Top 10 movie recommendation engines

If you don't know what to watch Friday night, look no further than this list of the top movie recommendation engines on the Web. They all offer something different.

There are dozens of movie recommendation engines on the Web. Some require little or no input before they give you titles, while others want to find out exactly what your interests are. I've been using 10 movie recommendation engines on both sides of the equation. They're all different, but some are definitely better than others.

The Top 10

Netflix
Netflix makes recommendations pretty, but... Don Reisinger/CNET Networks

10. Netflix Netflix asks you to rate movies to determine which films you'll want to see next. And although it does make it easy to rate movies and it does return huge lists, there's too much duplication in the results and the ideas it gives you aren't all that strong. It's easy to use, but it's not the best way to get movie recommendations.

9. Rotten Tomatoes Instead of telling Rotten Tomatoes which films you like, you can tell it what kind of films you enjoy, which actors you want to see, and other criteria to help it find the best movie for you. There's a lot of variability in the quality of Rotten Tomatoes recommendations but it's also a nice way to find the right film for any mood.

8. Movielens Movielens is ugly. But what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for with a great recommendation engine that evaluates your tastes based on ratings to films you've seen before. Once you rate 15 movies, it returns recommendations that, based on my testing, were quite accurate and certainly more relevant than results from Netflix.

7. Flixster Flixster is the pretty version of Movielens. The site allows you to rate films and it returns recommendations that are about as good as Movielens. Beyond beauty, Flixster beats out Movielens because it offers extras like film quizzes, the capability to monitor friends' ratings, and more. It's good for people who want more than just movie ideas.

6. IMDb Instead of asking you to input ratings or to tell it what movies you like, IMDb automatically recommends similar films to the movie you search for. At the bottom of the page, a "Recommendations" section explains that if you liked a respective film, you'll like the handful of other films being displayed, based on information gathered from an IMDb database, which examines films to find similarities and differences. It's a great way for people who don't have time to rate movies to find some films worth watching. Even better, the recommendations are solid.

Criticker
Yep, Iron Man was a good movie. Don Reisinger/CNET Networks

5. Criticker Criticker is another one of those sites that places no stock in design, but it does a fine job of finding movies worth watching. Instead of just allowing you to rank films, the site compares your ratings to those of other users and employs something called the "Taste Compatibility Index" to see how closely your tastes match these other users. Once the service finds matches, you can view other users' profiles and see which movies they like. When I tried it, the other users' preferences were in line with my own on almost every film. Combining community and functionality, Criticker is a unique, yet worthwhile service to check out.

4. Clerkdogs Input the name of a film you like and Clerkdogs will return similar films. It's that simple. And it works. For both major movies and small films, it always found relevant recommendations when I gave it a starting point of a film I liked.

3. Nanocrowd At first glance, Nanocrowd looks like every other film search engine: you input the name of a film you like and it returns results. But the site goes well beyond a simple results page. Nanocrowd allows you to drill down into a more refined search with the help of a "three-word nanogenre." On the results page, you click which three-word category you prefer, based on keywords related to the movie you input into the search field, and Nanocrowd immediately refines your search to get the best film for you. Even better, the films it displays aren't always blockbusters.

2. Taste Kid If you want more than good movie recommendations, Taste Kid is the site for you. It's simple enough--you input a film you like and it returns results that offer similar action to your favorites. But it goes beyond just movies. If you really like "The Godfather," Taste Kid fills you in on what kind of bands you'll like to listen to, books you'll want to read, and "other stuff" that's related to that film. Taste Kid is a full entertainment recommendation engine.

Jinni
Semantic search on Jinni is incredible. Don Reisinger/CNET

1. Jinni Jinni is the best movie recommendation engine on the Web. Period. Whether you want to search for films in the search field or you want to find films based on your mood, time available, setting, or reviews, the site has it all. I searched for movies based on my mood and followed that with a search based on my plot preference. Each time, films that I've watched and loved in the past, or that I haven't watched but definitely want to see popped up.

But perhaps the most compelling feature that Jinni offers is its semantic search. You can input terms like, "movies that have gangsters" or "films that show Chris Farley yelling" and the site will return films that match your query. It's mind-blowing.

Go use Jinni. You won't regret it.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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