

Cowabunga! Who would’ve ever thunk that four pizza- and martial-arts-loving reptiles named after Renaissance painters could mesmerize audiences for decades? But that’s just what Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael — and reporter April! — have done.

Their media franchise, which was based on the original comics of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, has exploded into various series and movies since, winning over such famous fans as Zendaya, Kesha, Rihanna, and Bruno Mars, who likely grew up watching this original series.

Watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on The Roku Channel now!

4. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983)

“Action, colorful characters and even a meaningful moral were all up for grabs in this cartoon fantasy, which charted the exploits of Prince Adam,” notes Digital Spy of this (you guessed it) series based off of the popular toy and figurine series.

“By the Power of Grayskull! I have the power!”, the prince would shout, then turn into the titular hero who’d defend Eternia from Skeletor with some help from Battle Cat, The Sorceress, Teela and more.

Watch He-Man and the Masters of the Universe on Amazon Prime now!

3. DuckTales (1987)

Scrooge McDuck reports for duty to take care of Huey, Dewey and Louie when Donald sets sail with the Navy. But while he should be watching his grandnephews more closely, he’s too busy keeping his eyes on his fortune (and the sneaky Beagle Boys and Magica De Spell), which leads to a lot of adventures that quacked viewers up. DisneyXD rebooted this fine-feathered series in 2017, and it featured the vocal talents of Doctor Who’s David Tennant (Scrooge McDuck) and Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda (Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera).

Watch DuckTales on Disney + now!

2. Thundercats (1985)

Thundercats, ho! “Thundercats was a rousing adventure series that had us all glued to the set as kids,” IGN noted of the plight of planet Thundera’s feline aliens, who are forced to flee their home and fight their enemies on Third Earth. “Mix fantasy with sci-fi and you get something that’s really unique. I think that is part of the reason Thundercats still remains popular,” noted Mike Jelenic of the series, which he rebooted in 2011 for the Cartoon Network.

Watch Thundercats on Amazon Prime now!

1. The Simpsons (1989)

Doh! It’s hard to beat Matt Groening’s Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie in terms of popularity, critical acclaim and longevity. Since being spun off from The Tracey Ullman Show in 1989, The Simpsons have won 37 Emmys and it’s now America’s longest-running animated series ever, as well as its longest-running sitcom and scripted series.

While we’d like to imagine Bart graciously accepting the No. 1 position on this list of 80s cartoons, we’re quite sure he’d yell “Eat my shorts!” to the rest of the competition. ¡Ay, caramba!

Watch The Simpsons on Fox now!

For more 1980s nostalgia, keep reading!

‘Schoolhouse Rock!’: Fun Facts About the Revolutionary 70s-80s Sing Along Series

‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ Cast: See the Stars From the 1987 Teen Romance Then and Now

Leapin’ Lizards! See the 1982 Cast of Annie Then And Now