Titles are, at times, integral to the success of a film. They play an important role in a film's marketing, reception, and the overall understanding of its plot. The first impression a potential viewer receives of any film is largely influenced by its title. Directors, producers, and writers often dedicate a significant amount of time and energy into deciding on the perfect title for their film; one that is memorable, relatable, appealing, and encapsulating.
Unfortunately, the end-product does not always deliver. Many titles fail to reflect the true quality of the film they are associated with, alienating potential viewers and deterring accessibility to audiences. Asian countries may be infamous for their very literal translations of Western film titles, but they also possess their fair share of bad titles for their own films, many of which being great works in their own right. For this list, we focused on Asian film titles that either made no sense, misrepresented their films' content, or just downright made us giggle. Here, we present to you 9 great Asian films with bad titles.
The hilarity in this title is that it is actually quite literal. Claypot Curry Killers centres around - you guessed it - a claypot curry shop whose secret ingredient is human flesh. Although its title is accurate, we can't help but laugh at its absurdity and interesting (?) use of alliteration. The plot follows a mother and three daughters who run a successful restaurant business by day, and carry out bloody vengeance at night. Mrs. Chew and her eldest daughter Xi Xi share a common hatred towards men. Every night, they attempt to lure unsuspecting men into their clutches before slicing and dicing them until they become part of their restaurant's famous homemade curry. Despite doing everything in their power to protect themselves, the family's dark secret begins to emerge when a rival chef and his inquisitive goons start to suspect that things may not be exactly what they seem.
2. Hot-Handed God of Cops (Hard Boiled)
Although Western audiences may know this blockbuster film as Hard Boiled (no, not an egg, but someone tough who doesn't show much emotion), it was originally released under the name Lat Sau San Taam, or Hot-Handed God of Cops back in Hong Kong. This incomprehensible title may have confused some of its audience when it first hit theatres. Perhaps they were expecting a superhero action thriller featuring a flame-throwing god-like police enforcer. What audiences got instead was an award-winning action film about a tough-as-nails cop nicknamed Tequila who loses his partner during a shootout with gun-smugglers at a teahouse. Hellbent on revenge, Tequila joins forces with an undercover cop called Alan, who works as a gangster hitman for a Hong Kong triad run by the vicious Johnny Wong. Acting from inside sources, Tequila edges closer to the triad's ring-leaders, but not without a lot of bloodshed and hardships along the way.
Another film whose title was changed for Western audiences, this time it was dumbed down to Sympathy for Lady Vengeance so that fans could make the connection to the first film in the Vengeance trilogy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. However, the original release in Korea was titled Chinjeolhan geumjassi, which translates to Kind-Hearted Ms. Guem-ja. We're sure that there was some intended irony attached to this choice because protagonist Lee Guem-ja is anything but kind-hearted. For the unaware viewer, the brutality on display throughout the film may come as a shock. "Kind-hearted" in the title refers to Lee Guem-ja's behaviour while in prison as a cover to earn favour and further her plans for revenge by being released early. She was wrongfully imprisoned for 13 years after being accused of and forced to admit to abducting and murdering a child. With the help of some friends she made while in prison, Lee-Guem-ja hatches a plan for revenge on the person that committed the crimes she was accused of. She sets out to reunite with her daughter that she was forced to give up, while seeking to clear her name and exact her vengeance.
4. Sailor Suit and Machine Gun
This one should be pretty simple, right? It's definitely a film about the navy and some kind of battle! Oh, wait, it's not?! It's about a killer schoolgirl?! Yes, you read that correctly. Sailor Suit and Machine Gun revolves around the story of a delinquent schoolgirl named Izumi Hyoshi who inherits her late father's yakuza clan to become its leader. Together with her new underlings, she investigates the events that led to her father's murder, slowly taking out the drug cartel responsible. The "Sailor Suit" in the film's title refers to the sailor-fuku school uniform traditionally worn by Japanese schoolgirls. "Machine Gun" is quite self-explanatory at this point. The film made waves throughout Japan in the 80's, becoming somewhat of a cult classic. The phrase "Kaikan"!! yelled by Hyoshi in a shootout scene gained notoriety amongst cinema-goers at the time, with Japanese people often yelling it with the same tone of voice as the protagonist.
5. Eat Drink Man Woman
If you've never heard of this film before, we'll let you take a wild guess of what it's about. Okay, ready? We bet you didn't think that it's a comedy-drama that was follows the story of a master Chinese chef called Mr. Chu and his three unmarried daughters who take every opportunity to challenge traditional Chinese culture. Each Sunday, Mr. Chu prepares a grand banquet for his daughters, where they provide him with "announcements" about their transition from traditional Chinese attitudes to a new, more contemporary way of living. As the film progresses, the daughters meet new men and their relationships begin to alter the dynamics within the family. But what the daughters don't know is that Mr. Chu has a love interest of his own. Eat Drink Man Woman won critical acclaim upon release, and was even nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards in 1994.
Yes, you read that right. A sole question mark graces the front cover of this film as its title. ?, also written as Tanda Tanya which means "question mark" in Indonesian, is a groundbreaking drama that focuses on religious pluralism in Indonesia, something that has historically led to violent conflicts between groups with different beliefs. This conundrum is encapsulated into a story centring around three families: one Muslim, one Buddhist, and one Catholic in modern-day Semarang. After several family members are lost due to religious violence, the families struggle to reconcile their differences and find some common ground. Although we're not sure what the producers were thinking when selecting this film's title, it became a critical and commercial success and went on to win several awards for it's screenplay and important message.
7. Old Cow vs. Tender Grass
If you've managed to read this far down our list, we commend you. By now, you've probably got the message that these film titles shouldn't be trusted. Therefore, if you decide that this film is actually not about farm livestock and their battle against their source of nutrition, you'd be correct. In actuality, "Old Cow" refers to a 49-year old Singaporean taxi driver named Moo. "Tender Grass" refers to Moo's love interest, a young and eccentric woman named Moon who is still strung up over a past relationship. At the same time, Moo's friend and fellow taxi driver Prince forms an interest in a Chinese beer-maid who goes by the name of Xiao Hong. Although the film was a little too localised to gain any traction outside of Asia, it's still a light-hearted comedy flick that makes for a fun viewing.
8. I Fine..Thank You..Love You
This film's title actually does make sense (and we'll get to that in a moment), but to some potential viewers it may be a bit confusing. You would be forgiven for thinking that it's title is unintentionally misspelled in the stereotypical Asian manner. But the film is actually about a Thai man named Yim, whose Japanese girlfriend, Kaya, dumps because he can't speak English and she can't speak Thai. Despite Kaya moving to America, Yim is determined to win her back and works hard to quickly learn English. However, unbeknown to him, his new English teacher Ms. Pieng is a good friend of Kaya and things don't go exactly to plan.
9.The Eternal Evil of Asia
What this film is not, is an anti-Asia propaganda film that display's the continent's "eternal evil". What it is, is a wild comedy-horror about a group of friends from Hong Kong who take on a hedonistic vacation to Thailand. Although they're having a great time, an escape from a seedy brothel leads them right into the middle of a battle between some local sorcerers. After helping wizard Laimi out, they decide to stay with him for a few days. Things go south when an unfortunate incident involving the friends and Laimi's sister leads to her death. Seeking revenge, Laimi follows the friends back to Hong Kong and begins taking them out one by one using his arsenal of black magic tricks. This Category lll Hong Kong classic is definitely not one to miss!