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What makes a movie successful?

What makes a movie successful? While this question may seem like a low-hanging fruit, it requires a very holistic approach. A good film should not only make use of the 7th Art but of all seven Arts. A movie implies many choices: what genres to focus on, which director and actors bring the most added value, what budget to spend? We gather in this study movie data from multiple databases including CMU movies, IMDB and Wikipedia. With such a large movie database, we can expect to find some patterns of which feature choices lead to a more successful movie. But then again, what makes a movie successful? From profitability to perenniality, we shall investigate different success indicators and help you create the next Oscar-winning movie.

How do we quantify success?

To investigate what makes a movie successful, we need to be able to quantify success. Success of a movie can be very subjective. We thus need to diversify our definitions of success to have a holistic view of our dataset. The following success indicators are considered:

The top 20 movies for each of those success features are displayed below.

Taking into account those 4 success features (IMDB rating, gross revenue, profit, wikipedia pageviews), we create a single score for each movie. From there this score is used to compute for each movie feature individual i (actor, director, genre) a feature score weighted by the number of movies in which individual i plays a role.

Best movie feature choices:

Through our data analysis, we were able to extract valuable insight on which features to focus on when making a movie. In order to advise the next hit productor in his choices for his next movie, we investigate below the best choices for several features according to movie genres. For simplicity, we propose such results for the 15 usual genres.

While budget may be a priority for horror movies to mesmerize you with special effects, it might be secondary for a romantic comedy. In order to further advise the creator of the next successful movie, we provide in each figure’ title the importance rank for the chosen genre. If this rank is 1, then you may want to focus on this particular feature while rank 8 would be less important for the final success of your movie.

Best actors and directors to get a good movie

Choosing a good cast and director for a movie are both crucial elements of the film-making process, as they can greatly impact the quality and success of a film.

A good cast is essential for bringing the characters to life and making them believable and relatable to the audience. The actors must be able to convey the emotions and motivations of their characters through their performances, and must be able to work well with the other members of the cast in order to create a cohesive and compelling story. In addition to acting ability, it is also important to consider the diversity and representation of the cast, as a diverse cast can bring different perspectives and experiences to the film and make it more relatable to a wider audience.

On the other hand, a good director is responsible for overseeing the creative vision of the film and bringing it to life through the actors, sets, and other elements of the film. They must be able to communicate their vision to the cast and crew and guide them towards achieving it. A good director also has the ability to bring out the best performances from the actors and create a cohesive and compelling story.

Best Actors Best directors

In the present study, we looked into the added value of actors and directors by assigning them a score based on their portfolio of movies (respective score and number of movies) sorted by genres. We further investigated the added values of specific collaborations when a minimum of 3 movies have been made together. On the network graphs above, we show the top 15 actors and directors according to the genre of your choice. The size of the bubble is proportional to the score of the individual while the presence and width of an edge between two individuals symbolizes the added value of their collaboration. If we look at the drama genre for instance, we can see that combining Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito will be of added value for your next successful dramatic movie.

Overall, the cast of a movie plays a crucial role in its success, and choosing the right actors is an important decision that can have a significant impact on the film's quality and appeal.

How well this genre works with others?

We now investigate the best associations of genres. Having different genres for a movie can be important for a number of reasons.

One reason is that it allows the movie to appeal to a wider audience. Different genres appeal to different demographics, and by incorporating elements of multiple genres, a movie can attract a larger and more diverse audience.

Another reason is that it can make the movie more interesting and unpredictable. By combining different genres, a movie can keep the audience guessing and create a more unique and engaging viewing experience.

In addition, incorporating elements of different genres can also allow a movie to explore a wider range of themes and ideas. For example, a comedy-drama might explore both light-hearted and serious themes, while a horror-comedy might blend scares with laughs.

Overall, having different genres in a movie can help to make it more appealing, interesting, and dynamic, and can allow it to explore a wider range of themes and ideas.

As before, we display here a network graph of the best 5 combinations to your chosen genre with an edge width proportional to the success of this combination.

Genres combination

Etnicity and gender equality. How unfair is the top cinema industry?

Etnicity evolution Gender evolution

This chapter seeks to understand the cultural, ethnic and gender diversity that exists in the film industry. The graphs show how cinema is simply a reflection of an unequal and discriminatory society.

White ethnicity shows a clear dominance of roles. An increase in diversity can be observed as the years go by. Indians are receiving the second most roles due to the growth of Bollywood.

In reference to the graph representing the evolution of the actor/actress ratio, it can be observed that men are always given more roles than women. In none of the genders, women are given more roles. In genres such as action or adventure, the roles for men reach up to 80%. On the other hand, in family or romantic films, women gain importance.

Below is the same graph where the evolution is shown for all film genres. A clear trend can be observed in both graphs.

Etnicity evolution all genres Gender evolution all genres

In the graph showing the ethnicity of the main characters of each decade, the color white predominates over the rest. The rise of the Indian film industry can be seen and the trend seems to be increasing. The rest of the ethnicities continue to have fewer roles although clearly there has been an increase in their appearances in recent years.

The graph distinguishing between genres is even less encouraging. Although it shows a timid trend towards equality, there is a clear inequality in the number of male and female actors. Moreover, it can be seen that for some genres, the difference is much greater than for others.

The conclusion is that to date, the key to making a successful film has been to capture a reflection of society. Inequalities have crossed the big screen too. However, to show some hope, this study was based on films that are at least 10 years old. Today, there is a clear determination on the part of many production companies to increase cultural diversity in their productions. How would these charts change today? We leave this question for possible future studies.

What are the main topics of the top movies?

Word cloud for average movies:

All words

Word cloud for top movies of this genre:

Best words

A word cloud is a very easy way to quickly grasp the key topics around which revolves a text corpus. In our analysis, we use this technique to visualize the main themes addressed by a particular movie genre. We do this first with a random sample from all the movies in that genre, then we draw a sample from a subset made of the most successful movies in the same genre, to see if successful movies really stand above the rest when it comes to the topics they address.

Let's speak budget now. How much would you need to spend to get a successful movie?


An optimal budget is essential when making a movie for a number of reasons. First and foremost, a budget determines the scope and scale of a film. It determines how much money is available for production costs such as hiring actors, renting equipment, and paying for locations and sets. A larger budget allows for more resources to be invested in these areas, which can lead to a higher-quality film.

On the other hand, a smaller budget may limit the scope of the film and require filmmakers to be more creative and resourceful in order to achieve their vision. While it is certainly possible to make a great film on a small budget, it requires careful planning and efficient use of resources.

In addition to determining the scope and scale of a film, a budget also plays a critical role in the marketing and distribution of a movie. Marketing and distribution costs can be significant, and having an optimal budget can help ensure that a film reaches a wide audience and generates a return on investment.

Overall, an optimal budget is crucial for ensuring that a film has the resources it needs to be successful both creatively and financially. It allows filmmakers to achieve their vision and bring their stories to life, and it helps ensure that a film can reach a wide audience and generate a return on investment.

Do you prefer a happy or bad ending? Let's study the feelings that the movies give off

Select in the right legend the genres you wish to compare.

Movies after all are a form of art and as such they should sustain an emotional response in the viewer. This of course depends on what kind of movie it is: comedies should be funny, action movies exciting, horror movies scary and romantic movies heartwarming.

To quantify this we use a NLP technique called sentiment analysis on the movie summaries dataset. But instead of estimating the general sentiment across the whole movie we run the algorithm on the first and last sentence of each summary.

The ending of a movie is the last thing we keep in mind when we leave the cinema and as such it has a big impact on the impression we have in the long term.

The beginning of a movie when looked at in relation to the ending gives us some information about what kind of story it is: tragedy, fairytale...

This data is generated by running a sentiment analysis on the first and last sentences of the movie summaries. On the x and y axes, 1 represents the maximum positive sentiment (happy ending) and -1 the maximum negative sentiment (not so happy ending).

When is the best month to release your movie?

The release month of a movie can have a significant impact on its success. In general, the summer and holiday seasons are considered the most lucrative times for movie releases, as people are more likely to go to the cinema during these times.

The summer season, in particular, is considered a prime time for movie releases, as it falls during the school holidays and people tend to have more free time to go to the cinema. Major blockbuster movies are often released during the summer in an attempt to capitalize on this increased audience.

The holiday season, which includes Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, is also a popular time for movie releases, as people often have time off work and may be looking for entertainment during the festive period.

However, releasing a movie outside of these peak periods can also have its benefits. For example, a movie released in the fall or spring may not face as much competition from other big releases, and may therefore have a better chance of standing out. Additionally, a movie released in a non-peak period may also benefit from less competition for cinema screens, allowing it to be shown in more theaters.


Create your own movie. How successful can you make it?

Now it's your turn. After understanding what makes a successful movie, we present you this tool to create successful movies. We have created a model that predicts a score from 0 to 10 that evaluates how successful your movie is based on all the parameters presented on this website.

A linear Regression model is responsible for predicting the success of a hypothetical movie. The label that it is predicting is a Success Score (combination of IMDb ratings, Wikipedia pageviews, total gross revenue, and profit). This predictions are based on these features - Main Actor, Director, Genre, Original Language, and Country. In addition, you can see how your hypothetical movie is going to perform based on all the movies part of CMU Movie Summary Corpus.

Select an option from each dropdown menu in order to personalize your movie:

Choose the main actor

Choose the director

Choose the genre of your movie

Where are you going to produce the movie?

Choose the language of the original version


This score is out of 10

Your movie is going to be in the top


of all history of cinema

Putting it all together

There are many factors that can contribute to the success of a movie. Some of the most important include:

Ultimately, the success of a movie depends on a combination of these and other factors, and can vary widely depending on the genre, target audience, and other variables. The present study is limited by the absence of data on some of the abovementioned criterion such as marketing, soundtrack quality, writing, etc. For further studies, a more holistic view should be taken to further improve the accuracy our the model.