Movies & TV / Columns

A Look at Netflix’s Top 10 Most Popular Original Movies

July 20, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

How much Netflix have you watched in the past 5 months? Running out of things to binge? If you’re like me, you’ve had enough time to wonder just who’s watching some of these Netflix originals like Coffee & Kareem and Spenser Confidential? I get that they need content but a little quality control can go a long way. 

To add to the fun, Netflix just released a list of its 10 most popular original movies — not of the year, but of the five years that the company has been creating and streaming its own films. Some may surprise you. 

Here’s the full top 10:

Extraction (99 million)

Bird Box (89 million)

Spenser Confidential (85 million)

6 Underground (83 million)

Murder Mystery (73 million)

The Irishman (64 million)

Triple Frontier (63 million)

The Wrong Missy (59 million)

The Platform (56 million)

The Perfect Date (48 million)

First, don’t let those views fool you. Those don’t translate to something good. Most likely put it on to check it out and thanks to that handy Netflix algorithm, the movies that get watched the most are ones that end up in your suggestion line up several times.

I’ve seen the same movies end up in my “Newly Released”, “Popular on Netflix”, and “Trending Now” picks so I end up watching them. That’s how it works. 

I couldn’t find any information that said if the totals above are for watching the entire movie or if someone clicked on it, watched for a few minutes, and then turned it off. Let’s assume it’s for the majority of the movie. 
I’ve seen all the movies on the Top 10 list and probably enjoyed 3 of them. I’ll let you guess which 3. Most of the movies on the list are very basic, by the numbers stories that weren’t horrible but weren’t good either. 

When you look at the list, to me, it’s the movies that aren’t on it that peak my interest. On my social media timelines I heard a number of people talking about Da 5 Bloods, a surprisingly great movie that I’ve recommended to people. Same with Roma, which received a huge marketing push. 

I’ve done columns in the past that covered Netflix’s drive to increase the quality of their original movies, to compete with those getting theater runs. Of that Top 10, how many of those would have found success at the box office? 3? 4? 

I enjoyed The Irishman but I know a lot of people who didn’t. With a $200 million box office, I can’t say for sure it would have made its money back. 

The list above is an interesting reflection on Netflix and the decisions they make. For a couple of days, all I saw were promos for The Wrong Missy. An perfectly nice, forgettable comedy that would have been out of theaters after a couple of weeks outside the Top 5. 

Why push The Wrong Missy? Is this a movie that Netflix wants to promote to represent its brand? Same for A Perfect Date. The movie barely rises to its premise and while it’s harmless, to tout it in a Top 10 list seems…odd. 

Netflix has been fighting for respect at the Oscars and critical acclaim but you wouldn’t know it from their marketing. Where’s the push for The Other Side of the Wind. Marriage Story, or Atlantics? I watch them but it doesn’t seem to change my algorithm of what appears in my suggestions. 

The bottomline is these are the Top 10 most popular movies because Netflix wants them to be. The question is why?