dumplin spiderman to all the boys i've loved before
Illustration by Liz Coulbourn. Photos courtesy of Netflix, Everett.

The Best Teen Movies of the 2010s on Netflix

We'll be rewatching these well into the '20s.

To mark the 21st Century making it through its teen years, the #20teens is a series from Teen Vogue celebrating the best in culture, politics, and style from the last decade.

With the dawn of streaming platforms in the decade that brought us #NetflixAndChill, teen movies are easier to watch at home than ever before. They’re also more inclusive and nuanced than they’ve ever been— we’ve seen a variety of characters that reflect all sorts of different people. From non-white teens getting their chance in the spotlight to adolescents coming to terms with their sexuality to young people transitioning into adulthood in today’s world, there has been plenty of progress made to show what teens from a variety of backgrounds go through during those wonder years. Hopefully, these features are just a small taste of what’s to come in the new decade. Let’s look back at ten of the best teen movies of the 2010s that are available to stream on Netflix. You won’t want to leave these behind in 2020.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Maybe you weren’t expecting one of the best teen movies of the decade to be an animated superhero flick. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse forever changed the game of the teen genre, animation, and superhero storytelling when it brought Afro-Latinx high school student and graffiti artist Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) to the big screen in 2018. Co-directed by Peter Ramsey — the first Black director to take home the Oscar for Best Animated FeatureSpider-Verse won over audiences with a simple and clear message: anyone can be a hero, including a Nuyorican teen from Brooklyn.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

It would be a crime to leave this heartwarming teen romance off this list. Released at the height of “Asian August” in late summer 2018, To All the Boys I've Loved Before joined Crazy Rich Asians and Searching in signaling a new era for Asian and Asian-American stories and representation on screen. Based on Jenny Han’s New York Times Best-Selling YA trilogy and directed by Susan Johnson, it tells the story of Lara Jean Song Covey (Lana Condor), a high school student whose life turns upside down when the letters she wrote to her five past crushes are sent out without her knowledge. A full-on viral phenomenon, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before changed the face of teen rom-coms and rang in a new era of Netflix cultural dominance.

See You Yesterday (2019)

Coming from a Spike Lee mentee and Morehouse College alum, Stefon Bristol’s sci-fi drama tells the story of two young Black STEM prodigies (Eden Duncan-Smith and Danté Crichlow) from East Flatbush, Brooklyn who use the time travel backpacks they invented in attempts to prevent the police shooting of a loved one. Shining with Black excellence, it’s an important addition to the canon of teen time travel movies that started with Back to the Future (Michael J. Fox even has a cameo). When Bristol initially conceived the idea for the story, police brutality was not part of the plot, he said in an interview with Okayplayer. That all changed in the summer of 2019, after the murder of Eric Garner and Mike Brown at the hands of police. See You Yesterday is far from a feel-good movie, but it’s a much needed on-screen discussion about how police violence affects Black communities.

Alex Strangelove (2018)

In the late 2010s, Hollywood’s high school coming-of-age comedy-drama canon finally started to include coming out stories, such as Love, Simon. Around the same time came this often overlooked Netflix original. Alex Strangelove tells the story of high school senior, Alex (Daniel Doheny), whose plans to have sex for the first time with his girlfriend (Madeline Weinstein) go awry once he develops a crush on his new gay friend (Antonio Marziale) and begins to question his sexuality. It’s not the definitive queer high school movie, but it is a delightful addition to the teen comedy genre.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Director Kelly Fremon Craig’s 2016 comedy-drama revolves around 17-year-old outsider, Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), and what happens when her best and only friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), starts dating her golden-boy older brother. The Edge of Seventeen is a solid coming-of-age movie with witty dialogue and strong performances across the board, but it’s also a realistic and commendable depiction of teen depression and mental health.

Roxanne Roxanne (2017)

Before there was Nas, Q-Tip, and Jay Z, there was Roxanne Shante, one of the fiercest emcees New York — and the world — has ever known. The music biopic Roxanne Roxanne tells the true story of how a 14-year-old Lolita Shanté Gooden (Chanté Adams) emerged from her days as the Queensbridge House’s most feared battle rapper to become one of the city’s original hip-hop pioneers, and the men that contributed to her quick fall from notoriety (notably Cross, the abusive middle-aged drug dealer played by Mahershala Ali). Roxanne herself served as an executive producer on the project alongside Pharrell and Forest Whitaker. It’s not the easiest watch — Roxanne is a survivor of domestic violence, and the movie does not shy away from depicting the trauma she faced — but it’s an important nod to one of hip-hop’s forgotten legends and a necessary reminder that women have been making rap history since the beginning.

Dumplin’ (2018)

Right around the time a certain character in Bird Box pissed a good chunk of the world off, that same actor was winning hearts over as the hero of this beloved body-positive comedy-drama. In Dumplin’, Danielle Macdonald stars as Willowdean Dixon, the plus-size, Dolly Parton-loving, teenage daughter of a former beauty queen (Jennifer Aniston) in a small Texas town who decides to compete in a pageant. Based on the 2015 YA novel by Julie Murphy, Dumplin’ is a heartwarming coming-of-age story with a uniquely empowering message and equally positive fat representation for a community that’s historically been overlooked on screen.

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

During the 2010s, Ava DuVernay built an empire. A Wrinkle in Time is DuVernay’s contribution to the coming-of-age genre. An adaptation of the 1962 YA fantasy novel of the same name by Madeleine L'Engle, it tells the story of 13-year-old Meg Murry (Storm Reid), who, with the help of three mysterious astral travelers (Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah), sets off on a quest with her younger brother and a classmate to save her missing scientist father (Chris Pine). DuVernay, who made history as the first Black woman hired to direct a $100 million-plus movie, agreed to come on board once Disney confirmed she could cast the movie however she wanted. A Wrinkle in Time will go down in history as DuVernay’s love letter to Black girls everywhere.

20th Century Women (2016)

This A24 comedy-drama is Mike Mills’ sweet, nostalgic love letter to his late mom (played by scene-stealer Annette Bening) and the other women who helped raise him in 1979 Santa Barbara, California. Mills’ 15-year-old counterpart, Jamie, is played by Lucas Jade Zumann, and the other women — free-spirited punk photographer and feminist, Abbie (Greta Gerwig), and Jamie’s high school friend and crush, Julie (Elle Fanning) — are loosely based on real women in Mills’ life. In terms of a plot, there isn’t too much of one. It’s less a traditional coming-of-age story and more a fascinating character study and a joyous celebration of 20th — and 21st — century women.

Divines (2016)

French-Moroccan filmmaker Houda Benyamina’s gritty directorial debut is a coming-of-age thriller about a non-practicing Muslim teen named Dounia (played by Benyamina’s actual younger sister, Oulaya Amamra), and her best friend, Maimouna (Déborah Lukumuena). Together, these two disaffected youth dream of hustling their way out of Paris’ working-class suburbs (banlieues). It’s a crime thriller packed with social commentary, but at its heart is a tale of friendship.