20 years of movies in the mailbox

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Netflix’s most popular DVD rentals by year

To celebrate 20 years of DVD subscription service, Netflix released a list of their most popular rentals by year, dating back to when it all began in 1998. The list was released on DVD.com, but it seems a little fishy. Are they counting “Gladiator” as the most rented movie that was made in the year 2000, or is it the most rented movie during the 2000 calendar year? Judging from the list, it seems like the first explanation, but you should explain yourself, giant media company!

1998: “The Big Lebowski.” Now a classic Coen Brothers comedy.

1999: “Office Space.” Never really got on this train.

2000: “Gladiator.” Were you not entertained?

2001: “Memento.” The backwards movie from Christopher Nolan.

2002: “The Bourne Identity.” Pre-shaky cam Matt Damon spy caper.

2003: “Mystic River.” Boston sobbing.

2004: “The Notebook.” When Ryan Gosling became a dreamboat.

2005: “Crash.” One of the worst recent Best Picture Oscar winners.

2006: “The Departed.” Boston swearing.

2007: “The Bucket List.” Still never seen it.

2008: “The Hurt Locker.” One of the best recent Best Picture Oscar winners.

2009: “The Blind Side.” Sandy Bullock finally gets her due.

2010: “Inception.” Christopher Nolan’s non-Batman masterwork.

2011: “The Lincoln Lawyer.” Wait, what?

2012: “The Hunger Games.” J-Law Mania!

2013: “Captain Phillips.” Tom Hanks on a boat.

2014: “The Monuments Men.” Really? This movie isn’t very good. Hi Matt Damon!

2015: “The Martian.” Netflix users obviously love Matt Damon.

2016: “Sully.” And Tom Hanks.

2017: “Wonder Woman.” Take that, Marvel!

Netflix changed many lives when it introduced its streaming platform. People dropped cable, stopped going to the video store and basically only watched movies and television shows available on the online service.

As someone who is often asked for movie recommendations , Netflix became a bit of a nuisance once streaming reshaped the rental industry. Whenever I suggested a movie to friends and family, their response was, “Is it on Netflix?” If it wasn’t, they simply weren’t interested.

As a longtime Netflix customer, I consider myself a purist.

The company began as a DVDs in the mail subscription service back in 1998, and I first became a three-at-a-time DVD subscriber near the start of college, sometime around 2002 or 2003.

There was even a point when I had both a Netflix DVD subscription and the Blockbuster Video knock-off service - the one where you could get movies in the mail, return them to the store in exchange for even more movies. As you might remember, they went out of business.

I took a short break from Netflix sometime around 2008, then restarted the DVD service at the start of 2010. The DVD-subscription website, which for a while was DVD.Netflix.com but is now just DVD.com, and they’ve stored my entire history of rentals since my restart. I now regret cancelling in 2008, because I no longer have a backlog of what I rented way back when (all art films and classic movies, I’m sure)..

When I tell people I still get DVDs in the mail from Netflix, most are surprised. A few didn’t realize Netflix still offered the service. Why not rent digitally? Because it costs up to $5 a pop. Why not rent from Redbox or an existing video store? Because I’m lazy.

While convenience and price plays a role, I mainly hold onto the Netflix DVD subscription because it offers a much more diverse selection of films. Netflix streaming continues to drop existing films and television shows in favor of their own (mostly mediocre) content. I can rent what I want, and because most everybody on the planet seems to have dropped the service, there isn’t even a wait for new releases like the old days.

Even though my relationship with Netflix is a complicated one (I love you, Netflix, but also I hate you), their 20th anniversary deserves some

recognition. To mark the occasion, I took a deep dive into my personal rental history, studying the list of more than 900 titles to formulate an awards ceremony of my wondrous mix of brilliant/awful viewing choices.

First DVD rental: “The Wire” Season 1, Disc 1 (received on 12-22-09, returned on 1-4-2010.

“The Wire” is a terrific television show but a hard one to binge. According to my history, I never finished the first season on disc, but I remember returning to it later when the entire HBO series became available on Amazon Prime.

First movie rental: “Extract,” with Jason Bateman and Ben Affleck (near the beginning of his resurgence). Rented on 1-4-2010. Fun fact, the movie is currently available on Netflix streaming.

Most recent rental: “The Foreigner,” a thriller with Jackie Chan from last year. It’s been sitting on top of my Blu-ray player since June 4.

Wow, I can’t believe I was so into: “The Big Bang Theory.” Multiple discs across multiple seasons, and yet I feel like I couldn’t get through a single episode now.

Misleading title: “The Darkest Hour,” an alien invasion movie from 2011, not the Gary Oldman Oscar bait from last year.

Reported Missing: “Drinking Buddies” (missing on 12-12-13) and “About Time” (missing on 3-13-14). Both good movies, but I promise I didn’t steal them.

You used to have to actually rent these shows: “The Walking Dead,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Fringe,” “Modern Family,” “Psych,” “Justified,” “Bates Motel,” Mad Men,” “Veep.”

Van Damme Mania: “JCVD,” “Kickboxer,” “Hard Target,” Double Impact,” “Lionheart,” Bloodsport.” I own all these movies now.

The title explains the experience: “Sucker Punch” (rented 7-25-11).

The Giving It a Second Chance Award: “Avatar” (rented 2-24-12). Still don’t really love it.

Most obscure titles: “Butter” (rented 12-10-12), “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III,” (rented 5-13-13), “A** Backwards” (rented 2-13-14), “Meru” (rented 12-3-15), “Brigsby Bear” (rented 12-12-17), “The Lure” (rented 1-17-18).

Should have just blind bought it: Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic “The Room,” rented on 6-1-2010 and purchased immediately after.

They aren’t porn movies. Really!: “For a Good Time, Call…,” “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy,” “Warm Bodies,” “Nymphomaniac: Volume 1,” “Weiner.”

My wife really liked this stuff: “True Blood.” So many discs of “True Blood.”

I’ll apparently watch Samuel L. Jackson in anything: “Unthinkable,” “The Samaritan,” “Arena,” “Turbo,” “Reasonable Doubt.”

Nerdiest rental: “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut” (rented 6-19-13)

Too convenient pairing: “Horns” and “Tusk” (rented on 1-2-15 and 1-5-15).

Runner-up: “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “Goodnight Mommy” (rented 12-14-15 and 12-15-15”

Oldest Movie: The Verdict” from 1982. I don’t use Netflix to watch many older movies. The library is terrific for classic titles, or just buy them, baby.

Crazy, Surprising and Great: “Melancholia” (rented 4-3-12), “Holy Motors” (rented 2-26-13), “Upstream Color” (rented 6-6-13), “Wild Tales” (rented 9-16-15), “The Neon Demon” (rented 9-28-16),

No apologies: “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” (rented 7-30-12), “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” (6-10-13), “Geostorm” (2-6-18)

Most embarrassing: “Underworld: Awakening,” “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” “I, Frankenstein,” “Vampire Academy,” “The Angry Birds Movie,” “Zoolander 2,” “Fantastic Four.” Too many others. I watch all these new bad movies for The People. You’re welcome.

Number of discs rented I returned without watching: 36. I thought this number would be higher. I’ve wasted more time than I realized.

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