This Whitney Houston movie just rocketed to No. 1 on Netflix — stream or skip?

Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston in Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody now streaming on Netflix
(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

If you’re looking to chase the Monday blues away, than Netflix has a feel-good movie that is practically guaranteed to put a big grin on your face, and it’s called Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody. 

This musical biopic comes from the same writer as Bohemian Rhapsody and chronicles the dramatic career of Whitney Houston from church choir singer to one of the most adored superstars on the planet. And this toe-tapping movie has just rocketed straight to the No.1 spot in the Netflix most-watched list. 

The flick has displaced the previous holder of the top spot, critically-panned thriller The Snowman (which is now in third place), and also ranks ahead of No. 2 pick A Tourist’s Guide to Love, which is Netflix’s latest original feature. 

If you’re a fan of Houston — and let’s be real here, who isn’t a fan of Whitney Houston? — then you might be wondering if this movie is worth watching. Fortunately, we’re here to give you all the details you need to decide whether to stream or skip Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody on Netflix. 

What is Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody about?  

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody is a biographical musical drama very much in the same vein as Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman. The movie starts in 1983, where we meet 19-year-old Whitney Houston before she would become a household name. 

The film proceeds through Houston’s remarkable career covering many of her most noteworthy achievements including her breakthrough performance on The Merv Griffin Show, the release of her seminal hit “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” and her powerful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV in 1991. 

However, I Wanna Dance with Somebody is not just a collection of glitzy musical numbers; the darker elements of Houston’s life are also laid bare. Her tumultuous relationship with Bobby Brown is featured, and we also see the singer struggle with drug addiction and a fractious relationship with her father that comes to an acrimonious ending. 

Naomi Ackie portrays Houston in a powerhouse performance, and the supporting cast includes Stanley Tucci as Clive Davis, Ashton Sanders as Bobby Brown, Tamara Tunie as Cissy Houston, Nafessa Williams as Roby Crawford and Clarke Peters as John Houston. 

What do critics say about Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody? 

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody is another case of critics and audiences not seeing eye to eye on a movie. On Rotten Tomatoes, the biopic has scored an underwhelming 44% from more than 130 reviews but its audience rating stands at a seriously impressive 92%. 

Wendy Ide of the Observer was one of the critics not so impressed with the biopic. They said, “This doggedly formulaic picture struggles to capture even a fraction of the electrifying sparkle of Houston at the peak of her powers.” James Berardinelli of ReelViews was similarly lukewarm on the film labeling it “as generic a musical bio-pic as one is likely to find.”

Richard Roper of the Chicago Sun-Times was more positive, arguing that “Naomi Ackie seems to channel the pop star in a film that doesn’t dig too deep but consistently entertains.” And if there was one aspect of the movie that earned nearly universal praise from professional critics it was the leading performance from Naomi Ackie. Many critics singled out Ackie as the movie’s biggest strength. 

Perhaps the most cutting write-up came from Brian Truitt of USA Today, who said “Anthony McCarten wrote this as well as Bohemian Rhapsody, a best picture nominee that was anything but, and Houston’s tale ultimately takes the same tack as his Queen biopic: a Wikipedia entry come to middling life on screen.” Ouch. 

Should you stream Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody on Netflix?   

If you’re a fan of Whitney Houston, then this biopic should go straight to the front of your Netflix watchlist. No doubt you’ll be singing along to all the hits, and you’ll probably find yourself reaching for tissues during more heartbreaking scenes — and there are actually quite a few of them. 

Even if you’ve not got any of Whitney’s greatest hits in your favorite playlist, you should still give this flick a chance. As its extremely high audience score proves, Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody is a real crowd-pleaser and it’s not a surprise to see it make such a large splash now that it’s arrived on Netflix. 

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Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.