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Foreign Film Friday: What do film language stats reveal about trends in cinema?


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Renowned Film Analyst Stephen Follows has conducted a fascinated study on foreign language films released in North America. His graphs reveal an interesting picture of how foreign film fits into the landscape of Western cinema.

First of all, this graph shows us that films predominantly use only one language - whether that is English or something else. The languages counted in this study also include dead languages like Latin, and fictional ones like Klingon.

This next graph may seem surprising, however it simply means that, for example, 12% of films released in the US contain at least a line or two in French, not that 12% of films are entirely in French. 

Analysing by both language and genre also reveals some telling trends.

A large percentage of films featuring Japanese released in the US are animations -- not a surprise given the popularity of anime, and Studio Ghibli films. A decent amount of Japanese appears in horror films too, which again makes sense considering the global legacy of films like The Ring (2002) based on a Japanese novel. It's also pretty funny to see Latin so prominently represented in the horror genre -- it seems to be the go-to language for demon exorcisms and the like.

Hindi has a huge presence in the Romance genre, since the majority of Hindi-language films released in the US would be Bollywood films, which tend towards romantic dramas. More sinister is the huge percentage of films including Arabic being war films. Since 2001, the rise in using Islamist terrorists as villains on screen has been a disturbing trend to witness. 

Follows' analysis also includes stats on the relative release size and period of foreign language films compared to English language films, and much more. Visit his website to see the full analysis, as well as loads of other film analysis content.

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