Do Subtitles Ruin Movies

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Photo by Annie Spratt via Unsplash

With the recent exception of Parasite, there's been a prevalent problem in the lack of award-winning foreign films. Considering the majority of the globe speaks a languages other than English, what's the big problem with subtitles?

Flynn Rennix, Staff Writer

If you keep up with recent popular movies, or if you watched the Golden Globes, you’ve probably heard of the movie Parasite. Parasite is a Korean horror film that is taking the spotlight in American media for its major successes and award nominations. Although it’s still succeeding here as a foreign film, there has always been a prevalent problem in the lack of appreciation and willingness to try out media in different languages among people here in the US.

If critics spend their career reading about and analyzing film, what is the big problem with subtitles? Parasite’s director, Bong Joon-ho, gave a short but witty comment assessing this issue. “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” he said to everyone attending the Golden Globes. This statement blew up all over social media for its direct hit on award show culture and Hollywood’s tendency to sweep these amazing films under the bus. To shove all non-English movies into one category is incredibly demeaning to the countless movies other countries put out with all kinds of varying genres and themes. It seems to be our way of being inclusive without fully committing to it. Another problem with this is how foreign films only seem to get that one award. None of the actors were even nominated for an Oscar, according to the LA Times, despite the film itself being a Best Picture nominee.

One big issue lies within the strange compromise of remaking these foreign classics into an Americanized, English version. All that money and work to go into a less authentic version of a movie when all that was needed was some subtitles. If you’ve ever taken a foreign language class, it’s likely that you’ve been shown a film from that language’s culture. If you enjoyed one of those movies, you can only imagine how many more extraordinary pieces of media you could be missing by sticking to one language. Experiences and cultures within another country can be learned and celebrated through indulging in their media, and I feel if more people do so, it will bring about a higher level of understanding between our country’s individuals.

By enjoying foreign film and media, we will further the overall recognition that they receive and boost future opportunities for them and their casts. Here is a short list of some movie with subtitles I have enjoyed.


via IMDb

Parasite (2019) is the award-winning Korean 2019 film that took many by surprise. Parasite takes a major hit at the issue of poverty in a dramatic and mystifying way by following a family doing anything they can to get by.

via IMDb

Train to Busan (2016) isn’t your average cheesy zombie movie. This Korean movie follows a young girl struggling with the neglect of her business-man father who only shows love through money until they’re faced with a life-or-death situation, and they both must work together with others to survive.

via IMDb

The Boy and The Beast (2016) is an animated Japanese movie that follows an orphan who enters a world of beasts. He is taken in by a large bear-like beast who then trains him to fight. It is a very charming movie that will pull at your heart-strings along the way.

via IMDb

Battle Royale (2000) is a famous Japanese film that inspired the whole battle royale style game craze. Forty-two grade-schoolers are sent to an island with a small number of weapons, a map and a deadly neck brace that will explode if any rules are broken. With the goal of being the last survivor, they fight to the death for a chance to leave the island.

via IMDb

April and the Extraordinary World (2015), the lesser-known French animated film is set within the steam age of Paris with some strange twists that take viewers aback. A family of scientists are being harassed for a mixture by the corrupt government and follows the granddaughter doing everything she can to keep it out of their reach.

via IMDb

A Cat In Paris (2010) is another animated French film that follows a robber’s cat apprentice who does everything in its power to save a young girl from the hands of crooked men who kidnapped her.