As April winds down, some states across America will remain in lockdown, while others intend to relax the rules for economic reasons. But the general guidelines remain the same: stay home, ride this out, and find ways to entertain yourself. To do just that, many Americans are indulging in everything Netflix as to offer. But what is everyone actually watching? It’s an important question: we need something to talk about on Zoom calls or Netflix Party remains a challenge.
The good news: Netflix now has a list of the 10 most-watched movies and TV shows in the country at any given time. The not as good news: unless you can keep up with plot descriptions of Extraction, Outer Banks, and The Willoughbys, the top 10 may look like a miasma of content. That’s the magic of Netflix — always something new! — but 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.
Waco, a dramatization of the 1993 standoff between the FBI and the gun-toting religious community known as the Branch Davidians, flew under the radar when it premiered on the newly created Paramount Network in early 2018. The cast is stacked: Taylor Kitsch stars as cult leader David Koresh, with Michael Shannon, Andrew Riseborough, Paul Sparks, Shea Whigham, John Leguizamo, and Ozarks’ Julia Garner filling in roles on both sides of the conflict. From John and Drew Dowdle, known best for horror movies like Devil, the six-episode miniseries is a slick look at a tragic conflict, and is clearly finding renewed life on Netflix.
THE LAST KINGDOM
The former BBC America period drama became a Netflix exclusive in season 3, and for obvious reasons — the show is immensely popular with viewers who need to fill the Game of Thrones void in their hearts. Loosely based on The Saxon Stories novels by Bernard Cornwell, season 4 finds the kingdoms of England continuing to duke it out, while a time jump turns Uhtred’s children (now aged-up) into main characters.
If you spend long enough analyzing the Netflix top 10 (and, boy, I’m down the rabbit hole), certain trends emerge from the viewing habits. One major theme: American Netflix users love attractive twenty-somethings playing teenagers discovering themselves. CW dramas are immensely popular on Netflix, and Outer Banks, about a clique of teenagers in the Outer Banks of North Carolina who are investigating their friends’ fathers’ disappearance while outrunning a wealthy group of teens who want their treasure, siphons the network’s energy. The show should be a straight shot of melodrama for anyone in need of stakes without the burden of reality.
The Willoughbys, based on the book of the same name by children’s author Lois Lowry (who also wrote The Giver), and directed by Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2’s Kris Pearn, is Netflix’s latest shot at family friendly entertainment that can stack up to the polished likes of Despicable Me. And with a craft-mimicking style and heart, it pretty much does
Written by Joe Russo (Avengers: Endgame) and directed by Sam Hargrave, a stunt coordinator and second-unit director on several Marvel films, Netflix’s new action movie is a relentless bloodbath in the style of Commando, Rambo sequels, and a string of severely underrated direct-to-video titles from the last 10 years. The movie gets very, very bloody as Chris Hemsworth plows through Dhaka, Bangladesh to protect the son of drug lord