Recent, Netflix #1 Most-Watched Movie Is Turning Heads

Recent, Netflix #1 Most-Watched Movie Is Turning Heads
(Glen Wilson/Sony, Columbia Pictures via AP)

Hollywood is still slowly trickling out new feature films to the few movie theater chains that are maintaining regular, open hours during the China virus pandemic. In Phoenix, for example, one of the nation’s top chains, AMC, is only open on weekends. And some Democrat governors have grudgingly loosened the authoritarian grip on theater re-openings in their states, as RedState reported about Michigan last fall.

It’s not surprising then that, as you may have noticed, the top-grossing movies over the past year have been monster blockbusters from years, sometimes decades, past.

But this is slightly different. In early March, a movie starring Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington, Training Day, made a star turn of its own, when it was the most-watched film on Netflix. It was released in 2001.

This headline grabbed my attention:

The Denzel Washington Classic ‘Training Day’ Is Now The Most-Watched Movie On Netflix

At first, I thought Forbes was telling me that the film is the top-ever watched movie on Netflix, which obviously would be significant. But it made me aware of something I didn’t know: the streaming giant releases daily charts of its top-watched offerings. Still, it’s pretty unusual, Forbes noted.

As they reported on March 9: (emphasis mine)

If you cycle back through Netflix’s most popular movies on any given day, you’ll see a pattern. There’s Bigfoot Family and To All the Boys: Always and Forever and I Care a Lot—all Netflix-produced films. And you’ve got third-party projects like Cut Throat City, Homefront and The Next Three Days—all movies released within the past few years.

But it is much, much rarer for a movie like Training Day to come out on top. That was the case today, however, when the Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke classic peaked in the #1 position on Netflix’s Top 10 list.

It’s uncommon for a movie that was made before 2010 and wasn’t produced by Netflix to nab first place on the Top 10 charts. In fact, this is just the third time a movie has met both of those criteria and still reached #1.

The Forbes writer went on to express bewilderment at a movie “that was made almost 20 years ago and hasn’t received any hype as of late” reaching the heights of what passes for America’s entertainment world at this moment.

There are a few reasons why, I think. Number one is pretty obvious: it’s an excellent film. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) — you know, the Oscars people — gave Denzel Washington a Best Actor statuette for his performance in it. Stick around for a video about that.

But I would also argue that there’s one more, compelling reason people are enjoying Training Day. Many Americans are still leery about going out and sitting in theater seats, but they’ve been reminded of Washington’s talent in crime thrillers by either the ads for or the actual film The Little Things. (It’s now available on VOD.) It turns out that I’m someone who has gone back to the theaters, and watching the new movie (which also stars Oscar winner Jared Leto and 2020 Oscar winner for Bohemian Rhapsody, Rami Malek) found a way to scratch that itch.

You can read my tale about returning to in-person theater-going (and a capsule review of the movie) in a new, “Higher Culture” VIP column later on in March.


Watch as Washington accepts the 2002 Academy Award for Best Actor:

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