Cartoons were originally reserved for children on weekend mornings or evenings after school. Shows like The Flinstones, Hey Arnold!, Recess, and The Jetsons are obviously for children. Adults may be able to enjoy them as well, but they're not the target demographic. In the last few decades, many adult animated series emerged, allowing grown-ups to enjoy colorful animation along with mature content.
The funky animations of these series might appeal to little kids familiar with cartoons. However, these shows are incredibly inappropriate for kids for one reason or another. And when we say kids, we mean young children under 14, so keep in mind that some of these series are suitable for mature teens.
1. Rick and Morty (2013-Present)
Dan Harmon's most popular animated series, Rick and Morty, is about a bitter scientist and his naive grandson. The show loves to dip its toe in existential concepts and has an overall nihilist vibe that kids likely wouldn't enjoy or understand. With plenty of straightforward adult jokes, gore, and violence, it's clearly made for grown-ups.
2. Big Mouth (2017-2024)
While Big Mouth is a show about kids, it was not made for youngins. If you're an adult, the odds are pretty good that you went through puberty, making this show hilariously relatable. The series shows the struggles of transitioning from an innocent kid to an adolescent but doesn't sugarcoat any of the nasty and uncomfortable stuff.
3. Human Resources (2022-2023)
Human Resources is a spin-off series from Big Mouth. It follows the imaginary creatures that all humans have, like hormone monsters, anxiety mosquitoes, and love bugs. The show is saucy and isn't afraid to get gross and racy, so while it's visually vibrant and the characters may look ridiculous, it's not ideal for kids.
4. American Dad (2005-Present)
American Dad tends to live in Family Guy's shadow, but it's just as good, if not better at times. This animated series has more nuance and heart than Family Guy but retains the adult vibe. With uncouth jokes, profane language, and some vile plots, it's clearly geared toward adults.
5. Family Guy (1999-Present)
Family Guy is one of the quintessential adult animated shows, and it's never afraid to push the boundaries of what is appropriate or politically correct. Unlike some other shows here, Family Guy isn't big on nuance and subtlety, so kids shouldn't even be in earshot when this is on.
6. South Park (1997-Present)
Of all the racy shows mentioned here, South Park might take the cake as the most inappropriate one. Written and created weekly, the series tackles current politics and celebrity news in often uncomfortable ways, so every episode is poignant and evocative. But between the cursing, disgusting plots, and vulgar images, kids shouldn't get anywhere near it.
7. F Is for Family (2015-2021)
This underrated series takes the family sitcom and adds a heavy dose of reality to it. It takes place in the '70s and focuses on a traditional family but doesn't sugarcoat anything. So, if you think it's like an animated Brady Bunch, you'd be sorely mistaken. The endless F-bombs are enough to shock adults, let alone kids.
8. Brickleberry (2012-2015)
This short-lived animal series about park rangers is unapologetically lewd, and it's not subtle about it. From graphic visuals to obscene jokes to rough language, the show checks almost every box that would make it unacceptable for kids. The goofy series is a strange delight for adults but would be too much for a child.
9. Aqua Teen Hunger Force (2000-2023)
Watching fast-food items go on adventures and solve mysteries sounds like a kids' show, but Aqua Teen Hunger Force can get seriously violent and gory. Most of the show is silly and absurd, but there are enough brutal and unsettling scenes to place this squarely in the adult category.
10. Archer (2009-2023)
Archer is a sensational series focused on a spy who never follows the rules, but not in a respectable way like James Bond. The show has a mix of raunchy and grounded characters, with the latter often pointing out issues with the former's risque comments and behavior.
11. BoJack Horseman (2014-2020)
BoJack Horseman is a complex show that follows anthropomorphic animal characters in Los Angeles. This meaningful series tackles many topics head-on with relentless wit and satire, including abortion, assault, Hollywood politics, and more. It's hilarious as well as emotional and definitely not appropriate for little ones.
12. Futurama (1999-Present)
Futurama is one of those shows that seems to ride the line. There are playful episodes, lovable characters, and even heartwarming plots that kids might enjoy. But when you watch through a parental lens, it becomes evident that the show makes too many indecorous jokes to be okay for kiddos.
13. Solar Opposites (2020-Present)
Solar Opposites is an animated sitcom about a whacky alien family that is super fun to watch if you're mature enough. Many of the plots and jokes are way out there, so not only would the series likely be confusing for kids, but the adult humor will be unavoidable.
14. The Simpsons (1989-Present)
If you're reading this and thinking, “Pish posh, I loved The Simpsons as a kid!” you're not alone. However, the show is loaded with innuendos, cursing, and other inappropriate behavior, especially from Bart. While a lot may go over young kids' heads, they're bound to pick up on some crude humor. Confusing the matter even more is the amount of The Simpsons merchandise geared towards children, from tamer video games to toys.
15. King of the Hill (1997-2010)
King of the Hill uses plenty of mild swear words and innuendos, taking it off the kid's menu. And beyond that, the monotonous tone of the show would likely bore children to tears. Many jokes would be too subtle for a young child to pick up on, but it's still best to keep kids away.
16. Disenchantment (2018-2023)
Disenchantment is a show from the same creator of Futurama. The two series share similar animation styles but offer two different stories and vibes. This medieval fantasy show would visually appeal to kids, as would the whimsical characters, but the lewd jokes and dirty visuals would be inappropriate.
17. Animals. (2016-2018)
This greyish animated series would probably not appeal to children anyway, but the dark themes and explicit content mean it's for adults only. The show follows different NYC animals, like rats, pigeons, horses, and flies, as the world goes through an apocalyptic pandemic, so there's lots of death and unsettling images.
18. The Cleveland Show (2009-2013)
The Cleveland Show is a spin-off series of Family Guy focused on Peter's friend Cleveland. Much like Family Guy, the show has risque jokes and racey comments that make it unsuitable for children. It's also a show that would likely not interest kids much, as it's visually unexciting.
19. Mr. Pickles (2013-2019)
Mr. Pickles is one of the most unacceptable cartoons for children. It's about a murderous dog who sneaks away from his owner to mutilate and kill people, often just for the fun of it. The show's concept is disturbing, but the animation can also be creepy and graphic, so keep kids far away from this one.
20. Bob's Burgers (2011-Present)
Bob's Burgers rides the family-friendly line, as much of the show is kid-friendly, but occasionally, a saucy joke or situation pops up. Most of the inappropriate elements of the show are subtle or innuendos, so kids might not even notice them. But certain episodes are blatantly adult, especially in the earlier seasons.
21. The Great North (2021-Present)
The Great North comes from the same creators as Bob's Burgers and is similarly on the edge of being kid-friendly. The series is eccentric and funny, with charming, lovable characters, so it could easily appeal to young kids. However, occasional cursing and adult jokes make it a no-go for many parents.
22. The Midnight Gospel (2020)
The Midnight Gospel is a visually gorgeous and exciting show that kids could probably watch. But they're not going to want to. Youngins could enjoy the lovely visuals, but this show's existential conversations and complex topics would make it too tough for them to follow.
23. Carol & the End of the World (2023)
Carol & the End of the World is a new mini-series that follows a modest woman during the apocalypse. This existential show explores what routine means to people and how humans react to extreme circumstances and mortality. Beyond those heavy themes, the show also features intimacy, drugs, and other inappropriate images.
24. Krapopolis (2023-Present)
Krapopolis is another animated series by Dan Harmon set in ancient Greece in a mythical city of the same name. The city is just starting out, so there is plenty of chaos and hedonistic behavior to go around. It features enough spicy jokes and foul-mouthing to make it unsuitable for kiddos.
25. Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law (2000-2007)
Despite heavily featuring characters from the Hanna-Barbara library, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law is targeted at an adult demographic. It was the first adult animated show to be produced by Cartoon Network Studios, airing on the late-night programming block Adult Swim.
The ensemble cast notably features Gary Cole in the lead role, as well as Stephen Colbert and Paget Brewster. It features Harvey Birdman, an attorney, helping with various legal cases from Hanna-Barbara characters.
After four seasons from 2000 through 2007, a special entitled Harvey Birdman: Attorney General aired in 2018.