10 Best Coming-of-Age Shows on Netflix

10 Best Coming-of-Age Shows on Netflix

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After Netflix found surprise success with Sex Education, the seminal teen drama that kickstarted much-needed conversations about gender and sexuality, the streaming platform has been churning out like-minded shows ever since, albeit with varying levels of success. Some, like Heartbreak High and Never Have I Ever, found the sweet spot between replicating charm and maintaining identity, while others went haywire with duplicates and cliches. 

In this list, we dug through the heap and present you with Netflix’s teen drama wins—the best coming-of-age shows you can stream on the service right now. They’re a mix of original shows and licensed titles, each with its own focus and flavor, but they all manage to capture youth in all its bittersweet and heartbreaking glory.

10. Heartbreak High

7.3

Country

Australia

Actors

Asher Yasbincek, Gemma Chua-Tran, Josh Heuston, Rachel House

Moods

Character-driven, Dramatic, Easy

It’s tempting to say that Heartbreak High, with its gloriously unfiltered takes on relationships of all kinds, is just another Sex Education replica, especially since both shows don the same multicolored fashion and Commonwealth accent. But while Heartbreak High isn’t breaking new ground by having kids and adults talk openly about sex and gender, it’s also bold, funny, and insightful in its own right. The characters are well-drawn and the problems are relatable; the show itself is sometimes annoying but also, more importantly, authentic. It’s perfectly imperfect in that contradictory teens can only be.

9. Elite

7.4

Country

Spain

Actors

Álvaro de Juana, Álvaro Rico, André Lamoglia, Aron Piper

Moods

Binge-Worthy

Three kids from a poor neighborhood win scholarships to the best high-school in Spain and later find themselves at the center of a murder. There is a lot that comes to the surface from the working-class kids clashing with the wealthy. Themes of money, power, religion, and even sexuality make this show so compelling that I never felt like I needed a murder to keep watching.

8. Never Have I Ever

7.8

Country

United States of America

Actors

Adam Shapiro, Cocoa Brown, Darren Barnet, Eddie Liu

Moods

Funny

This comedy is about a girl whose family moves to the U.S. on September 2001. She grows up to excel academically but, as she asks from the shrine in her room on her first day of sophomore year, she has yet to be cool. “I want to be invited to a party with hard drugs,” she prays, “not to do them, but just to say: no cocaine for me, thanks. I’m good.”

The show is narrated by tennis legend John McEnroe who was known for his explosive temper (played recently by Shia Laboeuf in Borg vs McEnroe). It’s a genius arc because Devi is a “hothead”, exactly like McEnroe. Instead of recoiling, Devi keeps boiling over, making for a fresh and original high-school comedy.

7. The Get Down

7.8

Country

United States of America

Actors

Eric Bogosian, Giancarlo Esposito, Herizen F. Guardiola, Herizen Guardiola

Watch out for Ezekiel in this show, he will steal your heart. And also please sit through the first episode. Yes, it’s long, but if you get The Get Down, it is one of the best shows on Netflix. Created by Baz Luhrmann and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, it narrates the rise of hip-hop in a broken 1970’s New York. The impressive credentials don’t stop there, as the series is narrated by Nas, features work by four-time Academy Award winner Catherine Martin as well as hip-hop historian Nelson George. It is perhaps for this reason that the word “narration” takes its full meaning here. Every episode, every scene, every character are made with extreme care, resulting in sometimes longer than necessary sequences. A sacrifice that will make some viewers very happy, but which many might have a hard time adjusting to.

6. Teenage Bounty Hunters

7.9

Country

United States of America

Actors

Anjelica Bette Fellini, Kadeem Hardison, Maddie Phillips, Virginia Williams

Moods

Action-packed, Binge-Worthy, Funny

With the deluge of hyper-stylized teen shows everywhere (but especially on Netflix), Teenage Bounty Hunters comes as a refreshing and welcome surprise. Sisters Blair and Sterling, played by Anjelica Bette Fellini and Maddie Phillips respectively, strike the perfect balance between spiky and endearing, creating a chemistry that’s rare to see among TV siblings. There’s friction but also love all around. 

Their interactions alone make the series thoroughly enjoyable, but their coming-of-age hijinks and comedic timing, especially around their reluctant mentor Bowser (Kadeem Hardison), make it an absolute must-watch. If you enjoyed Booksmart but wished it was more action-packed, you’ll surely love this show.  

5. How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)

7.9

Country

Germany

Actors

Bjarne Madel, Damian Hardung, Danilo Kamber, Danilo Kamperidis

Moods

Binge-Worthy, True-story-based

This is Breaking Bad meets The Social Network. Based on a true story that took place in Leipzig, Germany in 2015, this show is about Moritz, a high-schooler who starts Europe’s biggest drug market online. He initially does this to impress his ex-girlfriend, who had just come back from the States with new drug experiences.

The transformation of a nerd into a drug kingpin is fascinating. But because it is based on a true story, there is an important nuance to that transformation. Moritz is rarely portrayed as a hero, and his creepy side is always present. This makes for an interesting and exciting plot-heavy show.  

4. On My Block

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Actors

Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco, Jessica Marie Garcia, Sierra Capri

Moods

Character-driven, Emotional, Funny

TV has never been as diverse as it’s been today, but despite the multitude of perspectives, nailing an authentic and enjoyable story that’s outside the realm of the classic white experience continues to be tricky. How do you relay very real dangers like gang violence and poverty without undermining universal teenage concerns like heartbreak and rejection? 

Enter On My Block, a series that manages to stuff many things on its small plate without compromise. It’s funny and charming, but also smart and serious when it needs to be. Unlike a number of teen sitcoms before it, On My Block is in touch with the real world, and it’s unafraid to shove its characters into difficult situations at every and any moment—not just during special episodes. This authentic setup coupled with its very likable and well-drawn leads is sure to draw in viewers of all leanings.

3. The End of the F***ing World

8.3

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Alex Lawther, Christine Bottomley, Eileen Davies, Gemma Whelan

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Dramatic, Emotional

An amazing binge-worthy show that is a mix between a coming-of-age story, a romance, and a crime thriller. It tells the story of James, a 17-year-old who believes he is a psychopath (for some very convincing reasons). James decides he wants the victim of his first murder to be a new schoolmate, Alyssa.  He befriends her and keeps waiting for the perfect moment to kill Alyssa until he finds himself on a journey with her to escape her home. Somewhere near the middle of the show, and without you fully realizing it, it transforms from an original coming-of-age story or odd-boy-meets-odd-girl story to an intriguing view on adolescent insecurities and the role of parents into shaping them. It transforms from a mysterious, almost charming story to an interesting character study.  This is when the show will blow your mind.  It’s a fresh, smart, funny yet disturbing emotional thrill ride.

 

2. Sex Education

best

8.9

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Aimee Lou Wood, Alistair Petrie, Anne-Marie Duff, Asa Butterfield

Moods

Funny, Slice-of-Life

Pressured by the feeling that everyone is having sex except him, Otis (Asa Butterfield), like most teenagers, is very uncomfortable with sex, masturbation, and intimacy in general. In addition to the standard-issue teenage awkwardness, to make things worse, he grows up in a sex-positive household under the watchful eyes of his mother Jean, played by Gillian Anderson, who is a sex therapist. Obviously, the subject is omnipresent as are erotic art, oversized dildos, and coitus-craving couples all over the house. The twist comes when he transforms his tribulations into a business model by teaming up with bad girl Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) to counsel his teenage peers on sexual issues of all kinds. As you can imagine, uninitiated teenagers have a lot to offer in that department. Apart from its raunchy premise and explicit images, this is a hilarious, diverse, and warm teen comedy thanks, in particular, to the writing of playwright Laurie Nunn. Lauded by critics for its honesty, this future comedy classic will surely teach you a thing or two about sexuality yourself.

1. Derry Girls

best

9.1

Country

Ireland, UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Dylan Llewellyn, Ian McElhinney, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell, Kathy Kiera Clarke

Moods

Easy, Funny

If you’re looking for a funny yet original sitcom, look no further than Derry Girls. 

It takes place in 1990s Northern Ireland where civil unrest reigns. News of bombings is regular. This is a cause for concern for a lot of people, but for one group of teenage girls life continues as usual. Making fun of the first boy at their all girls school and being embarrassed by crushes are unshakable priorities. 

Derry Girls might have been a good show with just the 90s nostalgia and the political undertone, but the sharp and hilarious writing elevate it to greatness. It is truly one of the best sitcoms ever made. If you liked The End of the F***ing World, you will enjoy Derry Girls. They differ in plot but they both carry similar elements of dark and dry humour. 

Watch out for Sister Michael, she is hilarious. 

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