Found online # 3 – Film databases

Fondation Jérôme Seydoux Pathé
Fondation Jérôme Seydoux Pathé

Next up in this occasional series on handy web resources is film databases. Everyone knows about the Internet Movie Database, which has reached such a state of majesty that it doesn’t just reflect the film industry, it helps drive it. But there are plenty of other film databases out there, some loyally documenting a national output, others more specialised and intriguing. Here’s a selection of some of them.

  • The German Early Cinema Database – actually three databases on related to film supply, distribution, exhibition and reception in Germany between 1895 and 1926: on one fairground cinemas, one of documents, and the main on the c.45,000 films on the German market 1895-1920
  • Early African American Film – records for early American ‘race’ films (produced from 1909 to 1930), along with associated people and production companies, available as downloadable data
  • The Spaghetti Western Database – A lovingly-compiled record to the European western, with reviews, DVD and soundtrack album details
  • Fondation Jérôme Seydoux Pathé – Fabulously useful for the French film specialist, a listing of just about every film made by the Pathé company since 1896 (bar newsreels) – no advance search and only in French, but reproduces texts from original catalogues
  • American Silent Feature Film Database – produced by the Library of Congress and FIAF, this documents the nearly 11,000 American feature films released between 1912-1929, noting what survives of the 3,300 of them known to exist today.
  • Danish Film Database – Everything the Danish Film Institute does is stylish, and this clear and comprehensive database of national production is no exception (though entries are only in Danish)
  • AFI Catalog of Feature Films – Once only available as a series of hefty volumes, the American Film Institute’s database of 60,000 American feature-length films and 17,000 short films produced made 1893-2011 wins no prizes for web design, but for sheer comprehensive, authority and cross-searchability it is peerless
  • Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema – The database version of Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen’s eponymous book is somewhat un-user-friendly in design, but full of gems once you master it (to get started click on Movies top left then use the Search box top right)
  • Collections Search – It’s actually quite difficult to find the British Film Institute’s excellent collections database on its website. It brings together filmographic and technical information for over 800,000 film and television items (less than 50% of which are actually held by the BFI)
  • Catalogue Lumière – superlative record of films made by Lumière Frères 1895-1905, with browing by location and operator, and every entry handsomely illustrated
  • filmportal – The definitive database of German cinema, most of it in German with quite matter-of-fact entries, handy background essays (in English) and details of archive holdings
  • News on Screen – Details of 185,000 British newsreels and cinemagazines 1910-1983, with digitised production documents, links to playable films and loads of background information (OK, I helped create this one, but objectively speaking it’s fantastic)
  • Giornate Database – Very handy for the silent film devotee – a record of every film shown at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, or Giornate del Cinema Muto, from 1982 to 2014 (at the time of writing)
  • Irish Film & Television Index – A document of all things moving and Irish: nearly 40,000 all Irish-made cinema and major television productions as well as Irish-themed films and programmes made outside Ireland
  • Internet Movie Firearms Database – Yes, it’s a wiki-based site listing films and television programmes searchable by their weaponry. Horrible, but dedicated
  • The Swedish Film Database – From the Swedish Film Institute – all Swedish ‘feature’ films (whatever that means, since the first dates from 1897) plus all international features show in Sweden, plus shorts and documentaries
  • British Board of Film Classification – The BBFC’s site doesn’t just tell you about current films that it has classified – its database stretches back to 1912, and though the details available are often basic you’ll find titles that don’t turn up on any other film resource


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4 thoughts on “Found online # 3 – Film databases

  1. Thank you – I’d overlooked this. Doesn’t have everything ever shown at Bologna there as yet, but it’s going to be a huge job adding everything from pre-digital catalogue days.

    1. Agreed entirely. Not entirely user-friendly – you often have to go through several clicks before finding what you need – but the information is generally very reliable and kept impressively up to date.

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