Hidden Netflix Genres And The Paradox of Choice

Narrative IndustriesMarketing, Strategy

You don’t get many surprises with Netflix. Netflix won’t, for example, suddenly pop a list of Japanese action movies into your results just because they have them available, because that would be unexpected to most of its customers. Netflix aims to provide a better user-experience by curating your results and that’s usually a good thing.

Netflix has to work for the masses, across multiple platforms and still be easy to use so they do a lot of research and refinement and make a lot of fundamental decisions about how their interface looks and, more importantly, behaves. The visual refinements are quite obvious, as the eye tracking image above illustrates, but you probably didn’t even notice that Netflix also makes a lot decisions about how the interface behaves in order to shape the user-experience. One of those decisions was to deliberately avoid giving the audience too much choice, preferring to show you the content that most people want, based on data it collects about viewing patterns.

Why doesn’t it just show you everything?

We all think we want a lot of choice but, in reality, too much choice can create decision paralysis. When confronted with a long list of food on a restaurant menu, or the huge range of options available when buying a new camera, for example, consumers can easily get overwhelmed and can end-up avoiding making a decision at all by going for a safe option (or sometimes by not buying at all). In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz argues that argues that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers because, most of the time, they don’t want to be burdened with making that decision, and the same is usually true for interfaces; just keep it simple. In Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics winner Daniel Kahneman describes that humans have evolved to make quick “fast thinking” decisions based on instinct, emotion & experience whenever possible to avoid having to fire-up the brain and deal with the cognitive load required to make more thoughtful, slow thinking decisions. Less choice requires less analysis and reduces the cognitive load.

In this context, Netflix works rather well and you very rarely hear anyone complaining but there’s rarely any real surprises in there for the kind of film fan who wants something a little less populist and is willing to take a risk on a film.

So how do you maintain that essential simplicity in your interface, avoid creating decision paralysis for the mass market, while also catering to the more hardcore film fans with niche interests? The simple answer is you add an advanced level.

In a smart marketing move, Netflix catered for the specialist film fans too, those who actively want to want greater choice, when it created hundreds of “secret” genres that allow those with more eclectic tastes to explore their library. The hidden Netflix genres offer a more delve into the films they have that you might not even think of.

Take this one for example:


That one is Swashbucklers based on books but by changing the number on the end by one you could get to Understated Westerns. You can discover all kinds of new ones ranging from romantic political dramas to exciting horror movie from the 1980s.

For people who aren’t really into blockbusters and major TV shows, there are sections on Chinese crime action & adventure from the 1970s or films in Spanish. Other genres include Urban Dance Movies and some cater to a more eclectic palette like films starring Erik Estrada.

Many of the categories are predictably empty, such as the one for critically acclaimed movies directed by Michael Winner, but usually this is just because Netflix refreshes its library and something might pop-up in a specific genre in future.


Fim fans who want to discover more of the Netflix hidden genres could randomly change the number on the end of link or, for an easier option, just check out one of the many websites that try to list them all including:

Netflix Codes

Netflix Hidden Codes

Ogres Crypt


You can even download a spreadsheet from netflix-genres

Happy watching.

Netflix Heatmap image from Gigacom