Most Popular on Netflix: A Look at Today's Top 10

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Most Popular on Netflix: A Look at Today's Top 10

Netflix has been notoriously stingy with its data. Even directors and showrunners have had a hard time gauging if what they’d put out into the world was reaching its intended audience. With the advent of the Netflix Top 10, though, we can now get at least one little peek behind the curtain. The list of Netflix’s daily Top 10 Most Popular indicates an omnivorous appetite among the Netflix faithful, from reality shows to prestige TV, animated kids shows to docu-series of every stripe. Here are the entries for January 17, 2022, of the most popular TV shows and movies on Netflix.

1. Archive 81

Year: 2022
Creator: Rebecca Sonnenshine
Stars: Mamoudou Ahtie, Dina Shihabi, Matt McGory, Julia Chan, Evan Jonigkeit
Genre: Horror, thriller
Rating: TV-MA

Watch on Netflix

The hit podcast is now a TV series about an archivist, some videotapes that need restoring, a missing director and a demonic cult. The mystery unfolds over the course of eight episodes, all of which dropped on Jan. 14.


2. Cheer

Years: 2021-2022
Creators: Greg Whiteley
Genre: Docuseries
Rating: TV-MA

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Directed and executive produced by Greg Whitely from fellow sports series Last Chance U, this docuseries follows the cheer squad of 14-time NCA National Champions, Navarro College. You can expect a lot of cheerleading, happy feelings and dramatic crying amidst hardship and all that good stuff. The show has won three Emmy Awards and the TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming. —Rachita Vasandani


3. Brazen

Years: 2018-2022
Creators: Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Stars: Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Decenzo, Martin Kove
Genre: Drama
Rating: TV-14

Watch on Netflix

Lock up your intellectual property. Hide your new ideas. Stow away that project you’ve written. Because Netflix is coming for you. What’s Netflix’s brand? Netflix is all the brands. It’s now come for the woman-in-peril made-for-TV movies that are the backbone of Lifetime and Hallmark. Here is Netflix with Brazen, a movie based on the novel Brazen Virtue by Nora Roberts that so belongs on basic cable. This movie has all the hallmarks of a Hallmark movie. Let’s review. A beloved TV star as the lead: Alyssa Milano stars as Grace, a famous author who returns to her childhood home to visit her sister Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup) just to catch up. I kid, kid. Obviously Kathleen is in Trouble with a capital “T.” A supporting cast of TV stars: Viewers might also recognize Ullerup, who starred in the popular Hallmark series Chesapeake Shores, and Sam Page, who starred in Freeform’s The Bold Type and numerous TV movies including 2021’s One Summer and A Godwink Christmas: Second Chance, First Love for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. A woman with a secret: Kathleen is a recovering drug addict who has lost custody of her son to her controlling jerk of a husband. She has finally gotten her life together and is fighting to get her son back. She’s now a popular teacher at a private high school. But Kathleen also has a secret. A Murder Mystery: Yeah, you didn’t think Kathleen would live, did you? Add in romance at inappropriate times, ridiculous plot twists and multiple suspects (but only one obvious one) and you have Brazen—utterly ridiculous, but also kind of fun to watch in that “so bad it’s good” kind of way. What I really found myself thinking during the movie is my own version of that “Leave Britney alone!” viral video. Why can’t Netflix leave Lifetime and Hallmark alone? We don’t need Netflix for the made-for-TV basic cable fare. Leave the bad made-for-TV movies to the networks that started it all. —Amy Amatangelo


4. Cobra Kai

Years: 2018-2022
Creators: Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Stars: Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Decenzo, Martin Kove
Genre: Drama
Rating: TV-14

Watch on Netflix

Cobra Kai never dies. And thank goodness. The series, which continues The Karate Kid story, survived two seasons in relative obscurity on YouTube, an overwhelmingly successful transition to Netflix and remains, in its fourth season, the rare revival that fans still really want to see. The secret to the show’s success is its loving embrace of its source material—warts and all. The law of diminishing returns was hard at work with The Karate Kid franchise. By the time we got to The Karate Kid Part III things had gone, shall we say, rather astray. And Cobra Kai knows it. The big news about Season 4, of course, is that Thomas Ian Griffith returns to reprise his role as the nefarious Terry Silver, John Kreese’s (Martin Kove) old pal from the Vietnam War. In The Karate Kid Part III we are introduced to Terry as he is signing a plutonium deal and saying things like “For the next few weeks my business is strictly revenge.” Not exactly subtle. But it was the ’80s right? Excess was the name of the game. Now Terry is living in a modern oceanfront mansion, drinking expensive wine, eating tofu and practicing mindfulness. Kreese wants to pull him back into the dojo. Together they can win the All Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament. Despite my quibbles, I still love Cobra Kai. The show is such an enjoyable romp. I’m happy to spend time with the characters and their karate-loving world no matter how inane the story lines might be. I hope Cobra Kai never dies. —Amy Amatangelo


5. Stay Close

Year: 2021
Creator: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich
Stars: Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Eamon Farren, Anya Chalotra, Joey Batey
Genre: Drama
Rating: TV-MA

Watch on Netflix

This drama series is based on Harlan Coben’s novel Stay Close about two men who go missing 17 years apart and the cops trying to solve the case—DS Michael Broome (James Nesbitt) and his partner DC Erin Cartwright (Jo Joyner). The eight-episode show was produced for Netflix by the Red Production Company (Years and Years, It’s a Sin).


6. Don’t Look up

Year: 2021
Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Meryl Streep
Rating: R
Runtime: 138 minutes

Watch on Netflix

In 2021, there are more reasons than one might have been previously comfortable with for legitimately fretting about the end of the world. And while the downfall of humankind likely won’t be coming as expediently as an extinction-level threat heading on a crash course for Earth, director Adam McKay’s new doomsday comedy/“timely” political satire Don’t Look Up attempts to congeal populism and the pandemic and climate change and all that which causes us to recoil against the unknowable future into one immediate, planet-killing orb. If that seems like a better and quicker way for us to go out in retrospect, McKay doesn’t make the path towards potential desolation easy. He plays out scenarios that, now, come across less like Idiocracy and more like genuine, scientific hypothesizing about how our world would react to the knowledge that we have six months left to live. Businessmen and politicians would attempt to financially leverage the situation at the cost of human lives; brainless hashtags would proliferate on social media; half the population would believe it to be a hoax; and the people who broke the story would be branded as cranks…to some extent. So, who better to articulate this existential dread at large than resident Hollywood goofball comedy director-turned-political theorist McKay, in his first wholly fictionalized film since Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues? The result is a star-studded Netflix affair. The film isn’t bad; it’s just boring, and long. There is no reason that a comedy—even a purported “prestige” one—needs to run 145 minutes (though I have a feeling that Judd Apatow would beg to differ). I can imagine an alternate universe where Don’t Look Up was a sharper affair, if not a better one, trimmed down to two hours, or even a scant 100 minutes, which would alleviate the weight of the burdensome political satire and, perhaps, even the long-winded non-jokes. As is, Don’t Look Up is an exhausting and meandering “What if? But also, what now?” If the world really is going to end in my lifetime, these were 145 minutes that I’m never getting back. —Brianna Zigler


7. The Witcher

Years: 2020-2021
Creator: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich
Stars: Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Eamon Farren, Anya Chalotra, Joey Batey
Genre: Reality
Rating: TV-14

Watch on Netflix

Based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels that spawned an extremely popular gaming franchise, Netflix’s series remains both fully engrossing and fully ridiculous. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Like any good bard, Hissrich understands that both parts are necessary to tell a great fantasy tale. It’s also worth noting that Season 2 is a marked improvement over that messy, if enjoyable, first season. More episodic in nature, especially at the start, the series can now let us relish in everything that was previously established. That means Geralt traveling with Ciri—the Child of Surprise whose powers and lineage become more surprising by the day—mourning what he believes is the death of Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), and meeting up with more witchers at their stronghold in Kaer Morhen, including Geralt’s mentor, Vesemir (Kim Bodnia).

Starting small and expanding exponentially with each new episode, this new season sees the foundations of what we learned in the first season play out practically as we follow Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) and his ward Ciri (Freya Allen). In addition to Geralt’s witcher brethren, we’re introduced more fully to elven culture, the politics of Redania and Nilfgaard, the neverending backstabbing of various mage factions, and to a host of fascinating side characters who breathe new life into the show’s world and lore—not to mention some terrifying monsters. Familiar faces, like Yennefer’s mentor Tissaia (MyAnna Burning), Nilfgaardian commander Cahir (Eamon Farren), kind mage Triss Merigold (Anna Shaffer), the historian Istredd (Royce Pierreson), and devout Fringilla (Mimi M. Khayisa) also make memorable returns, each adding to the rich tapestry of this growing world.

But it is a staid Geralt, more or less resigned to his fate and laser-focused on the protection of Ciri, who remains the series’ anchor. Cavill again excels at portraying this hunky mutant fighter as tired and largely over it, but also as someone who has been around for a long time and seen some shit in his day. His expertise, not just in the realm of monsters but of men, is peppered throughout in casually nuanced ways. He also gets to take part in a few exceptionally gnarly fights, which are creatively violent punctuations unafraid to add humor into the mix. Still, Season 2 is really Ciri’s story, and anyone who has played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt knows that following the lion cub of Cintra and trying to discern what’s happening and where she’s going is central to any Witcher story. Geralt may have keep of her here (for the most part, there is a side mission he follows on his own), but the rest of the characters in the story are all chasing after her because of her status as a princess, the prophesy suggesting her magical power, or to capture her for any number of interested parties looking to use her for their own ends. Meanwhile, Freya Allen perfectly channels the changeability of a young girl trying to understand who she is and her place in the world, and what agency she might yet possess in both strength and grace.
Allison Keene


8. The Colony

Years: 2022
Director: Tim Fehlbaum
Stars: Nora Arnezeder, Iain Glen, Sarah-Sofie Boussnina
Genre: Sci-fi
Rating: TV-MA

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Originally titled The Tides, this sci-fi thriller from Swiss filmmaker Tim Fehlbaum debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival and stars French actress Nora Arnezeder as an astronaut returned to a post-apocalyptic Earth from the sanctuary of her space colony Kepler-209. The English-language movie won several German Film Awards but has received mix reviews in the U.S.


9. Ozark

Year: 2017-2022
Creator: Bill Dubuque, Mark Williams
Stars: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Sofia Hublitz, Skylar Gaertner
Genre: Drama
Rating: TV-MA

Watch on Netflix

When a white-collar, middle-class family gets involved with the dangerous drug cartel, the Breaking Bad and Weeds comparisons don’t just show up—they’re practically mailed a hand-lettered invitation. And it’s true that the premise of Netflix’s Ozark sets us up for yet another steeply angled slide; by now, we expect we’ll witness the awakening of a desperate man’s latent evil. But there are several critical elements at play to keep the drug-dealing anti-hero trope from feeling like a song we’ve heard one too many times. All these elements center on the prevailing ethics of Ozark’s main character, Martin Byrde (Jason Bateman). Here we see Bateman in a dramatic turn vaguely reminiscent of his most well-known role, as Arrested Development’s Michael Bluth. Martin is a man who wants to be honest, but is willing to lie when he believes his lie to be in the service of the greater good. (In this case, the greater good is his family’s survival). Marty, a financial planner, starts out in the right place at the right time when he stumbles into the opportunity to launder money for—as he endearingly insists on reminding everyone—the second most powerful group of Mexican drug runners. His devotion to “the numbers” and pragmatic, stoic resourcefulness are what make him stand out as a “special” candidate to the cartel’s charismatic (and convincingly terrifying) Chicago liaison, Del (Esai Morales). But Ozark is pinned up by a buoyant implication: that maybe the right person can go a little bit bad, without rotting all the way. Perhaps it is this perpetual game of keep-away that keeps Marty’s hands clean (and his head, for now, intact). The story, at least so far, is one of a man who combats what he’s up against in a way that he believes is right. Ozark takes the anti-hero territory we’ve seen before and elevates it by making its lead not a just a contrarian rule-breaker, but a truly good bad guy—one to root for. —Kate Watson


10. Emily in Paris

Year: 2020
Creator: Darren Star
Stars: Lily Collins, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Lucas Bravo, Samuel Arnold, Bruno Gouery
Genre: Romance, Drama
Rating: TV-MA

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The first season of Emily in Paris arrived when we needed it most. Netflix’s romantic comedy set in the City of Lights offered housebound viewers the chance to escape into a fantasy after months spent indoors away from family and friends. Now the fashionable series from Darren Star has returned for its 10-episode second season just in time to cure us of the winter blues amid another pandemic surge. And yet, for a show that puts multiple talented women at the forefront of its narrative, Emily in Paris can’t seem to stop undermining them. For all its intoxicating charm and romance, Emily in Paris struggles to support the many women central to its story, either through poor narrative choices or just poorly executed ones. It isn’t the first show to suffer in this regard, and it’s under no obligation to enact change through its depiction of women and their choices. But the series is both a romantic comedy and a workplace comedy, and each aspect has now relied on tropes that force women to compete against one another. Emily’s happiness also lies at the heart of both. It’s unfortunate to see an otherwise intelligent and capable heroine forgo what she wants in an attempt to appease others, just as it’s frustrating to see Camille sidelined and relegated to backstabbing Emily. But what is truly infuriating is seeing Emily forced to choose between people she cares about over and over again when each time it should be a choice about what Emily wants for herself based on what she values. Hopefully, the fated phone call that closes out the season will find Emily making better choices and putting herself first for once. —K. Thomas