'Crash' dominates Netflix three years after it won Best Picture: Wait...what?

Dilloncrash_lPaul Haggis’ Oscar-winning Crash has been the most frequently rented movie on Netflix since its DVD release in September 2005, the Chicago Tribune has pointed out. I’m amazed by the film’s perseverance, especially since I think that it’s a well-meaning misfire. It would make sense if this was March 2006 and Crash had just won the Best Picture Oscar in an upset over Brokeback Mountain. But it’s three years later and, still, more people are choosing to rent the L.A. racism parable than any other movie.

So what gives? One can draw some conclusions by taking a gander at the rest of the site’s Top 100 rentals. What’s intriguing is how the list is dominated by middle-range "prestige" pictures, rather than expensive blockbusters. The theory is that most moviegoers avoid these films and opt for the big "event" films. Then, when it comes time to watch something at home, they’re more willing to experiment with an "art film" — because, at home, you can rewind if you don’t understand something, or eject the damn thing if it’s too boring or bizarre or British. Thus, the Netflix popularity of No Country for Old Men, Walk the Line, Babel, Hotel Rwanda, Michael Clayton, Syriana, Million Dollar Baby, The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, Finding Neverland, The Constant Gardener, Memoirs of a Geisha, Mystic River, Good Night, and Good Luck, Ray, Sideways, and so forth.

Nevertheless, I still can’t figure out why one of those movies hasn’t replaced Crash in the No. 1 spot. PopWatchers, can you explain why Crash is managing to keep its throne? Are you one of the millions who — gasp! — rented Crash on Netflix? You’ll have to answer to The Departed, which is not too f—ing happy about its runner-up status.

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Comments (42 total) Add your comment
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  • scar2

    I agree Brokeback was a better movie artistically. However, Crash plays to a wider audience, which helped explain its Oscar win. It’s a good movie but not a great movie. It makes people feel good about themselve cuz they can scoff at other people’s racism.

  • Al Fredo

    I think you are half right; moviegoers probably do opt for the blockbuster in the theater, and then take a chance on the artistic, “prestige” movies via Netflix. The other half of the equation is that a good number of folks probably buy the blockbuster movies (Dark Knight, Ironman, Pixar) when they come out on DVD rather than renting, since the initial price is usually pretty attractive.
    With that, why is Crash #1? Probably because some amount of people are buying all the movies below it, and no one wants to be caught with Crash in their DVD collection at home.

  • Jen

    When I look at the Top 100 list, the only conclusion I can come to is that the list hasn’t been updated in 3 years. There’s no way that this list is accurate.

  • Jen

    When I look at the Top 100 list, the only conclusion I can come to is that the list hasn’t been updated in 3 years. There’s no way that this list is accurate.

  • Jen

    When I look at the Top 100 list, the only conclusion I can come to is that the list hasn’t been updated in 3 years. There’s no way that this list is accurate.

  • Jp

    Maybe they have been listing this movie in the Comedy genre, because it is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen (unintentionally, of course). Its so overwrought and ridiculous, that has to be the only explanation!

  • crispy

    I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for close to 10 years… and their Top 100 list has always been about 3 years behind like that. I don’t even bother checking it anymore.

  • Michael

    Part of the reason has to be that it’s a pretty polarizing movie. There are obviously legions that think it’s great (hence the Best Picture win), and there are equal numbers of people that are not so kind. I think that polarization makes people feel like they want to check it out so they can see which side they believe to be right.

  • Fatima

    I don’t think it’s ever been a snapshot of any given moment…it’s over all. I’d say Netflix really got popular around the time Crash won Best Picture, and basically nothing has caught up yet. If it is a running total, Crash has the advantage of being on DVD longer than newer movies. That’s why it will always look a few years behind.

  • Joel

    Another unfair truth in life. Speaking of which, what about Chuck? Does Chuck have to be canceled in a world that allows Crash to be the most rented Netflix movie?

  • Fatima

    Also, can we just please avoid another tired Brokeback v. Crash debate? And picking on Crash in 2009 is like placing a stick in the spokes of a kid’s wheelchair.

  • Aramena

    I personally thought Crash was a great movie! I did rent it on Netflix the first time I watched it. My 13 year old daughter watched it together and she loved it so much she wanted to buy it.
    One reason I rent the indie and art films and such from Netflix is because in my little backwaters corner of the world, a lot of those movies never make it to our theater! One of the few reasons I wish I lived in a big city.

  • G.R.

    I guess when most people see that a film is up for Oscars, they tend to expect extremely deep profundity and/or mind-blowing epic spectacle. Anything less than that (which is probably most movies) is considered “overhyped,” “overrated,” “overpraised” — ie. tired criticisms that have more to do with the marketing of a film and other people’s opinions of the film than the actual film itself.
    I don’t use NetFlix, but just the same I waited to catch “Crash” on DVD (borrowing the copy my sister had bought) after most of the “hype” and buzz had died down, and I rather liked it. Some of the acting and dialogue were over-the-top, and some aspects of the story felt a bit contrived, but I appreciated how it lets no races off the hook, and how it gets at what can possibly happen between people when they assume the worst about each other. (For the record, “Capote” was and still is my favorite of the 2005 Best Picture nominees, but I certainly won’t hold *that* against this movie.)

  • dave

    I’ve been wondering that for 4 years………. I can’t believe everyone else is just taking notice.

  • Doug

    No one will ever convince me that “Crash” isn’t a great film.

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