Do you know which recent Oscar-winning film is known locally as Death Waits Everywhere (Smrt čeká všude)? How about A Pure Soul (Čistá duše)? Welcome to the world of unusual Czech translations of English-language movie titles: they don’t always make a lot of sense, can be surprisingly insensitive, and sometimes are even significantly better than their English counterparts.
By the way, the Oscar-winning examples above are The Hurt Locker (2009) and A Beautiful Mind (2001), respectively.
Sometimes things just get lost in translation, such as when Full Metal Jacket (1987) became Lead Vest (Olověná vesta). The title of Kubrick’s film means the casing around a bullet, but the Czech translation refers to protective gear.
And sometimes Czech distributers get away with titles that would have been deemed insensitive elsewhere. That’s the case with Cool Runnings, which is known as Coconuts in the Snow (Kokosy na sněhu) locally. Or Beverly Hills Ninja, starring Chris Farley, which became Fatty from Beverly Hills (Tlouštík z Beverly Hills).
Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be an explanation. Frank Capra’s classic Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) became Wood Nymphs and Elderberries (Jezinky a bezinky) – it rhymes, sure, but doesn’t have anything to do with the film.
Die Hard (1988) became Lethal Trap (Smrtonosná past), probably to cash in on the success of the previous year’s Lethal Weapon (Smrtonosná zbraň). Of course, after the Die Hard franchise became even more popular than Lethal Weapon, they were still stuck with the old name for subsequent sequels.
Other franchises have ditched unusual translations when sequels rolled around: The Bourne Identity (2002) was called Agent Without a Past (Agent bez minulosti) in Czech, but the sequels retained more direct translations (Bournův mýtus, Bourneovo ultimátum, Bourneův odkaz).
Remakes really throw me for a loop. 1979’s The Amityville Horror has a direct translation (Horor v Amityville), but the 2005 version became You Will Die at 3:15 (3:15 zemřeš). 1992’s Bad Lieutenant dropped the “Bad”, becoming Lieutenant (Poručík), while Nicolas Cage was demoted in the 2009 version, Bad Cop (Špatnej polda). The Longest Yard was The Hardest Yard (Nejtěžší yard) in 1976, but the 2005 Adam Sandler version became Penalty Box (Trestná lavice).
Superheroes don’t usually get a translation – Superman is Superman in any language – but The Punisher was called The Avenger (Mstitel) in 1989 and then The Executioner (Kat) in 2004.
They tried twice with Get Carter, too: it was Grab Carter (Chyťte Cartera) in 1971, and Wipe Out Carter (Sejměte Cartera) in 2000.
The Evil Dead is Forest Ghost (Lesní duch) in both 1981 and 2013 versions, but then the 1988 sequel has a direct Czech translation (Smrtelné zlo 2). Go figure.
Meet the Parents (2000) became The Father is a Ruffian (Fotr je Lotr); Meet the Fockers (2004) became His Father is a Ruffian! (Jeho fotr, to je lotr!), and Little Fockers (2010) was Fathers are Ruffians (Fotři jsou lotři). I’m not sure how much further they can take it if more films in the franchise come out.
American Pie (1999) became Prci, prci, prcičky – which is best left untranslated.
Sometimes the English names are just too long or obscure. I’m guessing that’s why To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995) became the much simpler 3 Men in Négligée (Tři muži v negližé).
How should they translate Snatch (2000)? The Czech distributor came up with the bilingual pun Podfu(c)k – a “Scam” with a little something extra inside.
Of course, English puns usually won’t work. K-9 (1989) kept the original name, but added in the explanatory My Friend with a Cold Snout (K-9, můj přítel se studeným čumákem).
Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987) became the more literal (in terms of the story) Incorruptible (Neúplatní) even though a more direct translation was available (Nedotknutelní). This proved valuable years later, when the 2011 French film of the same name used that translation; in the US, for copyright reasons, distributors had to invent a new word to give that film its English title, The Intouchables.
Czech distributors, on the other hand, don’t seem to mind duplicate titles. Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) became Life is Beautiful (Život je krásný), and the title was re-used to directly translate Roberto Begnini’s 1997 film. Rush (2013) and Happy Gilmore (1996), of all films, both share the same title in Czech – Rivals (Rivalové). The Score (2000) and Election (1999) both have the same Czech title, which is something of a spoiler: Who’s with Who (Kdo s koho). Matchstick Men (2003) & The Grifters (1990) are both known locally as Swindlers (Švindlíři); at least those two films share a similar concept.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) can mean a lot of different things – not just the literal legal battle between husband and wife, but also the relationship between parent and child, and the internal struggle in the Dustin Hoffman character. But those meanings are lost in the direct Czech translation, Kramerová versus Kramer.
The pun of Good Will Hunting (1998) is also lost in the Czech version – Dobrý Will Hunting. Same with Arthur 2: On the Rocks, which just became Arthur 2: With Ice (Arthur 2: S ledem). And sometimes a literal translation can lead to alternate meanings, such as in 2009’s The Men Who Stare at Goats (Muži, co zírají na kozy). Of course, kozy can also mean something else that men traditionally stare at.
And once in a while, the Czech title is more inventive than the original English one. I much prefer the vivid Black & White World (Černobílý svět) to its bland English counterpart, The Help (2011). And the awful A Haunted House (2013) was given the more imaginative Czech title A Few Abnormal Activities (Pár nenormálních aktivit) – a bilingual play on the film that it is a parody of, Paranormal Activity (2007). Among the Wolves (Mezi vlky) is a more exciting title than The Grey (2011); same with Escape from Siberia (Útěk ze Sibiře), which was originally The Way Back (2010).
The list goes on… and on. Here are 50 more of my favorites:
A Life Less Ordinary (1997) – Extra Life (Extra život)
A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014) – All Roads lead to the Grave (Všechny cesty vedou do hrobu)
American History X (1998) – The Cult of the Swastika (Kult hákového kříže)
Any Given Sunday (1999) – Winners and Losers (Vítězové a poražení)
Arlington Road (1999) – Love Thy Neighbor (Miluj bližního svého)
Baby’s Day Out (1994) – The Troubles of Kid Bink (Trable prcka Binka)
BASEketball (1998) – Beer Brothers (Pivní bratři)
Bicentennial Man (1999) – Andrew, A Member of Our Family (Andrew – člen naší rodiny)
Black Snake Moan (2006) – In Chains (V řetězech)
Delivery Man (2013) – Greetings from the Sperm Bank (Pozdravy ze spermabanky)
Easy Rider (1969) – Carefree Ride (Bezstarostná jízda)
Executive Decision (1996) – Boeing 747 in Danger (Boeing 747 v ohrožení)
Gone with the Wind (1939) – South against North (Jih proti Severu)
Grandma’s Boy (2006) – The King of Videogames (Král videoher)
Grown Ups (2010) – Freaks (Machři)
Hackers (1995) – Dangerous Network (Nebezpečná síť)
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) – We Smoke, We See (Zahulíme, uvidíme)
Haute Tension (2004) – The Night of the Sharpened Razor (Noc s nabroušenou břitvou)
Hot Fuzz (2007) – Overly Rapid Deployment Unit (Jednotka příliš rychlého nasazení)
Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) – It Was a Binge Tomorrow (To byl zítra flám)
Idiocracy (2006) – Absurdistan (Absurdistán)
K-PAX (2001) – The World According to Prot (Svět podle Prota)
Layer Cake (2004) – Up To the Neck in Ecstasy (Po krk v extázi)
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) – Pack up the Loot and Scram (Sbal prachy a vypadni)
Meatballs (1979) – Motorless (Nemotorové)
Metro (1997) – Cop from San Francisco (Policajt ze San Francisca)
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (2007) – Empire of Toys (Říše hraček)
Nacho Libre (2006) – God Wrestler (Boží zápasník)
Office Space (1999) – The Troubles of Mr. Šikula (Maléry pana Šikuly)
Patch Adams (1998) – Doctor Plaster (Doktor Flastr)
Ri¢hie Ri¢h (1994) – Home Alone and Rich (Sám doma a bohatý); obviously to cash in on Home Alone
Rushmore (1998) – Courting My Teacher (Jak jsem balil učitelku)
Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Therapy of Love (Terapie láskou)
Single White Female (1991) – Roomate (Spolubydlící)
Straw Dogs (1971) – Scarecrows (Strašáci)
The Departed (2006) – Hidden Identity (Skrytá identita)
The Goonies (1985) – The Rascals (Rošťáci)
The Hot Chick (2001) – Kissable Frog (Žába k zulíbání)
The Hustler (1961) – Billiard King (Biliárový král)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952) – The Importance of Having Filip (Jak je důležité míti Filipa)
The Inbetweeners Movie (2013) – Cowards (Přizdis*áči)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) – Charlie’s Little Secrets (Charlieho malá tajemství)
The Weather Man (2005) – Mr. Tree-Frog (Pan Rosnička – “rosničky” is a term used for weathermen)
The Whole Nine Yards (2000) – My Killer Neighbor (Můj soused zabiják)
Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000) – What Do Women Want? (Co vlastně ženy chtějí?)
This Boy’s Life (1993) – Growing Up in America (Dospívání po americku)
Van Wilder (2002) – Sexy Party (Sexy párty)
Very Bad Things (1998) – Six Funerals and a Wedding (Šest pohřbů a jedna svatba)
Waiting… (2005) – Hey Dude, Who’s Cooking? (Hele kámo, kdo tu vaří?)
Where the Wild Things Are (2009) – Max and the Giant Monsters (Max a maxipříšerky)
Not had enough yet? Well, click here for 200+ more strange Czech movie title translations.