Sometimes, the hardest part of a movie to translate is the title, and the results can be unintentionally hilarious. To prove it, here are 28 movie title translations, translated back into English. Can you guess the original titles? The answers are below the fold.
- He’s A Ghost!
- The Hole of Malkovich
- Captain Supermarket
- Is The Spy Capable Or Not?
- 17-Year-Old Girl’s Medical Chart
- The Teeth from the Sea
- Satan Female Soldier
- I’m Drunk, and You’re a Prostitute
- Run! Run! Cloudzilla!
- I Will Marry a Prostitute to Save Money
- The Explosive Woman
- The Desire to Win
- Sex Crimes
- Gangsters, Sex, and Karaoke
- The Boy Who Drowned in Chocolate
- Young People Who Traverse Dimensions While Wearing Sunglasses
- Multinationals Go Home!
- Action Skyscraper
- Die Hard: Mega Hard
- Electronic Murderer
- Mr. Cat Poop
- His Great Device Makes Him Famous
- The Night Of The Cold Noses
- Super Power Dare Die Team
- Dimwit Surges Forth
- The Lady in Yellow
- Interplanetary Unusual Attacking Team
Ready to see how many movie title translations you got right?
Here are the original English titles:
- The Sixth Sense, Chinese edition. (Spoilers!)
- Grease, Argentinian edition. If you’ve ever wondered what John Travolta used on his hair in this film, now you have your answer.
- Being John Malkovich, Japanese edition. Hmmm.
- Army of Darkness, Japanese edition. Come on; Ash deserves better than that!
- Get Smart, Taiwanese edition. Is the spy capable? That’s a fair question.
- Girl, Interrupted, Japanese edition.
- Jaws, French edition.
- G.I. Jane, Chinese edition. Demi Moore’s character is hardcore, but calling her Satan seems a little bit harsh, don’t you think?
- Leaving Las Vegas, Japanese edition. This translation defintely tells it like it is.
- Twister, Chinese edition. From now on, I will refer to all tornadoes as “cloudzillas.” Who’s with me?
- Pretty Woman, Chinese edition. I’m not sure how that shopping spree counts as “saving money,” though.
- Weird Science, Italian edition.
- Teen Wolf, Italian edition. Italians like their movie titles to provide as much detail about the plot as possible. Perhaps “Teen Wolf” wasn’t descriptive enough?
- Wild Things, French edition. Apparently, the French like to add the word “sex” when they translate movie titles from English. Why not? Sex sells.
- Love, Honor and Obey, French edition. I think I like the French title better, honestly.
- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Danish edition. That’s an odd choice since Augustus Gloop isn’t the main character.
- The Matrix, French edition. Hey, at least they didn’t add the word “sex.” And those sunglasses were pretty cool.
- I ♥ Huckabees, Hungarian edition.
- Die Hard, Norwegian edition
- No, that’s not an adult film, that’s what the Danish called “Die Hard With a Vengeance.”
- The Terminator, Polish edition.
- As Good as it Gets, Hong Kong edition. Apparently, “Melvin,” the name of Jack Nicholson’s character, sounds an awful lot like the Cantonese word for “cat poop.”
- Boogie Nights, Chinese edition. “Great device,” eh? I guess that’s one word for it.
- 101 Dalmatians, Spanish edition.
- Ghostbusters, in Chinese. No, really. Chinese censors don’t take kindly to depictions of supernatural creatures like ghosts, so the title was an attempt to get the movie past them. It didn’t work.
- The Waterboy, Thai edition. That’s an apt description of most Adam Sandler movies.
- Murder, She Wrote, Italian edition. Does Angela Lansbury’s character even wear yellow in the movie? This title translation may sound awkward to English ears, but there’s actually a good reason for it. A popular series of Italian crime novels from the 1930s had bright yellow covers, so thrillers, horror and crime fiction are referred to as “giallo.”
- Guardians of the Galaxy, Chinese release.
What’s behind these weird movie title translations? Movies can be difficult to translate, to begin with, and titles are often especially tricky because they often rely on slang, idioms and cultural references for impact.
Atlas Obscura places the blame squarely on the shoulders of movie studios, which lack the resources or the will to invest in proper translations:
For the time being, the only way to really do a proper translation is to pay, and quite a bit. And why do that when you can have it done poorly and cheaply? After all, Avengers: Age of Ultron, despite its lousy translation, ended up as China’s second-biggest film debut ever.
Of course, Avengers: Age of Ultron was able to coast on the reputation of Hollywood and of the Avengers franchise. Other types of products don’t necessarily have that advantage. That means that translation mistakes and poorly executed localization are more likely to cause annoyance and offense. And that could affect sales.
Are you looking for translations that sound clear, natural and keep their meaning and their impact in the target language? Take a look at our language and translation services and contact us to learn more!
How many of these were you able to guess? Have you come across any other amusing movie titles in translation? Let us know in the comments!