Over the last decade, streaming has completely changed the way we watch movies, and the biggest player in the game is undoubtedly Netflix. Launched back in 1997 as a humble DVD-by-mail rental service, Netflix pioneered the concept of on-demand entertainment. As technology advanced, they smartly pivoted into streaming, and the rest, as they say, is history.
By their own metrics, consumers streamed over 240 billion hours of Netflix content in 2021 alone. Due to their general opaqueness about revealing specific viewership data, getting concrete numbers for individual titles is tricky. However, Netflix does occasionally report viewership stats in terms of how many “viewing hours” a title gets in its first 28 days. This helps give us a glimpse at what shows and movies really captured people’s attention.
While Netflix’s buzz-worthy original series tend to hog the spotlight, their original movies have also seen some monster hits. We combed through the limited viewership data that’s out there to put together this list of 15 of Netflix’s most-watched original films, ranked by their reported viewing hours in the crucial first month after release.
From action-packed blockbusters fueled by megawatt star power, to compelling dramas rooted in cultural commentary, these 15 films give a snapshot of the diverse content and range of genres that have resonated most with Netflix subscribers in recent years. Read on to see which flicks got millions of streaming viewers abuzz as soon as they hit Netflix.
15. Army of the Dead (186.54 million hours watched)
Zack Snyder tries his hand at the zombie genre…with a twist. His 2021 action horror flick Army of the Dead brings together a ragtag crew for a classic heist movie premise, except their target is $200 million sitting in a vault smack dab in the middle of a zombie-infested Las Vegas quarantine zone.
With its offbeat combo of zombies meets casino robbery, Army of the Dead brings Snyder’s trademark over-the-top style to the kind of gritty, blood-soaked aesthetic he perfected in his 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. It lacks some of the deeper commentary of that earlier zombie outing, instead opting to focus on delivering adrenaline-pumping action spectacle.
Led by Dave Bautista’s deadpan but likeable Scott, the crew cracks wise in the face of what feels like nonstop chaotic zombie attacks. Highlights include a zombie tiger, a zombie baby, and a “smart” zombie dubbed Zeus who adds extra suspense. The crew itself is a mixed bag in terms of character development, although German safe-cracker Dieter and badass helicopter pilot Marianne stand out.
Is it as poignant as Snyder’s previous forays into the zombie genre? Nah. But with its simple “get in, get the cash, get out” objective and countless undead obstacles in the way, Army of the Dead supplies all the gory mayhem you could ask for from a popcorn action zombie flick.
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14. Enola Holmes (189.9 million hours watched)
Before Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr., Millie Bobby Brown was bringing a refreshing twist to the iconic role of detective Sherlock Holmes’ plucky younger sister. After her mysterious mother goes missing on Enola’s 16th birthday, she sets off to London to search for clues. But soon Enola’s investigating a mystery of her own involving a runaway Viscount.
With witty narration directly addressing the audience, Enola Holmes captures the clever and independent spirit of its titular heroine. Brown brings the perfect balance of charm, intellect, and youthful determination to Enola. The production design vividly brings Victorian England to life around her with gorgeous costuming and sets.
Although the mystery itself is fairly predictable, the real draw is seeing Enola find her way while constantly frustrating her traditional older brothers Sherlock and Mycroft (Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin), who just want her to be a “proper lady.” Enola Holmes puts its own fresh spin on the established Holmesverse by filtering Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters through a uniquely feminist perspective.
13. 6 Underground (205.47 million hours watched)
Only legendary action director Michael Bay could pull together a premise as absurd as 6 Underground’s. It stars Ryan Reynolds as the nameless, enigmatic leader of an elite team of six specialists, each faking their own death and going off the grid to anonymously take down ruthless criminals. Even just trying to summarize the plot makes your head spin.
But story coherence takes a backseat to spectacle with Bay, and on that front, 6 Underground delivers exactly what you expect. The team globe trots through a series of increasingly outrageous set pieces involving car chases, explosions, shootouts, and hand-to-hand combat elevated by camera work and stunts that skirt the line of believability.
Reynolds quippy one-liners and charismatic performance hold it all together, but otherwise characters mostly fade into the background. As with most Bay films, subtlety gets thrown out the window in favor of visceral, bombastic sequences designed to overload the senses at every turn. Only recommended for those who enjoy adrenaline-fueled chaos and don’t take their action movies too seriously.
12. The Kissing Booth 2 (209.25 million hours viewed)
The Kissing Booth 2 picks up with high school senior and protagonist Elle balancing a long-distance relationship with her dreamy boyfriend Noah while contemplating which college to attend. Elle has a chance to join Noah at Harvard, but that would mean splitting up with her best friend Lee.
As a sweet romantic comedy, The Kissing Booth 2 gives fans exactly what they want – a lighthearted, feel-good story about friendship, relationships, and growing up. Joey King continues her charming turn as the bubbly yet conflicted Elle. Her undeniable on-screen chemistry with former couple Jacob Elordi (Noah) and Joel Courtney (Lee) remains a highlight.
While the plot comes across unrealistic at times, The Kissing Booth 2 delivers the escapist happily-ever-after that earned its popularity among romance-loving viewers looking for something fun and sweet.
11. The Irishman (214.57 million hours watched)
In acclaimed director Martin Scorsese’s 31st feature film, he revisits the mob genre that helped cement his legend. The Irishman takes cues from classics like Goodfellas and Casino but stands out for its sprawling scope and poignant themes of regret and mortality.
Spanning multiple decades, the film follows World War II vet Frank Sheeran (Robert DeNiro) and his ties to the Bufalino crime family and corrupt labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Its epic 209-minute runtime allows Scorsese to give an intimate look at the lives of criminals rarely humanized on screen.
Groundbreaking de-aging visual effects allow 76-year-old DeNiro to play Sheeran from his 30s into old age. Supported by Joe Pesci, Pacino, and Harvey Keitel, the film saw Scorsese directing one of cinema’s greatest ensemble casts. The Irishman marks an ambitious culmination of everything that makes Scorsese’s explorations of organized crime so compelling.
10. The Unforgivable (214.7 million hours watched)
In this gritty drama, Sandra Bullock plays Ruth Slater, a woman released from prison after 20 years for committing a violent crime. She returns to a town that still sees her as a ruthless killer. Her only goal is trying to find her long-lost younger sister, now grown. But with threats around every corner, her path to redemption won’t come easy.
The Unforgivable chooses a bleak viewpoint of a troubled character shut out by society. While tough to watch at times, Bullock succeeds with a commanding performance full of nuance. Her stirring work carries the film past familiar genre elements into telling a distinctly human story from an unexpected viewpoint.
9. Purple Hearts (228.69 million hours watched)
Purple Hearts brings viewers into the story of Cassie, an aspiring musician struggling to make ends meet due to health issues, and Luke, a US Marine soon being deployed who offers to marry Cassie in exchange for better healthcare benefits. Though the relationship starts off as a marriage of convenience, the two soon find themselves falling for each other just as Luke prepares to ship out.
Led by rising star Sofia Carson in the lead role, Purple Hearts tugs at heartstrings even when hitting predictable story beats. What sets it apart within the military romance genre are the original songs sprinkled throughout, with Carson beautifully performing numbers that amplify emotional moments between the central couple.
For fans of Nicholas Sparks-esque tearjerkers, Purple Hearts delivers a captivating wartime love story centered on two charismatic performances by Carson and costar Nicholas Galitzine. Their palpable chemistry brings the film to soaring heights by the triumphant final act. Viewers hoping to find an inspiring romance should add Purple Hearts to their queues.
8. The Mother (2023) (265.9 million hours viewed)
In Netflix’s action thriller The Mother, Jennifer Lopez takes on the role of a skilled assassin who comes out of hiding when her estranged daughter is put in danger by merciless criminals. Though she gave up her daughter years ago to keep her safe, she’ll now do anything to protect her.
On top of Loren and Lynda La Plante’s tight, twisty screenplay, The Mother succeeds largely thanks to Jennifer Lopez sinking her teeth into an intense dramatic role that breaks the mold of her usual romantic comedies. Lopez plays the nameless protagonist simply as “the Mother,” wielding firearms and her lethal skill set against an array of villains while struggling internally with regret over the daughter she left behind.
Supported by an able cast including Lucy Paez, Benny Emmanuel, and Joseph Fiennes, Lopez commands the screen in every frame. For fans eager to see Jenny from the Block herself take charge of the action, The Mother delivers a propulsive thriller bolstered by Lopez’s star quality.
7. Extraction (231.34 million hours watched)
When a mercenary is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an international crime lord, it sounds simple enough. But director Sam Hargrave’s Extraction brings the viewer along on a non-stop thrill ride as things go violently awry for protagonist Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth).
Hemsworth ditches his Thor hammer for some serious firearm skills to mow through an array of ops trying to take him down. And take him down they do – over, and over, and over again. In between shootouts and hand-to-hand brawls, the film finds time for car (and even helicopter) chase scenes where the camera puts viewers right in the action thanks to Hargrave’s background as a stunt coordinator.
While character development gets sidelined in service of near-constant adrenaline, Hemsworth’s natural charm and charisma fills in the emotional gaps. Extraction probably won’t win any awards for storytelling finesse, but for action junkies seeking the next over-the-top hit of explosive escapism, it delivers in spades.
6. Extraction 2 (278.7 million hours watched)
After fighting his way through hordes of enemies in the first film, Tyler Rake returns battered and bruised but still ready for action. In Extraction 2, Rake comes out of hiding to rescue a family trapped in a brutal Georgian prison. But taking down the ruthless villains who rule the compound will push Rake to his very limits.
Somehow managing to top its predecessor, Extraction 2 features even more gritty, bone-crunching fight sequences highlighting Hemsworth’s imposing physicality. New cast additions like Golshifteh Farahani as a freedom fighter ally and Adam Bessa as the vicious prison overlord keep the story feeling fresh.
Fans eager for another ruthless round of fisticuffs won’t be disappointed by Extraction 2. By the exhilarating last frame, they’ll no doubt be begging for the hat trick of an Extraction 3.
5. The Gray Man (299.5 million hours watched)
The Russo brothers bring their talent for slick action filmmaking honed through years helming Marvel blockbusters to The Gray Man. Ryan Gosling stars as CIA black ops agent Six, who goes on the run with crucial agency secrets. Old colleague Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) leads the manhunt, willing to leave a trail of chaos and death to take Six down.
The Gray Man leans into the spy vs. spy premise to propel Gosling’s enigmatic hero through a string of exotic global locales, from Bangkok alleyways to Croatian cities and everything in between. Stakes stay high with bursts of precisely choreographed shootouts and hand-to-hand combat carrying a brutal edge.
Evans has a blast as the bombastic, unbalanced villain chewing each scene with malicious glee. Combined with Ana de Armas providing loyal backup, Gosling makes for a magnetic action lead. The film lulls a bit when focused on backstory over ass-kicking, but delivers enough high-octane thrills befitting a gritty blockbuster.
4. Glass Onion (320.3 million hours watched)
Glass Onion reunites keen detective Benoit Blanc with director Rian Johnson for another slick whodunit. This time Blanc investigates a murder amongst a group of old friends invited to a lavish private island by billionaire tech mogul Miles Bron. The star-studded ensemble including Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, and Kate Hudson offers delightful suspects to puzzle through as the central mystery unfolds.
While Glass Onion recaptures Johnson and Daniel Craig’s joyful repartee, its commentary on wealth and privilege gives the satire sharper bite. Every actor seems to relish their role. Those looking for the warm familiarity of a classic whodunit will find themselves at home once again thanks to Craig’s charming and quirky sleuth.
3. Bird Box (325.3 million hours watched)
Five years after an unknown entity causes people to violently kill themselves upon sight, survivors including Malorie must navigate the new bleak world blinded. When she braves a river voyage to reach a safe haven, creatures stalking them remain unseen but ever present.
With most of the movie featuring protagonists blindfolded, Bird Box ratchets up tension through sounds and chilling hints of the monsters’ presence. Sandra Bullock’s fierce performance as brave but paranoid Malorie anchors the film. Brief losses of control resulting in deaths keep stakes high even with threats usually unseen.
For fans of post-apocalyptic tales or creature features that leave the darkest horrors to the imagination, Bird Box provides a steady sense of foreboding punctuated by well-crafted scares.
2. Don’t Look Up (408.6 million hours watched)
Adam McKay brings his sharp satirical eye to the disaster movie genre in Don’t Look Up. After astronomers Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discover civilization-destroying comet, their attempts to warn a distracted, doubting public go ignorantly viral.
With an all-star ensemble including Meryl Streep as the indifferent President and Jonah Hill as her fawning son and Chief of Staff, Don’t Look Up uses humor to provoke existential anxiety about society’s blasé reaction to apocalyptic threats. DiCaprio’s uncharacteristic comedic turn meshes perfectly with Lawrence’s trademark sarcasm to sell the high-stakes concept.
McKay pulls no punches skewering political apathy, news media sensationalism, and superficial celebrity culture in the face of an extinction-level event. For viewers seeking a smart satire unafraid to make its message clear, Don’t Look Up hits hard by making the absurd seem disconcertingly real.
1. Red Notice (454.2 million hours watched)
Red Notice brings together charming A-listers Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot for a globetrotting treasure hunt packed with quippy humor and outrageous action spectacle. Johnson plays FBI profiler John Hartley, who reluctantly joins skilled thief Nolan Booth (Reynolds) to capture elusive crismon-suited saboteur “The Bishop” (Gadot).
With exotic locales like Rome, Bali, and Argentina as eye-catching backdrops, Red Notice moves breathlessly between elaborate heists, close-contact fight scenes, and grand set pieces. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber leans into each megastar’s strengths – Johnson’s beefy physicality, Reynold’s motormouth antics, Gadot’s slick athleticism. No one takes it too seriously, giving the film a playful charm.
While its plot stretches believability at times, Red Notice succeeds hugely by sheer force of charismatic star-power and nonstop popcorn entertainment value from start to finish.