A bootleg copy of Live Free or Die Hard (from Indonesian dub) somehow managed to replace every third sentence with the words "Soyabean cake", which sounded ridiculous to many viewers reading the subtitles, eg:
Jack: We must eat Soyabean Cake!
Phone operator: I'm about die, Jack, but the Terrorists is are to blow up about the whole plane! We is about to only 3 seconds to do this.
Jack: Dial up now the agency, for we are about to blow up teh 'Soyabean cake'!
Several dials/meters on the Bacchus 3 are labeled hilarious things, such as: Space Speed, Cabin Air Presser, Tenperature, Sunny Side, and Other Side.
The computer actually shows a shipping manifest.
Or the members of the Bacchus 3 wearing jumpsuits emblazoned with the badge "Security Guard".
Found in the Danish extended version DVD of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. When Sarah Connor is about to smash the Terminator's chip John stops her, saying that "they need the Terminator's help". The word need can be translated into Danish in a couple of different ways, depending on whether the need is practical or mental. The translator chose the word for "mental need", which then implied that John's need of the Terminator is of a sexual nature.
When the T-1000 disguised as Sarah Connor calls to John, and John realizes it's actually the 1000, he calls onto the actual Sarah to "SHOOT!" The Dutch subtitles of some versions of the movie translated it as "Damn it!" May not make sense in the context of the situation, but it might be noted that some people really do exclaim "Shoot!" when they mean "Damn it!" in English.
Found in Good Morning People, a student film shown at 2008 Asian American Showcase. Most of the spoken lines were in Japanese, with subtitles translating it literally, keeping the original Japanese grammar and sentence construction intact.
When the remade versions of the Star Wars films were shown in Norway, the subtitles were really badly translated. The most widely known example is that the word "lightsaber" was translated as "lettsabel", which does, in fact, mean "light saber", as in the opposite of a heavy saber. In Attack of the Clones, "you will be invincible" was translated as "you will be invisible". The very same movie had the phrase "Let the execution begin" end up as "Let the excursion begin".
Also, calling the Millenium Falcon the Thousand Year Falcon, while not exactly wrong, certainly could have benefitted from a less direct translation.
In the first French dub of Star Wars, Darth Vader is referred to as "Dark Invader." Obviously the translators caught on to this and edited it to "Dark Vador" rather than use the original name. Much later, the original name was finally used in the French-Canadian dub of Episode III, which ironically had Blind Idiot Translations of its own ("thousands of star systems of the Republic" translated to "thousands of galaxy of the Republic").
One of the early Russian dubs of Star Wars: A New Hope gave us a character called "Obi-Odin" (Russian for Obi-1). Guess who that was.
Especially funny in every instance involving elephants, who are big and good, where they were trying to go "seems like". And using the F-word as a replacement for "work" or "do."
Do you fuck on I?''
Other gems involve translating "I have been appointed to the Jedi Council" as "I was made (as in a made man) by the Presbyterian Church" and one of the Red Shirt pilots in the opening sequence getting the line "He is in my behind!" ("They're all over me!"). By the way, the Chancellor is 'D' and the Presbyterian Church want to know him at fuck.
The Hungarian dub of A New Hope contained a clever bit of Woolseyism by incorporating two teeth-related expressions into the talk between Han and Greedo ("I've been sharpening my teeth for you for a long time." — "Just be careful, or they might break."). For the Blu-ray release, Greedo's subtitles were for some reason rewritten, so now they're faithful translations of the originals, but Han's finishing line in turn became a non-sequitur.
Similarly to Backstroke of the West, a recursive translation of The Matrix from English into Chinese and back again had every instance of the mention of Neo's name be rendered as "The One", every single instance of the name "The Oracle" be rendered as "The Prophet" and every instance of the mention of Trinity's name be 3 random Chinese syllables, rendered with Roman letters, among countless translation mistakes.
And exactly the same mistake was made in Russian translation of RoboCop (1987). Making Robocop shooting the bad guy rather... nonsensical.
In the Italian dub of all the Back to the Future movies, the Flux Capacitor is always translated as "flusso canalizzatore", literally "Canalizer Flux" or "Channelizer Flux."
This is only slightly better in (Castilian) Spanish: Capacitor is translated correctly, but Flux is substitued by the non-existent, and therefore meaningless word "Fluzo". Flux in Spanish is Flujo.
Another Russian gem, this time from a forgettable romantic comedy: The Scarlet Letter gets translated as "Scarlett's Letter". You know, as in the thing you mail. Which renders the subsequent appearance of the red letter "A" nonsensical.
Another famous Norwegian translation mistake is the line "It's not a motorcycle, it's a chopper" from Pulp Fiction, translated as "It's not a motorcycle, it's a helicopter" in Norwegian.
The same line was turned into "It's not a motorcycle, it's a rocket" in the official Russian dub. At least that sorta made sense?
A few years ago, a major restoration of Metropolis was released to DVD. In the restoration all the intertitles and in-film text was translated from German to English, including the shot of Freder reading from the "Boot of Revelations". Nice job, Kino.
In-universe example in Shoot 'em Up. When Mr. Hertz first meets hooker Monica Belucci's character he insults her in Italian, orginially using a phrase that had been translated via Babelfish. A rather confused Monica, being an Italian native, had to provide a more accurate version.
Frank Corvin: "Let me tell you something, my dear. Those instructions were written by a fellow in Japan when they made this damn thing. They were probably translated by some gringo who was an expatriate American that couldn't get a job in this country. And then the Japanese guy probably translated him just to double check on him. You don't need these instructions. Not at all. Tear them up."
Sometimes, editors get too eager, leading "Fuck you, you motherfucking fuckers!" to be translated into Norwegian as "No lyt dykk roa dykk ned, gutar" - "You might want to calm down, boys". In Friends, "make-up sex" was translated into "sminkesex", leading viewers confused as to what rouge and lipstick have to do with sex. In one movie, the reassuring "I'll be right behind you, watching your back" becomes a moderately creepy "I'm standing behind you, looking at your back". "The Yellow Brick Road" became "That Road Which Is Paved With Yellow Cobblings". "One day, you will be invincible" became "One day, you will be invisible". However, probably one of the worst was from Apollo 13 - "Go for launch!" became "Gå til lunsj", meaning... "Go to lunch".
On the back of the Swedish DVD of the Sin City film, it says that the film is based on the work of "comedy book author" Frank Miller, an obvious failure to get what "comic book" means. (For the record, the correct Swedish word for "comic" is serie, literally "series".)
During one of the audio commentaries on Pirates of the Caribbean, there's a discussion about the sores on Jack Sparrow's face. In the Swedish DVD translation, however, "the scab" is translated into "strejkbrytaren", i.e. strike-breaker. Technically a correct translation, but completely nonsensical in context.
In the Japanese edition of Sukeban Deka: Codename = Asamiya Saki (otherwise known in the West as Yo-Yo Girl Cop), the English subtitles seem to have been generated by attempting to translate the individual words directly into English, including the names, causing it to veer between this trope and a Translation Train Wreck. The seemingly meaningless phrase "of temple" keeps recurring in the dialogue — baffling, until you realise this was a translation of Asamiya, the heroine's family name.
Finnish TV subtitles for Shaft once had a very literal translation for "Shaft is a bad motha".
Similarly, the legendary mistranslation of "Must be another drill" in the Finnish TV broadcast of Star Wars as "Ehkä se on pora," referring to the hole-making tool rather than a training routine.
In the trench run sequence, "Switch all power to front deflector screens" became "Switch front projection (monitor) screens to full power".
Also, instead of the usual existing translations for blasters and the Force, there was whammers and the Might. That was a conscious (and bad) choice by the translator, though.
The German word for silicone is Silikon while the German word for silicon is Silizium. As you may expect these words are often mixed up in translations.
The Spanish dub did the same. Silicon is Silicio while Silicone is Silicona.
It was said that when the first film Dr. No got released in Japan, the title was translated as We Don't Want a Doctor.
The Brazilian dub of Tropic Thunder turns "I am a lead farmer" into "I'm the leader of the farm". Obviously because "lead" as in "leading" and "lead" as in "lead paint" are spelled the same.
The official theatrical Swedish subtitling for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen consistently translated "the sliver" (as in the small shard of the Allspark) to "silvret", meaning "the silver".
The Norwegian movie subtitles for the The Lord of the Rings movies were so hilariously bad that they were changed in the DVD versions. Not because they were Blind Idiot Translations, but because they were so archaic that the audience quite simply started laughing. Elrond's "Kast den inn i eldmørja!" ("Cast it into the fire!", but really leaning more towards "Cast it into the sea of flames-infernal!") and Théoden's "Mitt kjøde er knust" ("My body is broken", but really more like "My corpus is undone") are both still buzzwords.
Doubly hilarious because Norway is located in Northern Europe, where learning multiple languages is practically a requirement. A good portion of the population knows English well enough not to need subtitles, so when the subtitles were changed for the DVD release, this caused something of an I Liked It Better When It Sucked reaction among fans.
The Return of the King, airing on Norwegian television a while back, had subtitles that made several really ridiculous mistakes, like having Gollum consistently refer to Frodo as "Husband" rather than "Master", or Sam's whole "I can't carry it for you but I can carry you!"-scene being translated into "Så la oss dra av sted med den, en gang for alle! Jeg kan ikke bære den til deg, men jeg kan bære deg!" ... Which, incidentally, means "Then let us get going with it, once and for all! I can't carry it to you, but I can carry you!"
The Japanese subtitles were also pretty infamous. Fan complaints resulted in the translator being replaced for the next movie.
Battle Royale is quite notorious for having a few bootlegs with bad subtitles. People in North America often had to turn to bootlegs since the film didn't have a US distributor until 12 years after its original release. The most notorious boot is a Korean DVD with some hilariously bad translation errors. Some priceless examples include "That were my friends!!!", "Anyone who sees this must be scribble", "That knife I stabbed with you, sometimes I think I threw it away, but now it's my treasure" and lots more.
The English language track in Drunken Master contains a threat "I'll see you sink in hellfire!" that probably sounds more menacing in the original Chinese.
Many years ago, a short press article on the poor quality of Polish film translations had two outrageous examples: a phrase "The computer is down" was translated into "The computer is in the basement", and W.C. Fields was changed into "Toilet Pastures".note "W.C.", which in the actor's case stands for William Claude, also stands for "Water Closet," a mostly outdated term for a flush toilet.
The otherwise decent Québec translation of Children of Men had a silly case in the subtitles. Early on, one of the governement's propaganda spot flash "Only Britain Soldiers On", the translator interpreted the line strangely literally and translated it as "Seul L'Angleterre a des soldats à bord" ("Only Britain has soldiers onboard").
The Latin American translation for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is RIDDLED with awful translation errors which confuse viewers to the point they don't understand the movie at all. For instance, they translated the movie directly from the British version but they kept the American title, so while the movie is titled "The Philosopher's Stone", the titular item is referred throughout the movie as "The Sorcerer's Stone".
One particularly jarring example comes in the scene where Professor McGonagall punishes the kids for nightstrolling. She says something along the lines of "Todos serán castigados", which means "You'll all be punished", to which Draco responds "Disculpe, creí escuchar que dijo ¿'los cuatro'?", which means "I'm sorry, I thought I heard you said 'the four of us'?", leaving the audience to say "Uh... no, she didn't, pal". Clearly she DID say "the four of you" in the original, but this translation was so terrible that TWO CONSECUTIVE LINES which referred to THE SAME SUBJECT were translated differently and made no sense while put together.
There's a simpler explanation for that. In most non-voiceover foreign-language dubs, the script doesn't go straight from the translator to the voice actors; the lines are adapted to better match the Mouth Flaps, because the effect otherwise is pretty jarring. In all probability, the translator's script had "los cuatro", and then the adapter did a bad job. But it's arguable whether that fits this trope.
An official Hungarian subtitle for the first RoboCop (1987) movie somehow came upon the brilliant realization that the word "chopper" can also be translated as "szecskavágó" (chaff cutter), aside from its usual bland translation, "helikopter". This lead to the following lines:
"I want a chaff cutter. Now!" "I will board the chaff cutter with my hostage."
In the Swedish DVD bonus material for The Lord of the Rings the camera showed one of the staff at the Weta Workshop creating a chainmail prop for the movie and commenting "This is chainmail." This was translated in the subtitles as "Detta är ett kedjebrev" meaning "This is a chain letter" instead of correct "Denna är en ringbrynja".
This happens in-universe with the 2009 Japanese film, Fish Story. An English-language novel is translated into Japanese by someone with no grasp of the language, and as a result, his word-by-word translation borders on Translation Train Wreck. The original opening phrase of the book is, "My own solitary fish story may scare a whale in its size and ferocity." The translation ends up, "The story of my solitude. If my solitude were a fish, it'd be so enormous, so militant, a whale would get out of there.
Russian bootleg translation of Beowulf (1999) was titled "Biovolk", i.e., "Biological Wolf".
A unusual example of a country completely butchering its own subtitles is Repo! The Genetic Opera, which came with some hilariously misquoted subtitles such as "I'll man his grave" instead of "on Marni's grave".
The particularly memorable: "Penile tissue, inch by inch..." and "I can't read!"
"YOU'VE TURNED THIS HOUSE INTO A ZOO!"
Two gems from the Finnish translations of Batman DVD Extras:
The Swedish version of Fist of Fury is quite badly translated. Notable is the line "This time you're eating paper, but the next time you'll be eating glass" which becomes "Den här gången äter ni papper, men nästa gång blir det glass". "Glass" is the swedish word for ice-cream...
In the English subs for Jean-Luc Godard's Une Femme est une femme, the French words verre and vert were confused by the translator, so "a glass of coffee" becomes "green coffee." (The French sometimes order coffee in a glass when they're in a hurry — it cools quicker.)
102Dalmatians: Cruella De Vil's probation officer's suggestion of her working with something on the sewers was translated for Brazilian audiences as suggesting Cruella would work with seamstresses. This movie might be sequel to one that described Cruella as a big name in the fashion industry but still, to mistake sewers with sewing...
The Hungarian dub of Jurassic Park reinterpreted John Hammond's "People are dying!" line as "And can people die?", making it seem like he thought that the previously discussed lysine-dependency of the cloned dinosaurs could somehow have an effect on humans. And while not as frustrating as this, Gennaro's famous "Are these characters... auto-erotica?" (he was trying to say "animatronic") line was changed to "Are these characters... androids?", which isn't a terrible mistake, but it kills the joke.
In Italian, the "bless you" line said by Alan Grant when a Brachiosaurus sneezes is taken as a literal blessing as opposed to something you say to a sneezing person - therefore, it was translated as "Che tu sia benedetto" which roughly translates to "Might you be blessed". The correct word is "Salute".
Hungarian mistranslation again, this time in the movie Mallrats. The translator evidently did no research on any of the Marvel Comics characters that get mentioned during the film, because then, The Thing and Doctor Doom wouldn't have been called "Dolog" and "Doktor Végzet" respectively (which are actually correct translations, but the names are "Lény" and "Fátum Doktor" in the comics), nor would the X-Men have become "X Emberek" ("X People", whereas the comics leave it as X-Men), and most importantly, the Incredible Hulk wouldn't be "Hihetetlen Hajós" ("the Unbelievable Seaman").
An Arabic dubbing of the documentary "Lawrence of Arabia: The Battle for the Arab World" says at one point that Lawrence "saraqa al-adhwa'" (سرق الأضواء). This is a literal translation of English idiom "stole the light". In English it makes sense, but in Arabic, it doesn't.
A documentary on the DVD of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries translated "a prettyish sort of wilderness" to "een Brits stukje wildernis" ("A British sort of wilderness") in the Dutch subtitles.
The movie The Mask with Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz has two examples where you can imagine some sweating translators.
When Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) is locked in prison he tries to convince his dog to fetch the keys from the sleeping guard. Unfortunately the dog understands cheese instead and wants to bring a cheese sandwich. Stanley says: "Not the cheese, the keys!" The German word for keys is Schlüssel - no chance to connect it with Käse (cheese). So they decided to say: "Nicht das aus der Schüssel, den Schlüssel!" (Not the thing from the bowl, the keys!) which doesn't makes much sense, because the plate is obviously not a bowl, and the whole sentence sounds very strange.
The police is after the Mask, and Lt. Kellaway shouts "Freeze!". The Mask (in cartoon mode) freezes in the air, complete with icicles. In German the policeman shouts: "I will get you ice cold!", and after the Mask freezes, the policeman says: "Not you ice cold, me ice cold!". Luckily for the translators, all those words are spoken off screen, but it makes no sense at all, it's just the smallest evil.
One bootleg Czech translation of Titanic (1997) features an excusable mistake of the sort. Upon winning the game of poker, Jack exclaims "Full house, boys!" in the English version, obviously referring to the hand he ended up with. The translator, however, went for "Pivo pro všechny!" which literally means, "Beer for everyone!" Considering that he was in a pub at the time, this one gets a freebie.
Perhaps the most ridiculous Spanish mistranslation ever is the literal translation of "the Holy Ghost" as "el Santo Fantasma" in the Spanish dub of The Mission. In Spanish, the Holy Ghost is called el Espíritu Santo ("Holy Spirit"), while "el Santo Fantasma" is... some saint... that is a ghost? (in Spanish the name usually goes before the adjective, contrary to English). It doesn't help that "fantasma" is also slang for someone who tells tall tales.
In the German dub of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Ilia refers to "das Wesen" (the Creature), an obvious mishearing of "the Creator". Later scenes do not make the same mistake, oddly enough, making it even more baffling why this one instance was not corrected.
A rare case, but occasionally some Russian translators may confuse the English measurements of "foot" and "foont" (which is Russian for "pound"). Now imagine how Attack of the 50-Foot Woman was translated. The people are either getting attacked by a giant woman who somehow only weighs as much as an average kindergartener or a giant £50 hooker.
The Hungarian dub of Godzilla VS Mechagodzilla asserts that every time Godzilla, Mechagodzilla and Anguirus appear, they're different specimens, and that there are several Godzillas roaming Earth. Thus, the story changes from the two title characters clashing multiple times to Mechagodzilla killing the real Godzilla, then another one randomly showing up at the end to fight him again. However, in certain scenes, they also say there's only one Mechagodzilla.
The Chilean Spanish dub of The Color of Friendship suffers of this and also overlaps with Separated by a Common Language as well: The slur kaffir is translated as Cafre, since it's the Chilean Spanish translation of that word. The problem came with the fact in some countries like Mexico, the word Cafre stands exclusively for reckless driver, without any racial connotation, making the Mexican audience to scratch their heads when Senator Dellum is angry when he thinks South Africans are bad drivers rather than be black.
The Spaniard dub of A Cry In The Dark translated "inquest" as encuesta ("poll"), rather than the correct investigación.
In France, Jaws had its title translated as Les Dents de la mer ("The Teeth of the Sea"), and Jaws 2 was originally set to be released as "Les Dents de la mer 2." That changed when the film's French director, Jeannot Szwarc, pointed out that when said out loud it would sound almost exactly like "Les Dents de la merde," or "The Teeth of the Shit." The title was therefore changed to "Les Dents de la mer, 2eme Partie," ("The Teeth of the Sea, Part 2") which is significantly less likely to sound rude.
While Monty Python and the Holy Grail famously plays this trope for laughs in the opening credits, the 2001 DVD release contains an actual example with two scenes from a Japanese TV dub of the film. The French Taunter's dialogue is mostly translated correctly, though the translator clearly had difficulty with his insults, which are reduced to him calling King Arthur dumb and making Your Mom jokes. However, the Knights Who Say Ni's dialogue is completely butchered; now the Knights are apparently all clones, and inhabit a forest filled with living (as in, mobile) trees, while King Arthur claims never to have heard of them before, yet is still somehow terrified by their reputation.
The Swedish subtitles for A Christmas Carol (2009) translates the "ghost" part of "Ghost of Christmas" as spöke. Spöke does indeed mean "ghost"... except it does so in the sense of a person appearing after death. The proper word, not to mention the "official" translation for the "Ghosts of Christmas", is ande, or "spirit".
The people in charge of the Latin American Spanish dubbing for The Dark Knight seemed to believe that the original actors made mistakes, so they "corrected" them. Because of that, when at the start of the film Joker says "I believe that whatever doesn't kill you only makes you... stranger" they translated it as "stronger" instead. Later, though, when Joker tells Two-Face that Chaos is "fair" they interpreted that word as "fear", which completely changes the entire meaning of the phrase, not to mention Two-Face's motivation.
The Hungarian dub of Battle for the Planet of the Apes somehow screwed up the term "human race", using the wrong meaning of "race" and translating it as "contest of the humans".