Netflix's (Surprisingly) Most-Rented Films of All Time

Warner Bros.

Americans' taste in movies is—how to put this delicately?—not so demanding. Each year, the box-office charts are dominated by unimaginative sequels, kiddie schlock, and overproduced explosion porn. That's why the list that Netflix publishes of its all-time most-rented movies is such a delight, and a surprise. Of the top six films, three won the Oscar for Best Picture, and a fourth was nominated. Two are action flicks, yes, but they're two of the best-reviewed action flicks in years. Another movie features a performer who reminds us that he has acting chops beyond his usual blockbuster bait; in yet another, an 80-year-old favorite reassures us that he's still got it. Of the 10, only two can be said to be, well, kind of inanae. But hey—sometimes we all need a little mindless fun amid the classics.

By letting customers build queues of the titles they truly want to see, instead of merely watching what happens to be in stock at the local rental store, Netflix has allowed us to see more great movies—and has thrived as a business in the process. As of July 1, 2010, here's the top 10, accompanied by reviews by Netflix users, as showcased on the site (and represented here typos and all).

Sure, the cast was "star-studded." Yes, the film won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2006. True, it has been rated by a whopping 4.4 million Netflix users. But one might wonder how any movie could hold the top slot in the list of Netflix's most popular rentals five years after its release. Crash tells many stories that weave together over two days in Los Angeles, involving a large set of characters from different backgrounds who seem to run into each other throughout the film: a wealthy couple, two cops, two car thieves, a shopkeeper, a locksmith, and more.

Reviews from Netflix users:
"If you are looking for a movie to enjoy that is brainless, funny, and not very meaningful, stop right here. It takes a brain to understand the themes, and while there is humor in it, it is mostly a movie full of realizations and enlightenment. The fact that so many stories can be woven together so flawlessly is a feat in itself, not to mention the intense depth the movie carries with it." —Sep 1719883

"Entirely too racial for me! Disappointed that Sandra Bullock had only 2 minutes worth of lines in the film. There were at least 4 different story lines that kept jumping back and forth and I was waiting for some huge climax where they intersect, but it was quite dull when they did start to connect. In my opinion, this one was better left on the shelf!" —Wes 1667223

In this film adaptation of a 1922 F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, Brad Pitt stars as Benjamin Button, the baby who is born an old man and spends the rest of his life growing younger. The special effects alone—watching Brad Pitt as a wrinkled child—might be what's kept people renting this since 2008.

Reviews from Netflix users:
"Three words: Absolutely No Point. I honestly think the creators of this film said in a meeting 'What if we did Forrest Gump with Brad Pitt. And, instead of a learning disability, he's born as an old man?' 'I love it! Think of the trailer we could make. And Forrest Gump won tons of awards! Let's do it!' But Forrest Gump was touching and told a story, with a point. The only thing remotely impressive about Benjamin Button is the CGI effects that transposed Brad Pitt's face on an old-man-child body. Other then that, Brad Pitt's character has no depth, or charm." —Num 502645

"It's long, I know. But it is so worth it. The story of Benjamin's life is unbelievable but that's why we love it. You grow to love Benjamin in a way I'm not sure I've ever loved another character in any movie I've ever seen. He is so wise and has suffered so much. The end breaks your heart. It's a movie you will watch over and over again. His letter to his daughter at the end is beautiful, any parent can relate to his feelings. It's just an all around great movie with a colorful cast." —Kwi 497653

Apparently, watching this movie is an item on many Netflix users' "bucket lists." The Rob Reiner film stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two men who meet in the hospital after learning they both have terminal lung cancer. It follows them as they complete items on their "bucket lists"—a list of things to do before they die—including skydiving, getting a tattoo, driving a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China ... you get the gist.

Reviews from Netflix users:
"A movie where you laugh and cry. Probably more of a chic flick but my 12-year-old son loved it. Morgan and Jack were wonderful together...can put your life into perspective." —Jsh 1345407

"Turned this off 3/4 of the way through. How can this possibly be sold under the genre 'comedy'. If this is a comedy Schindler's List must be labeled 'stand-up.' I am a 56 yr. old cancer survivor...there is NOTHING funny about this movie or its premise." —Xon 1320128

This Martin Scorsese film, which follows an undercover Boston cop infiltrating the Irish mob and a mob mole infiltrating the Boston Police Department is a remake of a 2001 Hong Kong film, Infernal Affairs. Scorsese's version—starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, and Martin Sheen—earned four Academy Awards.

Reviews from Netflix users:
"The Jay Leno of mob movies. If you like Jay Leno and think he's funny, chances are you will like The Departed." —Kcv 188830

"A phantasmagoria of criminal pathology. The Godfather on steroids. Brilliantly written, filmed, edited, directed and acted. Just try to look away!" —JT 1095798

Arms manufacturer Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) transforms himself from a greedy industrialist into a superhero by inventing a bionic suit. Actor-director Jon Favreau helmed this big-budget action film, packed with special effects.

Reviews from Netflix users:
"Stooopid. Plot is weak and very, very predictable. But the 'technology' just violates way too many physical laws in far too obvious ways for me to suspend disbelief. And I'm a SF fan! If you liked the comic book, maybe you'll like this. As an engineer, the whole idea of a 'super-suit' just strikes me as ridiculous. Are tanks built in the shape of giant armed men? Hardly. Then there's the rockets with no need for reaction mass, and people getting smashed into things at hundreds of miles per hour with no injury (suit or not, the human body is only so strong). The special effects were good. And the focus was sharp." —DL 1348311

"5 out of 5. I am giving this movie a 5 out of 5. I am just going to come right out and say that the beginning of the movie has its lame spots. But I promise once the action starts and Iron Man is Iron Man the movie gets that good you don't have to worry about how the beginning of the movie was boring. The movie got a 5 out of 5 in my eyes. So if you have not seen it yet watch it I promise you must like it if you love action and Super hero movies." —Mad Skull

Josh Brolin stars as Llewelyn Moss, a Vietnam veteran who discovers a large sum of cash near a heap of dead bodies in the desert. Javier Bardem plays the stoic and terrifying Anton Chigurh, who's hunting Moss. Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Cohen, this adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy book of the same name earned four Academy Awards.

Reviews from Netflix users:
"This is by far the worst movie we have ever seen. It makes you sit for two hours following several different characters and then just when you think something is about to happen its over. I don't care about the flaws of humanity, the darkness in man, the descent of society, and how we are helpless to prevent our own downfall; that is what real life is about. Why make a movie about real life when all a person has to do to see this is to open their eyes and look around. Its insight into humanity it nothing new and does not even give an accurate portrayal of how far people are really willing to go for the love of money. It is quite easy to predict how certain scenes will turn out while some leave you shaking your head wondering why that was even in the movie." —TS 763751

"Shows the cruelty of man and the strength to win in the end; Tommy Lee Jones is his rugged self and is very believable. I was on the edge of my seat until the very end." —ltm 1216386

Will Smith plays a down-on-his-luck single father to real-life son Jaden Smith in the film based on the true-life story of Chris Gardner. Smith's character faces adversity as he tries to make a better life for his son by taking an unpaid internship.

Reviews from Netflix users:
"I really liked the message of this movie. But it stressed me out watching it. I was glad to finally get to the happy ending. I knew it was coming, but it was agony to watch the struggles of Will Smiths character. A tearjerker for sure, but wait to watch when you are in the mood for something a bit heavy." —LD in AZ

"Mainstream America loves The Pursuit of Happyness. The rest of us, who enjoy intelligent and serious film making, will cringe throughout this entire movie." —Max Buzz

Sandra Bullock plays Margaret Tate, a woman in danger of losing her visa status. Facing deportation, Tate bullies her assistant into marrying her. It wouldn't be a romantic comedy without a trip to meet her assistant's family in Alaska, followed by all sorts of wedding-related antics. Plus, Betty White makes a cameo as Grandma.

Reviews from Netflix users:
"The Devil wears Prada re-make between a man and a woman. Very Hollywood-ish. The only real value to this film is to observe the utter beauty of Sandra Bullock, maybe more so as she is an authority figure (no pun intended)." —Guinnessman

"TRULY one of the worst movies I have ever seen—an imbecilic premise that gets worse with every implausible scene. Even Betty White in a supporting role can't save this turkey. Given the choice of watching it or cleaning the oven, definitely reach for your can of Easy Off. It amazes me that it didn't win a Razzie." —frb 10568

Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this film as Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski, a man who has outspokenly racist views when it comes to his Hmong neighbors. Things come to a head when the neighbors' son tries to steal his 1972 Gran Torino.

Reviews from Netflix users:
"I didn't think I was going to like this film but turns out, I was wrong. Clint Eastwood is actually quite likable in this film. I grew up with people like him-(sad huh?) so I could see that under all that anger was really a pretty good guy. The supporting cast was very good and the story was pure Eastwood. No one is going to f*** with Dirty Harry, right? I loved the way Eastwood's character evolves, proving that an old dog CAN learn some new tricks. I would watch this movie again or maybe add it to my personal collection." —The unseen

"This is a basically series of after-school specials, starring Clint Eastwood. Clint's lines mostly consist of growling. To call the supporting cast's acting 'terrible' would be quite an understatement." —DM 954804

This 2006 installment in the 007 film series stars Daniel Craig as James Bond, who becomes involved in a high-stakes poker tournament while trying to bring down a banker with terrorist connections.

Reviews from Netflix users:
"A real double-O disappointment. James Bond playing Texas Hold'em? Please! The writers and producers must have wanted to make the movie relevant in today's world, so they assumed that the audience was not sophisticated enough to understand baccarat. The production crew got caught up in showcasing their prowess in developing computer generated super-hero stunts (boring and uninteresting). After the first two hours, I was tempted to bring my TV back to Wal-Mart. It was a difficult movie to watch. Any resemblance between this movie and the great Ian Fleming novel is purely coincidental." —Szd 240541

"'Utter one more syllable and I'll have you killed!'- M. to James Bond in CASINO ROYALE. But this Bond will not be dispatched so easily. He is virtually impervious to pain. He is incredibly acrobatic. If he is on the run and you have just put up some drywall it had better be very thick drywall; he's likely to chase down a gas tanker truck also. When others fall to an explosion he escapes with minor cuts. And he heals quickly (far too quickly). He even cheats death (shocking, positively shocking!). Watching CASINO ROYALE you may ask yourself: is this really 007 or Bruce Wayne, dropping his cape and cowl for a new identity? Yet the renovation of the 53-year old Bond edifice (books and movies) by producer Barbara Broccoli and company succeeds despite the comic book heroics. Daniel Craig's flaxen-haired Bond silences the pre-release complainers instantly." —Moviola Steenbeck

Join the Discussion