Last summer, Netflix released a list of its 10 most popular movies, complete with the number of how many people (or how many accounts) watched each one. It was an interesting glimpse into how things are going at one of the world’s biggest streaming companies, as well as an insight into what kind movies are successful on Netflix. It was also pretty much meaningless and a waste of everyone’s time, since the viewership numbers came directly from Netflix (meaning there’s no way to corroborate them) and also the numbers count anyone who watched at least two minutes of each movie (meaning the numbers are probably much higher than they otherwise would be).
Also, Netflix shot its own list in the foot just a couple of days later when it revealed that The Old Guard, which was nowhere to be seen on the original list, had become one of its 10 most popular movies ever. So either the original list was wrong, Netflix was overestimating The Old Guard’s popularity, or the whole thing was pointless because it was just Netflix bragging about its own success anyway.
Well, here we are again, with another list of things that Netflix says are popular, this time with both movies and TV shows, broken down by the number of accounts that viewed them and the amount of time spent watching them. There are possibly made-up numbers to back up the data again, but those don’t matter. You can see them on Variety if you want. What we’re going to address here are the lists themselves, which—at the very least and possibly at the very most—reveal which 10 movies and TV shows Netflix thinks are deserving of acknowledgement.
Here are the top 10 shows, in terms of the number of accounts that viewed them: Bridgerton, Lupin, The Witcher, Sex/Life, Stranger Things season three, Money Heist part four, Tiger King, The Queen’s Gambit, Sweet Tooth, and Emily In Paris. You will notice the lack of every other Stranger Things season, meaning more people watched this last one than the others, as well as the lack of any of Netflix’s Marvel shows. We’re not saying it’s suspicious, we’re just pointing it out.
For the movies, in terms of the number of accounts that viewed them, the list is: Extraction, Bird Box, Spenser Confidential, 6 Underground, Murder Mystery, The Old Guard, Enola Holmes, Project Power, Army Of The Dead, and Fatherhood. That checks out with last year’s list, though there are some new names, but Spenser Confidential is inexplicably holding on to a high spot still.
The potentially more meaningful lists, though, are the ones based on the number of hours spent viewing these TV shows or movies. That means it’s the stuff that people left on in the background or actually sat and watched, as opposed to things they might have clicked on accidentally. Here’s the TV list: Bridgerton, Money Heist part four, Stranger Things season three, The Witcher, 13 Reasons Why season two and season one, You season two, Stranger Things season two, Money Heist part three, and Ginny & Georgia. That list makes a little more logical sense! There’s still no sign of the Marvel shows, but at least we’re not suggesting that more people have seen the last episode of Stranger Things than the first episode.
The movies list is also fun, for one reason in particular: Bird Box, Extraction, The Irishman, The Kissing Booth 2, 6 Underground, Spenser Confidential, Enola Holmes, Army Of The Dead, The Old Guard, and Murder Mystery. Hey, The Irishman wasn’t on the list of movies that a lot of people watched, but it is on the list of movies that people spent a lot of time watching! Hmmmmm.
Update, 9/28/21: Netflix has shared a little more context with us about how it determines these numbers, including the fact that these Top 10 lists are based on how popular something is in its first “four weeks/28 days.” So the reason The Old Guard wasn’t on the first list wasn’t because it got tens of millions of views in a couple of days or because the first list was wrong. It was just because The Old Guard hadn’t hit that threshold yet so its numbers weren’t official. That also explains why Stranger Things’ third season is on one of these lists and the others aren’t. It’s not that more people watched season three of the show than any other season (which is not how people watch TV), it’s that a lot of people watched it right when it came out.
We would still like to stress that the numbers themselves are coming straight from Netflix and therefore don’t necessarily mean anything on their own, but the lists of the Top 10 shows and movies seem a little more valid. We still don’t understand why so many people watched Spenser Confidential, but that’s a mystery for another day.