Movie titles play a crucial role in the success and popularity of films. Most movies distributed internationally are produced in English, and then the marketing and localization departments assign new titles to them according to the culture and sensibility of the target market. Translating titles however is not easy, and the wrong choices can compromise the local success of a movie.
Choices in translating a movie title
Movie title translators have the important task of conveying the core message of the movie in a couple of words while keeping the text catchy and inviting the potential audience to choose it. There are mainly three approaches to this type of translation:
- Keep the original title: This is the best option for movies with shorter titles which can hardly be translated. This option is usually discarded in case of pronunciation issues or puns that would not be easily understood.
- Plain translation: Probably the best-case scenario, where a plain translation of the title can work as effectively in the new market.
- Adaptation: sometimes translation doesn’t make it. This is when the creativity of translators tries to find an alternative title that can work in the new market, conveying the core message of the movie or a general idea of its plot and genre.
Movie Titles Translation Fails
Adapting movie titles is a delicate matter, and unfortunately, things can go very wrong, or at least, can be very funny when translated back to English. Here are some of the most hilarious movie titles translation fails:
1. “He’s A Ghost!” – The Sixth Sense in Chinese
Well, we hope you already saw the movie, as the Chinese title probably is the biggest spoiler in the history of cinema.
2. “If You Leave Me, I Delete You”- the Italian version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Probably wanting to recall the popular slapstick comedies performed by Jim Carrey, Italian translators decided to give a catchy title to a drama. The bet didn’t pay off.
3. “The Boy Who Drowned in Chocolate” – Danish edition of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Certainly, a figure of speech, but nonetheless creepy, especially for the title of a movie for kids.
4. “Mom, I Missed the Plane!”- French for Home Alone;
A pretty accurate hint about the plot, for sure.
5. “Cloudy with a Chance of Falafel” – the Israeli version of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
This is certainly not a translation fail but rather a great example of target-culture adaptation. When translated back into English, still, it is even more hilarious and crazy than the original title.
Read more exhilarating translations of movie titles here
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