9 Famous Movies That Have Cooler Titles in Foreign Countries
Some filmmakers spend literally years trying to think of a movie title that will strike the right balance between "this doesn't sound completely stupid" and "this will make me filthy rich." It may not always look like it, but there's a lot of effort, a lot of money, and a lot of hard drinking behind even the simplest of movie titles ... all of which goes out the window once that movie ships overseas and needs to make sense in another language.
As we've shown you before, translating titles isn't as easy as it looks, since they so often contain some idiom or pun that would be complete nonsense directly translated in another language (and, as you'll see, this works both ways). It forces distributors to get creative, and sometimes the results are amazing:
Die Hard With a Vengeance in Denmark: Die Hard: Mega Hard
John McClane (Bruce Willis), the unluckiest cop in America, teams up with the awesomely named Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) to fuck up New York City as they are terrorized by the brother of a guy John killed two movies ago. Die Hard With a Vengeance is kind of a nonsensical title on its own, but at least we can tell what they were thinking when they chose it: it's about the villain seeking vengeance on McClane, and McClane seeking vengeance on anyone and everyone with a foreign accent.
The Foreign Title: Die Hard: Mega Hard
Yes, the Danish went with an English title, and while we were planning to make fun of these, we're not sure Mega Hard isn't an improvement. It certainly isn't any dumber than Die Hard 2: Die Harder. In fact, Denmark deserves credit for trying to think of a logical continuation to that phrase, if only for the sake of consistency. "But Mega Hard makes it sound like they're talking about his boner!" Hey, you could say that about all of them.
Followed by Live Free or Die Hardest and A Good Day to Oh Shit I Swear This Never Happens, Gimme a Minute.
All we know is that, when we die, we hope at least one person stands over our smoldering, bullet-riddled corpse and says, "That son of a bitch died hard. Mega hard."
Related: Is 'Die Hard' Actually A Rom-Com
Guardians of the Galaxy in Taiwan: Interplanetary Unusual Attacking Team
Even though no one knew who the hell these guys were before this year, Guardians of the Galaxy was always a pretty good, self-explanatory title. The galaxy: they guard it. See, that's why Marvel makes the big bucks -- if you name your superhero movie something vague like Steel or The Spirit it's probably gonna flop, but anyone can get behind a clear concept like "a man of iron" or "the captain of all the Americans."
This also might have helped move a few tickets.
Superhero movies are already pretty confusing, so really, it's just common sense to keep the titles as simple as possible.
The Foreign Title: Interplanetary Unusual Attacking Team
... unless you're in Taiwan, where the simplest they could make it was apparently Interplanetary Unusual Attacking Team. You know, as opposed to all those regular Interplanetary Attacking Teams that you see every day. Either the Taiwanese version has an extra scene where the Guardians' spaceships combine into a giant robot and they go stomping on a cardboard city, or the translator was having an aneurysm when he typed that phrase.
Originally, the Internet pinned this title on China, but some pointed out that the poster is actually from Taiwan (to which the Internet replied, "Isn't that the same thing?"). The Chinese version has its own problems, though -- the subtitles were so ineptly translated that they achieved the remarkable feat of making this movie unlikeable. One example:
No one is immune to Star Lord's ass sorcery.
And while we're on the subject of China and asses ...
As Good as It Gets in Hong Kong: Mr. Cat Poop
As Good as It Gets stars Jack Nicholson as Melvin (a crazier version of Jack Nicholson) and Helen Hunt as Carol (a frumpier version of Helen Hunt). It's one of the best romantic comedies ever, but we'll be the first to admit that the title is pretty generic if you haven't seen it. Is it saying that babysitting a dog for your gay neighbor is as good as life gets? Or that this is the peak of Nicholson's career? (Obviously they had no way of knowing back then that he'd go on to make that one movie with Adam Sandler.)
Hong Kong would have none of this ambiguity bullcrap, so when the movie released there, they gave it a title much more specific ...
The Foreign Title: Mr. Cat Poop
No, seriously. We checked and triple-checked. Hong Kong knows As Good as It Gets as Mr. Cat Poop, or the way classier Mr. Cat Feces -- ask the nearest Cantonese speaker if you don't believe us, or just check Google Translate:
"Please, that was my father. Call me Pussy Turd."
The weirdest part is, there are no cats in this movie. You could make a case for Mr. Dog Piss, considering the amount of screen time spent on Melvin's neighbor's dog urinating where it isn't supposed to, but how the hell do you arrive at Mr. Cat Poop? Well, there's a somewhat logical explanation: in Hong Kong, "cat poop" translates roughly to mao fen, which sounds kinda similar to Melvin. Basically, this is like if an American distributor saw an Asian drama with a character called Wang and said, "That's great -- let's rename it Dr. Penis."
Silver Linings Playbook in Russia: My Boyfriend Is a Psycho
This comedy-drama stars two people who are miserable and unlovable despite looking like Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Dancing ensues. So much dancing. The self-help-sounding title comes from the protagonist's desire to see a silver lining in everything (except for the stuff he beats to a bloody pulp). In the end, beneath all the yelling and the dancing, the movie is about learning how to live with a mental disorder and how to support those around us who suffer from them.
Of course, all those subtleties are lost when you rename it something like ...
The Foreign Title: My Boyfriend Is a Psycho
As usual, Russia doesn't fuck around. My Boyfriend Is a Psycho sounds less like an Oscar-nominated dramedy and more like the direct-to-cable movie about a woman who finds out her significant other is actually Patrick Bateman.
Or Travis Bickle Jr., considering who plays his dad.
This title just sets everyone up for disappointment -- those with bipolar disorder will see their condition demonized, and those looking for blood and guts will have to settle for some brutal tap numbers.
Meanwhile, France went in a more cheerful direction and named it Happiness Therapy. In defense of these countries, the idea of a silver lining is a distinctly American one, and the "playbook" part is a reference to American football, always a confusing subject outside America's borders. Also, Russians are well known for not giving a shit, so the filmmakers should have seen this one coming. We're surprised they didn't rename Precious as Haha Look at the Fatty.
Top Gun in Israel: Love in the Skies
A very long '80s music video montage starring a bunch of airplanes, Tom Cruise before he went crazy, and Val Kilmer before he consumed half of Marlon Brando's body seeking to gain his acting powers. This classic of American cinema has power ballads, shit blowing up, and 1986 Kelly McGillis, so it was basically a license to print money. Even the title is badass: Top Gun. You can't beat that. So most countries didn't even try:
No, you're not the only one who read the Danish title as the chef from The Muppets.
Israel, however ...
The Foreign Title: Love in the Skies
No, Love in the Skies is not some aviation-themed Love Boat spinoff from the '70s -- it's what Israel calls Top Gun. We guess that when you have one of the deadliest air forces in the world, all those movie pilots kinda look like pansies. Also, it doesn't help that they don't actually have a slang term like "top gun" in Israel. The closest is "ace pilot," which sounds more like a movie about a dog that joins the air force and ... .
Love in the Skies could refer to the relationship between Cruise and McGillis, but the problem there is that she never once flies a plane in the film. So ... Cruise and Anthony Edwards, we guess? Did they even watch the movie?
Yes, they did.
Knocked Up in China: One Night ... Big Belly
Judd Apatow's comedy about what happens when a successful career woman severely underachieves. Katherine Heigl screws Seth Rogen and gets screwed by morning sickness, an oncoming child, and having Seth Rogen around all the time as a result. A big part of the charm of this movie comes from its straightforward title: she gets knocked up, so they named it Knocked Up. Had Apatow continued this trend, This Is 40 would have been called Like 4 Jokes in the Whole Movie.
Unfortunately, as you're probably starting to notice by now, slang terms aren't a translator's best friend, which results in stuff like ...
The Foreign Title: One Night ... Big Belly
China took a strategic approach to renaming this blockbuster hit: One Night ... Big Belly allows them to both promote the film and spread sex education throughout the country simultaneously. There are many layers of meaning to this title -- it could be read as Katherine Heigl having a one-night stand and getting pregnant or as Seth Rogen being Seth Rogen. See, the Chinese are all about efficiency.
"It's just sympathy weight ..."
This is what the title translates to according to USA Today, anyway. We dropped the Chinese characters into Google Translate and what came out was Disadvantages Guy ... Engage in Large Zo, which is even more unflattering to Rogen, but at least it makes Heigl look very charitable.
Grease in Argentina: Vaseline
A wholesome family musical with songs about rape and the message that no one will ever love you unless you dress like a hussy. The title of the movie and the original play it's based on likely refers to the amount of hair product John Travolta and company used throughout production. It's also a throwback to the more innocent era in which the film takes place, where cool guys were called "greasers." Today, a greaser is either a hitman for the mafia or someone gross.
Nicely symbolizing Travolta's career progression.
Our point being, Grease is a simple and nostalgic title that fits the film's time period and themes. However, in Argentina ...
The Foreign Title: Vaseline
Fun Fact: Whenever you mention Vaseline in Argentina or most Latin American countries, what comes to mind first is always Travolta's face, followed closely by whatever erotic deed you're using the lubricant for. All because one of the most popular movies in the world was hilariously renamed that.
This happened because in Spanish the term "grease" (grasa) specifically refers to motor grease or animal fat, which wasn't exactly the image the studio wanted to convey. Vaseline is a similar product to hair grease, so it seemed like a good alternate title. What could go wrong, right? Hey, we wonder if they named the sequel Vaseline: Mega Hard.
Annie Hall in Brazil: Neurotic Groom, Nervous Bride
Woody Allen starts dating Diane Keaton, they do some funny stuff, but then they drift apart and things turn bitter. This is both the synopsis of Annie Hall and what Allen was doing in the '70s. This widely ripped-off romantic comedy was almost called Anhedonia, but at the last minute Allen switched that for a slightly more marketable name. It paid off -- Annie Hall was a huge hit, winning critical acclaim and four Oscars.
None of which impressed the Brazilian translators, apparently ...
The Foreign Title: Neurotic Groom, Nervous Bride
Huh? Obviously you can't have any description of Allen or his work without using the word "neurotic," and we'd imagine anyone marrying that guy would have reason to be a little nervous from time to time ... but what's with the "bride and groom" part, Brazil? That's just Fox News level of making shit up. Yes, they're in a long-term relationship, but Allen and Keaton never even get close to getting married in the film.
An important distinction that Allen fans will also make when defending him for dating his relative.
We're gonna have to assume that for all of Brazil's supposed liberality and their naked people dancing in the streets, they just couldn't conceive of a man and a woman living in sin for so long and had to present them as married. Presumably, in their minds every Allen film since is the story of the same character cheating on Keaton with increasingly younger starlets.
The Shawshank Redemption in Taiwan: 1995: Fantastic
Stephen King once said of this adaptation that the only thing bad about it is the title (even Morgan Freeman said that is what sank the film at the box office -- what the hell is a "Shawshank" and how do you redeem one?). Of course, it makes sense after you watch it -- the film follows two Shawshank State Prison inmates as they support each other through brutal guards, a corrupt warden, dangerous gangs, and a shitload of tax returns. Together, they find ... redemption. In Shawshank.
Plus, we found redemption in that scene where we saw shank.
So what do you do when translating a title that everyone hated for shedding no light whatsoever on what the film was about?
The Foreign Title: 1995: Fantastic
Rename it 1995: Fantastic. Or, as Google Translate puts it: Stimulation '95. Other sites claim it's actually Excitement 1995 -- the point is, Taiwan was extremely stoked about getting this movie a year later than everyone else.
By which point those dickholes in Japan had probably spoiled the ending for them.
We suppose Taiwan deserves some credit for attempting to communicate that this was the best film of the year in the most straightforward way possible ... which apparently worked, because they followed it up with titles like Dead Poets Society 1996 (actually Mr. Holland's Opus, 1995) ...
Richard Dreyfuss, Robin Williams -- all crackers look the same.
... and, we shit you not, Erotic Storm 1997 (The People vs. Larry Flynt). OK, article over, Taiwan wins.
For more foreign hilarity, check out Lost In Translation: 20 Baffling Foreign Movie Posters. And then check out 25 Things Found Just Outside the Frame of Famous Posters.
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