The Best Coming-of-Age Shows on Netflix Right Now – Collider

Those were the days…
There could never be the argument that the world is in short supply of teen dramas. From Clueless to Juno there’s been a huge variety of the teenage perspective over the last thirty years, filled with angst and rebellion. But while some are unquestionably better than others, there can be no denying that each one serves its purpose in reaching out to those awkward teens and reassuring them that yes, we’ve all been there. However, despite what once may have been a novelty or a passing attempt at being cool, you may have noticed a far more progressive understanding of what young adults are facing. From sex, drugs, personal identity, and mental health, shows today have become increasingly better at acknowledging and addressing the taboos of being a young adult. Netflix currently has a diverse range of thought-provoking and relatable shows, all capturing a different tone and topic. Whether they are made to make us laugh, spark a conversation, or provide some feeling of respite, here are the best shows to watch right now that can do just that.
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Seasons: 1
Episode Count: 8
Average Run Time: 25 minutes
Creator/s: Alice Oseman
Cast: Kit Connor, Joe Locke, Yasmin Finney, William Gao, Corinna Brown, Kizzy Edgell
If you’ve ever had one of those intense, fiery, world-ending crushes, then this show is worth a look. Originally based on the graphic novel by Alice Oseman, Heartstopper centers around Charlie, a high school boy who falls in love with his classmate Nick. The main issue is that he is unsure about Nick’s sexuality, including Nick himself, who seems to struggle with his own identity. The show garnered a lot of praise and outstanding reviews, especially from the LGBT community for its remarkable representation. It has been particularly important for young adults who may feel too afraid to express their truths, providing a safe place for them and future generations to share those discussions that are only just getting started.
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Seasons: 3
Episode Count: 24
Average Run Time: 50 minutes
Creator/s: Laurie Nunn
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey, Connor Swindells, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Alistair Petrie, James Purefoy
The title of this show can be quite deceiving as it isn’t at all what it may suggest. Sex Education is a brilliantly mature and sincere take on the awkward and embarrassing sexual experiences of our teenage years. The premise of the show surrounds a fumbling high school student who sets up an underground therapy clinic for his peers at school. With his Mom being a sex therapist, he is an unwilling expert on the topic, but it’s his knowledge and ability to solve everyone’s sexual problems that inadvertently increase his social status and general popularity. However, it’s while helping others that he realizes that he may have problems of his own, issues probably easily remedied if he would just listen to the advice he gives to others. The show has made some very bold choices on important subject matters we should probably be educated on, proving to be responsible without being too serious, and light-hearted without being too comical.
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Seasons: 3
Episode Count: 19
Average Run Time: 25 minutes
Creator/s: Lisa McGee
Cast: Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell, Dylan Llewellyn
A fantastic comedy written by Lisa McGee, Derry Girls focuses on a group of girls who are trying to navigate their way through life repressed by religion, tradition, and political conflict. Aside from portraying the history that illustrates the cultural unrest in Northern Ireland during the 1990s, it is a sharp-witted and heartfelt commentary on growing up as a normal teenager, along with all of its various drawbacks. McGee has effortlessly made light of the things that are usually quite uncomfortable to discuss, as well as writing an astute observational comedy that we will be watching for many years to come.
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Seasons: 1
Episode Count: 10
Average Run Time: 25 minutes
Creator/s: Ben York Jones and Evan Mujica
Cast: Peyton Kennedy, Jahi Di'Allo, Patch Darragh, Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako, Quinn Liebling
Another one set in the 90s, Everything Sucks! almost comes across as a cheesy teen drama but is more of a parody. There is something astonishing about the way this show pokes fun at teenage culture, finding the humor in the ridiculous and exposing what were once soul-crushing anxieties as a fleeting hiccup. It’s true that all of our problems from our youth would be a mere inconvenience today, especially compared to the more ‘grown-up’ stuff, but this series justly represents those problems as still being relevant. We should all be able to relate to the characters in Everything Sucks! as if their fears were our own because much like them, we all want to be taken seriously.
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Seasons: 1
Episode Count: 7
Average Run Time: 20 minutes
Creator/s: Jonathan Entwistle and Christy Hall
Cast: Sophia Lillis, Sofia Bryant, Wyatt Olef, Kathleen Rose Perkins
If ever there was a more apt statement of adolescence, this would be it. Adapted from the book written by Charles Forsman, I Am Not Okay With This is a show about problematic teen quirks, unrequited love, family complications, and dysfunctional high school life. It also has a surprising but interesting supernatural twist that adds a whole new dimension to a plot that has been done countless times. The frustration and trauma that the protagonist is struggling with are far from a casual concern, and one that manifests itself into an ugly superpower, but her numerous faults and eccentricity do well to support the message that weird is wonderful. If anything, one thing this show does is reassure the idea that although you may not be okay, you eventually will be.
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Seasons: 4
Episode Count: 38
Average Run Time: 35 minutes
Creator/s: Robia Rashid
Cast: Keir Gilchrist, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bridgette Lundy-Paine, Amy Okuda, Michael Rapaport
Robia Rashid created this Netflix series, about a teen boy who is on a mission to get a girlfriend. As well as being engaging and hilariously funny, Atypical brings to the forefront a compelling story about a boy on the autism spectrum. If being a teenager wasn’t hard enough, this show provides an informative but heart-warming view of the added social pressures and constant difficulties that many autistic people face. Such difficulties are not highlighted as abnormal but as regular everyday problems that we can all strive to understand and normalize. Rashid explores what it means to be normal, taking the characters down unexpected paths and having them learn that by gaining their independence they gain clarity of who they are. A lesson that is true for us all.
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Seasons: 2
Episode Count: 20
Average Run Time: 28 minutes
Creator/s: Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher
Cast: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Poorna Jagannathan, Darren Barnet, Jaren Lewison, Richa Moorjani, John McEnroe
Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher have provided a fresh and honest approach to the life of an Indian-American teenager. Attempting to switch out her routinely boring life for adventure and shake up her social status, Devi is forced to confront several issues she has kept on the back burner. She rebels against the protest of her friends and family, in the hope to improve her life, chasing excitement above all else. Devi surely won’t be the first or last to make poor judgment calls and silly mistakes, but if one thing’s certain there is nothing about teenage trials and tribulations that could ever be considered smooth sailing. There's a reason why they call it a dark comedy, as this chaotic but charming series, will either have you doubled over in laughter or moved to tears.
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Seasons: 1
Episode Count: 11
Average Run Time: 60 minutes
Creator/s: Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Adly Guirgis
Cast: Justice Smith, Shameik Moore, Herizen F. Guardiola, Skylan Brooks, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jimmy Smits
Brilliantly crafted by Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Adly Guirgis, The Get Down is based on the emergence of hip hop in the South Bronx during the late 70s. Hip-hop pioneers like Nas and Grandmaster Flash were also involved in the project, lending their musical and cultural expertise to the show, which helps it stand apart in its authenticity. The story is told from the perspectives of a group of youths, who are determined to integrate themselves into the new genre and become musical artists. The series examines themes of poverty, crime, street violence, and abandonment, creating a startling picture of life and culture in New York at the time. The teens must learn to overcome many obstacles to achieve their dreams but remain ever hopeful and steadfast, refusing to give up on their aspirations. It is an inspiring story that will take you on an exhilarating ride through the streets of New York, whilst proving that love and friendship can prevail against all.
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Seasons: 1
Episode Count: 10
Average Run Time: 50 minutes
Creator/s: Kathleen Jordan
Cast: Maddie Philips, Anjelica Bette Fellini, Kadeem Hardison, Virginia Williams
When two twin sisters accidentally wreck their father’s truck, they decide to pay for the repairs by bounty hunting. In a career that is highly volatile and intense without the burdens of being a teenager, the girls have to balance school rivalries, boyfriend dramas, and their studies, all without their parent’s knowledge. It’s an offbeat comedy, with cool action sequences and hilarious stereotypes, exposing the teenage psyche as quite the head-scratching mystery that we will never understand.
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Seasons: 1
Episode Count: 9
Average Run Time: 30 minutes
Creator/s: Dan Cross and David Hoge
Cast: Madison Reyes, Charlie Gillespie, Owen Patrick Joyner, Jeremy Shada, Carlos Ponce, Jadah Marie
The show focuses on Julie Molina, a high school student who is trying to come to terms with her mother’s death. Her grief and low self-esteem are evident in her inability to play music, leading to her dismissal from her school’s music program. The show has an unusual paranormal feature, as Julie accidentally summons three boy band members who died in the 90s. They help her regain her confidence and pursue her musical passions. Julie and the Phantoms is a heartwarming tale that reflects the vulnerability and pain associated with loss, but with the reassurance that nothing bad lasts forever. With plenty of funny and compassionate moments to make you smile, this series encapsulates the meaning of inner beauty, validating its presence in people who seem to question if theirs exists.
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Seasons: 1
Episode Count: 6
Average Run Time: 35 minutes
Creator/s: Gazal Dhaliwal
Cast: Prajakta Koli, Rohit Saraf, Rannvijay Singha, Vidya Malvade, Nidhi Singh
Based on Sandhya Menon’s novel When Dimple Met Rishi, this series draws your attention to a couple of young adults who are set up romantically by their families. This show is a relatable but accurate representation of the pressures and expectations that all young girls inevitably face, regardless of their background. It reinforces the universal presumption that as a young woman you should probably get married at some point. Dimple is a bright young woman who is pushed into this narrative by her well-intentioned family, even though she would rather pursue a career. Rishi is a traditional hopeless romantic, who falls in love with Dimple and is determined to marry her. With both of them holding very different views of how their life should turn out, they unexpectedly form a friendship despite these differences. Perhaps the statement opposites attract is indeed true, as the young couple has a very passionate and sweet chemistry that gives the show an uplifting quality. Mismatched is clever, entertaining and a perfect illustration of the classic fairytale ending we all hope for.
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Seasons: 2
Episode Count: 20
Average Run Time: 50 minutes
Creator/s: Josh Pate, Jonas Pate, Shannon Burke
Cast: Chase Stokes, Madelyn Cline, Madison Bailey, Jonathan Daviss, Rudy Pankow, Austin North
Think The Goonies meets West Side Story. Set in a beautiful coastal town in North Carolina, Outer Banks is a compelling drama about John B and his gang of teenage friends. They go on a thrilling hunt for a legendary treasure that will not only increase their status but provide answers to the disappearance of John’s father. The series has themes of social and economical divides, with the rich and poor residents of the town living in segregation, which causes many grudges and conflicts. The two groups are known as the Pogues and Kooks and share a relentless rift that prevents each of them from understanding one another better. Temptation and greed arise to test friendship and loyalty, with each character learning some very valuable lessons. There is a great balance of both emotional and comical moments throughout, which make for an enjoyable and entertaining show.
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Seasons: 4
Episode Count: 40
Average Run Time: 24 minutes
Creator/s: Linda Schuyler, Yan Moore, Stephen Stohn, Sarah Glinski, Matt Huether
Cast: Amanda Arcuri, Jamie Bloch, Amir Bageria, Sarah Waisglass, Chelsea Clark, Dante Scott, Lyle Lettau, Ricardo Hoyos
This show is a follow-up to the previous series Degrassi: The Next Generation and the fifth installment in the Degrassi franchise, originally created in 1979 by Kit Hood and Linda Schuyler. It centers on the lives of multiple high school students, and subject matters that are sometimes considered taboo. From sexual violence, bullying, drug addiction, self-harming, teen pregnancy, racial abuse, and homosexuality, Degrassi has proved instrumental in changing the way people view these challenges, creating a franchise of significant cultural importance. So monumental has been its success that a new revival series has been confirmed to premiere on our screens next year. Degrassi: The Next Class is a terrific show about real people with very real problems, ones that every viewer will relate to.
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Seasons: 4
Episode Count: 38
Average Run Time: 30 minutes
Creator/s: Lauren Iungerich, Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft
Cast: Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco, Jessica Marie Garcia, Julio Macia, Peggy Blow
How do you survive high school? This seems to be a question for the ages and one that this show explores. Centered around a dysfunctional group of friends, they come up against complexities that challenge their friendship, street smarts, and overall sanity. The series must be commended for its excellent diversity and its range of both humor and sincerity. How societal issues seep into the everyday lives of these average teens, has been done realistically without it appearing forced or overdramatized. It is not just another fictional teen drama but a tangible observation of young adults who, when removed of privileges, must learn to handle troubles that are both very scary and daunting.
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Seasons: 3
Episode Count: 27
Average Run Time: 44 minutes
Creator/s: Moira Walley-Beckett
Cast: Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James, Dalila Bela, Lucas Jade Zumann, Aymeric Jett Montaz, R.H.Thomson, Corrine Koslo
Loosely adapted from the iconic novel Anne of Green Gables, this shows details the many adventures and mishaps of a young orphaned teenager. High-spirited, creative, and fiercely stubborn, Anne proves to be quite the distraction in the small town of Avonlea, causing nothing but chaos and mischief. Her imagination and resilience help her to endure the numerous trials that come with being an orphan, which gradually earns her admiration from everyone she meets. Anne With An E is a charming story of a young girl who learns to survive the world on her own, inspiring generations of people and teaching them that their peculiarities should never be taken for granted. This intelligent reimagining of such a classic tale will be one that will never age, making this show a must-see.
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Leah is a freelance writer based in the UK.
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