Coming-of-age stories never get old.
Never Have I Ever
This quirky comedy-drama from the minds of Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher is a fun and heartfelt ride. It stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, a 15-year-old who yearns to be cooler and more popular — and to makeout with her school’s resident hottie Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet). It’s standard coming-of-age fare done well, but it’s also elevated by a moving and real exploration of grief, as Devi and her family deal with the loss of her father in their own ways.
Dash & Lily
Based on the book Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, Dash & Lily is a warm and cozy New York fairytale, about two teens (Austin Abrams and Midori Francis as the titular characters) who have never met, but who exchange a notebook full of challenges to each other. Set over the holidays, it’s the perfect romantic escape.
Julie and the Phantoms
Produced by High School Musical’s Kenny Ortega and based on a Brazilian series, Julie and the Phantoms is a musical comedy-drama that is full of heart. Madison Reyes plays Julie, a young girl who has lost her passion for music since the death of her mom. When a trio of ghost musicians (Charlie Gillespie, Owen Patrick Joyner, and Jeremy Shada) start haunting her, she begins to deal with her grief and unlock her potential once again. It’s cheesy in the best possible way, with memorable songs to boot.
Based on a manga by Shiki Kawabata, Switched is about a depressed girl called Umine (Miu Tomita) who switches bodies with popular girl Ayumi (Kaya Kiyohara). Exploring themes of body image, mental health, social isolation, friendship, and first love, it’s a tender and at times heart-wrenching story full of lots of twists and turns.
The End of the F***ing World
The premise might seem off-putting at first — about a roadtrip between a troubled girl (Jessica Barden) and a self-proclaimed psychopath (Alex Lawther) who is determined to kill her — but this is actually an incredibly beautiful tale of love and grief and healing. Really! It’s also wickedly funny and fun, gorgeous to look at, with performances that will take your breath away.
One of the most iconic teen shows of all time, Dawson’s Creek is finally available to stream in full on Netflix — and there’s never been a better time to take a trip to Capeside, and the ’90s. Some elements haven’t aged well, but it’s hard to resist the pull of all those angsty teen emotions and intense romantic entanglements. Joshua Jackson as Pacey and Michelle Williams as Jen are particular standout performances.
Manuel Fernandez-Valdes / Netflix
This Spanish drama is set in an exclusive private school, telling the story of three working-class kids who enter on scholarships and clash with the rest of the wealthy student population. It’s got all the juicy drama you’d expect from a teen show with such a premise — and, bonus, there’s a murder mystery too!
Another classic finally on Netflix! Brandy stars as Moesha, a teen girl living in LA. It’s a fun coming-of-age sitcom, and while it’s funny and light, it also never shies away from serious issues, covering topics such as racism, sexuality, mental health, and teen pregnancy.
An action-adventure series that calls back to the coming-of-age movies of the ’80s while still feeling very modern, Outer Banks is about a group of friends in North Carolina who find hidden treasure and get caught up in a mystery bigger than they could have anticipated. It’s an enjoyable ride that’s also very pretty to look at.
An Australian icon, Heartbreak High is now available globally on Netflix for the first time. Across 210 episodes, seven seasons, and multiple “generations”, Heartbreak High tackles just about every coming-of-age topic imaginable, with characters you can’t help but love (and love to hate). Think Degrassi, but with a very distinct Australian flavor. Netflix has just announced a reboot is in the works, so it’s a good time to catch the original before it drops.
Derry Girls is not just one of the best teen shows in recent years, it’s one of the best shows in general. Set in Northern Ireland in the 1990s, it tells the story of four girls and one boy who are experiencing all the highs and lows of teen life against the backdrop of the Troubles. It’s about resilience and normalcy in abnormal times, which is more relevant than ever — but most importantly of all, it’s just really freaking funny, with stunning comedic writing and performances.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
While Chilling Adventures of Sabrina might be coming to an end with Part 4, it’s been one hell of a ride. It’s a a spin-off of Riverdale, but arguably much stronger and less ridiculous (although still pretty ridiculous — it is about a teen witch whose father is the devil, after all). The highlights are the distinct visual style and clear relish the cast have for their roles — especially Miranda Otto as Zelda and Michelle Gomez as Madam Satan.
Another show with a very unique aesthetic that sets it apart from others, Sex Education is, as the name implies, much sexier than most teen shows, following Otis (Asa Butterfield) as he sets up his own sex therapy clinic at school. Crucially, Sex Education steers away from being titillating or exploitative, instead exploring the complicated, messy world of sex and sexuality in a way that is accessible, inclusive, and empathetic. Also, it has Gillian Anderson.
Reign is so, so silly, and that’s all part of the fun. While it’s about Mary Queen of Scots, here played by Adelaide Kane, it’s not particularly concerned with historical accuracy — one glance at the costumes, which turn every episode into a Gossip Girl prom, makes that clear. It’s melodramatic and absurd, and all the more delicious for those qualities. Worth watching for Megan Follows’ portrayal of Catherine de Medici alone.
The ’80s and ’90s had a lot of “twins separated at birth and accidentally finding each other” plots, but this was one of the best. Tia and Tamera Mowry, as the twins in question, are charismatic and joyful together, and the fourth wall-breaking that was common in ’90s teen shows is used to great effect.
While there’s been some great contemporary teen shows in recent years, it’s always exciting to find a new supernatural show to sink into. Warrior Nun, based on comics by Ben Dunn, is about an orphan who accidentally becomes imbued with superpowers that enable her to see and fight demons. Who knew watching nuns kick butt could be so satisfying?
On My Block
John O Flexor/Netflix
Possibly one of the most underrated shows on Netflix, On My Block is a comedy-drama about a group of friends in Los Angeles growing up and entering high school. It’s much more diverse than your average teen show, and with three seasons already out and a fourth reportedly in the works, now is a good time to binge it if you haven’t already.
What teen shows are you loving on Netflix? Let us know in the comments!
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