Samurai Jack wields a sword in "Samurai Jack"
(Cartoon Network)

No One Did the ’90s & ’00s Like Cartoon Network

Thank you, Cartoon Network, for making millennials’ school nights and Saturday mornings just a little bit brighter. Your cartoons were the stuff of legends, and a generation of kids was left forever changed for the better. Here are the ten best old CN shows, ranked.

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10. Johnny Bravo 

Animated character Johnny Bravo smiles at the audience
(Cartoon Network)

Johnny Bravo: the pompadoured Lothario that entertained a generation. The narcissistic meathead wasn’t a good example, but he was a fantastic bad example. JB taught kids how NOT to attract the opposite sex. Don’t objectify. Don’t mistake pickup lines for good conversation. Don’t make it all about you.

Despite Johnny’s romantic shortcomings, his slapstick antics make him hard not to love. And with pickup lines like “Your body is a wonderland and I wanna be Alice” and “Baby, you’re beachfront property and I’m a tidal wave of love,” how could you not be charmed?

9.The Powerpuff Girls 

The Powerpuff Girls float in front of a heart design
(Cartoon Network)

Sugar, spice, and everything nice combined to make one of the most iconic shows that Cartoon Network ever created. The Powerpuff Girls are world-famous It Girls who continue to inspire.

There’s nothing particularly deep about the show, and that’s the charm. It’s spectacle. Pure, giant monster-battling spectacle. Speaking of battles, this show was unafraid to be brutal. The Powerpuff Girls spent half the series beating the absolute tar out of poor Mojo Jojo in three-on-one smackdowns. It hurts to watch. Maybe they were mad that Mojo Jojo is just one of many side characters that manages to outshine the series’ three heroines? The Mayor, Miss Bellum, and the fabulous queer icon Him: the side characters make this series truly great.

8. The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy

Grim and Mandy look nonplussed while Billy is blissfully ignorant in "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy"
(Cartoon Network)

Voice actor Greg Eagles is a genius. A Jamaican Grim Reaper? Instant classic. Grim’s adventures with Billy and Mandy were a horror/comedy classic for young audiences. While lighter on the scares than true terrifiers like Courage the Cowardly Dog, Grim Adventures managed to make heavy themes like mortality and cosmic horror inexplicably fun. The episode featuring Dracula as a swinging 70’s bachelor is one of my favorite cartoon moments in history.

7. Codename: Kids Next Door

The kids from Codename: Kids Next Door eating ice cream in a promo image
(Cartoon Network)

Codename: Kids Next Door took the ever-present culture war between youth and adults and made it literal. What kid didn’t want to feel like a KND operative hunkered down in a treehouse waging guerilla warfare with 2 x 4 technology? It was the ultimate childhood fantasy. The ultimate representation of the gulf between adolescence and adulthood. Speaking of adults, the main antagonist Father might be one of the best Cartoon Network villains ever created.

6.Courage the Cowardly Dog

Muriel scolds Courage in the kitchen in "Courage the Cowardly Dog"
(Cartoon Network)

Courage the Cowardly Dog was a genre impossibility: horror for kids. Real ones know that this show was LEGITIMATELY scary. Who among us is not haunted to this day by the ghostly call of “retuuuuurn the slaaaaaab?” Cartoon Network pulled out all the stops to make Courage‘s macabre antagonists truly traumatizing. It was an uncomfortable show to watch, and that’s what made it so addictive. The things we do for love.

5. Dexter’s Laboratory 

Dexter builds a contraption in "Dexter's Lab"
(Cartoon Network)

Dexter’s Lab is a masterpiece. It’s essentially a better Fairly Oddparents. Rather than Timmy Turner wishing for changes to his world, the misanthropic little labcoat child Dexter builds those changes. Dexter’s Lab managed to make everything feel possible, no matter how ludicrous his inventions were. It was a series that showed science in all its majesty, and surely inspired a generation of researchers and engineers. I still have Mandark’s laugh stuck in my head.

4. Ed, Edd & Eddy

Ed, Double D, and Eddy stand on a street corner mid-scheme in "Ed Ed n Eddy"
(Cartoon Network)

Ed, Edd and Eddy is a love letter to our worst impulses. It’s about the bad kids. The scammers. Those gutsy enough to come up with a scheme and try to get away with it. Ed, Double D, and Eddy were incorrigible, constantly trying to con the neighborhood kids out of cash. But you know what? I WANTED to see them win. Every scheme so painstaking planned out. So methodically executed. And yet, fate was never kind to the three con-artists. The taught a lesson, but it was more fun not to listen.

3. Teen Titans

Robin makes the "bring it on" gesture in "Teen Titans'
(Cartoon Network/DC)

Teen Titans was drama at its finest. Featuring one of the most lovable casts ever created for the network, Titans was one of the few Cartoon Network series focused on character development of the course of a complex story rather than wacky plots that disappeared at the push of the end of an episode reset button. Despite being centered around five teenagers, this series was dark. Titans was unafraid to really go there. Sociopathic mercenaries. All powerful demon dads. Morally complicated earthbenders. Death. Destruction. Betrayal. Titans was as superhero show that didn’t pull its punches, and made all the better for it.

2. Justice League Unlimited 

The DC heroes stand tall in "Justice League Unlimited"
(DC/Cartoon Network)

In keeping with the long-standing tradition of top-class DC animation, Justice League Unlimited was an expansion upon the groundwork laid by Batman: The Animated series as far back as the early 90s. Like Teen Titans, this series was unafraid to explore adult themes, and despite being marketed towards kids, it was a mature series that could be enjoyed by young adults, even regular adults, too. What made it so good? Decades of DC comics stories to interpret and adapt.

1. Samurai Jack

Samurai Jack wields a sword in "Samurai Jack"
(Cartoon Network)

Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack is an undisputed masterpiece. It’s incomparable. The dark fantasy meets the .ci-fi world. The brooding, thoughtful protagonist. And the villain? The demon lord Aku, voiced by Mako (a.k.a. Uncle Iroh from Avatar) is perhaps the greatest villain that Cartoon Network ever put to screen. If you thought Teen Titans and Justice League Unlimited were dark, Samurai Jack is eyes closed in a lightless cave. The series was unafraid to show violence, enslavement, totalitarianism, and the apocalypse itself. It’s a series meant to be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. And the final fifth season that came out over a decade after the original? Unmissable. A must-watch piece of animation.

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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.