10 Best Of 80s Saturday Morning Cartoons

Remember waking up early as a kid on Saturday mornings, racing to the television to make certain you didn’t miss your favorite 80s cartoons? What would happen on the drama that was G.I. Joe today? Would He-Man put the smackdown on Skeletor’s whiny butt? Maybe this time Starscream would finally weasel his way in as leader of the Decepticons! Come to think of it, Starscream sure sounded a lot like Cobra Commander. Hmm…And is Strawberry Shortcake strangely hot? Don’t judge me.

It’s time to relive those wondrous days of awe during the decade of excess. So for all of you Gen X’ers out there, zip up your parachute pants, set down the Rubick’s Cube, and throw on some leg warmers (unless you’re a dude). Flip the switch on the flux capacitor and warm up the Delorean because we’re going back in time to revisit the greatest decade of pop culture coolness ever – the 1980s! Radical!

#10 – Thundarr the Barbarian – Lords of Light!

The year 1994: From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic destruction. Man’s civilization is cast in ruin.

Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn.

A strange new world rises from the old: a world of savagery, super science, and sorcery. But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice! With his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his courage, and his fabulous Sunsword against the forces of evil.

He is Thundarr, the Barbarian!”

Ah, Thundarr. You reminded me so much of Conan the Barbarian. Yet it appeared as though you were friends with Luke Skywalker since you had borrowed his lightsaber and were obviously BFF with Chewbacca’s cousin Ookla the Mok. Copyright infringement issues aside, you were still one bad mofo.

I have a fond childhood memory of playing Thundarr with two neighborhood girls from down the street. They were sisters though you couldn’t tell because one was cute and the other not so cute. I pretended to be Thundarr, the cute girl was Ariel and we made the ugly chick be Ookla. True story.

#9 – M.A.S.K. – Mobile Armored Strike Kommand

Enter a world of adventure and deception where illusion is the ultimate weapon. New technology has led to the development of vehicles that can transform from ordinary looking cars and planes into advanced combat vehicles. Hi-tech helmets have also been developed each having a special power. Miles Mayhem and his Viscious Evil Network of Mayhem plan to use this new technology for evil. Join Matt Tracker and the agents of the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand on their quest to stop the V.E.N.O.M.

My little brother was the M.A.S.K. fan in our house. I thought the cartoon and the toys were cool but the action figures felt a bit too small (that’s what she said). I would take the M.A.S.K. vehicles and add them to an all out G.I. Joe/Transformers/Star Wars battle royale! What’s up?!!

#8 – Dungeons & Dragons

D&D was one of the most violent cartoons I remember as a kid. Venger was so badass, but Tiamat was equally all about the badassery and the two did not care much for each other. I mean, Venger had a giant horn on the side of his head yet Tiamat was a dragon with 7 heads. C’mon, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Admittedly, the “Cloudbears” were a deviant mutated breed of the Ewoks. We all knew it. I’m embarrassed to admit this but I loved Uni. *tear* When I got older, it weirded me out to learn that the character of Eric was voiced by none other than Ralph “The Mouth” from Happy Days. Eww. And I always thought Diana was hot. So did Hank, with his little jungle fever havin’ self. Booyah!

#7 – Visionaries – Knights of the Magical Light!

Visionaries featured a very cool mix of swords, scorcery and science, much like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. They wore flippin’ sweet armor that had magic totems which would allow them to transform into their designated creature.

Cryotec was my favorite Spectral Knight, one of the good guys. He had the ability to turn into a giant bear (and to prevent forest fires). As far as the Darkling Lords were concerned, the baddest bad guy of them all was Cravex. He could turn into this crazy pteordactyl-looking bird thing and stomp your face. If I were him, I would have just flown over the good guys and pooped on them. Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when Dukey Airlines is flyin’ over you?!!

Now that I think about it, Cravex sounded exactly like Starscream…who sounded exactly like Cobra Commander…hmm…

#6 – Spiderman & His Amazing Friends – With great power comes great responsibility. And big box office numbers.

At the time Spiderman & His Amazing Friends launched, I had never heard of Iceman (I was just getting into comics and primarily reading DC books). I hadn’t heard of Firestar either. Later I discovered she was created for the show likely to draw in the female audience, but man did she draw me in. (What’s wrong with me?)

The cartoon was fun. Guest stars galore from the Marvel Universe made appearances including Captain America, Iron Man, The X-Men and more. The Godfather of all things comic booky, Stan “The Man” Lee, narrated several episodes. And like I said earlier – Firestar. Wow.

Aunt May was lame and Ms. Lion, the token pet mascot, was full of suck. But alas, it was a children’s cartoon. There were definitely moments of high cheese but it did not detract from the overall kitschy, endearing appeal of Spidey and crew.

As a side note, my nephew was obsessed with Spiderman from age 5 to age 7. I don’t think there is a single picture of him in existence during that timeframe where he wasn’t shooting a pretend web out of his wrist, visible only to him.



#5 – Superfriends – Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog suck.

Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the universe! Here in this great Hall of Justice, are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled! Superman! Batman and Robin! Wonder Woman! Aquaman! And the Wonder Twins Zan and Jayna with their space monkey Gleek! Dedicated to truth, justice and peace for all mankind!”

Not sure why the rest of the Superfriends got the shaft in the cartoon’s opener. They skipped over Green Lantern (my personal fav), Flash, Apache Chief, Samurai (Red Tornado’s retarded brother), and Black Vulcan who had to be Black Lightning’s cousin. Or doppelganger.

Superfriends got me started on comic books, which I still read to this day. Yay, marketing! In fact, Justice League of America is still my favorite comic. These are the classic, iconic characters that truly started it all back in the day.

#4 – Thundercats – Thunder! Thunder! Thundercats! HOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

Thundercats are on the move, Thundercats are loose! Feel the magic, hear the roar, Thundercats are loose! Thunder, thunder, thunder, thundercats! Thunder, thunder, thunder, thundercats! Thunder, thunder, thunder, thundercats! Thunder, thunder, thunder, thundercats! Mumm-ra: ‘RRRrraaaaaaaaa!’ Thundercats!”

I used to sit and wish my cat would mysteriously turn into a Thundercat. Maybe if she was struck by lightning or something? It could happen. Shut up.

It seems one key ingredient for a successful 80s cartoon is an Ewok-knockoff; enter the Berbils. The Berbils were cute little cyborg teddy bears that were peaceful by nature yet assembled with robotic war parts. Wha? Lion-O was great as the leader and had a great, near-Optimus Prime level voice. But the hardcore killa of the group was Panthro.

If you even thought about talkin’ smack to Panthro, he would slap you upside your head with his cat feet nunchuks before you could say meow. How ya like me now? Go home to your momma and explain to her why you gots cat scratch fever up the side of yo face.

If you’ve read this far down through this page, you’ve probably deduced by this point that I have an odd predisposition toward hot female cartoon characters. So who am I to disappoint you? Here’s some fine, fine Cheetarah. BAM!

While you could probably surmise I’m going to pick on Snarf here, I’ll close this one out by informing you that I have a crusty old Snarf doll sitting on my bed as you read this. *Sigh* …I know.

#3 – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe – By the power of Grayskull…I have the power!!!

I am Adam, prince of Eternia, and defender of the secrets of Castle Grayskull. This is Cringer, my fearless friend. Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me, the day I held aloft my magic sword and said, ‘By the Power of Grayskull! I have The Power!’ Cringer became the mighty Battle Cat. And I became He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe! Only three others share this secret; our friends the Sorceress, Man-At-Arms and Orko. Together we defend Castle Grayskull from the evil forces of Skeletor!”

I absolutely loved the 80s He-Man and the 2002 cartoon revival was even better. Beast Man was as badass as they come, but at the end of the day he was still Skeletor’s b*tch. Orko, or as my friends and I referred to him, “Dorko,” was a chump but occasionally helped out by accident as the comic relief sorcerer/court jester. Apparently there were no skilled barbers in Eternia, and the only local hairdresser must have been Dutch. Poor, poor Prince Adam.

Quick note, if you haven’t heard Ludacris’ version of the He-Man theme song, stop, drop, and roll and JFGI right now. You’ll thank me later.

#2 *snicker* – Transformers – More Than Meets the Eye

Transformers, more than meets the eye, Transformers, robots in disguise, Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons!”

Optimus Prime arguably has the coolest voice in any cartoon in the history of EVER. I was thrilled to learn the same voice actor (Peter Cullen) would perform his voice in the Transformers movie as well. On the Decepticon side, Soundwave was like a smooth, pimped out robotic version of Billy Dee Williams (at least in my head) sans the 40 oz of Colt 45.

If Soundwave existed in today’s world I wonder if he would end up committing suicide, given that his technology as a boombox is obsolete. Snap.

#1 – G.I. Joe – Yo Joe!

Yo Joe! He’ll fight for freedom wherever there’s trouble, G.I. Joe is there. It’s G.I. Joe against Cobra the enemy, fighting to save the day. He never gives up, he’s always there, fighting for freedom over land and air!

GI Joe – a real American hero.
GI Joe is there.

GI Joe is the codename for American’s daring, highly trained special mission force. It’s purpose: to defend human freedom against Cobra – a ruthless, terrorist organization determined to rule the world. He never gives up, he’ll stay til the fight’s won. GI Joe will dare.

GI Joe – a real American hero.
GI Joe!”

Ah, G.I. Joe holds a very special place in my heart. I had countless VHS tapes I made of recordings of Joe cartoons all throughout my childhood. Thank God for the internet…and DVDs…and Megan Fox. Anway, G.I. Joe captured my attention like no other. I actually cared about these characters and was really drawn in to their lives. I wanted Snake Eyes to kick Storm Shadow’s tail. What would happen if Quick Kick joined in the fray?

Who would win in an arm wrestling match between Gung Ho and Roadblock? The Joes had distinct personalities and soap opera-esque storylines. You just knew Zartan was going to stick it to Cobra Commander at some point. Assuming Destro didn’t get to him first. And the Baroness – schwing!

The recent 2009 movie aside, G.I. Joe has earned it’s triumphant place at the top of the list as the all time greatest cartoon of the 80s! YO JOE!

80s Cartoons – Honorable Mention

Didn’t quite make top 10 but still great 80s cartoons!

In no particular order:

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Battle of the Planets
  • Voltron
  • Muppet Babies
  • Jem and the Holograms
  • Peanuts (not an exclusively 80s cartoon, but Charlie Brown and Snoopy still make the cut)
  • Rainbow Brite
  • Mr. T
  • Pac-Man
  • Captain Power (technically not a cartoon yet somehow belongs here)
  • Strawberry Shortcake
  • Care Bears
  • Garfield and Friends
  • C.O.P.S. (Central Organization of Police Specialists)
  • Smurfs
  • Gummi Bears
  • Hulk Hogan’s Rock N’ Wrestling
  • The Real Ghostbusters