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25 Best Adult Cartoon Movies of All Time

November 1, 2018
19 min read

Animated movies (call it cartoon movies, if you want, but don’t call them “Anime” if you don’t want to hurt fans of either) can be a lot of fun in that they take you to a different world, outside of the mundane realities which make for wildly exhilarating experiences on an emotional and intellectual level. However, most animated movies are intended for kids and family, but many of them have been exceptionally good, there lies a huge chunk of adult animated movies that explore themes that are vastly more complex and audacious than the traditional ones. Not only they feature elaborate nudity and explicit sex, but they also have the swear words and everything else a PG-13, NC-17 or R rated movie would consist of – the only difference being that they’re animated without any characters in flesh and bone.

Regardless, MPAA has assigned ratings to each one of these as appropriate – based on the sexual content, the violence and gore and the intended explicitness related to profanity.  These are movies that feature the use of strong language and depict sexuality and violence in an unusually bold manner. This qualifies them to be rated as R or NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Let’s take a look at the list of top adult animated movies ever – the path less travelled (or seldom travelled, for we haven’t witnessed a good flick since Anomalisa). You can watch some of these best adult animated movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu.

25. Renaissance (2006)

‘Renaissance’ is one of the most exciting animation flicks I’ve ever seen. Set in Paris in a not-so-distant future, the film follows a cop in an intense search for a kidnapped scientist who holds the key to eternal life. The film uses a distinctive technique of motion capture animation in which most of the images are black-and-white and this plays out well for the film’s bleak depiction of a dystopian future. It’s a remarkably gorgeous blend of genres to craft an exhilarating experience that, despite its occasional narrative hiccups, comes off as a smartly crafted thrilling sci-fi flick.

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24. Heavy Metal (1981)

This anthology animated flick follows a glowing green orb which frightens a young girl with bizarre fantasy stories of horror and sensuality. The narrative is segregated into various stories which are based on several stories published in the Heavy Metal magazine. The film certainly looks dated at parts but comes off as an entertaining affair due to the score and atmospheric power. It features numerous scenes that are pretty explicit in its depiction of sexuality, violence and was worked upon by many animation houses on the various segments of the film.

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23. Heavy Traffic (1973)

‘Heavy Traffic’ depicts the bizarre, surreal fantasies of a young cartoonist for whom the most eccentric, weird of characters serve as true inspiration for his art. Ralph Bakshi’s authoritative control could be felt in every frame as he crafts something so wildly original, provocative and challenging yet incredibly personal and intimate without ever getting self-indulgent. The film at the time was given an X rating by the MPAA due to its visually explicit nature but was a massive critical success and is regarded as one of Ralph Bakshi’s greatest works.

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22. Mutant Aliens (2001)

This obscure animated sci-fi flick by Bill Plympton is a spoof of B grade monster movies. The film is about an American astronaut who recounts his experiences of living on a planet of mutant aliens. The humour is bizarrely toned yet has a charming quality to it that assuages the visual hysteria of the film. The film’s animation works quite brilliantly in that it makes for a very distinctive experience, visually and emotionally. It features a number of scenes that depict violence and sex and received an R rating from the MPAA although the film was never given a theatrical release despite being shown at various festivals.

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21. $9.99 (2008)

A stop-motion animated sex drama, ‘$9.99’ revolves around an unemployed man called Dave, along with a bunch of other people living in the same apartment complex in Sydney and the way they try to figure the real meaning of their lives. The film derives its title from an advert in a magazine which promises to figure out the meaning of life at a low price of $9.99. Discontent characters, mundane quirks, a struggle some way of life and implied humour form the crux of the story. The film was awarded an ‘R’ certificate by the MPAA owing to sex scenes, nudity, gore and some profanity.

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20. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (2007)

An absolute fun ride with a bizarre mix of humour and surrealism. ‘Aqua Teen Hunger’ was an adaptation of the animated series ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’ and is the only Adult Swim series that was adapted into a feature film. The film, however, received mixed reviews with critics criticizing the film’s overall shallow approach and silly storyline but received high praise from its regular fanbase. It received an R rating for its adult humour, violent images and strong language.

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19. Appleseed (2004)

A manga-based post-apocalyptic animated movie, ‘Appleseed’ begins in the aftermath of a global third world war that has wiped out most of the earth’s populace. Set in a city called Olympus, Knute is a warrior who now resides in a city of biomechanical clones called as Bioroids. Appleseed is essentially a cache of data that has information on swarming Bioroids which resides in Olympus. Apart from the governing factions – which includes the Prime Minister, the General and the Council of Elders, Olympus is also troubled by belligerent factions led by Colonel Hades. The rest of the movie follows the conflict between the ruling and the opposing factions with Knute caught in the midst of all of them. ‘Appleseed’ received mixed reviews owing to its complex storyline and numerous characters, but it got a very positive response for its presentment and the animation.

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18. A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Richard Linklater’s highly underrated animated sci-fi thriller tells the story of an undercover cop who becomes a drug addict himself and begins to lose his identity. The film features a staggering cast that includes Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and George Clooney. It’s a visual treat and is incredibly provocative on an intellectual level. While not as clinically brilliant as ‘Waking Life’, the film still has its moments and ultimately comes off as a daring experiment from a filmmaker who constantly toys with the structure of cinema.

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17. American Pop (1981)

Ralph Bakshi is possibly one of the greatest animation film directors of all time. While he’s not been the most consistent filmmaker, his best works have fiercely tested and stretched the limitations of the medium in ways that had never been before. ‘American Pop’ is one of his most ambitious endeavours that chronicles the lives of four generations of a Russian Jewish family of musicians. Whilst tinges of lack of focus tend to hamper its sweeping narrative, the film still comes off as an immensely profound experience. The film received mixed reviews at its release but is now regarded as among Bakshi’s best works and one of the finest animated musical dramas ever produced.

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16. Anomalisa (2015)

‘Anomalisa’ centres around a lonely customer service expert who finds the world to be identical until he meets a beautiful young woman with whom he develops an intimate bond that grows increasingly complex after they spend a night together at a hotel room. It’s such a touching piece and like most Charlie Kaufman movies, manages to get under your skin. The film features a famous sex scene between the two lead characters that makes the film very much of an adult animated movie and was given an R-Rating.

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15. The Simpsons Movie (2007)

As it always is with the Simpsons franchise, there’s no dearth of sex, violence or profanity in the film, which led MPAA to award it with a PG-13 certificate. With many veiled references to multiple movies and television shows, ‘The Simpsons Movie’ begins with an environmental cause after Green Day, who were performing on a barge in a lake, sink along with the barge. Despite Grampa foreseeing the town’s demise, Marge feels it is important that they pay attention to the environmental concern. Homer, meanwhile, dumps pig faeces into the lake, thus calling for more trouble. After the appearance of a mutated squirrel, the US President Arnold Schwarzenegger is presented with five options to contain the rampant pollution, of which he chooses to enclose Springfield in a dome. When people discover that it was Homer’s fault to further the pollution in the town and head to kill him, the Simpson’s family elopes to Alaska, only to come back and free the people from the captivity of the giant dome. The film received critical acclaim for its honest portrayals, genuine satire and the cameos which came as surprise to many.

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14. Bad Cat (2016)

A Turkish film to begin with, ‘Bad Cat’ is centred around a foul-mouthed cat named Shero (stylized as Šero), who moves around with two friends – notably a seagull and a rat. As with any gang of outcasts, Šero and his team pursue all sorts of debauchery, crimes, and binge drinking on the streets of Istanbul. Their extravagance comes to a temporary halt when they cross their paths with humans, notably Cizer, the owner of a cat named Pirta, Šero’s love interest. In yet another movie where animals walk, talk and behave like humans, the shenanigans of Šero and his ragtag group is worth a try.

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13. Paprika (2006)

A Japanese anime, ‘Paprika’ is set in the near future where a device named ‘DC Mini’ has been invented which lets someone peek into other people’s dreams. Originally branded as a psychotherapy device, because the device has not been regulated, if it lands into the wrong hands, it would lead to inexplicable consequences. Dr Atsuko Chiba, the head of the DC Mini project uses as alter-ego called Paprika and helps her patients using the device by telling them the relevance of their dreams and bringing them to closure. After the capture of Paprika and the emergence of a strange phenomenon in which dreams and reality have merged together, Chiba takes it upon herself to eliminate the Chairman of the project, who is later revealed as the real culprit and save the mankind from a dream vs reality limbo. ‘Paprika’ received positive reviews owing to its novel storyline, dazzling characters, and for portraying the dark side of scientific advancements.

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12. Tekkonkinkreet (2006)

Yet another Japanese manga narrative on this list, ‘Tekkonkinkreet’ follows the lives of two orphans Kuro and Shiro (literally translating to ‘Black’ and ‘White’ in English), who control Takaramachi, a once-bustling metropolis which is now a dilapidated slum. While Kuro is shown to be street-smart, Shiro is a lot more introverted and imaginative. They’re put up against a rival gang called Snake, who sends a trio of super-assassins – Dragon, Tiger and Butterfly to eliminate Kuro, which would help Yakuza (the leader of the Snake) to rebuild Takaramachi as a theme park. As Shiro is taken into police custody, Kuro goes into a state of depression, symbolising Yin and Yang. The movie ends with Kuro and Shiro reuniting again. Although a little cliched, ‘Tekkonkinkreet’ is engaging and a heartwarming watch.

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11. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)

Set in 12000 years from now, ‘Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust’ is perhaps one of the most distant future movies in the cinematic world today. D is a vampire hunter, who is also a half breed – coming from a human mother and a vampire father. The populace of vampires has witnessed a steep decline over the years, with a bunch of bounty hunters left out, and D is one of them. After a human girl is abducted by a notorious vampire, the girl’s father who is an affluent personality hires D along with a bunch of D’s rivals to hunt down the abductors and free his daughter. It is later revealed that there’s a possibility that the girl might have accompanied the vampire on her own. American critics called the movie a gorgeous affair with exceptional animation and they’re nothing short of being 100% correct.

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10. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999)

Based on the iconic animated TV series ‘South Park’, ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’, the film is about four boys who are caught watching an R rated film starring Candian actors Terrance and Philip as their mothers now pressurize the nation to fight a war against Canada for corrupting their children. tIt is the only South Park feature film to date and also had to battle the MPAA with regards to its censorship issues and eventually it received an R rating about 15 days prior to its release.

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9. Sausage Party (2016)

A dark comedy at the outset, ‘Sausage Party’ is one of the handfuls of American adult comedies on this list. Boasting of an ensemble star cast including but not limited to the likes of Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Kristen Wigg, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Salma Hayek, Edward Norton et al, the film revolves around the anthropomorphic forms of groceries in a grocery store called Shopwell’s. Apparently, all forms of groceries believe that while in the store, they’re in some kind of a comfort zone and need to prep themselves up for the “great beyond” once they accompany the humans. Frank, a sausage and Brenda, a hot dog bun, who’re in a relationship. As they get ready for the great beyond, they’re warned by Honey Mustard about the lies of the great beyond and that there’s no such thing. In a strange turn of events, a bloody battle ensues between the groceries and the humans, resulting in the human shoppers and the staffers of the store being drugged and killed in a battle. The movie was praised for its profanity, which aptly fits in for an adult movie, along with the gag comedy moments that it boasts of. Watch it before the party ends!

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8. Waking Life (2001)

Richard Linklater’s uncrowned masterpiece is an astonishing look at life, dreams, reality, consciousness and purpose of existence. It follows a man who moves from one dream to another, seeking answers to profound questions about life and existence. The film crafts a surreal, dreamlike atmosphere that pulls you into its world, hypnotizing you, painting such gorgeous images one after the other that stay with you long after the credits have rolled out. It was the first animated film released by Fox Searchlight Pictures and was rated R for its bold language.

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7. Loving Vincent (2017)

A one-of-its-kind biographical drama following the life of Vincent Van Gogh, the influential painter, the movie begins after his suicide with his sons Armand and Theo. Joseph, a postman has a letter for Theo which has to be delivered to him by Armand. As Armand travels to Paris, expecting that’s where his brother would be, only to come to know that Theo too has died six months after Van Gogh’s death. In the story that follows, Armand is caught in between a complex turn of events which prove otherwise – Van Gogh never committed suicide, but was murdered by some marauders. A visual stunner, ‘Loving Vincent’ is more artistic than most of the mainstream animated movies and remains underrated to this day.

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6. Fantastic Planet (1973)

In a distant planet of Ygam, Draags are the ruling beings. They have a giant humanoid form and a blue colour and from planet Earth, they have brought human beings who’re much smaller to pet them. While a few humans, who’re known as Oms on the planet, stay with Draags as collared pets, a bunch of human populace roams in the wilderness, where they are being caught, slaughtered or heckled. An orphaned Om known as Terr is petted by Tiwa, a young Draag who receives her education through a set of headphones, but owing to a defect in Terr’s collar, he listens in to the classes and gains all information about the Draag species. As time passes by and Tiwa grows more aware of her surroundings, she starts disliking Terr who then elopes and forms his own group of humans and hatches a plan to leave the planet, thanks to the stolen headphones from Tiwa which help him listen in to all the information about Draags. Sensing danger from the acquired knowledge of humans and after seeing their meditation statues being destroyed by “petty” humans, Draags and Oms come to an agreement to coexist on the planet peacefully. A mindboggling adventure, ‘Fantastic Planet’ gives us surrealistic visuals of what a parallel world could surmise and the dangers of it, along with being a visual treat.

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5. Perfect Blue (1997)

Horror-animated films are rate and ‘Perfect Blue’ is one of the finest examples of the sub-genre. ‘Perfect Blue’ is set around Mima, a J-Pop singer who is fed up with her mundane job. She auditions for a lead actress’ role in a movie named Double Blind wherein she gets the part of a rape victim. While filming the rape scene, things get overly realistic and she comes to a belief that she is being actually raped. In a strange turn of events, the crew members of the film are systematically killed or are found dead, much to Mima’s shock and dismay. It is later revealed to the audiences that Mima is suffering from a split personality disorder and is finding it difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is imaginative. The movie ends with Mima leaving a mental institution unscathed, while her best friend Rumi has been “imprisoned” there, all thanks to Mima. A compelling story, visceral sex scenes and violent crimes form the crux of the film which was received positively by the critics and also at the box office.

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4. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)

Yet another Japanese sci-fi movie on this list, ‘Cowboy Bebop: The Movie’ focuses on a dystopian future set in the planet Mars in 2071. Bebop is a spaceship which is used to travel onboard Mars. After a strange explosion in the capital city, the Government issues a $300 million bounty and Bebop, which comprises of legalized bounty hunters – Spike, Jet, Faye, Edward, and Ein, set off on a quest to pursue and hunt the savage killer. As far as the reception of the movie was concerned, it was called a must watch for the anime enthusiasts while passable for regulars. The action-packed storyline, the background music, and the characterizations go together like a clockwork when combined with a near-flawless animation. ‘Cowboy Bebop: The Movie’ is the movie for all sci-fi junkies.

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3. Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982)

A cult classic among staunch fans of rock music, ‘Pink Floyd – The Wall’ centres around a young rocker who loses his mind after the death of his father and begins to build a world for himself, defending from the emotional dangers of life outside the confines of his own psyche. It’s a deeply disturbing portrait of paranoia and self-destruction and the film constructs a wildly fascinating, surreal world that makes for an extremely cathartic experience. The film received an R certification for its intense, raw depiction of sexuality, violence and gore. It is now considered to be one of the greatest animated movies ever made.

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2. Waltz With Bashir (2008)

One of the greatest documentary movies ever made, ‘Waltz With Bashir’ chronicles director Ari Folman’s memories of the 1982 Lebanon war during which time he was a teenage soldier. It’s a haunting portrait of one of the deadliest conflicts in human history and delves deep into the painful realities of war. It’s wildly provocative and psychologically damaging in its exploration of themes and this makes for a truly devastating viewing experience. The film features intensely disturbing graphic imagery that has one nudity and strong sexual and violent content which ensured that the film was given an R rating.

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1. Akira (1988)

A manga-based post-apocalyptic film, ‘Akira’ is set in 2019 when Tokyo is replaced with a futuristic Neo-Tokyo following the Third World War of 1988. Tetsuo Shima, a gang member of the feared gang known as The Capsules, inadvertently crashes his bike into Takashi, an escapee psychic who’s on the run from a government research lab that’s researching psionics. After the accident, Tetsuo acquires psionic and telekinetic abilities and a whole lot of Government institutions start looking for him. Akira was an erstwhile powerful psychic apparently responsible for the destruction of Tokyo and it is revealed that Tetsuo’s powers and abilities are somewhat similar. Tetsuo, unable to control his powers and while on the run from rival gangs, government and others, transforms into a singularity which engulfs most of his adversaries. The remaining espers then decide to awaken Akira who forms an even bigger mass of singularity, teleporting Tetsuo to another dimension. One of the towering giants of modern anime, ‘Akira’ is gory, violent and extremely energetic, that would make you draw yourself towards it. Easily, one of the best-animated adult movies of all time.

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