by Aveline MacQuoid on June 17, 2021

in Extras


“Lost in translation” is a common expression. It means that the intent of an original phrase, sentence, piece of writing, etc. was not translated well. As a result, it has a very different meaning in the target language. Sometimes, these poor translations are pretty funny.

The Movie Industry Is No Exception

The movie industry continually seeks foreign audiences for its products, too. Its task is more complex, though. Movies will either need subtitles or “dubbing,” in which actors’ words are verbally translated as spoken. This means the use of in-house translators, but, more often, the use of translation services, such as TheWordPoint – companies that have native speakers in numerous languages and voice-over specialists.

Still, with all the resources that filmmakers have, there is no lack of some hilarious goofs when movie titles have been translated into other languages.

Here are 12 of these funny mistakes.

  1. The Full Monty

A hilarious movie about 6 unemployed men who turn to stripping to make money and gain respect in the eyes of their wives. When the title was translated into Chinese, it read “Six Naked Pigs.”

  1. The Naked Gun

Another comedy – this one about a police detective who foils a plot by a villain to assassinate the Queen of England while she visits the U.S. It received rave reviews. Unfortunately, when translated into Israeli Hebrew, the title became, “The Gun Died Laughing.”

  1. Leaving Las Vegas

This is not a “happy ending” romantic, fun movie. It’s a sad commentary on two people whose lives are on a dangerous and deadly path. The title speaks to their plan to leave Las Vegas together to spend whatever time they have left. While the movie is serious, the Japanese translation is a bit humorous, “I’m Drunk and You’re A Prostitute.”

  1. As Good As It Gets

A romantic comedy of the pairing up of an obsessive-compulsive writer and a single mom waitress with an asthmatic child. Add a gay painter, and this movie has everything – humor, some serious social commentary, and the finding of love. How in the world the Chinese translation became “Mr. Cat Poop” is anyone’s guess.

  1. Grease

Go back to the ’50s with this musical comedy again, where two unlikely and very different teens find love. Grease refers to the hair cream that the boys use to keep their “ducktail” hairstyles intact. In Argentina, though, the title translated to “Vaseline.”

  1. Shawshank Redemption

This is a movie classic in the U.S. Two prisoners, develop an unlikely friendship and collaborate to bring down the corrupt warden. Somehow, the Chinese title became “Excitement 1995” – not very appealing.

  1. The Waterboy

A feel-good movie about a downtrodden young man who gets fired from his job as a waterboy and takes the same position with an opposing team, ultimately leading that team to a championship. In Thailand, the title became “Dimwit Surges Forth.”

  1. The Producers

Another classic of two theater producers whose only way out of their money problems is to produce a total flop. A poor taste musical about Hitler was received by the audience as a joke and became a huge hit. In Italy, the title somehow became, “Please, Do Not Touch the Old Women.”

  1. GI Jane

This action-packed drama is about the first woman to be allowed into basic training for a U.S. Navy Seal Team. She outshines her male counterparts, becomes a hero in their eyes, and exposes a corrupt Congresswoman to boot. In Chinese, the title of the movie says she is “Satan Female Soldier.”

  1. Bad Santa

A dark comedy along with the likes of The Grinch., involving the transformation of a bad guy into a “softie.” In the Czech Republic, though, “Santa Is A Pervert.”

  1. Snatch

A complicated tale of fight fixing and theft, involving a cast of mob figures and other “bad actors.” In Mexico, the title became “Pigs and Diamonds.”

  1. Army of Darkness

A fantasy film involving a hero’s time travel and a great war. Somehow, in its Japanese translation, it became “Captain Supermarket.”

Funny But Embarrassing

While we can laugh about these, it is obvious that movie translations can go horribly wrong. If nothing else, it should point out the need to always use a native translator who will get it right.

Author Bio: Michael Carr is a strong proponent of learning other languages – as many as possible. He is a polyglot himself who frequently writes about the many mental and physical benefits of learning new languages.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Frak April 18, 2024 at 5:04 pm

Nicholson’s character was named “Melvin.” The name Melvin sounds like the Cantonese slang term for cat poop.

The movie didn’t have a cat in it and didn’t need one. Especially since Melvin started out with the personality of a box full of small turds.


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