Interpreters in film

1956 to 1989
From 1990 until today

1956 to 1989

1956: The King and I

Directed by Walter Lang.

The interpreter refuses to translate what Anna Leonowens tells the kralahome (the king’s minister); it then appears that the kralahome understands English. This scene shows that an interpreter has to fear being associated with the speaker;

1961: Judgment at Nuremberg

Directed by Stanley Kramer.

Simultaneous interpretation was used for the first time at the Nuremberg trials;

1963: Charade

Directed by Stanley Donen.

Audrey Hepburn plays an interpreter;

1964: Fail-Safe

Directed by Sidney Lumet.

There would be phalanxes of interpreters listening in, to insure against even the tiniest mistranslation, … Simultaneous translation is a good dramatic device, because it avoids the distraction of subtitles or the absurdity of a Russian leader speaking fluent English;

1965: Gendarme in New York (Le Gendarme à New York)

Directed by Jean Girault.

French policemen travel to New York. The welcome speech is interpreted in several languages. Louis de Funès’ headphones don’t seem to work;

1968: Barbarella

Directed by Roger Vadim.

Barbarella lands on a foreign planet and asks the locals: Do you speak english? Parlez-vous français? She then activates her tongue-box which helps her understand what people around her say. From then on, everybody speaks english;

1970: Patton

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

1971: Bananas

Directed by Woody Allen

1973: Live and Let Die

Directed by Guy Hamilton.

An anomymous hand subsitutes a jack plug for another on a telephone-switch type of contraption in the interpreter’s booth. Following this a delegate receives a deadly shock to the head. Languages channels are not linked to particular delegations and are not located in the booths either.

1973: Le Magnifique

Directed by Philippe de Broca.

A dying Albanian has something important to reveal. Five different persons are brought in, each one of them understanding a slavic language, the last one of them being a French speaker who understands Czech. An illustration of relay interpreting

1977: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Directed by Steven Spielberg.

In the French version, the interpreter paraphrases what is said as he cannot interpret french into French;

1977 to 2008: Star Wars

Directed by George Lucas.

The robot called C-3PO speaks 6 million galactic languages fluently. Don’t blame me! I’m an interpreter! I’m not supposed to know the difference between a power socket and a computer terminal. I'm not much more than an interpreter, and not very good at telling stories.

1981: Teheran 43

Directed by Alexander Alov et Vladimir Naumov.

One of the main characters is accompanied by an interpreter called Marie Louni

1986: Children of a Lesser God

Directed by Randa Haines.

Sign language interpreter.

From 1990 until today

1995: Nixon

Directed by Oliver Stone.

A Russian and a Chinese interpreter

1996: Mars Attacks!

Directed by Tim Burton.

A robot serves as an interpreter between humans and Martians

1997: La vita è bella

Directed by Roberto Benigni.

The character played by Benigni pretends to understand German and interprets the words of the SS so as not to worry his son.

1999: Anna and the King

Directed by Andy Tennant.

The interpreter refuses to translate what Anna Leonowens tells the kralahome (the king’s minister); it then appears that the kralahome understands English. This scene shows that an interpreter has to fear being associated with the speaker

2003: Lost in Translation

Directed by Sofia Coppola.

Very lengthy explanations in Japanese are translated in very few words by the interpreter. That's all he said? asks the character played by Bill Murray.

2004 The Terminal

Directed by Steven Spielberg.

Victor Navorski (Tom Hanks) having learned English all by himself in the terminal serves as an interpreter between the US authorities and a Russian who got caught by the customs officers

2005: The Interpreter

Directed by Sydney Pollack.

Sylvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) is an interpreter at the United Nations in New York. She understands ku, a fictional language, and hears a conversation between two delegates speaking that language.

2005: Everything Is Illuminated

Directed by Liev Schreiber.

after the eponymous novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. A young American travels to Ukraine to find his ancestors .He is accompanied by a guide cum interpreter of sorts.

2005 : The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Directed by Garth Jennings

Based on the eponymous book by Douglas Adams. An animal by the name of Babel fish serves as a universal translator.

2005-2009 Kaamelott

Directed by Alexandre Astier.

The Burgundian king brings an interpreter (Lorant Deutsch) who tries to give Arthur helpful advice on defeating the Burgundians. Kaamelott, livre I, episode 24.

2006: La traductrice (2006)

Directed by Elena Hazanov.

It seems said translator would rather be a liaison interpreter.

2006: The Boss of it All (Direktøren for det hele)

Directed by Lars von Trier.

An Icelandic-Danish interpreter intervenes in the beginning and in the end of the film.

2009: The Hurt Locker

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. An Iraqi interpreter.

2009: Je l'aimais -

Directed by Zabou Breitman.

The character played by Daniel Auteuil falls in love with an interpreter. Based on the eponymous novel by Anna Gavalda.

2009: Desert Flower

Directed by Sherry Horman.

The character representing Waris Dirie (author of the eponymous book) needs an interpreter when in hospital. The interpreter starts lecturing her and tells her how she should behave.

2011 L'arrivo di Wang

Directed by Antonio et Marco Manetti.

Aliens studied Chinese before landing on earth as they thought it’s the most widely spoken language on the planet. An interpreter by the name of Gaia is hired by the Italian authorities to try and communicate with them.

This page was compiled by Tina Hyvärinen and is also published as a Wikipedia page here

Recommended citation format:
AIIC. "Interpreters in film". November 1, 2012. Accessed October 18, 2019. <>.

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