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Internet Movie Database

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is an online database of information about movies, television shows, cartoons, and video games.

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 History
3 Top 250
4 Copyright issues
5 External links
6 Caveat emptor


The IMDb has an extensive amount of information on works, including basic details such as actors and directorss, plot summaries and reviews, as well as more esoteric information such as trivia, soundtrack listings, aspect ratioss, and alternate versions. Actors, directors and writers have their own database entries, listing the movies they contributed to and often also biographies. The expanded database found at can be used to find movies from the title they were released under in many different languages and countries.

Access to the information is free. Any person with an e-mail account and a browser that accepts cookies can set up an account with IMDb, then submit information and vote on works.


The database started out in 1990 as a collection of shell scripts created by Col Needham which could be used to search the FAQs posted to the usenet newsgroup rec.arts.movies [1]. In 1993, a centralized e-mail interface for querying the database was created, and in 1994 this interface was extended to allow the submission of information as well. The database then moved to a Web-based interface, which initially ran on a network of mirrors with donated bandwidth. In 1996, the project was incorporated in the United Kingdom to form Internet Movie Database Ltd., and banner ads were added to the web site.

In April 1998, the company was bought by, the current owner.

Top 250

One popular feature of the IMDb is the Top 250, a listing of the top 250 feature-length films of all-time as voted by the registered users of the website. Users are given the option of rating a movie from "1" (lowest) to "10" (highest). The numbers are then filtered through an unknown number cruncher to produce an overall rating. To saveguard against "vote stuffing" and other attempts to subjectify the data, the database employs data filters and a vote quota (currently 1250) in an attempt to give a true "Bayesian estimate".

The listing is notable for being comprehensive and sometimes startling. Consistently represented on the listing are old films (e.g. Nosferatu (1922)) and new films (e.g. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)), popular films (e.g. Star Wars with over 100,000 votes) and little seen films (e.g. Bride of Frankenstein with under 3,000 votes), and films from a cross-section of genres (e.g. film noir - Double Indemnity; comedy - Some Like It Hot; romance - Casablanca; fantasy - The Princess Bride; science fiction - Blade Runner; musical - Singin' in the Rain; western - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; animated - Beauty and the Beast; anime - Spirited Away; etc.). The listing also carries surprising movies which were not necessarily critical hits but which have developed broad followings among movie fans (including films such as The Shawshank Redemption, Snatch and Memento).

How successful these criteria are in producing an unbiased list is sometimes debatable. For instance, newly released films commonly find their initial ratings artificially inflated by fans who develop a love at first sight impression of a film, which is contrary to the commonly held belief that a truly great film should hold up to repeat viewings. It is not unusual, therefore, to have a film artificially placed on the Top 250 shortly after its release, even as high as the Top 100, only to be knocked off as more people see the film and fans see the film repeated times. Another common criticism has been that it is merely a popularity contest and does not therefore reflect any objective knowledge about the history or art of film. In practice, however, many of the films atop critical yearly and historical best picture lists appear high on the Top 250 as well, raising the question of whether the opinions of the film critics and movie-goers are all that different after all.

The IMDb also has a Bottom 100 feature which is assembled in roughly the same way (there is a 625 vote minimum, rather than 1250).

Copyright issues

All volunteers who contribute content to the database retain copyright to their contributions but grant full rights to copy, modify, and sublicense the content to IMDb. IMDb in turn does not allow others to use movie summaries or actor biographies without written permission. Using filtering software to avoid the display of advertisements from the site is also explicitly forbidden. Only small subsets of filmographies are allowed to be quoted, and only on non-commercial websites. The latter restrictions on the use of data are likely to be unenforceable, as the U.S. Supreme Court in Feist v. Rural ruled that data cannot be copyrighted.

See also: List of Wikipedia articles based upon websites

External links

Caveat emptor

The ability of the software to filter content is limited. Submission policies have been restricted over the years, but hoax entries and other bad data from the '90s, particularly in bit roles, persists in the database itself.