‘Cruel Summer‘ is a layered mystery that unfolds the events leading up to and aftermath of the kidnapping of Kate Wallis, a popular girl in the town of Skylin, Texas, through three different timelines. This particular case of kidnapping rocks the lives of residents of the small town, especially of Jeanette Turner, a socially awkward girl who takes over Kate’s life after her disappearance and is a prime suspect in her abduction. The intense teen thriller is created by Bert V. Royal (‘Easy A‘) and utilizes storytelling devices such as non-linear narratives and unreliable narrators to always keep the audience on their toes.
It deals with a myriad of themes, such as peer pressure, vulnerabilities of adolescence, jealousy, etc., that are resonant to teenagers. Its retro setting makes it nostalgic and accessible to older audiences. If you have enjoyed some or all of the entertaining aspects of the show, you can check out our list of similar shows that will keep feeding your hunger for teen thrillers. You can watch most of these shows like ‘Cruel Summer’ on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
7. Dare Me (2019-2020)
‘Dare Me‘ is a teen thriller series about the lives of a group of cheerleaders at a high school in a small town. It is based on the novel of the same name by Megan Abbott, who developed the series along with Gina Fattore. The series takes a look at the ugly side of volatile female friendships and examines the extent to which one might go to get ahead. If the lies, the rumors, and the egos of characters from ‘Cruel Summer’ entertained you, ‘Dare Me’ will make a solid quick binge for you.
6. Everything Sucks! (2018)
Every teenager around the globe will relate to the titular phrase, and ‘Everything Sucks!‘ is a series that stresses, reiterates, and highlights everything that is wrong or could go wrong in the life of an average American teenager. Although the series lacks the mystery element that makes ‘Cruel Summer’ such an edgy teen show, it makes up for it with its crude sense of humor. Created by Ben York Jones and Michael Mohan, the 1990s set comedy-drama makes plenty of fresh statements about high school life in an entertaining way. If you are looking for a lighthearted series akin to ‘Cruel Summer,’ you should definitely stream ‘Everything Sucks!’
5. Beartown (2020-)
‘Beartown‘ (also known as ‘Björnstad’) is a Swedish-language drama series based on the novel of the same name written by Fredrik Backman. Set in a hockey-crazy small town, the series deals with events leading up to and fallout from the sexual assault on a young teenage girl by one of the star players of the town’s junior hockey team. As ‘Cruel Summer’ examines the impact of a serious crime on a small-town community, ‘Beartown’ also does the same but with much greater depth and nuance. If you enjoyed the social commentary made through ‘Cruel Summer,’ you’d certainly relish ‘Beartown.’
4. Scream (2015-2019)
Loosely based on the film series of the same name, ‘Scream’ is a slasher television series that revolves around a notorious killer known as Ghostface, who plagues the small town of Lakewood in seasons 1 and 2. For the third season, the action shifts to Atlanta. The series features various elements of teen dramas and puts a psychological thriller twist on them. If you felt ‘Cruel Summer’ could be a little less self-serious and more fantastical, ‘Scream’ is the right show for you. The basic premise of troubled teenagers being hunted by a killer as well their dark secrets provides plenty of gasp-inducing thrills in the vein of ‘Cruel Summer.’
3. Pretty Little Liars (2010-2017)
‘Pretty Little Liars‘ is an adaptation of author Sara Shepard’s book series of the same name. The teen thriller series revolves around four high school girlfriends who are estranged after their clique’s leader mysteriously disappears. The girls must band together to unravel the mystery behind their friend’s abduction. In the process, they risk outing their darkest personal secrets and those of others. It is a cleverly crafted drama that should entice you if found the mystery of Katie’s disappearance and the bold portrayal of high school cliques presented in ‘Cruel Summer’ particularly enjoyable.
2. The A List (2018-)
While watching ‘Cruel Summer,’ if you felt the only thing that could make the series better is a dash of supernatural mysticism, then you should check out ‘The A List.’ The British thriller series created by Dan Berlinka and Nina Metivier follows a group of teenagers arriving at a sleep-away summer camp on an island hoping to have the time of their lives. The island harbors dark secrets, and the clueless teenagers get embroiled in a supernatural mystery. It deals with themes similar to those of ‘Cruel Summer,’ such as romance, rivalry, new-found freedom, and its ominous central mystery will keep you engrossed.
1. Riverdale (2017-)
Based on the Archie Comics characters you probably adored during your adolescence for their lighthearted tone, ‘Riverdale‘ is a dark, gritty, and brooding teen drama developed by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. It revolves around Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica, who deal with the difficulties experienced by modern teenagers, crimes, and mysteries in the titular small town. Filed with a band of compelling characters, the excitement of teenage romance, and a revolving door of mysteries, there’s plenty to keep you hooked on ‘Riverdale.’ Between the mystifying setting, retro vibe of the town, and perils of teenage, ‘Riverdale’ has layers of drama identical in texture to that of ‘Cruel Summer,’ making it a must-watch for fans of the latter series.
Read More: Where is Cruel Summer Filmed?