Here's what's wrong with IMDb

The Internet Movie Database, also known as IMDb, is the biggest and best film database on the Internet. It is a golden fountain of goodness for film geeks like myself, and I would stipulate that it is in fact the best thing on the Internet.

If you are unfamiliar with this website go to www.imdb.com at once, and promise to feel a bit ashamed while you revel in its glory.

However, to power-users such as myself - who visit the site at least once every waking hour - it is not without its flaws. But rather than just complaining, I figured I would offer up my suggestion on how to improve the site. Here goes...


More options

I hate the user comments. I hate the user ratings. If they were useless that would be one thing, but they have ability to totally destroy a film. I want to be able to remove them. I don't want to see them. I realize user interaction is an important part of the site, but I don't care for the ratings, and I don't want some random user's random comments to soil my first impression of a film. I also don't care about the release date of a film in my home country. I want to know the release date in the country of origin.

What I want is the ability to control how these things are displayed. There are so many other preferences I can control, it should be possible to include the things I've mentioned here as well.

Poor images

IMDb.com is the biggest film site on the planet, why does it have the worst image galleries in creation?

I can't save the images *. The images are too small. The galleries are a big mess of press events, stills, DVD covers and all sorts of crap. Some films have several hundreds of images in their galleries, others have but a few, and that's perfectly okay, but why do some of the older films have a gallery comprised of 20-30 almost similar DVD or VHS cover scans? It's so odd! Also, since IMDb was bought by Amazon a random DVD or Bluray cover is often used to represent the film, rather than the poster, which really bugs me.

A little further down on the film pages you'll find "External Links > Pictures". Here is a bunch of links to other sites where you can find plenty of gorgeous galleries with large, beautiful, relevant images. Here is my question: Can those responsible for IMDb live with the fact that I have to go elsewhere to get my movie imagery? Can they live with the fact that IMDb is no longer my first stop, when I'm looking for posters? And that I often check out (and have luck with) my favorite gallery sites, when I look for film stills, in which case I completely ignore IMDb.com (and the advertisements they live off, I might add)?

Get those images on the site. There is no excuse not to fix that.

* Note: This is possible in the Pro version, more on this later.

Fix the recommendations

And the prize for The Understatement of the Decade goes to whoever wrote this:

"The system produces excellent results most of the time but since recommended titles are not manually chosen, occasionally they may include less than perfect matches."

I would put it like this: The recommendations are worth s**t! In fact they are often so laughable and out of place that they almost seem deliberately misleading.

Imagine you've just watched Aliens and are hungry for more of the same. IMDb suggests the following films: The three other Alien films, which is pretty bloody useless since none of them match Aliens in style, story or mood. They also suggest Return of the King and Star Wars? Huh?! If I check out Titanic, IMDb has some very solid suggestions (The Notebook, Gone With the Wind, Across the Universe, A Night to Remember), as well as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Tin Drum! The Tin Drum?! What the what?!

I understand the problem of having proper recommendations for every title. It's a difficult thing to do. So maybe, you shouldn't do it at all. Maybe this is one of those instances where one could actually use the IMDb users more effectively?


Story time. Once upon a time when the web was young, people didn't know what to do on a website. So to help them and show them what to do, links would be underlined. This is NOT necessary any more, Internet users are now familiar with the concept of links. Look at the front page of IMDb... Go on, look. It's UGLY as hell. EVERYTHING is underlined, because EVERYTHING is a link. Stop doing that! It clutters the view and it makes everything hard to read.

Look how I've done it on one of my websites. This is a list of titles. People know they can click on each title to go to another page. There's absolutely no need to underline each and every freaking link. Notice how the links only shows up, when you move the mouse over a title. That's all you need.

Another thing about links....  In the sidebar menu, why is the "Promotional > trailers and videos"-page always empty? Why can I click on menu items that have been shaded to indicate they are offline? If they're offline, there shouldn't be a link.

The pro version

Yes, there's actually a pro version of IMDb, which you can access if you pay $12.95 for a month, or $99.95 for a year. The pro version gives you contact information, more detailed box office numbers and some useless crap called the STARmeter and the MOVIEmeter. It's rather snobbishly aimed at "industry people".

Other than that, what do you get? Well, let's see... An even more cluttered design! Several pages actually look worse than on the regular site! The information is not structured very well, resulting in endlessly long, almost empty pages, which - even though they present the exact same information - look far less inviting than the same pages on the regular site. Good news is that now you can save the images. Bad news is: Sometimes the images ARE SMALLER than on the regular site. Are you kidding me?!

The price is... Well, I suppose it's fair, considering how much I use the site, but the advantages I get are laughable. I don't mind paying, not for quality, but making me pay more for less is just not right.


Final thoughts

The simple fact is that there is no viable alternative to IMDb. Even with the problems I've mentioned here, and those I haven't, nothing comes close to this site, NOTHING.

I asked around among my friends, and several other issues came up: Problems with spoilers on the front page, problems with the way TV-series are presented, the credit order on some films are baffling, and so on. I guess there's also personal taste to consider, not everybody will agree with my issues, we each have our own preferences, but that's fine.

Some of the problems on IMDb are simple design issues. A redesign could solve those. Other problems could be solved by allowing the user the ability to personalize the site. The rest will take some effort.

IMDb is the biggest and best film database on the Internet. That brand comes with an obligation. If IMDb takes its users for granted that obligation has not been met.


Here are the links to my favorite image sites.
  • For all those cool posters go to IMP Awards.
  • Ecranlarge is a French site, with awesome image gallleries.
  • OutNow also has great images, but watch out, sometimes they're tagged.
Special thanx to Dennis Rosenfeld and Anne Petersen.


  1. Well said David. I have been looking for someone commenting about the dvd cover issue. It especially shows up to me being Australian, as the US dvd covers mean nothing to me. Take a look at Enemy of the State for example - despite it being so low resolution they may as well not have a picture at all, it also says "unrated special edition" - I happen to know what that is referring too, being a dvd collector, but "unrated special edition" means nothing to me as far as the movie is concerned, and also being outside the USA - unrated - it's not unrated in Australia. What happened to the poster - I'm positive that movie had the official poster at IMDb previously. Dune too - has the 'extended edition' dvd cover. These dvd covers mean nothing as far as IMDb should be concerned - IMDb is not a dvd website, it has almost just as much relevance as showing a book cover instead of the movie poster. I understand when nothing else is available, the dvd cover is a good alternative, but not when it replaces the actual movie poster which used to be on IMDb.

    A couple of other issues for me are the use of new alternative names as the main title - see the movie Cypher for example. As far as I'm aware, the movie has always been known as Cypher, and still is in the US (country of origin), and my country - but now it displayed as Brainstorm - when did this happen? Maybe it's because it is an international title perhaps, it may only me visible as Brainstorm to those outside the US? But like I said, it is and always has been known as Cypher in my country, and the country of origin. If in fact they do change titles depending on my country, as they do with release dates, then at least get it right please. If my country isn't listed, leave it as the default.

    By the way, I also agree about release dates - couldn't care less about the Aussie release date. I find it frustrating having to go look up the country of origin (if I don't remember it), then go to the release date page and match it up with the correct country.

    The other issue I have is with IMDb listing bootleg titles as an aka. A good example are the movies Takedown and Antitrust, each of which have an aka of Hackers 2: Takedown (bootleg title) and Hackers 3: Antitrust (bootleg title). WTF? That is simply a misnaming of the movie by piraters, which has gone on to become an aka. What's stopping me from circulating a bootleg of The Matrix, renamed as Dark City 2, and then listing that as a bootleg title for The Matrix? At the very least don't display the bootleg titles in search results as those two do. The information gets copied around the web, and I have seen people who aren't interested in watching Takedown as the believe it to be the sequel to Hackers (which of course it is not in anyway at all connected to Hackers, and a very different movie).

  2. @itw299
    Sorry for the late reply.
    I'm glad I'm not the only one frustrated by IMDb.
    I agree with your comments about alternate titles, I notice they've been playing around with this feature a little bit, so maybe they'll get it right. Right now I'm logged in to IMDb on every single browser on every single computer I use, to get at least a little bit of control over the titles. I shouldn't have to do that.