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This movie just hit No. 1 on Netflix — and it's a surprise

A TV with the Netflix logo sits behind a hand holding a remote
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Netflix has a brand new No .1 movie, but it’s getting a critical reception that is definitely more rotten than fresh. This is far from the streamer’s first high-profile dud in 2022, this Rebel Wilson vehicle joins the likes of The Bubble and 365 Days: This Day as Netflix movies that have scaled the most watch list despite a critical mauling.  

The film is called Senior Year, and it sees Wilson play Stephanie Conway, a high school student who falls into a coma after a prank gone wrong in 2002. Two decades later, now aged 37 years old, Stephanie wakes up and returns to school to get her diploma. But while the slang and cliques have changed, Stephanie most certainly hasn’t. The comedy film hit Netflix on May 13 and has rocketed straight to the no.1 spot in both the U.S. and U.K. displacing true crime doc Our Father

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news for Netflix and the creative team behind Senior Year as the film has been roasted by critics. Review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoe (opens in new tab)currently scores the movie at 29%, which isn’t the worst score we’ve seen for a Netflix movie this year — 365 Days: This Day managed a rare 0% — but is still fairly awful. With scores this low it’s unlikely Senior Year will be appearing on many roundups of the best Netflix movies anytime soon. 

Critics haven't held back when giving their verdict either. Verne Gay of Newsday (opens in new tab) said, “it's hard to imagine a more unpleasant movie than Senior Year” and John Serba of Decider (opens in new tab) made a cutting comparison to the 2010 teen comedy Easy A saying the Netflix film “is more like Easy D-.”

Negative reviews also came from the New York Times and the Chicago Sun-Times with the latter not exactly thrilled with the decision to include multiple over-the-top dance numbers. A handful of critics were a little more positive with Noel Murray of the Los Angeles Times (opens in new tab) saying “Senior Year is not an ambitious movie, but it’s mostly a sweet one, and frequently funny.”

Netflix subscribers are more impressed with Senior Year

Rebel Wilson as Stephanie Conway, in a cheerleading outfit in Netflix's Senior Year

(Image credit: Boris Martin/Netflix)

While Senior Year has definitely received a failing grade from critics, Netflix subscribers seem to be a little more impressed with the film. Over on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie's 61% audience score stands in stark contrast with its rotten rating from critics. Viewers are generally more generous when it comes to rating movies, but this is still a sizeable discrepancy.  

Head over to social media and you can find plenty of warm sentiment toward Senior Year as well. On Twitter, the film has received positive comparisons to millennial comedies such as American Pie and a scene where Wilson’s character recreates the iconic Britney Spears “You Drive Me (Crazy)” music video has drawn particular praise. 

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Not for the first time this year, Netflix has a No.1 movie that is connecting with audiences a lot more than critics. This surely won’t be a huge problem for the streamer, after all; its primary concern is giving subscribers reasons to stick around rather than winning critical awards. Granted, content that manages to achieve both is the ultimate aim. 

Right now Netflix needs all the well-received content it can get. In wake of its first drop in subscribers in a decade, and confirmation that the streamer is looking to implement an ad-supported tier alongside a password-sharing crackdown, Netflix has endured a rocky few months. At least the imminent release of Stranger Things season 4 should settle the choppy waters, at least for a little while.  

In related streaming news, Netflix just confirmed the cancelation of four animated shows that were in development. 

Rory Mellon

Rory is a Deals Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on deals, gaming and streaming. When he’s not scouring retailers for PS5 restock or writing hot takes on the latest gaming hardware and streaming shows, he can be found attending music festivals and being thoroughly disappointed by his terrible football team.