Let the Wrong Subtitles In: More examples of “dumbed down” U.S. subtitles.

Posted on 26 March 2009 by Quaid

If you haven’t heard by now, Magnolia Pictures totally dropped the ball with the DVD release of the excellent and highly acclaimed Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In.

It’s a shame too.  Everyone here at MovieChopShop loves this movie (read Shep’s glowing review HERE).  We all cringed when it was denied an Oscar nomination, and we cringed even more when it was announced that a needless U.S. remake was in the works.

But, we reasoned, the original would always be available.  It would live on in the DVD format, always close-by if we needed a quality vampire fix.

Seems not.  The guys over at Icons of Fright posted a great article detailing how the official DVD release of the movie used subtitles that were significantly less accurate than the titles in the theatrical release.  Nuances were lost, jokes were jettisoned, and “no-shit” dialogue was added.  Here is an example.  The first image is from an early DVD screener, and the second is from the final DVD release of the movie…




See what I mean?  That line has so much more gravity and meaning in the original version of the movie.  

But this isn’t the first time this has happened, and it’s not always foreign films.  US DVD releases are often subtitled in English for the hearing impaired, and these subtitles are sometimes egregiously incorrect.  Here are a few examples…

Remember in Independence Day when Will Smith narrowly escapes being shot down by an Alien Spacecraft?  He pulls out a cigar to celebrate his victory, saying the oh-so-famous-line that is correctly translated in the international version of the DVD…


It’s a badass moment.  But what did U.S. audiences get?  Check it out below…


Yeah, “Welcome” and “Hello” kind of mean the same thing, but come on! We cannot deprive the US audiences of Smith-sonian baddassity!

Oh, it gets worse.  

It’s perhaps the second most quoted and famous line in Star Trek  history, right behind “Live long and prosper.”  When James T. Kirk screams in fury in the US DVD, audiences know what to expect.  And they get it…


Overseas, though, is a different story.  What loose translation is given on the Chinese-language dubbed DVD when you put on US subtitles?


I don’t know about you guys, but this just doesn’t work for me.  At all.  

There are other times it seems the translation company has some trouble speaking English.  The Japanese DVD of Network has an issue with this.  While the US DVD gets the most quotable line of the movie right, subtitling it as…


The Japanese dubbed DVD reads simply…


I mean, yeah.  I get the gist.  But there is something to be said for the poetry of the original language, right?

Sometimes I just think the company stops trying, or becomes convinced that nobody is ever going to watch the subtitle track.  Here is a screen grab of the German theatrical release of The Matrix


Great speech.  Iconic.  In the DVD release, though, it gets simplified, presumably for time…


Other times the subtitling company will change a line of dialogue to fit in with their preconceived notion about genres or characters.  Take this example–a line of dialogue spoken by the smooth-talking supercomputer HAL9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey


The DVD makes his language a little…more conventional..


Alright.  They’re just movies, you say.  It’s not high-art (I’d disagree with 2001), and the language isn’t that important.  Just get over it, right?

But what about when the film is high art?  These companies have even gone so far as to muck with the language of one William Shakespeare.  Of course, the original text of “Hamlet” reads…


If you rent the DVD of Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation, though, you get a massive re-imagining…


All right, that’s just offensive.  On so many levels.

There is no oversight on these DVD translations, and the travesty must stop.  US audiences deserve better.  You know it, I know it, and the American people know it.

Special thanks to Chris “Zwaloo” Currie for helping to “procure” these subtitles.                           

8 Comments For This Post

  1. ShepRamsey Says:

    Wow. That’s just awful. Hilarious. But awful. I remember watching a foreign DVD of Akira Kurosawa’s “Ikiru” once where the translation was pretty much incomprehensible. And dude, “Independence Day” is totally high art. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  2. Zwaloo Says:


  3. ParryOtter Says:

    That last one is bloodcurdling.

    I’m glad I waited to buy this one!

  4. Scott Says:

    Those aren’t jokes, right? Wow…

  5. Corey Says:

    i’m so jealous i didn’t think of doing this… but i doubt i could have topped the matrix one. funniest thing i’ve read in a long time.

  6. Oh My Horror Says:

    That can really change the mood of a film. = ME THINK ITS NOT SO NICE.

  7. Quaid Says:

    Corey, thanks for the kind words. We will always be on the lookout for evil translators destroying the soul of cinema, one subtitle at a time.

  8. Melisa Ferkel Says:

    View complete movies for 100 % free

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