The ’90s may be credited as the decade where animation really took off but, let’s be serious. The ’80s walked very fast so the’ 90s could run. From He-Man to Ducktales to Inspector Gadget, to the Smurfs and GI Joe, this was a big era for all of us. It was the decade where studios first began to realize that animation could be treated as more than just an afterthought and several foundational shows helped pave the way for the cartoon explosion in the ’90s.
Here are 15 of the best and most beloved cartoons of the ’80s that you can watch online right now.
Inspector Gadget is a cyborg police inspector who travels all-around the world to thwart the misdeeds of the criminal organization MAD and its mysterious leader, Dr. Claw. To help him save the day, Gadget is equipped with a bunch of awesome tools that even James Bond would be jealous of.
Inspector Gadget is streaming on Paramount +.
After joining the Navy, Donald Duck leaves his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie with his incredibly wealthy and extremely Scottish uncle, Scrooge McDuck. At first, Scrooge is annoyed at the prospect of having to raise the mischievous trio but over time, he bonds with them and brings them along on his adventures.
DuckTales is streaming on Disney +.
Adventures of the Gummi Bears
Very loosely inspired by the candy, Rubber Bears focuses on a group of anthropomorphized bears that must avoid being spotted by humans, who believe these bears are just a myth. Though largely forgotten today compared to other ’80s cartoons, Rubber Bears was Disney’s first major serialized animated television series and paved the way for Disney to take television more seriously.
Adventures of the Gummi Bears is streaming on Disney +.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
He-Man was originally part of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe toy line that became so popular that the character was given his own TV series that followed his adventures on the fantastical planet of Eternia. The risk paid off, as He-Man became one of the most popular cartoons in the ’80s and the franchise remains beloved to this day.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
When their home planet of Thundera is destroyed, the ThunderCats, a group of humanoid, cat-like aliens, find a new home on Third Earth. As they try to settle into their new life, the group of heroes is under constant attack by the Mutants of Plun-Darr, Thundera’s enemies. Sounds slightly ridiculous? That’s how you know it’s a classic ’80s cartoon.
ThunderCats is streaming on Hulu.
Long before Michael Bay got a hold of them, the Transformers made a name for themselves on the small screen. After centuries of fighting, the Autobots and Decepticons end up crashing on earth and are woken up four million years later by an active volcano. The two groups begin their battle on earth, disguising themselves as cars, planes, and whatever other vehicle you can think of as they fight for the planet.
Transformers is streaming on Tubi.
A secret society of little blue people named The Smurfs ended up becoming one of the biggest hits of the entire decade, as the show lasted nine seasons and made a major impact on the culture at-large. Over 30 years later, the Smurfs are still having (pretty bad) movies made about them but the TV show remains the high point for the characters.
The Smurfs is streaming on HBO Max.
GI Joe: A Real American Hero
Yet another beloved show from this decade that began with a toy line, the idea for the series originated from a series of commercials meant to promote the GI Joe action figures. The commercials were so good that Marvel Productions was given the chance to make an entire series about Duke, Snake Eyes, and the rest of the characters protect us all from Cobra. The rest was history.
GI Joe: A Real American Hero is streaming on Tubi.
If you are not familiar with Voltron, all you really need to know is that there is a giant, sword-wielding robot named, you guessed it, Voltron that defends earth from evil. If that is not an awesome enough concept to get you onboard to watch a few episodes, I do not what will convince you.
Voltron is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Garfield and Friends
Based on the popular comic, Garfield is a lazy, lasagna-loving, Monday-hating cat that spends most of his days sarcastically mocking his hapless owner Jon and his annoyingly chipper best friend Odie. The show also features a mini series about a group of farm animals called US Acreswhich was based on another comic series by Garfield creator Jim Davis.
Garfield and Friends is streaming on Peacock.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers
Sometimes, a crime is too small for police detectives to solve and that is when the Rescue Rangers jump on the case. Chip and Dale help animals of all kinds find justice and often face-off against Fat Cat, a mobster tabby cat, and Norton Nimnul, a mad scientist. The show also has a pretty dope theme song that will be stuck in your head for days.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is streaming on Disney +.
Jem and the Holograms
Hannah Montana owes a great deal of gratitude to Jem, as she was pulling off the double life of a normal girl and a rock star back even before Miley’s father Bill Ray was singing about his achey breaky heart. Jerrica Benton, the owner and manager of Starlight Music, is also secretly the lead singer of Jem and the Holograms. She tries to maintain her secret identity as her band tries to make it all the way to the top.
Jem and the Holograms is streaming on Tubi.
Denver: The Last Dinosaur
A group of teens stumble upon an egg and are shocked to discover it is a dinosaur egg and Denver is born. Unlike Jurassic ParkDenver proves that humans and dinos can happily co-exist, as he loves nothing more than rocking out on his electric guitar, shredding on a skateboard, and enjoying some tasty potato chips.
Denver: The Last Dinosaur is streaming on Tubi.
She-Ra: Princess of Power
After the success of He-ManFilmation wanted to create a similar series to appeal to young girls and so, She-Ra was created. The titular Princess of Power leads a group the Great Rebellion as they fight to free Etheria from the tyrannical rule of the Evil Horde. The show remains extremely watchable and even spawned a totally awesome reboot.
She-Ra: Princess of Power is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
Spider-Man may be the biggest star on the planet now but back in the ’80s, he was just your friendly neighborhood web-slinger. And in this short-lived animated series, he teamed up with Iceman and Firestar to fight crime in New York City while their real-life alter egos attended college.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends is streaming on Disney +.