The series Cruel Summer has received recognition since its release. This Freeform mystery thriller drama did a lot of things that attracted the audience. It portrays the pressures that today’s teens confront with honesty and their desire for attention and popularity.
The story of Cruel Summer spans three summers, from 1993 to 1995. It centers on the unforeseen connection between the lives of local golden girl Kate and geeky teen girl Jeanette following Kate’s kidnapping.
Based on the trailer, it’s safe to assume that similar to season 1, viewers can anticipate another thrilling rollercoaster ride with unexpected twists and turns. Cruel Summer is not the only show that can deliver a suspenseful narrative and here are 9 shows that viewers can also binge-watch with similar themes.
1. Dead of Summer (2016)
Stream on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV
A mini-series named Dead of Summer debuted on ABC Family before moving to Freeform, much like Cruel Summer did. It only ran for a single season before its cancellation. However, that one season, which takes place at a summer camp, is full of suspense. An anthology series featuring each decade for every season was originally planned.
As people begin to die, a group of adolescent camp counselors find themselves involved in a murder investigation. The show contains many of the characteristics of a slasher film, but it also has a surprise that’s difficult to predict and an interesting puzzle to solve.
2. The A List (2018 – 2021)
Stream on Netflix
Similar to Cruel Summer, this series is an engaging thriller for teens, and viewers quickly discover that there’s more going on than what first appears. Mia, played by Lisa Ambalavanar, is the focus of attention, but when newcomer Amber, played by Ellie Duckles, shows up at camp, everything changes.
Like in Cruel Summer, there’s a conflict between the two main protagonists. In addition, there is always an unexpected scene for the viewers to experience, as fresh information and plot twists appear regularly. This show won’t let you down if you enjoy mysteries that are kept until the very end.
3. Pretty Little Liars (2010 – 2017)
Stream on Hulu, HBO Max
Pretty Little Liars is a mysterious series adapted from a book of the same name written by Sara Sheperd. The story deals with 4 friends whose deepest secrets are about to be revealed. These four teenagers joined hands at one of their friends’ burials. The story starts developing when a significant hater who is aware of all of the Pretty Little Liars’ secrets that only their deceased pal knows will soon start stalking and blackmailing them.
As the series goes on, not only are the girls terrified, but they are also suspected of being stalkers or killers. It is more crucial to protect their privacy than to release themselves to aid in the capture of the criminal(s).
4. Little Fires Everywhere ( 2020 )
Stream on Hulu
Following Cruel Summer with the series Little Fires Everywhere will instantly make you feel “déja vu.” Similar to Jeanette and Kate, Mia and Elena are two opposing sides of the same coin. Mia leads a nomadic lifestyle and is often seen as a liberal motherly figure, in contrast to Elena, who strictly clings to social standards and rules.
You’ll also be reminded of Cruel Summer by the mother-daughter relationship between Elena and Izzie. Their strong relationship is shattered when Kate finds out the truth about her mother’s secrets and approaches her about them. Once you see this parallel, you will grasp it.
5. The Way Home (2023 – Present)
Stream on Peacock and Hallmark Now
Despite having a very distinct tone, this show and Cruel Summer share a lot of parallels. It’s even more wholesome than a psychological thriller, despite being edgy for Hallmark. The story starts with a character named Alice, who is in shock at her parents’ split. After that, she relocated to the Canadian farm where her mother Kat was raised and took up residence with an unknown grandma.
There, she discovers a magical pond that allows her to travel back in time to 1999. Alice started to travel back and forth and grew close to her mother. Elliot, her mother’s best friend in every timeline, is the only one who is aware of her whereabouts.
6. One Of Us Is Lying ( 2021 – 2022)
Stream on – Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, Peacock
One of Us Is Lying mainly focuses on a group of high school students who are accused of being involved in their classmate’s death. The series is adapted from a book written by Karen M. McManus. Its main themes are all parallel to those of Cruel Summer. The title itself implies that not everyone is telling the truth, and friendships are put to the test while the group looks into a probable murder.
Cruel Summer fans will love One of Us Is Lying, a current teen mystery series with just as many unexpected outcomes. Viewers with keen eyes may also recognize actor Barrett Carnahan, who features in both the series.
7. Dare Me (2019-2020)
Stream on Netflix
Cruel Summer emphasizes teenage connections and interpersonal relationships in addition to mystery and drama. This is the same theme followed in Dare Me. Colette French (Willa Fitzgerald), the new cheerleading coach of Sutton Grove High School, is the main character of the narrative. The team’s aggressive high school players quickly find themselves in unusual circumstances that begin to negatively impact their relationships and quality of life.
The main actors’ excellent acting is the main attraction of this show. The compelling performances and surprising conclusion make the story worthwhile to watch even though it can feel a bit clumsy at times.
8. Scream (2015 – 2019)
Stream on Amazon Prime
Scream introduced horror to MTV for its first 2 seasons, drawing inspiration from the same-named slasher movie from the ‘90s. Featuring an entirely new cast and an entirely new plot, the 3rd season was transferred to a different network.
Similar to Cruel Summer, the series focuses on a small town’s residents as they experience misfortune. But in this instance, it’s not a teenage girl who goes missing; rather, it’s the revival of killings that remind people of crimes that occurred decades before. The series, which centers on teenagers who are the target of a masked killer, explores connections and first loves amidst a terrifying background.
9. The Sinner (2017 – 2021)
Stream on Netflix
The Sinner is a contrast to Cruel Summer and an investigative drama grounded in true events. This series is an interesting plot as the audiences can make guesses while watching the show. Each season focuses on different mysteries although the detectives work on the same cases every time. It will also be up to the viewers to decide how true each season’s version of Kate and Jeanette’s Cruel Summer was.
This series’ several episodes showcase Detective Harry Ambrose’s (Bill Pullman) intricate investigations. The main character is Corat Tannetti (Bilel), a beachside murder victim who was killed by a man. A detailed account of the girl’s past life is given to the audience, leading them to an unexpected revelation that foreshadows the shocking conclusion.