Leave The World Behind was Netflix's most-watched movie in 2023's final six months, but it was nearly beaten by a far worse film

A promotional image of the four main characters in Leave The World Behind looking at something off-screen
Leave The World Behind was Netflix's most popular film between June and December 2023 (Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix has unveiled just how popular its biggest films of 2023's second half really are – and it turns out one of its worst-rated Original Movies was almost its most successful.

Revealing the biggest movies on its platform, between July and December 2023, via its second What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report document, Netflix revealed a clear pattern in the kind of films Netflix subscribers are choosing to watch more than anything else: the humble thriller. Indeed, the list's top 10 is dominated by such plot-twisting genre fare, with Netflix's live-action adaptation of Rumaan Alam's unnerving book Leave the World Behind leading the pack. 

Bolstered its star-packed cast (Ethan Hawke, Mahershala Ali, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, and Myha'la), Leave The World Behind pulled in 121 million views following its November 2023 debut on the world's best streaming service. Not shabby for a movie that launched in the final few weeks of last year, eh?

A bruised Rachel Stone looks through a giant window in Netflix's Heart of Stone

The Gal Gadot-starring Heart of Stone somehow secured second place on the list. (Image credit: Robert Viglasky/Netflix)

As mentioned, there are plenty of other thriller-style movies in the top 10, too, including David Fincher's stylish if straightforwardly-named The Killer, which starred Michael Fassbender as a diligent hitman, debuting at number eight with 67.8 million views. Thanks to its 73.1 million haul, Reptile, a crime thriller starring and co-written by Benicio Del Toro, creeps just past it at number seven, while dystopian survival thriller Nowhere sits at number four with 86.2 million people tuning in to watch it.

The biggest surprise of the lot, though, Heart of Stone. The spy thriller, which stars former Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot, was trounced by fans and critics upon release in mid-August 2023. Indeed, its paltry 30% critics and average 51% audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes confirm it was another big-budget Netflix flick that flattered to deceive. And yet, while it's far from one of the best Netflix movies ever made, it somehow finished runner-up to Leave The World Behind. In fact, its 109.6 million views means it was just 13 million more away from usurping its Netflix sibling as the most-streamed film in the latter half of 2023. Imagine if that had happened...

Like a boss (baby)

Ted holds out a wad of cash to a character off camera in The Boss Baby movie

2017's The Boss Baby was a surprise inclusion in the 10 most popular Netflix films between July and December 2023. (Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Outside of the top 10, a lot more children's content and Christmas fare starts to creep in – which is impressive, given that people only watch Christmas movies around the festive season. You'll find Best. Christmas. Ever! (45.3 million views) and Dr. Seuss' The Grinch (watched 45.3 million times) holding firm at positions 18 and 19, followed swiftly by The Super Mario Bros. Movie at number 20 with 44.9 million views. Adam Sandler's animated lizard movie Leo performed best among this animated contingent, though, with the amusing child-friendly caper sitting comfortably at number three with a mighty haul of 96 million views.

But the real story here is the overwhelming success of The Boss Baby, a 2017 animated comedy movie about a corporate child with the body of a baby and the business acumen of a middle-aged executive. Indeed, it's the only film in the top 10 that wasn't released in 2023, and was only brought back to Netflix last year after a four-year absence. The film garnered 61.7 million views, and that's in spite of its bang average Rotten Tomatoes scores of 53% and 51% among critics and general audiences respectively.

It's notable, though, that Netflix has invested in a number of spin-off properties for The Boss Baby, with a 2018 TV series called The Boss Baby: Back in Business and 2022 follow-up flick The Boss Baby: Back in the Crib. Both struggled, however, to make the top 500 in Netflix's favourite TV shows from the same period, which included two surprise entries in its own top 10. Maybe they're cuter when they're younger?

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Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.

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