The Internet Movie Database, IMDB for short, is one of the most popular film sites on the internet. It is a handy tool for researching films and the people who make them. No database as comprehensive and as massive as IMDB is going to be perfect, but using a few simple guidelines and understanding what the database does well will make it a convenient and useful resource for film research.
The Good: IMDB is great for matching actor, director, composer etc. to a film. Filmography is one of the things IMDB does best. If you need to know who did what, this site makes it easy to find out. Using the advanced search engine one can also search to see who worked with whom. If you want to know how many times two actors worked together or how many times an actor and director worked together, this search option makes it easy. When looking up a particular film, the links located in the right side bar can provide such varied information as release dates, filming locations and soundtrack listings.
Although it’s not required to view the site, registering as a user is recommended. This will allow you to modify the display settings. It also allows you to view and participate in the numerous discussion forums. There is a separate forum for every individual film and television show (yes they do television as well!) as well as each individual actor. There are also numerous messages boards sorted by film genre that can be very informative as well as entertaining.
The Bad: IMDB makes mistakes. It is always best to independently verify information obtained at websites like this. On rare occasions, filmographies can be inaccurate. Mistakes often happen with obscure actors who share the same name. Sometimes separate filmographies of these actors will be combined under just one of their names. Also, the IMDB relies heavily on users to provide content. This means a lot of information (especially biographies and trivia) can be misleading or wrong. Again, it’s important to cross check and verify from other sources any information you are not sure about. The site administrators do respond to user requests to remove or correct wrong information but the process can be a slow one.
The Ugly: While IMDB is generally user friendly, you can adjust your viewing options to better suit your needs. The filmographies for actors default to a list that does not distinguish between television and film credits, which makes it difficult to sort one from the other. Adjusting your viewing options to sort credits by type will fix this problem. The site also relies heavily on advertising; various pop up and scrolling ads appear continuously. One minute you’re searching an actors credits and the next you find your screen taken over by the latest film advertisement. One errant mouse click can navigate you to a new film’s website. A good pop up blocker and quickly finding and clicking on that close window option will lead to a less frustrating visit to IMDB.
The IMDB is a convenient and easy way to find information on films and filmmakers but it is not a well documented reference source. Like most information found on the wide open internet, treat the information found here with care, and verify everything before treating it as fact.