The Irishman, Murder Mystery, and Homecoming among most popular Netflix releases of 2019


Scorsese’s The Irishman, Beyonce’s Homecoming, The Incredibles 2 and Adam Sandler/Jennifer Anniston’s Murder Mystery have been named this week among Netflix’s most popular films of 2019. 

The media giant, famously averse to publishing its stats, knows how to create suspense surrounding its top releases. Its three top-10 rankings were released on Monday: Most Popular Releases (General), Most Popular Movie Releases, and Most Popular Documentary Releases. While many of the results were as predicted — Stranger Things 3 being one of the clear winners — a few others snuck into the rankings at the last minute. (Note that it includes films and TV shows that have been hosted on the site but weren’t necessarily produced by them.)

In the general Most Popular releases rankings, Michael Bay’s 6 Underground came as a surprise to commentators. Helmed by frontrunner Ryan Reynolds, it only received a general release on 16 December yet has already climbed to third place. (Note that, for films that debuted on Netflix less than 28 days ago, Netflix used a projection model to estimate metrics.) Others in the category include Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile; The Umbrella Academy; and The Witcher, which has proven to be a December sensation commercially, if not to everyone’s taste. The absence of popular series such as The Crown and The Spy might also be noted, the latter unusual given that Sacha Baron Cohen led the series.

In the Most Popular Movie category, I was surprised to hear that Murder Mystery took the top spot (30,869,863 unique Netflix accounts watched at least 70% of the film in Netflix’s biggest opening weekend ever.) In a year that’s been populated with epics like The Irishman (which was also listed, but only in fourth place), it seems as if the appetite for light entertainment is still strong (and that Adam Sandler’s making a comeback.) Others in the category reinforce the sentiment: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, and The Incredibles 2 prove that Netflix is as much a family domain as it is for adults, which is likely the key to its success.

It’s also more than a little surprising not to find any trace of the much-lauded Marriage Story, The Report, or The Two Popes, which are sure contenders in the Academy Awards race for the coming year. Regardless of whether or not you think Adam Driver could score a hat-trick in the Awards this Spring, it’s certain that the films on offer, thanks to the influences and services of Netflix, have been able to reach the widest possible audience.

Finally, in the documentary rankings (which is a category itself worth dissecting because it seems to lump together concert films, natural life docs and true crime), there are a handful of top picks. I’m surprised to see that Cambridge Analytica exposé The Great Hack didn’t feature, given the quality of the filmmaking and all the buzz it had online. Still, FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, though I found it to labour the paranoia angle, was evidently successful enough to entice viewers (who didn’t watch Hulu’s version instead); as was Attenborough’s call-to-action in Our Planet.

My only real issue lies with the fact that Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce has been considered as a documentary with some of the highest honours. I personally found it to be overly bombastic, a superlative overview of her career, promotional rather than conversational, as you’d expect from a documentary. But you can’t argue with the fans. 

Netflix typically don’t broadcast their stats, but many a data fiend will be intrigued by the question of how well these films and shows, now that they’re named among some of the most successful, realistically performed. While it categorically takes a serious stance towards its business model, and it’s only right that they should broadcast those that have achieved excellent box office performance, I’d like to see the tidbits of information released on their stats through their hilarious brand accounts on social media. 

For all the impracticalities of a mass data comparison, it would certainly be noteworthy to see how they stacked up against competitors; in a year where we’ve been inundated with new streaming services, a breakdown of figures from the major contenders from Disney+ to Apple TV would be welcome. 

And for curiosity’s sake, I’d like to see a Top 10 worst films list: which films or TV shows they might be, and just how poorly they were received. Reviewing the year, there have been plenty of films that the writers here at Flixist have ranked in our Top 10 Best Movies (both of the year and of the decade), so we’re inclined to agree with Netflix (give or take, with a little overlap.) But there have also been a handful of films so dire that we’ve had to throw in our lot for the worst of those we’ve seen, too. After all, in a year full of films that have shown an entire range of filmmaking talent, it would only be representational. So perhaps Netflix should take that into consideration in the new year.

Take a look at the full listings below:

Top 10 Most Popular Releases of 2019

Murder Mystery

Stranger Things 3

6 Underground

The Incredibles 2

The Irishman

The Witcher

Triple Frontier

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

The Umbrella Academy

The Highwaymen

Top 10 Most Popular Movie Releases Of 2019 

Murder Mystery

6 Underground

The Incredibles 2

 The Irishman

 Triple Frontier

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

The Highwaymen

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2

Secret Obsession

Top 10 Most Popular Documentary Releases Of 2019

Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes

Our Planet

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened

Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce

Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer

Abducted in Plain Sight

The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann

The Family

Street Food: Volume 1

Kevin Hart: Don’t F**k This Up

‘Murder Mystery,’ ‘Irishman,’ Beyonce’s ‘Homecoming’ Among Netflix’s Most Popular Films of 2019 [Variety]

Sian Francis Cox
Sian is Flixist’s UK Editor and has written for sites including Escapist Magazine, Destructoid, and Film Enthusiast.