Subtitled Movies that Didn't Need Subtitles

Do you enjoy unusual movies?

Disco Dancer

We are beholden to Adam Dugas for bringing this gem to our attention. Disco Dancer must be the Bombay equivalent of Saturday Night Fever, complete with disco dance extravaganzas that will make your head spin and leave you hysterical. Johnny is a natural performer, a musician and a dancer. The reigning disco king of India, Sammy, is a drug addict and his manager (Om Puri) decides to replaces him with Johnny. A grudge ensues, and Sammy tries to electrocute his rival by running wall current through his electric guitar. Things get nuts, and Johnny gets his legs broken by some goons just before the world disco championships. What tension. If you're a fan of Indian odd films, this is your cup of tea. Thanks, Adam. 2+ hours. 1982. Hindi--it needs no subtitles.

Leningrad Cowboys Go America

Leningrad Cowboys Go America may be one of the best Finnish movies you'll ever see. You might say this film is the Russian equivalent of Spinal Tap. Leningrad Cowboys Go America was the winner of the best hairdo award at the Cannes festival, and you can even show this one to small children. But they'll probably leave the room. Directed by Aki Kaurismaki. If you like this on, try to find the second best Finnish film of all time, Ariel.


Disco DancerNamed after two adjacent apartments, this Korean tidbit is more subtle than a Jeffrey Dahmer documentary. The tenants are quite different. 302 is a reclusive writer who is past bulimic: she pukes at the very thought of food. Soon-Hee is 301, a youngish divorcee who loves to cook for her loved ones. She feels 302 is rejecting her love by failing to enjoy her intricate meals. To prove her love, 302 makes the ultimate sacrifice (in a Christlike manner) . Even in subtitles, this movie loses very little of the emotion it jams down your throat. 1995.

The Killer

A Johnny Woo film recommended by Thomas Hunt, who wrote, " I can't believe you had all those foreign films that didn't need subtitles, and you left out The Killer. Shame on you. It's a terrific film--one of John Woo's finest. And it doesn't need subtitles."

Aguirre - Wrath of God

Did you ever meet a conquistador who spoke German ? Werner Herzog creates an interesting story from the slim historical record of the errant Spaniard. Klaus Kinski plays the rather Teutonic looking Aguirre. Also recommended is a film by Herzog that was called The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, but keeps resurfacing with different English titles. It definitely needs no subtitles.


You saw this, right? Peter Lorre is an ultra-creepy child molester/murderer that stalks the streets of prewar Dusseldorf. All the street people , beggars, buskers, hookers etc, band together to catch him and inflict their own brand of justice. Recommended by Cheryl, who finds it "timeless because this could easily be set in any neighborhood today." Thanks, Cheryl. Directed by Fritz Lang, who also gave us Metropolis. No, the film did not break at the end; that is how he wanted it to end. I waited in the theater for 15 minutes waiting for them to splice it back together. 1931. Unrated. German w/subtitles. 110 minutes.

Wings of Desire

Wim Wenders' classic angel movie that stars Peter Falk. There are at least three languages spoken, but none require translation. It really does get better on the second and third viewing. The sequel, So Near, So Far, was made nine years later, but does not fit into this category. Skip the US remake City of Angels with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan.

Before the Rain

Almost everyone will need the sub-titles to get a handle on this Macedonian/Albanian film directed by Milcho Manchevski. The three interwoven tales bring out the disparity and animosity between the Albanian/Moslem community in Macedonia. In the first tale, a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer returns to his old home town to find a violent ethnic division in his once peaceful village. In the second story, a young novitiate harbors a runaway Albanian girl in his monastery cell. The third tale is about a London woman whose life is tightly intertwined with the Balkan's problems. Before the Rain is an interesting film that exposes a regional problem in a very personal way. Particularly germane with what's happened in Kosovo. Lots of weird languages. 1994. Rated R. 112 minutes. Subtitled in English.

Man Bites Dog

Certain people will be offended by this French quasi-documentary about an out of control murderer. I no longer recommend this movie to friends, and suggest you do the same. If you enjoy (?) this movie, you're going to love Henry-Portrait of A Serial Killer.

Even Dwarves Started Small

Why was Herzog booed off the stage when they showed this at the NY Film festival? Sit through it and you'll have the answer to that question. Filmed entirely with a cast of dwarves and midgets, this may be the tale of a patient takeover at a mental hospital. Ostensibly, the film is in German, but cackling dwarves need no subtitles. This film has the look and feel of the Little Rascals on LSD. Like all Herzog films, it is apparent that everyone had a good time, and the movie was just a byproduct. It took awhile to find this one, and thanks to everyone who helped track it down. This is a must for Herzog fans. About 90 minutes. German w/subtitles. Unrated.

The Legend of Suram Fortress

This may be the only Georgian language films available on video. The Legend of Suram Fortress is a Russian interpretation of a Fellini movie. If you can find this one , let me know how you liked it.

Night On Earth

This Jim Jarmusch movie is actually five vignettes set in five different cities in taxi cabs on the same night. Roberto Begnini is a cabdriver in Rome, and although it is in Italian, you will not need the sub titles to realize he is a comic lunatic. The other four have some good spots, but you'll rewind this one a few times. Begnini was miscast as the son of the Pink Panther, but check out the movie below if you enjoyed this one.

Je, tu, il, elle-

Recommended by Chris, this sounds like it belongs on this page. He says it contains scenes that drag on endlessly and require as much patience as a Robert Wilson play. Anyone know where I can find a copy?

Johnny Staccino

Mistaken for a Palermo mobster, Robert Begnini plays an Italian school bus driver in love. The plot may appear a trifle simplistic, but the acting makes this comedy worthwhile. You can also find this same cast in Jim Jarmusch's Down By Law.

Mystery Train

Since we're discussing Jim Jarmusch movies, this one has a great part, where two Japanese tourists tool around Memphis checking out the sites. Similar in format to Night on Earth, three concurrent stories all take place in a Memphis fleabag hotel. The night deskman is a well dressed Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Good stuff.


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