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Films -- Animation

  • Certain Disney films in Japan have been more prominent over the years. For example, Lilo and Stitch (a film the creators admitted was inspired by the works of Studio Ghibli), has an anime adaptation which, over the course of December 2009, outperformed the Pokémon anime. There's Stitch merchandise just about everywhere in Japan.
  • While we're talking about Japan, Cheburashka (a Russian book and cartoon character) is very popular there as well. It is a recurring joke in Russia that Cheburashka is the first Pokémon ever created.
  • An example crossing this with Ensemble Darkhorse - During a publicity trip to Japan promoting A Bugs Life, the Pixar crew noticed that the Japanese loved the little green alien toys from Toy Story. As a result, this led to them giving the aliens a more prominent role than intended in Toy Story 2 (and needless to say, prominently featuring them among the main cast in Toy Story 3). This is probably also the reason they were incoporated into Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas is also a prominent Disney film in Japan instead of the cult-classic, Touchstone production in its home country, where it is usually presented as a Tim Burton film (despite the fact that he only produced and co-wrote it and designed the characters on paper) instead. Because of the movie's massive fanbase in Japan, Halloween Town is a recurring world in the Kingdom Hearts series.
    • Its presence in Kingdom Hearts has actually made this come full circle with western fans of KH knowing about TNBK through the game.
    • The Japanese are well-aware of the movie's status in the United States, and the Japanese arm of Square (this was pre-merger) was rather surprised that the American arm wanted to promote the Halloween Town levels here, not realizing it would go over well in part because the American fandom for the movie overlaps well with video gaming fandom. Also, American Kirby Is Hardcore came into effect.
    • The Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise seem to be huge hits in many South East Asian countries such as Malaysia, where everything from handbags to cell phone cases feature Jack Skellington.
  • Nickelodeon's Barnyard gained huge popularity in Iran when it was released for Home Media. Although it did not have an official dub, it was awesomely translated.
  • The Swedish movie Gnomes and Trolls: The Secret Chamber has been almost universally panned in Sweden. In Turkey, however, it's still playing in theaters half a year after its initial release.
  • 3D animated features tend to gross ridiculous amounts of money in Russia, particularly if it's a sequel (the country's cinema audience widens every year). Basically, the formula for success is 3D animation + talking animals = $$$. Dreamworks seems to exploit this trend most successfully, with the latest installments of Shrek and Madagascar sitting in the top 10 highest-grossing movies of (post-Soviet) Russia.
  • In China, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties is the highest-grossing animated film of all time, beating out The Lion King.
  • While The Three Caballeros are Ensemble Darkhorses among fans of Disney animation, Brazilians will be quick to single out their favorite character: their fellow green Brazilian parrot, José Carioca. In fact, they've even given him an endearing alias, Zé Carioca.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 has not done as well in North America as Kung Fu Panda, although it was popular enough to make back the production budget. However, the film is a worldwide smash hit, especially in China, reigning as #1 for two weeks with overseas earnings that more than compensated to outgross not only the original, but also Pixar's Cars 2.
    • Similarly, Mulan was a major hit in China.
  • The Ice Age series, while nowhere near box office bombs in North America, weren't record-breaking successes. Overseas, however, the series has done very well, especially the third one.


Films -- Live-Action

  • The French are quite enamored of Jerry Lewis, or at least they were in the 60's. Nowadays, it's hard to find anyone under 50 who has seen one of his movies. In 2006, the French Ministry of Culture awarded him the Legion of Honor medal; pictures and a clip of the ceremony can be found here.
  • Being as Central Asia is the furthest region on the Earth from the ocean, ocean-themed films and televison programs do well with citizens of the the Asian steppes as they're considered "exotic".
    • The movie Titanic is wildly popular in Kyrgyzstan. The movie plays about 5 times a day on TV. There are radio plays, novelization, comics, and basically everything in the markets has the image of one the movie's characters on it. There's also the whole class conflict thing that might strike a chord in a ex-communist third world country. Plus it's a love story, and that's always popular.
    • Similarly, Baywatch is very popular.
  • Woody Allen's movies have sometimes been more popular in Europe (and particularly France) than in the United States. Woody Allen himself parodied this phenomenon with Hollywood Ending, in which a film-maker has to shoot a movie while suffering from stress-induced blindness. It totally bombs in the US... but turns out to be a surprise hit overseas.
  • Epics of both the historical and fantasy varieties tend to fare much better overseas. Thus, you have movies like Troy, Kingdom of Heaven, and The Golden Compass doing phenomenal business abroad while underperforming in the US.
    • Lampshaded by recent commercials touting The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor as the number one movie in the world. True, if you look at international box office and not North America (where The Dark Knight's domestic gross doubles up The Mummys international one).
  • On the other hand, superhero movies tend not to be automatic hits overseas, especially ones with low star wattage. The Batman movies gross much less than they do in the U.S, and while the X-Men films are by no means flops, they still lag behind internationally. Superman Returns was an exception, providing one of the few bright spots in the film's lackluster box office.
    • This is lampshaded somewhat in The Dark Knight, where a foreign ballerina doesn't understand why a vigilante like Batman has so much popular support.
    • The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been another exception since 2011 -- Thor and Captain America were big hits overseas, and The Avengers (featuring both characters and a slew of others) followed in their footsteps in 2012.
  • This can happen to an entire genre; for instance, the term "spaghetti western" comes from the large quantity of cowboy movies made in Italy, of all places -- despite the fact that the Western genre is firmly rooted in American history. Also, one of Italy's most famous and loved comic series is Tex, featuring the eponymous hero Tex Willer as a ranger in a typical western setting. It has been running uninterrupted since 1948.
    • And "curry westerns" in India, where Bollywood movies set in mid-Rajasthan and other dry desert-like areas of the north capture a slight (only slight, though) western feel. The most famous example would be Sholay.
    • Westerns are also popular in East Asia with a few Kung Fu films being set in the old west. A modern example would be the Korean film The Good The Bad The Weird set in Manchuria.
    • Westerns have been quite popular in Europe for a very long time and Germany in particular, even during the Nazi period[1]. It was sparked off by the phenomenal success of James Fenimore Cooper's novels in European countries (Last of the Mohicans was even written in Paris), and so e.g. the first German Western/Frontier novels go back to the 1830s and 1840s with authors like Charles Sealsfield (born Karl Anton Postl) and Friedrich Gerstäcker. There already were silent Westerns produced in Germany and Italy before World War One (including one in 1912 directed by Vincenzo Leone, father of Sergio). During Nazi rule, there weren't really any Western movies to speak of, although plays based on Karl May's stories were produced on open-air stages. Westerns as a European major movie genre only began with Der Schatz I'm Silbersee (The Treasure of Silver Lake) in 1962, which began the highly successful series of Karl May films. The success of these West German "Kraut Westerns" in turn led Italian producers to become interested in the genre again (and thus was a factor in the emergence of "Spaghetti Westerns"), while the East German DEFA studios countered with anti-imperialist "Indian films". (So on both sides of the Iron Curtain there was a tendency in German Westerns to portray Native Americans sympathetically). These movies also had a Germans Love David Hasselhoff effect for two actors - Pierre Brice, who portrayed Winnetou, became a huge star in West Germany while remainging nearly unknown in his native France, and Yugoslavian Gojko Mitic, who played the lead in every "Indianerfilm" was one of the biggest box office draws in the GDR and the Soviet Union.
      • How much did Germany love westerns in The Fifties and The Sixties? Highly decorated WWII veteran Audie Murphy was astonished to find that his westerns did big business in West Germany. This was a man who originally came to public attention for two combat-related incidents: one where he went ballistic on a German machine gun nest that had killed his friend, and then took out two more nests when they opened fire on him; and another incident where he held off two companies of German infantry and six panzers by calling artillery strikes on them while firing a .50 cal machine gun mounted on a burning tank destroyer. (It was the only decent piece of firepower in the area that still had ammo.) West Germany's affection for his movies was perhaps equal parts Germans Love Westerns and seeing him as a Worthy Opponent, but whatever the case, his westerns remain sufficiently popular in Germany for Koch Media to have released quite a few of them on dvd, including ones which have yet to arrive on Region 1.
  • The films of Mr. Bean are usually relatively ignored in Britain, where they are made, and yet they enjoy popular success (as opposed to the other kind of success) in mainland Europe and Russia. It helps that there is very little dialogue to translate. Mr. Bean is also very popular in Iran and Japan. Rowan Atkinson once told that, during his visit to Japan, a crowd of rabid Mr. Bean fangirls tore his suit to bits, and he was lucky to escape relatively intact!
    • The same goes for Laurel and Hardy short comedies, which air at least once a week on day-time TV.
  • Donnie Darko in the United Kingdom. The film was relatively unpopular in the States and managed to earn eight times as much abroad than it in did the US. The makers were aware of this so when the Director's Cut was released onto DVD a double disc CD of all the music was only released in the UK (as the music became extremely popular in the UK -- "Mad World" became the Christmas Number One without a fight). The Blu-Ray Director's Cut was double disc for the UK as well (everywhere else only getting the one disc) and the makers made a 52-minute "film" about the fan following in Britain.
  • Tron: Legacy
    • American policies are rather unpopular in Venezuela, especially since many people over there support Hugo Chavez. Screening TRON: Legacy in Venezuelan cinemas, on the other hand...
    • TRON: Legacy also became quite popular in Japan, where it made most of its foreign box office. That and the popularity of the "Space Paranoids" level in Kingdom Hearts II were the main reasons why Kingdom Hearts 3D has a world based on the film.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon received rave reviews in America, and won four Academy Awards. It launched an interest in the Wuxia genre and singlehandedly jumpstarted Zhang Ziyi's career. In China and Hong Kong, however, the film was seen as "just another action flick." With bad accents, no less.
  • Brian De Palma's early film Phantom of the Paradise (1974) was a flop on its initial release but was extremely popular in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and still is to this day.
  • Any Hollywood movie starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li are popular in Asia, flop or not.
    • The Medallion and Around The World in 80 Days are major box-office flops in the States, but did very well in Asia.
    • Shanghai Knights is considered a failure compared to Shanghai Noon, but it stayed at No. 1 in most Asian countries during the Chinese New Year period. Having a Singaporean actress (Fann Wong) helps.
    • Danny the Dog didn't do well in America, but the movie, under the name Unleashed, has a cult following in Asia.
    • The Forbidden Kingdom, starring both Jackie and Li, a sleeper hit in the U.S., is a BLOCKBUSTER in Asia.
    • One installment of Jet Li's Once Upon a Time in China movie series plays with this trope -- the national hero Wong Feihong and all his disciples are well-known all over China -- all except for Leung Foon, who's only recognised by people from his hometown.
  • The film version of Mamma Mia! was only fairly successful in North America, but nearly everywhere else it was an enormous blockbuster hit, mainly due to its appeal to older women. In Britain it actually out performed The Dark Knight and Titanic.
  • Transformers is the highest-grossing movie of all time, IN MALAYSIA! No, seriously. And the sequel is the highest-grossing movie of all time, in China.
  • The 1940 film Waterloo Bridge starring Vivien Leigh is one of the most popular Western films in China.
  • Kenneth Branagh's Shakespeare films were negatively received in Britain, but very popular in America.
    • This appears to be more of just the opinions of stubborn critics. Branagh's films have relatively low ratings on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, while they are considerably higher on IMDb.
      • And it was somewhat turned around in the case of his Thor. American critics enjoyed it but it was received even better in the UK.
  • Bollywood films. Some of which actually achieved bigger success outside of India.
    • Its success overseas was taken into ridiculous levels when Shah Rukh Khan got knighted (or in local terms, getting "Datukship") in Malaysia. No, seriously.
    • They used to be wildly popular in '60s-'80s Soviet Union, being *MUCH* more easily available than Hollywood blockbusters and given wide releases. Even in modern Russian pop culture, the Luke, I Am Your Father trope is more closely associated with Indian cinema (where sudden "I am your brother/sister/aunt/etc." revelations were all too common) than with Star Wars. And up to this day, there are separate sections of Indian films in large media stores.
  • The work of Norman Wisdom was the only Western films allowed in Albania under Hoxha, resulting in him becoming an epic cult figure there. British comedian Tony Hawks borrowed him for his quest to reach the top twenty of the music charts somewhere in the world (so he'd no longer be a One-Hit Wonder, having had a novelty hit in the UK); Big In Albania by Tony Hawks, Norman Wisdom and Tim Rice reached number 18.
  • For some reason, Hungarians love Bud Spencer, to the point that there is at least one film from him aired on the main channels around any national holiday.
    • Around national holidays? Not anymore... His movies (especially those that pair him with Terence Hill) air throughout the entire year, one at a time on at least four different TV stations. It's ridiculous.
    • He's also very popular in Germany, as is Terence Hill, mostly due to hilarious dubbing. There's even Bud Spencer & Terence Hill merchandise.
      • They're very popular in Greece, too, particularly amongst those aged 30-40. In the 80s, their films were shown on TV almost daily, while Bud Spencer appeared in commercials for a very popular brand of chewing gum. The movies are still shown quite often, though not to the extent they were in the 80s.
  • Streets of Fire was very big in Japan, influencing the anime Bubblegum Crisis and the game series Final Fight.
  • Screwball sports comedy Slap Shot, which has become more obscure as time goes on in the US, is an iconic film in Quebec. This is because the two French-Canadian actors in the film translated the film themselves, and they chose to do a contextual translation rather than a normal one. They also used Quebecois French rather than "standard" French for the translation. As a result, it's one of the very few films that bilingual French-Canadians prefer to watch dubbed rather than subtitled. The movie is STILL to this day widely quoted among French-Canadians, and there's even three season ticket holders for the Montreal Canadiens who show up to every game dressed as the Hanson Brothers.
  • 300 was a massive hit in Greece and cultural neighbor Cyprus, probably because it depicted Greeks as total badasses. On the other hand, it probably wouldn't have gone over well in Iran, even if it hadn't been banned.
  • Richard Curtis movies have their audience in Britain, but are likely to be accused of laying on the "heartwarming" a bit too heavy and playing up a certain type of Britishness to appeal to American viewers... which works.
  • The Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Red Heat is still very popular in Russia, because of its unintentional comedy value. In general, action movies featuring the actor were watched on bootleg VHS by just about the entire male population of Russia in The Nineties, and the particularly good ones (like Commando, Predator or, naturally, The Terminator) maintain a cult following.
    • Speaking of Schwarzie, the guy is more popular in France than he ever was in the US, thanks to his accent and acting being covered up. Made that much better by the fact that his manly-voiced, official dub actor (Daniel Beretta) is also the namesake of a GUN.
  • Jean Claude Van Damme is really popular in Brazil. Two of his movies, Sudden Death and Replicant, got released there first (the latter did not even get a theatrical release in the USA).
  • From the pirated VHS of the Communist 1980s to the TV screens and well after 2000, The Blue Lagoon and Return To The Blue Lagoon have been wildly popular in Romania among women of all ages and social classes, from high school teenagers to mature ladies and down to grandmothers. Every single comment the Almighty Google can find from the English-speaking countries treats them as the absolute and most obvious kitsch in the history of cinema.
  • David Lynch, like Philip K. Dick (below) got a lot of praise from French intellectuals, who were talking about more or less exactly the same thing Lynch was making films about (or so they thought).
    • He's rather popular in Japan too, especially for Twin Peaks.
  • Hudson Hawk was a complete and utter box office Bomb in the USA, mainly because it was marketed as a serious action flick (to get the Die Hard fans interested, probably) when it very clearly is a comedy... which is why it has a popular following in Japan, because it's pretty much a Spiritual Licensee of Lupin III.
  • Audrey Hepburn was infinitely more popular in Japan than in western countries. Given that Ms. Hepburn was named by the American Film Institute the third greatest actress of all time, this says A LOT about the Japanese love for her. This is probably because she was one of the few western women who fit the concept of the Yamato Nadeshiko.
  • The comedy Top Secret was quite a (bootleg) VHS hit behind the iron curtain (ex. in Poland), though it was received in a way unexpected by its authors (who aimed at mocking American cold-war stereotypes). The same goes for Terry Gilliam's Brazil, which was intended to convey a leftist message but was instead seen as a metaphor for a communist regime (btw. Polish director Piotr Szulkin had used similar imagery in his 1981 film War of Worlds - The Next Century, which was exactly this).
  • Home Alone is a cult classic in Poland. It is a national tradition to show it every year on TV at Christmas. When it had been announced it wouldn't be on in 2010... cue a flood of angry letters from viewers, and it was broadcast.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid is so popular in Singapore, the success of the first film there prompted Fox to release the second film 8 days before the US release. Not many films get this kind of treatment.
  • Edward Furlong, as a result of Terminator 2, has quite a following in Japan, and has starred in a number of Japanese commercials, and has even released an album there.
  • The film Alien 3 was poorly received in the United States, with many fans considering it to be the worst entry in the franchise (at least until Alien: Resurrection came along). But in some European countries, Alien 3 is considered to be the best film in the series.
  • Sucker Punch was a Box Office Bomb in the U.S., but pulled in another 50 million (and better reviews) overseas.
  • Taken had average box office and weak reviews in its native France. When it came to the US, it managed to become the highest grossing film of producer Luc Besson's career and had excellent word of mouth.
    • This is true of most of Besson's work. In France, he's regarded as a Hollywood-inspired hack by many critics. In the US, he's been hailed as one of the most innovative action directors and producers from the 90s onwards.
  • According to Guillermo del Toro, John Carpenter's The Thing was a huge hit in Mexico.
  • While Kevin Costner may no longer be the star he was in The Nineties in his home country, he is huge star in Turkey as of recently. He has been seen in advertisements for Turkish Airlines, his music has sold well there and he even considered taking part in Turkish politics.
  • The Three Musketeers 2011 was a flop in the US. In Japan, it managed to outgross the American numbers and has had very strong legs there. In fact the foreign total to date is five and a half times the amount of the American gross (domestic gross: $20 million, international gross: $110 million).
  • While Battle Royale was among the top 10 highest grossing films in Japan, it has a major cult following in America. When it comes to foreign films, that definitely says something.
  • Baragon of the Godzilla series is insanely popular in Japan despite only being in three movies (One of which was just a cameo. Though this may be a case where he didn't catch on in America.)
  • John Carter was a box office failure in the United States but set records in Russia.


In-Universe Examples

  • Played literally in Dodgeball. The German team's lucky charm of sorts is a photo of David Hasselhoff, and after they are defeated they are bawled out by the man himself.
  • In Lost in Translation, it is implied that Bob Harris is a much more popular actor in Japan than he is in America since the last twenty years or so.
  • This Is Spinal Tap ends with the title band, largely washed up in America, becoming spectacularly successful in Japan. This is a reference to the real-life band Cheap Trick, who became a Japanese (and to a lesser extent Latin American) favorite after their American audience dwindled.
  • In The Peacemaker, George Clooney and Nicole Kidman try to retrieve a list of records from a German baddie's computer. At first the baddie refuses to give up the password, but after some Gene Hunt Interrogation Technique, he gives it up. It is "Hasselhoff".
  • In Tropic Thunder, an important plot point revolves around action star Tugg Speedman discovering that his drug trafficking captors are huge fans of Simple Jack, Tugg's Oscar Bait film which the American press heralded as one of the worst movies of all time. Of course, this is because Simple Jack is the only movie said drug traffickers have access to.
  • In Love and Basketball, Sidra tells Monica about this when they are both playing basketball in Europe. In Europe they are relatively famous and live a good life, but in the U.S. they are nobodies.

Notes

  1. Goebbels actually said the Sioux were Aryans. Seriously. For their part, the Sioux just hated the Nazis more for it. Today, there is only one known instance of a native Nazi: A Chippewa who, like Nazi teens in America tend to do, shot his fellow classmates.
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