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How many times have you been watching a movie or a tv show and thought to yourself, ‘I really wish I could remember what other movies that actor has been in?’ Or perhaps you wondered to yourself, ‘what is that actress’s name again?’ These little curiosities can drive us crazy … sometimes to the point of ruining the experience of the show or movie we are watching. If only there was a site or an app that we could turn to in these times of dire need, to quickly gather any and all information we require on our favorite movies and series.
Luckily, there is. Enter: IMDb, or the Internet Movie Database. IMDb is the unofficial authority when it comes to all things film, TV, video games, and streaming content. Quickly find all the information you could ever require regarding cast, production crew, personal bios, plot synopses, and general trivia in a matter of just a few clicks. Also, IMDb offers professional, critical reviews and fan reviews and ratings, allowing you to get a glimpse into a movie or show’s reception before watching.
There is truly no other site like it on the web. IMDb is the go-to for many cinephiles around the world, both to brush up on their film and TV trivia and to discover new shows and movies. No matter what kind of information you’re looking for, if it is public knowledge, IMDb has it and makes it easier than ever to access.
A surprising number of important websites around the world begin as something extremely different from what they end up becoming. Facebook, for example, famously began as a simple ‘hot or not’ rating system at Harvard but went on, of course, to become one of the most influential social networking websites of all time. Well, IMDb actually had similarly humble and divergent beginnings.
Prior to becoming known as IMDb officially, it began as a Usenet post called “Those Eyes.” Created by the British programmer (and film buff) Col Needham, this discussion thread was dedicated to discussing actresses who had beautiful eyes. Eventually, “Those Eyes” caught on and inspired fellow cinema lovers to create different lists of their own.
This inspired Needham to create additional lists, such as simple archives of actors, directors, writers, actresses, etc. By the end of the year 1990, the list had grown to include about 10,000 movies and tv series. The overwhelming interest in his lists led Needham to code a version of the list that made it easily searchable for anyone curious. It was from this initial, archaic combination of lists that IMDb would eventually be born.
In 1996, IMDb was officially incorporated in the United Kingdom. The company remained independently owned by Needham for only 2 short years. In 1998, a tech mogul would swoop in and acquire IMDb. Jeff Bezos and Needham struck a deal, and Amazon purchased IMDb for 55 million dollars. IMDb, from there on out, would be attached to Amazon as a subsidiary company, as it still stands to this day.
Under new Amazon management, IMDb continued to grow and expand its services. In January of 2002, the subscription version of IMDb was introduced to the world, IMDb Pro, at the Sundance Film Festival. IMDb Pro, in addition to offering the now-massive database of information available in the free version, also provides subscribers with exclusive film production and box office information on titles, as well as a professional directory of industry insiders. Aimed at movie and television professionals, IMDb Pro is touted as some to be a must-have subscription for anyone trying to break into the film industry.
IMDb continues to grow into new areas of media as well. On January 10th of 2019, IMDb also launched a new streaming service known as IMDb TV (previously branded as Freedive). On IMDb TV, users can stream movies for free with ads. Who knows where IMDb will head in the years to come? One thing that seems certain, IMDb seems to be on a sure trajectory toward continued growth.
Bold but minimalist might be the best way to describe IMDb’s aesthetic. Although it may sound paradoxical, IMDb has found a way to strike a balance between the flashy and the understated. This is achieved, I think, through the juxtaposition of bright, neutral colors with simple and stylized typesets. Just open up the app and take a look at the splash screen to see what I mean: a loud yellow background gives way to a simple black “IMDb” that is reminiscent of the way a film title spans the screen.
From there, the site design is intuitive and easy to use. There is no clutter, despite the terabytes of data that I’m sure this enormous database contains. Everything is organized and in its place. Whatever feature of IMDb you need to find, you can do so within seconds – even as a first-time user. This is how site design should be: immediately accessible, simple, and streamlined.
At the top of the site, to the left of the convenient search bar, you will find a button labeled “menu.” Clicking here will launch a dropdown menu that might as well be a new page, seeing as it fills the entire page. I like this style of a dropdown, though, because it gives you an extensive list of features and creates almost the illusion of a new page without having to go through the whole process of loading a new page. This is a very smart design.
Here, you can choose from a few categories, making for extremely easy browsing of what could potentially have been a very complicated site. Content is organized by the following: Movies, TV Shows, Awards & Events, Celebs, Videos, and Community. Each section, then, also has a long list of options beneath it to further guide your hand through this massive database.
In addition to offering all the film and TV knowledge you could ever need, the Videos section of the site offers up IMDb’s streaming service, IMDb TV, as well as IMDb original content – a Hollywood news series, celebrity interviews, quick video recaps TV series and movie franchises, exclusive coverage of awards shows, even an IMDb original animated series called You’re Not a Monster. If IMDb keeps up pumping out content like this, they could be poised to give streaming services like Netflix and Hulu a run for their money in the years to come.
Desktop and Mobile Experience
IMDb is one of those rare companies that I highly recommend both having the app and visiting the desktop site every once in a while. Together, there will be no stopping your limitless knowledge of film, TV shows, and actors. The app is very convenient to have in your back pocket. It can make you the star of the conversation at the bar or café when a group of friends is arguing over who played what role in a given movie and nobody can think of the answer. In seconds, you will have it. The app is easy to use and boils all of the features of IMDb down into digestible and convenient bits.
I am one of those people that is sort of a purist, though, when it comes to watching video content. I don’t like to do it on my phone. If I’m going to watch something, especially some of the longer-form content that IMDb offers like movies or original series, I would much prefer to do so on my computer, where the resolution will be better and the screen larger. So, I would recommend a healthy combination of the IMDb app and desktop site in order to truly get the most out of this site.
Pricing and Plans
As the vast majority of IMDb is free to use (even the streaming of video content and movies on IMDb TV), and the app is free to download for iPhone or Android, there is no reason not to visit IMDb every once in a while. However, if you are either in the film or TV industry, or are looking for a way into it, an IMDb Pro subscription could prove to be priceless.
Whether you are an actor, a crew member, an agent, or an executive, IMDb Pro is something like the LinkedIn of the film industry. With a Pro subscription, you can post your resume, upload headshots and contact information, as well as browse an enormous list of industry contacts. Gain the email address and phone numbers of some of the most valuable names in Hollywood as an IMDb Pro member. Anyone who commits to the monthly fee of $19.99 (if you pay per month) or $14.99 if you pay annually can take advantage of unprecedented professional networking.
IMDb is an extremely valuable resource – for casual movie fans, hardcore film buffs, and industry professionals alike. No matter what you’re film and tv info needs are, IMDb has you covered (and then some).