What were the most popular cartoons of the 2000s

Whilst there were many iconic cartoons to come out in the early 2000s for kids, some were better than others.

Generation Z and the later-born Millenials had a plethora of great TV to watch growing up, spread through several channels. The 2000s served to have a wide host of good quality shows, as cartoons got more experimental and bizarre, and likewise, many adopted long-form storytelling and were more serious. It’s time to take a look at some of the classics.

There are some cartoons from the 2000s ranked by users on IMDb that technically started in the late ’90s, but the majority of their run was in the 2000s. These well-loved shows are perfect for those looking to show their own kids the best of the golden era of animated TV shows, or even just viewers who want to relive their childhoods with friends and family.

10 Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003–2005)

Star Wars: Clone Wars was among the first animated series to explore the titular conflict between the clone troopers and droid armies. It’s set after the events of Attack of the Clones and explores the conflict’s effects on the Galactic Republic and its weakening influence over several planets.

It’s well-known for its entertaining depiction of fan-favorite characters like Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, as Jedi forces struggle to gain the upper hand during the war. Hardcore Star Wars fans should definitely consider watching the short-lived but incredibly enjoyable show.

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9 Teen Titans (2003–2006)

Cartoon Network was always a bit more daring with its programming than many of its rivals, and Teen Titans was a great example of crafting tales for a younger audience that will still be mature and structured. Like most of the entries on this list, the long-form storytelling was a great boon to the show, which tended to focus on a different member of the DC superhero team each season. It blended American style humor with Japanese style animation and was quite unique in that it focused on mature teenage characters and wasn’t a complete drag at all times, even with Raven involved.

The series would get a spinoff in the form of Teen Titans Go!, featuring the original voice cast. It isn’t bad, in fact, it’s quite funny, but it has earned the ire of some fans of the original because the first series never got a proper sendoff.

8 Wolverine And The X-Men (2008–2009)

Wolverine and the X-Men is a show that was more willing to explore darker themes, despite being created for a young audience. In the series, Professor X struggles to keep the X-Men together, and an argument between Wolverine and Rogue leads to the team finally disbanding.

The rest of the show follows Wolverine and Beast as they attempt to get everyone back together. Along the way, they’ll find that some of their friends like Jean Grey have decided to choose the evil path, while others like Storm are more than willing to come back to help stop the government from capturing mutants. It’s a deceptively simple plot, as the series is actually a well-written one with more complex narratives that reveal crucial details about fan-favorite characters’ origin stories and personalities.

7 Phineas And Ferb (2007–2015)

Phineas and Ferb was a show that mastered the art of formula and running gags, and the more often repetition and self-awareness were present, the funnier it would get, to an extent. The show’s formula would be Phineas and Ferb creating grand inventions and adventures while their sister Candance tried to bust them and get them in trouble (and prove she wasn’t wacky).

Meanwhile, their pet platypus, Perry, would face off against the somewhat sinister and utterly charming Dr. Doofenshmirtz. And yes, each episode featured music, and great music at that, which must have been a very hard task to accomplish. While the main story was always decent, the Perry side segments always stole the show. While the show was starting to get stretched out, it became aware of the fact and ended on a solid note.

6 Spongebob Squarepants (1999–Present)

There’s no current cartoon on Earth quite as impactful as Spongebob Squarepants has been. It has sealed itself into pop culture in every way possible, with seemingly monthly memes, and has even gotten a successful Broadway musical. Created by the late Stephen Hillenburg, the show was a modern Pee Wee’s Playhouse style extravaganza that loved to blend absurdity and surrealism in its episodes and carried excitable energy. It has been enjoyed by both adults and children of all ages and enjoyed being one of the longest-running American animated series, one of the most popular (and profitable) of all time, and is still going.

Unfortunately, following a few seasons after the odyssey that was The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, the series never returned to its golden era and has overstayed its welcome. It also was announced that several spinoffs were in development following the passing of Hillenburg, who specifically did not want any spinoffs. Still, the good years of Hillenburg’s creation were a blessing, and even a few episodes following the movie were pretty decent.

5 The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008–2009)

While Teen Titans didn’t get a complete sendoff, it at least wrapped up some of its storylines with a film. Tragically, the even better superhero show The Spectacular Spider-Man never made it past two seasons after Disney bought Marvel.

Spectacular Spider-Man might well be the best adaptation of Spider-Man put to screen, and that’s in a world that now includes the near-perfect Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The series knew exactly how to tackle the character (who has been adapted an exhausting amount of times) and balanced classic and new ideas masterfully.

4 Megas XLR (2004–2005)
The humorous show is actually a parody of mecha anime shows and movies, which were trendy during that time. There are elements like time travel and a ton of vehicle modifications that adults will be able to appreciate.

Megas XLR is one of the underrated kids’ cartoons from the 2000s that’s worth seeing again today. It tells the story of how its two main characters, the mechanic Coop and his best friend Jamie, stumble upon a mecha robot from the future called Megas. They soon realize they may have bitten off more than they can chew when it’s revealed to them that they have to use the robot to defend the earth against the Glorft.

3 Invader Zim (2001–2006)

Fans of the sci-fi dark comedy series, Invader Zim, will likely never forget the irritable yet adorable extraterrestrial protagonist, Zim, and his malfunctioning robot companion, GIR. Sent from the planet Irk, it’s Zim’s job to enslave and conquer humanity, and although he often thinks he’s doing a good job, he’s actually almost always failing in comedic ways.

Zim is an outcast and an egoistic alien who believes he can redeem himself if he conquers the earth, but his classmate Dib is not going to let that happen. Their comical battles and the obliviousness of Zim’s neighbors and school administrators result in some gut-busting scenes, and although the series never got a chance to wrap up properly, the episodes that did air are still worth checking out.

2 Justice League (2001–2004)

As part of the DC Animated Universe, Justice League expanded the roster of characters and pretty much puts the live-action DC universe to shame.

Even though the “Big Three” (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) were fantastic, the supporting cast was so present and focused upon that the “Big Three” didn’t feel like the only members worth caring about, which was great. Obscure villains and heroes also appeared, becoming more familiar with general audiences, and the show’s refusal to talk down to its audience made for an incredible saga.

1 Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005–2008)

Avatar: The Last Airbender is a show that’s beyond impressive in its execution. The series wasn’t perfect, but the results and storytelling are so good that the occasional imperfections are irrelevant. The imaginative and unique world that was created, wherein people could “bend” elements, was an engaging setting, and one that was used to its full advantage in every episode. The show featured a cast of extremely iconic and well-rounded characters, and each episode would build off of the last to further their own growth along with the overarching story.

Avatar’s showcase of Aang and his friends over time makes for one of the most heartwarming tales imaginable; the side story of Prince Zuko and his Uncle Iroh is also very immersive and complex. The show also hosted Azula, one of the most truly threatening and competent characters to feature on-screen. Avatar suffered one of the worst TV to film adaptations in human history, and now it’s slated for another live-action adaptation, this time as a Netflix series. The long-form storytelling should work better on that platform, but even if it’s bad, it won’t matter, because the original is already present and raised the bar for animated storytelling.

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