The language profession doesn’t fire up Hollywood movie producers and for that reason you won’t find very many translator and interpreter movies being made and marketed.
And even though I agree that there isn’t much in an interpreter’s or translator’s life that will keep movie-going audiences in their seats for two hours, there is something cool about seeing a movie about your own profession.
I’m like most people in that I like to watch movies, but I think it’s more fun to watch a movie about something I know about or about something I’ve experienced (even if it can be somewhat boring to those not in the know).
For example, my wife is from Seattle and loves to watch movies that are about Seattle, or that have been filmed in and around Seattle. I mean, she forced me to watch Sleepless in Seattle a million times because of where it was filmed!
Well, there aren’t too many movies about translators and interpreters but there are some that are interesting to watch. It can be fun to see how movies portray the life of an interpreter, or see how the movies are different from real life (which most of the time they are).
Best Translator and Interpreter Movies
Now on to the list:
1. The Interpreter
Probably the most famous movie about interpreters, this particular film stars Nicole Kidman playing a UN interpreter involved in a conspiracy and cover-up. It’s an interesting movie that definitely glorifies the role of UN interpreters but I enjoyed it. Sean Penn also plays a major role in the film and in fact was the first film to be filmed in the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council Chambers. Sydney Pollack who directed the film personally met with then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to get permission.
2. The Nuremberg Trials
While this isn’t a Hollywood-produced interpreter movie, it is a great introduction into the experiences of an interpreter that was present at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945. If you’re interested in the history of interpretation, and how it has evolved over the years, this movie is a must.
3. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Greek Interpreter
Not necessarily a movie that delves into the profession of interpretation, but this movie at least does have as one of its main characters an interpreter who requires Sherlock Holmes’ assistance in solving a mystery. Sherlock Holmes movies are always an interesting watch, and it’s only an hour long. Good for a rainy day afternoon.
4. Lost in Translation
You can’t talk about translation and interpretation movies without including Lost in Translation. Again, while this movie isn’t necessarily focused primarily on the language industry, but does in fact touch on the the influence translation and interpretation can have on the lives of people.
A Marine sergeant (Nicolas Cage) is assigned to protect a Navajo code talker (Adam Beach) in this epic World War II action film.
An interstellar teleportation device, found in Egypt, leads to a planet with humans resembling ancient Egyptians who worship the god Ra.
John Clasky is a devoted dad whose skills as a chef have offered his family a very upscale life, including a summer home in Malibu and a breathtaking new Mexican housekeeper, named Flor. She and her daughter Cristina have recently emigrated to L.A. from Mexico and are trying to find a better life. When they move in with the Claskys for the summer, Flor has to fight for her daughter’s soul as she discovers that life in a new country is perilous!
Romance and suspense ensue in Paris as a woman is pursued by several men who want a fortune her murdered husband had stolen. Who can she trust?
9. Desert Flower
The autobiography of Waris Dirie, a Somalian nomad circumcised at 3, sold in marriage at 13, fled from Africa a while later to become finally an American supermodel and is now at the age of 38, the UN spokeswoman against circumcision.
10. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
One of the most underrated Disney movies!
P.S. When you’re done watching these movies, be sure to read my book.