With thousands of entertainment platforms to explore, tens of thousands of older movies available in streaming libraries, a growing number of new movies produced each year, and more binge-watching options than ever before, it’s no surprise that many people have difficulty remembering the name of every movie they’ve ever seen.
The good news is that it’s not as difficult as you might think to track down the name of a film. Whether you conduct your search using a browser search engine or an entertainment platform’s search algorithm, the steps you take to find the name are mostly the same:
1. Search for a Creative
Some people can only remember the name of one of the creatives who worked on a movie, such as an actor or actress or a writer, director, or costume designer.
If you recall a name, even if it’s not the name of a celebrity, you can reverse search the movie’s name by checking out that creative’s filmography.
After you submit the name, some search engines give you a full list of movies associated with that person on the first page of the results.
Otherwise, you must use their name, job title, if they’re not famous, and the keyword “filmography” or “biography” to find websites that list the history of their creative works, such as IMDb, Filmsite, and Wikipedia.
If you saw the movie in a theater when the studio first released it, scroll through the filmography list until you find the release year and review each movie associated with that creative for that year.
Also, review any movies listed for the year or two prior to that year since the filmography list might display information by production rather than movie release dates.
If you can’t find an online filmography that displays the details that you need via these methods, return to the first page of search engine results and look for a website that’s associated directly with the creative either by their name or a talent agency, and then look for their filmography.
2. Look Up Character Details
As with a real person’s name, you can use the name of one or more characters to reverse find the movie’s name. Many websites like the ones already mentioned automatically display films associated with a specific character.
More importantly, when you search a character’s name using an internet search engine, you can usually find the names of films associated with that character on the first page of search results.
For less well-known characters, you must narrow your search using additional keywords, such as the year of the film’s release, if known, the genre, and any story details you can remember like the character’s clothing, actions, or dialogue.
A single phrase spoken by the character may have become popular since the movie’s release. The name of the studio that produced and distributed the movie can also help.
If you saw the movie on a specific network or premium cable channel or streaming platform, you can also potentially discover the movie name by using the name of a creative or character in combination with the name of the channel or platform when conducting your search.
3. Explore the Movie’s Story
Most search engines offer users a list of suggestions when they submit movie-related keywords and phrases, but vague details common to a specific genre can bring up too many results.
For example, if you type “horror” coupled with the phrase “a man ran after a woman,” you’re probably not going to find what you need any time soon. Yet, if you can remember unique story details along with the genre or even the subgenre, you can narrow the search.
With the horror genre, for example, your search keywords and phrases might include an explanation that the man was wearing a mask in a “jump scare,” “slasher,” “supernatural” or “psychological” horror movie.
Use the following questions to come up with a keyword and phrase list of searchable story elements:
- Did the movie fit into any type of subgenre?
- Was the film set in a modern or historical period?
- Do you remember the make and model of any vehicles in the movie?
- What color and style of clothing did the characters wear?
- Did any character have a unique skill or repetitive habit?
- Did the characters have accents or speak in a foreign language?
- Did the action occur during the day, night, or both?
- Did the action happen during a specific season?
- Did the action occur in a real-world location?
- Can you describe the general plot in one sentence?
- Were there any tropes used in the movie?*
- Do you remember the lyrics to the background or overall soundtrack music?
- What details can you remember from the opening or closing credits?
*If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of tropes, it’s okay. Many people don’t realize that the word “trope” describes the use of common details across movies and TV shows both within and outside of the same genre.
These details are often overused so much that they make many stories feel stale and unoriginal because of rehashed plot elements.
An example of a trope is the “pursued protagonist.” This trope describes a cold opening in which a character, either the lead or a close secondary main character, is running away from one or more people covertly following or chasing them.
To search by plot details and tropes, go to TVTropes, which also features a Film Tropes search option. Once you locate a specific trope that matches the movie you’re trying to find, scroll down to the “Examples” section and select one of the “Film” categories to either find the title or jog your memory.
4. Ask Entertainment Fans
One of the best movie name search resources that you can find isn’t a computer database.
If you reach the point that none of your keyword and phrase searches work, seek out movie and entertainment buffs who love to discuss their favorite and not-so-favorite movies on social networking platforms and fan sites.
When you interact with fans, always remember to mention as many specific details as you possible about the movie to help them help you.
Many movie reviewers also engage fans using social networks. If your request stumps fans, ask if they know of any movie or even TV show reviewers on these platforms who might possess enough knowledge to help you solve this puzzle.
Keep in mind that professional reviewers aren’t obligated to provide you with answers. You can ask them for help, but they might not respond to your request or be able to figure out the movie name from your description.
5. Scroll by Genre
If all else fails, then visit a movie database or fandom website and scroll through all available film titles by genre. You can expect this type of search to take hours, days, or even longer because you must click each title to learn more about a film’s plot, cast, and crew.
Some sites that also offer social fan community features break down their data by fan-made movie lists based on a specific creative, genre, or theme.
You can find these custom lists by looking for descriptions like “fan recommendations” or “top movies as voted by fans.”
One great aspect of many of these sites is that they typically include a picture of a film poster or product package cover with each film title on a list, which means you might recognize the film faster by seeing the characters on the image while you’re scrolling down a list.
That said, you might need to tweak your browser’s settings and use “zoom” to increase the size of a website page to see the pictures since these sites often display movie images as small or tiny, difficult-to-see thumbnails.
This Task Isn’t Impossible
Some movies are so obscure or old that information about them is incredibly difficult to find, especially when you don’t know the title.
You improve the outcome of your search by preparing your list of keywords and phrases before you start and always keeping in mind throughout the search that you might not immediately find the title. Although there’s no guarantee of success when you follow these steps, they’re tried-and-true methods that typically work.