Difficulties in Translating Movie Titles










SUBMITTED BY: Flentea Ecaterina

GROUP: 2611

RESEARCH ADVISER: MA in American Studies,

University Lecturer,

Timofti Ecaterina

Chisinau 2007

Table of contents:


Chapter One: Translation as the Possibility of Understanding the Art of Film Titles



1.1.  The Power of Film Translation6

1.2.  Types and History of Film Translation...7

1.3.  The Invention of Film Titles8

1.4.  The Art of Film Tiles9

1.5.  Brief Historical View of the Titles of Cultural Products10 1.5.1. The Three Models of Mass Communication..11

1.5.2. The Film Title and the System of Paratext.12

1.5.3. The Titles of Audiovisual Fiction and the Flow Model..12

1.6. The Three Models of Mass Communication13

1.7. Film Tiles Translation...14

1.7.1. Types of Film Titles Translation ...15

Chapter Two: Difficulties in Translating Film Titles from English into Russian


2.1. Difficulties in Translating Comedy Movie Titles.17

2.2. Difficulties in Translating Horror Movie Titles...20

2.3. Difficulties in Translating Action Movie Titles22

2.4. Difficulties in Translating Melodramatic Movie Titles...24

2.5. Difficulties in Translating Adventure and Historical Movie Titles27




Nowadays there is a great number of foreign films that is imported in our country. As their original titles are mostly written in English, they have to be translated. A film title plays a great role in understanding the film in general and the information contained in it. Consequently, a translator must be very attentive while translating the movie title to make it as sonorous as the original one. It is very interesting to perform this kind of translation, and we decided to choose this subject for our course paper. We made an investigation in it and we tried to discover some difficulties in translating the film titles.

Actuality of investigation

In our time film is a very important art form. It reflects our life, culture, world and our vision of world. Films entertain, educate, enlighten and inspire audience. The foreign films give to the target audience the possibility to know something new about the people and culture of that country, which produced these films. With regard to the fact that the main function of film titles is to say something general about the whole movie, the film titles are also very important. If the picture is imported, its title should be translated to make it more understandable for the target audience. Here the difficulties may appear. Our investigation analyzes these difficulties of translation movie titles.

Aims and Objectives of the Research

There are many books about the films and their making, but there are few sources about the film titles, especially about their translation. So, we tried to make our research on the subject of movie titles translation. The aims of our investigation were: to analyze the functions, history and types of film titles translation; to find the most interesting examples of foreign movie titles; to give all their possible translations; to compare these translations with the official one; and to define all the difficulties that may appear during this translation.

Methodological Background of Scientific Investigation

In order to present the course paper in a logical way, we used several research methods:

  • Bibliographical method that helped to work with a great variety of sources and select the necessary one.
  • Historical method that was used when making a survey of the historical events that were introduced in the Chapter One.
  • Comparative method that helped us to compare original film title, its possible translations and the official Russian translation.

Scientific Novelty

The first movie was created in 20th century; consequently the art of cinema is rather a new one. Because of this there are no many books about it, especially those, where it is written about the film titles. The subject of movie titles translation isnt studied at that level, as it should be studied. Thats why it was new and very interesting for us to study and analyze this kind of translation, because it plays a very important role in perception of foreign film titles by Russian audience. Having consulted the Internet forums, we found out that the movie titles translation is the subject of wide discussions between people. They consider that in our time there are many mistakes and lacks of coincidence in the translations of foreign movie titles. Thats why it was very exciting and interesting for us to analyze this concrete branch of translation. The scientific novelty of our course paper consists in the fact that, having analyzed some examples of movie titles we found what difficulties may appear while translating them.


In our course paper we have consulted many sources: books, reports and Internet-sites. The most important source, used in Chapter One was the report of Milevici I. G. about the translation of film titles. In Chapter Two the Lingvo10 Dictionary was a very important source, because with its help we made the detailed analysis of all 19 examples of movie titles translation. Also, helpful was the Internet source- the site www.worlddvd.ru/filmrussianalfavit, because it gave us the most expanded list of the original titles of foreign films. Despite the fact that these three sources assisted us the most in our research, other books and sites were also interesting to consult.

Volume and Structure

The course paper consists of 30 pages and, in two chapters covers the analysis of the famous film titles in order to find what difficulties may appear when translating them. Chapter One, named Translation as the Possibility of Understanding the Art of Film Titles, is dedicated to the theory: the main definitions, types and methods of movie titles translation. It includes seven subchapters:

1. The Power of Film Translation

2. Types and History of Film Translation

3. The Invention of Film Titles

4. The Art of Film Titles

5. Brief Historical View of the Titles of Cultural Products

6. The Three Models of Mass Communication

7. Film Titles Translation

Chapter Two, named Difficulties in Translating Film Titles from English into Russian, consists of our practical work, i.e. the detailed analysis of 19 examples of foreign film titles and their translation, according to the film genres. This chapter includes five subchapters:

1. Difficulties in Translating Comedy Movie Titles

2. Difficulties in Translating Horror Movie Titles

3. Difficulties in Translating Action Movie Titles

4. Difficulties in Translating Melodramatic Movie Titles

5. Difficulties in Translating Adventure and Historical Movie Titles

Having examined 19 examples of foreign movie titles in these two chapters, we discovered all the problems, which may appear during their translation.

Chapter I: Translation as the Possibility of Understanding the Art of Film Titles

1.1.  The Power of Film Translation

Film is a term that encompasses motion pictures as individual projects, as well as the field in general. The origin of the name comes from the fact that photographic film (also called film stock) has historically been the primary medium for recording and displaying motion pictures. Films are produced by recording actual people and objects with cameras, or by creating them using animation techniques and/ or special effects. They comprise a series of individual frames, but when these images are shown rapidly in succession, the illusion of motion is given to the viewer. Film is considered by many to be an important art form; films entertain, educate, enlighten and inspire audience. The visual elements of cinema need no translation, giving the motion picture a universal power of communication. Any film can become a worldwide attraction, especially with the addition of dubbing or subtitles that translate the dialogue. Films are also artifacts created by specific cultures, which reflect those cultures, and, in turn, affect them. Films can be of different genres. In film theory, genre refers to the primary method of film categorization. A genre generally refers to films that share similarities in the narrative elements from which they are constructed. For example, the most widespread film genres are: comedy- intended to provoke laughter; horror- intended to provoke fear in audience; action- generally involves a moral interplay between good and bad played out through violence or physical force; melodramatic- mainly focuses on character development; adventure- involving danger, risk, and/ or chance, often with a high degree of fantasy and historical- taking place in the past. [12:739]

Translation is an activity comprising the interpretation of the meaning of a text in one language- the source text- and the production, in another language, of a new, equivalent text- the target text, or translation. The goal of translation is generally to establish a relation of equivalence between the source and target texts (that is to say, to ensure that both texts communicate the same message), while taking into account a number of constraints. These constraints include context, the rules of grammar of languages, their writing conventions, their idioms, and the like. [12:739]

Any form of audiovisual translation ultimately plays a unique role in developing both national identities and national stereotypes. The translation of cultural values in screen translation has received very little attention and remains one of the most pressing areas of research in translation studies. Films can be tremendously influential and extremely powerful vehicle for transferring values, ideas and information. Different cultures are presented not only verbally but also visually and orally, as film is a polysemiotic medium that transfers meaning through several channels, such as picture, dialogue and music. Items which used to be culture-specific tend to spread and encroach upon other cultures. The choice of film translation mode largely contributes to the reception of a source language film in a target culture. However, there is no universal and good-for-all mode of translating films. The methods are dependent upon various factors, such as history, tradition or translating films in a given country, various audience-related factors, the type of film to be rendered, as well as financial resources available. What is also of primary importance here is the mutual relationship between the source and target cultures, as it will also profoundly influence the translating process. [1:27]

1.2.  Types and History of Film Translation

There are two major types of film translation: dubbing and subtitling. Each of them interferes with the original text to a different extent. On the one hand, dubbing is known to be the method that modifies the source text to a large extent and thus makes it familiar to the target audience through domestication. It is the method in which the foreign dialogue is adjusted to the mouth and movements of the actor in the film and its aim is seen as making the audience feel as if they were listening to actors actually speaking the target language. On the other hand, subtitling, i.e. supplying a translation of the spoken source language dialogue into the target language in the form of synchronized captions, usually at the bottom of the screen, is the form that alters the source text to the least possible extent and enables the target audience to experience the foreign and be aware of its foreignness at all times. [3:611]

It is known from the films translation history that in the times of silent movies, translation was relatively easy to conduct: the so-called intertitles interrupted the course of a film every couple of minutes, so the target language titles could easily be translated and inserted in place of the original ones. The problem arose with the appearance of talkies in the late 1920s.At first, American film companies tried to solve it by producing the same film (using the same set and scenario, but different directors and actors) in various language versions. However, this soon turned out to be unprofitable, as the films produced were of poor artistic quality and they did not win the public. The studios that had been built in France for this purpose began to produce dubbed versions of films instead. The new invention enabled Hollywood to avoid any interruption in its dominance of the international film market. Talkies guaranteed that the audience was very much aware of the source culture and its nature, and thus they helped cement Hollywoods leading position. [4:99]

The introduction of talkies exerted a far-reaching influence on both larger and smaller countries. As film production costs rose, it became increasingly difficult for smaller countries to export their productions and- limited by their small domestic markets- their home production decreased, which led to a rise in film imports. As for larger European countries, they were better equipped to continue producing their own films, but were also faced with powerful American competition. This situation, i.e. the wide gap between larger and smaller countries, was to be reflected later in the choice of the film translation mode: larger countries tended to dub imported foreign productions, while smaller ones settled on subtitling. From the early 1930s until 1950s American film companies reigned over the entire movie industry as they monopolized the recording equipment. During World War II the American film industry flourished, and as a result, in the period following the war European countries were easily flooded with new films as well as with the 2500 backlogged American movies produced during the war. [4:99]

It took some time for European economies to recover, and in the 1950s larger states, such as France, Italy, Germany and Spain, introduced protective measures aimed at lessening the influence of American films in their territories. For instance, import quotas were imposed in order to protect domestic production, and special taxes were levied on imported films in some countries (France, Italy) which required that profits by American companies had to be reinvested locally. At the same time, domestic production in France, Italy, Germany and Spain was supported by the government through various subsidies and loans. By that time it was clear that film had become an extremely influential and profitable medium and everyone wanted to get the largest possible slice of the film cake. The smaller European countries were producing fewer than larger countries, and importing a host of both American and European films. As for the larger countries, protective policies introduced by their governments resulted in an increase in domestic film production and a decrease in foreign (mainly American) films importation. These policies also generally improved the domestic/imported films ratio in larger countries. [4:99]

1.3.  The Invention of Film Titles

The title is an identifying name given to a book, play, film, musical composition, or other work. It comes from Old English titul- superscription, and from Old French title- title; both from Latin titulus.[12:739] Films were short at the beginning of the cinematographic epoch, just a few minutes in length. They were not always narrative but sometimes only descriptions of every day life, scenes of reality. The fact that most films before 1900 were not narratives, had a great importance for the titles: they looked like picture captions, or like newspaper headlines, and not like the titles of novels or theater. But the many items did not leave any space for abstracts. Like the small news in newspapers they didnt need a lead. Almost all the titles were like picture captions or headlines. Some ten years later, films became longer. What happened was that we got a paratext that was designed totally according to the newspapers system of headlines that is the film titles and leads that is the abstract of the films. [6:49]

At the beginning of the century, the paratextual entrance to the film still adhered more to the information model and the titles still looked like headlines. What was equally important, the film makers made efforts to produce documentaries and the like as reconstructions of reality and not fiction. There was a hesitation in the beginning of the century: should film tell real life stories and thus have titles that designate them as a metonymy of reality, or should film be purely narrative, fictional and metaphorical and thus get titles like novels? In the first case, film would be a kind of visual reportage very much like newspaper reportage and with titles appropriate to this use of film. But when the Pathe brothers established the first cinema for news film in 1908, they made the first step toward distinguishing what should be the mainstream (fiction) from the informational film. And thus film got into the editorial model and the titles were free to take any shape, they only had to be clear and easy to retain- which did not exclude enigmas or puns. Film titles had to establish identity, to be a factor in the film distribution. There were no more abstracts and the like. These paratexts were taken over by the press; film was no longer related to a written program functioning as paratext. This distribution of work between film and press has persisted. [1:38]

1.4.  The Art of Film Titles

There are some statements about the film titles, their making and their translation. The famous translator William McKay once said: Translator should be able to write; he should be an original writer, because sometimes it isnt possible simply to copy the target title- it gives only a prompting of how it should be translated, but the translator, in his turn, reveals the thought and the idea with the help of the language of translation. Saul Bass, a graphic artist in the film industry said: Making a title is like making a poster youre condensing the event into this one concept, this one metaphora back-story that needs to be told or a character that needs to be introduced. Also Saul Bass said: My initial thoughts about what a title can do was to set mood and the prime underlying core of the films story, to express the story in some metaphorical way. I saw the title as a way of conditioning the audience, so that when the film actually began, viewers would already have an emotional resonance with it. The titles are often more innovative than the film itself and can be dramatically and emotionally satisfying. In the words of Martin Scorsese, titles have the unique function of setting the tone, providing the mood and foreshadowing the action. [2:11]

1.5.  Brief Historical View of the Titles of Cultural Products

Most of the texts (epic texts) from the Middle Age had simply the names of the main character as their title, or they had an indication of genre plus the name of the main character: Erec et Enide, Le Roman de Tristan. There were other possibilities as well: the title can refer to the content: Gesta Danorum. In some cases, we have double titles as by Chrestien de Troie: name plus specification Lancelot ou le chevalier a la Charette. In cases when we dont know who was the author or if there were one or more authors of the same text, we also dont know whether the title was made by the author or if it was invented later as a simple device of identification of the text, the identification being a necessity if the text was to have a social life. When the printing press began to print medieval texts, it took over the titles not only as means of identification but now also as a device for sale. [7:154]

The turning of the century (1500) saw the beginning of a totally new genre, the ancestor of all modern mass communication, the leaflet/ flyveblade either as religious propaganda or simple entertainment (stories about crimes, about natural phenomena or catastrophes, about monsters) - the stuff we get today in the tabloid press, in B-films and low-status entertainment fiction on TV. The leaflets had a huge paratexts: a long title with indication of genre to identify themselves and an even longer abstract to sell them. This is a system rather close to the modern headline and lead system. And it is linked with a new production technology and a new system of distribution: to be sold, the leaflets had to identify themselves and give the customer an idea of their contents. When the periodical newspaper took over, the paratext changed. The newspapers name became the important thing, and in the beginning there was very little use of headlines to distinguish the different items within the paper. As for books, they seem to have taken over rather simple titles and have had somewhat restricted use of abstracts. But books have very often used the medieval system of proper name/ noun plus salient feature of the story (abstract, evaluation or the like). [5:56]

But as soon we leave fiction and turn to factual books, the titles get longer. By the end of the 19th century, the newspapers had finally found a form that persists to this day: the system of columns and headlines covering more than one column, the total spatial organization of news instead of the former temporal organization. The new spatial organization made the use of headlines and leads a must. The earliest credit sequences were for silent films. They were presented on title cards- cards containing printed material that were photographed and later incorporated into the movie. These cards also included the dialogue and set the time, place and action for the scenes. As cinema evolved, so did the titles. After the implementation of sound, titles began to function as a transition: taking on the responsibility of displaying the movies title, the name of the director and establishing the hierarchy of actors. In the 1950s, titles began to move beyond pragmatic communication and evolved into complete narratives- establishing the mood and visual character of the film. [11:117]

1.5.1.   The Three Models of Mass Communication

But film titles have changed over the years mainly due to the way films or order audiovisual products have been integrated into three different models of cultural production and distribution:

-the editorial model: the production is distributed as isolated items: the case of books and other texts, of records/CDs and of film tickets that are sold as isolated items. These products have, compared to the products of the following models, a rather high longevity. It is a model that encourages the emergence of the stars, yesterday the classical Hollywood stars, today the rock stars.

-the model of written information: this model implies a regular and periodical distribution. The products are normally made up of bunches of texts, i.e. newspapers or magazines. Each sale makes obsolete the products of yesterday (newspapers) or last week (magazines).

-the flow model: (mostly radio and television) is characterized by the necessary continuation of the programs, and it is a combination or interference of the cultural field and the informational field. As for the model of written information, it is one in which the products become obsolete when they have been shown on the screen (or listened to on the radio). [5:94]

For each model, there is a specific economic and distribution organization. In many cases, however, it is useful for the owners/managers to play simultaneously on two models at the same time: the use of serial publications of novels, the use of film on television or even the different ways of pay-TV that turns TV into the editorial model. The flow model is the younger model going back to about 1920, whereas the two others go back to the first half of 17th century where they slowly emerged from an unstructured market where books, pamphlets, leaflets, songs were sold the same way (colportage). Each system got fixed distribution forms at least in the second half of the 17th century, and already in the beginning of the 19th century we get mixed forms: the use of periodical novels, and from 1836 the use of the feuilleton novel in newspapers. Each of the two systems or models has over these centuries built up its own and specific use of paratexts. The last newcomer is the use of headlines and leads in newspapers just before 1900. [5:94]

When film definitely had become a medium in 1895, there were thus two models to follow, either the editorial model (film is like a novel or short story) or the information model (film is like a news item). Today there is no hesitation: a film is a unit like a book, we all know that. And therefore a film title looks like the title of a novel, we all know that too. We know that many films are based on novels and may have the same title. But in 1895, things were different and no one could know how film would be distributed, what it would be like and what kinds of paratext would accompany the film. [5:94]

1.5.2. The Film Title and the System of Paratext

A film title is a paratext. By paratext we understand one or more small texts besides the text. According to Fradsen a paratext is the title, notes, dedications, attributions, abstracts, leads and headlines. Now the paratexts in films are rather specific because text, that is the film, and paratext use different media. If we consider trailers, title sequences, announcement and abstracts on TV as paratexts, then we have also visual paratexts. In the cinematographic distribution system the paratext is reduced to the simplest possible expression whereas in television distribution, the visual and the linguistic paratexts have seen their importance grow in recent years due to the rising competition among an increasing number of television channels. Fradsen refers to this particular, but increasing part of texts in the modern information of society. [8:53]

According to Genette, who is only concerned with the reader of literature, the reader has to get through the paratext in order to enter the text proper. From a theoretical or systematic point of view he is right in doing this- and his point of view fits in with the strategy of producers/distributors who try to get viewers/readers to enter their texts. But in actual fact, the television viewer is often little concerned by the paratext. She/he is zapping and thus avoiding the proper use of the paratexts. Solutions to this problem have been, on the one hand, to make television consist of self-containing segments in order to make the zapping easier and on the other hand, to increase the number of paratexts on the screen in order to capture those viewers who are not zappers. Here we should distinguish between paratext outside the text, such as announcements and recapitulations (after the text), and trailers, etc. inside the text in the beginning. The ways in which paratext and text are related in television depend on genres (types of fiction, types of news or of documentaries, types of entertainment) and types of channel: generalist or thematic, public broadcast or commercial. [9:86]

1.5.3. The Titles of Audiovisual Fiction and the Flow Model

The film is no longer the mainstream fictional entertainment product. This role has been taken over by the production of television fiction. Serials, series and isolated products fill up the television programs and several systems of titles are coexisting in the flow. The cinema films keep, of course, their original titles when shown on television. Often, serial have only a name and then a number and even if each episode has a name, this name is rather unimportant; you dont sell the series or the serial in isolated episodes. The serials are sold and seen because of the main character who gives its name to the entire set of episodes. Others seem to prefer totally impersonal titles (like many American series and serials) or they find a title that characterizes the main protagonist. Only in recent years does this seem to have come to an end with them. As a matter of fact, what we see now is a very poor way of titling: an identification noun and number, a system that has been taken over from the flow of talk shows, entertainment programs, etc. the flow model implies that once a text has been shown, it is dead. So why bother with a title? Television fiction is in between the two models; it has taken over the flow logic, but at the same time, it has taken over the more lasting life of the products within the editorial model. Of course, these programs have a paratext helping us to get through: announcements on channel, television programs in newspapers, and not to forget the lead in each program: the anchor and his/her helpers explaining what we are going to see. Only the isolated text, that is the film, still has a title of a certain importance. The rest is silence. [5:56]

1.6.  The Functions of Film Titles

Then, what are the functions of the titles? The prime function is to identify the film. Without this initial identification we would not be able to talk about the film, sales promotion would be impossible, and researches could not analyze the film. The title makes the unit. If the text has come to us without a title we must give it a title in order to talk about it. In a computer, the file must have a title, but even before the file gets its title it is called untitled 1. Given this obvious function of the title we can indicate other functions:

-The title is a sign to guide us through the television flow or the film pages of newspapers/magazines.

-The title is a means for guiding our reception and our interpretation of a text, either by stressing a specific point of view or by giving us a resume/abstract of the film.

-Given the various roles the title may fulfill, the main function of the film title might seem to be the films promotion, in which case the title should be easy to remember because it astonishes/provokes, etc at first.

-Given the fact that the text in a film is audiovisual and that the paratext or the title is textual, one might expect that film titles were different from titles of novels, short stories, dramas, etc. but as far as it can be seen, there is very little original in film titles. The combination of two media/communications channels in one global text (film plus its paratext) does not seem to have or to have had any importance. Most film titles would work as titles of novels and vice versa. [8:54]

Nor does it seem that the distinction between the heteroreferential and the homoreferential aspects of the paratext change when we leave newspaper paratexts to have a look at film paratext. Fradsen distinguishes between transmitter 1, enunciator 1 (for the proper text) and transmitter 2, enunciator 2 (for the paratext). This distinction works perfectly when applied to newspaper headlines. It seems to work too within the title system of novels, as well as within the film title system. The only thing that should distinguish film titles from other titles is the total impossibility of anaphoric relations between the film text and the title. The title is too far removed from the film. [8:54]

1.7.  Film Titles Translation

Let us appeal to one of the most applied translation aspects- translation of film titles. This aspect of translation is interesting in many points: the modern audience is given a great number of translated artifacts in the various translation forms (the simultaneous translation, the subtitles, double subtitles). The quantity of translating material affects its quality: the foreign films translations are the examples of the different kinds mistakes, inaccuracies, interference. The film title in the publicist discourse functions as the identification of the actor or the film director, what is realized in corresponding communicative pass. Such identification is often concerned with the characters visualization and the appearance of the actor-performer. The most successful this step is in the case when there is a great need to identificate the foreign player, which is not very famous. The inexactitudes in the film titles translations may cause the communicative failure, because many difficulties often appear when identificating one or another film. The observations show that the titles of foreign feature (as well as the animation and the documentary) films in the modern publicist editions mostly appear in the bilingual variant. [12:1].

E.g. The Hunted-

The Matrix Reloaded-:

E.g. phonetic variants: Ali McBill- ;

The most numerous type is lexico-synonymical variants:

E.g. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl- : ; : ; :

The Lord of Rings: Two Towers- : ; : ; : .

Thus the translations of film titles represent the vast material for the analysis of the types of equivalence, interference, speech mistakes. The titles modified and transformed during the translation and the motivated steps aside from the title in the source language represent an interest also in the aspect of identification and comparison of translation tendencies. The comparative analysis shows that during the translation of movie titles the adaptations of different kinds may be observed.

E.g. Shallow Hal- ; ;

Orange Country- ; ; . [12:1].

1.7.1.   Types of Film Titles Translation

In general, there are the following types of film titles translation:

Euphemism translation we know as the typical translation of the past. Some examples became classical: Some like it hot in the Russian distribution is known as . However, in the modern titles we can also meet both euphemism titles and deeuphemism translations. For example, these opposite functions are implemented by the transliteration and transcription:

Meet the Fockers- ; .

Genre translation can be considered one of the most expanded types of adaptation, during which in the translation of film title the language units are equipped. They correlate the translated title with the concrete genre. The detective title City by the Sea has been transformed in Russian translation in -, but the horror film title She Creature in the Russian translation corresponds to the terrible genre: . [12;2]

Semantic translation is the adaptation which with the help of changing or adding the lexical elements and introducing the key-words of film expands the semantic field of the genre film. For example, the drama title Out of the cold in the Russian distribution is far from the original title: ! This variant of the title greatly over commutated the plot accents: the film main character was the American dancer of step who has spent 20 years in Russia. The comedy about the younger son of evil Little Nicky is translated with the adding of lexical element- , -. The comedy with the title where only the main characters surname is reflected- Bowfinger is translated in Russian as or , thus, this kind of translation will not allow to identificate this film as, for example, a detective or biographical drama. [12;2]

The translations of the screen versions titles represent a specific analysis object; because in this case we should trace the adequacy of some titles (the source- original title- translated title and transformations, which appear as the result of one or another translation). The type of translation adaptation- the return to the first primary source- is generally used in the case when the screen version title doesnt correspond to the title of writing, which was the source of the plot. For example, Sleep Hallow- in the Russian translation is (but the subtitles propose another variant, which is closer to the literal source- ). Thus the analysis of film titles, translated into Russian, has shown a quite many-colored picture. The foreign film titles translated in Russian language have different variants (in Russian editions, in central and regional press). Moreover, the analysis showed that the translations of the titles often follow the fixed adaptation strategies. [12;2]

Chapter II: Difficulties in Translating Film Titles from English into Russian

The art of translation is a very difficult art; it shows us that one and the same original text may have a lot of translations. The difficulty for us is to use the one of them, which would suit the situation best of all. The same difficulty appears when we deal with movie titles, sometimes the original title is absolutely different from the translation we are given. The explanation may be very simple; the Russian translation may be better understood by Russian-speaking community, than the original variant of the title. The work of finding a better and a more suitable translation is very difficult but at the same time very interesting. So, let us enter the world of translating the movie titles.

2.1. Difficulties in Translating Comedy Movie Titles

A comedy film is a film laced with humor or that may seek to provoke laughter from the audience. Along with drama, horror and science fiction, comedy is one of the largest genres of the medium. There are different types of comedies. For example, a comedy of manners satirizes the manners and affectations of a social class, often represented by stock characters. The plot of the comedy is often concerned with an illicit love affair or some other scandal, but is generally less important than its witty dialogue. In a fish-out-of-water comedy film the main character finds himself in an alien environment and this drives most of the humor in the film. A parody or spoof film is a comedy that satirizes other film genres or classic films. Such films employ sarcasm, stereotyping, mockery of scenes from other films, and the obviousness of meaning in a character's actions. The anarchic comedy film uses nonsensical, stream-of-consciousness humor which often lampoons some form of authority. Films of this nature stem from a theatrical history of anarchic comedy on the stage. The romantic comedy sub-genre typically involves the development of a relationship between a man and a woman. The stereotyped plot line follows the "boy-gets-girl", "boy-loses-girl", "boy-gets-girl-back-again" sequence. [12:538]

To begin with, let us analyze the following comedy movie title:

1) The original title is: Some Like it Hot.

If to take Lingvo10 dictionary, it will give us the following translations:

-Some: -, -, -, , , ,

-Like: , , , ,

-It: , , , , , , , ()

-Hot: ; ; ; , , , , , , , , , ,

If to unite them the following variants can be:

1.- ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5.

Sometimes one and the same title may have several accepted versions, but anyway, only one will be official. So this title has the following accepted versions:

6. ; 7. ; 8.- ; 9.

But the official Russian translation is: . [17:22]

So, including the official Russian version, we have 10 translation variants of this title. The difficulty with this movie title is that it was absolutely changed, that sometimes may happen. It was adapted to the audience of the former USSR and changed by the censors, because its original title sounded very frivolous in that time. The type of film titles translation, used in this case is called euphemism translation. But nowadays on the West this variant is considered more felicitous than the original one.

2) The next original comedy movie title is: Lemony Snickets Series of Unfortunate Events.

The Lingvo10 dictionary gives us the following translations of the words:

-Series: , , , , ,

-Unfortunate: , , , , , ,

-Event(s): , , , , , ,

If to unite them, we get some possible versions of this title:

1. : ; 2. : ; 3. : ; 4. :

But the official Russian translation is only one: : 33 [24:57]

The difficulty of this film title translation is that we had to choose between 5 synonymic versions. We had to find the most convenient translation, which at the same time would be close to Russian audience. So, we chose the translation 33 , because there is such a phraseological unit in Russian language, which has the general meaning of all others translations of this title.

3) Another title of the comedy movie is: John Tucker Must Die
The Lingvo10 dictionary gives us several translations of these words:

-Must: , ,

-Die: , , ,

The name of the main character we have translated by means of transliteration, but the whole title has several possible translations:

1., !; 2. ; 3. ; 4., ; 5. ; 6.

The official Russian translation is: , ! [24:86]

In general, we have 7 versions of this movie title translation. The type of film titles translation used in this case is the deeuphemism translation. The official Russian version is more emotionally colored and is colloquial, when the original title is neutral. This way of translating the film title was used to make it closer and more understandable to the film potential audience- the young people, the most part of which speaks in colloquial language.

4) The next comedy movie title is: I Spy

The Lingvo10 dictionary gives the following translations of the words:


-Spy: (n) , , , , , , (v) , , , , ,

If to unite these translations we get the 12 translation variants of this film title:

1. - ; 2. - ; 3. - ; 4. - ; 5. ; 6. ; 7. ; 8. ; 9. ; 10. ; 11. ; 12. .

The 13th translation version of this movie title is the official Russian version: . [24:64]

It was completely changed, and has a far connection with the meaning of the original film title, but it corresponds to the genre of comedies. The type of movie titles translation used in this case is called genre translation, because the original version has the aim that people, by this title, could identify this film as a comedy, but not mix it with the detective story or action movie.

2.2. Difficulties in Translating Horror Movie Titles

Films from the horror genre are designed to elicit fright, fear, terror, disgust or horror from viewers. In horror film plots, evil forces, events, or characters, sometimes of supernatural origin, intrude into the everyday world. Horror film characters include vampires, zombies, monsters, serial killers, and a range of other fear-inspiring characters. Early horror films often drew inspiration from characters and stories from classic literature, such as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Phantom of the Opera and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Horror films have been criticized for their graphic violence and dismissed by film critics as low budget B-movies and exploitation films. Nonetheless, some major studios and respected directors have made forays into the genre, and more recent generations of critics have analyzed horror films. Some horror films draw on other genres, such as science fiction, fantasy, black comedy, and thrillers. [12:243]

1) The first horror movie title is: Dracula's Curse

If to take Lingvo10 dictionary, it will give us the following translations of these words:


-Curse: , , , , , , , , , ,

With the official Russian version of this movie title, we have 12 variants of it translation:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5. ; 6. ; 7. ; 8. ; 9. ; 10. ; 11.

The official Russian translation is: [37:12]

The first difficulty of this film title translation is that we had to choose the correct variant between many synonymic translations. But the second difficulty is that only after watching this horror movie, we understand that the only one version can be accepted, and it isnt the official one, but it is , which corresponds to the films plot.

2) The next title of the horror movie is: Road to Perdition

The Lingvo10 dictionary gives us the following translations:

-Road: , , , , ,

-To: , , , , ,

-Perdition: , , , , ,

If to unite these translations, we get the following Russian versions of this film title:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5. ; 6. ; 7. ; 8.

Generally, we have 9 possible translations of this horror movie title, excluding the official one, which is: [37:75]

The difficulty of this movie title translation is that we had to choose the most convenient Russian version between 10 synonymic variants. Though the official translation of the film title is only one, the others may exist too.

3) The next horror movie title is: Nightmare Boulevard

If to take Lingvo10 dictionary, it will give us the following translations:

- Nightmare: , , , ,

- Boulevard: , ,

So, as a result of their combination, we get several translation variants of this title:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. , ; 5. ; 6.

The all 6 versions are synonymic, and it is difficult to find between them the most suitable translation.

The official Russian translation of this horror movie title is:  [24:9]

The type of film title translation, used in this case is the genre one, because the title was adapted to the terrible genre of the film by the Russian word , which doesnt exist in the translation variants of the word nightmare, but creates a more sinister and weird mood of the potential audience, than the other existing variants.

4) The next horror movie title is: City of Ghosts.

The Lingvo10 dictionary gives the following translations of the words:

-City: ,

-Ghost(s): , , , ,

If to unite them we get 5 Russian versions of this film title:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5.

The official one is: [37:29]

These 5 Russian translations of this horror movie title are all synonymic, because they all have similar meaning and each of them may be the official translation. The difficulty is to find between them the most suitable version.

2.3. Difficulties in Translating Action Movie Titles

Action films, or movies, are a film genre, where action sequences, such as fighting, stunts, car chases or explosions, take precedence over elements like characterisation or complex plotting. The action typically involves individual efforts on the part of the hero, as contrasted with most war films. The genre is closely linked with the thriller and adventure film genres. The phenomenal success of the James Bond series in the 1960s and 1970s, helped to popularise the concept of the action film in recent years. Action films tend to be expensive requiring big budget special effects and stunt work. Action films have mainly become a mostly-American genre, although there have been a significant number of action films from Hong Kong which are primarily modern variations of the martial arts film. Because of these roots, Hong Kong action films typically center on acrobatics by the protagonist while American action films typically feature big explosions and modern technology. [12:88]

1) The first action movie title is: Usual Suspects.

The Lingvo10 dictionary gives us the following translations of the words:

-Usual: , , , , , , , ,

-Suspect(s): , ,

In general, we get versions of Russian translation:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5. ; 6. ; 7. ; 8. ; 9.

The official Russian version of this film title is:  [37:89]

We have 10 versions of translation this action movie title, including the official one. The difficulty of translating this title is that in the official variant the word usual is omitted to make the title shorter and easier to understand. This can happen sometimes, when the omitted word doesnt have significance and doesnt change the meaning of translation.

2) The second action movie title is: The fast and the furious.

If to take the Lingvo10 dictionary, it will give us the following translations of the words:

-Fast: , , , , , , ,

-And: , ,

-Furious: , , ,

If to unite them we will get the following Russian versions of this title:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5. ; 6. ; 7., ; 8., 9.,

We have 9 possible variants of translation this movie title.

The official Russian translation is: [37:117]

The difficulty of translation this film title is that it was absolutely changed and hasnt any relation with the original one. This type of translating the movie titles is called semantic translation, because the Russian variant was created according to the films plot, where a group of young people is fond of cars, high speed and races. The Russian word is closely related to these concepts- thats why it was chosen as the official version; though the literal translation is convenient too.

3) The next action movie title is: Die Hard.

The Lingvo10 dictionary gives us the following translations of the words:

-Die: , , , , ,

-Hard: (adv) , , , , , , , , ,

If to unite them we will get the following Russian versions of this title:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5. ; 6. ; 7.; 8. ; 9. ; 10.

If we consider the words Die Hard as a set-expression, which was widespread during the war and meant a person who fought to the bitter end and stood up to the enemy till the death, we get some more Russian variants of this title:

11. ; 12., ; 13.

Generally, we have found 13 translation variants of this action movie title.

The official Russian version is: . [24:44]

The difficulty of translation this film title is that we had to find either literal translation of it, or the resembling set-expression in Russian language, which would mean the similar thing as the English Die Hard. The official Russian translation partly corresponds to the original title, so it can be considered the most convenient.

4) The next action movie title is: Lord of War

The Lingvo10 dictionary gives us the following translations of the words:

-Lord: , , , , , , , , ,

-War: , , , ,

So we get the following translations of this film title:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5. ; 6. ; 7. ; 8. ; 9. ; 10.

Generally we have found 10 possible translations of this action movie title.

The official Russian version is: [37:65]

The difficulty of translating this film title is that official variant was changed according to the movies plot, where the main character occupied with selling the weapon, i.e. in the official Russian variant the semantic adaptation was used. We can also say that the genre type of translation the film titles was used in this case, because if we take some of the possible variants as the official translations, like: or , they would seem the titles of historical movies and not of the action. Thats why the version is more convenient in this case.

2.4. Difficulties in Translating Melodramatic Movie Titles

Since the dawn of tragedy, in which there was often an element of otherworldly force (god, gods, or fate) melodrama became the main type of film, together with comedy. In fact, arguably, all films can be either melodramas or comedies. There are several types of melodramas: patriarchal melodrama- a melodrama in which issues of man (male) are discussed, often his relationship with his children, his attempts to make a career, etc. Matriarchal melodrama usually discusses relationship between mother and her daughter. Social melodrama attempts to focus on social issues, social injustice. [12:375]

1) The first melodramatic movie title is: American Beauty

If to take the Lingvo10 dictionary, it will give us the following translations of the words:

-American: (adj) , (n) ,

-Beauty: , , ,

If to unite these translations we get several possible Russian variants of this film title:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5. ; 6.

The official Russian version is: - [24:34]

So we have 7 versions of translation this movie title, including the official one. We consider that the variant is the most convenient, because is the translation of name of the rose sort, the image of which in full is used in this film. Of course that the movie isnt about a rose, but about a beautiful girl, who comes in the dreams of the main character. But in both cases this translation is more suitable than the official one.

2) The second melodramatic movie title is: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The Lingvo10 dictionary gives us the following translations of the words:

-Eternal: , , , , , , , ,

-Sunshine: , , , ,

-Spotless: , , , ,

-Mind: , , , , , , , , , ,

If to unite them we will get the following Russian versions of this title:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5. ; 6. ; 7. ; 8. ; 9. ; 10. ; 11. ; 12. ; 13. ; 14. ; 15.

The official Russian translation is:  [24:29]

We have 15 possible variants of translation of this movie title. They all are synonymic and have the similar meaning, but the official one is more suitable, because it corresponds to a greater extent to a melodramatic genre. In the titles official translation the word is introduced, which transmits the feelings of passion and love, usually related to the melodramatic genre. This translation is considered one of the most successful in the Russian distribution.

3) The next melodramatic movie title is: The Cutting Edge: Going for the Gold

The Lingvo10 dictionary gives us the following translations of the words:

-Cutting: , , , , , , ,

-Edge: , , , , , ,

-Going: , , , ,


If we unite them all we get the following versions of this movie title:

1. : ; 2.: ; 3. : ; 4. : ; 5. : ; 6. : ; 7. : ; 8. : ; 9. : ; 10. :

Generally we have 10 possible variants of translation this movie title.

The official one is: [37:48]

The difficulty of translating this film title is that all the variants are very long and do not sound well as movie titles. The official Russian version was shortened, but didnt change its meaning. The type of film titles translation used in this case is semantic translation, because the movie tells about two figure skaters who wanted to win the gold in the Olympic Games. So, after watching this film we understand that the official version is more convenient in this case.

4) The last melodramatic movie title is: Youll Get Over It

The Lingvo10 dictionary gives us the following translation of the following words:

-You: , , , , , , ,

-Get over: , , , , , , -., -., -., -.

-It: , , , , ()

Generally we have 11 possible translations of this film title:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5. ; 6. ; 7. ; 8. ; 9. ; 10. ; 11.

But the official Russian translation is only one:  [37:72]

This film title, as the previous one, was also translated by semantic adaptation. Only after watching this film and having a clear idea of its plot we may say what variant is more suitable- one of the possible translations or the official one. Here appears the difficulty. The film is about a boy who realizes that he is a homosexual and how he is admitted by the cruel society. But the boy overcomes all the hardships, in spite of everything. Consequently, from the one hand, some of the possible translations are convenient, for example: or . But for the other hand, finally this boy proves to everybody that he is the simple boy like all others, despite that he is a gay; that is the official Russian version is also suitable.

2.5. Difficulties in Translating Adventure and Historical Movie Titles

The adventure film is a film genre which has been a popular one in the history of cinema. Although the genre is not clearly defined, adventure films are usually set in the past or sometimes in a fantasy world, and often involve swordfighting or swashbuckling. Unlike the modern action film, which often takes place in a city, with the hero battling drug cartels or terrorists, there is an element of romanticism attached to the adventure genre. Popular subjects have included: Robin Hood, Zorro, pirates or the novels of Alexandre Dumas. The genre probably reached the peak of its popularity in Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s. The historical movie is a film genre in which stories are based upon historical events and famous persons. Some historical films attempt to accurately portray a historical event or biography, to the degree that the available historical research will allow. Other historical movies are fictionalized tales that are based on an actual person and their deeds. [12:215]

1) The first adventure movie title is: Lost

The Lingvo10 dictionary translates this word in this way:

-Lost: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

So the possible translations of this film title are:

1. ; 2.; 3.; 4.; 5.;

6.; 7.; 8.; 9.; 10.; 11. ; 12. ; 13. ; 14.; 15.; 16.; 17.

Generally we have 17 Russian variants of this movie title.

But the official Russian translation is:  [24:61]

The difficulty in translating this film title consists in its history. The idea of this film was taken from the famous American reality-show, where simple town-dwellers lived in the uninhabited island. This show, which was called , was shown on the Russian television not long before this film. Just by analogy with the show , in Russia the famous film was called , by the heading of the principal musical theme of the reality-show. In spite of this, some of the possible translations can exist too, for example: , or , because of the one difference between the reality-show and the film: in the show people voluntarily went to the island, whereas in the film they got there and became lost after the airplane crash.

2) The second adventure movie title is: Into the blue

The Lingvo10 dictionary gives us the following translation of the following words:

-Into: , , ,

-Blue: , , , , , ,

If to unite them we get the following versions of this movie title:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5. ; 6. ; 7.

Generally we have 7 variants of this movie title.

The official Russian translation is: [37:27]

The difficulty of translation this movie title is that the possible translations are not quite convenient. First of all, from the films plot we found out that the main characters were fond of diving, that is they submerged into the ocean (which is the synonym of the blue). Thats why the 4th variant can be suitable, if it would be modified a little bit in . But the main difficulty appears when comparing the possible translations with the official one - . This variant was accepted as an official because of the semantic adaptation. The film tells us that the main characters found a sunken treasure in the ocean and began a really heavenly life. Thats why and this variant is convenient.

3) The last is the title of the historical movie: Kingdom of Heaven

The Lingvo10 dictionary gives us the following translation of the following words:

-Kingdom: , , , , ,

-Heaven: , , ,

So we get the following translations of this film title:

1. ; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5. ; 6. 7. ; 8.

As a result we have 8 possible translations of this film title.

The official Russian version is: [24:122]

The difficulty of translation this movie title is that it was created by the Russian set-expression , which is used, as a rule, in cases when smb speaks about the departed person and wants him to be in the paradise. This meaning of the title is not quite convenient in this case, because the original title doesnt have this sense. After the watching this historical film we understand that the action takes place in Jerusalem, which was considered by his inhabitants the Kingdom of Heaven. Thats why all the possible variants of translation are rather convenient, that the official one.


It is undoubtful that the film title should be connected in some way to the film itself. In ideal case the title determines the movies principal subject, which becomes a reference point of everything that happens on the screen. Especially looks strange that title, which cannot be deciphered, even having watched the film till the end. In such cases, the spectator has the feeling of bewilderment after the watching: May be Ive lost something, if I dont understand the film title?. The situation may be intensified, if the title is translated from another language. Here the difficulties appear. Therefore the translator, while translating the film title must be very careful and attentive. He/she must know all the techniques of this kind of translation and must use all his/her imagination to transmit the meaning of film title, as close to the original, as possible.

We found this kind of translation very interesting and tried to make an investigation in our course paper on the subject of what difficulties is the translator confronted with during the movie titles translation. Generally, it was really interesting to make such a research work, because we have found out many new things about this kind of translation. In Chapter One we introduced some theory about this subject. We gave the main definitions of translation, film and film title; we presented the functions of movie titles and gave some interesting facts from the history of movies and their titles. Then, we presented the brief description of the theory of translation the film titles and its principal methods. At the end of this chapter we have defined several types of movie titles translation by which we translated in Chapter Two the 19 examples:

  • Euphemism translation
  • Genre translation
  • Semantic translation
  • Return to the firstprimary source

However the theoretical part of the work wasnt so interesting as the practical one. In any case, with the help of theory about the types of translation the foreign movie titles in Chapter Two we made a detailed analysis of 19 examples. We selected from a variety of titles the most interesting ones and performed an investigation basing on them. It was curious to find out that the titles of famous films may be the examples of translators mistakes or, to the contrary, may be the real works of translators art. We have presented some possible variants of all 19 movie titles and compared them with their originals. So, we made a conclusion that these possible versions differ from the originals semantically, syntactically or stylistically. But despite this they all can exist and even sometimes one of them is more suitable than the official Russian translation, established by the distribution. In the end, we made some conclusions about the difficulties we were confronted with during our work. So, we have revealed several difficulties of movie titles translation:

  • The difficulty to choose the convenient translation between many synonymic variants
  • The difficulty when the Russian variant is absolutely changed to make it closer to the target audience
  • The difficulty when the Russian translation is adapted to the audience by the help of Russian language set-expressions, which are more understandable by these people
  • The difficulty when the official translation isnt so much suitable as one of the possible translation variants
  • The difficulty when the official Russian translation differs in style in language from the original one
  • The difficulty when the film title translation doesnt coincide with the genre of the original film title, and it must be adapted to this particular genre by some modifications

Consequently, by our research we achieved our goal to discover the difficulties in translation film titles from English into Russian. Now, already knowing these difficulties, we may produce a qualitative translation of foreign film titles.


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2.   Counts, James. Just the beginning: The art of film titles/ James Counts New-York, 1999.110p.

3.   Danan, Martine. Dubbing as an Expression of Nationalism/ Martine Danan - Journal de Traducteurs, vol.4, 1991. - 690 p.

4.   Delabastita, Dirk. Translation and the Mass Media/ Translation, History and Culture/ Dirk Dalabastita - London, Pinter Publishers, 1990. 210p.

5.   Ellis, John. Visible Fictions/ John Ellis - London and New-York, Routledge, 1992. - 86p.

6.   Engberg, Marguerite. Dansk stumfilm/ Marguerite Engberg -Kobenhavn, Rhodos, 1977. 75p.

7.   Flichy, Patrice. Une histoire de la communication moderne/ Patrice Flichy - La Découverte, 2006. 280p.

8.   Fradsen, Finn. Avisens paratekst in Mediekultur/ Finn Fradsen Paris, 1991. 170p.

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13.  , .. / .. - , , 2003. - 2 .

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