Netflix and cheers: Sci-fi films and spooky TV take the 2023 cake


Netflix released its list of Top 10 shows for the 30-month period ending December 31, 2023. The story our viewing habits tells is creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky.
Netflix and Cheers: What are the most popular TV shows and films on the platform? (Photo by Harun Ozalp/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A lot has happened since June 2021. It was a time when many people across the globe emerged from a year of intense change and oversight. So what did we run towards with our new found freedom?

Well, according to Netflix data, our escapism was focused on fear. And fantasy.

6 of the Top 10 most popular TV shows viewed on Netflix between July 2021 and Dec 31 2023 were eerie, ominous and unearthly.

The other 4 were sentimental, picturesque period pieces; a throwback to more conservative, fantastical, sartorial times.

The number 1 most popular TV program on Netflix, has dark roots embedded in the 60s. ‘Wednesday,’ the story of the undemonstrative daughter of Gomez and Morticia Addams, was viewed more than 252 million times since its release in November 2022.

In the Netflix show, Jenna Ortega stars as teenage Wednesday Addams of ‘Addams Family’ lore — a TV program that found success on black and white TV screens in 1964.

Netflix greenlit an 8-episode reboot of the series in 2021, written as a coming-of-age story set in high school. A disassociative dance choreographed by Ortega for episode 4 of ‘Wednesday’ became a smash hit on Tiktok, duplicated and uploaded by Gen Alphers and Zers the world over.

So popular was the social media tie-in, that Tiktok data reveals the #WednesdayAddams hashtag has been viewed more than 33 billion times. For its part, Netflix notes the series aimed at the pre-teen and teen audience achieved more than 1.7 trillion views since its release just over a year ago.

What series was most streamed on Netflix in 2022 and 2023? Tim Burton’s ‘Wednesday,’ (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Netflix)

‘Stranger Things’ seasons 3 and 4 were also in the top 10 TV shows, as was ‘Monster,’ the Jeffrey Dahmer story which rounded out the top 3. Both series have sinister undertones, as do ‘The Night Agent’ (6) and ‘The Witcher’ (9).

Bringing a much different mood to the Top 10, were the three seasons of ‘Bridgerton’ set in Regency England. Horse-drawn carriages, empire silhouettes, and cupid’s arrow formed the basis for Julia Quinn’s best-selling novels, which were executive-produced into a wildly successful Netflix series by Shonda Rhymes.

‘The Queen’s Gambit,’ oriented around a female chess prodigy rising through the international competition ranks in the 50s and 60s, also achieved over 100 million views. Played by Anya Taylor Joy, the story of Beth Harmon is fictional, though loosely based on the experiences of other successful chess players.

Source: Netflix
The Top 10 Most Popular TV Shows on Netflix July 1 2021 – Dec 31 2023. Source: Netflix
The Top 10 Most Popular TV Shows on Netflix July 1 2021 - Dec 31 2023. Source: Netflix
The Top 10 Most Popular Films on Netflix July 1 2021 – Dec 31 2023. Source: Netflix

On the film side, Netflix reveals that it was science fiction that piqued the interest of viewers between 2021 and the end of 2023. ‘Don’t Look Up,’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and our own Cate Blanchett consumed more than 400 million hours of viewing time globally.

Horror Sci-fi movie ‘Bird Box’ came in third in the number of hours viewed. ‘The Adam Project‘ starring Ryan Reynolds as a time-travelling fighter pilot had more than 150 million views, fusing sci-fi with the action genre for which Reynolds is known.

Reynolds also had huge success with ‘Red Notice,’ an action/comedy in which he partnered with The Rock and Gal Gadot. ‘Red Notice’ has been viewed 230 million times and taken up 454 million hours of viewers’ time — taking the cake as the most popular film on Netflix in two and a half years.

‘The Gray Man’, ‘We Can Be Heroes’, and ‘The Mother’ were also massively popular films in 2021, 2022 and 2023 – all fitting into the action genre.

Australia’s favourite hero Chris Hemsworth cracked the Top 10 code twice, with his action thriller ‘Extraction’ and its sequel both scoring around 135 million views each. The second ‘Extraction’ film — released in June 2023 — managed that feat in just 6 months, a much shorter timeframe than the other films that made the list and have had years to accrue viewership numbers.

Chris Hemsworth attends Netflix’s “Extraction 2” New York premiere at Jazz at Lincoln Center on June 12, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

The 2023 Netflix Engagement Report highlights the following titles that also made a splash over the last year:

  • The strength of returning favourites like Ginny & Georgia, Alice in Borderland, The Marked Heart, Outer Banks, You, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, XO Kitty and film sequels Murder Mystery 2 and Extraction 2
  • The popularity of new series like The Night Agent, The Diplomat, Beef, The Glory, Alpha Males, FUBAR and Fake Profile, which generate huge audiences and fandoms; 
  • The size of the audience of our films across every genre including The Mother, Luther: The Fallen Sun, You People, AKA, ¡Que viva México! and Hunger
  • The enthusiasm for non-English stories, which generated 30% of all viewing; 
  • The staying power of titles on Netflix, which extends well beyond their premieres. All Quiet on the Western Front, for example, debuted in October 2022 and generated 80M hours viewed between January and June; and 
  • The demand for older, licensed titles, which generates tremendous value for our members and for rights holders.  

Source: Netflix 2023 Engagement Report

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