As soon as its first episode aired, “Rick and Morty” pushed the boundaries of science fiction and good taste. They are anarchic anti-heroes that explore the wackier and darker corners of science fiction and comedy in this untamed cosmos. Adult Swim’s jewel, created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, wowed audiences and critics alike with a flurry of crazy antics featuring a grandfather-and-grandson duo.
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Morty Smith and Rick Sanchez have a portal pistol and a devil-may-care attitude. As long as you aren’t trying to topple the Galactic Federation or dealing with cryptids on behalf of the President of the United States, it’s always fun to play Interdimensional Cable.
But it’s possible that you’ve already seen all the episodes. Possibly multiple times? Dawg, don’t even think about it. A “Ricky and Morty”-level of outlandish action or sci-fi excitement awaits you in the form of 14 animated programs that are well worth your time.
1. The Venture Bros
When Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick reimagined “Jonny Quest” in 2004 with a wonderfully cynical lens, “The Venture Bros.” was born. Rusty Venture (James Urbaniak) is a former kid adventurer who can’t escape the shadow of his father, a “super scientist.” It is Brock Sampson (Patrick Warburton), his bodyguard, who has a deadly propensity to femme fatales and a bloodlust that can only be satisfied by tearing henchmen in half. It’s Hank (Christopher McCulloch) and Dean (Michael Sinterniklaas) who are the show’s namesake characters, and they love every opportunity to explore.
With names like Phantom Limb, Dr. Henry Killinger, and Molotov Cocktease to go by, the supervillains the Venture brothers battled across seven seasons were both brutal and absurd. Even David Bowie got in on the action. Even though the program featured its share of high-brow and low-brow references, it didn’t shy away from the bloody good time that can be had when unhinged violence, kinky sex, potty humor, and unabashedly irreverent punchlines combine. Also, “The Venture Bros.” was putting down killer stingers long before “Rick and Morty” offered post-credit humor.
2. Harley Quinn
In “Harley Quinn,” the titular diva severs links (and limbs) in order to escape the Joker’s velvet-gloved grip. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of pleasure to be had along the road.
Harley (Kaley Cuoco) is an outcast even in Batman’s rogues’ gallery, thus she must rely on the likes of Dr. Psycho, Clayface, King Shark, and Bane for support (James Adomian). Each villain is reimagined as a joke, less ferocious and more ferociously humorous in this motley crew. Clayface is preoccupied with taking on the form of a woman who enjoys causing a fuss. In contrast to King Shark, Bane’s incessant fight for respect is mocked by his scarier peers, who ridicule him mercilessly.
However, this story is based on Harley and Poison Ivy’s budding relationship (Lake Bell). In the streets of Gotham, these Gotham City sirens are bold, yet they tremble at the thought of being more than just criminal partners. While “Harley Quinn” may be too mature for kids, it never loses the wild joy of Saturday morning cartoons because to its smart writing and gonzo violence.
“Rick and Morty” is one of the few shows that can match its adult content and unabashed skewering of genre conventions. However, this is not the case with “Archer.” In the early years of Sterling Archer, Adam Reed imagined the steely English spy as an arrogant and impetuous American momma’s son, a satire of James Bond. The Archer character, voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, has an uncanny ability to draw attention even while he’s acting like a fool. His cacophonous coworkers at a lousy espionage organization see him as both their hero and their worst nightmare. Reed, on the other hand, opted to change things up a bit after a few seasons of the show.
In the beginning, the show was a spy-filled office comedy, but it soon evolved into a series of detective stories with a distinct neo-noir feel. Archer and his team were given a dazzling and horrific makeover. During their search for an ancient treasure, they went wild on an island paradise. Rick and Morty fans may be especially interested in Season 10, in which Archer and his buddies went on an extended interstellar journey. This operation is unlike any they’ve been on previously, since it includes spacecraft chases, violent bounty hunters, rampaging robot and high-tech weaponry, as well as a Doomsday device with its own mind. What’s not to like?
4. Solar Opposites
“Solar Opposites” is the cartoon on this list that most closely resembles “Rick and Morty.” That’s because Justin Roiland and staff writer Mike McMahan created it as a sort of sister series. The key members of the dysfunctional family are still human, but this time they aren’t. Alien beings have fled a dying planet with the intention of transforming Earth.
However, only Korvo (played by Roiland) is completely focused on the task at hand. When it comes to human culture, such as television, teen drama, and tacky graphic shirts, Terry (Thomas Middleditch) and the kids (Sean Giambrone and Mary Mack) are completely engrossed.
On the other hand, this 2020 cartoon series has a lot more to laugh about than just alien incompetence. Nanobots, alien abduction, mind-altering pheromones, and, of course, a holodeck all appear in the show’s parodies. There are many sitcom tropes, such as wanting to fit in and keeping up with the Joneses, that are effectively included into this story. Between night clubs, man caves, and a sentient tree metropolis, cultural disputes are common. “Solar Opposites” is essentially “Rick and Morty” mingling with the TGIF cast.
5. Star Trek: Lower Decks
Some of you may have spotted the resemblance to “Rick and Morty” in this “Star Trek” spinoff. Well, Mike McMahan, the man behind the show “Lower Decks,” is to blame (“Rick and Morty” and “Solar Opposites”). To pay homage to the iconic Gene Roddenberry sci-fi series about heroic exploration of the ultimate frontier, this wacky animated comedy follows some low-ranking Starfleet officers as they get their comedic fix in that cosmic sandbox.
6. Gravity Falls
Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid from “The Boys”) is a rule follower who has his sights set on the captain’s chair. This Starfleet brat (played by Tawny Newsome) is a free-spirited individual with her own set of values and principles. Sam Rutherford, an android played by Eugene Cordero, and D’Vana Tendi, an alien played by Nol Wells, make up part of an amusing group of Star Trek characters who play around with the show’s iconic elements, such as Captain Kirk’s journal entries (complete with holodeck), Ferengi (complete with blast shields), and much more. While Trekkies can join in on this “funniest frontier,” it’s not required. Brad and his pals provide sufficient context for the joke to be understood by all.
In Gravity Falls, everything goes awry.
Did you realize that “Gravity Falls” contains Easter eggs for “Rick and Morty” and vice versa? That’s because Justin Roiland and Alex Hirsch, the man behind this Disney short, are close friends. A shared universe is implied by references to characters and events in both series. As a result,Hirsch has created an adventure series that is short, sweet, thrilling, and worthy of a second viewing.
Twelve-year-old Dipper and Mabel Pines spend the summer in the namesake Pacific Northwest town with their swindling great uncle, Gruncle Stan. Immediately, they’re getting into trouble with gnomes who vomit rainbows because they’re in love. Once this happens, “Gravity Falls” unleashes a slew of oddball characters, including an angry poltergeist, a mustachioed merman, and a time-traveling minotaur voiced by Justin Roiland.
However, these are only the most recent creatures to emerge. Hirsch crafted a deep and compelling story about family, redemption, and an extra-dimensional evil determined to turn Gravity Falls on its head over the course of two seasons. There will be hints and Easter eggs hidden throughout the series once you’ve seen it all.
7. The Owl House
So, you’d want to see another another show in which an adventurous plucky brunette sets out in search of an eccentric gray-haired instructor who likes to get into mischief? Ricky and Morty meets Harry Potter in “The Owl House,” a story about a young girl’s quest to find her true calling as a witch and the mentor she chooses to guide her.
The 2020 Disney series, directed by Dana Terrace and starring Sarah-Nicole Robles as Luz Noceda, follows the unorthodox instructions of Eda the Owl Lady, a snaggletoothed sorcerer (Wendie Malick). Many of the inhabitants of the Boiling Isles regard Luz as nothing more than a mythological monster or a witch with pointed ears. The local wizarding school’s students and a puppy-sized demon named King are among her tribe, as she discovers quickly. For better or worse, they’re on a journey for fun, glory, and fame as a group.
“The Owl House,” like “Gravity Falls,” combines somber themes with a cutesy exterior to make it more kid-friendly (plus, Alex Hirsch provides voice work!). Never fear, there are still plenty of wild laughs, spectacular thrills, frightening characters and well-executed plots to captivate adults.
8. Adventure Time
While working on “Adventure Time,” Roiland provided the Earl of Lemongrab’s raspy voice for the show. A pair of adventurers are the focus of both series, which deal with frightening opponents, mind-boggling revelations, broken hearts, and profound issues about life. “Adventure Time” just smothers the harsh pill of self-reflection in a sugary coating that makes it easier to swallow.
Developed by Pendleton Ward in 2010, this Cartoon Network series depicts a post-apocalyptic Earth where the grounds are populated by sentient slime and frolicking candy, as well as living fire, mad sorcerers, and Marcelline the Vampire Queen. With a mix of science fiction, fantasy and horror, this show can take viewers from the depths of the ocean all the way out into space, as well as into dungeons and time portals. With stories that range from the sincere to the tragic, the knowing to the nonsensical, “Adventure Time” is always a trip, unfolding storylines that are always mixed with the bizarre and melancholy.
9. The Midnight Gospel
“Adventure Time” may have a similar feel to “Rick and Morty,” but you’d like to learn more about the show’s philosophical similarities. Let “The Midnight Gospel” be your guide. ‘Adventure Time’ creator Pendleton Ward teamed up with cartoonist and podcaster Duncan Trussell to produce a surreal tour of wonderful landscapes with thought-provoking characters.
Clancy Gilroy (voiced by Trussell) visits artificial worlds and interviews their inhabitants for his titular podcast in each episode of the show.
In addition, “The Midnight Gospel” also blurs the lines between the actual and the imagined. He chats with real-life pals and celebrities while his cartoon character saunters through the jungle, evades the advancing hordes of the undead, or encounters Death. We can expect to see death and destruction in our future. However, the closeness of the conversations fosters a relaxed mood, as if a late-night talk were taking place in a pleasant haze of smoke. Basically, if you’re having a hard time keeping your thoughts together while you’re watching? That’s just part of the process, buddy.
10. BoJack Horseman
Similarly to “Rick and Morty,” “BoJack Horseman” manages to strike a delicate balance between absurdity and heartbreak. Six seasons of scathing satire by writer Raphael Bob-Waksberg focus on the equus, a popular sitcom performer in the ’90s, who is the focus of a scathingly satirical lens. BoJack is now a depressed, drug-addicted, and self-loathing alcoholic. Nevertheless, he rallies to get into all sorts of hysterical escapades, like stealing the D from the Hollywood sign, purchasing a boat in the middle of the desert, and hooking up with the former child star who is now a troubled musician harassed by cameras.
An intoxicatingly adorable, yet complex, protagonist, BoJack is the work of Will Arnett, who brings to the role an intriguing world-weariness with spurts of both annoyance and hope. There are Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Paul F. Tompkins, and Aaron Paul in the supporting cast. As a team, they bring Bob-deliciously Waksberg’s twisted vision to life, where wackiness and existential dread coexist. “BoJack Horseman” is a relentlessly biting comedy that can cut deep with its clever references to movies and celebrity culture. When binge, take it easy.
While “Rick and Morty” is on hiatus, binge watch “Futurama” for a lighthearted sci-fi fix. It was 1999, and “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening had taken his characteristic overbite style into the far-flung future of New York City, where commuters travel by tube, alien pizza owners open their doors, and robots light up the red-light districts with electricity. A dopey delivery lad from the 20th century, Philip J. Fry (Billy West), wanders into this awe-inspiring realm.
Soon, Fry finds himself in the company of a cranky robot (John DiMaggio), a butt-kicking cyclops (Katey Sagal), a mad scientist (West), a perky heiress from Mars (Lauren Tom), and a doofy doctor who looks like a man-sized lobster (also West!). From war-loving alien invaders to Amazons to the preserved but still poisonous skull of Richard Nixon, they take on a wide range of adversaries.
From “E.T.” and “Star Trek” to “Titanic,” “Willy Wonka,” and even “Iron Chef,” “Futurama” playfully parodies decades of contemporary culture. However, despite all these references, the series created a distinct stamp on science fiction, producing tales that were both amazing, amusing, and heart-wrenching at the same time. To understand what we mean, just mention “Jurassic Bark” to a “Futurama” fan.
12. Infinity Train
Owen Dennis’ “Infinity Train” revolves around a weird train where the cars alter positions, and within each is a curious and distinct new realm. You’ll never understand the rules of any of the compartments in the puzzle, the playground, the kingdom, or any other type of game.
Tulip Olsen (Ashley Johnson), a 13-year-old girl, is the protagonist of the first season, which begins with her tumbling onto a train. How do I know where I’m going? Who’s in charge? What is the significance of the neon green number on her hand? A crown-wearing Corgi, a robot with two minds, and some shady people help Tulip uncover the mysteries of the train as well as her own broken heart.
In spite of Tulip’s story ending, the “Infinity Train” continues to move forward. Each season’s protagonist in this anthology series is a different person. This collection of short stories by Dennis not only features entertaining elements like sentient androids and alternate worlds, but also poignant themes about identity, grief, and love. Take a seat and enjoy the journey.
13. Star vs. the Forces of Evil
‘Star vs. Evil’ is Daron Nefcy’s take on the Disney princess that you’ve never seen. Her name is Eden Sher (Eden Sher), and she’s a mystical princess who wields tremendous power with a big dose of eccentricity. With rainbows, narwhals, and pups that shoot lasers out of their eyes, she fends off the power-hungry monsters. As she continues to perfect her spells, she is prone to mistakes and black holes.
Marco Diaz (Adam McArthur), a karate aficionado and classmate of Star’s, quickly becomes her best friend when she is an exchange student on Earth. Together, they go on a series of intergalactic adventures. As a result, the enemies they encounter include marauding monsters, sneering sorcerers, dictatorial food trucks, and rampaging hormones. On a more serious note, Nefcy’s entire plot is with first love, family secrets, and dealing with a painful past. While it begins as a lighthearted jaunt, the concert ends up being one of the most satisfying I’ve ever seen.
14. Invader Zim
Looking for a sci-fi show with frenzied energy, dark comedy, and a disregard for authority? Look no further than Invader Zim, Nickelodeon’s out-of-this-world animation, is a must-see for any fan of the show. Jhonen Vasquez was a comic book artist best known for “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac,” a comic depicting a gruesome serial murderer, prior to creating this 2001 series. An alien invasion at a primary school was, of course, the subject of a cartoon series by Vasquez.
Only one human suspects the green alien’s extraterrestrial origins despite his strange conduct and green skin during the course of the show’s two seasons. Action-packed and genuinely odd, Dib (Andy Berman) takes on Zim (Richard Steven Horvitz) in a series of bizarre encounters. When Dib had to stop Zim from stealing the organs of their classmates to improve his human disguise in “Dark Harvest,” for example (“More organs means more human”). Zim’s incompetence when it comes to conquering Earth is a blessing in disguise.