The Best Teen Dramas You Should Binge on Netflix Right Now

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With the prevalence of online streaming platforms today, it's more common to swallow a season whole than to consume it piecemeal. 

Teen dramas lend themselves to this watching style, keeping you up past midnight because of that one cliffhanger that leads into another and another until you can barely keep your eyes open but have to power through to see what happens next. 

"Just one more" is the name of the endless binge-watching game. 

Young Royals Wilhelm and Simon piano (tall)

Here is a binge-worthy blend of Netflix original YA masterpieces and guilty pleasures. It's up to you to decide which is which. Happy streaming! 

1. Young Royals 

Boy meets prince in this standout Swedish drama. 

Due to bad behavior, Prince Wilhelm is shipped off to an elite boarding school.

There, he grapples with the mountain of expectations weighing on him as a royal, as well as the unwanted special attention he receives from his classmates.

Wilhelm standing in the hallway

He finds solace in Simon, a nonboarder and choir star with the sweetest smile you ever did see. 

Few existing teen dramas so delicately weave romance. Wilhelm and Simon's relationship develops slowly, quietly, even as the headline romance of the show. It grows, recedes, grows further, and so on.

Their interactions feel genuine and occasionally self-conscious and awkward. They speak like real teens, rather than spouting immediate declarations of a seasoned love muddied with cliches. 

In a nutshell, Young Royals is a thoughtful exploration of identity, focusing on adolescence and sexuality.

Young Royals Wilhelm and Simon by the water

It is an honest portrayal of teens striving to fit in, please their parents and peers, be desirable, and be perfect, taken up a notch by the necessary doses of partying, tragedy, and scandal. 

If anything, watch for the tremendous sweetness of Wilhelm and Simon smiling at each other. Their chemistry soars through the roof, the stratosphere, up to the stars. 

2. Sex Education

Sex Education is the raunchy British comedy-drama I didn't know I needed -- and you need it, too. 

The gist of it: socially awkward Otis -- cursed at birth to be the son of a sex therapist -- partners with brainy "bad girl" Maeve to start a semi-shady sex therapy clinic for their classmates to make some cash. 

Eric and Otis first day of school

Despite its name, the sex is the least interesting part of the show. I watch for the myriad complex relationships, be they familial, romantic, or platonic. For the conversations about self-love, childhood trauma, coming out, loss, sexual assault, and so on.

No emotional stone is left unturned. (Have tissues handy.)

You're sure to laugh more than you'll cry, so don't be deterred by the likelihood of your heartstrings getting yanked.

Otis' best friend Eric is inarguably the funniest (and most likable) character, but everyone has their moments of comedy gold. 

3. Shadow and Bone

If you haven't read the trilogy by the fantasy queen herself, Leigh Bardugo, do that first. Once you've devoured their hundreds of pages, you'll be ready to give yourself over to the dazzling cinematic version.  

Fantasy-dramas tend to have the highest success rates for wooing me and gluing me to the couch, the rich worlds and creatures enthralling; Bardugo's Grishaverse is no exception.

Let me put it plainly: if you are an avid YA high fantasy fan, start here. 

It would be impossible to concisely explain the whole world and cast of characters as seen in the TV adaptation, but I'll drop a few breadcrumbs to draw you in.

Alina and Mal before the Fold

A cartographer, Alina, discovers she has Sun Summoner powers as she travels with her best friend Mal through the wasteland of oppressive darkness known as the Fold.

She rises in rank (as a Grisha) and is sent to the Little Palace to hone her newfound abilities, thought to be the key to destroying the Fold.

Kaz, Inej, and Jesper, three thieving gems, are hired to kidnap Alina.

They are imports from Six of Crows, the superior Grishaverse book, and are an absolute pleasure to witness.

Kaz and Jesper chat

Shadow and Bone will transport you, wreck you, and leave you desperate for more. 

4. Outer Banks

No doubt you've heard of Outer Banks, as it amassed a huge following after its release.

Four best friends living a mostly unsupervised life in the Outer Banks team up to hunt for a mysterious treasure, featuring the clashing of the classes -- Pogues vs. Kooks. It sounds like a sun-kissed ball, right?

If you're like me, you might've checked it out and given up on it after the opening scene, not convinced it was anything more than a corny teen show.

Outer Banks JJ, Pope, Kiara, and John B together

Give it a second chance! I did and became unreasonably addicted to the til-death-do-us-part friendships, hilarious quips, and explosive drama -- and if we're being honest, JJ.

If you have a hankering for the kind of shows where bad things happen constantly, but in a non-frightening way, Outer Banks should be next on your list.

Bonus if you get a kick out of characters barely getting injured in situations where they undoubtedly would have died.

All that peril wouldn't be effectively thrilling without convincing relationships raising the stakes.

Kiara and John B

The bond between JJ, Pope, John B, and Kiara is ocean deep, which heightens the emotional intensity of action scenes, reeling us in as viewers, our hearts in the palms of their hands. 

5. Elite

Lust, greed, wrath, envy, gluttony, and pride. Six of the seven deadly sins are trademarks of Elite, which is why it's so binge-able. It's like a Spanish Gossip Girl, but the backstabbing is more literal.

Three scholarship students navigate the halls of a fancy private school, butting heads (and hearts) with the wealthy students, many of whom are grossly entitled and happy to blackmail to see they aren't dethroned.

Every episode unveils snippets of the bloody end, offering us clues to solve the mystery of the season -- a designer case of whodunnit.

Samuel and Marina chatting Elite

Family dysfunction, carnal passion, and deceit run rampant. It's a mad world, indeed.

6. Ragnarok

For fans of Norse mythology and the burgeoning genre of cli-fi, this Norweigan supernatural drama follows Magne, an oafish high-schooler with glasses turned hammer-wielding high-schooler without glasses.

Because would a hero truly be a hero if they failed to ditch their eyewear in a moment of great climax? Thor is reborn in Magne to protect his small village of Edda from the Jutul family. Surprise, they're the nasty giants!

You can look forward to meeting a new Loki, too.

Magne and dead deer

One of the most compelling aspects of the show is the environmental angle it employs to modernize the ancient myths and provide commentary on the negative impact of big corporations on the environment.

The Jutul family is the polluter and a ruthless bunch at each other's throats daily. They ooze that sleek and polished breed of viciousness; they are like well-dressed beasts.

Best of all, you can charge through it, each season containing a mere six episodes.

7. Locke and Key

A creaky old mansion full of magical keys. Need I say more? 

Locke siblings arrive new home

Following the tragic murder of their father, siblings Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode relocate to their ancestral home, Keyhouse Manor, in a fictional Massachusetts town.

There, Bode discovers the first of many keys, each possessing a unique power, such as entering a mind or temporarily becoming a ghost.

Since dealing with grief, the initial "magic is real!" headache, and starting at a new school isn't enough of a challenge, the Locke siblings have to contend with a sultry demon, too, who tries to use her uncanny skills of trickery and persuasion to steal the keys.

Locke and Key is the ideal show for magic lovers, especially if you prefer low fantasy to high fantasy.

Bode wanders Keyhouse Manor

It utilizes the timeless trope of magic being accessible to children rather than adults while still inviting the adults to catch glimpses of that world.

Be warned, the first episode does involve some nightmare-inducing, mirror-related scenes, but the rest of the show is more bewitching than scary.

What are your favorite Netflix teen dramas?

Who are your favorite characters and ships? Comment below. 

Ashley Myers retired from TV Fanatic in May 2022..

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Netflix Quotes

Dreesen: No businessman worth his salt hires his first applicant.
Kaz: No. No, I understand. Of course, I will have to report you to the guild for kidnapping and harboring a prisoner without chain of title.
Dreesen: You wouldn't.
Kaz: No businessman worth his salt bargains for what he can take.

Ram: Do you think you're the only one haunted by the sacrifices you made to get here? And you, I vouched for you with Darlene, but what you did out there was irresponsible and quite frankly insane. You keep behaving like that; you're gonna get yourself killed.
Kwesi: Ram.
Ram: We all need you alive. I need you alive.