Contrary to what Google Translate may have led you to believe, changing certain words and phrases into different languages isn't always that simple. Just like certain foreign sayings don't have equivalents in the English language, there are also quite a few English words that just don't translate well in other countries. One of the most obvious examples of this is when any American film gets released abroad. We've seen some of the most ridiculous translations, like "Mr. Cat Poop" and "17-Year-Old Girl's Medical Chart." But while it often feels like translators are intentionally trying to butcher the names of these films, there's actually a reason why they settle with such bizarre titles.
Avi Edery, the deputy CEO of New Lineo Cinema in Israel, once explained that not all cultures are fortunate enough to pick from a variety of terms to accurately describe movies. He said: "Hebrew is a difficult language. It's not as rich as English sometimes and you cannot translate word by word all the time." Also, according to Arie Barak, co-owner of the PR firm that represents Disney, Sony, and Fox in Israel, they usually "try to stay true to the source." And if that fails, he and his team "insist on maintaining the spirit of the movie."
So yeah, we can only imagine how stressful this gets when direct translations simply don't cut it. But despite these weirdly random titles, it seems like these guys did something right because a lot of these movies made more money internationally than they did in their home country! See which ones have the craziest foreign translations.
This is weirdly depressing - although to be fair, there is a scene where one kid (Augustus) falls into a chocolate river. So while it fails to mention any of the actual main characters or the overall plot, we can at least say that it's somewhat accurate. We just find it so odd that translators renamed the entire film after one suspenseful two-minute scene. Danish fans probably expected to see a thriller instead of a family-friendly film.
Buena Vista Pictures
We're kind of impressed that they were able to boil the entire film down to three words, but at the same time, it comes off as crude and heartless. Said "dimwit" (aka Bobby) went from being an awkward waterboy to being a fierce linebacker on the football team. And because of him, the losing team actually improved and they made it to the championships. Bobby may have been a socially awkward stutterer, but he was far from a dimwit.
There's an interesting pattern we've noticed when it comes to Chinese translations for most Disney Pixar films. Almost all of them include this phrase: "总动员," which literally reads as "general mobilization." So for instance, A Bug's Life is "General Mobilization of Bugs" and Toy Story translates to "Toy General Mobilization." The beloved Finding Nemo also follows suit with "Seabed General Mobilization," making it sound like the complete opposite of a fun children's adventure.
It was released as "Elektroniczny Morderca" in Poland because the word for "terminator" loosely translates to "apprentice," and that didn't sound nearly as threatening. When we hear "Electronic Murderer," all we can think about are those terrifying robotic dogs. But still, this seemed way more fitting than "The Apprentice." After the movie rose in popularity in Poland, the following installments got to keep their original titles.
This particular translation is fascinating, seeing as how the film centers on a washed-up and greedy Broadway producer who trades sexual favors with old women in order to fund his projects. In the movie, the producer eventually teams up with his accountant and they agree to oversell the shares of their next production so they can make some money off of a flop. But that plan quickly goes south when their play, "Springtime for Hitler," is met with praise. Definitely doesn't sound like the plot for a film entitled Please, Do Not Touch the Old Woman...
We're willing to bet that audiences in China had no idea what they were signing up for when the film first got released. It's like the translators intentionally boiled it down to one bland event that doesn't suggest a hint of romance. Sure, it's not entirely inaccurate. But there's so much more to the classic than a lonely businessman getting with a lady of the night! Could you imagine how differently things would've gone if the film was marketed with this title in the U.S.?
This is so hilarious but also super confusing. If you're wondering where "cat poop" comes from, it turns out that the character's name, "Melvin," sounds almost exactly like the Chinese term for kitty excrement. Still, perhaps it would've been a good idea for translators to see the film in its entirety before trying to come up with an alternate name. For one, it's about an obsessive-compulsive writer who doesn't own a cat, and if you look carefully, there aren't even any cats in the film!
We can totally understand this translation because Willie is, in fact, a sex addict in the film. But it feels super narrow and misleading. Plus, a title like this could give poor kids nightmares. The dark comedy follows Willie and his trusty little friend, Marcus, who pose as Santa Claus and an elf every year so they can rob stores. But this time around, Willie is falling apart at the seams and suffering from depression. Things start to look up, however, after he befriends a cool kid named Thurman.
It's that one movie that you always confuse with Friends With Benefits (mainly because they share the exact same plot, but with a different cast). The rom-com tells about two old acquaintances who become "sex friends" after their very first hookup. But then of course, both eventually develop feelings for one another. France got straight to the point with this one.
20th Century Fox
Not only is it misleading, but it's also just downright cruel. The film's main character, Josie Geller, is an awkward 25-year-old copy editor who spent her teen years as the geeky outsider and she never had a real relationship. Josie sadly slips right back into that persona when she's sent back to high school to do an undercover story. But while it seems like history is just repeating itself, this time, she connects with a cute English teacher. Unlike what the alternate title suggests, she's super adorable, smart, quirky, and totally deserving of her happy ending.
It sounds like a rather odd substitution to make. One can't help but wonder why the popular food would be swapped out with something completely different, like deep-fried peas. But according to Arie Barak, co-owner of a PR firm that helps comes up with these translations, the change was necessary because people in that country might've been turned off by the unfamiliar food. He explained: "Meatballs are not something Israelis relate to." Yep, fair enough.
In the film, gym owner Peter La Fleur is desperate for money because he needs to keep his gym afloat. So as a result, he creates a team and enters a dodgeball competition in hopes of winning the cash prize. But this becomes an even bigger challenge when his crazy rival, White Goodman, also enters the tournament and tries to defeat him. While hilarious, "Full of Nuts" seems to take away from the original title's inspiring tone. But it's worth noting that if the film has taught us anything, it's that dodgeball is brutal and literally no part of your body is safe during the game.
We kid you not, the German title: "Ich glaub', mich tritt ein Pferd," actually translates to “I think a horse kicked me.” Perhaps that was chosen for comedic effect, but there's... literally no scene in the film where someone gets kicked by a horse. It tells about two college freshman who join the rowdiest and most unpopular fraternity. The only issue, though, is that the school's dean is intent on shutting the Deltas down.
Japan's got such an odd way of summing up films, and this one is no different. The movie, which is based on Susanna Kaysen's memoir of the same name, follows a teenaged Susanna after she suffers a nervous breakdown, overdoses, and gets sent to a mental institution. As she struggles to understand and overcome her own issues, she also crosses paths with others who suffer from things like schizophrenia and OCD. But the one person she's drawn to is the sociopathic Lisa, who convinces her to escape with her. It's such a moving story, but "17-Year-Old Girl's Medical Chart" sounds rather clinical and kind of fails to capture the film's essence.
You could neer tell this from the translation, but Army of Darkness is actually the third movie in the Evil Dead series. In this installment, Ash goes on a dangerous mission to recover the Book of the Dead, which gives its owner the power to summon an army of ghouls. But in Japan, the dark fantasy/comedy horror is known as "Captain Supermarket," which sounds more like a TV show for toddlers. Still, we can at least appreciate the inclusion of those Campbell's Soup cans, which is most likely a clever reference to Bruce Campbell, the actor who played Ash.
The Academy-Award-winning film is an action drama about a fighter pilot who constantly clashes with his rival and tries to win the heart of his flight instructor. But one probably wouldn't gather any of that from a title like "Love is in the Sky," which sounds like a dreamy romance. Perhaps it's supposed to be a reference to Maverick and Charlie's relationship. But the two never really spent time together in the skies and their romance wasn't exactly the main focus in the film. We sadly won't get to see the same pair reunite in Top Gun 2, but perhaps we'll see "love in the skies" with Maverick's new love interest.
Well, that is essentially what the movie is about... except it's ten times more depressing. Loosely based on the life of late writer John O'Brien, the film focuses on Hollywood screenwriter Ben Sanderson, who loses his job because of his alcohol addiction. After his last day, he plans on drinking himself to death, but then he stumbles upon a sex worker and his plans change.
Fox Searchlight Pictures
The British film is about six recently unemployed steelworkers who begin to struggle financially. But then one of them comes up with the idea to form a striptease group so they can earn some extra cash. For the record, "full monty" in the original title is more of a British term, which means a striptease involving full nudity. It's safe to say that the film lived up to that name, but China may have taken it a tad too far. It's clear that the main characters aren't exactly muscular gym buffs, but referring to them as pigs? That's just brutal.
FYI, this translation has us dying laughing right now. But to be fair, this movie is beyond hilarious and this title actually feels more fitting. The film centers on Frank's attempt to avenge his partner's sudden murder, but as he investigates, he comes across a criminal who's plotting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II. It definitely sounds more like an intense action flick, but seriously, we can't even blame Israel for their interpretation of the film. We'd have totally gotten tickets to see a movie with this title.
Yes, technically, the term "vaseline" is synonymous with "grease," but we can all agree that it just doesn't have the same ring to it. It takes away from the original title, which is meant to be a reference to the once-popular youth subculture known as "greasers." We can only imagine what Argentinian passersby were thinking when they saw this "Vaseline" movie poster. But despite the weird suggestion that it's about two people and petroleum jelly, we'd probably still check it out (out of curiosity).