7 best shows like Cruel Summer to watch on Netflix, Hulu and more

The cast of Cruel Summer season 1
(Image credit: Freeform)

The second season of Freeform anthology series Cruel Summer recently kicked off and brought a new mystery and tons of teen angst. The story unfolds through three timelines during the senior year of townies and bffs Megan (Sadie Stanley) and Luke (Griffin Gluck), and the exchange student who moves in with Megan's family, Isabella (Lexi Underwood). 

Cruel Summer's stories take place during Isabella's arrival in the summer of 1999, winter break, and summer 2000, when disappearances and dead bodies turn others into suspects.

Season one took place in mid-'90s Texas, and focused on the disappearance of "Queen Bee" Kate (Olivia Holt), and Jeanette (Chaira Aurelia), who usurped her in the high school social hierarchy, and who Kate accuses of failing to report her abduction. All the twists and turns were revealed by alternating between each girl's perspective.

This latest chapter has everything: ride or die friendships, unrequited crushes, new love, sex scandals, Y2K hysteria, shady adults and a super-fun soundtrack. What's yet unknown is the awful thing that happens to upend the lives of three seemingly well-adjusted teens with bright futures. 

Since Cruel Summer is dropping weekly, you might need something similar to binge in the meantime. Here are seven shows worth streaming to get your fix of teens being haunted by shared trauma and hormones!

Pretty Little Liars 

The cast of Pretty Little Liars in orange jump suits

(Image credit: Danny Feld/ABC Family)

Four teens reunite for the funeral of their friend who went missing the year before. Soon, these Pretty Little Liars are being blackmailed and stalked by a major hater who knows all their secrets ... that only their dead friend knew.

While the girls are terrorized, they also come under suspicion as the stalker or murderer as the series progresses. Ensuring their personal secrets stay hidden is more important than unburdening themselves to help catch the baddie(s). None of the teens from Cruel Summer want to risk their reputations either, even when the crimes they're accused of are as serious as life-or-death. 

Watch on Hulu


Juliette Lewis as Natalie in YELLOWJACKETS, "Pilot".

(Image credit: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME)

In 1996, an airplane carrying an elite girls soccer team and their coaches crashes in the Canadian wilderness. When help fails to arrive, attempts to survive the elements and keep themselves fed are often hindered by petty high school jealousies, and a possible unseen malevolent force. Yellowjackets adds another timeline on top, which showcases the jaded adult survivors (played by real life '90s "It Girls") of the crash in present day.

In addition to a similar story structure, this one also features a lot of great ‘90s jams on the soundtrack. A huge part of the first season is the codependent relationship between BFFs Jackie (Ella Purnell) and Shauna (Sophie Nélisse), and their shared love interest that drives a wedge (one of many) between them, which mirrors that of Cruel Summer’s Megan and Isabella. 

Watch on Paramount Plus with Showtime

The Way Home

(L, R) Andie MacDowell as Del and Chyler Leigh as Kat in The Way Home

(Image credit: Hallmark Channel)

This show actually has a ton of similarities with Cruel Summer, but a much different vibe. While edgy for Hallmark, it's still more wholesome than the mystery thriller. Alice (Sadie Laflamme-Snow) is reeling from her parents' divorce. Then, she must also move to the Canadian farm her mom, Kat (Chyler Leigh), grew up on, and live with the grandma (Andie MacDowell) she's never met. After she gets there, she finds a magic pond that can transport her to 1999. 

Alice begins traveling back and forth, and becomes best friends with her mom as a teen, before family tragedy struck. The only person who knows what she's up to is her mom's best guy friend in each timeline, Elliot (Evan Williams). His secret pining for Kat mirrors the relationship with Megan and Luke. Y2K panic also plays a minor role, and there's a huge budget for period-appropriate music.

Watch on Peacock and Hallmark Now


(L to R) Matt Gordon as Thomas, Sarah Desjardins as Jenna, Maddie Hasson as Henrietta and Missi Pyle as Cleo in Impulse

(Image credit: YouTube via Twitter)

Maddie Hasson stars as Henry, the new girl in town, whose teleportation powers manifest after being the victim of a violent encounter. Coming to accept and learn to use her powers is made all the more difficult because it’s tied into her dealing with the aftermath of her attack, which she’d prefer to avoid. As she gains allies, in the form of her new stepsister and a high school pal, she also learns she’s being hunted by both local enemies and nefarious government forces. 

Hasson looks like she could be Holt’s and Stanley’s triplet, and Henry's got a similar situation. Each is pretty, blonde and supposed to have an easy suburban life. All of their lives, though, are far from perfect. While this show is set in present day, the theme for their school dance? The 2000s, so there's still a dose of nostalgia that begins some levity.

Watch on Youtube Premium


Miguel Herran, Ester Exposito in Elite season 1

(Image credit: Netflix)

Las Encinas is a private school that educates the most wealthy and titled students in Spain. That is, until they start accepting local scholarship kids. As the lines between social classes blur, the number of deaths of students or adults related to them rises. Seriously, every year this place must keep several yearbook pages blank for the Memorial section.

These privileged teens like murdering as much as they like hooking up. What's refreshing is a lot of time Elite forgoes the drama of love triangles, and simply has throuples. Other teen soaps should take note!

Watch on Netflix

American Horror Story: 1984

Billie Lourd as Montana Duke in American Horror Story: 1984

(Image credit: Kurt Iswarienko / FX)

If you like your stories one and done, American Horror Story is also an anthology series. This season sees counselors terrorized by multiple serial killers and the supernatural at a summer camp in the ‘80s. 

Like Megan and her friends, these young adults also make awful choices in the woods, and people end up dead. It also shows how female friendships can turn toxic when someone keeps secrets.

Watch on Hulu


(L to R) Scott Foley, Keri Russell and Scott Speedman in publicity art for Felicity

(Image credit: Touchstone Television / WB / PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo)

This series actually is from around the turn of the last century, when Cruel Summer is set. It's the much more mellow version of what the academically-focused Megan's life could have been. Felicity (Keri Russell) is a studious girl who upends her college plans to follow her high school crush, Ben (Scott Speedman), to New York. 

Instead of a whodunnit, her life typically involves more average teen drama, like passing classes and lots of romantic entanglements. Her and Ben never quite leave the other's orbit, even when she has another boyfriend or he has a girlfriend. So far, each season of Cruel Summer involves two girls being romantically linked to the same boy. And they all probably watched Felicity on the WB… when they weren't preoccupied doing something sketchy.

Watch on Hulu

More from Tom's Guide

Freelance writer

Jenna is a freelance writer who covers TV, film, and all things pop culture. Her work has appeared on Teen Vogue, The Mary Sue, and Women & Hollywood, among other outlets. In her free time, she alternates between watching romcoms, romantic period dramas, and true crime, and is making her way through the list of movies on the National Film Registry.