I am working on a web app where users tell their favourite movies. Since there are too many movies to pick from I am not able to provide a select box. The jquery autocomplete works nicely but I wanted to make it more fancier.

What are the user friendly ways to let users pick one (or multiple) options out of many many possible. In my case, there is a very big set of movies, so how do I let users pick some movies out of the whole set?

  • Is there a database of movies you're hooking into? Unless you're using something like IMDB that covers every movie ever made the chances are you'll miss out films people want to pick so probably just text entry on its own would be better and then rank those text strings instead. That way I could pick 'Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker' as my favourite ever film as the chances are its not in your list of films to pick. (I wouldn't pick that film though, it's utterly awful).
    – JonW
    Nov 12, 2012 at 0:20
  • I am hooking into IMDB so I can provide an option for every movie ever made...select box does not support such large list...auto complete does...i want to know if I can do better than a simple auto complete
    – shreyj
    Nov 12, 2012 at 10:21

2 Answers 2


It's a question wether you want people to recall or recongnize movies.

If you want them to recall, there's no reason to show anything fancy, an empty searchbox will do.

If you want them to recognize, you should list some movies first.

For recall:

Use a kind of autocomplete which is used in e-mail sending, facebook message sending and tagging (like, at this question). It's called multiple value autocomplete, "facebook-like autocomplete" and so on. Use the image of the movie (DVD cover or such) as an avatar.

Bear in mind, that a portion of users aren't likely to have a decisive answer to that. Some people have no decisive answer to such question, and say "that's one of my favourite film too!" when it enters the conversation, or when they've seen it recently.

For recognize:

Sort the list by release year. Ask them when were they born and start the list around when they were about 10-12 years old, and show about 10 years. I think that films which we have seen at a more younger age have more lasting impression on us than the films we see later, but this hypotheses needs to be tested.

Of course, you can meet a film which makes a great impression on you years after that, and nothing prevents you to see films which were made long ago and still have a big impression on you - how many Star Wars fans were born after 1977?

So there's no decisive answer to your UI question I guess, just as there's no decisive answer for the question: "What is your favourite movie?" to me.

  • great answer..thnx.. however i fail to understand ur point about why ppl would not have a set of favourite movies...anyway got wat i was looking for..thnx
    – shreyj
    Nov 12, 2012 at 13:34
  • I minored in Film Studies in college, yet when presented with "List your top 5 movies" I freeze. It's often times hard to pick when you consider the large breadth of movies most people have seen, and even harder when people really LIKE most movies they see. Too many choices, not enough memory space :D Nov 12, 2012 at 14:54

Second what @Aadaam said about recognition and recall.

And to expand on that, this is an excellent opportunity to engage the user and use some seductive interactions to make things a little more sexy. The user will have fun, and at the same time, you satisfy your business goals.

Consider using images, similar to what GetGlue has done:

Get Glue preference interaction

When the user clicks on "Like", the button changes to a selected state. You may also "cross" it out to get rid of the movie (therefore giving you more information to work with). I would create a grid of 9-12 movies and allow the user to page through the database, but provide an easily accessible exit mechanism:

Grid preference iteraction

Perhaps with auto-complete at the top:

enter image description here

Is there a reason why you're only concerned with 3-6 selections? If not, upon dismissing, this interaction might maintain as a cycling module on the site. The more information you get, the more sophisticated you can build the user's preference graph for smarter recommendations, etc.

  • Providing a grid would be suitable for recognition. Given the size of dataset, I think recall is more apt. Going with the autocomplete textbox...thnx
    – shreyj
    Nov 12, 2012 at 15:47

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