The Adam Sandler comedy Murder Mystery was the most popular 2019 U.S. release on Netflix, followed by Stranger Things Season 3, the Ryan Reynolds action film 6 Underground, the animated The Incredibles 2, and the Martin Scorsese mob drama The Irishman.
Netflix, which does not release viewership numbers, was at least willing to release its “most popular” rankings. The failure of critically praised The Irishman to beat the Sandler comedy wasn’t necessarily a disappointment for the $140 million-plus Scorsese film: Its biggest value to Netflix is likely as an awards contender. The film is part of Netflix’s years-long effort to bring home a Best Picture Oscar.
But the success of the less-expensive Murder Mystery represented a successful hedging of bets for Netflix, which has plowed money into the Oscar campaign for The Irishman.
Marriage Story, another Oscar contender, didn’t crack the Top 10 movies or releases for Netflix in 2019.
Murder Mystery had a couple of advantages over The Irishman and Marriage Story: Sandler is a Netflix fixture who has a distribution deal with the streaming service, Murder Mystery came out in June, months before The Irishman and Marriage Story, and Murder Mystery didn’t have a theatrical run. Both The Irishman and Marriage Story did screen in theaters, in order to qualify for Oscars. That may have drawn some early viewers.
6 Underground, however, came out on Netflix after The Irishman and Marriage Story.
Dave Chappelle: Sticks and Stones, which drew attention for jokes criticized as transphobic, was Netflix’s most popular comedy special of 2019, according to Netflix.
The most popular documentary on Netflix was Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. Netflix viewers were interested in Ted Bundy overall: The Zac Ephron Ted Bundy drama Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile was the fifth-most popular film on Netflix and sixth most-popular release overall.