How I Formulate Movie Recommendations


Last week I formulated a technique for making film recommendations using both my knowledge of film, and the various similarities in plot and/or style of various types of movies. I promised I’d reveal my “formula” for how I made these recommendations, and so I’m here fulfilling my promise.

It’s really no great science; it takes work, knowledge and the internet, but it’s really not incredibly difficult and there’s no “formula,” so to speak.

All I do is this: I examine the ten films, and see which ways they relate to each other. The similarities in taste and preference, which is easier to see when you have ten very different kind of films. I establish from these ten films which kind of specific movie the commenter likes, and that figures into my recommendation. Then, I examine each of the ten films individually; say for example someone writes Boogie Nights, a film most people are familiar with. Important plot elements include filmmaking, a large cast and a multiple storyline. So, I use my own knowledge of film (and the internet as a helper) to decide upon a few films which fit these different specifications and choose the best or most relevant one to use as a recommendation; in this case I would pick The Player, which features a large cast, involves filmmaking, and examines various storylines. It’s not exactly the most relevant film to Boogie Nights, but it fits some of the similarities and is a safe enough bet.

IMDb use their plot keywords to make recommendations, which is all fair and fine enough, but it takes more than that. Using my knowledge of film, as well as cross-referencing plot details and other films by similar filmmakers (or in some cases, the same directors), I decide upon a film which is much closer in similarity to the original film and thus a safe enough bet.

It can take up to five or ten minutes to pick the perfect film; ocassionally, looking at a movie, I would immediately be able to think of a similar one using my knowledge of film alone; other times, it would take more research. I certainly don’t think my technique was flawless or perfect, but I think it worked in general. Your feedback from my recommendations was very helpful, and helped me to learn more about the reader, understand what they’ve seen and what they haven’t, which all goes into perfecting the recommendations of others when I come to them.

Sorry if you were expecting something more scientific, but this was really all it was; using my knowledge of film as well as IMDb’s plot keywords, and directors. It does rely a lot on what I know about movies and similar films, but I found myself having to look up a lot of films that people wrote down as I barely knew anything about some of them.

Anyway, thanks for participating in my little experiment, and I hope my recommendations to your ten films were suitable or accurate enough.


Posted on September 30, 2011, in Movies and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. I want a turn!

    Boogie Nights, Wonderland, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Orgazmo, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, The Girl Next Door, Hardcore, Rated X, and 8 MM.

  2. hey tyler, wanna take another shot at my recommendations based on me having seen so many of the ones you suggested already? i may be heading to the dvd store tomorrow and could do with getting frustrated at their lack of movies that i want.

    • Okay here are seven more movies based on my recommendations you haven’t seen:

      The Condemned (2007)
      Holly (2006)
      Fallen Angels (1995)
      Dark City (1998)
      American Teen (2008)
      A Canterbury Tale (1944)
      Slither (2006)

      You can’t tell me you’ve seen all of those.

      • haha, ive seen 4 of those. did you like the condemned?
        i really should watch more powell & pressburger so may check out canterbury tale as a point of priority.
        i’ve been hesitant of seeing slither since it’s release. how do you rate it?

    • I didn’t like THE CONDEMNED, but you had GAMER on your original list and I hated that.

      SLITHER was quite fun, I enjoyed it. Nothing special, but certainly nothing terrible.

  3. So thats how you did it ๐Ÿ™‚ Well i am happy i saw Ran, and i have hoop dreams on my dads instant que.

    As for me, usually if i recommend something to someone its because of what they’ve liked before, hence why i recommended They Came back to you. The only movie i’ve generally recommended to everybody is Franklyn only because its pretty tame content wise, and compared to most of my followers my tastes are pretty controversial(I actually made am joke about that in my twitter bio).

  4. what i really loved about gamer….mostly it ws the near future science fiction element to it. i found the ideas that neveldine & taylor had evolved from the society of today to be completely believable. the technological concepts were an interesting idea for how touch screen technology might advance, the natural evolution of the current reality tv trend and second life/WoW seems to be ideas like slayers and society. yes the visual style is jarring but for once it was intended and sure a lot of the dialogue existed either as exposition or as an attempt to create fun soundbytes but for the ADHD/MTV world we live in now it works just fine. it’s no masterpiece but i find it highly entertaining.

    • I suppose I get what you mean, but… I still don’t like it and have no wish to revisit it, in all honesty. But I’m glad someone liked it.

      • oh yeah i certainly wouldnt expect you to. im fully aware that most people disliked the movie and quite possibly the ones that enjoyed it probably did so because of the violence. quite a few of my favourite movies from 2009 were ones that were widely disliked i think.

  5. You missed this on the other post, so i’ll repost here

    1.Home Room
    2.Series 7: The Contenders
    3.Dr. Horribleโ€™s Sing-Along Blog
    4.Good Will Hunting
    5.Gypsy 83
    6.The Lucky Ones
    8.Paper Moon
    9.Maria Full of Grace

    • My Recommendations:

      Elephant (2003)
      Live! (2007)
      Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)
      Finding Forrester (2000)
      Hedwig and the Angry Itch (2001)
      Brothers (2009)
      Swingers (1996)
      The Night of the Hunter (1955)
      Cyclo (1995)
      The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

      • I have only seen 3 (Elephant,Live!,Finding Forrester).

        Elephant – Most recommendation sites would list this one as similar to Home Room.The obvious reason why is the school shooting aspect.However, the execution of the two are completly different.Elephant was more about the actual events of the shooting while Home Room was more about the emotional/psychological affects of it.Movies like Teenage Dirtbag/Zero Day/April Showers could probably be just as easily interchanged here.Been a couple of years since I’ve seen this, but don’t remember it doing much for me.

        Live! – This movie was very enjoyable.

        Finding Forrester – Another one ostensibly cut from the same cloth as films like Good Will Hunting, Like Elephant been a few years since I’ve seen it.I remember the pace being slow, and the plot not having any suprises.Connery was good however.

        • I felt kind of stupid putting ELEPHANT, since most people have seen it. Another great movie about a shooting is A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY, which is less accessible but very good.

  6. Tyler, my theory is that it doesn’t work very well to do technical analysis. Jinni / Pandora do that. As an example Boogie Nights is on my top 10 list but Player would be quite low. Meet the parents high, Meet the Fockers low. So what I mean I think its not enough to have similarities in plot, storyline, cast, filmmaking. Its about the magic that happens when everything works out for the artist who creates the film. And its about me finding other people who agree with me what is magic and what is not, my twins. But thanks for an interesting blog, for me it does help in some way to categorize and analyze, its just not a method I’d use alone.

    • Admittedly, you’re right. This was just an experiment to see if this particular method worked. It would take a lot more time and knowledge of film to do it your way, even though I agree yours is a better method.

  7. Finally a look into the kitchen ๐Ÿ™‚ Nice to see how you make these choices. Today I was looking on IMDB as I just watched the documentary Babies and it somehow recommended Enter the Void….didn’t make sense at all! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It could be because there is a graphic abortion scene in ENTER THE VOID, which IMDb somehow feels is relevant to a documentary called BABIES.

      • Yeah, I was guessing it was either that or the “lovemaking” scene. I was just imagining people who are not that into movies loving this documentary about babies in their first year thinking that Enter the Void would be more of the same and couldn’t wait to see this. They probably would be extremely shocked ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Hehehe that would be funny. But there is one fatal flaw: who the hell trusts any of the IMDb recommendations? Every time I visit a page they’re recommending the same two films: FREEWAY and THE DEPARTED. Don’t get me wrong, I love both films, but would it kill them to mix it up a bit?

  8. I never look at the them, but since they are there I guess people do use it….

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