Why Is An Old Edward Snowden Movie Trending on Netflix?
No matter what you think of his legacy, Snowden is once again trending in the popular culture.
“Snowden” was a 2016 movie, directed by Oliver Stone, about the famed leaker Edward Snowden. The film, which starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden and Shailene Woodley as his girlfriend Lindsay Mills, was released to little fanfare in September of 2016, underwhelming at the box office and getting mixed reviews from critics. The film didn’t capture the zeitgeist, the way so many of Stone’s earlier movies did in the 1980s and 1990s, and many pointed out that it was redundant, since Laura Poitras’ Oscar-winning documentary “Citizenfour” had covered the same events just a couple of years earlier.
Now, four years after its release, “Snowden” is suddenly a hit on Netflix.
The film was added to the service on November 1 and has been trending in Netflix’s top ten list for most of that time; it’s listed as number eight in the United States as of midday on Wednesday. Netflix fans have also been tweeting at Snowden himself, to let him know that they watched and enjoyed his movie.
It’s unclear why the film is suddenly trending, although movies that weren’t big successes at the box office somewhat frequently become hits on Netflix, including 2017’s Aaron Sorkin-directed film “Molly’s Game.” Edward Snowden has been in the news of late. Snowden, who has been living in Russia since 2013, recently announced that he and his wife, Mills, are expecting their first child, and that the two of them are applying for dual U.S.-Russian citizenship.
“After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our son. That’s why, in this era of pandemics and closed borders, we’re applying for dual US-Russian citizenship,” he said on Twitter, also on November 1. “Lindsay and I will remain Americans, raising our son with all the values of the America we love—including the freedom to speak his mind. And I look forward to the day I can return to the States, so the whole family can be reunited.”
The thirty-seven-year-old Snowden became internationally famous in 2013 when, while working as a U.S. government contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton, he leaked thousands of classified documents, and made them available to Poitras, the filmmaker, and journalists Glenn Greenwald, Ewan MacAskill and Barton Gellman. They were played in the Stone movie by, respectively, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, and Tom Wilkinson (the movie did not have a character based on Gellman.)
Snowden faces charges in the United States for violating the espionage act, although there has been speculation that he could receive a pardon.
“Citizenfour,” the Poitras documentary that covered Snowden’s story in real time, is available to rent for $3.99, or buy for $4.99, on Amazon Prime.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.