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Why Americans Dislike Foreign-Language Movies!

Updated on April 12, 2012

Most Americans are open to learning about another culture. They are interested in educating themselves about people from different lands mainly through their food, language or traditions. However, some people "draw the line" when it comes to the subject of foreign films. Many Americans believe that their country has the best films while foreign countries believe that their films are the best.

Although there is no right or wrong answer to the question of which country has the best films, here are a list of reasons why most Americans dislike foreign-language movies.

A Foreign Film is A Different Experience

Western nations like the U.S. speak English but foreign language films are in a dialect that most Americans don't know about and that makes it a different experience on its own. Most people who are learning a specific foreign language use foreign films to learn more about that particular language. For the ones who are not watching a film for the sake of learning, trying to understand a foreign film may become daunting and something that is unfamiliar due to the language and cultural barrier. Having subtitles does help somewhat in the matter but the familiarity is lost in most cases for most American viewers.

Foreign films have found a niche in America but a small one at that. Unfortunately, those films are usually regulated to film festivals or special movie houses. Most foreign films tend to struggle selling tickets in the U.S., according to the L.A. Times (December 11, 2011). In each of the past 4 years, the top 5 foreign films have only grossed an average of $40M while American films abroad earn billions.

For the group of Americans who watch foreign films, they are only a select few willing to understand the differences and experiences of another culture that is unlike their own.


Reading Subtitles is a Chore

The common complaints why Americans don't like subtitled films are (opinions from movie forums and Yahoo Answers):

  • Too much effort in reading and watching the film
  • Subtitles move too fast on the screen
  • Subtitles are not an accurate depiction of what's happening in the story
  • Reading prevents from seeing the action in the middle of the screen

Overall, going through subtitles proved too much of a chore for most folks who just wanted to sit back and be entertained.

Kung Fu movie from the 70s!
Kung Fu movie from the 70s! | Source

English-dubbed Foreign Films Are Weird!

Americans who watch foreign films that are dubbed in English admitted that it is a weird experience. If a Chinese actor in a foreign language film is dubbed in English, the experience becomes strange, especially when the actor's mouth is moving and the dub doesn't match what he is saying.

The same can be said for American films being dubbed into another dialect. Many foreign audiences find the practice strange as well.

So why can't English films make a movie in Spanish or Mandarin or Hindi or Korean? The practice would be too expensive and would involve making another film in the process, complete with the actors speaking in another language. Unfortunately, it is not an easy process like an American band singing in Spanish or Mandarin or vice versa.

Even with the advent of new technology, dubbing is still the cheaper route.

Foreign Films You Will Love!

On the set of "Transformers 3" with Director Michael Bay.
On the set of "Transformers 3" with Director Michael Bay. | Source

Americans Believe U.S. Films are the Best!

Most Americans are loyal to their own films and they believe their films are the best when compared to the rest of the world! Foreigners also feel the same way about their films.

Yes, there may be some truth to U.S. films being the best when comparing special effects and massive film budgets, but NOT in the realm of storytelling which puts all films on a "level playing field."

Americans are comfortable with their own films because they are familiar with it. Understandable. Same thing can be said with foreign countries who are more comfortable with their own product than something from another country.

Sure, American films are the best when it comes to marketing their films around the world. That's why most Americans aren't surprised when people overseas learn about America through their films. Believe it or not, American films are part of the nation's foreign policy!

U.S. film are so popular that it's not a surprise that a Chinese person knows about Cary Grant or John Wayne; or a person in Africa knows about Al Pacino or Angelina Jolie; or a French teen knows about Kristen Stewart or Jennifer Lawrence.

If you ask most Americans to identify Chow Yun Fat or Mini Anden or Gong Li or Robin Padilla or Konstantin Khabensky or Kais Nashef or Donnie Yen or Toshiro Mifune or Aamir Khan, who are popular figures in their own countries and international cinema, they would have no clue.

Movies are America's most famous export around the world and most U.S. residents feel comfortable with their own films being their main source of entertainment!

A tradition anyone would love--Chair dancing at a Jewish wedding!
A tradition anyone would love--Chair dancing at a Jewish wedding! | Source

To Each Their Own!

There is no reason to bash Americans for not liking Foreign Films. Same thing can be said for Foreigners not liking American films. To each their own!

There is a large segment of American movie-lovers who adore Foreign-language films. Millions of immigrants who came to America still enjoy films in their own native tongue. There are movie houses devoted to playing certain films for the different ethnic groups in the neighborhood. There are international film festivals in U.S. cities that are held annually for many groups such as Italians, Hispanic, Indians, Jewish, Chinese, Filipinos, Russians, Nordic, French, and many others.

Besides, just because an American doesn't like films from a certain foreign country doesn't mean that they don't like their people, food, traditions, and language.

To each their own, everyone has different likes and dislikes.

Special Poll!

How Many of You like or dislike Foreign-Language Films?

See results


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    • othellos profile image

      Mario Psomas 

      4 years ago from Europe

      It's just a matter of culture to me. If you raised to a country that subtitles is a part of the most movies then you don't take it as a negative aspect. You pay attention to the plot, acting, directing and all the other things that make a movie GREAT. Unfortunately for only English speaking people there are milestones in other languages as well.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      """Western nations like the U.S. speak English but foreign language films are in a dialect that most Americans don't know....."""" (??????)

      Dear author.... are you calling the Russian language or the French Language or the Italian language A DIALECT? I wonder, if you know the difference between the words "language" and "dialect".

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I just want to say I am American and I think some of the best films are foreign.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Guess I'm part of the American minority then. I have been watching Japanese and Chinese foreign films with subtitles since I was 12. Also I'm not under the belief that our films are the best as some of then can be just plain awful. I think you may be over generalizing a majority of Americans and our tastes.

    • Paul Bisquera profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Bisquera 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles

      In no way would I bash film-goers who don't like foreign films. To each their own. Yes, it takes full concentration to watch them and its something I learned ever since I was 9 years old, watching old samurai films!

    • Paul Bisquera profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Bisquera 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles

      I didn't know that about tugging both ears, Millionaire Tips. Thanks for the tip! Like you, I love foreign films and learning about other cultures.

    • Paul Bisquera profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Bisquera 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Alastar Packer, thanks for the comment. Yes, I love kung fu films from the 70s and 80s! 5 Fingers of Death was my favorite. I'll check it out 80s movie memoirs 1981! thanks.

    • Jason Marovich profile image

      Jason F Marovich 

      7 years ago from Detroit

      I'll watch a subtitled movie over a dubbed movie, any day. The US has flirted with foreign language films over the years, and the Academy has been giving more notice to films from other countries. But, you're right, for the most part - many Americans don't have the patience to focus on subtitles for two hours. Says a lot about the changes to American culture in the past two hundred years, definitely. Voted this article up and interesting.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      7 years ago from USA

      I had the same reservations about foreign films, besides the fact that subtitles take effort to read, sometimes I can miss the subtlety of what is being said because I do not know the culture. Bodily gestures, for example (tugging both ears to say sorry in India), are easily overlooked. But I have gotten to a point where I really enjoy watching movies from different cultures, because there is a great deal to learn from them.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Know some friends who can't stand to watch a movie with subtitles; not me though, if it's a good film then it makes no difference. Btw Paul, used to work in a cinema where we played dubbed kung-fu late shows for years; the patrons absolutely loved them(pre-cable and vhs). We discovered one time that if we flipped the film over the original language came through the sound system. This is not meant to promo but in 80s Movie Memoirs 1981 there's some on the dubbed shows that may be interesting to you.

    • Paul Bisquera profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Bisquera 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hello Jason, I think its more a "patience issue" than anything. I believe for those who commit to watching a foreign film tend to be more patient since it takes almost full concentration to view these films. Personally, I love it and it took me awhile to get used to it but it has been a great experience ever since watching films from all different countries. Thanks for the comment Jason.

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 

      7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Hello Paul, I wonder how much research you put into this hub as I have an observation for you; I am a family man, 33 years old and both my wife and I watch French and German films. The interesting thing is, both sets of our parents groan and moan about watching foreign films with us. I wonder if this is a generational issue and not so much an all inclusive American thing. By the way were both California natives. Cheers.


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