UPDATE — You can now ask and answer all your “Name That Movie” questions over at NameThatMovie. This article became so wildly popular that it was well-needed.
We all do it:
“What’s the name of that movie?”
“What’s that actor’s name?”
Sometimes, you just have to ease your mind because you just have to know. It’s just on the tip of your tongue, but driving you crazy that you cannot remember. Other times, maybe it’s some old nostalgic film from your childhood that you just have to track down to watch again.
These techniques also apply if you’re trying to find other info on movies, music, and even video games (directors, writers, voice actors, you name it).
Go to IMDb (Internet Movie Database).
Before you can begin your search, you’ll need to at least have some piece of information that links to the film or whatever else you’re trying to find.
Here are some examples:
- Name of the Director
- Name of the Writer
- Name of the Composer
- Name of any of the Actors or Actresses no matter how big or small their role was
- Name of the Company that released the film
- The Year (or Decade) the film was released
- Plot Info
It may be possible to find what you’re looking for even if you don’t know any direct facts about the movie you’re trying to find. Say that you at least recognize someone in the film and you’re aware of the title of another film they’re in. You can start your search there. When you search, I recommend that you search “All” first. This is the search filter found top-center of the page with the search field.
After you’ve searched (no matter how vague) and you’re on a studio, film, or actor’s page, it’s all about narrowing it down. If it’s an actor’s name that you have, you’ll want to look at their filmography. You can first narrow it down by looking at just the Actor section of their credit’s page. Even if you don’t know the exact year it came out, you should at least know a range, for example between: 1970 – 1980.
The films are in order from newest to oldest. I’d start on the oldest film in your range and work your way up. Just seeing the title might not be enough to spark your memory. Think about what the movie is about and try and relate the titles to that. Most titles will make sense in relation to what the film is about. When you click on a movie title to investigate further, look at the poster or movie cover image, look at the character and actor names, and read the synopsis. If it’s the right movie it should eventually click:
“Yeah! This is the movie.”
If you know the title of a movie that has an actor in it who is also in the film you’re looking for, but you don’t know their name, only recognize them, find that title on IMDb. Then, go through the cast of actors on that film and try and find that actor. Most actor pages are supported with celebrity pictures so you can verify it’s who you think it is before you start searching their filmography for the movie.
- If you’re looking for something other than a film or actor, just try relating the techniques to your search.
- Don’t give up. 9 out of 10 times, I find what I’m looking for if I keep at it. As a last resort, you could always ask a film expert by describing whatever it is as best as you can at one of the following places:
Utilize Google Search. If all you’re left with is pieces of the plot, we can utilize Google to search the IMDb database in a much more powerful way than IMDb’s native search (this is true for most websites actually). Simply copy the following URL to your URL bar or follow it and add your own plot keywords:
You can also search just the plot records of IMDb’s database:
(apparently only one keyword searches)
Try to be vague and yet specific at the same time so to get a somewhat substantial amount of results to browse, but so you also try and filter out the obvious conflicting results that might pop up.
Also, a heads up: for some reason some people are getting the idea that my blog itself contains info on movies, which it does not. I keep seeing searches for plot keywords and actor’s names and whatnot done through my blog’s search form. Outside of this article, my blog does not contain any movie info. It is not a media database. You want to head over to IMDb or use one of the other options I’ve presented here. Thank you.