Hollywood films are popular around the world and Japan gets its fair share of dubbed and subtitled blockbusters. But sometimes things get a little mixed up when changing words from English to Japanese. This gives rise to translated titles that come in a wide range of strange from unintended sexual innuendos to spoilertastic summaries.
Let’s take a look at 13 weird Japanese movie titles that make you wonder what the translators were thinking.
1. Napoleon Dynamite → Bus Man (バス男)
Not only does Napoleon Dynamite have nothing to do with a bus (except for maybe the school bus he rides every day), the eccentric high school student is barely old enough to be called a man. The title translation was apparently so bad that 20th Century Fox issued an official apology.
2. You Only Live Twice → 007 Dies Twice (007は二度死ぬ)
“You only live twice” is similar to saying that someone died twice, but not quite.
3. Despicable me → Mysterious Thief Gru’s Moon Theft 3D (怪盗グルーの月泥棒 3D)
We understand that translating “Despicable Me” into Japanese would prove difficult, but couldn’t they have thought of a catchier title?
4. Bring It On → Cheers! (チアーズ!)
Cheer leaders are called “cheer girls” in Japan, but “cheers” is an entirely different word. The title translation might have made sense if these high schoolers celebrated a successful routine by knocking back a few drinks.
5. Fast and Furious → Wild Speed Max (ワイルド・スピード MAX)
This is our favorite, yet strange movie title translation. And it kind of makes sense…the cars are zipping around at “wild speeds.” Each movie in the Fast and Furious franchise comes with an equally awesome Japanese title. Here they are in order:
The Fast and the Furious → Wild Speed
2 Fast 2 Furious → Wild Speed X2
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift → Wild Speed X3 TOKYO DRIFT
Fast & Furious → Wild Speed MAX
Fast Five → Wild Speed MEGA MAX
Fast & Furious 6 → Wild Speed EURO MISSION
We like Wild Speed MEGA MAX the best. Which one’s your favorite?
6. Being John Malkovich → Malkovich’s Hole (マルコヴィッチの穴)
Malkovich’s hole? We’re not so sure about this one…
7. Freaky Friday → Fortune Cookie (フォーチュン・クッキー)
There is a fortune cookie in the 2003 remake of Freaky Friday, so it does make sense. But we’re wondering why they chose to change the title when the original 1976 version was called “フリーキー・フライデー”, “Freak Friday” in Japanese.
8. Karate Kid → Best Kid (ベスト・キッド)
There are those who argue that actual karate is not being performed in the movies, so the Japanese version is probably more accurate.
9. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off → Ferris, Suddenly One Morning (フェリスはある朝突然に)
At first, we weren’t so sure of the name change, but the new Japanese version does give the movie a sense of urgency.
10. The Manchurian Candidate (1962) → The Sniper Without a Shadow (影なき狙撃者)
Not so bad of a title and we think the Japanese version actually sounds cooler than the original. But we were wondering why they decided to change the translated title of the 2004 remake:
11. The Manchurian Candidate (2004) → Crisis of America (クライシス・オブ・アメリカ)
The new title is completely written in katakana, the Japanese syllabary for foreign words, and gives a sense of impending doom that the 1962 title lacks.
12. Ratatouille → Remy’s Delicious Restaurant (レミーのおいしいレストラン)
Maybe “ratatouille” is too difficult to say in Japanese, especially for little kids, forcing translators to go with an easier to digest title.
13. Up → Grandpa Carl’s Flying House (カールじいさんの空飛ぶ家)
The original, slightly cryptic title of “Up” was canned in favor of a more descriptive title, letting curious kids know exactly what’s in store in this Disney Pixar masterpiece.
British Bonus: Moon → The Man Who Was Imprisoned on the Moon (月に囚われた男)
Finally, as an added bonus we couldn’t help bringing you a recent British movie whose title Japan seemingly decided was simply not descriptive enough. Sure, there’s plenty more to be seen and revealed in the movie proper, but when we stumbled upon the Japanese release of Moon, the 2009 sci-fi flick starring Sam Rockwell and featuring the voice of Kevin Spacey, and saw it titled as “The Man Who Was Imprisoned on the Moon” we couldn’t help thinking, “Um, doesn’t that kind of ruin a hefty chunk of the plot?” Three cheers for spoilerific titles!
Let us know if there are any other gems you’d like added to the movie title translation hall of shame!