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10 Most-Watched Netflix Original Movies Ranked

Gotta hand it to Netflix: At a time when there are almost as many streaming services as there are cable packages, the premiere service still manages to draw millions of viewers to their content. The company, which began as a DVD delivery service, was a pioneer in the streaming world, quickly growing its own catalog of original films and television shows. As services as diverse as Hulu, HBO Max, and Disney+ have rushed to catch up, Netflix has remained competitive by churning out a continuous stream of new movies and programs.

Their viewership got a huge boost in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of movie theaters nationwide. Netflix came to the rescue with a steady stream of original films. By the end of the year, six of the streamer's 10 most-watched movies of all time came out in 2020, with a seventh, "Army of the Dead," joining the list in 2021. If ever there was a time to Netflix and chill, it was 2020.

But how have their most-watched films fared critically? Interestingly enough, you won't find any of their Oscar-contenders in this bunch. So while films like "Roma," "The Irishman," "Marriage Story," and "The Trial of the Chicago 7" collect trophies and critical raves, they don't necessarily bring in the eyeballs the same way other titles do.

Here's a look at the 10 most-watched Netflix original movies, ranked according to Rotten Tomatoes ratings from worst to best. If you're looking for something new to watch, here's a good place to start (unless, of course, you're one of the tens of millions of people who have already seen these).

10. 6 Underground (2019)

In 2019, 83 million viewers tuned in to watch Michael Bay's streaming debut, and it was predictably ripped apart by critics. "6 Underground" stands at just 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, which actually places it squarely in the middle of Bay's filmography, review-wise. So if you're a fan of the director's trademark frenetic action stylings, this is right up your alley. If not ... well, you probably weren't one of the 83 million people who watched this anyway.

The plot — so much as there is one — centers on an elite group of mercenaries who have faked their own deaths in order to carry out their missions off the grid. Their assignment: travel to the fictional land of Turgistan to replace the country's brutal dictator (Lior Raz) with his imprisoned brother (Peyman Maadi). If you're thinking the film's portrayal of Middle Eastern politics is anywhere approaching the 21st century, think again.

Ryan Reynolds plays the group's leader, a billionaire who may have invented the vibrate function on your cell phone. Melanie Laurant, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ben Hardy, Adria Arjona, and Corey Hawkins round out the group as a spy, a hitman, a parkour artist, a doctor, and a Delta Force sniper, respectively. Each member of this motley crew has an origin story that's sprinkled in between all the stuff blowing up.

With its loud explosions, cringey jokes, and hypersexualization, "6 Underground" is a Michael Bay production, to be sure. For those willing to shut off their brains for two hours and go with its frenetic flow, that's a ringing endorsement.

9. Spenser Confidential (2020)

Hollywood power partners Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg have produced some hit based-on-true-events action movies your dad will enjoy (think "Lone Survivor," "Deepwater Horizon," and "Patriots Day"). Yet "Spenser Confidential" didn't earn the raves of those three aforementioned efforts, putting it more in line critically with their previous Netflix outing, "Mile 22." A 37% Rotten Tomatoes score didn't stop 85 million people from watching this retrograde cop movie, making it one of the streamer's biggest hits.

Set in (where else?) Boston, it's an adaptation of Robert B. Parker's popular "Spenser" novels, with Wahlberg stepping into the famous detective's shoes. Spenser is a cop who plays by his own rules, which doesn't play so well at a time when police brutality is under heightened scrutiny. But this feels like a movie from a different era in every other aspect, so why not that one as well?

The script by Sean O'Keefe and Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland ("L.A. Confidential") is little more than an excuse to allow Wahlberg to kick ass with his partner (Winston Duke), in between cutting it up with his wise-cracking buddy (Alan Arkin) and his nagging ex-wife (Iliza Shlesinger). Amusing cameos by Bokeem Woodbine, Marc Maron, and Post Malone (as an imprisoned neo-Nazi) help liven things up a little bit.

This film is based on just one book in the "Spenser" series, and the ending hints at a possible sequel. And considering the huge number of people who watched this one, it's hard to imagine Wahlberg won't holster up for one more ride, critical blowback be damned.

8. Murder Mystery (2019)

Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions signed a lucrative deal with Netflix in 2014 that has produced some of the comedian's most widely viewed films, leading to an extension of that contract in 2020. The most-watched among them, "Murder Mystery," brought in 83 million pairs of eyeballs, which in box office terms would make it a financial success on par with "The Waterboy." It also earned pretty decent reviews relative to most Sandler comedies (to the extent that a 44% Rotten Tomatoes score is good).

The film reunites Sandler with his "Just Go With It" co-star Jennifer Aniston (who gave the actor a loving shoutout during her SAG acceptance speech for "The Morning Show"). It's yet another excuse for the Sandman to vacation in exotic locales with his buds and make a movie in their spare time. And in this case, the script by James Vanderbilt ("Zodiac") is just sharp and sprightly enough to keep us as entertained as the people who made the movie.

The premise: Sandler and Aniston are a New York couple traveling through Europe on their 15th wedding anniversary. While on the plane, they meet a mysterious billionaire (Luke Evans) who invites them to party on his yacht with his elderly uncle (Terence Stamp), who is engaged to the nephew's ex-fiancee (Shioli Kutsuna). While at sea, Stamp is found murdered with his own dagger, and Sandler and Aniston are the main suspects.

Released the same year as Sandler's critically acclaimed "Uncut Gems" (for which he won the Independent Spirit Award), "Murder Mystery" finds him in familiarly goofy territory. It's no mystery why 83 million viewers tuned in.

7. The Midnight Sky (2020)

Critical reactions to George Clooney's sci-fi epic are split firmly down the middle; hence its 50% Rotten Tomatoes score. That mixed response perfectly fits this mixed bag of a movie, which earned 72 million viewers and an Oscar nomination for its visual effects.

Clooney stars as Augustine, a dying scientist stranded on an Earth that has been ravaged by climate change. Alone at a research facility in the Arctic, he spends his days warning off spaceships bound back for the desolated planet. Unable to reach the incoming crew of the "Aether," he travels across the frozen tundra to another base with a stronger antenna, taking with him a little girl (Caoilinn Springall) who was left behind during the final evacuation.

Meanwhile, the crew members of the "Aether" are dealing with their own problems, as their radar system has been destroyed by an asteroid field. Pregnant astronaut Sully (Felicity Jones) tries to repair the damage with her partner (David Oyelowo) and fellow crew members (Tiffany Boone, Kyle Chandler, and Demián Bichir) as they return to Earth, unaware of the extent to which it has become uninhabitable.

The two halves of "The Midnight Sky” don't seem to gel until a third-act twist that seeks to link an emotional through line between them. Whether or not this works seems to be up to the individual viewer. But even if the narrative is ultimately underwhelming, the technical aspects of the film are truly stunning, from Martin Ruhe's cinematography (initially shot for IMAX, but hampered by the closing of theaters during COVID) to Alexandre Desplat's melodic score.

6. Project Power (2020)

As the summer of 2020 dragged on and it became increasingly clear that the pandemic would keep theaters closed, audiences increasingly turned to streaming services to get their blockbuster kick. So it's little wonder that 75 million people watched this high-concept action thriller when it dropped on Netflix that August, even if the 61% Rotten Tomatoes rating hints at a mixed response.

In an era of Marvel and DC obsession, "Project Power" imagines a scenario in which anyone can become a superhero by taking an experimental drug. The catch: the effects only last for five minutes, and there's no telling what superpower you might gain, or whether you'll use it for good or evil.

Chaos ensues when the drug hits the streets of New Orleans, and teenager Robin (Dominique Fishback) is selling it to pay for her mother's medical bills. Local police officer Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) buys from her to fight back against the violent crime ravaging his city. The two team up with Art (Jamie Foxx), an ex-soldier trying to track down the makers of Project Power and rescue his daughter, Tracy (Kyanna Simpson), who has been kidnapped by the evil pharma folks.

While Frank takes the drug to gain bulletproof skin and Art ultimately uses it to emit bodily heat waves, Robin never pops the pill, fearful that the risk outweighs the reward. As Art tells her in the end, "There's something great inside you, Robin — use it," hinting that true power comes from within. To draw that metaphor out a bit more, the true power of this film comes from its performances and action sequences, if not necessarily from how its screenplay explores the full possibilities of its intriguing premise.

5. Bird Box (2018)

Seems like only yesterday the "Bird Box" challenge was sweeping the nation, causing Netflix to issue a public plea for people to stop walking around blindfolded. Released during the holiday season of 2018, it does for eyesight what "A Quiet Place" did for noise. Like that horror hit released the same year, it was a sensation, inspiring 89 million viewers to drop their blindfolds and watch.

Adapted from the novel by Josh Malerman, it stars Sandra Bullock as Malorie, an expectant mother whose fears of becoming a parent are quickly set aside for an even greater terror: unexplained mass suicide. It seems that an unknowable entity is causing people to see something that drives them to commit violent acts of self-slaughter. Malorie takes refuge with a group of survivors, a hodgepodge of great performers including Trevante Rhodes, Jacki Weaver, Lil Rel Howery, and John Malkovich.

The film cuts back and forth between this storyline and one set five years in the future, when society has completely collapsed. Malorie, a cloth tied tightly across her eyes, is forced to navigate with two unnamed children (Vivien Lyra Blair and Julian Edwards) down a river towards safety, constantly reminding them to not remove their blindfolds, no matter what.

Susanne Bier creates a constant sense of dread and tension throughout, relying on good old-fashioned suspense and atmosphere over special effects. She also does a good job with her ensemble, eliciting performances that keep us invested in the human story in the middle of all the scares. It's too bad the ending has us averting our eyes for a different kind of horror, as it did with many critics, whose mixed reactions landed it a 63% Rotten Tomatoes score.

4. Extraction (2020)

With 99 million viewers, "Extraction" is the most-watched film in Netflix's history, and there's certainly a good reason for that: the film hit the streaming site in April 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic was forcing the closure of movie theaters across the country. So it was perfect timing for audiences stuck at home hankering for some action thrills.

With numbers like that, you'd think it would have to be one of the greatest entertainments of all time, right? Well, not necessarily. Critical reaction was mixed at best, with a 67% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But the high viewership was enough to justify a sequel (and perhaps even a franchise), so here's hoping the law of diminishing returns doesn't apply.

Directed by Sam Hargrave from a script by Joe Russo (who co-wrote the story with his brother, Anthony Russo, and Ande Parks), it's got all the trappings of a whiz-bang action blockbuster. Chris Hemsworth stars as Tyler Rake, a mercenary tasked with rescuing (aka extracting) the son of an imprisoned Indian crime lord (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) who's been kidnapped by his father's rivals. That's easier said than done, as there are evil forces around every corner of Dhaka, Bangladesh, where the kid is being held.

The action scenes are well-handled by Hargrave, a stunt coordinator who worked with Hemsworth on various MCU films (including "Thor: Ragnarok," "Avengers: Infinity War," and "Avengers: Endgame"). He makes the most out of the film's R rating, firing bullets and spilling blood in spectacular fashion. That bravura makes up for some deficits in the screenplay, which relies on action movie cliches.

3. Army of the Dead (2021)

Props to Zack Snyder for dominating the streaming services in early 2021. The same year his four-hour director's cut of "Justice League" hit HBO Max (aka the long-awaited "Snyder Cut"), the director released this grisly horror flick on Netflix. It didn't take long for "Army of the Dead" to crack the streamer's Top 10 most viewed films, racking in a staggering 72 million viewers. As is often the case with Snyder, reactions were sharply divided (although the 68% Rotten Tomatoes score places it in the top half of his filmography from a critical standpoint).

Considering Snyder's first film was a remake of George A. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead," it's only fitting he would return to the zombie genre one day. As was the case with that film, this one pays tribute to Romero's work while adding the Snyder touch — which is to say, an aggressive visual style with flashy camerawork, frenetic editing, and, of course, a lot of slow motion.

"Army of the Dead" is a sly hybrid of horror and heist movies. Snyder starts things off with a bang, opening with a zombie escaping from a military convoy traveling from Area 51 and causing a bloody outbreak in Las Vegas. With the city walled off, a wealthy casino owner (Hiroyuki Sanada) approaches a mercenary (Dave Bautista) with a dangerous proposition: recover $200 million from a casino vault before the military nukes the city. Bautista rounds up a ragtag group to pull off the job, and violent chaos ensues.

You can pretty much guess how this one is going to play out. Snyder splatters the screen with blood, making the most of his hard-R rating. The motley crew of actors livens things up, most notably Tig Notaro as one of Bautista's gang of thieves (replacing Chris D'Elia, who originally performed the role and was swapped out through CGI magic). For fans of the divisive director, it doesn't get much better than this; for his detractors, it likely doesn't get much worse.

2. The Old Guard (2020)

One of the surprise hits of the pandemic summer was this unconventional comic book flick that was able to find an audience hungry for some action fun when all the major blockbusters got delayed with the closure of theaters. When "The Old Guard" hit the streaming site in July 2020, 78 million viewers tuned in, with interest undoubtedly piqued by sterling reviews (80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and good word-of-mouth.

Charlize Theron stars as Andy, the centuries-old leader of an elite squad of mercenaries who are also kind of immortal (which comes in handy in the mercenary business). Together with her brothers-in-arms Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), Andy travels the globe protecting mortals. Along the way, they pick up Nile (KiKi Layne), a soldier who quickly discovers she's similarly unable to die.

In adapting Greg Rucka's graphic novel, director Gina Prince-Bythewood infuses the superhero genre with the sublime passions of her previous films ("Love & Basketball," "The Secret Life of Bees," and "Beyond the Lights"). The plot is pretty standard stuff, with an evil pharma guy (Harry Melling) trying to kidnap the gang in order to sap them of their immortality juice. But what's unique is the way Prince-Bythewood gives equal weight to the scenes of characters expressing their feelings to those of them kicking ass. Those two elements work in harmony together, and Theron, who also produced the film, brings emotional heft to her performance while once again proving herself to be an apt action star.

At a time when Marvel and DC have taken great pains to create interconnected sagas geared towards mass consumption, "The Old Guard" is proof that an original vision can breakthrough and find a mass audience. Now, where's the sequel?

1. Enola Holmes (2020)

Have you ever found yourself asking what would happen if Sherlock Holmes had a teenage sister? Well, the answer is a Netflix smash that raked in 76 million viewers during the fall of 2020, when homebound audiences were still searching for some entertainment during the pandemic. It's also one of their most critically acclaimed titles, with a certified fresh 91% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

Millie Bobby Brown, star of Netflix's sci-fi series hit "Stranger Things," plays Enola Holmes, a teenage sleuth who's following in the footsteps of her famous older sibling. Enola, who helpfully points out that her name spelled backward is "alone," tramps around Victorian London solving crimes and making witty asides to the audience (the film was directed by "Fleabag" helmer Harry Bradbeer, who uses a similar style here). While Sherlock (a beefy Henry Cavill) encourages her sleuthing, her other brother, Mycroft (Sam Claflin), thinks it's time for her to learn some etiquette at Miss Harrison's (Fiona Shaw) finishing school.

When her liberated mother (a lively Helena Bonham Carter) goes missing, it's up to Enola to track her down, deciphering clues from a variety of birthday presents she left behind. Her investigation uncovers a vast conspiracy revolving around a young lord (Louis Partridge) who's similarly trying to break free of societal restraints placed upon him.

It's not difficult to see why this was such a family hit. It's just dangerous and droll enough to have some real edge, while providing teenage viewers with an uplifting girl-power message. Considering it's based on just one book from Nancy Springer's popular Young Adult series, it's safe to say the adventures of Enola Holmes are far from finished (in fact, a sequel has already been green-lit).