Movie titles: Worst Spanish translations

There’s an eternal debate between Spaniards and Latin Americans regarding the best dub (of course, everyone prefers their own). But when it comes to translations, there have been horrible movie titles on both sides of the (Spanish-speaking) world. Check ’em out.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Forget about me!

With such a poetic title (in fact, the phrase comes from a poem by Alexander Pope), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could have been translated literally and still sound great. That’s why the Latin American version came close with Eterno resplandor de una mente sin recuerdos. Long but pretty.

Even Spaniards disliked the overly simplified ¡Olvídate de mí! (Forget about me!), with exclamation points and all.


Pulp Fiction – Violent Times

Few movies are as iconic as Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (and most of his other films, too). Thankfully, nowadays no-one calls it Violent times, the name it received for the Latin American market.

The Spaniards kept the original title, something they sometimes do (even though it usually ends up being totally mispronounced).


The Astronaut’s Wife – The Spawn / The Face of Terror

In Spanish, El engendro sounds awful; a mix of “spawn” and “abortion”. But oh well, that’s what they went with in Latin America. In Spain, they chose the more classic-sounding La cara del terror (The face of terror).

Neither of them comes close to the original title. In this case, it’s obvious that they thought that The astronaut’s wife wouldn’t be as appealing as those other titles which also gave some clues about the plot.

Argentina got its own title, La cara oculta (The hidden face) which, funnily enough, is also the title of a Spanish thriller that has nothing to do with Johnny Depp’s flick.


Die Hard – Hard to Kill / Crystal Jungle

A classic debate between the Latin American and Spanish audiences: Spaniards will forever defend their title because yes, it’s pretty, but it’s definitely not fitting for the whole franchise, only for the first Die Hard movie. Jungla de cristal means “crystal jungle” and makes reference to the first film’s setting so, when the rest were released, they had to keep using La jungla (The jungle) so people would know it was part of the series starring Bruce Willis.

Even though it’s not a literal translation, the Latin American one is more faithful and it sounds good, too. In fact, a movie titled Duro de matar (Hard to Kill) had already been released in Spain so they couldn’t use the title. It was Rumble in the Bronx starring Jackie Chan, and there was also a Muy duro de matar (Very hard to kill; yeah, great title, eh?), actually End of a Gun starring Steven Seagal.


Lost in Translation – Lost in Tokyo

For Latin Americans, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson weren’t Lost in Translation, they were Lost in Tokyo. Another one for Spaniards to mock Latinos.

A title that’s still somewhat faithful to the original premise. It’s also totally understandable: Perdidos en la traducción (literal translation) sounds awful. That’s why Spaniards kept the original title again.


Rosemary’s Baby – The Devil’s Seed

Talk about spoiling the whole movie from the title. The Devil’s Seed? Really?

That’s the title Rosemary’s Baby -Roman Polanski’s movie based on Ira Levin’s novel of the same name- got in Spain. In Latin America, they went literal with El bebé de Rosemary.

Levin will get the same treatment when The Stepford Wives was translated as Las poseídas de Stepford (The possessed women of Stepford). At least, for the remake, they took the spoiler out calling it Las mujeres perfectas (The perfect women).


Outside Providence – I can’t lose you for something as dumb as sex

Let’s tell the whole movie plot from the start. That’s what Spanish translators must have thought when they translated Outside Providence as No puedo perderte por algo tan tonto como el sexo (I can’t lose you for/because of something as dumb as sex) (!)

Lejos de Providencia (Latin America) isn’t great either because it translates the city’s name but at least it’s not that abomination.

Maybe they were trying to imitate Woody Allen and his Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask).


Up the Creek – Crazy River / Soaked Meatballs

Oh boy, oh boy. Careful because if you ever want to know how to say “Up the creek” in Spanish, you might end up saying “soaked meatballs”.

Blame Ivan Reitman’s iconic Meatballs starring Bill Murray which was translated as Los incorregibles Albóndigas (The incorregible Meatballs); many other comedies ended up with “meatballs” in their titles thanks to the first one’s success.

That’s why Up the Creek –Río de locura (literally, “river of craziness” in Latin America) -was translated as Los Albóndigas en remojo in Spain.


Airplane! – So where’s the pilot? / Land any way you can!

In Latin America, they wonder; in Spain, as in the original, they shout. Worst than the Meatballs case, all Leslie Nielsen films (no matter the series) got similar titles trying to take advantage of Airplane!‘s success.

The translation had to be creative because the literal one, ¡Aeroplano!, sounded pretty stupid. The problem is that Latin Americans called it “So where’s the pilot?” and Spaniards went with “Land as you can/any way you can” so many comedies ended up starting with “So where’s…” or ending with “any way you can”.

In Argentina, thankfully, The Naked Gun was translated literally as La pistola desnuda. Guess the Spanish name! Agárralo como puedas (Grab it any way you can). And for the rest of the Spanish-speaking world? ¿Y dónde está el policía? (So where’s the cop?).


Detroit Rock City – Rebel rockers / F in behavior

A big disappointment for Spanish-speaking KISS fans who could tell that the original title was a reference to the song of the same name.

Detroit Rock City was translated as Rockeros rebeldes in Latin America and Cero en conducta in Spain. Total transcreation.


Point Break – Break Point / They call him Bodhi

Point Break = Punto de quiebre; okay, a bit too literal, maybe. But Spaniards turned the Reeves-Swayze film into Le llaman Bodhi (They call him Bodhi) perhaps inspired by all those Bud Spencer and Terence Hill they used to love such as Le llamaban Trinidad (They called him Trinity).


Blues Brothers – The cheeky brothers / Rascals in full swing

There’s no way anyone can stand up for these titles. The cheeky brothers, seriously? Rascals in full swing?!

A disgrace to the original SNL sketch and to the films. It was so easy to call it Los hermanos Blues! Or to keep the original title due to the characters’ popularity.

Thankfully, most Spanish-speaking people refer to the movie as Blues Brothers and even the sequel remained Blues Brothers 2000 even though Spaniards added The rhythm goes on to the title.


Beetlejuice – Bitelchús

Oh, the horrorBitelchús is the phonetic translation of, well, Beetlejuice.

Still, you’ll hear Spaniards stand up for the title simply because they grew up with it. But nostalgia aside, I’d call Beetlejuice so he’d go after those translators…


The Sound of Music – The Rebel Novice / Smiles and Tears

The Sound of Music, such a pretty name. But translators love to get creative and that’s what must have happened when it was time to localize Julie Andrews’s film because there was nothing wrong with El Sonido de la Música (literal translation).

Latin Americans went with La novicia rebelde, a reference to the main character’s personality; Spaniards, on the other hand, summed up the von Trapp’s lengthy adventure into Sonrisas y lágrimas.


Fist of Legend – Jet Li is the Best Fighter

Jet Li’s the best fighter, definitely. Did you doubt that? Then you haven’t watched Jet Li is the Best Fighter.

The original title is in Chinese but the film was released internationally as Fist of Legend (in Spanish, “puño de leyenda”, “puño legendario”). One of the strangest movie title translations ever.


Braindead – Scared to Death / Your mother ate my dog

A gore cinema classic directed by Peter Jackson long before being worshiped by Tolkien fans, Braindead kept its original title in Spain but they added something to it:

“Your mother ate my dog” is a phrase from the film (video, sorry for the quality). Apparently, someone found it hilarious and decided to add it to the movie’s title for its Spanish translation.

Originality points (irony, wink wink) for Latinos who called it Muertos de Miedo (Scared to Death), the same title they gave to another Jackson film, The Frighteners starring Michael J. Fox. In Spain, the latter got a ridiculous name related to the Leslie Nielsen anecdote (read the Airplane! item on this list) Spaniards still defend: Agárrame esos fantasmas (Grab me those ghosts).


Beverly Hills Ninja – The Fiery Sausage

Poor Chris Farley. He never knew his Beverly Hills Ninja would be called La salchicha peleona (The Fiery Sausage, wtf?).

Absurd and not even funny, that’s the name it was released under in Spain. In Latin America, an almost literal translation worked: Un ninja en Beverly Hills (A ninja in Beverly Hills).


The Fast and the Furious – Full Throttle

The queen of all Spanish/Latin American debates: The Fast and the Furious.

And no, we’re not talking about that great LucasArts graphic adventure called “Full Throttle”; that’s what the Spaniards called it, A todo gas, while Latin Americans went with a more literal translationRápido y Furioso (Fast and Furious).

In Spain, they kept using it (same as the Die Hard case on this list) until they dropped it for the fourth installment when it became Fast and furious.


Ice Princess – Dreams on Ice / Dreaming, dreaming… I triumphed skating

Probably the most bizarre translation ever. A long, ridiculous title, technically chosen because the literal translation, Princesa del hielo, was too similar to a recently released film, Princesa por sorpresa (literally, “princess by surprise”, Spain’s translation for The Princess Diaries). Too many princesses, you know?

In Latin America, they didn’t go for a literal translation but close enough: Sueños sobre hielo (Dreams on Ice). Much better, huh?

We’re still looking for the one/s responsible for Soñando, soñando… triunfé patinando (Dreaming, dreaming… I triumphed skating). Oh yeah, and in Spanish, it rhymes!


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Video games that suffered name changes