The world is chaotic and most of us are inside. So what should we all watch on Netflix while holed up? The streaming service has a new set of criteria to complicate the question: a list of the top 10 most-watched movies and TV shows in the country at any given time.
As we try to live a quarantine life, using Netflix Party and other remote viewing apps to bring ourselves together, it’s still difficult to tell what others are actually watching to keep up with the digital-water-cooler conversation. But even a straight list of the top 10 doesn’t tell you what the shows and movies are all about.
That’s why, each week at Polygon, we’ll gather our reviews, features, and quick takes on the shows and films that cracked Netflix’s Top 10 list for the United States, and put them in one easy-to-read place.
Read on to find out what people are watching, and get coverage to help you choose which of Netflix’s most popular hits meet your needs or personal tastes.
Polygon updates the Netflix Top 10 every Wednesday. The actual top 10 may is subject to change between updates.
10. 100 Humans
In this heady comedic reality series, hosts Alie Ward, Zainab Johnson and Sammy Obeid test 100 test subjects playing out bizarre social experiments, hoping to find correlations between unlikely data points. In the first episodes, a group of men provide sperm samples, then dance before a live studio audience, to determine if one’s ability to get down on the dance floor has anything to do with fertility. It’s weird.
9. Spenser Confidential
Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg are on the same wavelength. Together, they’ve made five hit-or-miss films in the last seven years: Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day, Miles 22, and now the Netflix Original Spenser Confidential, based on the popular Spenser thriller series by Ace Atkins. The movie is … not one of the hits. Polygon’s Karen Han says it all in the opening to her review:
The Netflix series The Kominsky Method, starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, is not a show anyone in my social circle watches. I’ve never really given any thought to getting into it, even though “a half-hour show featuring two old men just gabbing” is the bullseye on the dartboard of things I would theoretically like. (Pobody’s nerfect.) In fact, the only time I’ve given it any thought, outside of its consistent presence at the Golden Globes, was while watching the new Netflix movie Spenser Confidential, which reunites director Peter Berg with star Mark Wahlberg, and co-stars Arkin as an old man whose sole character trait is “inept with technology.” As Berg and Wahlberg (perfect partners, even in name) ascended inexorably toward a parodic level of Bostonian-ness in Spenser Confidential, I wondered if I wouldn’t be having a better time just getting a more concentrated dose of Arkin in The Kominsky Method.
8. Boss Baby: Back in Business
Netflix tells me there are new episodes of this Dreamworks Animation TV spinoff. Sounds good. Can we also recommend She-ra, another Dreamworks Animation series that will almost certainly resonate with young kid thanks to vivid 2-D animation and imaginative caricature. Just throwing it out there!
7. A Letter for the King
Kids deserve a Game of Thrones, too! And now they have one on Netflix.
A Letter for the King adapts the 1962 book of the same name by Dutch author Tonke Dragt, and does so in true YA fashion. As Polygon’s Petrana Radulovic writes:
It doesn’t need to reinvent the genre, but while it has a lot of good individual aspects — particularly when it comes to the character dynamics, which stand out against the typical Fetch Quest plot — none of those bits cohesively mesh together to create something greater.
Read her full review to see if it’s right for the young, knight wannabe in your life.
6. Tom Segura: Ball Hog
Tom Segura made a name for himself by being an early adopter of the Netflix comedy special. He’s back with his latest, which doesn’t attempt to mess with the formula. Click and stream for jokes about family, life, and situational mishaps.
5. Love Is Blind
The high-concept reality series became the talk of the town when the first batch of episodes premiered just before Valentine’s Day, and it’s obvious why. Unlike so many one-off dating shows, Love Is Blind followed the same core contestants, from the seemingly ridiculous setup — 30 men and women are asked to make love connection while only interacting inside sealed-off pods — all the way to the altar. The format turned out to be a brilliant twist instead of a cheap gimmick. As our own Emily Heller writes in her post-mortem review:
Much in the same way Rian Johnson used 40 years of Star Wars lore and symbols to turn The Last Jedi into a deconstruction of Star Wars baggage, the Love Is Blind producers, knowingly or not, used reality-show tropes to deconstruct a particular style of reality TV. The Last Jedi builds up Rey’s Jedi training as important and monumental, until Yoda’s Force ghost shows up to make the bold claim that she doesn’t need to follow old dogma, and shouldn’t. Love Is Blind doesn’t go so far as to show a beloved character burning down the symbolic epicenter of its lore. (What would that be? The Bachelor mansion? The isolation pods?) But like The Last Jedi, it starts off following an established pattern, then veers off in a different, but still recognizable direction, exploring new facets of old structures.
4. The Platform
We’re going to need everyone to proceed to Netflix this week and check out this marvelous bit of dystopian fiction. An unlikely Snowpiercer for our current shelter-in-place moment, The Platform imagines a tiered torture chamber where the incarcerated choose whether or not to ration food for those trapped on higher levels or to scarf down without remorse. Here’s a little taste from our own Tasha Robinson’s marvelous exploration of the film:
The intended message, about the imbalance of a system where a small group of people have unfettered access to wealth and power, and the ability to casually deny even basic survival tools to people below them, still comes across loud and clear. But in the coronavirus era, where an increasing number of citizens are being asked or ordered to barricade themselves in their homes to flatten the curve of a pandemic, The Platform’s claustrophobia and well-justified paranoia may seem just as urgently personal as its actual intended social messages.
3. Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker
Cosmetic entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, cited in history books as the first African-American self-made millionaire, gets her own mini-series courtesy of Love Beats Rhymes writer Nicole Jefferson Asher, Claws writer Janine Sherman Barrois, Harriet director Kasi Lemmons, LeBron James, and Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer. Spencer stars as the entrepreneur in what most reviews describe as a straightforward, four-part biography that takes a few liberties with the facts in order to be more rousing entertainment. From Tambay Obenson’s review on Indiewire:
It’s been long past time for Madam C.J. Walker to get her due on the small or big screen, but this series is sadly a disservice to her. And it’s too bad because Walker’s remarkable biography has all the right elements: the Horatio Alger-esque “rags to riches” story, through hard work, moral and ethical fortitude, that audiences often fall for. The series’ creators really should have stuck to Walker’s real-life story of a formidable, strategic intellect, and an evasive, almost enigmatic quality as well. Because she is someone everyone should know much more about.
2. All American
The second season of The CW’s high school football drama is now on Netflix, and like Riverdale and the Arrowverse series before it, finds a second wind with young audiences almost immediately upon arriving to the streaming platform. With a fairly digestible conflict — friction arises when a predominantly white Beverly Hills high school recruits the football star from a predominantly black school in Crenshaw — All American finds a successor to The O.C., Friday Night Lights, and every other teen drama over the last decade.
1. Tiger King
The latest Netflix true crime docu-series has skyrocketed to the number one position, as is the way. The story begins with the opening of an amateur big cat zoo. Drug running and murder are involved. Saying more would ruin the jaw-dropping turns ahead.