Culture Shock in France – Very Bad American Movie Titles!


I'm amazed they didn't simplify Zach Galifinakis' name as well

Every wonder why American movies have such odd titles in France? Read on to find out!

With old-guard stereotypes of snooty Frenchmen and ignorant Americans gradually fading, there are fewer and fewer culture shock moments for travelers to experience. If anything, people are feeling more comfortable in Paris than ever, including explorations following the filming of locations of Midnight in Paris!

Well, I think that’s a shame to lose those culture shock moments! No need to fret; if you’re going to Paris and worried about not feeling sufficiently displaced, there is one bastion of Franco/American mismatch that stands strong – how to translate American movie titles. I know what you’re thinking: “Don’t the French translate American titles directly into French?” NOPE! It’s way, way better than that. Behold!

The Hangover

The Hangover BOTH

“THEY CAME, THEY DRANK, THEY CAN’T REMEMBER”; Not only is the French tagline better, it rhymes as well!

In case you were wondering, the French have their own unique term for “hangover,” it’s “gueule de bois”; literally: “wooden kisser.” So why not just re-title it that way? Well, for same reason “café au lait” in English isn’t “coffee with milk.” Colloquialisms are hard to translate, so what you see here is an exercise in idiom-simplification as movie distributors in France attempt to keep that American … je ne sais quoi.

 The Other Guys

Maybe Samuel Jackson and The Rock are in this movie for much longer in the French edition

Maybe Samuel Jackson and The Rock are in this movie for much longer in the French edition

Note how “Very Bad” is the Globish translation for …”Cool” as in Very Bad Cops and Very Bad Trip.

So when did this all start?

In the 1980s, movie distributors realized that their French audiences were increasingly English-speaking. So, to avoid the potential for confusion between a genuinely French movie and an American one with a title translated to French, they started keeping the English titles. This created a problem, as it made it harder for those with a more tenuous grasp on our language to quickly appreciate the premise of upcoming films from their titles.

And so, the compromise we have today was formed: the titles of mainstream English-language films are translated not to French, but to “Globish,”,the term for that array of 200 or so simple words and expressions, which give the impression of American-English fluency. As you’ll see here, this is done most notably by removing “the” (“ze” as the French would say) or including the word “sex”.

Now, without further ado, check out at all these examples we found!

American Hustle

This poster is like Globish Bingo

This poster is like Globish Bingo

Silver Linings Playbook

'Silver Linings' and 'Playbook' really gave them a run for their money on this one

I can’t fault this one, you can’t put two idioms together and hope they translate well

Knight and Day

Foiled again by the silent 'K'!

The French:  Foiled again by the silent ‘K’!

 When All Else Fails, Just Add ‘Sexe’!

And here we have the most all-encompassing term for any film in any way related to matters of intimacy, no matter how tangential the connection:  Sexe!

Cruel Intentions

Thus begins our 'Sexe' segment

You know BOTH your taglines are bad, when even the French roll their eyes and just write what they want: “Cruel and cunning; vicious and toxic; intelligent but prudish.”

No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached BOTH

The French also like their Natalies and Ashtons with a little more redness to them.

Not Another Teen Movie

Not Another Teen Movie BOTH

How to solve the “How do we simplify the title and still convey this movie is a parody?” conundrum like a professional: “Let’s just label all the characters!”

Step Up 2


The “it’s not where you come from, but where you go” cliche seemingly also exists in France

Wild Things

If anything, these titles are much more accurate

If anything, these titles are much more accurate

Get Him to the Greek

Get Him to the Greek BOTH

Bonus! ‘Knocked Up’ was translated to ‘En Cloque, Mode d’Emploi’; or, literally: ‘She’s Pregnant: A Set of Instructions’.

Holy Rollers

I believe this to be payback for French Connection UK

I believe this to be payback for French Connection UK

Pain & Gain

I have no explanation for this one...

I have no explanation for this one but I do like their twist on the tagline: “They wanted to live the American dream; instead they stole it.”

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

The Greatest Movie BOTH

“You will never see another Hollywood movie in the same light.”

Pitch Perfect

"The voice of success!"

“The voice of success!”

Twilight – Eclipse

Someone in the publishing industry was paid to make the decision of changing already French word 'Eclipse' to also French word 'Hesitation'

Someone in the publishing industry was paid to make the decision of changing the already French word ‘Eclipse’ to the also French word ‘Hesitation’


Pulp Fiction BOTH

The Canadians go the literal translation route. Ironically, the French make fun of them for this.

In the context of things like ‘txt spk’ and emojis, there is pretty convincing evidence of a global conspiracy to distill the English language down to its common denominators. So who knows, maybe Globish will make itself into our school curriculum someday? Until then, I’ll just stay on my high horse and keep making fun of these emulations. Or, for our French readers: Making Sexy Bad Fun of Title.

Don’t forget to check out our favorite Paris movies to put you in the “real French” mood!

About the author: Olivier is a half-French, half-American digital marketer living in New York. Due to his bi-nationality, he insists this piece is inoffensive.


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