How NOT to translate movie titles

    The name of the film is the first thing the viewer draws attention to. The first contact with the movie determines the interest in it. It depends on the name in many ways whether a person will watch the movie trailer and whether he will go to the movies.

    And if you consider that the film industry brings tens of billions of dollars to media corporations, then the names are carefully selected based on trends, the reaction of the target audience and other marketing factors.

    Films designed for global distribution, localized in dozens of countries. This is where the whistles begin. After all, often the names are translated completely different from what they were in the original. Sometimes this is a justified step, but there are options when the “new” name simply does not fit on your head. We’ll talk about this.

    Why do movie titles adapt

    Reason 1. Marketing

    The main reason is very simple - that the film sold better in a particular market. The features of the American, Russian and Asian film markets are very different, so localization is most often carried out by individual companies that are familiar with the specifics.

    Marketing plays a huge role. Let's look at the classics and take the Die Hard blockbuster. In the original, it was called "Die hard."

    In pirate amateur localization, the name was translated as "Die hard, but worthy." Pretty clumsy, agree.

    Die hard is a phraseological unit that has the meanings of “resisting to the end”, “not giving up”, “unbending”, “tenacious”.

    Official localizers found an excellent match, which quite accurately conveys the original meaning of the name, sounds good and is easy to remember. Moreover, the phrase “tough nut” is itself a phraseological unit, which makes adaptation almost flawless.
    Often the names that “enter” foreign markets would certainly fail in Russian.

    For example, the comedy “Mad Special Forces” in the original was called “The Men Who Stare at Goats”. And we also believe that a film titled "People Staring at Goats" at the Russian box office wouldn't even be pulled out by George Clooney.

    On the other hand, marketers are very fond of mentioning sex - this greatly increases the attendance of films. That is why the comedy No Strings Attached was localized as More Than Sex. In the literal translation, the name would be “Without Obligations,” which seems to also hint at sex, but the target audience might not understand. Localizers decided to play it safe.

    As for the really cool marketing tricks from localizers, one of the chic examples is the film “Public Enemies”, which turned into “Johnny D.” at the Russian box office. The main character of the film was John Dillinger - a famous American criminal of the 1930s, and his role was played by Johnny Depp. It turns out that the localizers hit immediately for several purposes: the name is quite harmonious with the film, referring to the main character, and the viewer gets a direct association with Johnny Depp.

    A complete replacement of the original name is understandable and permissible here. But, rather, this is an exception to the rule, because such a trick only works in isolated cases.

    Reason 2. Cultural Differences

    This reason is especially relevant when localizing American films on the Russian market. Films from the United States, especially in action films and historical films, often emphasize American patriotism.

    "American" in the USA has already become a brand, because if something is called "American", then for residents of the USA it is almost automatically considered good.

    But in Russia, especially in the last 5 years, the word "American" causes negative associations, so they try to circumvent it. For example, the film American Sniper (2014) was translated as Sniper. Apparently, the publisher was afraid that the word "American" in the title would negatively affect the box office.

    Another telling example: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) is a science fiction film based on the Marvel comics. In the original, it was called "Captain America: The First Avenger." "Captain America" ​​from the title just disappeared - and this despite the fact that Marvel has a strong tendency to mention the name of the superhero in the title of the film.

    Previously, such cultural prejudices were much less pronounced. Here are a few films made before 2010, in which the word “American” or its derivatives was easily left in the title, and this did not cause the rental to fail:

    • American History X (American History X, 1998);
    • American Pie (American Pie, 1999);
    • American Beauty (American Beauty, 1999);
    • American Psycho (American Psycho, 2000);
    • American Rhapsody (American Rhapsody, 2000).

    Reason 3. Awakening of interest and few spoilers

    The Russian film distribution market contains a very interesting feature. A lot of visitors decide to watch a movie on only one poster. Yes, many approach the selection carefully, watch trailers and read descriptions, but the percentage of spontaneous selection is very large.

    To give at least some information about the film, localizers resort to tricks. Often they look like excesses, but fulfill the function assigned to them. This is especially true for headings where only the names of the heroes are indicated.

    Here are some examples:

    • “Hitch” - “Removal Rules: Hitch Method”;
    • “Alfie” - “Handsome Alfie”;
    • “Norbit” - “Tricks of Norbit”;
    • "Hellboy" - "Hellboy: The Hero of the Hell."

    Yes, it looks like crutches. The method is controversial, but one of the permissible. After all, “Hitch”, “Alfie” or “Hellboy” do not help at all to find out what the film will be about. And for a person who chooses a movie spontaneously, this is important.

    And yes, localizers often go too far, so these crutches begin to look absurd.

    Examples of the most juicy shoals in the localization of movie names

    Let's move on to the practical part. In the Russian box office very often come across the names of films that were localized crookedly. In some cases, the localizers pursued profit, neglecting the original name. In others, the lack of awareness about the plot and the characters of the film played a role.

    Therefore, we will analyze the names of films that have been translated especially crookedly.

    Silver Linings Playbook - My Boyfriend Is Crazy

    The title of the film includes a rather subtle pun based on the saying “Every cloud has a silver lining” (lit. “Each cloud has a light lining”). Based on this saying, the phrase “silver lining” was formed in English, which means “the bright side of something” or “an encouraging prospect in some kind of difficulty”.

    “Playbook” has two meanings, which are also reflected in the film. The first is a “book containing scenarios of dramatic plays,” which alludes to drama. The second is a “notebook that contains descriptions and diagrams of the game of teams”, namely, by betting on sports, the hero and his father earned a living.

    It turns out that the phrase “Silver Lining Playbook” includes several different meanings that reveal the essence of the film from different angles.

    Russian localizers turned this great name into "My Boyfriend is Crazy", which immediately provokes the association of base American comedy. Yes, people will do it, but the meaning of the original name is completely ruined.

    Lawless - The World's Most Drunken County

    The original name of the film literally translates as “Lawless”, so the localized “The most drunken district in the world” is a translator’s imagination.

    Such a marketing move misleads the viewer. The phrase "The most drunk ... in the world" is associated with comedy, but in reality the film is a criminal action movie in which there is not too much from comedy.

    In the pursuit of fees, marketers directly deceive the audience by slipping one genre under the guise of another, more massive and popular. Money doesn't smell.

    Death Proof - Death Proof

    Here there is an obvious cant of the translator, who has chosen the wrong one from several meanings of the expression.

    The word "proof" has 17 meanings. One of them is “protection from something.” In Russian, this meaning is conveyed by a complex word. For example, "waterproof" - "waterproof", fireproof - fireproof. By analogy, the title of the film should have been something like “Deathproof.”

    In the film, the protagonist repeatedly says that his car is "death proof", that is, extremely tenacious and resistant to breakdowns. However, the localizers did not understand the context, so the Russian name has nothing to do with the original.

    Fair Game - Game without rules

    Another clear manipulation of audience expectations. “Fair Game” translates as “fair game”, but in localization we see the completely opposite meaning - “game without rules”.

    It is clear that a film entitled “Game without rules” will raise more money than “Fair game”, but this approach completely contradicts localization from a linguistic point of view.

    With such success in translating movie titles, you don’t have to look at the original at all, but simply come up with “cool phrases” that will interest viewers.

    We also see similar in the film "All is Lost", which was localized as "Hope will not fade away."

    Constantine - Constantine: Lord of Darkness

    The approach of the localizers is understandable: just “Konstantin” does not say anything. That's just with the clarification of the translators seriously screwed up.

    John Constantine, the protagonist of the film, was not at all the "master of darkness." Moreover, he actively fought evil and for this he was cursed just the same true lord of darkness.

    It seems that the translators did not watch the film before localization, but simply looked at the poster. Then yes, the gloomy main character is quite similar to the "lord of darkness."

    Intouchables - 1 + 1

    The name of the film in translation means “The Untouchables,” and there is a clear allusion to the main characters, who are essentially outsiders of society. Nobody is interested in a disabled aristocrat and a black man who has just left prison - they are the untouchables of modern society.

    Apparently, the localizers were afraid to translate the name directly, so as not to cause associations with the Indian caste of the untouchables. However, this option would be better than “1 + 1”, which has no practical value and does not match the original.

    Identity Thief - Catch A Fat Woman If You Can

    According to the conservative opinion of the teachers of the English language school, EnglishDom is the leader of the absurd. "Identity Thief" translates as "Identity Theft." It is the theft of credit card data that makes up the eyeballs of this comedy.

    But the distributors seemed too complicated to adapt the name close to the original, so they just invented a new one. To make it clear that this is a comedy, not some third-rate detective story. Moreover, they did it in such a way that even for an inexperienced viewer the name seems at least delusional.

    In general, the localizers have earned Golden Raspberry and Mikhaloskara at the same time. This is really the worst of the movie titles in the Russian box office. In any case, among those that we have heard about. If you have any worse options, be sure to share :) is an online school that inspires you to learn English through innovation and human care.

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