A definitive list of the best teen drama shows of all time.

Nothing galvanises the adolescent experience quite like seeing the same feelings, relationships and escapades being played out on TV. And even long after the raging hormones sorted themselves out, teen drama shows still hold a special place in our hearts.

If you grew up in the '90s or early 2000s, there was a very specific set of teen drama shows that had us in a chokehold. As we moved into the 2010s and 20s, a new wave of equally watchable shows aimed at adolescents rolled in. And while many of us may never know what it's like to live in a terrace in the Upper East Side or the streets of Bristol, the characters we adored on screen were going through the same adolescent rites of passage we were. Here are the teen dramas that still have our hearts, decades on from being... actual teenagers.

Watch: Moments from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Post continues below.

Video via 20th Century Fox Television.


The original cast of Skins. Image: Channel 4.

In 2007, a British teen drama was released and it immediately got everyone talking. A far cry from its saccharine US counterparts, Skins blasted into our lives full of sex, drugs, alcohol and relationships, and tackled everything from eating disorders to mental health issues through a grainy rave-pop lens.

It was sweaty and edgy and daring — and the world was hooked. It also gave birth to some then-fresh faces who have gone on to have successful Hollywood careers, including Daniel Kaluuya, Nicholas Hoult and Dev Patel.

The O.C.

The cast of The O.C. Image: Warner Brothers.

On the surface, it's easy to dismiss The O.C. as a vapid interpretation of how a very specific subsect of the teen experience unfolded in the flashy gated community of Newport Beach.

But while there was a lot of privilege at play in this epic show, main characters Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton), Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson) and the boy from the other side of town, Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie), have so much heart and sass you can't help but feel compelled to delve deeper into their world. Oh, and the absolutely unrivalled early millennial fashion display is enough to get you coming back for more.


Friday Night Lights.

The cast of Friday Night Lights. Image: NBC.

Of course, this list is completely subjective. However, that said, I will go to my grave declaring that Friday Night Lights is the best teen drama series ever created — and that is simply a fact. 

When this show premiered in 2006 it sucker punched me in the heart and I can't imagine I'll ever full recover. Based on a true story depicted in the book of the same name by Buzz Bissinger, FNL follows the lives of a small Texas town called Dillon where everyone (mostly) is obsessed with the local high school football team and the stars that make or break their chances at a state title. 

If you haven't yet watched it, believe me when I say you'll fall in love with their accents, after a few episodes you'll understand every play in the book, and you'll never want to leave the house again without saying, "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose."


Joe Locke and Kit Connor starring in Heartstopper. Image: Netflix.

Based on Alice Oseman’s graphic novel, Heartstopper is the story of British teenager Charlie, who falls madly for a rugby player at his school. Where this Netflix series gets it so right is how it captures the innocence and awkwardness of discovering your first crush.

Whilst it is a very sweet show, it also doesn't shy away from addressing big emotions and tackling the spectrum of sexuality. It is such a welcome series for a lot of kids (and grownups) who might feel seen for the very first time. This is the perfect teen drama depicting love in all its forms.



Hunter Schafer and Zendaya in Euphoria. Image: HBO.

Rue is a teenager battling addiction after the loss of her father to cancer. Her world is a chaotic mix of parties, getting high, falling in love and mixing with underworld figures. Perhaps not your average teen tale, but Euphoria certainly does a great job at hooking you in and keeping you glued to the screen while tackling issues that maybe more teens today are facing than we might realise.

It's hard to think of a show that has elicited a more lively reaction from the public in recent years — Euphoria has been that series, for better or worse, and it has been an incredible vehicle for Zendaya to show off her chops.


Gossip Girl.

The original cast of Gossip Girl. Image: The CW.

Why should we care about a group of well-to-do Upper East Siders who are being plagued by a phantom tattle-tale sharing all of their dirty little secrets? We... maybe shouldn't, and yet Gossip Girl had us all, hook, line and sinker. This hit show by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage ran for six seasons and catapulted its main stars into superstardom.

There was nothing high-brow about these characters and their storylines — in fact, a lot of it was downright cheesy —but who says everything you watch has to stand for something, huh? We loved Serena (Blake Lively), Blaire (Leighton Meester), Dan (Penn Badgley), Chuck (Ed Westwick) and Nate (Chase Crawford) for all their flaws, but mostly for their never-ending expensive wardrobes and totally unrealistic lifestyles.

Dawson's Creek

The cast of Dawson's Creek. Image: Warner Brothers.

One of the originals and the best, Dawson's Creek was the girl/guy next door brought to life in the form of a very wholesome series about the interconnected lives of four teens growing up in Massachusets. Dawson's Creek was able to spin the 'will-they-won't-they?' storyline for much longer than streaming would allow for these days, but to be fair, it was the late '90s so everything moved a bit... slower.

Despite the drawn-out pace of the show, Dawson's Creek has some pretty groundbreaking moments including the depiction of queer love and addressing mental health issues — things not many shows had deigned to do previously. It also had a stellar leading cast — James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams and Joshua Jackson — who were able to pull off these big concepts and make the show so special.


Never Have I Ever.

Ramona Young, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and Lee Rodriguez in Never Have I Ever. Image: Netflix.

Some naysayers might try to tell you that a wholesome teen drama can't survive in today's viewing climate, and to them, I'll just point in the direction of Netflix's Never Have I Ever

Devi is a whip-smart (but anxious) teen who is hell-bent on making it to Princeton and having sex for the first time. At the same time, she's also dealing with the loss of her father — yes, there's lot's going on but it never feels clunky. Brought to you by the brilliant Mindy Kaling, Never Have I Ever makes ground in her realistic (and heartwarming) depiction of life of a young South Asian-American woman navigating modern life. It's genuinely funny and packed with heart. 


One Tree Hill.

Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton in One Tree Hill. Image: The CW.

This show was melodramatic as hell but the farfetched plotlines were all forgivable thanks to the deep affection we had for Peyton (Hilarie Burton), Brooke (Sophia Bush), Lucas (Chad Michael Murray), Haley (Bethany Joy Lenz) and Nathan (James Lafferty).

There were nine seasons in total and when the curtains closed on One Tree Hill, a lot of people let go of a little bit of their teen-hood. If that sounds overly verbose and sentimental, you can absolutely blame it on watching too much OTH. Which is now streaming on Stan if you feel like getting nostalgic.

Sex Education.

Ncuti Gatwa and Asa Butterfield in Sex Education. Image: Netflix.

A teen drama that actually addresses sex in an open, honest, no-holds-barred way? Groundbreaking! And that Sex Education was. Sparking a new generation of TV that lifted the lid on what young people were actually saying (and doing) when it came to sex, this was a refreshing departure from the chaste nature of teen shows of yesteryear.

Featuring a brilliant cast that included Asa Butterfield, Ncuti Gatwa, Gillian Anderson, Emma Mackey and Aimee Lou Wood, this show handled some really important topics and immediately connected with audiences around the world. Lasting for four brilliant seasons, this show ended with a lot of heart and a legacy that will live on.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The cast of Buffy. Image: 20th Century Fox.

They say save the best for last, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the greatest shows to ever broadcast. Premiering in 1997, Sarah Michelle Gellar fronted this paranormal teen drama series about a young woman who is destined to protect the citizens of Sunnydale (and the world) from (occasionally very good looking) vampires and demons.

Of course, drama ensues when Buffy falls in love with one of those attractive vampires, because who can ignore a perfect jawline? We fell in love with the characters, who kept us coming back for an impressive seven seasons — and while some teen dramas don't age well, you'll still find legions of Buffy fans today who still dutifully sing its praises.

Feature Image: Universal Television; Warner Bros Television; 20th Century Fox Television.