BIPOC Voices, Entertainment

9 coming-of-age series and movies to watch on Netflix

We’re still talking about that twist in Do Revenge.

words by: Alee Kwong
Oct 14, 2022

There’s nothing like being nostalgic about your formative teen years. And while my teen years are far behind me, it’s been fun to relive the controlled emotional rollercoaster one feels while watching shows and movies that take me back to a complicated time. It’s a lot nicer (and way easier) now that I don’t have to deal with real teen emotions. What’s nice about watching coming-of-age series and movies is that a lot of them now have POC at the forefront of the stories, whereas much of what I watched in my teen years was overwhelmingly white and unrelatable.


Weirdly enough, Netflix is kind of killing the game when it comes to teen comedy-dramas. The reason? I couldn’t tell you. Am I mad at it? No way, it makes binging this genre very convenient. So if you’re looking to reminisce your teenage angst and chuckle at events that at one point felt like the end of the world, then open up Netflix and add these recommendations to your watchlist.


1. Sex Education


When it comes to sex, socially awkward high school student Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) has just about zero experience. But he does have a great resource at his disposal — his mom, Jean, who is a sex therapist. Being surrounded by manuals, videos and tediously open conversations about sex, Otis has become a reluctant expert on the subject.


When his classmates learn about his home life, Otis decides to use his insider knowledge to improve his status at school, so he teams with resident bad girl Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) to set up an underground sex therapy clinic to deal with their classmates’ problems. But through his analysis of teenage sexuality, Otis realizes that he may need some therapy of his own.


To sum it up – Watch Sex Education if you were that painfully awkward kid in high school who longed for a moment in the spotlight and a rag tag group of friends to join you in your journey.


2. On My Block


This series follows a group of 4 bright, street-savvy friends who are navigating their way through high school, including all the of the triumph, pain and newness they experience along the way. Lifelong friendships are tested as Monse (Sierra Capri), Ruby (Jason Genao), Jamal (Brett Gray), and Cesar (Diego Tinoco) confront the challenges of adolescence and life in their predominantly Hispanic and black neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles.


To sum it up – Watch On My Block if you didn’t have a tight-knit group of friends that you could truly rely on in high school.


3. The Half of It


A shy, straight-A Chinese-American student, Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) helps the school jock, Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer), woo his crush (Alexxis Lemire) whom, secretly, Ellie has a crush on too. While navigating their identities, they find themselves connecting and learn about the nature of love and having those lessons ultimately bring them closer together.


To sum it up – Watch The Half of It if you wished you had something like this in high school as a queer teen struggling with identity and unrequited love.


4. Atypical


I don’t typically gravitate towards series that are described as one with “a lot of heart,” but Atypical takes the cake. This series follows Sam (Keir Gilchrist), a teenager on the autism spectrum, who has decided he is ready for romance. In order to start dating — and hopefully find love — Sam will need to be more independent, which also sends his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on her own life-changing path.


She and the rest of Sam’s family, including a scrappy sister (Bridgette Lundy-Paine) and a father (Michael Rapaport) seeking a better understanding of his son, must adjust to change and explore what it means to be “normal.”


To sum it up – Watch Atypical if you want a general overview of what it’s like to get into a relationship with someone (either platonic or romantic) who’s on the autism spectrum.


5. Heartstopper


Adapted from a WEBTOON comic series, Heartstopper is about Charlie Spring (Joe Locke), a gay schoolboy who falls in love with the the new classmate in his form, Nick Nelson (Kit Connor). Both of them discover their unlikely friendship might be something more as they navigate school and young love.


To sum it up – Watch Heartstopper if you want to feel all cute and fuzzy inside.


6. Do Revenge


Do Revenge was a pleasant surprise. It’s a blend of the teen comedy stylings that I grew up watching, with a twist that consists of the modern terminology and social politics of Gen Z. Self-made popular girl Drea (Camila Mendes) wants revenge on her boyfriend and campus golden boy (Austin Abrams) for publishing her sex tape, and enlists plagued-by-rumor exchange student Eleanor (Maya Hawke), to help her after being outcast by everyone. The teenagers team up to take action against their tormentors and it all results in an unexpected turn of events.


To sum it up – Watch Do Revenge if you are looking for a quick dose of teen comedy-drama.


7. Derry Girls


It’s the 1990s, and religious and political divides have broken up Ireland. But in the Northern Ireland town of Derry, this group of teens are more bothered by the trials and tribulations of growing up. We follow a story through the eyes of 16-year-old Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica-Jackson) and her group of friends as they figure out life with their families, relationships, and each other — all while the British are attempting to colonize their backyards.


To sum it up – Watch Derry Girls if you want a different angle on the teen comedy genre, a little bit of a education around the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and a show with a killer soundtrack.


8. Never Have I Ever


One traumatic year in high school is enough for first-gen Indian-American teen Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) to re-strategize her approach towards a better social status. But being first-generation means that your family isn’t going to make living the life of a teenager any easier.


To sum it up – Watch Never Have I Ever if you want to see yourself (as a first-gen POC) growing up in a household run by immigrant parents without all of the sad, self-pity stories.


9. Heartbreak High


A reboot of the Australian teen drama series from the ’90s, Amerie (Ayesha A. Madon) finds herself in a predicament when a sex map she created — linking all past and present hookups at Hartley High — is exposed and makes her a social outcast. She learns about the importance of sex, love, friendship, and heartbreak all in the span of one year with many ups and downs.


To sum it up – Watch Heartbreak High if you want all the vibes of Degrassi and Skins without the trauma, and A LOT of representation on nearly all fronts.


Our watchlists have a little something for everyone. If you want background on the sociopolitical climate of Ireland before you dig into Derry Girls, here’s 7 prime choices. If you’re deep into spooky season media, here’s more Netflix options.


Photo via Netflix