TV

Here's What To Watch If You're Missing Cruel Summer

There are plenty of intense teen dramas out there.

When Cruel Summer premiered on Freeform in April 2021, the series instantly won over viewers and critics alike. Jumping between timelines in the 1990s, this twisty teen drama kept fans on their toes as it cleverly revealed what really went down between small-town Texas girls Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) and Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt). If you’re already missing it, you’re in luck: Here are 12 shows similar to Cruel Summer that you can watch next.

Cruel Summer unfolds over the course of three summers from 1993 to 1995, as nerdy teen-turned-it girl Jeanette and local golden girl Kate’s lives unexpectedly become intertwined after Kate is kidnapped. When Kate returns and claims Jeanette knew she was being held captive but did nothing, they prepare to square off in a legal battle while reckoning with how the dangers and pressures placed on teenage girls have turned their lives upside down.

Whether you enjoy the mystery or the coming-of-age intrigue of Cruel Summer, these shows are bound to keep you satisfied while you wait for Season 2.

01
Pretty Little Liars
Freeform

Years before Cruel Summer took audiences by storm, Pretty Little Liars reigned as Freeform’s popular, shocking teen mystery. Spanning seven seasons, the show begins one year after high school queen bee Alison (Sasha Pieterse) goes missing. Her four best friends’ lives are soon changed forever when they begin receiving a series of anonymous text messages from someone known as “A,” who threatens to expose their dirtiest secrets. While both shows deal with a missing teenager and a student/teacher relationship, Cruel Summer thankfully handles the latter a lot better.

All seven seasons of Pretty Little Liars are streaming on HBO Max.

02
The Sinner

Part of the darker intrigue of Cruel Summer is seeing how Kate’s disappearance exposes the sinister behavior that lurks under the town of Skylin, Texas’ idyllic surface. Actually, confronting that hometown darkness is what The Sinner is all about. Bill Pullman stars in the show as Harry, a detective who’s forced to look closer at his own rural New York town after an 11-year-old local boy murders his parents.

All three seasons of The Sinner are streaming on Netflix.

03
Dare Me
The cast of USA Network's 'Dare Me.'

With all its twists and turns, Cruel Summer proves that teenage girls are a force to be reckoned with, even as their journey to find their place in the world (and their community’s social hierarchy) can be rocky. Just like Cruel Summer explores the factors that pushed Jeanette and Kate to strive for popularity, Dare Me is a portrait of two young women whose fight to get ahead in life ends with a murder mystery directly connected to their cheerleading team.

All episodes of Dare Me are streaming on Netflix.

04
Nancy Drew

The teens of Cruel Summer may take investigating their hometown mysteries into their own hands, just like another iconic character before them: Nancy Drew. While Nancy has been around for decades, this new CW show puts a modern spin on the teen sleuth’s (played by Kennedy McMann) adventures. Come for the crime-solving and teen drama, stay for the wild supernatural stories.

Nancy Drew airs on The CW.

05
The Wilds
Amazon Prime

Being a teenage girl can often feel like life or death, and that’s literally the case in The Wilds. The Amazon series follows several teenage girls from vastly different backgrounds who fight for survival after winding up stranded on a deserted island, and end up with completely different perspectives on their own pasts. There’s also a compelling central mystery about how, exactly, the girls ended up on the island, so what are you waiting for?

All episodes of The Wilds are streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

06
Scream Queens

Sure, the slasher comedy Scream Queens is campier than the much more serious Cruel Summer. But if you’re looking for a fun take on Cruel Summer’s young adult rivalries and criminal stakes, this is the show for you. Starring A-list celebrities like Ariana Grande and Emma Roberts, the show unfolds in the fictional sorority of Kappa Kappa Tau as they’re forced to confront an anonymous serial killer who begins killing off members.

Both seasons of Scream Queens are streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

07
Little Fires Everywhere
Hulu

Cruel Summer does a great job of exploring how our culture encourages competition and jealousy between young women, and Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere expands upon that idea by focusing on how race and class factor into the equation. Also set in the ‘90s, the show follows two women (played by Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington) whose secrets come to the surface when their lives and families become closely intertwined. If Cruel Summer’s parent drama hooked you, you’ll be into this!

All episodes of Little Fires Everywhere are streaming on Hulu.

08
The Haunting of Hill House

Cruel Summer’s alternating timelines only make the series more compelling as viewers work to piece together how Jeanette and Kate ended up where they did. If you’re craving a similar narrative structure, try out Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House. Split between two different timelines, the show follows five siblings as they grapple with the events that led them to run from their haunted house as children.

All episodes of The Haunting of Hill House are streaming on Netflix.

09
Mare of Easttown
HBO

Just like Cruel Summer, the HBO hit Mare of Easttown focuses on an investigation into young women’s disappearances, while showing how a town’s residents (particularly its women) process longterm trauma. Kate Winslet anchors the series as Mare, a police detective whose own demons are brought to the surface when she’s forced to search for missing girls and solve the mystery of a teenage girl’s murder.

All episodes of Mare of Easttown are streaming on HBO Max.

10
Elite
Netflix

When three working class teens enroll in an exclusive Spanish private school at the beginning of Elite, class tensions quickly erupt between the new students and their privileged peers. The tension even results in a murder, which audiences piece together over the course of several episodes. Just like Cruel Summer, this Netflix original balances juicy drama with oddly relatable looks at identity and status.

All three seasons of Elite are streaming on Netflix.

11
The A List
Netflix

The A List unfolds at a British summer camp, as one teenage girl’s it girl status is challenged by a new camper and secrets about the camp threaten to make their summer a nightmare. A dream summer turned upside down by two teenage girls’ connection sure sounds a lot like Cruel Summer. This show also has a fun supernatural twist that will leave fans of the paranormal wanting more.

All episodes of The A List are streaming on Netflix.

12
Riverdale

Look, sometimes you need to unwind with a good old-fashioned teen soap! Riverdale puts a darker spin on the squeaky-clean Archie comics it’s based on, as all-American teen Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) and his friends tackle all kinds of wild murder mysteries in their seemingly wholesome small town. After all the heavy material of Cruel Summer, the fun melodrama of Riverdale is the perfect palate cleanser.

Riverdale airs on The CW.