About Movie Settings Database
This website uses the TMDB API but is not endorsed or certified by TMDB.
More information below in the "About The Film Data" section.
This site was built by Robby Macdonell (hi! 👋). If you enjoy this site, please consider buying me a coffee to help with all the late nights I've been up categorizing movies.
How Did This Project Happen?
During 2021, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I had taken some time off from work with plans to travel a lot, but the pandemic made that impossible. I spent a lot of time sitting at home thinking about the different places I’d like to visit. I also watched a lot of movies and tv shows. I realized that I got really wrapped up in the atmosphere of a story, and when I was done I always wanted to know what else I could watch that would stay in the same general setting.
I was surprised to find that there’s not really a good source for movie settings information.
Around that same time, I got really into using the social film discovery website Letterboxd and started making lists of the movies I’ve seen, organized by their setting. I realized it was a lot of work researching the locations and time periods where the stories took place, but in the end it was really satisfying to have those lists to revisit.
But, I still didn’t have a way to find new movies and tv shows in a particular setting—so I started exploring ideas, and after several experiments and a lot of research I arrived at something close to what you see here.
About The Film Data
The film data in this database comes from two places:
Data about locations and time period
The setting data in this database was compiled by me from various sources. A lot came from wikipedia. A lot of it came from reading through the film descriptions and pulling out settings information when I found it. Still more came from scouring online reviews, watching trailers, combing through fan sites, and other random research across the internet.
All other film data
The rest of the structured data in this database comes from The Movie Database, which has a wonderful API and an incredibly rich dataset of movie and tv show information. I rely on their API to provide:
- Film & TV show titles
- Release year
- Poster Images
If you are considering a project that makes use of film data, I recommend checking them out. Their API is easy to work with and their data is top-notch.
A Note About Underrepresentation In Certain Regions
While I am really happy with the overall size of the movie settings dataset, I’m disappointed that some areas are underrepresented.
The southern hemisphere, in general, is lacking. I’m sure there are resources I haven’t found yet that can help fill those areas out. I suspect that my reliance on English-only resources has been a factor here.
One of the interesting side effects of this project for me is that I have a new curiosity about stories told from a non-English perspective, so I’m looking for ways to improve the balance.
If you noticed this and it bothers you, please understand that it bothers me, too.
Why Does Movie ______ Seem To Be Miscategorized?
If you come across a movie that seems miscategorized, there could be several reasons why:
A setting refers to a flashback or minor scene that is different from the primary setting for the feature.
The 1987 film Three Men & A Baby is listed as being set in both New York and Turkey, yet the vast majority of the film takes place in New York City.
At this time, the database does not distinguish between primary and minor settings.
There are multiple locations and time periods, and a search produced a mismatch
When a movie starts with a backstory setup that takes place in both a time and place that’s different than the main setting, it can match for combinations of time and place that don’t actually occur in the movie. This tends to happen a lot in biographical films.
The 1992 biopic Malcolm X starts off in the 1920s in Michigan, then moves on to other settings throughout the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Due to the way the data is modeled. A search for "Michigan in the 1960s" would incorrectly return Malcolm X as a result.
The source that I found in my research got the setting information wrong
One of the problems with not having a single source of truth for setting information is that what information there is tends to be scattered, and the quality isn’t perfect. Often when researching a review, it’s difficult to know whether the author is guessing on the setting they report.
Sometimes the filming location get mixed up with the setting.
The 2014 Horror Romance A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night was shot entirely in California but is set in a fictional town in Iran.
I screwed something up when entering the data
I compiled all this setting data from different sources. There is a LOT of it. Much of it came together during late night data-entry sessions. It’s extremely likely that I’ve made some mistakes here and there.
Examples I’ve found and fixed
- Quickly trying to enter a decade and logged a film set in the 1870s as 1970s
- A bug with the time period logic accidentally classified all movies set before 1900 as “ancient history” for a while
I tried to avoid judgement calls as much as possible, but in some cases they are inevitable. Especially in cases where a film is set in “contemporary” times without an explicit year. There were a small number of cases where I simply had to try my best.
If you see something that feels incorrect and it bothers you enough, please reach out and let me know. I’m happy to make corrections.
Who Am I?
I’m Robby. I’m not a particularly big film buff. I casually enjoy movies and I binge watch a lot of TV. I’ve worked in tech startups for a while as a designer, developer, user researcher, product leader, and executive. I took some time off during the pandemic and this website is one of the things that came out of that time.
You can learn more about me on my personal website.