Two movie top ten lists have been published recently, both detailing the most popular movies of all time. But there’s one major difference – one list reports movies rented from Netflix, while the other shows those downloaded using BitTorrent.

For those enjoying legitimately accessed movies, the most popular title was The Blind Side, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The pirates most often opted for Avatar, according to tracking by TorrentFreak.

Only two movies appear on both lists: The Departed and Inception. That leaves a lot of room for speculating as to the reasons for the disparity. Do the differences reflect demographics? Income? Broadband adoption? Or are there other factors at work?

One interesting aspect to consider is availability. All ten of the top BitTorrent movies are available on Netflix, but only two of them (Star Trek and Kick-Ass) are available for streaming. The other eight can only be rented on physical discs.

Now that Netflix has separated its disc rental from its streaming businesses, it will be interesting to compare the choices made by those two sets of subscribers in the future.

Another possible explanation is Oscars. The top ten Netflix movies have 24 Academy Award among them, with an additional 30 nominations. The top BitTorrent movies have just 14 Academy Awards collectively, with an additional 25 nominations.

Only one film on the Netflix list, The Bucket List, did not receive any recognition by the Academy. Three on the BitTorrent list were similarly ignored: The Hangover, Kick-Ass and The Incredible Hulk.

Netflix encourages browsing and makes suggestions based on each user’s demonstrated preferences. For movies only available on disc, which is the majority of the Netflix library, subscribers put lots of films in their queue that they wouldn’t mind seeing but that might not be their first choice. Those factors combined would skew rentals in favor of movies with Oscars. BitTorrent, however, requires users to know which film they want to download before they seek it, and there’s no equivalent to the Netflix queue.

Lastly, there are some differences in genre. BitTorrent downloaders seem to lean toward movies in which things blow up. Unsurprisingly, none of the films on either list pass the Bechdel Test.

Related links:

TorrentFreak –

Hollywood Reporter [warning: slideshow] –