Dec 11


Michelle Lynn Dinh (Shimane-ken, Chibu-mura, 2010–13) is an editor and writer for RocketNews24, a Japan-based site dedicated to bringing fun and quirky news from Asia to English speaking audiences.

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles1

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)

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles2

Image: WikipediaAmazon

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)

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles3

Images: Film Crit HulkGigant

“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)

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles4

Images: WikipediaAnime Info

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!)

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles5

Images: WikipediaHulu Handan

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)

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles6

Images: IMDBiowana

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)

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles7

Images: WikipediaAmazon Japan

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)

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles8

Images: WikipediaAllcinema

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)

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles9

Images: Wikipediadiscas

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)

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles10

Images: WikipediaAmazon Japan

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)

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles11

Images: AmazonGinban Closeup

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)

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles12

Images: AmazonRakuten

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)


Images: AmazonAmazon Japan

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)

13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles14

mages: WikipediaAmazon Japan

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)

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 1.13.51 AM


Image: Wikipedia, Yahoo! Blogs

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!

Related articles from RocketNews24:

Are you a writer? RocketNews24 English is hiring!

one comment so far...

  • Carl Said on December 11th, 2013 at 10:13 pm:

    Re “Bus-otoko,” look up 「電車男」, which was an extraordinarily popular book and then movie from around the same time featuring an odd young man somewhat reminiscent of the character in “Napoleon Dynamite,” and then you’ll understand why they thought that title might work for the Japanese market.

Page Rank