2018 has been a great year for animation, both on TV and in film. We got the amazing spectacle of Into the Spider-Verse and a number of awesome new TV series that have changed the medium for the better. From She-Ra and the Princesses of Power to The Dragon Prince, Netflix has been killing it in the animation game, kicking butt in the anime department as well with Dragon Pilot and Devilman Crybaby. However you look at it, TV animation has gotten better and better in the last year, and animated films have continued to dominate the box office. As a whole, this year has elevated the medium of animation, making great strides to show that it's not just for kids, and that it should be regarded as one of the greatest art forms of our time.
Because this was such a great year for animation, we decided to chronicle and rank all the great cartoons that got released this year. For this list, we're going to be looking at animated films and TV shows that premiered in 2018 and were big in some way. As for how we're ranking them, well, that's subjective to an extent, but we will also be taking into consideration their popularity, how well they did with critics and how awesome they were in terms of visuals. Which animated films sit at the top and which animated series were smash hits? Take a look at our ranking of 2018's best cartoon movies and TV shows to find out!
25 BALLMASTRZ: 9009
Starting us off we have a series from Adult Swim and Titmouse known as Ballmastrz: 9009. Taking placed in a world that's part Mad Max, part Rollerball, the show centered around a sport known simply as "The Game," a blood sport that has captured the world.
The main protagonist is Gaz Digzy, a washed-up player of The Game who is demoted to the league's weakest team, who she must whip into shape. The show as creative and funny and chaotic all at once, and we're on the edge of our seats waiting for news of a second season.
24 CONSTANTINE: CITY OF DEMONS
Next up is the CW Seed miniseries, Constantine: City of Demons, which adapted the graphic novel of the same name. Originally airing as short episodes on the streaming service, the cartoon was eventually collected as a feature-length film.
Starring everyone's favorite Constantine, Matt Ryan as the voice of the titular character, City of Demons follows Constantine as he seeks to find a cure for a supernatural plague that has been afflicting people and putting them into comas. The series was dark and awesome makes us want to see more animated Constantine media.
Matt Groening is a powerhouse of the adult animation scene, creating two major hits that have stood the test of time. So, when it came time to hit the Netflix original series scene, Groening of course knocked it out of the park with his fantasy-comedy series, Disenchanted.
Following a rough and tumble princess by the name of Bean, the series depicted the protagonist as she adventured with an optimistic elf and her own personal demon, all of which made for a fantastic series that was a hit as soon as it went up on Netflix.
22 CELLS AT WORK!
Next up we have an anime series that is both adorable and informative! Titled Cells at Work!, this anime personifies the cells of the human body, which is depicted as a city—it's part Osmosis Jones, part Miyazaki whimsy—and actually educates viewers on the body's processes.
The main protagonist is a red blood cell who always gets lost on her daily deliveries of nutrients and oxygen, often running into viruses or bacteria that has entered the body, which is where her friend, a white blood cell, comes in to save the day with over-the-top violence—all of which makes for a delightful watch.
Another anime series that came out this year and quickly gathered a following is SSSS.Gridman, an anime adaptation/reboot of the classic tokusatsu series, Gridman the Hyper Agent. The series was a hit as soon as it came out, its story and visuals paying tribute to the original live-action series.
Another reason this series became such a hit was because of the subtle nods to a Transformers series known as Shattered Glass, a number of the colors and designs of these versions of the Autobots and Decepticons being incorporated into character designs in the series.
20 FINAL SPACE
Next up is the TBS original animated series, Final Space, a cartoon created by Olan Rogers that follows a hapless hero as he attempts to save the universe from a power-mad villain.
The series has its ups and downs, but overall, Final Space is both a spectacle of a series and a well-written space-opera that knows how to shuffle between serious and comedic tones. Final Space marks TBS' first venture into original animation, and it's a heck of a first series, making us hopeful for what's to come.
19 MEGA MAN: FULLY CHARGED
Next up we have Cartoon Network and Man of Action's Mega Man: Fully Charged, a rebooted and reimagined version of the classic video game series that is both wonderful-looking and is a unique take on a beloved franchise.
Though the series had its naysayers, Mega Man: Fully Charged is a delightful superhero twist on Mega Man, throwing in the issue of robot-human relations into the mix to give everything a strong moral compass and deep thematic content. Plus, you gotta love those Robot Master redesigns, they're so colorful and awesomely update the originals.
18 BIG CITY GREENS
Speaking of delightful animated series, Disney's Big City Greens, which first aired this year, is another must-watch for lovers of classic animation. This cartoon follows the Greens, a farm-country family who moves to a big city literally named The Big City.
All the whacky antics you'd expect to happen follow as the country folk adjust to city life, though the series doesn't fall into cliches, creating a fresh and wonderful brand of comedy that is just plain fun to watch. For an adorable and knee-slapping good-time, check out Big City Greens.
17 BIG HERO 6
This is the only technicality on our list, since the first few episodes of Big Hero 6 aired as a TV movie in late 2017, but the series had its official premier in 2018, so we're going to count it. As for how great the series is, well, it is one of the best animated-movie-follow-ups that Disney has put out.
Though the animation of Big Hero 6: The Series, has its ups and downs, the story and design of the series are absolutely fantastic, depicting the team as they learn to be heroes and protect San Fransokyo
16 STAR WARS RESISTANCE
Star Wars is almost always a guaranteed hit, but Disney clearly put a lot of care and talent into the franchise's latest animated series, Star Wars: Resistance. Taking place before The Force Awakens, the series follows a piloted recruited into the resistance as the first order rises to power.
The series is set to crossover with the current set of Star Wars films, but it sets up its own narrative to keep it fresh and exciting, sporting a fantastic animation and design style to complete the package of an awesome entry in the franchise.
15 DRAGON PILOT
Next up we have a Netflix original anime by the name of Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan, an adorable, delightful and sometimes rather gross series that follows Hisone, a woman chosen to pilot a dragon disguised as a jet fighter.
The premise as is as adorable and fun as it sounds, and with a very cute animation style, it's hard not to love this series. But, Dragon Pilot isn't just fluff, it tackles some harsh themes as the beautiful and delightful story unfolds, making for a must-watch series.
14 DEVILMAN CRYBABY
Next up we have an anime series that took Netflix by storm at the beginning of 2018, Devilman Crybaby. This series, which is, on every level, astoundingly smoothly animated, was a modern adaptation of the Devilman manga series created by Go Nagai.
The series was an immediate hit, and though its content is mature in every sense of the word, there is a lot of cool themes and ideas going on throughout the story, which unfolds into a chaotic, but beautiful tale of good versus evil.
13 FLCL PROGRESSIVE & ALTERNATIVE
FLCL was an anime that found a massive audience in America, which is why Adult Swim ended up producing two more miniseries following the original with the help of the original creator, and those follow-up series, Progressive and Alternative were some of the best cartoons of 2018.
It's hard to explain what these shows, as well as the original series, are about, but they end up portraying themes of growing up, depression and teenage feelings, all of which are accompanied by the sounds of Japanese band, The Pillows.
Netflix's Hilda is an animated series based on the graphic novel of the same name created by Luke Pearson. The series follows the titular character as she moves to the big city and discovers all the magical secrets within it, making for a fantastic series that is delightful and adorable in every way.
Aside from the beautiful story, the thing that makes Hilda stand out amongst other Netflix animated series is its fantastic art direction, which perfectly captures the feel of the original comic and is breathtaking in every way.
11 RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET
The world and logic of Wreck-It-Ralph doesn't entirely make sense, and the additional confusion of the sequel only made things weirder and harder to grasp. Despite all that, Ralph Breaks the Internet was a fantastic animated film that deserves all the praise it has gotten.
If you sit back and enjoy the ride of the animated film, then it is an absolute delight, playing around and having fun with internet humor in a way that doesn't immediately feel dated, bringing some amazing visuals into the mix to make for one of the best animated films of the year.
10 THE DRAGON PRINCE
The Dragon Prince had buzz surrounding it before it even came out, some were wary of the stepped CGI animation, but most were excited for a series create by one of the writers of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
There's a lot to love about The Dragon Prince: it's unique fantasy world, it's characters and their relationships with each other, the designs and the voice acting are all part of what make it great, the amazing story pulling it all together to make for an epic tale that we can't wait to see the next season of.
9 TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES
Though Teen Titans Go! still has its haters, the show is a fantastic comedic take on the characters, and its feature film was a fantastic culmination of all the silly elements that make the series so fun and enjoyable.
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is easily one of the year's best animated releases, both because it was hilarious and because it toned down some of the show's more ridiculous elements to make for a more accessible version for its big screen debut. Plus, it was also a musical, which just made it all the more fun to watch.
8 RISE OF THE TMNT
When Rise of the TMNT was first announced, it fell victim to the reboot naysayers, but the haters couldn't be more wrong, since the Turtles have never looked better. Rise of the TMNT shakes things up in a lot of ways, which is where the initial hate came from, but the resulting changes have given the franchise a much-needed fresh take.
On top of having a unique version of the Turtles—where Raph is the leader and each of the Turtles' designs and personalities are more diverse—the show is also beautifully animated, incorporating an action-packed style with fantastic coloring and design.
7 CRAIG OF THE CREEK
One of this years greatest new animated series is also perhaps one of the least well-known, Cartoon Network's Craig of the Creek. Created by Steven Universe alums, Matt Burnett and Ben Levin, the series follows Craig, who goes on adventures with his friends in the local creek.
What makes Craig of the Creek so great—aside from being scored by Jeff Rosenstock and featuring musical guests like Deltron 3030 and Bad Moves—is that it truly brings you back to a time of imagination and childhood exploration, coming across like a grounded version of Codename Kids Next Door that is absolutely delightful.
6 SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power was another reboot that got hate before it was even released, but the haters' complaints had no merit whatsoever, since the Netflix original series is brilliant in every single way, rebooting the original wonderfully.
On top of redefining what a princess is—from a damsel to a person ready and able to fight for a purpose—She-Ra succeeds in story, animation and bringing a lot of diversity in various forms, both with the characters and the cast behind them. Without a doubt, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power stands as one of 2018's best cartoons.
5 MEGALO BOX
Bringing up the top 5, we have an anime series known as Megalo Box, which served as an anniversary tribute/reboot of the classic anime Champion Joe. This version of the anime brought cybernetic enhancements known as "gear" into the boxing narrative, depicting the main character as the one boxer who fights without gear.
"Gearless Joe," as he becomes known as, fights his way to the top of the Megalo Box championship in a fantastic underdog story that both pays tribute to the source material and creates an anime series that is a fantastic watch for even non-anime fans.
4 INCREDIBLES 2
For years, fans of the first Incredibles wanted, nay, demanded a sequel to the animated film, and this year, they got it. The Incredibles 2 was everything fans wanted and more, continuing the story of the Parr family as they fight to save the world and to make superheroes legal again.
The film is both a visual step up from the original and a great follow up that flips the script and focus onto Elastigirl. With a cool villain, some strong twists and brilliantly animated action, The Incredibles 2 is both a great superhero movie and an incredible animated film.
3 MY HERO ACADEMIA: TWO HEROES
Though we might upset a few Disney/Pixar fans with this ranking, we gotta give My Hero Academia's first feature film, Two Heroes a higher ranking than The Incredibles 2. Though both have a lot going for them, My Hero Academia wins in our hearts.
Two Heroes follows some of the series' main character as they visit a tech expo for superpower-related inventions, which quickly escalates as villains show up to take people hostage and steal a power-enhancing device. This story, combined with brilliant visuals and a peak into All-Might's past are what made the film one of 2018's best cartoons.
2 DRAGON BALL SUPER: BROLY
Even better than My Hero Academia: Two Heroes is another anime franchise' feature film, Dragon Ball Super: Broly, which has been described as both the best Dragon Ball movie of all time and one of the best anime movies overall. Though the film has yet to have a wide release, those who have seen it have given it nonstop praise.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly reboots a fan-favorite character, reimagining elements of Broly as well as elements of the history of the Saiyans, which, combined with the film's breathtaking animation, led it to become one of 2018's best animated features.
1 SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Our number one pick for the best cartoon of 2018 is, without a doubt, Sony and Marvel's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Don't act like you didn't see this coming! The film has received boundless praise since it was first announced, and it definitely lived up to the hype.
On top of having a deep, beautiful story that combines universe crossovers with the origin of Miles Morales, the film has received the most praise for its experimental CGI style that feels like a comic book come to life, which is perfect for the characters and helped make it 2018's best animated film.