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Chinese Movie Translations: Fall 2017

Foreign film names get nonsensical once again as film title translators phone it in

Autumn is almost upon us, which means a whole new season of films and another opportunity to see how Chinese distributors have interpreted movie titles.

Here are some interersting (and kind of awesome) translations of Hollywood movies for the fall.


极盗车神 (Jí dào chē shén)

Baby Driver chinese poster


Title – Baby Driver

Translation – Extreme Thief Car God

Rating — 6/10

In some ways, the new title is better than the original. It’s informative and doesn’t sound like an automotive sequel to The Boss Baby. On the other hand, it’s too informative—there’s no mystery.

The overuse of the character 神 (god), to denote someone who is merely capable at his job, should probably be eliminated from Chinese media—unless actual deities are involved.


赛车总动员3:极速挑战 (Sài chē zǒng dòng yuán 3: Jí sù tiǎo zhàn)

cars 3 chinese poster

Title – Cars 3

Translation – Racecar Mobilization 3: Speed Challenge

Rating — 1/10

The Chinese title gets one point for being consistent with its treatment of previous instalments in the Cars franchise, but it’s a terrible translation in the first place, with needless additions.


敦刻尔克 (Dūn kè ěr kè)

Dunkirk chinese poster


Title – Dunkirk

Translation – Dunkirk

Rating — 10/10

Solid. Well, if they’d managed to mess this one up, all hope for translators is lost.


蜘蛛侠:英雄归来 (Zhī zhū xiá: Yīng xióng guī lái)

spiderman homecoming chinese poster

Title – Spider-Man: Homecoming

Translation – Spider-Man: Hero’s Homecoming

Rating — 9/10

We touched upon the Chinese inclination to throw 侠 behind every superhero name in the previous edition, so we’ll ignore it here. The only problem here is the unnecessary addition of “Hero” in case any viewer didn’t realize what kind of movie it was.


猩球崛起3:终极之战 (Xīng qiú jué qǐ 3: Zhōng jí zhī zhàn)

war for the planet of the apes chinese poster

Title – War for the Planet of the Apes

Translation – Ape Planet Rises 3: The Final Battle

Rating — 7/10

As shown by the earlier example, Chinese titles like to stick to a rigid structure in which it is very obvious what film the viewer is watching, and if that film is part of a franchise. Unfortunately, this practice backfired when Rise of the Planet of the Apes led to sequels of different nomenclature. So now, rather than having adaptive names for movies in this franchise, each one begins with Ape Planet Rises.


王牌保镖 (Wáng pái bǎo biāo)

hitman's bodyguard chinese poster


Title – The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Translation – Trump Card Bodyguard

Rating: 4/10

Another habit is the addition of 王牌 before certain nouns. Granted, it can help describe someone who is at the apex of their profession, but not every title needs to start with a superlative. Another mistake is the translation has completely missed the point of the title. The movie is not about a supreme bodyguard, but one who is hired to protect a hitman—someone you wouldn’t expect to need protection.  


英伦对决 (Yīng lún duì jué)

the foreigner chinese poster

Title – The Foreigner

Translation – Duel of England

Rating — 5/10

It seems that the translators saw the trailer (or poster), figured it was about Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan at odds with each other in London, and decided to make up their own title. The Chinese version paints a picture of a generic action film—which it might very well be.


极致追击 (Jí zhì zhuī jí)

smart chase chinese poster

Title – S.M.A.R.T. Chase

Translation – Extreme Pursuit

Rating — 2/10

Our last entry is likely unknown to the vast majority of readers and cinemagoers. It is a British-Chinese production set in China, centered around Orlando Bloom’s character and his team of Chinese buddies. The original title is one that slaps the viewer’s face with its “action film” credentials—or was the English title derived from the generic Chinese one? That would explain a result that is neither smart nor engaging.


All images from Mtime


Ethan Yun is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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