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Top Netflix Films & TV Shows: Where are they coming from?

Late 2021 has seen a string of blockbuster releases to whet the appetite of cinephiles all over the world. Movie-goers are tentatively making their way back into cinemas, and we’re now seeing packed-out theaters for the first time in years — a sight for sore eyes (although, certainly a welcome one).

As the dust settles on a turbulent period for cinema, we decided to study Netflix—one of the most popular streaming platforms and a major beneficiary of Covid-19 lockdowns.

We wanted to find out more about the top Netflix films and TV shows around the world.

The tumultuous events of 2020 have massively impacted cinemas. During the throes of Covid-19, cinema doors slammed shut and many production companies ceased operations altogether. According to Investopedia, global box office takings fell to $12 billion in 2020 — a 72% reduction over 2019.

Where did movie-lovers go to get their film fix?

Netflix! Of course. Netflix’s meteoric rise started long before the Covid-19 pandemic but recent events have only seen the platform grow further. With the imposition of lockdowns, people turned to their laptops and TV screens for entertainment in 2020. Netflix duly added over 36 million subscribers and increased its revenue by 24%, as per The Guardian and Business of Apps.

Online streaming platforms are creating a seismic shift in the way people view content — one that’s sending ripples throughout the film and TV production industries. The ease, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness of on-demand video streaming suggest platforms like Netflix are not just here to stay but here to take over.

We did some research in light of this changing dynamic. We analyzed Netflix’s “Global Top 10” lists and “Top 10 By Country” lists to learn more about the movies and TV shows that are popular around the world in the second half of 2021.

In part one of our research, we looked at non-English films and TV shows that were ranked in Netflix’s “Global Top 10” lists. We wanted to find out which non-English movies and TV shows are popular across the globe.

If part one is “what,” part two is “where.” We looked at Netflix’s “Top 10 By Country” lists to find out where the very best Netflix content is produced and which nation’s content is popular in each region around the world.

We also gathered data on the most dominant movie industries since the beginning of cinema: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, China, India, & Japan.

American films command the lion’s share of box office takings. But has Hollywood always been the biggest filmmaker? Which nations’ movie industries have risen and fallen over time? And how does our Netflix data compare?

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the research!

Part One

Netflix’s “Global Top 10” page contains weekly lists of the most-watched films and TV shows around the world. We analyzed Netflix’s top 10 lists of the best non-English content between July 4th, 2021, and December 5th, 2021.

Netflix splits its “Global Top 10” lists into English and non-English content. We chose to analyze non-English content because Netflix classifies this data separately. This gave us the opportunity to understand which non-English content performed best.

“Global Top 10” lists are split into “English” and “Non-English” lists

So, which non-English films and TV shows did Netflix users watch the most across our 23-week study?

As one might expect, France, Germany, India, and Japan produced several different non-English films that featured on Netflix’s “Global Top 10” lists. Brazil had a wealth of successful and hugely popular films on Netflix too. Throughout the 23 week study period, 10 different Brazilian films featured on Netflix’s “Global Top 10” lists, second only to France with its variety and volume of top 10 movies.

We conducted the same analysis of Netflix’s “Global Top 10” lists of the most-watched non-English TV shows over the 23 week study period.

Again, one might anticipate seeing the traditional non-US production industries dominating TV shows on Netflix. While some of these industries featured heavily once again, traditional media producers did not dominate Netflix’s “most-watched TV shows” list by any stretch of the imagination.

Concurrent with our list of the most popular non-English movies, TV shows from France, Germany, India, and Brazil were a hit with Netflix users too. However, our research demonstrated that numerous other countries are creating popular Netflix content. Namely South Korea and Spain, two nations that have produced blockbuster Netflix TV shows over the 23 week study period.

South Korea’s Squid Game enjoyed unparalleled success in our study, racking up billions of viewing hours and several weeks in Netflix’s “Global Top 10.” Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha and My Name were created in South Korea, too, and Spain’s Money Heist was also popular. Perhaps surprisingly, Colombia’s Newly Rich, Newly Poor featured as a popular choice among global fans.

Part Two

In the second part of our study, we looked at Netflix’s “Top 10 By Country” lists. These lists detail the most-watched TV shows and films in every country. We analyzed lists in countries around the world to find out where the most-viewed Netflix content in each region is produced.

It’s worth noting that the majority of nations’ top 10 lists had more non-US titles than US titles. This is because many countries enjoyed content that was not watched beyond the local region. As such, some popular content on “Top 10 By Country” lists may not have reached the “Global Top 10” lists analyzed in part one.

Unsurprisingly, the numbers show that America produces the most popular Netflix films. American films are streamed more than content from any other country, accounting for 56.3% of the most popular films worldwide over the study period.

America’s outstanding performance in our study of course highlights the pedigree of the nation’s movie industry. It may also stem from the fact that a large portion of the content streamed on Netflix is produced in the US.

The United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, India, France, and Nigeria all produced a significant share of popular Netflix films in regions around the world.

Was America’s dominance less pronounced when we looked at the most popular TV shows throughout the same period? Yes, actually. It was!

The results show that America produced 30.6% of the most popular Netflix TV shows around the world during the study period. The United States was less dominant here than in film production with South Korea and Japan also taking a large share of the global TV audience. Spain, Colombia, and the UK created a noteworthy share of TV shows as well.

This difference is difficult to explain — it may be because several large US TV producers such as HBO and Disney have their own video streaming platforms, reducing the portion of US TV shows on Netflix. Many famous US TV shows can be found on alternative US streaming platforms, while famous US TV shows don’t always stay on Netflix for long (Friends, for example, recently left Netflix in several countries).

Whatever the reason, these results are seemingly concurrent with the first part of our study: TV shows from numerous countries are popular on Netflix. While America still produces the largest share of popular TV shows, the nation’s superiority was less pronounced than in the movie industry.

In the second part of our study, we also combined data from multiple nations’ weekly “Top 10 By Country” lists to find out which titles were popular throughout entire regions.

We know American films and TV shows are the dominant force, so we split our findings into “US” and “non-US” titles. This meant we could find out the origins of the most popular TV shows created outside of America throughout the 23 week study period.

Where Are the Most-Viewed Films and TV Shows in the Middle East* Coming From?

*The Middle East includes Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates

American films were consumed more than any other nation’s movies in the Middle East. Egypt and India also had several popular films throughout the study period, yet, those numbers are still low compared to America’s 175 different top 10 titles.

Surprisingly, US TV shows did not account for the majority of Netflix viewing in the Middle East. TV shows from Asia, Europe, and elsewhere in the Middle East were more popular here.

Where Are the Most-Viewed Films and TV Shows in Oceania* Coming From?

*Oceania includes Australia, New Caledonia, and New Zealand.

In Oceania, American film was omnipresent. Several films from the United Kingdom and Australia were, predictably, ranked in Netflix’s top 10s. French-speaking New Caledonia perhaps accounts for the popularity of French movies while Germany’s Blood Red Sky was well-ranked too.

Other than US TV shows, Japanese content was popular in Oceania, and Australia’s very own Clickbait ranked alongside some familiar non-US programs.

Where Are the Most-Viewed Films and TV Shows in Europe* Coming From?

*Europe includes Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Réunion, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

Traditional movie industries were successful in Europe over the 23 week study period. While the United Kingdom and France created lots of popular films, each nation’s own top 10 lists still contained more US content.

Spain, perhaps surprisingly to some people, beat the United Kingdom to second-spot with its variety and volume of great Netflix TV shows. For the record, Spain’s Money Heist was one of the most-watched TV programs in the world.

Where Are the Most-Viewed Films and TV Shows in Asia* Coming From?

*Asia includes Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam.

Asian Netflix users consume a lot of Asian media and top 10 film lists are certainly more balanced here than we’ve seen in any other region. Japanese, South Korean, and Indian films are well-ranked. Overall, US films feature on top 10 lists slightly more often than non-US films.

Netflix users in Asia predominantly watch non-US TV shows over US TV shows — one of few regions in our 23-week study where this is the case. South Korea has more TV shows on Asia’s “Top 10 By Country” lists than any other producer.

Where Are the Most-Viewed Films and TV Shows in North America* Coming From?

*North America includes Canada, United States.

US films are overwhelmingly popular in North America (which is to be expected). Germany had the third-highest number of different “Top 10 By Country” films throughout the study period. Despite Canada’s sizable movie industry, the nation did not feature heavily on the region’s top 10 movie lists.

While American TV shows were watched more than others over the study period, South Korea’s Squid Game still ranked #1 on “Top 10 By Country” lists for longer than any other program.

Where Are the Most-Viewed Films and TV Shows in Latin America* Coming From?

*Latin America includes Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Brazilian films featured heavily on Latin America’s top 10 lists. Perhaps owing to the region’s French-speaking contingent, several French films made the region’s lists too. Nonetheless, Germany’s Blood Red sky was the only non-US film among the top 10 films that ranked #1 most often.

Surprisingly, non-US TV shows were more popular than US programs in Latin America over the study period. Colombia’s content ranked better than Brazil’s with several different popular TV shows.

Where Are the Most-Viewed Films and TV Shows in Africa* Coming From?

*Africa includes Kenya, Nigeria, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa.

Nigeria is the biggest film producer in Africa and, as such, Nigeria had a wealth of different films on Netflix’s “Top 10 By Country” lists throughout the study period.

For the fourth time in our study, non-US TV shows were more popular than US TV shows in a given region. Spanish and South Korean titles featured heavily on “Top 10 By Country Lists” in Africa.

Summary of Results

We conducted a two-part Netflix study to find out about the most popular Netflix content between July 4th, 2021, and December 5th, 2021.

Part One

In part one of our research, we analyzed non-English content on Netflix’s “Global Top 10” lists. These are weekly lists of the most-watched movies and TV shows on Netflix. We wanted to know which non-English films and TV shows are watched the most around the world.

We found that France (11 different films), Brazil (10), India (10), and Germany (9) each had several different non-English films featured in Netflix's “Global Top 10” — more than other nations. Non-English films from France ranked first longer than films from other nations, followed by Germany, which has the second longest-standing films.

As for non-English TV shows, eight countries each had nine different shows in Netflix’s “Global Top 10” lists throughout the study period. These nations included Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Poland, and South Korea. Shows from Colombia ranked number one for more weeks than TV shows from any other non-English nation.

Part Two

In the second part of our research, we looked at content on each nation’s weekly “Top 10 By Country” list. This list shows the top 10 most-watched movies and TV shows in each nation. We analyzed these lists to find out where the most-watched films and TV shows are created in every region around the world.

Specifically, we wanted to know whether countries favor content that was produced within their local region over content that was produced in the US.

Our results show that viewers in some regions are more likely to watch local TV shows than US TV shows. However, Netflix data demonstrates that US TV shows and movies are generally more popular than local content in each given region.

According to our analysis of “Top 10 By Country” lists in part two, the five most popular film producers are the USA (56.3%), the UK (4.2%), Japan (4.0%), South Korea (3.7%), and India (2.9%).

But why are the biggest non-English film producers in this list different from our results in part one?
In part one, France, Brazil, India, and Germany produced a number of films that ranked on Netflix’s “Global Top 10” lists.

These results were different because “Global Top 10” lists contain films that are popular all around the world, whereas the “Top 10 By Country” lists studied in part two contain the most popular content in specific locations. As such, some content that was extremely popular within a given country or region was not necessarily well-viewed around the rest of the world and, therefore, did not make it onto Netflix’s “Global Top 10” lists. With more local data available in part two, other top non-EN producers came to the fore.

US productions accounted for 30.7% of the most popular TV shows. Here, America was still dominant, though TV shows from some other nations featured heavily on Netflix’s “Top 10 By Country” lists. The most popular TV show producers were the USA (30.7%), South Korea (15.6%), Japan (9.9%), and Spain (3.5%), while Colombia ranked fifth with 3.3% of the most popular programs.

We also combined data from several countries’ “Top 10 By Country” lists to find out which nation’s content is viewed within each region (North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Latin America). We also split this data into US and non-US films/TV shows so we could get a clear idea of popular non-US content within each region.

In North America, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Oceania, American films were featured on Netflix’s top 10 more often than content from any other country.

There were a few outliers in the second part of our study, however, particularly within Asia. While Asian Netflix users still watch American films more than non-US films, South Korean and Japanese TV shows are more popular in this part of the world. South Korea had 63 titles featured in the region’s “Top 10 By Country” lists and Japan had 35 titles. That’s compared to the United States’ 39 featured titles. Netflix users in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America also watched non-US TV shows more often than US TV shows during the study period.

Top Countries in the History of Film

We wanted to know how our Netflix figures compared to the history of the film industry. We also wanted to understand how the film industry has changed since its beginnings in the late 1800s.

We analyzed the most successful movie industries over 122 years (1899-2021). We ranked each nation’s movie industry based on two separate metrics. Firstly, we ranked countries based on the number of films each has produced over the years. Secondly, we ranked nations based on the total global box office takings of each nation’s productions.

Our findings show that the United States (1st), the United Kingdom (2nd), France (3rd), China (4th), and India (5th) have produced more films than any other since the beginning of cinema. While producing a fewer number of films, Japan replaces India in the top 5 when we consider box office performance alone ($15 billion of takings vs. India’s $7.5 billion).

We also split our results to find out the biggest movie producers in the 20th and 21st centuries.

In the 20th century, the United States (1st), the United Kingdom (2nd), and France (3rd) were still the world’s three most successful movie producers. US producers generated over $143 billion from 5,586 movies, UK movie makers created 847 films with a total box office performance of $10.6 billion, and French producers generated $2.1 billion worth of takings from 533 films.

Though, there were some significant differences throughout the rest of the top 5.

Throughout the first century of film, Italy created the 4th most movies (383) and Canada produced the fifth most films (178). When considering box office performance alone, Australia replaced Italy in 4th with almost $2 billion of takings compared to Italy’s $1.4 billion. How do these results compare with data from 2000 onwards? Or the findings of our Netflix study?

In the 21st century, the United States remains first, creating 15,516 films with $450 billion worth of box office takings so far. The United Kingdom is second with $43 billion of box office takings on 2,839 films. As for the number of movies produced, France (3rd), China (4th), and India (5th) round out the top 5.

Considering box office performance data alone, China climbs above France into 3rd and Japan replaces India in the top 5. South Korea is in the top 10 for both metrics to become one of the top movie industries. South Korea has produced 1,178 films generating $8.4 billion in the 21st century. We can see this trend in the recent popularity of South Korean content on Netflix.

Hollywood still rules the global film industry, however. The United States has produced 15,516 of its 21,102 films in the last 21 years. With the streaming age creating a huge demand for content, US movie production has arguably never been better. In 2020, US moviemakers produced 1,524 films with a total global box office of over $3.4 billion. That’s a market share of almost 40% in the movie industry. In 2021, the US has created 1,280 films with a global box office of more than $9 billion. A 60.5% market share, compared to the UK’s 10.6% and China’s 33.0%. This correlates with the overwhelming popularity of US content on Netflix.

The statistics show that America has always been the biggest force in the world of film. Those findings resonate with our Netflix study. The United Kingdom, France, India, Japan, and South Korea, too, have a significant presence on Netflix and within the wider film industry. On the other hand, China has a huge film industry, though the nation is fairly under-represented on Netflix’s top 10 lists.

The following tables show a breakdown of historical data on the top movie industries, along with a comparison to our Netflix data.

Historical data: Film industries ranked by number of films produced:

Top 10 in XX century Top 10 in XXI century Top 10 all time
3 France France France
4 Italy China China
5 Canada India India

Historical data: Film industries ranked by total worldwide box office:

Top 10 in XX century Top 10 in XXI century Top 10 all time
3 France China China
4 Australia France France
5 Canada Japan Japan

Netflix data: Countries with the most films listed on Netflix’s “Top 10” lists during the researched period (July 4th, 2021, to December 5th, 2021):

Country Number of films
1 USA 716
2 UK 54
3 Japan 51
4 South Korea 47
5 India 37

Netflix data vs. historical data

Top Netflix countries (based on no. of “Top 10” films) vs. top film industries throughout history (based on no. of films produced & total box office):

Netflix’s top countries Top countries by no. of films produced Top countries by worldwide box office
3 Japan France China
4 South Korea China France
5 India India Japan

Across each metric, the USA and the UK rank one and two as the best movie industries. These nations have the most films listed in Netflix’s top 10 lists and have produced the most films overall throughout the last 122 years. The US and the UK have generated the largest box office takings, too.

About the Author

Tom is a technology writer and researcher. He’s a strong advocate for digital rights, online privacy, and the value of ethical hacking

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