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Paul Chin Jr.
Paul Chin Jr.

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How to use external APIs with Serverless Functions

Working with an external API is a very common use case. In this post we will be using a Lambda function to make a data call to the Open Movie Database to get a list of Nicolas Cage movies and some information.

Create a new Architect project

The first step is starting a new Architect project from the command line

npm init @architect ./cage-characters
cd cage-characters
npm install @architect/functions tiny-json-http
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Infrastructure as Code

Let's take a look at the app.arc file. This file is our infrastructure as code manifest. It lives in the root of our project and tells Architect where the code lives and how to deploy it.


get /
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In this example, we're only using a single route. So let's modify the get-index function. But first, we need to get an API key from the Open Movie Database. Grab one by going to and they will email you an API key to include in the request.

Set up environment variables

We're going to set up a prefs.arc file to use as an environment variable so we don't commit this secret to GitHub.

Create a prefs.arc file in the root of your project.

# prefs.arc

  MOVIE_API_KEY your-api-key-here
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When we deploy this app, we will set environment variables in the Begin console.

Now we can start to modify the get-index handler with our logic to query the movie database and display the information in the browser.

// src/http/get-index/index.js

let arc = require('@architect/functions')
let tiny = require('tiny-json-http')

async function route(req) {
  let url = `${process.env.MOVIE_API_KEY}`
  let imageUrl = ''
  let result = await tiny.get({url})
  let movies = result.body.cast

  let html = => `<h3>${movie.character} - ${movie.original_title}</h3> <p>${movie.overview}</p> <img src=${imageUrl + movie.backdrop_path}></img>`).join('')

  return {
    statusCode: 200,
    html: html

exports.handler = arc.http.async(route)
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This function returns a string back to the browser to render as HTML. You can now run npm start to kick off the local development server and look at the results at http://localhost:3333.

Depoloying on Begin

The final step is to deploy this application on Begin. Begin is the easiest way to deploy your Architect projects to live AWS infrastructure. To do this, create a free Begin account by going to and using your GitHub account to log in. Create a new app and associate it with this repo. Begin will then create hooks to your repo and deploy the app to a staging environment on every git push.

You can see the full code example here:

You can find the full documentation for the Open Movie Database here:

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