Whether movie characters talk fast or have insanely thick accents (or both), sometimes subtitles work better for films, even when they’re speaking your language. And make no mistake, I love each of the films below, I’m just having a little fun with their unintelligible vernacular.
And believe me, I know I’m a silly American who can’t decipher certain foreign dialects. Fair enough. But mockery aside, make sure to tell me some films you have trouble with.
Out of the Past (1947)
Really, any film noir could be listed here, I only chose Out of the Past because it is my favorite. The brisk cadence of male noir characters can only be fully appreciated with accompanying subtitles. To me, anyway. The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, The Killers, Out of the Past – take your pick, they’re all more fun with words.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
More so than subtitles, I need a Cockney dictionary to understand everything Alex DeLarge and his droogs carry on about. But admittedly, not knowing is part of the fun. Viddy well, little brother.
Not only do Paddy Chayefsky’s words fly off tongues at lightning speed, they are damn smart to boot. I honestly believe that by reading this film, you can actually become smarter. Every word is meticulously placed.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
My sentiments for this David Mamet script almost mirror those for Network, but Glengarry Glen Ross has an added bonus. If you’re ever in need of better, more creative ways to put someone down, let Mamet’s profane-laden masterpiece guide you.
According to Entertainment Weekly, before Trainspotting was released stateside, director Danny Boyle dubbed over dialogue to help American audiences slog through the film’s many thick Scottish accents. Many thanks, Danny boy.
Brad Pitt is so purposefully difficult to understand in this movie, that if you actually do watch Snatch with the subtitles on, there’s an entire scene in which Pitt’s words are subtitled as “?”
Sexy Beast (2001)
I love the verbal juxtaposition between Ray Winstone’s laid back, retired mafia man to Ben Kingsley’s grab-you-by-the-throat whack job. Kingsley has said he based his deranged character in this film on his own grandmother. What a lovely tribute.
I loved film noir long before I watched Rian Johnson’s shifty high school crime thriller, Brick. But the entire time I watched this movie, I kept thinking: “Huh?” Don’t get me wrong, Brick is a great tribute to the films of yesteryear, but it’s a whole lot more fun with the subs running.
If you do watch Steve McQueen’s masterpiece with the subtitles, most of your time will be spent reading words like: (Screams), (Baton slams), (Gunshot), (Sink runs) and so on. But for that epic conversation, subtitles really do make all the difference.
Fish Tank (2009)
Despite the fact that I have trouble understanding every single word that star Katie Jarvis says in this film, it’s still one of the finest acting debuts I’ve ever seen. Seriously, where did Andrea Arnold find this little hellfire? Oh, right, arguing with her boyfriend at a railway station. Jarvis was cast, in part, because of how vehemently she speaks. Imagine that.