Live Poll: Which Movie Best Makes Legal History?

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Which movie inspired by a real-life courtroom case or litigation do you find to be the most compelling legal story?

See the partial list movies or mini-series (long movies) based on real-life courtroom cases or litigation here: https://www.imdb.com/list/ls040633524/

Poll: https://www.imdb.com/poll/yfhTkgC3TsY/
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urbanemovies

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Posted 1 year ago

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Stephen N Russell

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My 3: Amistad, Woman in Gold, Judgement at Nuremberg
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urbanemovies

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Updated Clarification Question's Scope
Which movie inspired by a real-life courtroom case or actual litigation do you find to be the most compelling legal story*? *Answer options made history as both landmark and influential cases, as well as, those of the more infamous and sensational nature.

Honorable Mentions


Compulsion 1959 | Movie 7.5 (5,044)
A fictionalized account inspired by infamous Leopold and Loeb murder case in 1924.


In Cold Blood 1967 | Movie 8.0 (21,503)
A fictionalized account inspired by the case against Richard Eugene "Dick" Hickock and Perry Edward Smith of a 1959 quadruple murder in western Kansas. 


Helter Skelter 1976 | TV Movie 7.4 (2,932)
A fictionalized account inspired by the multiple murder case against the members of murders committed by the Charles Manson Family. It recounts the murders Manson committed, the investigation and the 1970-71 trial.


Let Him Have It 1991 | Movie 7.3 (3,011)
A fictionalized account inspired by Derek Bentley's 1952 wrongful conviction and execution by hanging 12 years before the death penalty was abolished in the United Kingdom.


Separate But Equal 1991 | Mini-Series 7.4 (579)
 A fictionalized account inspired by the Briggs et al. v. Elliott et al. U.S. appellate case, the first of five school segregation cases, It along with the Brown v. Board of Education case ended with a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1954.* full length movie split into two mini-series installments


Gideon's Trumpet 1980 | TV Movie 7.2 (881)
A fictionalized account inspired by Gideon v. Wainwright, a case which led to the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that indigents had the right to court-appointed counsel.
(Edited)
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Jeorj Euler

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Another honorable mention:

 https://d2r1vs3d9006ap.cloudfront.net/s3_images/1771590/RackMultipart20190111-73448-tumzzu-defense_counsel_addressing_jury_at_trial.jpg?1547242864
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MAthePA

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it's in the second list
(Edited)
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urbanemovies

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Thanks, I had it on the original poll list, wanted to include it. But, I ultimately couldn't make the case over The Crucible (1996)/Separate But Equal (1991)/Gideon's Trumpet (1980) which got bumped up. So, it got bumped down to honorable mention status. A great movie that definitely had minor claims to be included.
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urbanemovies

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ANY NOTABLE OMISSIONS OR QUESTIONABLE INCLUSIONS?; STILL ADDING/DELETING TRUE STORY ANSWER OPTIONS, SUGGESTIONS WELCOME?

I am still looking to add real-life movie answer options that made history either as a landmark and influential case or those of the more infamous and sensational nature.
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urbanemovies

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On the Basis of Sex (2018) is released in theaters USA 25 December 2018 (limited)
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Ed Jones (XLIX)

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Hi UM
FYC

Class Action (1991)
Loosely based on the Ford Pinto's and Chevy pickups from the 70's that would have a fire risk in an accident if struck just right.
A Civil Action (1998)
Roe vs. Wade (1989) (TV Movie)
(Edited)
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urbanemovies

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(Edited)
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urbanemovies

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FYI
Focus Feature's On the Basis of Sex, will play in 113 locations this weekend (+80) before going wide in over 2,000 theaters next weekend Jan 11th).
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TheMovieSmith

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Recount and A Few Good Men
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urbanemovies

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Answer Option Pool Finalized
Completed and Ready for Publication
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MAthePA

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I'm sorry, your great idea not catched my eye earlier...
If it's not belated, the list has big-lacked with The Conspirator (2010). If some more weighted suggestions are welcome, I could work them out during half an hour after "yes" recieved here ))
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urbanemovies

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Thanks, The Conspirator (2010) was one my last five cuts. The four criteria I used were 1) widely seen movie 2) famous trial or case 3) legal precedent 4) societal significance. The Conspirator checks all four boxes but is on the lower end of scale when compared to others. I excluded it as a result, as it was hard to rank it above other included titles.

I have about another twenty I could have listed. These others were omitted either because primarily they were historical significant but weren't widely seen or were widely seen but not historical enough. Those that made the list were strong in one particular measure or made a combined case for inclusion. I would guess most of your suggestions would share these attributes. I started with a wider list that includes more cases of a "Sensational Real-Life Infamous Trial Movie" type and cut it down to thirty and did a fair amount of research to ensure completeness.

However, I would be interested in movie title suggestions that you feel are glaring omissions.
(Edited)
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MAthePA

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I need more time to analize your second poll to avoid possible duplicates from my side, and to think about the heading of this current poll that could be not so misleading...

Anyway, it would be great for now to clear out the "4) societal significance" - is it meant for movie or for the actual events? And should all the criteria be relative or only one of them, or how many?
(Edited)
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urbanemovies

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1) widely seen movie (threshold 50,000+ IMDb votes)
2) famous trial or case (threshold commonly known to general public)
3) legal precedent (threshold Supreme Court ruling, a first or some type of record)
4) societal significance (threshold changed course of history, world or society)

societal significance historical significant examples
Murder in the First (1995) inmate treatment / national prison reform
Loving (2016) race-based marriage prohibitions /inter-racial marriage
Inherit the Wind (1960) teaching human evolution vs creationism
North Country (2005) workplace sexual harassment.
Philadelphia (1993) wrongful termination / LBGT rights
Luther (2003) freedom of religion
The Accused (1988) victims' treatment /victim's privacy rights
A Cry in the Dark (1988) ‘trial by media’

Either the case and/or movie can inspire change or make history. Like, how the movie JFK (1991) changed both public opinion and sparked Congress to enact a law declassifying documents How a 1991 movie resulted in JFK's assassination files being released. The actual prosecution by Jim Garrison of Clay Shaw was the most vocal voice at the time (newspaper headlines, news broadcasts) that a conspiracy had occurred or that the government investigation was flawed highlighted by the number of inconsistencies in the Warren report.
(Edited)
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Ideally, hitting all the criteria and hitting them hard is best, but not realistic. So, accepting some misses or weaknesses is acceptable. But, the more flawed the option is, the less likely it is to be included.

The Conspirator (2010), for example is borderline across the board, in my opinion.
1) 26,129 votes
2) The trial was famous in its day, but largely forgotten today.
3) The hanging/death penalty of a female conspirator is its biggest claim to fame .
4) The crime of Abraham Lincoln's assassination changed history, but case, trial and movie did not.

I gave it kudos for hitting all four to some degree, but it never was compelling enough in a single or combination of criteria to force its way into the answer pool.

Conversely, Roe vs. Wade (1989 TV Movie) misses huge in viewership but hits all the other criteria extremely well.
1) 264 votes
2) The trial was famous in its day, still discussed today and is common knowledge
3) Landmark 1973 United States Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade
4) The case changed history, empowered woman in society and is actively discussed  every political cycle/election. However, despite stars Holly Hunter, Amy Madigan in the Golden Globe winning and nominated performances the movie has been forgotten.
(Edited)
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MAthePA

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Which Movie Best Makes Legal History?

Which movie inspired by a real-life courtroom case or litigation do you find to be the most compelling legal story?
If the above is the draft for this poll, my suggestion is to avoid the semantic and textual transforms between "story" and "history". At least, "Which Movie Best Makes Legal Story?" would be enough to equal the further heading lines. A lot of nutral slogans may be produced if you need, e.g. "Best Movie for Actual Legal Story".

Anyway, whether you change the heading or not, the main problem I see in a little part of content that, IMHO, spoils the clean idea:

1) Joan of Arc (1999) may be entertaining for audience, but if the juridical procedures is the heading for this poll, for these historic events I see no better movie-version than La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928);

2) Chicago (2002). I do love this unique musical, but can not understand placing it here. The movie is based on a stage-play (!) which in its turn is inspired by two different stories. The two actual protagonists and their legal cases were not known untill the stage accepted them for pure entertaiment. The stage-play and the further musical resulted to no changes or any impact for any legal system. Pure entertainment;

3) I agree JFK (1991) had impact on public opinion, but it is concerned on post-investigation and is more manipulative than historic - it is not an opinion of one man or a little group of people. Its creator is not denying the fact the whole movie was aimed to make the files open for public. If we take How a 1991 movie resulted in JFK's assassination files being released mentioned above, it lacks of interrogation mark. JFK (1991) did not fulfiled its mission.The 75 years of initial taboo were transformed into less strict 50-years taboo (such norm is in practice much longer than the age of Oliver Stone, btw) reffering to the President's right to actualize it or not, or do it partially. Finally, 25 years after the movie release date the President of USA made a part of the files open for public. Ask Oliver what he has read new in the opened files... We may go a long and endless way in disputing, but I consider it not worthy for time and efforts, because who wanna be fooled finds the way to be happy with that )))

I'm further thinking of additional titles, but prefer to separate printing them, if any.
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Ed Jones (XLIX)

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Well Put!
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The inspiration and timely tie-in for the poll is On the Basis of Sex (2018) and to find movies that measure up or are comparable in theme and cinematically. The "Notorious R.B.G." argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1976, winning five. Therefore, the use of "Legal History" is key, it is not just about movies  being a compelling legal themed movie or story. The legal history in some shape or form is the central component of this poll suggestion. However, I did intentionally leave the question open to interpretation, so voters if inclined could vote for the best legal movie or best legal story, if the more scholarly approach proves too taxing.

As I pointed out, perfect options are a rarity. I tried to look at different ways to read or answer question and include options that are top five options using a single criteria and fill out the remainder with more balanced options that score well across the board. I had the same reservations on these movies and agree they are flawed in a one or two ways, but when viewed in the aggregate strong enough to be included, but not weak enough to be excluded.

1) Specifically, I wanted to include the Joan of Arc, an ecclesiastical court case as being one of the most famous in real-life, as well as, the most represented with several movies over the past century:  La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928), Joan of Arc (1948), Joan of Arc (1999), Joan of Arc (1999– ) among others. They all had merits, I saw this a pick-em situation, but I have switched to your recommendation of La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928).

2) Likewise, fictional character Roxanne "Roxie" Hart inspired by the real-life 1924 murder trials of Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner. were well-publicized cases in the 1920's. While, hardly nobody knows them today, everyone is familiar the basics of the case and the name of their fictional offspring. "The Women Who Inspired Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly". The fame of the Broadway productions and Hollywood movies has certainly eclipsed the famous real-life 1924 murder trials.

The play made it to Broadway in 1926 and ran for 172 performances. Gaertner attended the Chicago opening. Its adaptations include:

Performers who have portrayed Roxie Hart in the musical also include Katherine Edgar, Paige Davis, Liza Minnelli (who substituted for Gwen Verdon in the original production in 1975), Ann Reinking, Bianca Marroquin, Brooke Shields,[2] Ruthie Henshall, Melora Hardin,[3] Ashlee Simpson,[2] Melanie Griffith,[2] Samantha Harris, Michelle Williams,[2] Christie Brinkley[4] and Brandy Norwood.[5] Henshall, Simpson, Shields, and Williams have portrayed the character both on Broadway and The West End. Bebe Neuwirth, who won a Tony Award for the role of Velma Kelly in 1997, also portrayed Roxie in the same production in 2006.

While I agree it didn't set any legal precedents, I do think it historically had some impact on both the legal movie genre and society's view of women as criminals. I could have chosen any one of a half-dozen adaptations, I opted for the Oscar-winning one. While, very weak on criteria #3) legal precedent (threshold Supreme Court ruling, a first or some type of record and borderline on #4) societal significance (threshold changed course of history, world or society) It is near the top position on criteria #1) widely seen movie (threshold 50,000+ IMDb votes) and criteria #2) famous trial or case (threshold commonly known to general public) is enough to counter-balance and make it into the answer pool. Please, note I am not including an O.J. Simpson trial movie, the Prosecuting Casey Anthony (TV Movie 2013), or any other purely sensational  legal movie that doesn't make a case across-the-board.

3) JFK (1991) makes a similar case with a weakness in #3) legal precedent (threshold Supreme Court ruling, a first or some type of record. But, it is near the top position on criteria #1) widely seen movie (threshold 50,000+ IMDb votes) and criteria #2) famous trial or case (threshold commonly known to general public) is enough to counter-balance and make it into the answer pool. It is even stronger in #4) societal significance (threshold changed course of history, world or society). I can't think of another movie that created as much publicity before or after it was released. Likewise, I can't think of one that forced Congress to hold hearings, let alone pass a law. How a 1991 movie resulted in JFK's assassination files being released. Plus, The actual prosecution by Jim Garrison of Clay Shaw was the most vocal voice at the time (newspaper headlines, news broadcasts) and documents a historical significant real-life event of even more famous assassination.

I feel all are worthy or worthy enough to be included in the answer pool, while they like just every other answer option have some flaws. I also feel when viewed in the aggregate, there inclusion doesn't deny any other legal movies a spot they have earned. At worst, we can agree they may be on par with other movie options that have their own warts and are judgement calls.

Anyways, I made the one change and detailed the thought process behind the two others. I agree and share your issues on these films, just not that it precludes Chicago (2002)  or JFK (1991) inclusion as options. I certainly can understand a poll taker's decision not to vote for either, as neither would be among my top fifteen choices for a vote to the question: Which Movie Best Makes Legal History?
(Edited)
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MAthePA

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I love Chicago. For more entertainment it would be no kidding to suggest Bernie (2011), if only more legal procedures in this movie ;)

I suggest to look closer to and deeper in The Conspirator (2010). The case of Abraham Lincoln's assassination resulted in the death penalty for Mary Surratt ("female conspirator"), she was hanged to death. Later her son stood under legal procedure in the same case based on the same evidence, and he survived but was blamed more guilty than his dead mother. (It is one and the same case, but it would be really boring to show the whole son's part in the movie.) Finally, the death penalty of Mary Surratt was treated as baseless and excessive. It's a horrible mistake to consider the case had no effect! The Surratt precedent was the base for breakthrough in justice to its modern form as we know it (not only in USA). It helped to strengthen the presumption of innocence principle and further in some states to eliminate or restrict the death-penalty verdicts.

One more suggestion is Fair Game (2010).

I've tried to search for an opportunity to watch Roe vs. Wade, but no luck at this moment, can not help you with this.

Taking your second list into account, I have no more suggestions - they are spread in the two lists, but for now I pepped out to categorize between all the anchors in the structure of both )))

I've found a dozen of items to search for watching, thank you!
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I envision the second list morphing into a poll focused on the more famous sensational cases that had no legal history or limited impact, so the two list will be completely different and have minimal overlap. I see Fair Game (2010) a better fit for the  "Sensational Real-Life Infamous Trial Movie" poll. I enjoyed Bernie (2011) too, but it belongs on the sensational list more too. Chicago could be one of the rare titles to make both poll lists.

I have seen all these movies just once each. As, I recall the trial aspect of Fair Game
is a minor aspect and just at the end, but the case is laid out throughout the movie.

"In the aftermath of the scandal, Richard Armitage in the U.S. Department of State was identified as one source of the information, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of lying to investigators. After a failed appeal, President George W. Bush commuted Libby's sentence, and in 2018 President Donald Trump pardoned him."

As for The Conspirator, my perception is the same as your on Mary Surratt, likely innocent and certainly more so than her son. The difference in the two cases has more to do the timing of the trials and the blood thirst in the nation in the immediate aftermath of the assignation of Lincoln. Your point "Finally, the death penalty of Mary Surratt was treated as baseless and excessive. It's a horrible mistake to consider the case had no effect! The Surratt precedent was the base for breakthrough in justice to its modern form as we know it (not only in USA). It helped to strengthen the presumption of innocence principle and further in some states to eliminate or restrict the death-penalty verdicts" gives me the ammunition to move it from the cusp of exclusion to the cusp of inclusion. I added The Conspirator (2010) to the answer pool for "Which Movie Best Makes Legal History?

The Conspirator 2010 | Movie

A historical drama based of the trial and execution of the Abraham Lincoln assassination conspirators. The movie focuses on a likely innocent Mary Surratt caught up in the blood thirst of a nation clamoring for justice. Her execution helped to strengthen the presumption of innocence principle and further the elimination of the death-penalty verdicts.

Roe vs. Wade, the TV movie is a tough find, it probably hasn't been released in some time. All I could find was a 1990s LaserDisc version. I am conflicted on including Roe vs. Wade, as a new Roe v. Wade just finished filming. Despite, the two Golden Globe nominations, it sounds like NBC was concerned about controversy and bad press.

Roe vs. Wade, the  1989 TV movie
"The script was rewritten seventeen times because network censors did not want the end result appearing as overly prochoice. Scriptwriter Alison Cross in particular was forced to mollify the prochoice lawyer’s image and portray a better case for those opposing abortion. NBC also deleted a scene showing some of the blood and filth of an illegal abortion mill.[3]"
(Edited)
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Thanks again for the feedback
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Philadelphia gets my vote. It really surprised me I didn't expect the impact that have on me. When I saw the sinopsys in the first time i was like meh, it may be an OK movie but I gave him a chance and it really exceeds my expectations. More than OK... It is a great movie.
(Edited)
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I liked it too and really enjoyed it likewise because I didn't have any expectations going in. Great cast and a well-told story,
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Answer Option Pool Finalized
Completed and Ready for Publication
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urbanemovies

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bump On the Basis of Sex (2018) DVD release
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'What a good poll and what a seemingly impossible choice. 'Probably 'Judgement at Nuremberg,' but perhaps 'North Country,' and a few others. It won't get my vote but I'm glad to see the relatively unknown 'A Cry in the Dark' on there and, oh wow, Jodie Foster's performance in 'Accused' still knocks the wind out of me. 
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thanks
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Congratulations urbanemovies on your 302nd live poll! As of 17-Apr-2019 7:42 PM Pacific your polls have 445,533 or more votes, for an average of 1,475 votes per poll.

Which Movie Best Makes Legal History?
7607th Live Poll: https://www.imdb.com/poll/yfhTkgC3TsY/
Seen: http://www.imdb.com/seen/ls040633524/

This is the 3,422nd Title poll. Such polls have a total of 8,144,286 votes for an average of 2,380 votes per poll.
Total Number of Votes			17,149,730
Projected Date of 20 Million Votes	18-Jun-2020
Days Until 20 Million Votes		427
This is the list of urbanemovies' polls as of 4-Apr-2019:

Sorted Alphabetically http://mypollwatch.blogspot.com/2014/05/imdb-polls-alphabetical-by-author.html#urbanemovies

In Decreasing Order of Votes http://mypollwatch.blogspot.com/2015/03/imdb-polls-descending-order-of-votes-by.html#urbanemovies

Alphabetical List of Polls http://mypollwatch.blogspot.com/2014/03/imdb-polls-alphabetical.html

Top IMDb Polls http://mypollwatch.blogspot.com/2015/07/top-imdb-polls.html

IMDb Polls - Descending Order of Votes http://mypollwatch.blogspot.com/2013/12/imdb-polls-descending-order-of-votes.html

Summary Statistics http://mypollwatch.blogspot.com/2016/05/summary-statistics.html

Key Threads - IMDb Poll FAQs Index https://getsatisfaction.com/imdb/topics/faq-key-threads-imdb-poll-faqs-index

How to Improve the Chance of Having your Poll on the Home Page https://getsatisfaction.com/imdb/topics/faq-how-to-improve-the-chance-of-having-your-poll-on-the-hom...