The international streaming guide JustWatch recently released their list of the Top 10 films streamed in the UK from 2020. Surprisingly, the 2011 film Contagion found itself an unexpected contender amongst other, more recent releases.
Contagion, which centres around a deadly virus as it spreads across the world, ranked 8th overall on the JustWatch list. It was the only film which had not been released in 2019, after experiencing a revival in popularity due to the global Coronavirus pandemic.
Many viewers were shocked by some of the eerie similarities between the fictional virus in Contagion and Covid-19. However, for screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, it was just the opposite. “I don’t find it that surprising,” he told Slate in January 2020, “Because the scientists that I spoke to… all said that this was a matter of when, not if.”
Contagion was based on extensive research of real pandemics, such as SARS in 2003. This clearly helped the film to reflect the realities of a virus outbreak, rather than an absolute worst-case scenario.
In January 2020, as the Coronavirus began to spread in China, Contagion rose to 10th place on the iTunes Movie Rental Chart. By March 2020, when the virus had been declared a pandemic by the WHO, it was the 7th.
Not only were similarities observed between the origin of the MEV-1 virus in Contagion to Covid-19, but the film’s portrayals of familiar concepts brings it very close to home. The depiction of social distancing, border closures, panic buying, R-numbers and Nightingale hospitals helped it to become the film of the moment for 2020.
The film’s tagline—‘Nothing Spreads Like Fear’—also referenced the spread of misinformation in the film, a pandemic portrayed as almost as deadly as the virus itself. In a Vox article from February, Alissa Wilkinson wrote that “Contagion reminds us that the structure of the internet allows bad information to spread in a way that uncannily mimics a very contagious virus.”
The JustWatch chart from 2020 did not feature many other surprises, with the nine remaining films all popular releases from 2019. Five of these widely streamed movies, Parasite, Joker, 1917, Jojo Rabbit, and Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, were all nominees for Best Picture at the 2020 Academy Awards.
Words by Ellen McVeigh
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