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This is an on-topic question. We all want questions about movies to be on-topic, but what are movies? Every thinks to know, but can we really give a definition? Is it release for cinema? But what about TV-movies? In another question I asked about shorts, the only answer suggests, that movies of all length should be included. Can we come up with a good definition of movies?


From the discussion so far, I extract something along the lines:

We define for the purpose of this site movie as a work of art that uses motion pictures as medium.

OK, that seems not complete so far. We need more to this.

  • According to Princeton University, a television show is "a program broadcast by television," which Wikipedia extends to "a segment of content which is intended to be broadcast on television" either once or recurring. By definition TV movies, miniseries, and television shorts (eg Oh Yeah! Cartoons!) are on-topic for a TV site. – Aarthi Dec 9 '11 at 17:13
  • By contrast, the extensive definitions of film terms are almost universally not applicable to most television shows. Short films are perfectly on topic for a Movies/Film Appreciation site. Commercials are considered advertising and thus off-topic. There already exists a good definition of movies. In fact, this definition is considered so obvious by the MPAA, that it does not define "film" or "movies" on its site! – Aarthi Dec 9 '11 at 17:18
  • You asked the wrong question. The correct question would be "What are motion pictures?" seeing that we are asking whether TV would be on-topic means that we asking for change in the site's purpose to Motion Pictures. – phwd Dec 9 '11 at 19:09
  • I didn't asked here, if TV-shows are on-topic (I'm sure TV-movies should be on-topic in any case). I ask for a definition for movies. – Mnementh Dec 9 '11 at 19:21
  • A commercial isn't a movie. This is clear as day. Where's the plot? What's the genre? Who's the star? Who's the protagonist? I really don't see the point of this question. I agree with what Brett says here "If the people lobbying so hard for a definition of a movie could come up with a definition of movies that includes movies and television (since there's such a support for TV to be covered here) WHILE somehow excluding music videos and commercials, go for it. I'd like to read that." There is no point in making a definition of a movie. – phwd Dec 9 '11 at 19:34
  • I take out the commercial-example. It seems to distract people from my question. I already said that most people would commercials not call movies, I wanted to find the border. – Mnementh Dec 9 '11 at 19:40
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    @Aarthi I understood the question to mean “What it the scope of the site?” Whether the name captures the scope well is not a useful question until the scope is determined. – Gilles Dec 12 '11 at 0:08
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Movie is short for motion picture. If it relates to a picture that moves, then it should be considered.

However, the focus of the site should be cinema. I think a good rule of thumb is anything that can win an Oscar or Golden Globe (or similar award) is definitely on-topic.

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    Golden Globes include TV. And yes, movie is short for motion picture, but as used in English it would never be confused for television program. By that same logic, a flip-book of a walking dude would also be on topic for a site that allows on-topic anything with a moving picture. As would a toy that, when rubbed quickly between one's hands, creates the image of a bird flapping its wings. – Aarthi Dec 9 '11 at 18:08
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    @Aarthi I suppose the point I was trying to make is that the site should be focused on the medium, not how it is distributed or published. Flip books and toys are not eligible for movie awards and so are not relevant to the site. – Pubby Dec 9 '11 at 20:33
  • I actually do agree that movie award eligibility should lead to consideration on this site. :D There's plenty of other awards too: Cannes, BAFTA, MPAA/Oscars, FilmFare, Sundance, etc. – Aarthi Dec 9 '11 at 20:35
  • Also, what's the difference between film and movie? Or is that more of a language question? – poepje Jun 11 '12 at 11:25
  • Good question btw, in the olden' days (such as Laurel&Hardy) the movies were oftenly around 20 min. short. But they did call those movies. – poepje Jun 11 '12 at 11:26
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A movie is a movie. I think we're all getting way too nitpicky with what is and isn't "a movie" when I have an incredibly strong feeling that we all know a movie when we see it (the "you know sci-fi when you see it" method has been applied to great success at SF&F). Would anyone honestly, HONESTLY, call "The Wire" a movie? Would anyone? Who would ever call "I Love Lucy" or "Hannah Montana" a movie? Those are unquestionably TV shows. Does anyone leave a screening and say "That Coca-Cola movie before the Muppets movie was a really great movie!" No. Because we know it's a commercial. It's shown in a theater like a movie, it advertises products like a movie, and is intended to be shown in a theater like a movie. But it's a commercial. And no one would call a commercial shown in a theater a movie, and no one would ask a question about it on this site. And if they did, you close it, because it's obvious that it's not a movie.

For the most part, and this is true for almost every question on the site currently, a movie is a moving picture of at least 60 minutes in length that as originally shown in movie theaters. Are movies sometimes shorter than that? Sometimes incredibly shorter. Were they originally released on DVD or shown on television? Sometimes. Yes. And those are on-topic here. But giving a hard definition of what movies are (when we all already know what a movie is 90% of the time) we will end up including EVERYTHING and therefore losing the real scope of the site. If the people lobbying so hard for a definition of a movie could come up with a definition of movies that includes movies and television (since there's such a support for TV to be covered here) WHILE somehow excluding music videos and commercials, go for it. I'd like to read that.

The instances where there will be weird vague overlap are going to be so few and far between. Do we honestly expect a ton of traffic about a Hallmark Channel movie? Or "Holiday in Handcuffs" starring Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez? When TV movies and miniseries come up, on the off chance they do, deal with them on a question-by-question basis. The criteria set forth in the name of this site, "Movies," is incredibly clear.

We are attracting smart, literate, well-educated and critically thinking people to this site. If someone honestly thinks that the dancing popcorn box they saw before "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is a movie in its own right, they need to be corrected.

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    I like that you suggest, that we handle corner-cases on a question-by-question base. I foresee some complaint, if in such cases the opinions on what a movie is differ, but you may be right, that this case is seldom. We should give it a try. – Mnementh Dec 9 '11 at 17:49
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    Ah, I got a real big corner case. Here in germany we have a long running (since 1970) series of crime TV-movies named Tatort (roughly translatable to Crime scene). They are produced by the different regional organizations of one of our TV-stations (ARD) and sometimes even from austrian TV-station (ORF). They considered high quality, have a comparatively big budget and every movie is independent of the others (while one team of actors and crew might make multiple movies). That is really in a grey area, as some will call that a TV-show, while others will take it as branded TV-movies. – Mnementh Dec 9 '11 at 19:28
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    +1 For taking something directly out of my brain and finding the appropriate words for it, that I myself couldn't find. It's just all about intuitivity and c'mon, we all know what a movie is, no matter where we've seen it. period. – Napoleon Wilson Dec 14 '11 at 0:31
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Movie is short for motion picture. If it relates to a picture that moves, then it should be considered.

That definition includes Rambo 3 and Snakes in a Plane as well as Rome and Terry Pratchett's Hogfather.

Joel Spolsky asked “what's the right size domain for a Stack Exchange site?” And came to the conclusion that

the right size might be somewhere around the size of a university department. Somehow, the cultural anthropologists don’t mind sharing a building with the physical anthropologists, and when they both find themselves at the Yale-Harvard football game, you can bet that they’ll sit together and find something anthropological to talk about.

If it's made by people who got a degree in film making, I'd say it's a movie.

And when it comes to watchers, of course everybody has different tastes. That doesn't mean there should be separate sites for chick flicks and martial arts movies.

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    So documentaries, news broadcasts, stand-up comedy shows, television commercials, infomercials, and home videos should be considered on-topic, since they are all about pictures that move? – Flimzy Dec 10 '11 at 6:05
  • @Flimzy Documentaries, yes: same medium, same techniques, same audience. Stand-up comedies: insofar as they're in cinemas or on TVs as opposed to live, yes. Commercials, perhaps not, because they have a different audience. Home videos, I guess not, because this site is about the consumption of an art form, whereas most of the interest in home videos is how to make them. – Gilles Dec 10 '11 at 17:39
  • Hmm, I think 'art form' is an important word here to define, what we want to accept as movies. – Mnementh Dec 11 '11 at 23:57

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