Features and Columns · Movies

Four Different Approaches to Translating a Movie Title

Sometimes getting lost in translation is a good thing.
Inglourious Basterds Hong Kong Movie Title Translations
By  · Published on April 16th, 2021

on movie Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay breaking down four different approaches to translations of movie titles.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of learning another language, you’ll know that translation is an art, not a science. Sometimes the phraseology of one culture has no equivalent in another’s. And sometimes capturing the spirit of an evocative turn of phrase involves transforming things entirely.

The same, of course, holds true for movie title translations. In addition to properly describing a film and managing the expectations of a foreign audience, translated titles must also navigate a minefield that runs the gambit from cultural sensitivities to market preferences.

The results, at times, are hilarious. In Danish, Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) becomes the equally bombastic Die Hard: Mega Hard. In Italian, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) becomes the rather literal If You Leave Me, I Delete You. And in Mandarin, the Arnold Schwarzenegger male pregnancy comedy Junior (1994) becomes the arguably not that far off Son of Devil.

Speaking of China, let’s pop over to the video essay below, which unpacks four different approaches to movie title translations, as seen in Chinese cinema. The methods are, briefly: (1) to translate literally; (2) to reinterpret; (3) to be poetic, and (4) to fudge the title to make it sell better.

Armed with plentiful examples ranging from the hilarious to the insightful, the essay boasts explanations galore to underline the strategy and thought process behind seemingly random movie title translations.

Watch “Trope Talk: Movie Title Translations | April Fool’s Essay“:

Who made this?

This video on movie title translations was created by Accented Cinema, a Canadian-based YouTube video essay series with a focus on foreign cinema. You can subscribe to Accented Cinema for bi-weekly uploads here. You can follow them on Twitter here. This video is narrated by Naomi SV, whose own account you can check out here.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.