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

Most Watched Movies Netflix 2019
Scott Yamano / Netflix; Pixar; Christian Black/Netflix

Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston’s “Murder Mystery,” Beyonce’s historic “Homecoming,” Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” and Disney’s “The Incredibles 2” rank among the most popular Netflix movies of 2019, the notoriously ratings-averse streamer announced Monday.

Netflix has released a master list of its most-favored content in the United States, as well as individual rankings of films, original series, unscripted shows and comedy specials.

Following “Murder Mystery” as the year’s most popular film were titles including Michael Bay’s critically panned “6 Underground,” Pixar’s “The Incredibles 2,” Ben Affleck’s “Triple Frontier,” and Sony Animation’s Oscar winner “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

Viewership numbers were not disclosed, though in June the streamer tweeted that “Murder Mystery” had Netflix’s biggest opening weekend ever, with over 30 million accounts watching the whodunit around the world. A sequel is currently in development.

For the 2019 lists, “popularity” was not determined by the total number of viewers for a given piece of content, a Netflix spokesperson said. The lists were generated by counting the total number of households to stream an individual title for at least two minutes, during the first 28 days of its release.

For titles that debuted on Netflix less than 28 days ago, the company used a projection model to determine where final viewership numbers are likely to land (as it has done in the past on earnings calls with investors).

Bay’s Ryan Reynolds action film “6 Underground,” for instance, only premiered on Dec. 13 — but it’s the second most popular film release of 2019, and is ranked third on an overall list that includes series like “Stranger Things,” according to Netflix.

The documentary title that topped the year was Joe Berlinger’s “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.” On its heels was the visual feast “Our Planet,” the water cooler sensation “FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” and the Coachella festival masterpiece “Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce.”

Movies are notably dominant on the overall list, considering Netflix is a service built on bingeable episodic content. Only three series made the cut: “Stranger Things,” the Duffer brothers’ sci-fi thriller and the only series to break into the top five, as well as Henry Cavill’s “The Witcher” (No. 6) and the comic-based “The Umbrella Academy” (No. 9).

Thematically, the film content skews more popcorn than prestige. Billboards in Los Angeles and airport terminals wherever an Oscar voter might wander are littered with ads for Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” and “The Two Popes,” but these lists suggest Netflix subscribers prefer Ryan Reynolds doing air stunts in a jet sponsored by Red Bull (which is indeed a plot point in “6 Underground”).

If Netflix’s popularity metrics are to be taken at face value (many traditional media analysts do not do so), it would also justify some risky financial bets taken by the film group, led by Scott Stuber. Netflix acquired “Triple Frontier” for a reported $90 million after the film’s distribution deal fell through at Paramount, and faced wide criticism and doubt for overspending.

Likewise, the scripted Ted Bundy story “Extremely Wicked,” starring Zac Efron and also from Berlinger, received a mixed 56% score from Rotten Tomatoes but left this year’s Sundance Film Festival a $9 million check from Netflix following a bidding war.

If the list has any forecasting power, it might be that Netflix needs to up its feature animation game. “The Incredibles 2” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2,” both franchises from Disney, brought them eyeballs in 2019. Those properties, and many more lingering from a previous output deal, have been locked in the vault at Netflix’s competitor, Disney Plus.

Netflix also revealed its most-watched TV shows of the year, including “Stranger Things 3,” “The Witcher” and “When They See Us.”

Read the top feature film lists:

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”