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Being a teenager is a drag. These movies aren’t.
How do you remember your high school experience? If you grimace when you think back to your tragic wardrobe choices and unrequited teen love, rest assured you’re not alone. Thankfully, you don’t have to go back to your adolescence to enjoy teen movies. Whether comedy, drama, or bizarro thriller, the best teen movies find the humor and humanity within our universally awkward adolescent experiences, allowing us to sympathize and root for characters without having to relive their trauma ourselves. So slide into your favorite pair of old overalls, fish your retainer out of the junk drawer, and check out the best teen movies on Netflix.
The best teen movies on Netflix
This isn’t a rom-com in the traditional sense, thanks to the line “fuck me gently with a chainsaw,” among other things. But the relationship between Winona Ryder’s and Christian Slater’s characters is one of the more complex to emerge from the ’80s high school genre. Veronica (Ryder), one of the four popular “Heathers,” finds a mirror in JD (Slater), an outcast who inadvertently hatches a plan that kills one of the other Heathers. Their relationship doesn’t have a meet-cute; it’s more about how love (or lust) blinds you. —Audra Schroeder
2) A Cinderella Story
Hilary Duff, the “it” girl of the early 2000s, stars in a then-modern spinoff of Disney’s animated classic with Chad Michael Murray. The plot follows a high school girl who falls in love with an anonymous person over email and text messages, only to discover they may be one of the most popular guys in her school. You can probably guess how the story unfolds if you’re even the slightest fan of Disney movies, but it’s one of the best teen movies on Netflix all the same. —Kristen Hubby
This Netflix rom-com follows the titular Sierra Burgess (Stranger Things’ Shannon Purser), a smart and awkward teenage girl who balances confidence and insecurity, often at the same time. Veronica (Kristine Froseth), a cheerleader and one of Sierra’s tormentors, gives Sierra’s phone number to sensitive jock Jamey (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before‘s Noah Centineo) so she doesn’t have to give him her number. By the time she learns who she’s supposed to be, Sierra’s already fallen for Jamey. She recruits Veronica to help her keep up the façade in exchange for tutoring Veronica so that she can catch the eye of a college boy who rejected her. While Sierra Burgess can’t quite shake its slightly creepy premise, it offers a sweet and unlikely friendship between two girls from completely different social circles. —Michelle Jaworski
4) To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before tells the story of Lara Jean Covey (Land Condor), a Korean-American high-schooler whose world is turned upside down when the private letters she wrote to her secret crushes end up getting mailed. One of the recipients is Josh (Israel Broussard), her childhood best friend and older sister’s ex-boyfriend; another is Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), who is struggling to get over his own breakup from his ex-girlfriend, Gen (Emilija Baranac). Lara Jean and Peter agree to fake a relationship so she can show Josh that she’s moved on and he can make Gen jealous. It all works like a charm, until the feelings start to creep in. To All the Boys is one of the smartest and sweetest original teen movies on Netflix, a quietly progressive film that rightfully made the world fall in love with its two leads. —Bryan Rolli
5) Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
During Michael Cera’s glorious mid-aughts run of comedies, he starred alongside Kat Dennings in this infinitely charming and funny rom-com. Nick and Norah, strangers at the start of the movie, turn their meet-cute into an all-night chase around New York to catch a secret show by the elusive band Where’s Fluffy. The movie is plenty funny, but it’s the relationship between Nick and Norah that elevates the movie above most of its peers. —Eddie Strait
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There’s not a lot to say about Boyhood that hasn’t already been said. It’s a masterpiece, an experience unlike any other, and one of the best movies of the century so far. Champion of the understated, director Richard Linklater casually follows the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from childhood to college, checking in with his actors as they aged over a 12-year shooting process. In the Linklater way, eschewing grand, life-changing moments in favor of the everyday business of just living, the film becomes extraordinary in its ordinariness. This is one person’s story, and the narrative never focuses on anything other than that person becoming himself—which is, of course, both one of the most ordinary and the most beautiful things anyone can ever achieve. To say that Boyhood works only as an experiment would be shortsighted. It works as a complete and profound work of art on its own, too. —Chris Osterndorf
7) Blue Is the Warmest Color
This French film could easily be the most powerful and honest love story of this generation. A French teen (Adèle Exarchopoulos) who’s trying to force herself to love men has her life changed when she meets a girl (Léa Seydoux) with blue hair at a lesbian bar. Blue Is the Warmest Color illustrates the trials and tribulations of not only young love, but the exploration and understanding of sexuality. Be advised that this movie is rated R for a reason (it’s pretty sexually explicit), but its beauty will stick with you long after watching. —K.H.
8) Wet Hot American Summer
Netflix turned this into an original series in 2015, offering a look at the first day at Camp Firewood, but there’s something about the original film that can’t be beaten. It might be because so many of its stars (Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks) weren’t yet famous in 2001, which gives the film about counselors on the last day of camp in 1981 a special feel. Wet Hot American Summer was pretty much panned by critics when it was released, but more than a decade later, it’s become a cult classic for its tangential, absurdist bits (like when the counselors go into town and get hooked on drugs) and timeless characters (like Christopher Meloni’s Gene, a chef who talks to cans and fondles sweaters). —A.S.
9) The Edge of Seventeen
Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen is one of the strongest filmmaker debuts of the last few years. It’s a coming-of-age story that centers on Hailee Steinfeld’s Nadine, an awkward teen who can’t stop making things more awkward. (Is there any other kind of teen?) Despite Nadine being the lead, the film is really about a family struggling in the aftermath of a tragedy. It doesn’t shy away from showing the uglier sides of the characters, and it never condemns or condones them. The Edge of Seventeen is ultimately about being comfortable enough with yourself to realize that you aren’t the only one with problems. —E.S.
10) The Spectacular Now
Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is the king of his high school, and he’s committed to partying his way through the rest of senior year. That is until his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) dumps him for their class president. Sutter goes on a bender and wakes up in the front yard of his classmate Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley), whose name he doesn’t even know. The two come from opposite worlds, but that doesn’t stop them from falling hard for each other. True to its title, The Spectacular Now is a candid, heartfelt movie about abandoning your reservations and choosing to love your life in the moment, because that’s all you’ve got. —B.R.
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11) To the Bone
To The Bone tells the story of 20-year-old Ellen (Lilly Collins) whose teenage struggle with eating disorders has followed her into adulthood. After she reaches a breaking point, her family sends her away to a group recovery home alongside a band of other teens pushing their bodies to the limits. These teens bond with the home’s non-traditional doctor (Keanu Reeves), who forces Ellen to confront her anorexia like she never has before. It’s not an easy watch by any means, but it’s one of the most powerful teen movies on Netflix and a solid pick if you’re looking for a good cry. —K.H.
12) Alex Strangelove
Alex Strangelove is an earnest, albeit sometimes cringeworthy, coming-of-age story about Alex Truelove, who nervously plans to lose his virginity to his girlfriend Claire until he meets a handsome gay guy named Elliot at a party. Set in a modern high school where more and more of his peers identify as gay, bisexual, and genderqueer, Alex grapples with the reality that he might not be straight in this sincere and realistic story based on director Craig Johnson’s own coming-out experience. —Tess Cagle
The story of four friends attempting to navigate their changing lives in the weeks leading up to high school graduation, Dude has essentially been billed as a stoner comedy, with Netflix dropping it intentionally on 4/20. While the movie features a lot of pot-smoking, it has a lot more going on as well. If anything, Dude is a coming-of-age dramedy, containing funny moments and a few very serious ones. In other words, a female Superbad this ain’t. —C.O.
14) The Perfect Date
Fresh off his Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award, burgeoning star Noah Centineo is back with his third Netflix movie in less than a year, The Perfect Date. He stole your hearts as Peter Kavinsky in last year’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and he’s out to do it again. As a star vehicle for Centineo, The Perfect Date is fine. But the movie is at its best when he takes a step back to let the other actors shine. Similar to its lead character, The Perfect Date is a sporadically entertaining movie that gets by on goodwill more than anything else. —E.S.
15) Spring Breakers
Harmony Korine’s infamous crime drama about a group of four college girls who rob a restaurant to fund a debauched spring break trip doesn’t quite fit the same mold as the rest of these teen movies on Netflix. Instead, it deconstructs all the “teen/spring break movie” genre conventions in a way that’s simultaneously ghastly and hilarious. Starring former Disney icons like Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, Spring Breakers can’t figure out if it wants to be a serious movie or a trashy exploitation thriller. So it opts to be all of them, packed full of nudity, sex, and even one oddly hot threesome with the grossest James Franco you’ve ever seen. —John-Michael Bond
Looking for something more specific? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, anime, indie flicks, true crime, food shows, rom-coms, LGBT movies, alien movies, gangster movies, Westerns, film noir, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, old movies when you need something classic, and standup specials when you really need to laugh. Or check out Flixable, a search engine for Netflix.
Bryan Rolli is a reporter who specializes in streaming entertainment. He writes about music and film for Forbes, Billboard, and the Austin American-Statesman. He met Flavor Flav in two separate Las Vegas bowling alleys and still can’t stop talking about it.