Netflix: Yup, Extraction is our most-watched movie ever

And the service's competition show Too Hot to Handle, in which contestants lose prize money if they have sex, was the original series to beat in the last quarter.

By Joan E. Solsman | July 16, 2020

Chris Hemsworth stars in the action thriller Extraction. 

Netflix's most-watched original ever is Extraction, as the Chris Hemsworth action flick drew in 99 million accounts in the first month of its release, the company said Thursday in its second-quarter earnings report. Too Hot to Handle -- a reality competition that stuck attractive singles on an island and then told them not to have sex or they'd lose prize money -- was the most popular series Netflix reported in the period: It had 51 million households tune in. 

(Actually, the fourth season of Money Heist was the most popular show on Netflix in the period, with 65 million accounts watching it, but Netflix had already released that number months ago.)

Netflix also noted the popularity of comedy series Never Have I Ever and Space Force, which were both watched by 40 million accounts. All the popularity stats that Netflix shared for originals released between April and June are listed below. 

For years, Netflix was notoriously tight-lipped about viewership. The man who created House of Cards, which put Netflix's original content efforts on the map, once said the company wouldn't even share viewership metrics with him. But lately Netflix has loosened its lips to help recruit talent and stoke up buzz. 

In addition to sharing viewership stats for top titles every three months as part of its earnings report, Netflix added a top-trending ranking to its service, so people can see what are the most popular titles streaming on the service in their country on any given day. 

Netflix's popularity figures need big disclaimers. For one, they aren't independently verified, nor are they backed up by detailed data from the company. Netflix is in the unique position of being able to cherry-pick highlights, and we don't have much independent data to provide verification. Traditional media companies, on the other hand, have their box office performance independently monitored, and they're at the mercy of Nielsen ratings as the barometer for TV shows.

Also, don't compare Netflix's numbers to Nielsen or box office metrics. It's tempting to compare how many people watched a Netflix show versus one on regular TV, or to estimate how much money a big movie on Netflix would've made at the box office. But these metrics aren't even close to comparable because the methods behind them differ wildly.

And at the beginning of this year, Netflix switched to a new viewership metric. Netflix now counts a title as "watched" if you picked it to watch and let it play for two minutes. With some shows or movies, you can turn them off before you even hit the main title sequence and it still counts as a view. 

In the case of Extraction, for example, you'd count as a view before the movie even gets to a single line of spoken dialogue. (There are about 10 gunshots before the two-minute mark, though.)

Netflix shared all the following figures for original shows and movies released between April and June. These stats are for the titles' first four weeks of release, or they're Netflix's projections for how many will watch in the first four weeks based on viewership so far:

  • Extraction -- 99 million accounts.
  • The Wrong Missy, a comedy movie starring David Spade -- 59 million accounts.
  • Too Hot to Handle -- 51 million accounts.
  • Never Have I Ever, a high-school comedy series from Mindy Kaling -- 40 million accounts.
  • Space Force, a comedy series starring Steve Carell -- 40 million accounts.
  • The Willoughbys, an animated feature film -- 38 million accounts.
  • Floor Is Lava, a competition show in which contestants jump around on things pretending the floor is liquid-hot magma -- 37 million accounts projected.
  • Da 5 Bloods, Spike Lee's Vietnam War movie -- 27 million accounts.

Netflix also shared a ranking of its most watched original movies with Bloomberg on Wednesday ahead of its earnings report. That ranking was:  

  1. Extraction.
  2. Bird Box, a postapocalyptic movie starring Sandra Bullock -- more than 89 million accounts.
  3. Spenser Confidential, an action-comedy starring Mark Wahlberg -- 85 million accounts.
  4. 6 Underground, a Michael Bay explosion-fest starring Ryan Reynolds -- 83 million accounts.
  5. Murder Mystery, a comedy starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston -- 73 million accounts.
  6. The Irishman, a period epic about the Mafia, directed by Martin Scorsese -- 64 million accounts.
  7. Triple Frontier, an action/heist movie starring Ben Affleck -- 63 million accounts.
  8. The Wrong Missy, a romantic comedy starring David Spade and Lauren Lapkus -- 59 million accounts.
  9. The Platform, a Spanish sci-fi horror movie -- 56 million accounts.
  10. The Perfect Date, a teen romantic comedy -- 48 million accounts.

Netflix has released stats for some of its original series in the past, too. Most of the following figures represent viewership in a title's first four weeks of release. In some cases (noted), they represent projected total viewership before the title actually reached the four-week mark:

  • The Witcher, a fantasy series based on an existing franchise of books and video games -- 76 million accounts.
  • Season four of La Casa de Papel, or Money Heist, a Spanish language heist thriller series -- 65 million accounts.
  • Tiger King, a viral docuseries -- 64 million accounts. 
  •  You, the second season of the psychological thriller series -- projection for 54 million accounts, based on first weeks' viewing since its Dec. 26 release.
  • Love Is Blind, a dating competition series -- 30 million accounts.
  • Season 3 of The Crown, a historical drama series -- 21 million accounts (and Netflix said 73 million accounts have watched The Crown since the series launched).
  • Klaus, an animated holiday film nominated for an Oscar -- 40 million accounts.