You may not be in high school, or college, or even your 20s anymore, but you're as young as you feel. Wait, that's not where I was going with this. What I meant was, even if you're no longer a teen or young adult finding your way in the world, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy the awkward, thrilling memories of those times as they play out on-screen in your favorite young adult movies. Growing up is a universal experience, which is why there's a plethora of young adult films out there depicting the ups and downs of youth. And if you are a teen or still coming of age, then you'll enjoy seeing someone else go through what you're currently going through (and also hopefully realize that everyone had an awkward phase).
Netflix has a great selection of these young adult films (in addition to an amazing selection of teen-centric TV shows). From sweet rom-coms to dance movies — yes, really — the streaming 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.
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 Cupid 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.
Work It (2020)
Girl Meets World's Sabrina Carpenter stars in this new film as a high school senior hoping to beef up her extracurriculars for college applications by joining her school's award-winning dance team. But there's only one problem: She isn't any good at dancing. Yet. She starts her own team with her best friend (Liza Koshy) and enlists the help of a talented dancer (To All the Boys 2's Jordan Fisher) to teach her how to, you know, work it. Will they be good enough to win the dance competition? Guess you'll have to watch to find out.
Amy Heckerling's loose take on Jane Austen's Emma remains one of the finest teen films of all time. Alicia Silverstone stars as Cher Horowitz, a clever rich girl from Beverly Hills who befriends Tai, a new student played by Brittany Murphy, and gives her a makeover. But when Tai also becomes popular, it strains her relationship with Cher and forces the young teen to reevaluate her life and her choices. Also, Paul Rudd plays Cher's hot former step-brother Josh.
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.
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.
A Walk to Remember (2002)
A Walk to Remember is the only good film based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Yes, we said it. Mandy Moore stars in this romantic teen film as Jamie Sullivan, a teenager with leukemia who agrees to help the school's bad boy, Landon Carter (Shane West), with his part in the school play as long as he promises not to fall in love with her. You can probably guess what happens next. That's right, they fall in love and Landon is changed for the better because of their romance. You are guaranteed to cry.
Feel the Beat (2020)
Descendants alum Sofia Carson leads this charming dance drama about April, an aspiring Broadway dancer who must rely on the talent at her small hometown dance studio to give her a second chance at greatness after a 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.
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.
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.
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.
Sleepover is a classic coming-of-age story that details a single night with the power to change everything. A group of teen girls on the verge of entering high school decide to have a sleepover, but after being challenged by the popular girls in their grade to a scavenger hunt, they embark on what becomes a night they'll never forget. Should they win the scavenger hunt, they have prime seating space in the cafeteria. We've all probably done stupider things for less. But man, to be young and only have to worry about seating arrangements while stuffing food in your face is the dream.
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. That's all you need to know whether you're in or out.
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.