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Why we love IMDB « The MacGuffin Men

Why we love IMDB

Published on January 26th, 2011

James breaks down why is the best website out there (other than ours).

Sometimes a product can become so popular it becomes the generic name for anything similar to this product.  There are several brand names we use when referring to like products but not the exact branded good.  Coke is this popular.  Band-aids are a great example.  Real Band-Aids are trademarked and a very specific brand but the name is often used casually to describe any medical adhesive strip.  If someone says they used a Band-aid and you found they used Dynaflex Fabric Adhesive, you wouldn’t call them a liar or even think about it.  However, if someone specifically mentioned they used Dynaflex Adhesive Bandages and you found out they used a Band-Aid, you’d think they were weird.  The situations are very similar but because of Band-Aids success they have seen their name become a general term.  Corporations often hate this ‘brand erosion’ but regardless, it shows that these products do their job very well.

When a product gets extremely popular, it can also become a verb.  For example, one doesn’t utilize the Sea-doo.  You go Sea-dooing.  Sure you can ride or drive the Sea-Doo but it has become acceptable to simply say you’re Sea-Dooing. You don’t go Honda-ing when you drive around in your Civic because there is too much competition in the car world for that use of language to become commonplace.  There are more examples of products that have turned into verbs than I thought when I started thinking about this subject.  Saran Wrap, Velcro and Bubble Wrap are all items, but they’re also things you can tell someone to do.  The name of the product has also become the act of using it.  This happens when the products were the first, best or the most visible example of a certain kind of product and that gave them a level of familiarity and universal understanding.

As technologies change, we see more and more advanced products becoming verbs.  Xerox (the company, not the item or verb) hate when people say ‘go Xerox that’ because it makes it seem like any copier is a Xerox, which is dangerous when you’re trying to be a distinct product.  As our world becomes more and more digital, this verbification applies not just to electronics but even the applications and programs we use with them.  Anyone who has ever seen an incredible picture on the Internet has seen a suspicious commenter post “SHOPPED” under it, meaning they think it has been Photoshopped.  This doesn’t necessarily mean someone used that program, but because Photoshop was prevalent for so long when creating our language for negotiating the digital world, it caught on very well.  This can partly be attributed to having a fairly descriptive name.

Now that we spend much of our lives on the Internet, we have seen this trend continue to websites.

“Don’t bug me, just Google it.”

“Skype me when you get home.”

“Can you Wikipedia Desi Arnaz Jr. and tell me his birthday?”

“That must be so embarrassing for him…Facebook it.”

(If Microsoft gives me $5,000 I will add Bing to this list.  I know you want to be on here.)

The Oxford English Dictionary, widely regarded as the definitive catalougue of the English language, has even accepted some of these words as English terms, not just brand names or websites.  Even some they have not accepted and may never accept  have no doubt permeated the language of popular culture because of their widespread use and understanding.  And maybe I just talk to too many film nerds but I find the same thing is happening with IMDB.  When many people want to know something, anything about a movie, they say they will IMDB it.  I’m pretty sure on an Arrested Development commentary I even heard Michael Cera use it as a verb.  I’m not going to listen to all those again, despite them being funny, just to tell you where you can hear it, so I’ll use this Facebook group as proof that people do use it as a verb.  I’m aware of the fact that having a Facebook group about something doesn’t mean it’s a social phenomenon but IMDB as a verb is gaining fans faster than M Night Shyamalan can lose them.

The Internet Movie Data-Base is the definitive source for movie and TV information.  If you Google an actor’s name or a movie title, IMDB is usually the first hit, even before Wikipedia or the official website of what you’re searching for.  This is a great testament to how popular and informative the site is.

Film and television play a large role in our lives and we want to know who was responsible.  Sometimes it is to find more movies by the same director after seeing something they made that was very moving and unlike anything we’d ever seen and want to see more. Sometimes you know you’ve seen that face before a million times before but the part was too small to remember where, like when Alex found out Allen M. in Josie in the Pussycats is the ill-fated, few-line-having Danny Zorn in the Bourne Supremacy. Sometimes it’s to find out which movie Denise Richards and Neve Campbell were in together so we can Youtube it and watch them kiss.  There are many reasons we want immediate access to information about our favourite movies and there are also several reasons why IMDB is a great source for this.

1)  Comprehensive

IMDB is incredibly comprehensive.  It covers movies, TV, video games, concert DVDs, and many other formats involving moving pictures.  It has almost 2 million titles catalogued by actors, directors, genre, dozens of roles in the cast, year, themes and more.  It has works from 1888 all the way into 2016.  Very few sites bother to keep up to date with things that are 4 years after the apocalypse just for the sake of being thorough.

2)  Professional

It is simply a well-crafted site.  Information is up to date.  Moderators seem to try and keep up with trolls but that’s not a fight us humans can really win.  There is user-generated content but it is separate from the rest of content so unless you go looking through user reviews or message boards, there won’t be the misspelling, racism and stupid comments that have come to plague the Internet.  While there are other movie databases online, something about them just doesn’t seem as professional.  For example, the BBDatabse doesn’t seem like somewhere James Lipton’s would tell his students to look for information.  Perhaps it’s the mission statement:

Ballbusting Database is a website whose mission is to catalogue every movie and tv show in which women are kicking men in the balls.

I’m not kidding.   Here’s a sample:

Spirit Camp Actress: Roxy Vandiver Type: Knee

There’s an okay knee to the suspected killer’s balls by the hot Roxy Vandiver at the one-hour mark. There’s also a threat with a knitting needle by the actress Amy Morris at another point in the movie. You missed one punch (also from Roxy Vandiver) near the end where shes trying to escape from the punches of the killer. Here are both clips with a slow-motion edit.

3) Current

Not just having information about upcoming movies, it has very instantaneous reports on any entertainment news. And I don’t mean entertainment news in the TMZ, a Kardashian just went tanning kind of entertainment news.  I can distinctly remember IMDB being the place I first heard Michael Jackson died.  Their box office figures are updated constantly, as well as any additions that have been made to casts in upcoming movies promptly.  They also have a news desk keeping you up to date with information from real news sources as well as entertainment news publications and the blogosphere.

IMDB’s hitlist is a collection of interesting articles around the Internet updated every weekday.  It can range from a professional interview with a star from the New York Times to an awesome amateur mash-up of Inception and Dumb and Dumber but it’s always amusing, no matter how low or highbrow.

4) Entertaining

And while its crisp look, comprehensive catalogue, constant updating and high regard in the film community make it seem very professional, IMDB knows how to have fun.

A little while ago I was looking to see how well Spinal Tap was rated when I noticed something interesting.  While every other movie I’ve ever looked at gets marked out of 10, Spinal Tap’s rating goes to 11.  If you don’t know why this is funny, get your hands on a copy of Spinal Tap.

There are also the lists.  While most databases of film or music or other subjective products often have a Top 100, or best of the best, or something similar, they don’t usually have a bottom of the barrel collection.  Calculating the average of the user reviews of a movie, IMDB has put together both the Top 250 Films list, for those pictures regarded as the best of all time, and a Bottom 100, for people like me who can really enjoy the worst cinema has to offer.  And this doesn’t just mean looking at all of them movies ranked in order and scrolling to the bottom.  They have a page devoted just to the Bottom 100.  Shockingly, only one Police Academy movie made the list.

The trivia sections of each movie and actor can also be full of fascinating or hilarious tidbits of information on topics you thought you knew everything about.  Some of my favourite examples appear at the end of this article.

5) Social

IMDB allows you to create a profile and communicate with other users.  You can share lists, share recommendations, photo galleries of your favourite celebrities and opinions on the message boards.  The message boards really appear to be the primary social life of some users but it’s welcoming to casual posters or readers.

Most of these message boards have some good discussion about the actor or movie that board is devoted.  And while some trolls and off-topic posters show up in different places on the site, I have yet to find a more diverse/off-topic/hilarious/confusing board than The Dark Knight message board.  Due to the massive amount of hype behind that movie, this message board has been extremely popular since before the movie was even made.  There was speculation then discussion of every production detail announced and then reviews and the reactions to awards and now it should be relatively quiet but it’s far from it.  When I looked there were 160 threads that had been posted on in the last 2 days.  That sounds like a lot of Dark Knight talk but a lot of it is…how should I say…different?  Knowing that it is a popular board, people wanting an opinion on anything post.  These off-topic threads, which are not allowed by IMDB’s rules but hard to enforce at this rate, has even prompted one poster to start this thread:

can this please be a dark knight message board?

When I last checked, this had zero responses.

Below I have listed some of the thread listed under the topic of The Dark Knight.  I have posted the original title of 15 of them.  I have also added 13 of my own, trying to mimic their tone and level of tenuous connection to the film.  See if you can tell which are real.

  • tom hanks
  • Holy fuck I love motorhead
  • Favourite full house character
  • My girlfriend says I have to get her dog a bday present
  • Greatest bass player of all time
  • I don’t understand Japanese porn
  • omg you guys my school turns off my internet
  • Would you sound like batman if you could?
  • Someone please give me attention
  • The girl I like thinks I’m gay
  • Garden state soundtrack
  • Pink floyd videos
  • Please tell me a way to dry my hair in 5 minutes.
  • Why are you guys here on a Friday night?
  • Hand sanitizer should not be used for a lubricant
  • Asian chicks with high voices
  • Real life jumanji
  • Rank the letters in BATMAN
  • Do you think vinyl sounds better?
  • George w bush is part monkey…I have pictures
  • what are these body parts?
  • Soccer is so boring
  • Posters everyone has
  • parents cockblocking
  • scream is the best performance of matthew lillards career
  • Why do old people smell?
  • The matrix is the best action movie ever
  • Im considering joining the Taliban.

As promised, my favourite bits of IDMB trivia.  Some are humourous because they are pointless.  Some have funny wording.  Some just great stories and I thank IMDB for bringing them to my attention.  On that note, if anyone ever finds anything else like the ones I list below, please put it in the comment section or email us.

The Bourne Ultimatum:

Jason Bourne never smiles in the movie, although he is seen to smile in a flashback from The Bourne Identity (2002).

Not even coming home makes me happy


Four people won Oscars for this film. Their names were Steven, Stephen, Stephen and Benicio.

And the winner is...Stephen!

Human Centipede

Roger Ebert refused to assign this film a star rating for his review (not to be confused with giving it a zero star rating, which he hands out to the very worst films that he sees), saying it doesn’t really matter whether the film is perceived as good or bad. He closes the review by writing, “[The film] is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.”

Some scenes of the movie are so controversial, some people walked out during test screenings. (AUTHOR’S NOTE:  I don’t think it’s the controversy that made people leave.  People weren’t concerned about the debates that would ensue about their differing views of this film.  It’s because it’s suuuuuper-gross.)

I can't decide if I enjoy the taste of fesces. Such controversy!

Edward Furlong

In 1992, he launched a successful music career in Japan and is still extremely popular with Japanese girls today. His debut song “Hold On Tight” even beat Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” to #1 on the Japanese charts.

I'm huge in Japan...but my older brother's still racist

Charlie Sheen

9/27/99: His request for an early end to his probation for drugs that extends to 6/6/00 was denied by a Malibu judge.  (Author’s note:  If probation means you can’t do anything illegal without great consequences, doesn’t asking for an end to probation just say you really want to commit a crime?)

Accidentally shot then fiancée Kelly Preston in the arm. Soon after that incident, she left him and married her formerly platonic friend John Travolta

8/3/90: His family made an intervention to try to get him to control his drug and alcohol abuse and enter rehab. He entered rehab for 30 days and ended up staying sober for exactly 366 days. His main goal was to make one year, and after making it, he drank the very next day at Nicolas Cage’s home.

I'm THAT crazy?

Steven Seagal

Quote:  I am hoping that I can be known as a great writer and actor some day, rather than a sex symbol.  (Author’s note: None of these things have happened nor ever will)

awwwwww ye

Kevin Bacon

Where are they Now:  (June 2007) Currently plans to conduct a rap music collaboration with East Coast performers such as Lil Jon.

How could Lil Jon resist?

In conclusion, IMDB is great and I can see more and more people, not just Michael Cera, joining this Facebook group.

PS:  IMDB did not pay me to write this.  They do not need to advertise.  But you do, Bing.  Hit me up.


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