Recently, you may have noticed Netflix focusing heavily on coming of age tales. A genre that, to many, has become a core television watching experience. Netflix is still young in terms of original programming, but they have continually impressed with blockbuster hits like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.” But when “Stranger Things” took the world by storm, the network seems to have realized the potential in stories about growing up.
You’ll have no shortage of new shows to watch on Netflix in 2018. In February, company CFO David Wells announced an expected 700 new original shows and movies available on the streaming service this year. In other words, prepare yourself for many long nights on the couch. Of course, it’s unclear how many of those will follow in the same vein as coming of age hits like “13 Reasons Why” and “Stranger Things.” However, we can surely expect numerous shows to satisfy our urge to watch a bunch of young people surviving (barely, in some cases) their formative years.
The Best Coming of Age Shows on Netflix
Netflix has numerous excellent coming of age series right now. If you’re looking for some superb coming of age stories to watch, here are a dozen of their best (in no particular order).
To the Bone
To the Bone follows the story of a 20-year-old woman suffering from anorexia nervosa. Unruly Ellen (Lily Collins) spent most of her teen years moving from recovery program to recovery program. However, she found all of them to be utterly ineffective. Finally, she is accepted into a group home run by an unconventional doctor with a unique approach to treatment.
To the Bone doesn’t focus on the cause of anorexia. You won’t even find a focus on treatment, even though the majority takes place in a treatment program. In fact, much of the plot is centered on a budding romantic relationship. If you are seeking a story that centers on this disease, watch something else. If you want a good story where the main character also happens to be anorexic, watch this.
The Fundamentals of Caring
The Fundamentals of Caring follows the story of writer Ben Benjamin (Paul Rudd) who retires and becomes certified as a caretaker. His first patient is Trevor Conklin (Craig Roberts), an 18-year-old man with muscular dystrophy. Trevor uses his wit and humor to cope with his condition.
Trevor is fascinated with bizarre landmarks. Despite a lack of medical training and the fact that Trevor has never been more than an hour from home, the two embark on a road trip to visit them all. Along the way, they pick up a hitchhiker (Selena Gomez) as well as a pregnant woman (Megan Ferguson) who join them on their adventure.
The Fundamentals of Caring is not exactly a light-hearted film, but it’s definitely something to add to your watch list.
Between is an interesting coming of age tale centered on the town of Pretty Lake. A mysterious plague killed every resident over the age of 21. Under government quarantine, the young people of the town must learn to cope and survive. Walls and barbed wire surround the town. Soldiers patrol its borders ready to shoot on sight anyone who attempts to leave.
Between is a low-budget experience, but that doesn’t stop it from managing a strong showing among Netflix’s excellent lineup.
#RealityHigh is a pretty standard story: nerdy girl wants to be popular, the nerdy girl becomes popular and falls for the popular boy, another popular girl gets jealous and humiliates her, nerdy girl becomes unpopular again, then becomes popular for being her nerdy self.
This movie definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s something that will appeal to much of our youth, who are obsessed with YouTube and other social media personalities. It has a very specific target audience, but it plays to that audience very well.
On My Block
On My Block isn’t your typical coming of age drama. Think of it as Sixteen Candles meets The Chi with a little bit of The Goonies mixed in here and there.
The show focuses on four teens just entering high school in South Central Los Angeles. On My Block features a wonderfully diverse cast as they navigate not only the perils of high school but their neighborhood as well. There’s even a Goonies-esque search for a buried treasure (or more accurately, the spoils from a possibly mythical 1980s roller rink heist).
On My Block is a great mix of drama and comedy that will certainly keep you watching!
Sam (Keir Gilchrist) is an 18-year-old high school student on the autism spectrum who works part-time at an electronics store. Atypical follows his life as Sam sets out to rebel a bit. He wants more in his life. He also wants to, as he puts it, see “boobs.” Sam sets out to find a girlfriend, but he’s unsure how to do it.
The show explores Sam’s interfamilial relationships and digs deep into the day to day issues with which he deals like sensory overload. Atypical is served up in small doses, with each episode lasting 30 minutes. But it’s a powerful 30 minutes.
The End of the F**king World
The End of the F**cking World is as non-typical as one can get in a coming of age tale in that one main protagonist wants to murder the other. Based on the award-winning comic books by Charles Forsman, this show is at its core a love story concerning James (Alex Lawther), a budding psychopath looking for his first kill, and Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a sulky mess of a teenager who wants to run away from home.
When James meets Alyssa, decides at that moment that she’d be “interesting to kill.” Over time, he pretends to fall in love with her. Then she convinces James to run away on a road trip to find her father, who left when Alyssa was a child. But as Alyssa falls more in love with James, he is struggling with the urge to slit her throat.
The End of the F**cking World ends its first season where the comics end, which is a very interesting place. It’s unclear if there will be the second one, but this is a story you will find yourself wishing would reach its conclusion — even if the conclusion won’t necessarily be pretty.
Emo the Musical
Remember High School Musical? Well, this isn’t that. It takes place in a high school and is certainly a musical. But that’s where the similarities end in this angst-driven coming of age story.
Ethan (Benson Jack Anthony), is a sullen “emo” teen who got kicked out of his last school for an incident involving a noose. On his first day at Seymour High, Ethan sets his sights on the resident Emo rock band Worst Day Ever, who will be entering a battle of the bands to win a recording contract. He also meets Trinity (Jordan Hare), a member of the school’s Christian club, and settles into an uncomfortable romance with her (no matter how much either of them fights it).
The school itself is a mess. Lacking funding, Seymour High was forced to turn to a pharmaceutical company for money. The company forces the only teacher who hasn’t quit or left in various scandals to push antidepressants (sorry, “serotonin boosters”) on students. Eventually, anyone who is seen crying is threatened with expulsion and all negative expression is outlawed. This presents some problems for Worst Day Ever, who don’t exactly bleed positivity.
At its core, Emo the Musical is a somewhat farcical tale of tolerance and acceptance you should absolutely watch.
The best way to describe Everything Sucks! is that it is effectively the Freaks and Geeks of this century. The show follows two groups of students — the A.V. Club and the Drama Club — at Boring High School in 1996 Oregon.
The show is filled with nostalgic 1990’s references, so if you were a ’90s kid you’ll love the Beavis and Butthead impressions, slap bracelets, troll dolls, hacky sacks, and those little paper fortune tellers the show features. It also features the “coming out” of a lesbian character that has been heavily praised by the LGBTQ community.
You know all those “hey remember the ’90s” memes? This show is basically that, with a poignant storyline and lovable characters that will leave you wanting more.
If Big Mouth were on network television, it would be canceled after the first episode if it even made it that far. As John Mulaney’s character Andrew Glouberman describes the show before the final credits roll on the final episode of the first season, it’s “a show about a bunch of kids masturbating.” This is not at all inaccurate, but it’s so much more than that.
This raunchy comedy follows the aforementioned “bunch of kids” who are just discovering their sexuality with the help of the Hormone Monster (and Monstress for girls). Of course, you’ll see all their wacky, zany adventures. And of course, there’s the hilarious awkwardness of the changes their bodies are going through. If you’ve been waiting your whole life for a coming of age show that takes a no-holds-barred approach to puberty, you’ll love Big Mouth.
Big Mouth features an all-star cast, including Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele, Fred Armisen, and more. It even has Kristen Wiig as the voice of a talking vagina. The tagline for the first season is “Coming of age all over the place,” if that gives you some idea of what to expect from the show.
If you don’t mind a fair amount of raunch that makes Comedy Central’s Drawn Together look like the Teletubbies, this is something you don’t want to miss.
Stranger Things needs no introduction. As one of Netflix’s most popular shows, it’s something you’ve probably at least heard about. Where Everything Sucks! is filled with 90’s nostalgia, Stranger Things covers the 80s.
It begins with the search for a missing boy. But the search launches a chain of events that threatens everyone in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. The show is filled with all sorts of weirdness. A monster has escaped from a laboratory and is killing people. A strange girl with mysterious powers shows up and befriends the show’s main protagonists. Shadow government agencies are working in the background.
Stranger Things thus far has spawned a second season, with a third in production. If you start watching it, be warned: you probably should take precautions to ensure you don’t get stuck to your couch.
13 Reasons Why
13 Reasons Why is not easy to watch. It’s heartbreaking. It’s raw. It contains graphic depictions of suicide and sexual assault. Of course, all of that has earned it both heavy criticism and praise.
The show follows the aftermath of Hannah Baker’s (Katherine Langford) suicide. Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) receives a box of tapes from his former classmate that she recorded before taking her own life. The first season follows Clay as he pieces together the events surrounding his friend’s death. The tapes reveal a web of secrets and lies that seem to involve every major figure at Hannah and Clay’s high school. And of course, there are consequences.
If there is one lesson to be learned from 13 Reasons Why it’s that how we treat each other matters.
Have Fun Binging
These are just twelve of the best coming of age tales Netflix has to offer, but there are plenty more where that came from. Of course, as the network is spending big money on new shows and movies, we can expect a healthy offering in this genre.
So, if you need something great to watch this summer while you are home from school, be sure to check out these coming of age Netflix originals. We’re sure you’ll love them.
Featured image: by Netflix, via IMDB