The most popular movies on Netflix, reviewed by The A.V. Club

The most popular movies on Netflix, reviewed by The A.V. Club

Clockwise from top left: Murder Mystery (Netflix); Extraction (Netflix); Spenser Confidential (Netflix); Triple Frontier (Netflix); The Wrong Missy (Netflix); Bird Box (Netflix); The Old Guard (Netflix)
Clockwise from top left: Murder Mystery (Netflix); Extraction (Netflix); Spenser Confidential (Netflix); Triple Frontier (Netflix); The Wrong Missy (Netflix); Bird Box (Netflix); The Old Guard (Netflix)
Graphic: The A.V. Club

Netflix broke years-old tradition last week when it released viewership numbers of what it says are its most popular movies—only to then pop up two days later to say a new movie has catapulted into the top five just three days after release. Of course, all this data is to be taken with a grain of salt given that (a) there’s no way to independently verify this information and (b) Netflix counts people who watched at least two minutes of movie, meaning someone could hypothetically watch a single scene, turn off the movie, never come back to finish it, and then still apparently count toward this total.

All that aside, just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s quality—so we’ve compiled excerpts of our thoughts on all their “most popular” movies; just click the movie title to read more. (We also have a list of what we think are the “best” movies on the service, if you’d prefer that. There is a tiny bit of overlap.)

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2 / 11

The Wrong Missy

The Wrong Missy

David Spade and Lauren Lapkus
David Spade and Lauren Lapkus
Photo: Netflix

The Wrong Missy

The Wrong Missy, from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, opens with a blind date from hell. Tim (David Spade) has come to a flatly lit bar to meet Missy (Lauren Lapkus). He is a paper-pusher who looks old enough to be her dad. She is a psychopath who carries a giant Bowie knife in her purse and climbs into Tim’s bathroom stall when he tries to make a disastrous escape via a men’s room window. Three months later, Tim accidentally swaps bags at an airport with one Melissa Doherty (Molly Sims), a former Miss Maryland who also happens to go by “Missy.” They get to talking and end up making out in an airport broom closet and exchanging numbers. Tim starts texting Missy when he gets back home. The texts turn explicitly sexual. He invites her to go with him on a company retreat to Hawaii. Of course, we know what’s going on. It’s not the dream Missy that he’s texting but the obnoxious nightmare Missy who happens to be saved in his phone under the same name. And anyone who’s seen one of the lesser Happy Madison titles knows what’s in store: another lousy farce set at a resort. It has the tropical vacation backdrop, the nonsensical deceptions, the pointless celebrity cameos, the missing limbs, the litany of friends and relations. The Wrong Missy is listlessly indifferent in everything except its adherence to the Happy Madison formula. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

Audience: 59 million
Grade: C

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3 / 11

Triple Frontier

Triple Frontier

Illustration for article titled The most popular movies on Netflix, reviewed by iThe A.V. Club/i
Photo: Ben Affleck

Triple Frontier

The duo that made Triple Frontier boasts an impressive pedigree in cinematic arduousness: Mark Boal, the journalist whose script for Zero Dark Thirty detailed every step of the lengthy quest to find Osama bin Laden, conceived this film’s story, and shares screenplay credit with director J.C. Chandor, who once made an entire movie about an elderly man stranded alone in the middle of the ocean. Initially, however, it looks as if Boal and Chandor are striving for more commercial accessibility this time around. The film’s first half employs the standard “one last job” template, as frustrated Special Forces operative Santiago “Pope” Garcia (Oscar Isaac) assembles a group of his old buddies, including expert strategist “Redfly” (Ben Affleck), brooding muscle “Ironhead” (Charlie Hunnam), ace pilot “Catfish” (Pedro Pascal), and Ironhead’s younger brother, Ben (Garrett Hedlund), who’s apparently so cool that he doesn’t need a nickname. Their target: a drug kingpin who reportedly keeps millions of dollars in his fortress of a compound. Pope has been working for years to nab this baddie, and sincerely wants to stop his reign of terror, but he also feels that he and the other men, who are all struggling financially, deserve a sizable reward for their service to the United States. Consequently, this operation occurs entirely off the books. [Mike D’Angelo]

Audience: 63 million
Grade: B-

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4 / 11

The Irishman

The Irishman

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro
Photo: Netflix

The Irishman

One day, Martin Scorsese will die. That’s a difficult thing to accept—difficult because it will be a staggering loss for film culture, but also pretty hard to even believe. Scorsese, at a very spry 77, was everywhere in 2019: igniting a debate about what is or isn’t cinema; inspiring autumn hits so indebted to his style that he should have received royalties; executive-producing two of the other movies on this very list and piecing together a lost Bob Dylan concert. And yet to watch The Irishman, his gangster opus to end all gangster opuses, is to be constantly reminded of the promise of mortality—his, ours, everyone’s. Make no mistake, this is a remarkably brisk three and a half hours, dramatizing half a century of organized crime through dark-comic confrontations (and an outsized Al Pacino performance) so deliriously funny, they’ve already generated a whole library of memes. But right from his opening shot, a morbid parody of the Copacabana sequence in Goodfellas, Scorsese foregrounds the inevitable. And his film becomes, in its magnificently bleak final stretch, a meditation on the true consequences of the mob life, the ignoble end awaiting men like Henry Hill, Sam Rothstein, and the film’s own protagonist, mafia hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro, weaponizing the sleepiness of his latter-day work into a devastating portrait of moral absence). One of the many ironies of the movie is that it uses distinctly modern means—from de-aging technology to streaming-platform resources—to eulogize a time-honored genre and the careers of the artists who shaped it. But however firmly Scorsese has planted himself on the vanguard, however relevant and vital and, yes, alive he remains as an artist, his latest triumph is a stark acknowledgment of what’s coming. If we’re lucky, The Irishman says, we get to pick out our own coffin. Watching the movie, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Scorsese has picked his. [A.A. Dowd]

Audience: 64 million
Grade: A-

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5 / 11

The Old Guard

The Old Guard

Charlize Theron leads her team
Charlize Theron leads her team
Photo: Netflix

The Old Guard

With The Old Guard, Love & Basketball and Beyond The Lights director Gina Prince-Bythewood helms an action-fantasy hybrid that takes the beauty marks—and warts—of each genre and creates a sequel-starter for Netflix. The film follows an idealistic cadre of heroes who all share a common thread: They can live for centuries. The titular group is led by Andy (Charlize Theron), with Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) making up the rest of the crew. When a new immortal warrior, Nile (Kiki Layne), joins them, she sparks a reckoning with the Guard’s ideals—and the rosy picture they try to uphold. Greg Rucka pens the screenplay, refashioning his own graphic novel and doing as much to retain tone and character agency as Gillian Flynn did for her Gone Girl adaptation, for example. In a past life, this would be a standard B-movie shoot-’em-up. But, as Prince-Bythewood presents it, The Old Guard is an effective and tender bundle of contradictions, a franchise launchpad about (among other things) endings. [Anya Stanley]

Audience: 72 million (or, at least “on track” to reach 72 million in its first four weekends)
Grade: B

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6 / 11

Murder Mystery

Murder Mystery

Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler
Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler
Photo: Netflix

Murder Mystery

Adam Sandler’s Murder Mystery, isn’t going to dispel the longstanding rumor that the Sandman mostly makes movies as an excuse to go on paid vacations, using his Happy Madison production shingle as a personal travel agency. Yes, the movie is set at an assortment of pricey European resort towns, and, yes, there are moments when Sandler and co-star Jennifer Aniston (last seen together in the execrable Just Go With It) stop to excitedly compliment the luxury of their surroundings, like hosts in a travel video. Yet one can’t deny that this low-energy whodunit seems have benefitted from the overall uptick in quality control seen in the star’s other Netflix projects, including The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected), The Week Of, and his reunion with an uncredited Paul Thomas Anderson on parts of the stand-up special 100% Fresh. Could it be that the actor-comedian actually cares about his reputation? [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

Audience: 73 million
Grade: C+

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7 / 11

6 Underground

6 Underground

Ryan Reynolds leads HIS guard
Ryan Reynolds leads HIS guard
Photo: Netflix

6 Underground

Michael Bay is one of the most commercially successful directors in the world, capable of commanding massive budgets and downright stupid levels of spectacle. Yet his Netflix action movie 6 Underground has an opening car chase so long, loud, brightly colored, and context-free that it feels like Bay is blowing off a lot of steam by doing hundreds of donuts on Netflix’s front lawn. Finally, a boys’ night out after a long career of boys’ nights out! Eventually, and through a series of sometimes convoluted flashbacks that just about finish laying out the movie’s premise around the 75-minute mark, it’s revealed what this team of experienced drivers actually is: a bunch of “ghosts,” recruited by a billionaire who calls himself One (Ryan Reynolds) and numbers his new pals accordingly—after faking their deaths and erasing their identities, of course. Funded by One’s vast wealth, the six-person team has specialties they like to yell out during moments of tension (“I’m conducting surgery!” Adria Arjona’s character screams during that endless car chase, in between shooting guns out the window) and travels the globe foiling evil dictators and the like. One has basically bought himself his own private Mission: Impossible, and Bay has, too, a possible franchise that he can remold in his own image. [Jesse Hassenger]

Audience: 83 million
Grade: C

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8 / 11

Spenser Confidential

Spenser Confidential

Winston Duke and Mark Wahlberg
Winston Duke and Mark Wahlberg
Photo: Netflix

Spenser Confidential

Early on in Spenser Confidential, the ex-cop and soon-to-be-ex-con Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) mocks a guard for repeating a joke he first made when our hero arrived in prison. “Why don’t you get some new material?” Bold words for a film that consists of at least 90% recycled matter: stale gags, cardboard characters, and every possible script cliché involving bad cops, mismatched buddy movies, and the city of Boston. That the film is meant as a departure from Wahlberg and actor-turned-director Peter Berg duo’s usual salutes to teeth-gritting, persistent American heroes (including their earlier trip to Boston in Patriots Day) is not much of a selling point; that it mostly blows is self-evident. Spenser, who spent five years behind bars for beating up his captain, has a personality that basically amounts to that single look of irritated confusion that is the signature mode of coasting through a film for Beantown’s self-appointed favorite son. We know Spenser is a good guy because the opening scene shows us that the captain he beat up was a real scumbag—dirty and a domestic abuser to boot. While the partnership between Wahlberg and Berg has produced a few duds since the success of Lone Survivor, none have been as generically mediocre. At the very least, one can appreciate it for being environmentally friendly. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

Audience: 85 million
Grade: C-

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9 / 11

Bird Box

Bird Box

Sandra Bullock
Sandra Bullock
Photo: Netflix

Bird Box

Hollywood’s obsession with tentpole filmmaking has sent a number of big-name auteurs to TV, it’s still rare to see the opposite: films that look and feel like an abbreviated season of television. Bird Box, Danish director Susanne Bier’s long-in-the-works post-apocalyptic Sandra Bullock vehicle, fits that bill. The film starts promisingly enough, in an extended sequence where Bullock and Sarah Paulson, cleverly cast as sisters, volley barbed dialogue back and forth on the way to a OB-GYN appointment for the former’s heavily pregnant character, Malorie. Then the mysterious environmental disaster that’s been hovering in the background is suddenly, alarmingly foregrounded, and their drive home becomes a life-or-death obstacle course as random motorists and pedestrians start committing suicide en masse all around them. Bird Box ultimately limits its scope but isn’t especially intimate; the ensemble cast is too large to fully develop in a couple of hours, but screenwriter Eric Heisserer tries anyway, writing in one-dimensional character beats and monologues that hint at longer (hourlong, perhaps?) and more satisfying backstories. And comparing Bird Box’s uninspired cinematography to TV would actually be an insult to TV at this point; budget is no excuse, as plenty of films with similarly modest price tags—Chloe Zhao’s The Rider comes to mind—boast stunning nature photography. [Katie Rife]

Audience: 89 million
Grade: C

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10 / 11

Extraction

Extraction

Chris Hemsworth
Chris Hemsworth
Photo: Netflix

Extraction

Chris Hemsworth’s talent lies mostly in comedy, but his looks and physique have all but ensured a career of glowering he-man roles. Nonetheless, the Marvel veterans behind Extraction really should have known better. The film, which is exactly as generic as its title, casts Hemsworth as Tyler Rake, a name that follows the same classic Schwarzenegger formula that gave us Harry Tasker and John Matrix. He’s an Australian soldier of fortune with a drinking problem, a self-destructive streak, and an attitude—so not so much a vintage Arnie role as yet another attempt to turn Hemsworth into a new and less problematic Mel Gibson. Add a script that would have seemed derivative even in the early ’90s, and you begin to get a sense of the kind of undigested pastiche that director Sam Hargrave and writer-producer Joe Russo are going for. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

Audience: 99 million
Grade: C

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11 / 11