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You may not be in high school, college, or figuring out your early 20s anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the awkward, thrilling, memories of those times. Coming of age is a universal experience, which is why there’s a young adult movie for every genre to remind us of those bittersweet days of trying to find ourselves (or coach you through the them if you are currently in the labrynth) — and Netflix is a great place to watch them. In addition to an amazing selection of teen-centric TV shows, Netflix also has a fairly decent (and constantly growing) YA film selection. From sweet rom-coms and soapy thrillers to dance movies — yes, really — the service has them all. So if you’re looking for a great YA film to watch, here’s what we think is worth the investment of your chill time.
Feel the Beat (2020)
The Descendants’ alum Sofia Carson leads this charming dance drama about a driven, aspiring Broadway dancer who must rely on the talent at her small hometown dance studio to give her a second chance at greatness after her disastrous run-in with one of the most powerful casting producers in all of New York. The humbling trip back home forces April to reassess what is really important to her as the young, clumsy-but-loyal dancers teach her what made her fall in love with the art in the first place.
Set It Up (2018)
If you’re a millennial with an internet connection, at least one of your friends has told you how great Set It Up is. Believe the hype. Glen Powell and Zoey Deutch have effortless chemistry as two over-worked assistants who decide to team up to play Cupuid for their respective bosses in the hope that a romantic connection will allow them to have lives of their own, outside of work. The banter is quippy and the movie hits all of the desired rom-com traditions without falling into tropes or predictability. It is fun, funny and smart. We really don’t think it’s hyperbole at all to call it a modern When Harry Met Sally. Do yourself a favor and enjoy this now.
The Half of It (2020)
With a premise similar to Cyrano de Bergerac, Netflix’s The Half of It is a delightful and modern coming-of-age film with a queer twist. Written and directed by Alice Wu, the film stars Leah Lewis as Ellie, a closeted Chinese-American teen who is approached by a classmate, Paul (Daniel Diemer), to pose as him and send love letters to his crush, Aster (Alexxis Lemire). Unbeknownst to Paul, Ellie also has a crush on Aster… and you can probably see how things quickly end up a bit messy. Luckily, the film is anything but.
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Alex Strangelove (2018)
Heads up: Stock up on tissues before you watch this one. Alex Strangelove stars relative new comer Daniel Doheny as the adorable Alex Truelove, who only wants to find his person but is struggling inside the dark closet of his sexuality. It’s the Netflix version of Love, Simon and is equally compelling, heartbreaking and good for the soul.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018) / P.S. I Still Love You (2020)
It’s been a hot minute since we’ve had quality teen movies like the classics we enjoyed in the ’90s and early ’00s. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on Jenny Han’s endearing young adult novel, is bringing the high school romance comedy back in a huge way. Lana Condor leads the way as Lara Jean, a high school junior who falls into her first real relationship after the letters she wrote to her five previous crushes are sent out. It captures all the awkward pitfalls of high school romance with just enough surrealism to make this a fantastic escape movie.
When you’ve finished the first movie, you can move right on to the sequel, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, which adds Jordan Fisher’s John Ambrose McClaren into the mix and puts Lara Jean in a heart-twisting love triangle.
The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
Everyone knows what it’s like to be a teen and feel like no one understands you, and that sentiment is at the heart of the coming-of-age film The Edge of Seventeen, which stars Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine, a 17-year-old who has contentious relationships with both her older, more successful brother (Blake Jenner) and her single mother (Kyra Sedgwick) in the wake of her father’s death. When Nadine’s best and only friend, Krista (Haley Richardson), begins dating her brother, it sends Nadine spiraling even more, until the only person she feels she can confide in is her teacher (Woody Harrelson). A great story about family and friendship, The Edge of Seventeen is also highly relatable.
The Spectacular Now (2013)
Before Shailene Woodley was telling Big Little Lies, she and Miles Teller were spinning an epic YA love story in The Spectacular Now. It’s a coming-of-age drama that sees two seemingly opposite personality types fall in love and see each other through turbulent family drama and the pressures of leaving high school. Can they unpack their own baggage in time to make their love last? It’s a poignant movie that goes a lot deeper than expected.
See You Yesterday (2019)
Spike Lee produced this sci-fi YA adventure. Two young geniuses are on the brink of solving time travel, but when tragedy strikes, they have a limited amount of time to set things right. Don’t miss an incredible cameo by Michael J. Fox, who pays homage to Back to the Future.
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Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) has never skipped arm day at the gym, and it pays off in Netflix’s travel comedy Ibiza. If you’re looking for pretty people to get into your eyeballs, Ibiza is a colorful adventure you should dig into. Madden plays the ridiculously hot Scottish DJ Leo West, who steals the heart of the ambitious Harper (Gillian Jacobs), who finds herself putting it all on the line for romance during a work trip to Spain. Dope Queen Phoebe Robinson and SNL’s Vanessa Bayer round out the cast as her two best friends and add some hysterical laughs into the mix.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
We are throwing it back to a classic! This John Hughes iconic film is the ultimate movie to watch when you feel like you’re playing hooky and you know the parade scene is bound to help shake off some of the cabin fever you may be experiencing. And if you’re young enough to have no idea what I’m talking about, add this movie to the top of the queue, because it’s a must-watch for everyone.
Step Sisters (2018)
Step Sisters could have easily been a Bring It On rip-off, but the college-centered romp about Jamilah (Megalyn Echikunwoke), a down and out black sorority sister forced to teach a group of uncoordinated white girls how to step in order to get a recommendation to Harvard Law School, is actually a self-aware, empowering good time. The movie even cast woke bae Matt McGorry as Jamilah’s desperately-trying-to-be-down boyfriend. The movie has all of the great performance sequences of classics like the aforementioned Bring It On and Step Up, but also tackles issues like nepotism and cultural appropriation with grace and honesty.
You Get Me (2017)
Sometimes movies are so insane that they loop back around to being good. Enter You Get Me, or what we’ve affectionately named “Bella Thorne Swimfan” around the TV Guide office. You know what, let’s just leave you with that description because it’s all you need to want to give movie this a chance.
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Dance Academy: The Comeback (2017)
This movie will make a lot more sense if you binge every episode of the preceding Australian dance drama on Amazon (or for free on Tubi, Pluto TV, or Vudu), which is also a great way to deal with empty hours at home. The movie sees Tara (Xenia Goodwin) get back into her pointe shoes and reclaim the dance career she thought she lost due to a back injury. She encounters old friends and familiar faces along her journey to find her true path to success.
Stop searching, start watching! TV Guide’s Watch This Now! page has even more TV recommendations.