Help! The Bizarre Way Norway Translated Foreign Movie Titles

If you’re hungry for a comedy in Norway, any movie with “Help” in the title should do.
Norwegian moviegoers had no idea what they were in for with 'Airplane!' (1980).
Norwegian moviegoers had no idea what they were in for with 'Airplane!' (1980). / Paramount Pictures

Whether it’s Hong Kong calling The Full Monty “Six Naked Pigs” or Denmark translating Die Hard as “Mega Hard,” it’s not always easy to translate a movie’s title, or its intentions, into another language. But Norway felt like it had cracked the code—at least for comedies

As YouTuber SindrElf explains in the video below, the country spent nearly a century translating the titles of comedy movies using a very specific formula “Help, + Vague Reference to the Plot.” That means that Airplane! was released as “Help, We’re Flying” and This Is Spinal Tap was released as “Help, We’re in the Pop Industry.” The Vacation films followed suit: National Lampoon’s Vacation became “Help, We Have To Go On Vacation” and was followed by “Help, We Have To Go On European Vacation,” “Help, It’s Christmas Vacation,” and “Help, We Have To Go On Vacation to Las Vegas.”

Admittedly, it’s a shrewd way of streamlining the process of translation while also aiding the audience in understanding what the movie is actually about, regardless of American slang or oblique titles. Plus, it signaled to prospective moviegoers that they were in for a few laughs, as the Hjelp formula naturally injects a sense of madcap wackiness into whatever movie it’s being applied to. 

It also led to delightfully meta titles like “Help, We’re Getting Help” (Volunteers starring Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, and John Candy) and “Help, I’m Dead” (the 1991 TV movie Hi Honey – I’m Dead). 

According to SindrElf, the practice was widely popular in the '70s, '80s, and '90s, but largely died out in the 2010s because of the widespread understanding of the English language in Norway. However, there are some modern Norwegian films spoofing the well-known translation practice, like 2011’s Hjelp, vi er i filmbransjen (Help, We’re in the Movie Business).

As further proof the trend was ending, Norway inexplicably retitled Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs as It Rains Meatballs, which seems like a missed opportunity to insert a little Hjelp into the box office.  

The most recent movie he could find still adopting the excellent “Hjelp” titling practice was in 2012, which sadly means that we will have to come up with our own Norwegian names for movies like Booksmart and Knives Out

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