Nickelodeon’s 10 Best Cartoons, Ranked

Nickelodeon has dominated children’s entertainment since its launch in 1979. Several generations have enjoyed some of the best cartoons ever to air. Nickelodeon was the first channel aimed entirely at children. While originally the channel simply imported programming from Canada, the original cartoons are where it began to fully take shape. Nickelodeon cartoons (or Nicktoons) have changed the game tremendously, and we’re going to take a look at 10 of the best over the years.

10. The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius (2002-2006)

Jimmy Neutron is among Nickelodeon's best cartoons

Jimmy Neutron was first introduced to the public in 2001 when a theatrical film was released. A year later, his popularity skyrocketed when he received a television series spin-off on Nickelodeon. This is where many fans know the character and why he made it to our list. The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, was ahead of its time in many ways. The series follows the titular boy genius as he finds himself in various misadventures with his friends Carl Wheezer and Sheen Estevez. The humor is a driving force behind the show and is celebrated more than many other Nickelodeon cartoons. The show ended its run in 2006, and fans have been waiting for a revival ever since. There was a short-lived Sheen-focused spinoff that aired in 2010, but it wasn’t as well received.

9. Danny Ghost (2004-2006)

One of the best cartoons of the last twenty years is Danny Phantom

Butch Hartman has created several unique and creative shows for Nickelodeon, one of which being Danny Ghost. The show follows Danny Fenton, a teenager with Ghostbusters as parents. When one of their machines malfunctions, Danny finds his DNA intertwined with ectoplasm, rendering him half-phantom. Danny uses his new powers to send the ghosts back to the Phantom Zone and protect the human world. The show is still held in high regard and is known as one of the best cartoons Butch Hartman has ever created. While harmless to children, the show still deals with dark themes and has a lot of entertainment value for older audiences. The show has a slightly spooky side to it at times, which makes it ideal for viewing around the Halloween season.

8. Angry Beavers (1997-2001)

Angry Beavers is one of Nickelodeon's most controversial cartoons

Many would agree that the 90s were when Nickelodeon really started to dominate. One of the ways they’ve done that is by releasing original and absolutely insane programming. These shows leaned into surreal humor in the best possible way. A cartoon that excelled in this area is angry beavers. The show follows Daggett and Norbert, two brothers who encounter chaos as they try to fend for themselves after being estranged from their parents. The show’s creators constantly clashed with the studio and censorship. It was one of the most tame shows of the era, however, and one that’s still fondly remembered as one of Nickelodeon’s best cartoons that went absolutely nuts.

7. The Fairly Odd Parents (2001-2018)

Introducing Fairly OddParents

The series that Butchhartman is best known to have worked on is my godparents are magic. The show originally ended in 2006 but was revived in 2008, where it ran until 2018. Fairly Odd Parents follows Timmy Turner, a young boy who is placed in the care of two fairy godfathers to help him through life. The show began as a series of shorts on the variety show Oh yes! Cartoons before embarking on his own show. Fairly Odd Parents is still known as one of the best cartoons ever released from the early 2000s. As with any great Nick show, Fairly Odd Parents is filled with heart and humor. The show received a live spinoff in 2022, but the reception was not as warm.

6. The Ren & Stimpy Show (1991-1995)

Ren & Stimpy is one of Nickelodeon's best cartoons

The Ren & Stimpy Show was one of Nickelodeon’s earliest original cartoons and one of its most bizarre. This is the show that took the surreal style of humor and dialed it up to 11. The show has frequent adult jokes as well as over-the-top violence. Ren is a Chihuahua with serious mental issues. Together with his friend Stimpy, a debonair but stupid cat, they navigate the insane landscape of life. The show has a massive cult following and even received a short-lived revival in 2003. This revival aired on Spike TV and leaned entirely into adult content. family guy. The tone of Ren & Stimpy is a far cry from the overtly family-friendly content of Nickelodeon today, and that’s what fans love.

5. Rugrats (1991-2004)

Rugrats

The first entirely original Nicktoon is Rugrats. The show follows the daily adventures of a group of toddlers. The show isn’t as goofy or surreal as most early Nickelodeon cartoons and is the channel’s second-longest-running show. Rugrats ran for nine seasons and received three theatrical films. Today it is still remembered as one of the best cartoons of the 90s and has legions of fans young and old. A show showing mundane things through the eyes of a toddler is always a smart idea and adds to the timeless nature of the show. Rugrats received a revival in 2022 on Paramount+, using 3D animation as opposed to 2D.

4. Hey Arnold! (1996-2004)

The intro to Hey Arnold!

Hi Arnold! is a show with a very basic premise but still shines thanks to a creative writing team. The show follows fourth grader Arnold as he navigates life with his friends. Helga, a tough girl who has a secret crush on Arnold, is also there. The show received rave reviews almost immediately. It won a theatrical film in 2002, with a second planned to serve as the finale. Hey Arnold! : The film didn’t do as well as Nickelodeon had hoped, and so the second film was cancelled. The film, titled Hey Arnold! : The Jungle Movie was finally released as a made-for-TV movie in 2017 and concluded Nickelodeon’s cartoon satisfyingly.

3. Spongebob Squarepants (1999-)

Spongebob and Patrick selling chocolate

The cartoon everyone associates with Nickelodeon is Sponge Bob SquarePants. After 13 seasons and 3 feature films, SpongeBob is still going strong. The show was created by the late Stephen Hillenburg, a marine biologist who wanted to create a show that takes place in the sea. His little idea created one of the most iconic and best cartoons ever to hit the airwaves. SpongeBob and his colorful band of friends have been beloved by at least two generations of fans, and it’s likely his impact will still be felt long after he’s gone off the air. Sponge Bob SquarePants is currently the longest-running show on Nickelodeon, for 23 consecutive years.

2. Rocko’s Modern Life (1993-1996)

Rocko's modern life

A show filled with controversial quirky humor, but to a much lesser extent, was Rocko’s modern life. The show follows Rocko, a wallaby who immigrated to America from Australia. While there’s certainly some adult humor in it, it’s far more subtle than other Nickelodeon cartoons of the era. Rocko is accompanied by a cast of quirky characters such as his best friend Heffer, a turtle named Filbert, and his neighbors, the Big Heads. The show has a massive cult following and received a one-off special in 2019 on Netflix called Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Electricity.

1. Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008)

Avatar

Avatar: The Last Airbender is a show that can’t be said much about and does justice. It went way beyond just being a Nickelodeon cartoon and became one of the most beloved animated shows of all time. Avatar follows Aang, a twelve-year-old boy who is the last survivor of his nation. Aang is the legendary Avatar, a master of all four elements and can control all of them. The show is filled with humor, but is best known for its deep and impactful storylines. It’s the kind of show that most other shows strive to be. Avatar is more than just a children’s show; it is an experience in its own right.

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