Sukanya Bag — Updated On March 15th, 2022
Advanced NLP Python Recommendation
This article was published as a part of the Data Science Blogathon. Movie Recommendation Engine
Source – VSH Solutions


Have you ever imagined how Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Google predict your taste in movies so easily? It is no rocket science, that after completing one movie/series you loved, and rated it on these platforms, a few more adds up to the suggested or ‘You May Like this ‘ section in seconds! It is Machine Learning. A recommendation system predicts and filters user preferences after learning about the user’s past choices. As simple as that!

 There are generally two types of Recommendation Systems-

1. Content-Based Recommendation System-

A Content-Based Recommender System is one that follows a content-based filtration method to generate recommendations to the user. Content-Based filtration is mainly focused on recommending similar products to the user based on their history.

2. Collaborative Recommendation System-

A Collaborative Recommender System, on the other hand, does not take an individual user at a time but a cluster of similar or alike users (here, users with almost likely taste in movies), and based on those users’ ratings, recommends similar products to those group or cluster of users.

Tutorial Overview

In this article, we will develop a Content-Based Movie Recommendation System with the IMDB  top 250 English Movies dataset.

Let us have a short overlook at what we will be covering-

1. Importing the Dependencies and Loading the Data

2. Text Preprocessing with NLP

3. Generating Word Representations using Bag Of Words

4. Vectorizing Words and Creating the Similarity Matrix

5. Training and Testing Our Recommendation Engine

Note – Before starting with this section, check if you have the dependencies installed! If not, create a file named ‘requirements.txt’ (in the same directory where you have your data and code) and paste the dependencies given below. Then open a fresh terminal, navigate to the target directory, and type in ‘pip install requirements.txt’. And there you go! You are ready for the project.


1. pandas

2. numpy

3. sklearn

4. rake-nltk

So, let’s begin!

Importing the Dependencies and Loading the Data

So, let us begin by importing the necessary libraries first!

#ignore warnings
import warnings
warnings.simplefilter(action='ignore', category=FutureWarning)
warnings.simplefilter(action='ignore', category=DeprecationWarning)
import pandas as pd
import numpy as np
from rake_nltk import Rake
from sklearn.metrics.pairwise import cosine_similarity
from sklearn.feature_extraction.text import CountVectorizer

Now let us load and print out our dataframe.

df = pd.read_csv('IMDB_Top250Engmovies2_OMDB_Detailed.csv')

Let’s have a quick overview of our dataset-

# data overview
print('Rows x Columns : ', df.shape[0], 'x', df.shape[1])
print('Features: ', df.columns.tolist())
print('nUnique values:')
Rows x Columns :  250 x 5
Features:  ['Title', 'Director', 'Actors', 'Plot', 'Genre']

Unique values:
Title       250
Director    155
Actors      248
Plot        250
Genre       110
dtype: int64

Now, let’s check the missing values and print a short summary of statistics-

# type of entries, how many missing values/null fields
print('nMissing values:  ', df.isnull().sum().values.sum())


A short summary of statistics-



So, let us now preprocess our data!

Text Preprocessing with NLP

Natural Language Processing techniques are our savior when we have to deal with textual data. Since our data cannot be fed to any machine-learning model unless we clean it, that’s where NLP comes to play!

Let’s clean our text data –

Firstly, let us create a new column in our dataframe that will hold all necessary keywords required for the model. We name it ‘Key_words’. Further, we use a very special NLP library known as RAKE (short for Rapid Automatic Keyword Extraction algorithm). RAKE is a keyword extraction algorithm that extracts those key phrases in a text corpus by determining the frequency of words and their relative occurrence with other words in the corpus.

Let’s implement it-

# to remove punctuations from Plot
df['Plot'] = df['Plot'].str.replace('[^ws]','')
# to extract key words from Plot to a list
df['Key_words'] = ''   # initializing a new column
r = Rake()   # using Rake to remove stop words

for index, row in df.iterrows():
    r.extract_keywords_from_text(row['Plot'])   # to extract key words 
    key_words_dict_scores = r.get_word_degrees()    # to get dictionary with key words and their similarity scores
    row['Key_words'] = list(key_words_dict_scores.keys())   # to assign it to new column


Let’s look at the keywords generated-

Next, we must make sure that our model is not confused with the actors and directors with similar first names, to be the same person. A lot of wrong recommendations can happen if it does so, and hence it needs to be feature engineered in such a way that the model can distinguish them as different entities. To do that, we simply need to merge the first names and surnames into one single word.

This will ensure the recommender detects a similarity only if the person associated with different movies is exactly the same-

# to extract all genre into a list, only the first three actors into a list, and all directors into a list
df['Genre'] = df['Genre'].map(lambda x: x.split(','))
df['Actors'] = df['Actors'].map(lambda x: x.split(',')[:3])
df['Director'] = df['Director'].map(lambda x: x.split(','))

# create unique names by merging firstname & surname into one word, & convert to lowercase 
for index, row in df.iterrows():
    row['Genre'] = [x.lower().replace(' ','') for x in row['Genre']]
    row['Actors'] = [x.lower().replace(' ','') for x in row['Actors']]
    row['Director'] = [x.lower().replace(' ','') for x in row['Director']]

Let’s now look at the ‘Directors’ and ‘Actors’ column-

Now we have unique identity values for each name.

Generating Word Representations using Bag of Words

BoW or Bag of Words is an Information Retrieval(IR) model which is useful for creating a representation of text, which describes the occurrence of words in a document or simply implies to us whether a particular word is frequent in the text corpus or not.

It is very useful for creating vector representations of frequent words in a corpus and then computing the similarity scores (what we will see shortly as ‘similarity matrix’.)

So, let us implement the BoW model-

# to combine 4 lists (4 columns) of key words into 1 sentence under Bag_of_words column
df['Bag_of_words'] = ''
columns = ['Genre', 'Director', 'Actors', 'Key_words']

for index, row in df.iterrows():
    words = ''
    for col in columns:
        words += ' '.join(row[col]) + ' '
    row['Bag_of_words'] = words
# strip white spaces infront and behind, replace multiple whitespaces (if any)
df['Bag_of_words'] = df['Bag_of_words'].str.strip().str.replace('   ', ' ').str.replace('  ', ' ')

df = df[['Title','Bag_of_words']]

Let’s look into our new column, ‘Bag_of_words’-

 Movie Recommendation Engine

So our final input data to the model is now ready. But wait, a machine can only interpret numbers, not texts! Yes, you guessed it right; we need to vectorize our input now!

Vectorizing BoW and Creating the Similarity Matrix

Here, we will convert our BoW into vector representations with the help of much of a popular tool named Count Vectorizer. Count Vectorizer, gifted by our very own Scikit Learn library, converts words into their respective vector forms, on the basis of the frequency count of each word. Hence, the name, Count Vectorizer! Once the count vectorizer has done its job, and we have a matrix of all word counts, we will generate the similarity matrix with the help of cosine similarity.

Cosine similarity does a pretty straightforward high-school math! It measures the similarity between two vectors, by the cosine of the angle between them, and based on the value it gets, it decides whether the two vectors are moving in the same direction.

Let’s implement what we just discussed-

# to generate the count matrix
count = CountVectorizer()
count_matrix = count.fit_transform(df['Bag_of_words'])
cosine_sim = cosine_similarity(count_matrix, count_matrix)

Let’s examine the output-

 Movie Recommendation Engine

So, we have successfully computed our similarity matrix of 250 rows x 250 columns!

Now, let’s make sure that our Title column is well inclined with the row and column index of the similarity matrix.

indices = pd.Series(df['Title'])

And we are now able to properly map the titles with the row and columns of our similarity matrix!

Training and Testing Our Recommendation Engine

Now that all the text-preprocessing and other NLP responsibilities are over, we will create a final method that will take a movie title as input, and returns the top 5 similar movies.

Steps involved in this method-

1. First, it takes in a movie title as user input.

2. Matches the input title with the respective index of the similarity matrix

3. Extracts the similarity values in the top to bottom or descending fashion

4. Extract (N+1) movies and remove the 1st one as it’s the user input itself

5. Give the Top N recommendations to the user

Let’s now implement it-

# this function takes in a movie title as input and returns the top 5 recommended (similar) movies

def recommend(title, cosine_sim = cosine_sim):
    recommended_movies = []
    idx = indices[indices == title].index[0]   # to get the index of the movie title matching the input movie
    score_series = pd.Series(cosine_sim[idx]).sort_values(ascending = False)   # similarity scores in descending order
    top_5_indices = list(score_series.iloc[1:6].index)   # to get the indices of top 6 most similar movies
    # [1:6] to exclude 0 (index 0 is the input movie itself)
    for i in top_5_indices:   # to append the titles of top 10 similar movies to the recommended_movies list
    return recommended_movies

recommend('The Avengers')

Now, let’s see what we got recommended-

['Avengers: Age of Ultron',
 'Captain America: Civil War',
 'The Incredible Hulk',
 'Iron Man 3'
 'Guardians of the Galaxy',

Great recommendations!


Congratulations on reaching the end of the blog and getting your movie recommender ready! I hope you had fun exploring how a recommender system works under the hood. I would suggest you try out this on your own with different data! Remember the more datasets you work with, the greater challenges you face.

All the best with that!

Read more articles on Recommendation Engine here.

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