Figure 5: Film Fads

This interactive plot shows trends in IMDb keyword and genre data for theatrically released movies. Cultural, technological, and regulatory trends stand out.

Enter your own keywords or sit back and watch some of the more interesting and entertaining trends. When typing keywords, suggestions are made in order of total appearances.

As with all long-term crowd-sourced data, keyword trends may say as much about the tagging process, so be careful in interpreting this data. Some keywords, for instance, only tend to be applied to current films. It also appears to take several years for IMDb keyword data to saturate. The average number of keywords per film begins to drop about five years ago. Prior to that, there does appear to be some overall preferential treatment of recent releases, but the effect is not overwhelming (roughly 60 keywords per film in the 1990s, up from 40 in the 1930s).

In order to focus on movies with significant interest (which both better reflect popular culture and have more complete keyword data) the complete list of movies on IMDb is filtered down to those with significant US theatrical releases. Specifically, the filter requires a theatrical release, a review by the MPAA (or at least a US release if before 1968), a runtime of at least 40 minutes, and no genre tag of ‘Adult’ or ‘Short’. This produces a master list of 45,230 movies with an annual distribution comparable to that considered by industry publications. The 51,944 keywords which occur at least twice in this movie list are searchable here.

Not surprisingly, a lot of keywords reflect the Production Code and its abolition. After 1968, new topics were explored and old ones were shelved (in many cases, only to reappear decades later).

Rest assured there will be many more movie Plots to come. The keyword data alone is a gold mine.