33 Years Later, Forgotten $119M Movie Blows Up Netflix's Top 10

33 Years Later, Forgotten $119M Movie Blows Up Netflix's Top 10
Image credit: Universal Pictures

Three decades later, the film remains poignantly relevant.


  • On January 18, a movie was added to Netflix that became one of the most-watched in the United States a week later.
  • The movie in question is the 1991 comedy-drama Fried Green Tomatoes.
  • It is an excellent drama about the experiences of women and black people, which received two Oscar nominations.

On January 18, while the American public was making a fuss over the release of the documentary series American Nightmare, Netflix was quietly adding dozens of movies, old and new, to its vast library. And while many of them were truly excellent, you could hardly call them blockbusters. They were the kind of movies that people would only watch if they stumbled upon them, or deliberately chose to see them, but certainly not because of media coverage.

And so a twice-Oscar-nominated but now half-forgotten movie that came out 33 years ago found its way into the US Top 10 by sheer coincidence.

Forgotten Drama That Cracked Netflix's Top 10

On January 18, Netflix added 51 feature films to its library, one of which was Fried Green Tomatoes, a 1991 comedy-drama directed by Jon Avnet and adapted from the 1987 novel of the same name by Fannie Flagg. However, it didn't immediately rise to the top of the Netflix charts.

According to What's on Netflix, that didn't happen until January 26, when Fried Green Tomatoes reached number nine on the streaming service's Top 10 most-watched feature films.

Unfortunately, the trend only lasted until January 29, after which Fried Green Tomatoes disappeared from the charts altogether. Still, given the age of the film and its relative obscurity in 2024, such a rise in the Netflix charts was, if not unprecedented, certainly quite unexpected. Nevertheless, this 1991 drama truly deserves to be rediscovered.

One of the Best Queer Movies Ever Made. Even if It Wasn't Meant to Be One

Fried Green Tomatoes is essentially a story of female friendship, mutual aid, and love, even when the women themselves are losing all hope for a better future. The narrative is divided into two timelines, 1986 and 1920-1930, so the story deals with both timeless themes and socio-economic problems of the 20th century USA: the brutal patriarchal conditions of the South, racism, prejudice.

And at the center of it all are two women who are in love with each other (in the movie it was incredibly subtle, which we'll talk about later, but in the book no one is in any doubt about it).

33 Years Later, Forgotten $119M Movie Blows Up Netflix's Top 10 - image 1

The movie begins with the alienated and unhappy housewife Evelyn (Kathy Bates) visiting an Alabama retirement home with her husband and meeting the elderly Ninny Threadgoode, who tells her stories about her life. The action shifts to the Prohibition era and follows the life of Imogene Threadgoode (Mary Stuart Masterson), ostensibly Ninny's sister-in-law (though this moment could be interpreted to mean that she is), who, after bonding with her dead brother's girlfriend, Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker), opens the Whistle Stop Café, whose specialty is the titular fried green tomatoes. Sipsey (Cicely Tyson), a black member of the Threadgoode family, and her son Big George (Stan Shaw) help with the cooking.

Fried Green Tomatoes is considered by many to be iconic for its depiction of lesbians, although the romantic nature of Idgie and Ruth's relationship is only described in the novel. This did not stop the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) from honoring the film in 1992.

As for other honors, it was nominated in two categories at the Academy Awards, and also received nominations for the British Academy Film Awards and the Writers Guild of America Awards.

Although the film did not win any of these awards, it was a huge commercial success, grossing an incredible $119.4 million worldwide against a modest budget of $11 million. Most critics, including Roger Ebert, also raved about the film, especially the performances.