I have been writing the weekend box office report over on Uproxx for about four years now. However, when the pandemic came along — and there was no more box office to write about (except for Wretched, the top film of the last 3 weeks, thanks to drive-ins) — I had to get a little creative in order to keep my Sunday morning post going. Several other outlets have since followed suit, but on that very first weekend, I began writing about the top films on VOD, iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix.
It was only a few months ago that Netflix began displaying on its service the top 10 movies at any given time. On most weeks, the top film is usually whatever the latest Netflix original is — Extraction, Coffee & Kareem, Lovebirds, etc., although occasionally, it has surfaced an interesting movie that I’d previously never heard about (like The Platform).
The other thing I have noticed is that nearly every week an old title of an otherwise forgettable movie resurfaces in the top ten movies. Usually, it’s because the movie just became available on the service, and I suspect the Netflix algorithm has a lot to do with it, too. It’s still nevertheless surprising to see some of these movies generate thousands of new viewers over a weekend.
Since March, here’s 8 older movies that have appeared in the top five of Netflix’s Most Popular.
The Roommate — The Roommate is a shockingly bad movie (although, I gave it “5 stars” upon its original release before completely forgetting about). It’s a Single White Female kind of film starring Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester. Here’s how I reviewed it upon its release in 2011:
Bravo! Bravo! You’ve outdone yourself, Hollywood! Step aside One Missed Call. The Unborn. You weren’t even in contention. White Noise? Don’t you wish. Nothing can or ever will compare. This is it! Everyone else is an also ran. The Roommate has done it. It has completely mastered the art of the completely unnecessary film. It’s a masterpiece of pointlessness! A tour de force of irrelevance. Just when you thought that the studio system couldn’t get any more slack-jawed, they make The Roommate, the most unneeded, most uncalled for, the most dispensable movie ever to grace the Silver Screen!
Just Go With It — The Happy Madison deal that Netflix has with Adam Sandler has been very lucrative for both parties (in fact, Happy Madison’s David Spade and Lauren Lapkus film The Wrong Missy has been in the top five the last two weeks). Just Go With It is the one with Jennifer Aniston, and while I don’t have much memory of it, I apparently reviewed it in 2011. It was a Valentine’s Day movie. I don’t think I liked it:
This needs to be said. Spread this message around. Get it on the Twitter. On the Facebook. Scrawl it in blood on your fucking mirror. I don’t care. Just get the word out that anyone that takes their Valentine’s date to see Just Go with It is an asshole. I mean that. This is not a joke. It’s not a gimmick review. I’m completely sincere. What kind of cruel, thoughtless douchebag would take a date to see an Adam Sandler movie on Valentine’s Day? Especially this Adam Sandler movie. It’s a fucking nightmare of a film. Seriously, if you have a boyfriend or a husband or another significant other that’s thinking about taking you to see this movie over the weekend, show them this review. If he still insists on taking you, leave him. Just leave him. Take the kids, the CD collection, empty the bank account, pack up the car, and get the fuck out. You deserve better. I don’t care who you are: If you have an Idaho-sized humpback, a wonky eye, an oozing belly button and you kick dogs for sport, you still deserve better than the guy who would take you to see this film.
Soul Surfer — I never saw Soul Surfer, but I knew it was not only a faith-based film, but one of the first Christian movies with some major crossover success. I don’t know that much about Bethany Hamilton, but I’ll admit that I liked her on her season of Amazing Race. Our critic at the time of Soul Surfer’s release, 2011, also liked Hamilton, but hated that her story had been perverted to sell Christianity. Brian Priso would get run out of town on a rail these days, but the man was a scathing wordsmith:
Bethany wrote a memoir of the incident, Soul Surfer, with the help of two other folks, which soon became a special book of Soul Surfer devotionals and even a Soul Surfer bible. In 2004, Bethany won an ESPY for Best Comeback and a special Teen Choice Award for courage. This unrelenting wave of Jesus culminates in Sean McNamara’s film, Soul Surfer, an incredibly idealized and overly polished batch of hokum that completely diminishes the accomplishments of this astoundingly brave young girl to brand-market Christ to the masses. It’s Injured Athlete Triumphant Template B gooed over with MTV splash-cuts of girls in bikinis and beaches and cemented with soggy Christ Crispies, then stuffed into your face. It’ll be an easy sell to the Christian markets — they’ll pretty much swallow anything so long as you slap a cross or a halo on it regardless of quality — but selling a wholesome inspirational religious drama to a tween audience? I would have thought impossible if I hadn’t seen the footage of Bethany Hamilton praising her savior at the Nickelodeon awards ceremony to thunderous and insane applause.
Public Enemies — Public Enemies has been in the top ten for the last two weeks, and I don’t really know why anyone would want to revisit this old Johnny Depp film, save for Michael Mann completists. In 2009, it got mostly mixed reviews from critics, although critics liked it more than audiences, who were mostly apathetic. Our 2009 critic Daniel Carlson was mostly a fan, writing that “Public Enemies is a strong film, one with moments of real beauty and excitement, but in the end, the flash and substance battle to a draw.” I think my impression of the movie at the time was that it wasn’t nearly as good as the cast, which included Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup and Channing Tatum.
Outbreak — In mid-March, Outbreak, Contagion and even that terrible Roland Emmerich film, 2012, were among the top films on Netflix. Outbreak predates the site, but our own Steven Lloyd Wilson revisited it back in 2009 and offered this assessment:
In any case, Outbreak won the race to theaters and featured one of the most talented casts ever assembled for a middling popcorn flick. They managed to cast Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Kevin Spacey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland, thus setting the world record for number of Oscars per minutes of suck. They also retroactively pulled off the unintentional hilarity of Patrick Dempsey at the absolute nadir of his post-teen heartthrob, pre-McDreamy career. If they’d just included Kevin Bacon, his game would need two less degrees.
In that review, SLW also reminds me that, in the ’90s, “Fox and Ridley Scott tried to make Hot Zone but Robert Redford and Jody Foster bickered about the script until they both quit.” Well, it finally arrived, albeit on the small screen in 2019, with Ridley Scott as producer.
Blood Father — We did not review 2016’s Blood Father, because it is a Mel Gibson film, and not just any Mel Gibson film, but at the time, his most high-profile since he was “canceled” in 2016. The critics who did review it, however, loved it. Nevertheless, it only made $200,000 domestic, because the country was not about Mel Gibson in 2016. Now that Trump is around and the country is deeply divided, I suspect that Mel Gibson has become a favorite of the right, which may explain its boost on Netflix a few weeks ago.
The Green Hornet — Seth Rogen’s The Green Hornet spent two weeks in the top ten, which is funny because of how little it was liked upon its release. It got a ton of bad press in 2011, but I liked it, and agree with Carlson’s assessment of the film:
No one will ever mistake Michel Gondry’s The Green Hornet, a member of the latter group, with, say, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, which practically have a monopoly on the former. But that’s not to say it doesn’t do its job, and do it (mostly) well. Yes, the script from star Seth Rogen and frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg has some serious issues with motivation and exposition, especially in the first act, so much so that it’s easy to wonder if these guys ever do more than two drafts before calling it a day. But there’s an undeniable fun to many parts of the film, and the energy of these key sequences props up those that aren’t as sturdy.
Green Hornet didn’t completely flop ($227 million on a $120 million budget), although there is a perception that it did, and perception is reality. However, Seth Rogen’s career has been fine since 2011. You know whose has not? Director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), who has not made a major feature film since Hornet.
Den of Thieves — If there is anything I have learned from following the Netflix charts these last couple of months, it is that Gerard Butler is the King of Netflix. Two of the Fallen movies have been a regular on their charts since its Netflix release, along with Den of Thieves, which didn’t do well at the box office, but even still, those of us who cover box office predicted it would do well in the streaming and digital markets. We were right. The movie, however, still sucks, per TK’s review:
It stars Gerard Butler, who in kinder times has been a marquee name, but more recently starred in a movie about a satellite that tried to kill the world through changing the weather. It co-stars Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and a host of other unknowns, and is yet another in a long line of cops and robbers films where women exist only to engage the male pathos — in this case, there’s Butler’s wife, whom he cheats on until she tearfully leaves him, resulting in his own self-examination (but no actual changes to his lifestyle). There’s also Jackson’s daughter, whose prom date he threatens with violence. And then there’s a host of strippers and prostitutes. Don’t go expecting female empowerment.
A sequel for Den of Thieves is currently in the works, despite the fact that it made only $44 million domestic on a $30 million budget. That’s how big Gerard Butler is on the digital/streaming market.