The 22 Best '90s Cartoons Every Millennial's Inner Child Still Loves
We know you grew up watching these animated classics.
Whether you were a kid at the time, raising a kid at the time, are simply a fan of animation, you probably remember the '90s as a golden age for cartoons. From educational animated shows for children to darker comedies for adults, there really was something for everyone. Chances are, a lot of your '90s cartoons needs were met by the networks Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, which introduced audiences to the beloved shows including Rugrats, Doug, The Powerpuff Girls, and Dexter's Laboratory. PBS brought younger audiences shows that were more educational, while hybrid channels like MTV and Fox provided animation for older viewers. (Remember Daria and King of the Hill?)
Basically, when it comes to cartoons from the '90s, there's an incredible canon to choose from. So, whether you're looking for something nostalgic to watch all these years latter or just want to take a walk down memory lane, read on for 22 of the best cartoons from the '90s, including the years that they aired and what they were all about.
1. Superman: The Animated Series
Developed by: Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm
Aired: September 1996—February 2000
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Based on DC Comics' Superman, it's an animated series about the superhero fighting off bad guys with all the regulars you'd expect, including Lois Lane (Dana Delany) and Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown). Superman/Clark Kent is voiced by actor Tim Daly.
2. Hey Arnold!
Created by: Craig Bartlett
Aired: October 1996—June 2004
Hey Arnold!'s title character is elementary schooler Arnold Shortman (voiced over the years by Lane Toran, Phillip Van Dyke, Spencer Klein, and Alex D. Linz), who lives with his grandparents (Dan Castellaneta, Tress MacNeille) in a fictional city in Washington state. Arnold deals with issues at school and with friends in his neighborhood, including best friend Gerald (Jamil Walker Smith) and Helga (Francesca Marie Smith), a bully who secretly has a crush on Arnold.
Created by: Tom Ruegger
Aired: September 1993—November 1998
Animaniacs is a Warner Bros. show that worked that fact into the series. The three main characters, the Warners siblings Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, are said to have been locked inside of the Warner Bros. Water Tower since the '30s before escaping in the '90s. In addition to storylines featuring the Warners, Animaniacs includes shorts centering other characters, with fan favorites including Pinky and the Brain, the Goodfeathers, Rita and Runt, and of course, Chicken Boo. It was revived by Hulu in 2020 for three more seasons.
4. Pinky and the Brain
Created by: Tom Ruegger
Aired: September 1995—November 1998
Pinky and the Brain were such popular Animaniacs characters that they got their own spinoff. Pinky (Rob Paulsen) and the Brain (Maurice LaMarche) are two laboratory mice—one ambitious and intelligent, the other not so much—who attempt to take over the world every night after they're left alone. Of course, the schemes are never successful, which is why new attempts have to be made in each episode.
5. Sailor Moon
Manga series created by: Naoko Takeuchi
Aired: June 1998—September 2002 (Cartoon Network)
The TV series Sailor Moon is based on the manga (Japanese comic) series of the same name, which was created by Naoko Takeuchi in 1991. An English-dubbed version of the TV adaptation aired on a few different channels in the U.S. before finding success on Cartoon Network in the late '90s. It's about a schoolgirl who gains the power to transform into the hero Sailor Moon (Linda Ballantyne, Terri Hawkes, Tracey Moore) and goes on adventures to save the world along with similar heroes.
6. The Wild Thornberrys
Created by: Arlene Klasky, Gábor Csupó, Steve Pepoon, David Silverman, Stephen Sustarsic
Aired: September 1998—June 2004
The Wild Thornberrys was one of the networks most popular Nicktoons, beginning to air on Nickelodeon in 1998. The series is about a family of nature documentarians, including parents Nigel (Tim Curry) and Marianne (Jodi Carlisle), and children Eliza (Lacey Chabert), Debbie (Danielle Harris), and Donnie (Flea). Eliza, a tween girl who can communicate with animals, is the focus of the show.
7. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
Created by: Gábor Csupó, Peter Gaffney
Aired: October 1994—November 1997
The dramatically titled Aahhh!!! Real Monsters is about a group of monster students—Ickis, Oblina, and Krumm—who live under New York City and are taught to scare people in their lessons. The young monsters have to travel above ground to frighten humans. The voice cast includes Charlie Adler, Christine Cavanaugh, and David Eccles as the main monsters with Tim Curry and Jim Belushi playing an older monster and the human villain of the monsters, respectively.
8. Beavis and Butt-Head
Created by: Mike Judge
Aired: March 1993—November 1997
The characters Beavis and Butt-Head first appeared in a 1992 short film by Mike Judge called Frog Baseball that aired on MTV. Soon, they were starring in their own adult animated series featuring Judge's unique animation style. Beavis and Butt-Head (Judge also voices both roles) are stupid and lazy teenagers, who comment on things going on around them and real music videos that they watch. The show originally ran from 1992 to 1997, but returned for another season in 2011 and then again in 2022.
RELATED: The Most Hated TV Couples of All Time.
Created by: Glenn Eichler, Susie Lewis Lynn
Aired: March 1997—January 2002
In the late '90s, Beavis and Butthead's classmate Daria Morgendorffer (Tracy Grandstaff)—who is notably much smarter than those two—got her own show. She's cynical, smart, and views herself as being better than the other kids at her high school, making her a self-imposed outcast The series also features Daria's best friend and aspiring artist Jane and popular younger sister Quinn (both voiced by Wendy Hoopes).
10. The Powerpuff Girls
Created by: Craig McCracken
Aired: November 1998—March 2005
Whether or not you ever watched this series, there's little chance that you don't recognize the three super-cute crimefighters at the center of The Powerpuff Girls. Blossom (Cathy Cavadini), Buttercup (E. G. Daily), and Bubbles (Tara Strong) were created by Professor Utonium (Tom Kane) using "sugar, spice, and everything nice," as well as "Chemical X," which is what made them have superpowers. In each episode, the Powerpuff Girls fight off villains and save the day, including often facing off against their nemesis Mojo Jojo (Roger L. Jackson).
Created by: Arlene Klasky, Gábor Csupó, Paul Germain
Aired: August 1991—August 2004
The second Nicktoon created by the network, Rugrats aired on Nickelodeon for nine seasons. The cartoon series shows viewers the world from the perspective of a group of toddlers, including Tommy Pickles (E. G. Daily), his cousin Angelica (Cheryl Chase), and friends Chuckie (Christine Cavanaugh, Nancy Cartwright), Susie (Cree Summer), and twins Phil and Lil (Kath Soucie), who often go on adventures without their parents being the wiser. The series was rebooted in 2021 for Paramount+.
12. Dexter's Laboratory
Created by: Genndy Tartakovsky
Aired: April 1996—June 1998; November 2001—November 2003
Dexter's Laboratory is about a young boy scientist, Dexter (Christine Cavanaugh) who does experiments in a secret laboratory in his home. Dexter's sister, Dee Dee (Allison Moore, Kat Cressida) often ruins his experiments, while his parents (Kath Soucie, Jeff Bennett) usually have no idea what's going on. The Cartoon Network series aired two seasons from 1996 to 1998, then returned for two more seasons in 2001.
13. X-Men: The Animated Series
Developed by: Eric Lewald, Sidney Iwanter, Mark Edens
Aired: October 1992—September 1997
Based on the Marvel Comic, X-Men: The Animated Series ran for five years and still has a passionate fanbase. The superhero cartoon features all the most popular mutant superheroes, including Professor X (Cedric Smith), Cyclops (Norm Spencer), Storm (Iona Morris, Alison Sealy-Smith), and Phoenix (Catherine Disher).
14. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures
Created by: Peter Hannan
Aired: September 1990—November 1991
You probably remember live-action Bill and Ted using a phone booth that travels in time to collect historical figures to pass their school assignment, but did you know that the characters were animated as well? Based on the 1989 comedy Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the cartoon also follows Bill and Ted as they embark on time-traveling adventures while trying not to change the outcome of historical events. Original stars Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter reprised their role for the first season; Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy took over the lead roles in Season 2.
Created by: Jim Jinkins
Aired: August 1991—June 1999
Doug is the first official Nicktoon and was a constant for fans throughout the '90s, airing first on Nickelodeon and then on ABC. Titular tween Doug Funnie (Billy West, Tom McHugh) navigates school, family life, and his relationships with his friends—including BFF Skeeter (Fred Newman), crush Patti Mayonnaise (Constance Shulman), and the school bully, Roger (West, Chris Phillips). And you can't forget Doug's dog, Porkchop (Newman).
Developed by: Kathy Waugh, Marc Brown
Aired: October 1996—February 2022
The long-running PBS series Arthur is based on the children's book series of the same name by Marc Brown. Both are about Arthur Read, an aardvark third grader, who learns life lessons alongside his family, friends, and classmates. The show takes on issues kids face, such as teasing and accepting others despite their differences. Arthur was voiced by nine different actors over the years, though the longest lasting was Michael Yarmush, who voiced the character in Seasons 1 through 5.
17. The Magic School Bus
Developed by: Alison Blank, Kristin Laskas Martin, Jane Startz
Aired: September 1994—December 1997
Another educational PBS show, The Magic School Bus also takes inspiration from a book series—this one by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen. Fans certainly imagined themselves having Ms. Frizzle (Lily Tomlin) as their elementary school teacher, which would mean taking all sorts of field trips to learn about everything from the inside of the human body to outer space on her magical, shape- and size-shifting bus.
18. King of the Hill
Created by: Mike Judge, Greg Daniels
Aired: January 1997—September 2009
Judge followed up Beavis and Butthead with the adult cartoon sitcom King of the Hill, co-created with Greg Daniels, who'd later become even better known for The Office. The cast of characters includes Hank Hill (Judge), a Texas propane (and propane accessories, as he always says) salesman; Peggy (Kathy Najimy), a substitute Spanish teacher; their teenage son Bobby (Pamela Adlon), and niece Luanne (Brittany Murphy), plus the neighborhood guys Hank famously stands in the yard and drinks beer with.
19. Rocko's Modern Life
Created by: Joe Murray
Aired: September 1993—November 1996
The Nicktoon Rocko's Modern Life follows a wallaby named Rocko (Carlos Alazraqui), who forms relationships with various other talking animals—including a ox named Heffer (Tom Kenny), a turtle named Filbert (Mr. Lawrence), and a toad named Ed Bighead (Charlie Adler)—after moving from Australia to the U.S. While the show aired on a network for kids, Rocko's Modern Life threw in jokes that only older viewers would pick up on, including sexual innuendos.
20. Batman: The Animated Series
Created by: Eric Radomski, Bruce W. Timm
Aired: September 1992—September 1995
The Caped Crusader has been adapted into dozens of shows and movies, so of course, he's also been animated. The late Kevin Conroy voices the crimefighter in Batman: The Animated Series, which also features Mark Hamill as the Joker. His voicework on the series is so beloved that he would go on to voice the character in several other projects.
21. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Created by: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, David Wise, Fred Wolf
Aired: December 1987—November 1996
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began airing in the '80s, but was still going strong through the mid '90s. Around the same time, the comic book series by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird was adapted into both a line of toys and an animated series, making both hugely popular. The franchise centers on crime-fighting teen turtles Leonardo (Cam Clarke), Donatello (Barry Gordon), Raphael (Rob Paulsen), and Michaelangelo (Townsend Coleman), and it soon made it onto the big screen as well. While more TMNT animated series have been released over the years, the original is still the favorite of many fans.
22. The Simpsons
Created by: Matt Groening
Aired: December 1989—present
The only show on our list that is still airing new episodes of the original series today, The Simpsons is America's longest-running animated series and longest-running primetime scripted series. For 35 years, audiences have been tuning in for the shenanigans of Homer (Dan Castellaneta), Marge (Julie Kavner), Bart (Nancy Cartwright), Lisa (Yeardley Smith), and Maggie (currently Cartwright) and that of their friends and neighbors in Springfield. Some fans even think the show has predicted the future.
For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.