Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and one of its main side effects is making us think some things from our past were better than they actually were, making them hard to let go. Which is fair–the lens we see the world through when we’re younger tends to airbrush the harder edges of the things we love. But some of those things don’t need airbrushing at all. Some stuff was either as good as we remember, or can be appreciated for things we missed when we were younger. We realize shows weren’t just good because of all the great action sequences but because they were made by people who cared about what they were doing and made shows that could last. Here are 10 of those shows that you can revisit yourself or introduce to your kids to make sure they’re up to speed with all the cool shows from the past, that introduced the cool shows they like today.
Batman: The Animated Series
If you’re looking for a kids show from the ’90s that still holds up, you’re not going to do much better than Batman: The Animated Series. The show’s gothic art design with its measured, muted tones, sprawling modernism, and its chilling take on villains like Mr. Freeze and Harley Quinn captured Batman’s mature themes so well that at first glance it’s hard to register the show was intended for children. Revisit if you’re jonesing for some classic, and surprisingly dark, Batman fun.
Watch all 4 seasons on Amazon Prime here.
Shakespeare references, excellent artwork, and smart writing are a few of Gargoyles’ winning ingredients. Instead of relying on a purely episodic narrative, the show trusted that its young viewers would be able to follow a plot that built on itself in an ongoing series that was original and filled with awesome characters with even better names. Case in point, the lead gargoyle was named Goliath.
Gargoyles can be streamed on Amazon for $1.99 an episode or $14.99 a season.
Boy Meets World
The world of the Matthews family from the Disney Channel’s Boy Meets World may have been exaggeratedly innocent, but this feel-good show was really good at what it did; which was make you feel good. Goofball Corey Matthews was the prototypical kid of the ’90s, he was far from being a genius like Doogie Howser and in fact, was remarkably average with no outstanding qualities to speak of, which is what made his problems both relatable and funny because everyone was a little bit of a Corey.
You can watch all 7 seasons of Boy Meets World on Hulu, here.
The siblings Yakko, Wakko, and Dot were fourth-wall-breaking agents of mayhem that ran amuck in the Warner Bros. animated universe. The show’s entire premise is that they are cartoons that are supposed to drive other cartoons crazy, which they excelled at with flying colors. In a time when other shows like Batman: The Animated Series held a self-serious tone, the Animaniacs kept things firmly insane.
You can rewatch your favorite episodes of Animaniacs on Hulu, here.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The fact that there was enough action and monsters to keep things interesting is beside the point. Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s main draw remains its sense of humor and characters. Even though some episodes jumped the shark a bit and relationships between some characters were occasionally hard to buy (Buffy kinda dating vampire Spike still feels forced), you’ll have a hard time not getting pulled back into the world of a valley girl slaying monsters on top of a hellmouth.
All 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, are available on Hulu here.
Daria was MTV’s delightfully deadpan black comedy with a zero bullshit philosophy that serves as a welcomed dose of sanity even today. MTV recently announced the cynical cartoon of the 90s will be getting the reboot treatment, but before then you can check out the show that looked at the world, shrugged its shoulders and said, “meh.”
Pokemon: Indigo League
There have been so many Pokemon movies and tv series, but the one that launched it all was Pokemon: Indigo League. The original first season is comparably low key next to later seasons and movies, but there are a few tearjerker episodes here worth revisiting, specifically one with an episode involving Ash, Pikachu, and a flock of Spearow.
You can watch the first season of Pokemon on Netflix here.
Dragon Ball Z
Episode long build-ups to fights aside, Dragon Ball Z was the most amped 90s kids show there was. Hundreds of episodes long, Dragon Ball Z felt truly mythic in scale as detailed and fleshed out as you’d expect from a manga-inspired anime. You can watch either from beginning to end or revisit specific chapters of the show, like the Cell and Android sagas. Either way, you’re in for a good time.
You can catch Dragon Ball Z on Funimation here.
The Nickelodeon show about a 6th-grade boy who liked to journal a lot and hang out with his two best friends Skeeter and Patti had a surprising amount of emotional realism. Despite the surreal way all the characters in his world were drawn (having blue or green skin wasn’t really a big deal or a sign of disease) the problems Doug Funnie faced were very grounded. In each episode he wasn’t saving the world — unlike his imaginary alter-ego, Quailman — he was trying to make it through middle school.
You can watch Doug on Hulu, here.
Before American Horror Story there was Goosebumps, the anthology horror series for kids who were chasing the scares. Watching now, however, the show is more funny than scary but that’s why it’s worth the rewatch. It’s also good for kids who are interested in horror movies but aren’t really ready for some of the far scarier things available now.
Watch Goosebumps on Netflix, here.