The title of the classic Spaghetti Western "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" has found its way into the English language as a way to refer to positive and negative aspects of a particular thing, e.g. when reviewing a product.

But it's also nice as a simple play of words in titles, for example I plan to have a talk about Something, titled:

Something — The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Or, more specifically, I could be talking about the quality of different video codecs:

Video Compression — The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The play of words here is that video, when compressed, looks ugly.

But for the life of me I can't find a German equivalent of this idiom that is as equally known.

How would you refer to the main good and bad aspects like this in German?

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    das gute, das schlechte und das hässliche or Zwei glorreiche Halunken is the movie version of The good the bad and the ugly Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 8:30
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    Can you please clarify whether you are interested in the good and bad aspects of something (your last sentence) or good and bad realisations of something (how I interprete the title). Translated to your example, would you refer about pros and cons of video codecs in general or good and bad video codecs?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 9:15
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    While there are some good answers here, keep in mind that depending on your audience the english phrase might be quite well understood. Talking to tech people about video compression seems to be such a field.
    – npst
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 12:26
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    What is an equivalent idiom in the English of 1965?
    – Carsten S
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 23:41
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    Gut, schlecht und gut gemeint may work in some cases, but probably does not fit here. One could play with the different meanings of good/gut and its antonyms: Gut, schlecht und böse. Also, Gut, schlecht, schlechter, although the more common pattern is akin to gut, besser, Mein Produkt. Finally, Gut, schlecht und schlecht aussehend.
    – Crissov
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 14:52

10 Answers 10


I can't think of a German idiom that takes the three aspects of "the good, the bad and the ugly", usually it's just a contrasting pair of "good" and "bad".

Then you could say:

  • my subject - die guten und die schlechten Seiten (direct match but w./o. "ugly")
  • my subject - Licht und Schatten (or Licht- und Schattenseiten)
  • my subject - die Vor- und Nachteile
  • my subject - Pros und Cons (but it's style may be questionable)
  • my subject - Für und Wider (but only if discussing a decision, not suitable for properties.)

I have come across some quotes that tried to take all three ("Die guten und die schlechten Seiten von X und die hässlichen Wahrheiten dahinter"), but as it's not idiomatic, it usually sounds contrieved / forced.

As "good, bad, ugly" is usually considered an expression for "a complete discussion of a subject", this can be achieved with the "god / bad" pair alone in German, which conveys roughly the same meaning. Alternatively, you could use "vollstängig" (but that's really a big statement), "umfassend", "weitgefasst", and ditch the move reference.

Or, just stick with the "ugly" and go for something like "Videokompression: Die hässlichen Wahrheiten / Nebeneffekte / ..." or "Die unansehnlichen (note the pun?) / unschönen Seiten der Videokompression".

  • 'Pros und Cons', sounds terribly informal. 'Für und wider' would the most idiomatic version, but again without the 'ugly' part.
    – TaW
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 9:46
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    Pro und Cons is really informal. The proper german phrase would rather be "Pro und Contra" - but I really like your pun "Vidokompression - Die ganze hässliche Wahrheit"
    – Falco
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 10:21
  • I do like "Licht und Schatten" quite a lot - it fits nicely into titles IMO.
    – Gerhard
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 19:52
  • “Pros und Cons” is not informal, it's English. There is of course “Pro und Contra”, but its meaning is slightly different.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 7:44

An established idiom of a more formal level is:

Dingsda - Licht- und Schattenseiten

I'm afraid there is no really frequently used counterpart in German.

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    Never heard this before.
    – inf
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 18:16

I can’t think of an idiomatic way of saying that in German, but I’d offer

Videokompression – genauer betrachtet

as a similar play of words, because if you “look closely” you will see some ugliness even in “good” codecs. Translating puns is a case-to-case thing, unless they are context-independent. Your play of words relies on the context of codecs introducing some “ugliness”. My play of words changes context from "ugly" to "visual" and replaces the comparative aspect of enumerating (good, bad,...) with a promise of detailed inspection.

  • I like the word play here - sometimes it's better to find a good phrase in one language rather than trying to translate what works in another.
    – Stephie
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 12:17
  • Great idea. I wanted to keep the question more generic so as to help people who are in a similar situation, that's why I initially did not include the specific topic.
    – slhck
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 16:24
  • @Stephie I would say that is the case more often than not - idioms rarely translate well
    – s-ol
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 21:50

One idiomatic way of expressing it would be

Videokompression – mit allen Vor- und Nachteilen.

which translates to with all (dis)advantages. But—while compliant with the requirement of referring to both the good and the bad aspects—it is still a good bit away from the English "original", as it is referring to these aspects in a very direct way; it's less metaphoric.

However, I believe that this expression matches the intended usage (here are some examples one can find using a search engine (DuckDuckGo, Google).


Besides the many good suggestion already given, there's another expression that comes to mind:

Die Kehrseite der Medaille

The connotation is that there's a good thing (front side), which sticks to the inseparable reverse side.

Sometimes also referred to as "die andere Seite der Medaille", in English "the other side of the coin". Kehrseite on its own can be translated as downside into English.

In a title you could go with the variation "Die zwei Seiten der Medaille" (English "two sides of the same coin"):

XYZ und seine zwei Seiten der Medaille

  • I would like to point out that the use of the word "Medaille" goes beyond the translation of "coin" that Em1 uses; "Medaille" is much more positively connoted.
    – s-ol
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 21:54

There is no similar idiom. I’d go with something that rolls nicely off the tongue, like:

Videokompressionsverfahren: gut, schlecht, und fürchterlich.


A suitable equivalent would be:

Gutes, Schlechtes, Hässliches

Which translates as: "Good sides, bad sides, ugly sides" (you could use "parts" or "aspects" instead of "sides" for example).

You could also use

  • Gute, Schlechte und Hässliche Seiten
  • Gute Seiten, Schlechte Seiten, Hässliche Seiten

"The good, the bad and the ugly" can play with the many possible expressions similar to "positive vs. negative", which Stephie's answer lists many variations of. The willingness to discuss both positives and negatives implies objectivity.

However, rather than "objectively positive vs. objectively negative", by adding a translation of "the ugly", it expresses "objectively positive vs. objectively negative vs. subjectively negative".

By including "Hässliches" you of preserve the reference to the possible ugly effects of video encoding.

title Feel free to use this title (webm).

  • I've never heard or seen this expression used, but in the specific example it somehow makes more sense :)
    – slhck
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 5:28

There isn't really an equivalent in German, since the movie that this refers to is called differently (not translated literally). If you intend to keep the somewhat tongue-in-cheek notion of that title, you might write:

Videokompression - die Vor-, Nach- und Hinterteile

Even though those translate into "benefits and drawbacks" which doesn't match the intention exactly.


The problem is that "The good, the bad, and the ugly" is a movie title. Unfortunately (for this context) the German title for that same movie is "Zwei glorreiche Halunken", so it talks only about two people and gives them equal properties. Therefore, the idiom does not translate well. A play of words that would be applicable to your example of video compression could be: "zu viel des Guten" (for the ugly part).


I would transform the words to reflect on the quality. Die Guten, die Schlechten und der Pixelbrei

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