Top 20 Teen Drama Shows of All Time

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Top 20 Teen Drama Shows of All Time

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Val Namaki
These teen drama shows never get old. Our countdown includes "Teen Wolf," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" "Pretty Little Liars," and more!
Transcript

Top 20 Teen Drama Shows


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Teen Drama Shows.

For this list, we’ll be looking at television shows specifically marketed for and to teens.

Did your favorite teen drama make the list? Let us know in the comments below!

#20: “Riverdale” (2017-)


This dramatic series follows the lives of Archie, Betty, Jughead, and Veronica. But these aren’t quite the Archie Comics characters you grew up with. This version is a lot darker and filled with different mysteries each season that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. Of course, there’s also plenty of classic high school drama. It has all the makings of a great teen show with steamy romances, love triangles, and secrets. There are even musical numbers. But you’ll also find some more out-of-the-box plot points. From murder, to the mob, to Chad Michael Murray playing a cult leader, there’s a little something for everyone in Riverdale.

#19: “Julie and the Phantoms” (2020-)


This is a heartwarming series about a teenage girl named Julie who starts to let music back into her life as she processes her mother’s death. Oh, and did we mention that three dead guys that were in a band called Sunset Curve years ago return as ghosts? Julie and these phantoms end up forming their own band, and they’re good. Not only is the music great and the choreography fun to watch - Kenny Ortega is involved after all - the show also has a lot of heart. Each person is contending with their past and trying to find a way to move forward into their future.

#18: “13 Reasons Why” (2017-20)


When Hannah Baker takes her life, the lives of those who knew her change forever. While they struggle to process what happened, her friends are also confronted with tapes she left behind for them. We learn a lot about her life in the first season, and many of those revelations inform the show’s plot in later years. As it progresses, the emphasis on Hannah’s story diminishes, and different mysteries take its place. As Clay and the rest of the group struggle to find themselves, they also have to protect each other. The series addresses difficult matters such as mental health, addiction, and abuse. At its core, it’s a show about growing up and fighting back against a world that wants to see you fail.

#17: “Veronica Mars” (2004-19)


Kristen Bell is Veronica Mars, a private investigator in training who works with her dad at Mars Investigations. On this show, teenage problems, romance, and mystery collide to create riveting storylines. Veronica is funny, quick-witted, and seriously smart. Don’t be surprised when you find yourself trying to see if you can solve the puzzle before her. And while there’s no doubt nobody can crack a case open like her, Mars doesn’t always have the same success in her romantic life. With the original TV series’ 3 seasons, its 2014 movie, and the fourth season that came out in 2019, you’ll have plenty of content to tide you over!

#16: “Never Have I Ever” (2020-)


When Mindy Kaling is attached, you know it’s going to be good. This Netflix dramedy is about an Indian-American girl’s teenage experience, providing this genre with representation that is often sorely lacking. We follow Devi, a kind of nerdy high schooler who is itching to experience new things. It mixes humor and heart as she navigates family dynamics, friendships, and new relationships. The show is also really emotional in a way that sneaks up on you sometimes, so you might want to keep a tissue box handy as you near the first season’s finale.

#15: “Elite” (2018-)


What happens when three kids from modest backgrounds find themselves thrust into the world of the rich and privileged? That’s the question this Spanish drama answers when Nadia, Samuel, and Christian get scholarships to an extremely elite private school. What subsequently unfolds involves a lot of drama, complicated relationships, and murder. Viewers get to watch two timelines simultaneously unfold as they try to piece together what went wrong. As various mysteries unravel throughout the seasons, the series explores the intersection of class dynamics and important issues such as mental health. Once you start watching this thriller, you won’t be able to stop.

#14: “Sex Education” (2019-)


Otis Milburn is just a normal teenager. A kind of awkward and shy one at that. But his mother Jean happens to be a sex therapist. And while her openness surrounding subjects of sexuality is refreshing, it actually makes her son kind of uncomfortable. However, he soon learns to utilize the knowledge he’s picked up from her. Him and his new friend Maeve decide to open a clinic where they help kids at his school with questions surrounding their sexuality. In doing so, Otis also learns a lot about himself and grows as a person. The series explores a lot of often taboo subjects surrounding sex and teenage relationships, making it a fan-favorite.

#13: “Skins” (2007-13)


This series takes viewers into the lives of British teens navigating sixth form, two years of English schooling. There are a few things that set this teen drama apart though, and we aren’t talking about the accents. For one thing, viewers get to meet a slew of different people throughout the seasons as characters graduate and new classes take their place. But perhaps more notably, “Skins” was one of the first shows of its kind to really tackle subjects that often get brushed under the rug. It wasn’t afraid to dive headfirst into topics like substance abuse, sexuality, and mental health with raw and honest conversations. As such, it paved the way for future teen dramas to do the same.

#12: “Euphoria” (2019-)


This critically acclaimed show follows Rue and her friends as they navigate the complexities of adolescence. And the fact that it's a newer teen drama is reflected in both its style and subject matter. Euphoria embraces controversial issues like addiction, sexuality, gender identity, and mental illness without attaching a stigma to them. Plus, there’s an added layer of depth given that it explores the impact of social media on today’s teens. The show provides an honest and gritty look at what teenagers in modern times go through while trying to find their place in the world. Not to mention Zendaya’s acting is nothing short of extraordinary.

#11: “Teen Wolf” (2011-17)


As if being a teenager wasn’t difficult enough on its own, Scott McCall has a whole new set of challenges to contend with when he becomes a werewolf. Imagine regular puberty mixing with new beastly urges! What could possibly go wrong? Not to mention he soon learns that his home of Beacon Hills isn’t as ordinary as it once seemed - it’s actually a hub for supernatural events. With his newfound strength, he has to protect his loved ones from the threats that lie beneath the surface. All while figuring out his love life and avoiding capture, obviously. Thankfully, he has great friends who help him out along the way. It’s safe to say there’s never a dull moment on this show.

#10: “Glee” (2009-15)


This is the weekly musical show that made us want to embarrass ourselves by singing in public. Focusing on a group of glee club students and a few of their teachers at William McKinley High School, the comedy-drama follows these kids as they express their sorrows, happiness and love for all things music by bursting into song both on and off stage. Covering many songs from a wide spectrum of genres and tastes, and ranging from popular music to show tunes, “Glee” showed us that these teenagers really knew how to belt it out when push comes to shove. If only our high school was one big musical number…!

#9: “Dawson’s Creek” (1998-2003)


Besides being a mainstay of turn of the century television, this series is widely remembered thanks to the theme song that accompanied its original TV broadcast: “I Don’t Want to Wait” by Paula Cole. Revolving around the titular Dawson, this drama helped usher in the teen craze of shows on the small screen that plagued the ‘90s and early 2000s. While sporting your standard teen show plotline of trying to make it through school, it was actually one of the first and most memorable of its kind. Every character was relatable and the situations were real, making us wish we had grown up in the same town.

#8: “The O.C.” (2003-07)


Sometimes categorized as a soap opera, this teen drama is set in California and follows a lower class person who is thrust into the high life. It differs from other shows in that its main character, Ryan Atwood, happens to be a troubled teenager who is adopted by a rich family. He must deal with living as an outsider in a different world - along with his surrogate brother, Seth. Ryan must also manage his feelings towards the girl next door and his snobby neighbors, all while feeling like he may not belong. “The O.C.” became one of the most popular programs of the 2000s, and is considered a pop culture phenomenon of the time.

#7: “Beverly Hills, 90210” (1990-2000)


We’ve all wanted to be one of the lucky ones who gets to live among the rich and famous, and thanks to Jim Walsh’s job promotion, he and his family get to enjoy a little more of what life has to offer. “Beverly Hills, 90210” follows twins Brandon and Brenda Walsh as they deal not only with being teens and making friends with the rich and privileged, but also with the culture shock of being uprooted from their Minneapolis hometown to a very ritzy part of California. Of course, the Hills come with Hollywood-sized issues as well, such as alcoholism, teenage pregnancy and even animal rights advocacy.

#6: “One Tree Hill” (2003-12)


If you have a brother or sister, then you know what it’s like to have a sibling rivalry. “One Tree Hill” stars half-brothers Lucas and Nathan Scott who start off as enemies, initially as a result of issues with their parents. As the show progresses, they also have to deal with a love triangle and competing on the same basketball team – but they eventually become closer to each other than anyone could have imagined. When it comes to high school, you may be able to count on your friends, but you should always be able to count on family.

#5: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)


The fact that this fantasy drama premiered and ran for several seasons on The WB, an American network that targeted teens and young adults specifically, already tells you a little about what you might find in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg, as the series follows the titular Vampire Slayer as she fought against all kinds of evil forces, all while trying to maneuver the growing pains of being in high school. Buffy and her devoted Scooby Gang didn’t only earn the network high ratings, but also won 3 Emmys and spawned an entire franchise.

#4: “Pretty Little Liars” (2010-17)


What would you do if the only friend in which you confided your secrets suddenly disappeared - and then a mysterious person threatened to expose your dirty laundry? That’s what Aria, Hanna, Emily and Spencer have to deal with in “Pretty Little Liars.” Coping with the loss of one of your closest friends is one thing, but how can you also move on in life when you’ve got a target hanging on your back? With regular drama mixed with plenty of mystery, it’s a wonder any of these girls can survive their adolescence, but it surely made for a thrilling teen drama!

#3: “Degrassi: The Next Generation” (2001-15)


This teen show is the longest-running incarnation of the “Degrassi” franchise, and is considered a revival of the series that aired in the late ‘70s to the early ‘90s. As such, “The Next Generation” follows the successful formula seen in the previous Degrassi shows by covering the entire spectrum of students’ teen years from their relationships and sexuality to normal problems, like homework. The drama is basically about trying to survive high school and growing into an adult. With a franchise that’s been around for decades, it’s no wonder this iteration has lasted for 14 seasons. A second reincarnation, “Degrassi: Next Class,” even premiered in January 2016 and lasted for 4 seasons. Few shows are as relatable and representative of adolescence as this Canadian program.

#2: “The Vampire Diaries” (2009-17)


With the high school vampire craze in full swing during the 2010s, it’s no surprise that a popular TV show like this would stand out. Elena lives in a small Virginia town that boasts supernatural activity – it is also where she meets and falls in love with Stefan Salvatore, who just so happens to be a vampire. As the show progresses, the couple must deal with other bloodsuckers, siblings and former lovers and they find themselves in situations where they have to try and protect not only themselves but also the town in which they live. Oh, and just so you know, these vampires definitely don’t sparkle.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Friday Night Lights” (2006-11)
Drama, Football, & Texas Forever

“On My Block” (2018-)
Representing Black & Hispanic Teenage Experiences

“The Fosters” (2013-18)
A Show About Finding Your Chosen Family

“The End of the F***ing World” (2017-19)
When Psychopathy & Road Trips Collide

“Skam” (2015-17)
A Norwegian Drama That Tackled Sensitive Issues

#1: “Gossip Girl” (2007-12)


Based on the book series of the same name and narrated by an omnipresent blogger known as “Gossip Girl,” this series follows a group of rich and popular kids who live in New York City. Each of the main characters has a different personality, from “IT” girl Serena to “Golden Boy” Nate. As with many of the other series on this list, “Gossip Girl” revolves around these students’ lives as they navigate high school - but the program stands out for being culturally relevant during its time and, according to New York magazine, “the potential […] to be effective social satire.” How hard can life really get if you have that much money? This teen drama will show you just exactly how.
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