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Best Of

Our Favorite Teen Drama Couples of the Last 10 Years

From Riverdale's Barchie to Heartstopper's Nick and Charlie, these ships are totally OTP-worthy.
  • Clockwise from left: Heartstopper, The Summer I Turned Pretty, Ginny & Georgia, and Riverdale (Photos: Netflix/Everett Collection; Primetimer graphic)
    Clockwise from left: Heartstopper, The Summer I Turned Pretty, Ginny & Georgia, and Riverdale (Photos: Netflix/Everett Collection; Primetimer graphic)

    When you think of the greatest teen drama romances, it’s easy to automatically gravitate towards the classics: Pacey and Joey, Willow and Tara, Rory and Jess, and whichever side you were on with the love triangle between Brooke, Lucas, and Peyton. While the ’90s and ’00s were certainly full of great ships, there are also plenty of incredible couples from more recent teen shows worth talking about. Today’s streaming-dominated landscape may mean fewer slow burns, but there have also been positive developments: more characters of color at the center, increased LGBTQ+ representation, and less reliance on problematic tropes. It’s highly unlikely we would have gotten a YA show like Netflix’s Young Royals — which centers on a queer, interracial relationship — back in the early 2000s.

    In honor of Young Royals letting love win in its series finale, here are 14 of the absolute best teen drama pairings of the last 10 years. Not every ship below is considered an official couple, but the characters were at least romantically involved (glares at Legacies for never allowing Hope and Josie to be canon).

    Belly and Conrad, The Summer I Turned Pretty (2022—)

    A love triangle with two brothers is a teen drama staple that never goes out of style. In Prime Video’s The Summer I Turned Pretty, Belly (Lola Tung) has grown up spending her summers vacationing in Cousins Beach alongside Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalengo), the sons of her mother’s best friend. While she has connections with both boys, she’s had feelings for Conrad for as long as she can remember. When he finally realizes he feels the same way and kisses her on the beach, declaring, “I don’t just need someone, I need you,” it’s a moment straight out of a fairytale. Even though they have plenty of ups and downs, their love feels like something that can never truly fade. While Jeremiah may seem like the easier choice, Conrad knows Belly on a much deeper level. The iconic “it’s always been you” fireplace scene in Season 2 speaks for itself.

    Nick and Charlie, Heartstopper (2022—)

    There’s just something incredibly comforting about Nick and Charlie’s romance in Netflix’s Heartstopper. Their relationship is so sweet and supportive, and you can tell just how smitten they both are with each other. The show allows its queer characters to experience joy and discover who they are in a way that feels groundbreaking: Charlie doesn’t pressure Nick to label himself or come out before he’s ready, and Nick never pushes him away while he figures out his identity. Although they face challenges (like Charlie’s mental health), there’s no drama between them purely for the sake of drama. Nick’s bisexuality is also portrayed very well — both Nick and Charlie swiftly correct other characters who mistakenly label him as gay, and the series repeatedly emphasizes that his attraction to girls is just as valid as his love for Charlie.

    Wilhelm and Simon, Young Royals (2021-2024)

    Crown Prince Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding) and his classmate Simon (Omar Rudberg) have a truly revolutionary love story in Netflix’s Swedish drama. Their relationship is complicated and gets quite messy at times as they deal with the monarchy on top of usual teenage issues. But their chemistry is undeniable, and it’s clear that they love each other very much. They smile constantly when they’re together, and they honestly act like real teenagers navigating their first romance. Young Royals doesn’t overly romanticize things — Simon recognizes that a relationship shouldn’t be so all-consuming and difficult, especially at their age. The finale truly feels like the healthiest outcome for both boys. They get their happy ending, yes, but it’s because Wilhelm chooses his own happiness, which includes the freedom to be with Simon.

    Ginny and Marcus, Ginny & Georgia (2021—)

    Another great “best friend’s brother” ship, next door neighbors Ginny (Antonia Gentry) and Marcus (Felix Mallard) are hard not to fall in love with on Netflix’s Ginny & Georgia. The series subverts expectations by having them sleep together in literally the first episode, but also waiting until Season 2 to make them an official couple. The best part about their relationship is how supportive they are of each other. Both teens are dealing with serious mental health struggles — for Ginny, it’s self-harm, for Marcus, it’s severe depression — but they make each other feel so safe and loved. The fact that Ginny genuinely still wants to be there for Marcus after their breakup speaks volumes. Even if it takes a while, it feels inevitable that they’ll find their way back to each other. After all, Marcus loves her “today, tomorrow, forever.”

    Max and Sophie, Ginny & Georgia (2021—)

    Max (Sara Waisglass) and Sophie (Humberly González) have incredible chemistry, but what makes their relationship really stand out is how realistic it feels. They have lots of sweet moments, including when Sophie reassures Max that there’s absolutely no pressure to do anything she doesn’t feel ready for, and they decide to just cuddle instead of rushing into sex. At the same time, their breakup at the end of Season 1 happens in a way that feels very natural. As devastating as it is to watch Max get her heart broken, it’s easy to understand why Sophie wouldn’t want to commit to a long distance relationship at their age, especially when they haven’t been together that long. Ginny & Georgia doesn’t shove its queer couples into the background or put them on a pedestal, but instead refreshingly writes Max and Sophie’s relationship just like any other teenage romance on the show.

    Lexi and Fez, Euphoria (2019—)

    This one is a bit sad to think about now, given that Fez’s actor Angus Cloud died in 2023. But Fez and Lexi (Maude Apatow) made Season 2 of HBO’s Euphoria worth watching, and their legacy deserves to be remembered. Despite Fez being a drug dealer, he’s the voice of reason for the rest of the rest of the characters, and it only makes sense that he would click so naturally with the smart, ambitious Lexi. Their relationship is easily the healthiest on the show. They connect on a deep level with their conversations, but they also just genuinely enjoy each other’s company. As Rue (Zendaya) points out in her narration, Fez really, truly listens to Lexi: “She couldn’t remember the last time someone her age asked her so many questions about herself. He actually cared about what she had to say.”

    Grizz and Sam, The Society (2019)

    Netflix may have tragically canceled The Society after only one season, but Grizz (Jack Mulhern) and Sam’s (Sean Beardy) relationship remains memorable. The boys both go out of their way to make the other know how much they care: Sam helps Grizz with his garden and listens to him talk about his passions, while Grizz learns sign language just for Sam. Although the relationship is complicated due to Sam’s commitment to helping his best friend Becca (Gideon Aldon) raise her unborn baby, what he and Grizz have feels real and worth fighting for. In particular, the scene where they lay in bed together and talk honestly about their different experiences coming to terms with their sexualities is one of the best, most heartfelt moments of the show.

    Allie and Harry, The Society (2019)

    Allie (Kathryn Newton) and Harry (Alex Fitzalen) are one of those ships that, on paper, really shouldn’t work. Harry is sort of indirectly responsible for her sister Cassandra’s (Rachel Keller) death, and, after their brief fling, the two spend the rest of the season mostly icing each other out. Yet, there’s something about their dynamic that just works. They have absolutely insane chemistry, and their contrasting personalities play off each other so naturally. Allie also sees that Harry might actually have a decent heart underneath it all, telling him, “Sometimes I wonder if there's another version of this world where we're friends.” For the record, Kathryn Newton also thinks they’re endgame.

    Guzmán and Nadia, Elite (2018—)

    Despite everything ridiculous that happens on this show after Season 3, Guzmán (Miguel Bernardeau) and Nadia (Mina El Hammani) are the best couple in Netflix’s Elite. Their dynamic starts out as something reminiscent of Cruel Intentions, with Guzmán initially just pretending to be interested in Nadia because he wants her to keep quiet about something. But he soon finds himself developing real, genuine feelings for her. He doesn’t just immediately earn her trust back right away, and he actually has to prove that he’s worthy of a second chance. What’s great about their relationship is how they not only support each other, but also challenge each other. Guzmán even admits to Nadia that she saved his life.

    Spencer and Olivia, All American (2018—)

    Like many of the greatest teen drama ships, Spencer (Daniel Ezra) and Olivia (Samantha Logan) have had a long journey to becoming an official couple. The chemistry is obvious (literally, they’re lab partners) when they meet in the pilot of The CW’s All American, but it isn’t until much later that the two decide to take the leap and actually give their love a real shot. They’re not just a couple, but best friends who would do anything to protect each other — Spencer literally takes a bullet for her at one point. When they finally choose each other, it feels satisfying in a way that’s reminiscent of classic slow burns like Joey and Pacey. “You were so worth the wait,” Olivia tells Spencer as they dance at prom, and #Spelivia shippers would agree.

    Cheryl and Toni, Riverdale (2017-2023)

    With so many examples of queerbaiting and the “bury your gays” trope out there, it’s always nice when a sapphic ship actually gets proper development and a happy ending. Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and Toni’s (Vanessa Morgan) relationship is easily the best thing to come out of The CW’s Riverdale. Although they’re initially painted as rivals, there’s an obvious tension and chemistry between them. It doesn’t take long for their banter to blossom into a beautiful relationship. Their energies play off each other in the best way: Toni gets Cheryl to let her walls down and accept love, while Cheryl recognizes what a great heart Toni has underneath that intimidating Southside Serpent gear. Their romance isn’t perfect, but they’re soulmates in every timeline. It’s really no wonder that Vanessa Morgan considers Choni her forever favorite couple.

    Betty and Archie, Riverdale (2017-2023)

    Childhood friends, the boy and girl next door, slow burn, faking dating, friends with benefits, best friends to lovers… Betty (Lili Reingart) and Archie’s (KJ Apa) romance truly encompasses all of the best teen drama romance tropes. Archie realizing he loves Betty as more than a best friend is something that happens gradually over time, and the result is that their romance feels earned instead of rushed. When they finally become a real couple at the end of Season 5, it just feels right, even as they’re navigating superpowers and all kinds of ridiculousness. Although Season 7 did Barchie dirty (along with Tabitha and Jughead, who deserved so much better), their legacy remains strong from the comics to the show. As CEO of Archie Comics Jon Goldwater said in a 2023 interview with this writer, “Archie and Betty endure because they reflect the best things about youth, about love, [and] about life itself.”

    Miles and Lola, Degrassi: Next Class (2016-2017)

    Although their romance only lasts for a few episodes in the equally short-lived Netflix spin-off, Miles (Eric Osborne) and Lola (Amanda Arcuri) are one of the best relationships in the entire Degrassi franchise. The way it unfolds isn’t exactly ideal, given that they fall for each other while Miles’ boyfriend Tristan (Lyle Lettau) is in a coma, which admittedly sounds awful on paper. But despite the circumstances, their connection is incredibly beautiful and genuine, and it’s easily both characters’ best relationship. They just seem to really understand each other in a way nobody else does. Lola is immediately accepting of Miles’ bisexuality, which is a huge contrast to the way Tristan constantly shamed him for it. Miles even writes an entire play about Lola, calling her his “hope.” Lola is also best friends with his younger sister Frankie (Sara Waisglass), which adds a fun element to their dynamic. Plus, in a 2021 interview with Osborne and Arcuri, both actors said they could see their characters getting back together in the future.

    Clarke and Lexa, The 100 (2014-2020)

    The 100 choosing to kill off Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey), especially right after she and Clarke (Eliza Taylor) sleep together, was a deeply disappointing, unnecessary move. That being said, Clarke and Lexa still deserve to be recognized for their short, but powerful love story. Clexa is an excellent example of how well the classic enemies-to-lovers trope can work, creating a dynamic that’s not just entertaining, but truly captivating from start to finish. They don’t just fall in love, they learn from each other — they come to understand that life “should be about more than just surviving,” even in a warzone. Although Lexa’s death is awful, The 100 sort of puts a bandaid over it by having Debnam-Carey appear in the series finale to confirm that Clarke and Lexa are indeed soulmates.

    Kelly Martinez is a TV Reporter based in Los Angeles. Her previous work can be found at BuzzFeed and People Magazine, among other outlets. She enjoys reading, spending time with her cat, and explaining the plot of Riverdale to people.

    TOPICS: Teen Dramas, The 100, All American, Degrassi: Next Class, Elite, Euphoria, Ginny & Georgia, Heartstopper, Riverdale, The Society, The Summer I Turned Pretty, Young Royals