Netflix has made a name for itself by producing some of the biggest movies in Hollywood—especially in the past 18 months. The coronavirus pandemic drove everybody indoors, and the world’s most popular streaming service reaped the benefits last year with powerhouse films like Spenser Confidential, The Old Guard, Project Power, and Hubie Halloween.
And with those movies in the rearview mirror, it presented Netflix with a daunting challenge in 2021: could the platform top its best year ever?
Through the first six months of the new year, the answer definitively seems to be YES. 2021 has seen several films go viral—many were produced by Netflix, while others thrived thanks to the streamer’s wide reach.
So which movies have been the absolute most popular so far this year? There’s no conclusive answer to that question (until Netflix releases the raw data, anyway). But I think we can come pretty close thanks to my points-based ranking system. Basically, I track where movies rank on Netflix’s Top 10 list each day. I then assign points accordingly and track each film’s score over a longer period of time.
So how is 2021 shaping up? Here are the 25 most popular movies on Netflix so far this year, according to my formula:
- The Mitchells vs. The Machines – 383 points
- We Can Be Heroes – 355 points
- Home – 299 points
- The Secret Life of Pets 2 – 292 points
- Dog Gone Trouble – 210 points
- Wish Dragon – 195 points
- Thunder Force – 187 points
- Yes Day – 176 points points
- Bigfoot Family – 171 points
- Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – 169 points
- I Care a Lot – 169 points
- The Little Rascals – 167 points
- Army of the Dead – 154 points
- Fatherhood – 149 points
- The Woman in the Window – 142 points
- War Dogs – 139 points
- Finding ‘Ohana – 138 points
- The Vanished – 124 points
- To All the Boys: Always and Forever – 118 points
- 2 Hearts – 116 points
- Homefront – 115 points
- Synchronic – 113 points
- 17 Again – 109 points
- Outside the Wire – 109 points
- The Dark Knight – 102 points
For most of 2021, We Can Be Heroes was the undeniable leader—until The Mitchells vs. The Machines finally took over last week. The hit animated film spent 63 consecutive days on the Top 10 charts (which included 14 straight days in the first place position) before falling off this past week. That ranks as the second longest streak ever. The performance was just enough to push The Mitchells vs. The Machines past Robert Rodriguez’s family superhero film and capture the #1 spot.
It must be said, however, that We Can Be Heroes has a higher all-time score. Because the superhero flick came out in late 2020, it had seven additional days last year to accrue points. Its current total stands at 420 points, which is second only to Despicable Me with 428 points. The Mitchells vs. The Machines sits in third place on the all-time rankings.
From there, the ten top spots are exclusively dominated by family-friendly flicks (if you include Thunder Force as part of that mix, which I do). Seven of the ten movies are animated, which has clearly become Netflix’s favorite genre as of late.
Also of note: seven of those top ten movies and over half of the top 25 were produced by Netflix. They clearly know their audience well.
Four of those movies were very recent additions to the popularity charts: The Mitchells vs. The Machines, Dog Gone Trouble, Wish Dragon and Home. But it’s that last one that we really want to watch. Home has now been on the Top 10 list for 40 straight days, which is the seventh best streak ever. And while it’s unlikely, the animated film could pass both We Can Be Heroes and The Mitchells vs. The Machines if the streak keeps up and become the #1 movie of 2021.
Once we move past the family-targeted affairs, the top adult-themed films are Army of the Dead, Fatherhood, The Woman in the Window, War Dogs and The Vanished. Of all those movies, Fatherhood is the only one that’s still actively adding to its score. If it strong showing continues, then it could enter one of the ten top spots within the next couple weeks.