When watching a foreign-language film, do you prefer subtitles or dubbing?

Vote in the poll, explain your reasons in the thread. Really, it’s not hard.

Dubbing is an abomination. And yes, that includes animated films.

Subtitles, unless it’s a complete cheesy popcorn flick that I’m watching when I’m really tired.

Subtitles are always preferable, because you get to hear the expression in the actor’s voice.

My preferences for English or French:

  1. subtitles “for the hearing impaired”
  2. dubbing
  3. normal subtitles

My preferences for other languages:

  1. dubbing
  2. subtitles “for the hearing impaired”
  3. normal subtitles

Like almost all Germans I am conditioned to not consciously notice that a movie is dubbed, because almost everything except very much niche material is (Some German movies are made in English then dubbed into German for the domestic market). Show me a movie with no internal indications on where it was produced, and afterwards spring the question on me whether it was originally produced in, or dubbed into, German, and I couldn’t answer. (The market also won’t stand egregiously bad dubbing of the sort that seems to have given dubbing a bad name in the US.)

For English and French I prefer subtitles “for the hearing impaired” because I can follow most of the dialogue with subtitles supplying some details esp. with speakers of unfamiliar accents.

I really hate ‘normal’ subtitles because they do not, as a rule, render exactly what is said but rather a condensed version of dialogue - that sort of subtitles seems to pander to people with low reading speed.

Another vote for subtitles. Dubbing should only be used for humor, propaganda or official translations.

When you watch an actor speaking in one language, any overdubbing in a different language, even if done by the same actor, is a different acting performance superimposed over the filmed performance. This can produce interesting effects, which I suppose could be used artfully by a clever director but almost never are.

Subtitles usually, but they did a great job on Das Boot with the English dubbing (all the original actors re-spoke their lines in English), so I went with option #2, tho my choice would be amended to “Subtitles, unless the dubbed version was excellently pulled off.”

I prefer subtitles for non-animated films. I’m generally OK with dubs for animations.

Even in the world of subtitles however it’s important that the aim is accurate translation. I’ve seen a few movies that bothered me, when they missed the point on the translation and imposed their own American prudishness.

Example Let The Right One In

Of course on that movie they are going one step further and making a completely new movie throwing out basic components as to not offend Americans.

I find dubbing takes me out of the story in a way that subtitles do not. Unless the subtitles are very badly done, or the dubbing is excellently done (as in Das Boot, which is clearly a special circumstance), I’ll always choose the subtitled version.

Subtitles all the way.

I can’t stand dubbing; the incongruity between the voices and the action… it’s like trying to watch two movies at once, seeing an emotion and hearing something slightly different makes me feel like I’m hearing voices… probably because I’m the opposite from what Mops said; I’m Finnish, and nothing (apart from movies intended for the under 7 age group) is ever dubbed here.

Obviously I don’t use subtitles for Finnish, Swedish or English movies… and I prefer the hearing impared subtitles for French and German movies.

Subtitles. I like hearing the actors emote (or not, depending) in the original language. The particular cadences of it are essential to what they’re saying.

Subtitles for live action. Dubbing for animation. And no I don’t have a really good reason why. Of course in any case quality is key. If one is good and the other bad, I’ll take the good one.

I almost checked “prefer subtitles if the dubbing is bad,” but I can only really think of one movie where I was ok with the dubbing, so I chose “always prefer subtitles.” I don’t even remember exactly which movie it was, but I remember actually being surprised to later find out it had been dubbed into English – the dubbing was all done with the original actors, apparently, and pretty convincingly. French movie, IIRC.

The people who complain really loudly about subtitles – I don’t get it. It takes a fraction of a second to read them (for me, anyway). A minute or two into the movie, I really don’t even consciously notice them any more.


Obviously, if the sub and dub are of wildly divergent quality, I prefer the one that’s better (this usually means the sub, but not always).

If both the sub and dub are of roughly equal quality, generally I prefer subs, but under certain circumstances I’ll go for the dub.

Sit. 1) I’m trying to watch it when I can’t pay it full attention.
Sit. 2) Sometimes I just prefer the dub voices to the original actors’.
Sit. 3) It’s a Godzilla movie…it’s just not…right to watch them subbed.
Sit. 4) Every so often, I’ll run into a sub that, while not actually bad, per se, is idiosyncratic in a way that doesn’t click with me, so I’ll watch the dub, instead.

I don’t think we’ll have a lot of persons in this thread who complain loudly about subtitles, because those are generally persons who have difficulty in reading. For a message board, those are self-selected out.

I chose “prefer subtitles”, but I don’t think that properly implies just how much I dislike dubbing. It really takes me out of the movie, to the point that it is unwatchable. It is funny given the comments above but the last time I had this issue was with Das Boot. It came out on Netflix streaming and I tried to watch it, but the dubbing into English accents was too distracting. I gave up after about 20 minutes.

Subtitles all the way, with a couple of possible exceptions like this one:

Subtitles. The quality of the performance is generally going to be much better in the original, and the quality of the translation tends to be more accurate in subtitles.

I don’t understand why someone would choose to discard most of an actor’s performance in order to follow the text. Try watching a great English-language movie that’s been dubbed for a non-English market - instant lame. Works both ways.

Dubbing is the devil.

I will say, though, that after my Bulgarian got good enough that I could easily follow the subtitles while watching English-language TV shows, I began to realize how shitty subtitling often is. I hope they do a better job of subtitling, oh, I don’t know, feature-length French movies in English than they do silly Australian cop shows into Bulgarian. A LOT of detail gets left out because there isn’t enough space on the screen for so many words a lot of the time, and more than once I saw subtitles that were just WRONG. Best example (and I saw it like a thousand times because it was part of an ad campaign): in the TV show, Californication, David Duchovny’s character says “I hate my life!” The subtitles read…yes, “I hate my wife!”

Subtitles. Always. In yellow, not white. CAREFULLY checked for spello’s and incorrect homonyms.