Netflix is bringing back the teen rom-com

The Kissing Booth 3. Marcos Cruz/NETFLIX.
The Kissing Booth 3. Marcos Cruz/NETFLIX. /

The teen rom-com has shaped pop culture since the ’80s with John Hughes movies defining a generation and pushing the subgenre into the spotlight. Through the ’90s and into the early and mid-2000s, the teen rom-com reigned supreme as the go-to format for movies geared to the 13-18-year-old demographic.

However, by the late-2000s a distinct shift in the market became evident. The success of the Harry Potter film franchise opened the door to more teen-centered fantasies as the young adult book market also started to garner more attention.

The Twilight Saga, the movie franchise adapted from Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire romance series, changed the game and established that Harry Potter wasn’t a one-off. Then The Hunger Games followed in its footsteps taking audiences into the dystopian subsection of the sci-fi fantasy genre.

While romance was weaved through these narratives, as is typical of teen content in general, comedy took a backseat as did lighthearted plots. The last memorable teen rom-com, to my knowledge, before raunchy teen comedies and slasher films saturated the market, was 2010’s Easy A.

It would be eight years before another teen rom-com stuck in mainstream culture and produced the kind of fervor that the romcoms of yore did. Interestingly enough it was not one but three movies that relaunched the subgenre, two of which are Netflix original movies that were spun into trilogies.

Teen rom-coms on Netflix

The year 2018 marked the return of the teen rom-com, at least in terms of mainstream success. Love, Simon released in theaters providing audiences with the first rom-com from a major Hollywood studio focused on a gay teen lead. It’s since spawned a spinoff series on Hulu called Love, Victor, which premiered its second season in June 2021.

However, despite Love, Simon‘s success and its current relevance in pop culture, the film hasn’t led to more teen rom-coms in theaters specifically, though there has been a small uptick in teen romances based on young adult books.

Unlike the 30 year span where the teen rom-com held dominion over a portion of the box office, the late 2010s ushered in a new era for the subgenre on Netflix. To All the Boys I Loved Before and The Kissing Booth landed on the platform in 2018, as well.

Years from now we may look back on 2018 as the start of a teen rom-com renaissance. While Netflix had released movies that fit into the category prior to those releases none had captured the pop culture consciousness in the way that To All the Boys I Loved Before and The Kissing Booth have.

Since then annual sequels have been released for the titles with the third and final movies in their film series taking their bow this year. To All the Boys: Always and Forever closed out Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky’s romance with a nod to the next steps in their personal journeys as they move into college. The Kissing Booth 3 will premiere Wednesday, August 11.

From 2018-2021, Netflix has or will be releasing the following teen rom-coms:

  • Candy Jar (2018)
  • The Kissing Booth (2018)
  • Alex Strangelove (2018)
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)
  • The Perfect Date (2019)
  • Tall Girl (2019)
  • Let It Snow (2019)
  • To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020)
  • The Kissing Booth 2 (2020)
  • To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021)
  • The Kissing Booth 3 (2021)
  • He’s All That (2021)

He’s All That, which premieres Friday, August 27, is a genderswapped remake of the ’90s teen rom-com She’s All That. Reboots and remakes, as much as viewers complain about them, always strike enough interest to create buzz and it’s likely this rom-com will strike up its own following among Netflix subscribers, teens or otherwise.

There’s also Tall Girl 2 which was scheduled to wrap production May 2021, according to What’s On Netflix, which will likely put its release on the 2022 calendar. The Netherfield Girls, starring Never Have I Ever‘s Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, is also likely to release in 2022. The Pride & Prejudice retelling is being touted as a mix between Easy A and 10 Things I Hate About You.

The teen rom-com train at Netflix doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon and why would it? The subgenre is popular and it’s done quite well for the streamer mainly because Hollywood studios aren’t investing in these movies and neither are other platforms. It’s a hole in the market and, as is typical of the streamer, Netflix is filling it.

So, if you’re looking to indulge in teen romantic comedies brimming with coming-of-age stories, humor, ridiculous shenanigans, and love, Netflix is the place to go. Though this should come as no surprise considering the streamer’s hold on the teen market has yet to be surpassed by any other platform or network and likely won’t be for a long time.

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