10 Must-Watch International Young Adult Shows on Netflix

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Television shows geared towards young adults have transcended the barriers of demographics. No longer are these kinds of shows consumed solely by teens — older adults, too, are enjoying the drama and struggles that arrive with a coming of age story. From trying to find out what your identity really consists of to bullying happening within schools, there are so many problems that have become staples in the genre and, as it turns out, are universal across many different cultures. While the 2010s might have had Pretty Little Liars, and the early-2020s had Riverdale, it seems like a new big YA show appears every other year.

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If there’s one thing incredible about streaming platforms like Netflix, it’s the sheer selection they’ve had when it comes to international content, whether they’re hit original movies or TV series. While someone could probably spend years just watching English-language shows and movies, Netflix has been upping its subtitled and dubbing game, giving a glimpse into other parts of the world and conventions of storytelling in another country and culture. For those who are a fan of young adult shows, these 10 shows are international gems in the genre.

10 Boys Over Flowers (2009)

Boys Over Flowers is considered a staple in the Korean drama world, as it’s one of the biggest shows that helped kick-start the popularity of South Korean entertainment abroad. In the series, a young woman from a lower socioeconomic background stumbles into the complexity of a high school for wealthy students. When she catches the attention of the most beloved and richest group of boys on campus, the F4, everything is about to change for her.

Why It’s Great

For fans of young adult Korean shows, Boys Over Flowers is one of the early examples of some of the most beloved tropes today, from school dramas to cold male leads. Although the romance aspect of the show can be considered toxic, the series is a gateway into the rest of the Korean drama world.

9 Derry Girls (2018-2022)

Derry Girls
Derry Girls

Release Date
December 21, 2018

Creator
Lisa McGee

Cast
Saoirse-Monica Jackson , Louisa Harland , Tara Lynne O’Neill , Kathy Kiera Clarke , Tommy Tiernan

The British television show Derry Girls ran for three seasons, and when the series first came out, it was a smash hit in Northern Ireland. The series is set during the period in which The Troubles were happening, but through the lens of a group of classmates and relatives attending Catholic school. All young women, they grapple with what it means to grow up with the sociopolitical conflicts that came with The Troubles happening in the background.

Why It’s Great

Not only is Derry Girls unique because of its specific context of Northern Ireland during the ’90s, but it also implements dark humor in a way that works so well. Balancing serious with lighthearted, it’s a good television show about young adults to watch on Netflix, even if you’re not keen on the history involved with it. What’s more, it’s been hailed as one of the best comedies of recent years.

8 Elite (2018-2024)

Elite is one of the more popular international young adult series one can watch on Netflix. A Spanish-language series, this show takes place inside a high school catering to Spain’s elites. Its focus is on a group of students at the school who are lower income, but are able to attend due to scholarships. However, because they’re not from the same social classes as their classmates, it leads to many different problems for them.

Why It’s Great

Elite does an excellent job surpassing the conventions of the young adult genre, making it a rather mature show to watch throughout each season. With some wonderful twists woven into the storyline and lots of juicy gossip, it certainly will keep you on the edge of your seat and wanting to watch more.

RELATED: The 30 Best International Movies of 2023, Ranked

7 From Me to You: Kimi ni Todoke (2023)

From Me to You: Kimi ni Todoke is one of Netflix’s increasing number of Japanese dramas available on the platform. Its main character is Sawako, who is ignored and treated poorly by the rest of her classmates because of her haircut. Everyone claims it’s the same as a character from a popular horror movie, but when a popular boy treats her with some kindness, it will change Sawako’s life.

Why It’s Great

Those who are fans of romance, identity, and a sweet coming of age story will love From Me to You. Although the plot is pretty straightforward and doesn’t stray from its main themes much, the Netflix show can still be pretty entertaining to watch throughout.

6 When I Fly Towards You (2023)

When I Fly Towards You main characters on a beach, laughing
Youku Tudou Inc.

2023’s When I Fly Towards You was incredibly successful when it first came out in mainland China, and when it was released to international audiences, the series gained even more popularity abroad. Set in a high school during 2012, the main female character, Su Zaizai, prepares to transfer to a new school. When she meets a cold classmate from a wealthy family on the first day, she falls for him immediately, although he has his own problems to sort through before thinking of a romance.

Why It’s Great

When I Fly Towards You is a classic example of a Chinese school drama, and it does that concept quite well. With its main characters grappling with what it means to be on the brink of adulthood, it’s a refreshing show to watch as they learn to be comfortable in their skin.

5 Young Royals (2021-Present)

A Swedish series that will see its final season in March 2024, Young Royals is a must-watch for those interested in young adult stories from abroad. A young prince, Wilhelm, begins attending a prestigious boarding school. But when he begins studying there, he falls in love with another male student, complicating his image. The more time they spend together, though, the more they fall in love.

Why It’s Great

With excellent writing across the seasons that have been released so far, Young Royals is a refreshing take on the young adult genre with LGBTQ+ themes. The series feels authentic, too, which can be rare with YA shows. From casting age-appropriate actors to focusing on grounded storytelling, Young Royals is a Netflix must-watch.

4 Jinn (2019)

Jinn's entire cast poses in a cave
Master Key Production

Jinn, a young adult series from Jordan, is a fascinating look into the culture and its mythology. Four teenagers attending high school in the capital city, Amman, take a field trip to the historical site of Petra. When they arrive, they find themselves in a fight against a jinn, or genie, taking over the world. Suddenly, everything they thought was a myth becomes reality.

Why It’s Great

Although Netflix doesn’t have many Arabic shows in the spotlight, the ones that are available are fairly solid, like Jinn. It certainly has its moments that might have been executed better if different decisions were made, but Jinn is a unique look into the region’s myths and beliefs.

Related: 10 Must-Watch Japanese Romance Movies

3 Switched (2018)

A Japanese series that came out in 2018, Switched isn’t the typical Japanese romance drama one would expect. Instead, its main character is Ayumi, who witnesses her classmate commit suicide off of the school’s roof. She passes out watching this, but then wakes up in her classmate’s body, and she comes to learn the reasons as to why her classmate decided to end her pain.

Why It’s Great

A common phrase people say is to put yourself in another’s shoes, and Switched does just that. It’s one of those Netflix television shows that serve as a reminder as to why we need to be kind to others, as we don’t know what exactly they’re going through in their lives.

Extracurricular is a Korean drama that merges elements of thriller and crime into its story. Its main character is Oh Ji-soo, who seems like the perfect student at his school. Despite his perfect exterior, he has many dark secrets: he works with a sex trafficking business, despite his perfect image at school. But as one of his classmates comes dangerously close to learning about his after-school activities, he has to make some drastic decisions.

Why It’s Great

Extracurricular stands out due to the fact it blends the standard drama of what it means to be a high schooler with some dark subjects. Audiences are going to watch this kind of Netflix show and find themselves wanting to binge-watch each episode in one sitting because of how addicting the series can be.

1 Sex Education (2019-2023)

Sex Education

Sex Education is one of the more popular British television series on Netflix in recent years, and there are many good reasons why. Otis, the main character, lives with a single mother and finds himself not caring or wanting to know about sex. As he joins another student in creating a sex therapy clinic, he finds himself feeling things he’s never even considered for himself.

Why It’s Great

Not only is Sex Education funny, but it also reflects some very real issues young adults face that society doesn’t really want to talk about. It comes across as a television show for the new age, and achieves just that throughout its multiple seasons. From its diverse cast to its ability to juggle humor and heart, Sex Education is a must-watch.

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