Titanic (1997 film)

Titanic (1997 film)
The film poster shows a man and a woman hugging over a picture of the Titanic's bow. In the background is a partly cloudy sky and at the top are the names of the two lead actors. The middle has the film's name and tagline, and the bottom contains a list of the director's previous works, as well as the film's credits, rating, and release date.
Theatrical poster
Directed by James Cameron
Produced by
Written by James Cameron
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Russell Carpenter
Editing by
Distributed by Paramount Pictures (USA)
20th Century Fox (International)
Release date(s) December 19, 1997 (1997-12-19)
Running time 194 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $200 million[2][3][4][5][6][7]
Box office $1,843,201,268[2]

Titanic is a 1997 American epic romance and disaster film directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. A fictionalized account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson, Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater and Billy Zane as Rose's fiancé, Cal Hockley. Jack and Rose are members of different social classes who fall in love aboard the ship during its ill-fated maiden voyage.

Cameron's inspiration for the film was predicated on his fascination with shipwrecks; he wanted to convey the emotional message of the tragedy, and felt that a love story interspersed with the human loss would be essential to achieving this. Production on the film began in 1995, when Cameron shot footage of the actual Titanic wreck. The modern scenes were shot on board the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh, which Cameron had used as a base when filming the wreck. A reconstruction of the Titanic was built at Playas de Rosarito, Baja California, and scale models and computer-generated imagery were also used to recreate the sinking. The film was partially funded by Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox – respectively, its American and international distributors – and at the time, it was the most expensive film ever made, with an estimated budget of $200 million.[4][5][6][7]

Upon its release on December 19, 1997,[8] the film achieved critical and commercial success. It equaled records with fourteen Academy Award nominations and eleven Oscar wins, receiving the prizes for Best Picture and Best Director.[9] With a worldwide gross of over $1.8 billion, it was the first film to reach the billion dollar mark, remaining the highest-grossing film of all time for twelve years, until Cameron's next directorial effort, Avatar, surpassed it in 2010.[10][11] Titanic is also ranked as the sixth best epic film of all time in AFI's 10 Top 10 by the American Film Institute.[12] The film is due for theatrical re-release on April 6, 2012 in 3-D to commemorate the centenary of the Titanic setting sail.[13]



In 1996, treasure hunter Brock Lovett and his team explore the wreck of the RMS Titanic, searching for a necklace called the Heart of the Ocean. They believe the necklace is in Caledon "Cal" Hockley's safe, which they recover. Instead of the diamond, they find a sketch of a nude woman wearing it, dated April 14, 1912, the night the Titanic hit the iceberg. Rose Dawson Calvert finds out about the drawing, contacts Lovett, and says that she is the woman depicted. She and her granddaughter Elizabeth "Lizzy" Calvert visit Lovett and his team on his salvage ship. When asked if she knows the whereabouts of the necklace, Rose recalls her memories aboard the Titanic, revealing that she is Rose DeWitt Bukater, a passenger believed to have died in the sinking.

In 1912, 17-year-old first class passenger Rose boards the ship in Southampton, England with her fiancé Cal, the son of a Pittsburgh steel tycoon, and her mother, Ruth DeWitt Bukater. Ruth stresses the importance of Rose's engagement, because the marriage to Cal will solve the DeWitt Bukaters' hidden financial problems. Distraught by her engagement to Cal and the pressure her mother is putting on her, Rose considers suicide by jumping off the stern of the ship. Before she leaps, a drifter and artist named Jack Dawson intervenes and persuades her not to jump. When discovered with Jack on the stern, Rose lies to Cal and says that she was looking over the edge of the ship in curiosity, tripped by accident, and that Jack saved her. At Rose's insistence, Cal invites Jack to dinner the following night to show his appreciation.

By the next day, Jack and Rose have developed a tentative friendship, though Cal and Ruth remain wary of the young third-class man. Following the first-class dinner that night, Rose secretly joins Jack at a third-class party.

Cal and Ruth forbid Rose to see Jack, and Rose attempts to comply by rebuffing Jack's continuing advances. She soon realizes that she prefers him over Cal, and meets with him at the bow of the ship during what turns out to be the Titanic's final moments of daylight. They go to Rose's stateroom and she asks Jack to sketch her wearing nothing but the Heart of the Ocean, an engagement present from Cal. Afterward, the two flee Cal's bodyguard into the ship's cargo hold, where they make love. Then they go to the ship's forward well deck, where they witness the ship's collision with an iceberg and overhear the ship's officers and designer discussing its seriousness. Rose tells Jack that they should warn her mother and Cal.

Cal discovers Jack's drawing and a mocking note from Rose in his safe along with the necklace. Furious, he has his bodyguard slip the necklace into Jack's coat pocket, framing him for stealing it. Jack is arrested, taken down to the Master-at-arms's office and handcuffed to a pipe. Cal puts the necklace in his coat. Rose runs away from Cal and her mother (who has boarded a lifeboat) to find Jack, breaking him free with an axe.

Jack and Rose struggle back to the deck where Cal and Jack persuade her to board another lifeboat, Cal claiming that he has made an arrangement that will allow both men to get off safely. After she boards, Cal tells Jack that the arrangement is only for himself. As Rose's boat lowers, she realizes that she cannot leave Jack, and jumps back on board the Titanic to reunite with him. Infuriated, Cal takes a pistol and chases them into the flooding first-class dining saloon. After running out of ammunition, Cal realizes to his chagrin that he gave his coat with the diamond to Rose. With the situation now dire, he returns to the boat deck and boards a lifeboat by pretending to look after a lost child.

As Jack and Rose return to the top deck, all lifeboats have departed and passengers are falling to their deaths as the stern rises out of the water. The ship breaks in half, and the stern side rises a full 90-degrees into the air. As it sinks slowly and completely, Jack and Rose ride the stern into the ocean. Jack helps Rose onto a nearby wall panel that will only support one person’s weight. As he hangs onto the panel, he assures her she will not die there and will instead die an old woman, warm in her bed. Meanwhile, Fifth Officer Harold Lowe has commandeered a lifeboat to return and search for survivors. He manages to save Rose, but Jack dies from hypothermia.

Rose and the other survivors are taken by the RMS Carpathia to New York, where Rose gives her name as Rose Dawson. She hides from Cal on Carpathia's deck as he searches for her, and she learns later that he committed suicide after losing his fortune in 1929.

Her story complete, Rose goes alone to the stern of Lovett's ship. There she takes out the Heart of the Ocean, which has in fact been in her possession all along, and drops it into the ocean. While seemingly asleep in her bed, the photos on her dresser are a visual chronicle that she lived a free life inspired by Jack. The young Rose is then seen reuniting with Jack at the Grand Staircase of the Titanic, cheered and congratulated by those who perished on the ship.


Fictional characters

  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson: Cameron said he needed the cast to feel as though they were really on the Titanic, relive its liveliness, and "to take that energy and give it to Jack, he's an artist who is able to have his heart soar".[14] Within the film, Jack is portrayed as a penniless man from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin who has toured various parts of the world, primarily Paris. He wins two tickets onto the RMS Titanic in a poker game and travels as a third-class passenger with his friend Fabrizio. He is attracted to Rose at first sight and meets her when she attempts to throw herself off the stern of the ship. This enables him to mix with the first-class passengers for a night. When casting the role, various established actors, including Matthew McConaughey, Chris O'Donnell, Billy Crudup and Stephen Dorff, were considered, but Cameron felt that a few of the actors were too old for the part of a 20-year-old.[15][16][17][18] "Tom Cruise expressed an interest in [portraying] the character, though his superstar asking price was never taken seriously."[16] DiCaprio, 22 years old at the time, was brought to Cameron's attention by casting director Mali Finn.[15] Initially, he did not want to portray the character, and refused to read his first romantic scene on the set. Cameron said, "He read it once, then started goofing around, and I could never get him to focus on it again. But for one split second, a shaft of light came down from the heavens and lit up the forest." Cameron strongly believed in DiCaprio's acting ability, and told him, "Look, I'm not going to make this guy brooding and neurotic. I'm not going to give him a tic and a limp and all the things you want." Cameron rather envisioned the character as a James Stewart type.[15]
  • Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater/Dawson: Cameron said Winslet "had the thing that you look for" and that there was "a quality in her face, in her eyes," that he "just knew people would be ready to go the distance with her".[14] Rose is a 17-year-old girl, originally from Philadelphia, who is forced into an engagement to 30-year-old Cal Hockley so she and her mother, Ruth, can maintain their high-class status after her father's death had left the family debt-ridden. Rose boards the RMS Titanic with Cal and Ruth, as a first-class passenger, and meets Jack. Winslet said of her character, "She has got a lot to give, and she's got a very open heart. And she wants to explore and adventure the world, but she [feels] that's not going to happen."[14] Gwyneth Paltrow, Claire Danes, and Gabrielle Anwar had been considered for the role.[15][19][20] When they turned it down, 22-year-old Winslet campaigned heavily for the role. She sent Cameron daily notes from England, which led Cameron to invite her to Hollywood for auditions. As with DiCaprio, casting director Mali Finn originally brought her to Cameron's attention. When looking for a Rose, Cameron described the character as "an Audrey Hepburn type" and was initially uncertain about casting Winslet even after her screen test impressed him.[15] After she screen tested with DiCaprio, Winslet was so thoroughly impressed with him, that she whispered to Cameron, "He's great. Even if you don't pick me, pick him." Winslet sent Cameron a single rose with a card signed "From Your Rose" and lobbied him by phone. "You don't understand!" she pleaded one day when she reached him by mobile phone in his Humvee. "I am Rose! I don't know why you're even seeing anyone else!" Her persistence, as well as her talent, eventually convinced him to cast her in the role.[15]
  • Billy Zane as Caledon Nathan "Cal" Hockley: Cal is Rose's 30-year-old fiancé, and serves as the main antagonist of the film. He is arrogant and snobbish, and the heir to a steel fortune in Pittsburgh. He becomes increasingly embarrassed, jealous, and cruel about Rose's relationship with Jack. He later commits suicide after losing his fortune in the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The part was originally offered to Matthew McConaughey.[16]
  • Frances Fisher as Ruth DeWitt Bukater: Rose's widowed mother, who arranges her daughter's engagement to Cal to maintain her family's high-society status. She loves her daughter but believes that social position is more important. She scorns Jack, even though he saved her daughter's life.
  • Gloria Stuart as Rose Dawson Calvert: Rose narrates the film in a modern-day framing device. Cameron stated, "In order to see the present and the past, I decided to create a fictional survivor who is [close to] 101 years, and she connects us in a way through history."[14] The 100-year-old Rose gives Lovett information regarding the "Heart of the Ocean" after he discovers a nude drawing of her in the wreck. She tells the story of her time aboard the ship, mentioning Jack for the first time since the sinking. At 87, Stuart had to be made up to look older for the role.[16] Of casting Stuart, Cameron stated, "My casting director found her. She was sent out on a mission to find retired actresses from the Golden Age of the thirties and forties."[21] Cameron said that he did not know who Stuart was, and Fay Wray was also considered for the role. "But [Stuart] was just so into it, and so lucid, and had such a great spirit. And I saw the connection between her spirit and [Winslet's] spirit," stated Cameron. "I saw this joie de vivre in both of them, that I thought the audience would be able to make that cognitive leap that it's the same person."[21] Winslet and Stuart stated their belief that the character dies at the end of the film,[22][23] while Cameron states in his DVD commentary that he prefers to leave the viewers to form their own interpretation of the ending.[24] Stuart died on September 26, 2010, at age 100, approximately the same age elder Rose was in the film.[25]
  • Bill Paxton as Brock Lovett: A treasure hunter looking for the "Heart of the Ocean" in the wreck of the Titanic in the present. Time and funding for his expedition are running out. He later reflects at the film's conclusion that, despite thinking about Titanic for three years, he has never understood it until he hears Rose's story.
  • Suzy Amis as Lizzy Calvert: Rose's granddaughter, who accompanies her when she visits Lovett on the ship.
  • Danny Nucci as Fabrizio De Rossi: Jack's Italian best friend, who boards the RMS Titanic with him after Jack wins two tickets in a poker game.
  • David Warner as Spicer Lovejoy: An ex-Pinkerton constable, Lovejoy is Cal's English valet and bodyguard, who keeps an eye on Rose and is suspicious about the circumstances surrounding Jack's rescue of her.
  • Jason Barry as Thomas "Tommy" Ryan: An Irish third-class passenger who befriends Jack and Fabrizio.

Historical characters

  • Kathy Bates as Margaret "Molly" Brown: Brown is looked down on upon by other first-class women, including Ruth, as "vulgar" and "new money" due to her sudden wealth. She is friendly to Jack and lends him a dinner jacket (bought for her son) when he is invited to dinner in the first-class dining saloon. Although Brown was a real person, Cameron chose not to portray her real-life actions. Molly Brown was dubbed "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" by historians because she, with the support of other women, commandeered Lifeboat 6 from Quartermaster Hichens.[26] Some aspects of this altercation are portrayed in Cameron's film. She is referred to as "Molly" within the film; however, during her lifetime, she was called "Maggie," with the "Molly" appellation coming along posthumously.
  • Victor Garber as Thomas Andrews: The ship's builder, Andrews is portrayed as a very kind and pleasant man who is modest about his grand achievement. After the collision, he tries to convince the others, particularly Ismay, that it is a "mathematical certainty" that the ship will sink. He is depicted during the sinking of the ship as standing next to the clock in the first-class smoking room, lamenting his failure to build a strong and safe ship. It is unknown how the real Andrews died.
  • Bernard Hill as Captain Edward John Smith: Smith planned to make the Titanic his final voyage before retiring. He retreats into the bridge as the ship sinks, dying when water bursts through the windows whilst clinging to the ship's wheel. It is often disputed whether he died this way or later froze to death, as he was reported seen near the overturned Collapsible B.[27]
  • Jonathan Hyde as Joseph Bruce Ismay: Ismay is portrayed as a rich, ignorant first-class man. In the film, he uses his position as White Star Line managing director to influence Captain Smith to go faster with the prospect of an earlier arrival in New York and favorable press attention; while this action appears in popular portrayals of the disaster, it is unsupported by evidence.[28][29] After the collision, he struggles to comprehend that his "unsinkable" ship is doomed, later sneaking on board a lifeboat to escape.
  • Eric Braeden as Colonel John Jacob Astor IV: A first-class passenger whom Rose calls the richest man on the ship. The film depicts Astor and his 18-year-old wife Madeleine as being introduced to Jack by Rose in the first-class dining saloon. During the introduction, Astor asks if Jack is connected to the 'Boston Dawsons', a question Jack neatly deflects by saying that he is instead affiliated with the Chippewa Falls Dawsons. Astor is last seen as the Grand Staircase glass dome implodes and water surges in. In reality, Astor died after being crushed when one of the ship's funnels collapsed.[30] Madeleine Astor survived in one of the last boats to leave the Titanic, but her survival is not shown.
  • Bernard Fox as Colonel Archibald Gracie IV: The film depicts Gracie making a comment to Cal that "women and machinery don't mix", and congratulating Jack for saving Rose from falling off the ship, though he is unaware that it was a suicide attempt. While the film depicts Gracie with a British accent, he was in fact American. Archibald Gracie survived the sinking on the overturned Collapsible B. Fox also portrayed lookout Frederick Fleet in the 1958 film A Night to Remember.
  • Michael Ensign as Benjamin Guggenheim: A mining magnate traveling in first-class. He shows off his French mistress Madame Aubert to his fellow passengers while his family waits for him at home. When Jack joins the other first-class passengers for dinner after his rescue of Rose, Guggenheim refers to him as a "bohemian".
  • Jonathan Evans-Jones as Wallace Hartley: The ship's bandmaster and violinist who plays uplifting music with his colleagues on the boat deck as the ship sinks. As the final plunge begins, he leads the band in a final performance of Nearer, My God, to Thee and dies in the sinking. It has been disputed for many years whether it was this or a waltz tune named "Autumn" which was played last.
  • Ewan Stewart as First Officer William Murdoch: The officer who is put in charge of the bridge on the night the ship struck the iceberg. During a rush for the lifeboats, Murdoch shoots Tommy Ryan as well as another passenger in a momentary panic, then commits suicide out of guilt; in reality, it is not clear how he died. When Murdoch's nephew Scott saw the film, he objected to his uncle's portrayal as damaging to Murdoch's heroic reputation.[31] A few months later, Fox vice-president Scott Neeson went to Dalbeattie, Scotland, where Murdoch lived, to deliver a personal apology, and also presented a £5000 donation to Dalbeattie High School to boost the school's William Murdoch Memorial Prize.[32] Cameron apologized on the DVD commentary, but noted that there were officers who fired gunshots to follow the "women and children first" policy.[33]
  • Jonathan Phillips as Second Officer Charles Lightoller: The ship's most senior surviving officer. The film depicts Lightoller telling Captain Smith that it will be difficult to see icebergs with no breaking water. He is seen brandishing a gun and threatening to use it to keep order. He can be seen on top of Collapsible B when the first funnel collapses.
  • Mark Lindsay Chapman as Chief Officer Henry Wilde: The ship's chief officer, who lets Cal on board a lifeboat because he has a child in his arms. Before he dies, he tries to get the boats to return to the sinking site to rescue passengers by blowing his whistle. After he freezes to death, Rose uses his whistle to attract the attention of Fifth Officer Lowe, which leads to her rescue. It is unknown how the real Henry Wilde died.
  • Ioan Gruffudd as Fifth Officer Harold Lowe: The only ship's officer who led a lifeboat to retrieve survivors of the sinking on the icy waters. The film depicts Lowe rescuing Rose.
  • Edward Fletcher as Sixth Officer James Moody: The ship's only junior officer who died in the sinking. The film depicts Moody admitting Jack and Fabrizio onto the ship only moments before it departs from Southampton. Moody is later shown following Mr. Murdoch's orders to put the ship to full speed ahead, and informs First Officer Murdoch about the iceberg.
  • James Lancaster as Father Thomas Byles: Father Byles, a Catholic priest from England, is portrayed praying and consoling passengers during the ship's final moments.
  • Lew Palter and Elsa Raven as Isidor Straus and Ida Straus: Isidor is a former owner of R.H. Macy and Company, a former congressman from New York, and a member of the New York and New Jersey Bridge Commission. During the sinking, his wife Ida is offered a place in a lifeboat, but refuses, saying that she will honor her wedding pledge by staying with Isidor. They are last seen lying on their bed embracing each other as water fills their stateroom.
  • Martin Jarvis as Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon: A Scottish baronet who is rescued in Lifeboat 1. He and his wife were among only 12 people in Lifeboat #1, whose capacity was 40. He was accused of bribing the boat's crewmen not to row back and rescue those struggling in the water, but the British Board of Trade's Inquiry into the disaster cleared them of any wrongdoing and a letter written by the secretary further clears their name.[34]
  • Rosalind Ayres as Lady Duff-Gordon: A world-famous fashion designer and Sir Cosmo's wife. She is rescued in Lifeboat 1 with her husband. She and her husband never lived down rumors that they had forbidden the lifeboat's crew to return to the wreck site in case they would be swamped.[35][36][37]
  • Rochelle Rose as Noël Leslie, Countess of Rothes: The Countess is shown to be friendly with Cal and the DeWitt Bukaters. Despite being of a higher status in society than Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon, she is kind, and helps row the boat and even looks after the steerage passengers.
  • Scott G. Anderson as Frederick Fleet: The lookout who saw the iceberg. Fleet escapes the sinking ship aboard Lifeboat 6.
  • Paul Brightwell as Quartermaster Robert Hichens: One of the ship's 6 quartermasters and was at the ship's wheel at the time of collision. He was in charge of Lifeboat 6. He refused to go back and pick up survivors after the sinking and eventually the boat was commandeered by Margaret "Molly" Brown.
  • Martin East as Reginald Lee: The other lookout in the crow's nest. He survives the sinking.
  • Simon Crane as Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall: The officer in charge of firing flares and manning Lifeboat 2 during the sinking. He is shown on the bridge wings helping the seamen firing the flares.
  • Gregory Cooke as Jack Phillips: Senior wireless operator on board the Titanic whom Captain Smith ordered to send the distress signal.
  • Craig Kelly as Harold Bride: Junior wireless operator on board the Titanic. He survived the sinking.
  • Liam Tuohy as Chief Baker Charles Joughin: The baker appears in the film on top of the railing with Jack and Rose as the ship sinks, drinking brandy from a flask. According to the real Joughin's testimony he rode the ship down and stepped into the water without getting his hair wet. He also admitted to hardly feeling the cold, most likely thanks to alcohol.[38]
  • Terry Forrestal as Chief Engineer Joseph G. Bell: Bell and his men worked until the last minute to keep the lights and the power on in order for distress signals to get out. Bell and all of the engineers died in the bowels of the Titanic.
  • Kevin De La Noy as Third Officer Herbert Pitman: In charge of Lifeboat 5.


Several crew members of the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh appear in the film, including Anatoly Sagalevich, creator and pilot of the Mir Deep Submergence Vehicle.[39] Anders Falk, who filmed a documentary about the film's sets for the Titanic Historical Society, cameoes in the film as a Swedish immigrant whom Jack Dawson meets when he enters his cabin. Ed and Karen Kamuda, then President and Vice President of the Society, were extras in the film.[40] James Cameron and Barry Dennen also cameo as praying men. Greg Ellis and Oliver Page both play cameo parts as a Carpathia Steward and Steward Barnes respectively.

The boat seen alongside Titanic is the SS Nomadic, Titanic's tender ship which survives to this day.


Writing and inspiration

"The story could not have been written better...The juxtaposition of rich and poor, the gender roles played out unto death (women first), the stoicism and nobility of a bygone age, the magnificence of the great ship matched in scale only by the folly of the men who drove her hell-bent through the darkness. And above all the lesson: that life is uncertain, the future unknowable...the unthinkable possible."
— James Cameron [41]

James Cameron had a fascination with shipwrecks, and, for him, the RMS Titanic was "the Mount Everest of shipwrecks." [42][43][44] He was almost past the point in his life when he felt he could consider an undersea expedition, but said he still had "a mental restlessness" to live the life he had turned away from when he switched from the sciences to the arts in college. So when an IMAX film was made from footage shot of the wreck itself, he decided to seek Hollywood funding to "pay for an expedition and do the same thing." It was "not because I particularly wanted to make the movie," Cameron said. "I wanted to dive to the shipwreck."[42]

Cameron wrote a scriptment for a Titanic film,[45] met with 20th Century Fox executives including Peter Chernin, and pitched it as "Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic".[43][44] There was a tense pause and Cameron said, "Also, fellas, it's a period piece, it's going to cost $150,000,000 and there's not going to be a sequel.... They were like, 'Oooooohkaaaaaay – a three-hour romantic epic? Sure, that's just what we want. Is there a little bit of Terminator in that? Any Harrier jets, shoot-outs, or car chases?' I said, 'No, no, no. It's not like that.'"[15] The studio was dubious about the idea's commercial prospects, but, hoping for a long term relationship with Cameron, they gave him a greenlight.[15][16][21]

Cameron convinced Fox to promote the film based on the publicity afforded by shooting the Titanic wreck itself,[45] and organized several dives to the site over a period of two years.[41] "My pitch on that had to be a little more detailed," said Cameron. "So I said, ‘Look, we’ve got to do this whole opening where they’re exploring the Titanic and they find the diamond, so we’re going to have all these shots of the ship." Cameron stated, "Now, we can either do them with elaborate models and motion control shots and CG and all that, which will cost X amount of money – or we can spend X plus 30 per cent and actually go shoot it at the real wreck."[43] The crew shot at the real wreck in the Atlantic Ocean eleven times in 1995 and actually spent more time with the ship than its passengers. At that depth, with a water pressure of 6,000 pounds per square inch, "one small flaw in the vessel's superstructure would mean instant death for all on board." Not only were the dives high-risk, but adverse conditions prevented Cameron from getting the high quality footage that he wanted.[16]

Descending to the actual site made both Cameron and crew want "to live up to that level of reality.... But there was another level of reaction coming away from the real wreck, which was that it wasn't just a story, it wasn't just a drama," he said. "It was an event that happened to real people who really died. Working around the wreck for so much time, you get such a strong sense of the profound sadness and injustice of it, and the message of it." Cameron stated, "You think, 'There probably aren't going to be many filmmakers who go to Titanic. There may never be another one – maybe a documentarian." Due to this, he felt "a great mantle of responsibility to convey the emotional message of it – to do that part of it right, too".[21]

After filming the underwater shots, Cameron began writing the screenplay.[45] He wanted to honor the people who died during the sinking, so he spent six months researching all of the Titanic's crew and passengers.[41] "I read everything I could. I created an extremely detailed timeline of the ship’s few days and a very detailed timeline of the last night of its life," he said.[43] "And I worked within that to write the script, and I got some historical experts to analyze what I’d written and comment on it, and I adjusted it."[43] He paid meticulous attention to detail, even including a scene depicting the Californian's role in Titanic's demise, though this was later cut (see below). From the beginning of the shoot, they had "a very clear picture" of what happened on the ship that night. "I had a library that filled one whole wall of my writing office with "Titanic stuff," because I wanted it to be right, especially if we were going to dive to the ship," he said. "That set the bar higher in a way – it elevated the movie in a sense. We wanted this to be a definitive visualization of this moment in history as if you’d gone back in a time machine and shot it."[43]

Cameron felt the Titanic sinking was "like a great novel that really happened", yet the event had become a mere morality tale; the film would give audiences the experience of living the history.[41] The treasure hunter Brock Lovett represented those who never connected with the human element of the tragedy,[39] while the blossoming romance of Jack and Rose, he believed, would be the most engaging part of the story: when their love is finally destroyed, the audience would mourn the loss.[41] "All my films are love stories," Cameron said, "but in Titanic I finally got the balance right. It's not a disaster film. It's a love story with a fastidious overlay of real history."[21] Cameron then framed the romance with the elderly Rose to make the intervening years palpable and poignant.[41] For him, the end of the film leaves open the question if the elderly Rose was in a conscious dream or had died in her sleep.[24]

Scale modeling

A ship resembling the Titanic is being built at a port with clear skies and small waves.
The reconstruction of the RMS Titanic. The blueprints were supplied by the original ship's builder and Cameron tried to make the ship as detailed and accurate as possible.[43][46]

Harland and Wolff, the RMS Titanic's builders, opened their private archives to the crew, sharing blueprints that were thought lost. For the ship's interiors, production designer Peter Lamont's team looked for artifacts from the era. However, the newness of the ship meant every prop had to be made from scratch.[46] Fox acquired 40 acres of waterfront south of Playas de Rosarito in Mexico, and began building a new studio on May 31, 1996. A horizon tank of seventeen-million-gallons was built for the exterior of the reconstructed ship, providing 270 degrees of ocean view. The ship was built to full scale, but Lamont removed redundant sections on the superstructure and forward well deck for the ship to fit in the tank, with the remaining sections filled with digital models. The lifeboats and funnels were shrunk by ten percent. The boat deck and A-deck were working sets, but the rest of the ship was just steel plating. Within was a fifty-foot lifting platform for the ship to tilt during the sinking sequences. Towering above was a 162 feet (49 m) tall tower crane on 600 feet (180 m) of rail track, acting as a combined construction, lighting, and camera platform.[39]

The sets representing the interior rooms of the Titanic were reproduced exactly as originally built, using photographs and plans from the Titanic's builders. "The liner's first class staircase, which figures prominently in the script was constructed out of real wood and actually destroyed in the filming of the sinking." The rooms, the carpeting, design and colors, individual pieces of furniture, decorations, chairs, wall paneling, cutlery and crockery with the White Star Line crest on each piece, completed ceilings, and costumes were among the designs true to the originals. Cameron additionally hired two Titanic historians, Don Lynch and Ken Marschall, to authenticate the historical detail in the film.[16]


The modern day scenes of the expedition were shot on the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh in July 1996.[39] Principal photography for Titanic began in September 1996 at the newly-built Fox Baja Studios.[39] The poop deck was built on a hinge which could rise from zero to ninety degrees in a few seconds as the ship's stern rose during the sinking.[47] For the safety of the stuntmen, many props were made of foam rubber.[48] By November 15, the boarding scenes were being shot.[47] Cameron chose to build his RMS Titanic on the starboard side as a study of weather data showed prevailing north-to-south wind which blew the funnel smoke aft. This posed a problem for shooting the ship's departure from Southampton, as it was docked on its port side. Any writing on props and costumes had to be reversed, and if someone walked to their right in the script, they had to walk left during shooting. In post-production, the film was flipped to the correct direction.[49]

A full time etiquette coach was hired to instruct the cast on the manners of the upper class gentility in 1912.[16] Despite this, several critics picked up on anachronisms in the film, not least involving the two main stars.[50][51][52]

A pencil-drawing sketch depicting a woman with a somewhat stern face lying on a chair and pillow naked, only wearing a diamond necklace. From the breast down the picture is cut off.
Close-up shot of Cameron's nude Rose sketch with the "Heart of the Ocean". The nude scene was one of the first scenes shot as the main set was not ready yet.[21]

Cameron sketched Jack's nude portrait of Rose for a scene which he feels has the backdrop of repression.[15] "You know what it means for her, the freedom she must be feeling. It's kind of exhilarating for that reason," he said.[21] The nude scene was DiCaprio and Winslet's first scene together. "It wasn't by any kind of design, although I couldn't have designed it better. There's a nervousness and an energy and a hesitance in them," Cameron stated. "They had rehearsed together, but they hadn't shot anything together. If I'd had a choice, I probably would have preferred to put it deeper into the body of the shoot." He said he and his crew "were just trying to find things to shoot" because the big set was not yet ready. "It wasn't ready for months, so we were scrambling around trying to fill in anything we could get to shoot." After seeing the scene on film, Cameron felt it worked out considerably well.[21]

However, other times on the set were not as smooth. The shoot was an arduous experience that "cemented Cameron’s formidable reputation as 'the scariest man in Hollywood'. He became known as an uncompromising, hard-charging perfectionist" and a "300-decibel screamer, a modern-day Captain Bligh with a megaphone and walkie-talkie, swooping down into people’s faces on a 162ft crane".[53] Winslet chipped a bone in her elbow during filming, and had been worried that she would drown in the 17m-gallon water tank the ship was to be sunk in. "There were times when I was genuinely frightened of him. Jim has a temper like you wouldn’t believe," she said.[53] "'God damn it!' he would yell at some poor crew member, 'that’s exactly what I didn’t want!'"[53] Her co-star, Bill Paxton, was familiar with Cameron's work ethic from his earlier experience with him. "There were a lot of people on the set. Jim is not one of those guys who has the time to win hearts and minds," he said.[53] The crew felt that Cameron had an evil alter ego, and nicknamed him "Mij" (Jim spelt backwards).[53] In response to the criticism, Cameron stated, "Film-making is war. A great battle between business and aesthetics."[53]

During shooting on the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh, an angry crew member put the hallucinogen PCP into the soup that Cameron and various others ate one night, which sent more than 50 people to the hospital.[15] "There were people just rolling around, completely out of it. Some of them said they were seeing streaks and psychedelics," said actor Lewis Abernathy.[15] Cameron managed to vomit before the drug took a full hold. Abernathy was shocked at the way he looked. "One eye was completely red, like the Terminator eye. A pupil, no iris, beet red. The other eye looked like he’d been sniffing glue since he was four."[15][53] The person behind the poisoning was never caught.[22][54]

The filming schedule was intended to last 138 days but grew to 160. Many cast members came down with colds, flu, or kidney infections after spending hours in cold water, including Winslet. In the end, she decided she would not work with Cameron again unless she earned "a lot of money".[54] Several others left and three stuntmen broke their bones, but the Screen Actors Guild decided, following an investigation, that nothing was inherently unsafe about the set.[54] Additionally, DiCaprio said there was no point when he felt he was in danger during filming.[55] Cameron believed in a passionate work ethic and never apologized for the way he ran his sets, although he acknowledged:

I'm demanding, and I'm demanding on my crew. In terms of being kind of militaresque, I think there's an element of that in dealing with thousands of extras and big logistics and keeping people safe. I think you have to have a fairly strict methodology in dealing with a large number of people.[54]

The costs of filming Titanic eventually began to mount, and finally reached $200 million.[4][5][6][7] Fox executives panicked, and suggested an hour of specific cuts from the three-hour film. They argued the extended length would mean fewer showings, thus less money even though long epics are more likely to help directors win Oscars. Cameron refused, telling Fox, "You want to cut my movie? You're going to have to fire me! You want to fire me? You're going to have to kill me!" he said.[15] The executives did not want to start over, because it would mean the loss of their entire investment, but they also initially rejected Cameron's offer of forfeiting his share of the profits as an empty gesture; they felt that profits would be unlikely.[15] Cameron explained forfeiting his share as complex. "...the short version is that the film cost proportionally much more than T2 and True Lies. Those films went up seven or eight percent from the initial budget. Titanic also had a large budget to begin with, but it went up a lot more," said Cameron. "As the producer and director, I take responsibility for the studio that's writing the checks, so I made it less painful for them. I did that on two different occasions. They didn't force me to do it; they were glad that I did."[21]



Cameron wanted to push back the boundary of special effects with his film, and enlisted Digital Domain to continue the developments in digital technology which the director pioneered while working on The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Many previous films about the RMS Titanic shot water in slow motion, which did not look wholly convincing.[56] He encouraged them to shoot their 45-foot (14 m) long miniature of the ship as if "we're making a commercial for the White Star Line".[57] Afterwards, digital water and smoke were added, as were extras captured on a motion capture stage. Visual effects supervisor Rob Legato scanned the faces of many actors, including himself and his children, for the digital extras and stuntmen. There was also a 65-foot (20 m) long model of the ship's stern that could break in two repeatedly, the only miniature to be used in water.[56] For scenes set in the ship's engines, footage of the SS Jeremiah O'Brien's engines were composited with miniature support frames and actors shot against a greenscreen.[58] In order to save money, the first class lounge was a miniature set incorporated into a greenscreen backdrop.[59]

The Titanic about to sink into the ocean, with the ship breaking into two parts and with smoke still coming out of the funnels.
Unlike previous Titanic films, Cameron's retelling of the disaster showed the ship breaking into two pieces before sinking entirely. The scenes were an account of the moment's most likely outcome.

An enclosed 5,000,000 US gallons (19,000,000 l) tank was used for sinking interiors, in which the entire set could be tilted into the water. In order to sink the Grand Staircase, 90,000 US gallons (340,000 l) of water were dumped into the set as it was lowered into the tank. Unexpectedly, the waterfall ripped the staircase from its steel-reinforced foundations, although no one was hurt. The 744-foot (227 m) long exterior of the RMS Titanic had its first half lowered into the tank, but being the heaviest part of the ship meant it acted as a shock absorber against the water; to get the set into the water, Cameron had much of the set emptied and even smashed some of the promenade windows himself. After submerging the dining saloon, three days were spent shooting Lovett's ROV traversing the wreck in the present.[39] The post-sinking scenes in the freezing Atlantic were shot in a 350,000 US gallons (1,300,000 l) tank,[60] where the frozen corpses were created by applying a powder on actors that crystallized when exposed to water, and wax was coated on hair and clothes.[46]

The climactic scene, which features the breakup of the ship directly before it sinks, as well as its final plunge to the bottom of the Atlantic, involved a tilting full-sized set, 150 extras and 100 stunt performers. Cameron criticized previous Titanic films for depicting the final plunge of the liner as sliding gracefully underwater. He "wanted to depict it as the terrifyingly chaotic event that it really was".[16] When carrying out the sequence, people needed to fall off the increasingly tilting deck, plunging hundreds of feet below and bouncing off of railings and propellers on the way down. A few attempts to film this sequence with stunt people resulted in some minor injuries and Cameron halted the more dangerous stunts. The risks were eventually minimized "by using computer generated people for the dangerous falls".[16]


There was one "crucial historical fact" Cameron chose to omit from the film – the ship that was close to the Titanic, but had turned off its radio for the night and did not hear their SOS calls. "Yes, the [SS] Californian. That wasn't a compromise to mainstream filmmaking. That was really more about emphasis, creating an emotional truth to the film," stated Cameron. He said there were aspects of retelling the sinking that seemed important in pre and post-production, but turned out to be less important as the film evolved. "The story of the Californian was in there; we even shot a scene of them switching off their Marconi radio set," said Cameron. "But I took it out. It was a clean cut, because it focuses you back onto that world. If Titanic is powerful as a metaphor, as a microcosm, for the end of the world in a sense, then that world must be self-contained."[21]

During the first assembly cut, Cameron altered the planned ending, which had given resolution to Brock Lovett's story. In the original version of the ending, Brock and Lizzy see the elderly Rose at the stern of the boat, and fear she is going to commit suicide. Rose then reveals that she had the "Heart of the Ocean" diamond all along, but never sold it, in order to live on her own without Cal's money. She tells Brock that life is priceless and throws the diamond into the ocean, after allowing him to hold it. After accepting that treasure is worthless, Brock laughs at his stupidity. Rose then goes back to her cabin to sleep, whereupon the film ends in the same way as the final version. In the editing room, Cameron decided that by this point, the audience would no longer be interested in Brock Lovett and cut the resolution to his story, so that Rose is alone when she drops the diamond. He also did not want to disrupt the audience's melancholy after the Titanic's sinking.[61]

The version used for the first test screening featured a fight between Jack and Lovejoy which takes place after Jack and Rose escape into the flooded dining saloon, but the test audiences disliked it.[62] The scene was written to give the film more suspense, and featured Cal (falsely) offering to give Lovejoy, his valet, the "Heart of the Ocean" if he can get it from Jack and Rose. Lovejoy goes after the pair in the sinking first class dining room. Just as they are about to escape him, Lovejoy notices Rose's hand slap the water as it slips off the table behind which she is hiding. In revenge for framing him for the "theft" of the necklace, Jack attacks him and smashes his head against a glass window, which explains the gash on Lovejoy's head that can be seen when he dies in the completed version of the film. In their reactions to the scene, test audiences said it would be unrealistic to risk one's life for wealth, and Cameron cut it for this reason, as well as for timing and pacing reasons. Many other scenes were cut for similar reasons.[62]

Music and soundtrack

The soundtrack album for Titanic was composed by James Horner. For the vocals heard throughout the film, subsequently described by Earle Hitchner of The Wall Street Journal as "evocative", Horner chose Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø, better known as "Sissel". Horner knew Sissel from her album Innerst I Sjelen, and he particularly liked how she sang "Eg veit i himmerik ei borg" ("I Know in Heaven There Is a Castle"). He had tried twenty-five or thirty singers before he finally chose Sissel as the voice to create specific moods within the film.[63]

Horner additionally wrote the song "My Heart Will Go On" in secret with Will Jennings because Cameron did not want any songs with singing in the film.[64] Céline Dion agreed to record a demo with the persuasion of her husband René Angélil. Horner waited until Cameron was in an appropriate mood before presenting him with the song. After playing it several times, Cameron declared its approval, although worried that he would have been criticized for "going commercial at the end of the movie".[64] Cameron also wanted to appease anxious studio executives and "saw that a hit song from his movie could only be a positive factor in guaranteeing its completion".[16]


Initial screening

Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox financed Titanic, and expected Cameron to complete the film for a release on July 2, 1997. The film was to be released on this date "in order to exploit the lucrative summer season ticket sales when blockbuster films usually do better".[16] In April, Cameron said the film's special effects were too complicated and that releasing the film for summer would not be possible.[16] With production delays, Paramount pushed back the release date to December 19, 1997.[65] "This fueled speculation that the film itself was a disaster." However, a preview screening in Minneapolis on July 14 "generated positive reviews" and "[c]hatter on the internet was responsible for more favorable word of mouth about the [film]". This eventually led to more positive media coverage.[16]

The film premiered on November 1, 1997, at the Tokyo International Film Festival,[66] where reaction was described as "tepid" by The New York Times.[67] However, positive reviews started to appear back in the United States; the official Hollywood premiere occurred on December 14, 1997, where "the big movie stars who attended the opening were enthusiastically gushing about the film to the world media".[16]

Box office


Global box office receipts of Titanic

The film received steady attendance after opening in North America on Friday, December 19, 1997. By the end of that same weekend, theaters were beginning to sell out. The film earned $8,658,814 on its opening day and $28,638,131 over the opening weekend from 2,674 theaters, averaging to about $10,710 per venue, and ranking number one at the box office, ahead of the eighteenth James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies. By New Year's Day, Titanic had made over $120 million, had increased in popularity and theaters continued to sell out. Its biggest single day took place on Saturday, February 14 (Valentine's Day), 1998, making $13,048,711, more than six weeks after it debuted in North America. It stayed at number one for fifteen consecutive weeks in the United States and Canada, which remains a record for any film.[68] By March 1998, it was the first film to earn more than $1 billion worldwide.[69] The film stayed in theaters in North America for almost ten months, before finally closing on Thursday, October 1, 1998 with a final domestic gross of $600,788,188. Box Office Mojo estimates that after adjusting for ticket price inflation, Titanic would be the sixth highest-grossing film of all time in the United States and Canada.[70] The film made double its domestic amount overseas, generating an international gross of $1,248,025,607 and accumulating a grand total of $1,843,201,268 worldwide. It became the highest-grossing film in history, and remained so for twelve years, until Avatar, also written and directed by Cameron, surpassed it in 2010.[10]

Commercial analysis

Before its release, various film critics predicted the film would be a significant disappointment at the box office, especially due to it being the most expensive film ever made at the time.[53][71][72][73] When it was shown to the press in autumn of 1997, "it was with massive forebodings" since the "people in charge of the screenings believed they were on the verge of losing their jobs – because of this great albatross of a picture on which, finally, two studios had to combine to share the great load of its making".[72] Cameron also thought he was "headed for disaster" at one point during filming. "We labored the last six months on Titanic in the absolute knowledge that the studio would lose $100m. It was a certainty," he stated.[53] As the film neared release, "particular venom was spat at Cameron for what was seen as his hubris and monumental extravagance". A film critic for the Los Angeles Times wrote that "Cameron’s overweening pride has come close to capsizing this project" and that the film was "a hackneyed, completely derivative copy of old Hollywood romances".[53]

"It’s hard to forget the director on the stage of the Shrine Auditorium in LA, exultant, pumping a golden Oscar statuette into the air and shouting: 'I’m the king of the world!' As everyone knew, that was the most famous line in Titanic, exclaimed by Leonardo DiCaprio’s character as he leaned into the wind on the prow of the doomed vessel. Cameron’s incantation of the line was a giant 'eff off', in front of a television audience approaching a billion, to all the naysayers, especially those sitting right in front of him."
— Christopher Goodwin of The Times on Cameron's response to Titanic's criticism[53]

When the film became a success, with an unprecedented box office performance, it was credited as "the love story [that] stole the world's hearts".[71] "The first batch of people to see it [were] gob smacked by the sheer scale and intimacy of the production. They emerged from the cinema, tear stained and emotionally flabbergasted."[73] The film was playing on 3,200 screens a full ten weeks after it opened,[72] and out of its fifteen straight weeks on top of the charts, jumped 43% in total sales in its ninth week of release. It earned over $20 million a week for ten weeks,[74] and after fourteen weeks into its run, it was still bringing in more than $1m a week.[72] Although teenage girls, as well as young women in general, who would see the film several times and subsequently caused "Leo-Mania", were often credited with having primarily propelled the film to its all-time box office record,[75] other reports have simply attributed the film's success to "[p]ositive word of mouth and repeat viewership" due to the love story combined with the ground-breaking special effects.[74][76]

The film's impact on men has also been especially credited.[73][77][78] Now considered one of the films that "make men cry",[77][78] MSNBC's Ian Hodder stated that men admire Jack's sense of adventure, stowing away on a steamship bound for America. "We cheer as he courts a girl who was out of his league. We admire how he suggests nude modeling as an excuse to get naked. So when [the tragic ending happens], an uncontrollable flood of tears sinks our composure," he said.[77] Titanic's ability to make men cry was briefly parodied in the 2009 zombie film Zombieland, where character Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), when recalling the death of his young son, states: "I haven't cried like that since Titanic."[79][80] Also addressing the sentimentality of the film, Benjamin Willcock of DVDActive.com said that, as a fourteen-year-old male, he had wanted to see Starship Troopers instead, but was overruled by an uncle and friends. "Little did I know that I would be seeing a film that would become the biggest, most successful motion picture event of all time," he stated. "I was also blissfully unaware that it would turn out to be so much more than 'some epic love story'".[73]

In 2010, the BBC analyzed the stigma over men crying during Titanic and films in general. "Middle-aged men are not 'supposed' to cry during movies," stated Finlo Rohrer of the website, citing the ending of Titanic as having generated such tears, adding that "men, if they have felt weepy during [this film], have often tried to be surreptitious about it." Professor Mary Beth Oliver, of Penn State University, stated, "For many men, there is a great deal of pressure to avoid expression of 'female' emotions like sadness and fear. From a very young age, males are taught that it is inappropriate to cry, and these lessons are often accompanied by a great deal of ridicule when the lessons aren't followed." She said, "Indeed, some men who might sneer at the idea of crying during Titanic will readily admit to becoming choked up during Saving Private Ryan or Platoon." For men in general, the idea of sacrifice for a "brother" is a more suitable source of emotion.[78]

Titanic's catchphrase "I'm the king of the world!" became one of the film industry's more popular quotations.[81][82] According to Richard Harris, a psychology professor at Kansas State University, who studied why people like to cite films in social situations, using film quotations in everyday conversation is similar to telling a joke and a way to form solidarity with others. "People are doing it to feel good about themselves, to make others laugh, to make themselves laugh", he said. He found that all of the participants in his study had used film quotations in conversation at one point or another. "They overwhelmingly cited comedies, followed distantly by dramas and action adventure flicks." As for horror films, musicals and children's films, they were hardly ever cited.[82]

Cameron explained the film's success as having significantly benefited from the experience of sharing. "When people have an experience that's very powerful in the movie theatre, they want to go share it. They want to grab their friend and bring them, so that they can enjoy it," he said. "They want to be the person to bring them the news that this is something worth having in their life. That's how Titanic worked."[83] Media Awareness Network stated, "The normal repeat viewing rate for a blockbuster theatrical film is about 5%. The repeat rate for Titanic was over 20%."[16] The box office receipts "were even more impressive" when factoring in "the film's 3 hour and 14 minute length meant that it could only be shown three times a day compared to a normal movie's four showings". In response to this, "[m]any theatres started midnight showings and were rewarded with full houses until almost 3:30 am".[16]

Titanic held the record for box office gross for twelve years.[84] Cameron's most recent film, Avatar, was considered the first film with a genuine chance at surpassing its worldwide gross,[85][86] and did so in 2010.[11] Various explanations for why the film was able to successfully challenge Titanic were given. For one, "Two-thirds of Titanic's haul was earned overseas, and Avatar [tracked] similarly... Avatar opened in 106 markets globally and was no. 1 in all of them" and the markets "such as Russia, where Titanic saw modest receipts in 1997 and 1998, are white-hot today" with "more screens and moviegoers" than ever before.[87] Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo, said that while Avatar may beat Titanic's revenue record, the film is unlikely to surpass Titanic in attendance. "Ticket prices were about $3 cheaper in the late 1990s."[85] In December 2009, Cameron had stated, "I don't think it's realistic to try to topple Titanic off its perch. Some pretty good movies have come out in the last few years. Titanic just struck some kind of chord."[74] In a January 2010 interview, he gave a different take on the matter once Avatar's performance was easier to predict. "It's gonna happen. It's just a matter of time," he said.[86]

Critical reception

The film garnered mostly positive reviews from film critics. Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reports the film as holding an overall 83% "Fresh" approval rating based on 97 reviews, with a rating average of 7.4 out of 10. The site's general consensus is that the film is "[a] mostly unqualified triumph for Cameron, who offers a dizzying blend of spectacular visuals and old-fashioned melodrama".[76] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 0–100 reviews from film critics, the film has a rating score of 74 based on 34 reviews, classified as a generally favorably reviewed film.[88]

With regard to the film's overall design, Roger Ebert stated, "It is flawlessly crafted, intelligently constructed, strongly acted, and spellbinding... Movies like this are not merely difficult to make at all, but almost impossible to make well." He credited the "technical difficulties" with being "so daunting that it's a wonder when the filmmakers are also able to bring the drama and history into proportion" and "found [himself] convinced by both the story and the sad saga".[89] It was named as his ninth best film of 1997.[90] On the television program Siskel & Ebert, the film received "two thumbs up" and was praised for its accuracy in recreating the ship's sinking; Ebert described the film as "a glorious Hollywood epic, well-crafted and well worth the wait" and Gene Siskel found Leonardo DiCaprio "captivating".[91] James Berardinelli stated, "Meticulous in detail, yet vast in scope and intent, Titanic is the kind of epic motion picture event that has become a rarity. You don't just watch Titanic, you experience it."[92] It was named his second best film of 1997.[93] Almar Haflidason of the BBC wrote that "[t]he sinking of the great ship is no secret, yet for many exceeded expectations in sheer scale and tragedy" and that "when you consider that it tops a bum-numbing three-hour running time, then you have a truly impressive feat of entertainment achieved by Cameron".[94] Joseph McBride of Boxoffice Magazine concluded, "To describe Titanic as the greatest disaster movie ever made is to sell it short. James Cameron's recreation of the 1912 sinking of the 'unsinkable' liner is one of the most magnificent pieces of serious popular entertainment ever to emanate from Hollywood."[95]

The romantic and emotionally-charged aspects of the film were equally praised. Andrew L. Urban of Urban Cinefile said, "You will walk out of Titanic not talking about budget or running time, but of its enormous emotive power, big as the engines of the ship itself, determined as its giant propellers to gouge into your heart, and as lasting as the love story that propels it."[96] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly described the film as, "A lush and terrifying spectacle of romantic doom. Writer-director James Cameron has restaged the defining catastrophe of the early 20th century on a human scale of such purified yearning and dread that he touches the deepest levels of popular moviemaking."[95] Janet Maslin of The New York Times commented that "Cameron's magnificent Titanic is the first spectacle in decades that honestly invites comparison to Gone With the Wind."[95] Richard Corliss of Time magazine, on the other hand, wrote a mostly negative review, criticizing the lack of interesting emotional elements.[97]

Some reviewers felt that the story and dialogue were weak, while the visuals were spectacular. Kenneth Turan's review in the Los Angeles Times was particularly scathing. Dismissing the emotive elements, he stated, "What really brings on the tears is Cameron's insistence that writing this kind of movie is within his abilities. Not only is it not, it is not even close.",[98] and later claimed that the only reason that the film won Oscars was because of its box office total.[99] Barbara Shulgasser of The San Francisco Examiner gave Titanic one star out of four, citing a friend as saying, "The number of times in this unbelievably badly-written script that the two [lead characters] refer to each other by name was an indication of just how dramatically the script lacked anything more interesting for the actors to say."[100] Also, filmmaker Robert Altman called it "the most dreadful piece of work I've ever seen in my entire life".[101]

Titanic suffered backlash in addition to its success. In 2003, the film topped a poll of "Best Film Endings",[102] and yet it also topped a poll by The Film programme as "the worst movie of all time".[103] The British film magazine Empire reduced their rating of the film from the maximum five stars and an enthusiastic review, to four stars with a less positive review in a later edition, to accommodate its readers’ tastes, who wanted to disassociate themselves from the hype surrounding the film, and the reported activities of its fans, such as those attending multiple screenings.[104] In addition to this, positive and negative parodies and other such spoofs of the film abounded and were circulated on the internet, often inspiring passionate responses from fans of various opinions of the film.[105] Benjamin Willcock of DVDActive.com did not understand the backlash or the passionate hatred for the film. "What really irks me...," he said, "are those who make nasty stabs at those who do love it." Willcock stated, "I obviously don’t have anything against those who dislike Titanic, but those few who make you feel small and pathetic for doing so (and they do exist, trust me) are way beyond my understanding and sympathy."[73]

Cameron responded to the backlash, and Kenneth Turan's review in particular. "Titanic is not a film that is sucking people in with flashy hype and spitting them out onto the street feeling let down and ripped off," he stated. "They are returning again and again to repeat an experience that is taking a 3-hour and 14-minute chunk out of their lives, and dragging others with them, so they can share the emotion." Cameron emphasized people from all ages (ranging from 8 to 80) and from all backgrounds were "celebrating their own essential humanity" by seeing it. He described the script as earnest and straightforward, and said it intentionally "incorporates universals of human experience and emotion that are timeless – and familiar because they reflect our basic emotional fabric" and that the film was able to succeed in this way by dealing with archetypes. He did not see it as pandering. "Turan mistakes archetype for cliche," he said. "I don't share his view that the best scripts are only the ones that explore the perimeter of human experience, or flashily pirouette their witty and cynical dialogue for our admiration."[106]

Empire eventually reinstated its original five star rating of the film, commenting, "It should be no surprise then that it became fashionable to bash James Cameron's Titanic at approximately the same time it became clear that this was the planet's favourite film. Ever. Them's the facts."[107]


Titanic began its awards sweep starting with the Golden Globes, winning four, namely Best Motion Picture (Drama), Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Song.[108] Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart were also nominees, but lost.[109] It won the ACE "Eddie" Award, ASC Award, Art Directors Guild Award, Cinema Audio Society Awards, Screen Actors Guild Award (Best Supporting Actress for Gloria Stuart), The Directors Guild of America Award, and Broadcast Film Critics Association Award (Best Director for James Cameron), and The Producer Guild of America Award.[110] It was also nominated for ten BAFTA awards, including Best Film and Best Director, however failed to win any.[110]

The film garnered fourteen Academy Awards nominations, tying the record set in 1950 by Joseph L. Mankiewicz's All About Eve[111] and won eleven, including the Best Picture and Best Director.[110][112] It also picked up the awards for Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound (Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Gary Summers, Mark Ulano), Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song, and Best Art Direction.[113][110] Kate Winslet, Gloria Stuart and the make-up artists were the three nominees that did not win. James Cameron's original screenplay and Leonardo DiCaprio were not nominees.[71] It was the second film to win eleven Academy Awards, after Ben-Hur.[110] The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King would also match this record in 2004, with its eleven wins from eleven nominations.

Titanic won the 1997 Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as three Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television.[110][114] The film's soundtrack became the best-selling primarily orchestral soundtrack of all time, and became a worldwide success, spending sixteen weeks at number-one in the United States, and was certified diamond for over eleven million copies sold in the United States alone.[115] The soundtrack also became the best-selling album of 1998 in the U.S.[116] "My Heart Will Go On" won the Grammy Awards for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television. The film also won Best Male Performance for Leonardo DiCaprio and Best Movie at the MTV Movie Awards, Best Film at the People's Choice Awards, and Favorite Movie at the 1998 Kids' Choice Awards.[110] It won various awards outside the United States, including the Awards of the Japanese Academy as the Best Foreign Film of the Year.[110] Titanic eventually won nearly ninety awards and had an additional forty-seven nominations from various award-giving bodies around the world.[110] Additionally, the book about the making of the film was at the top of The New York Times' bestseller list for several weeks, "the first time that such a tie-in book had achieved this status".[16]

Since its release, Titanic has appeared on the American Film Institute's award-winning 100 Years… series. So far, it has ranked on the following six lists:

AFI's 100 Years... 100 Rank Source Notes
Thrills 25 [117] A list of the top 100 thrilling films in American cinema, compiled in 2001.
Passions 37 [118] A list of the top 100 love stories in American cinema, compiled in 2002.
Songs 14 [119] A list of the top 100 songs in American cinema, compiled in 2004. Titanic ranked 14th for Céline Dion's "My Heart Will Go On".
Movie quotes 100 [81] A list of the top 100 film quotations in American cinema, compiled in 2005. Titanic ranked 100th for Jack Dawson's yell of "I'm the king of the world!"
Movies 83 [120] A 2007 (10th anniversary) edition of 1997's list of the 100 best films of the past century. Titanic was not eligible when the original list was released.
AFI's 10 Top 10 6 [12] The 2008 poll consisted of the top ten films in ten different genres. Titanic ranked as the sixth best epic film.

Home media

Titanic was released worldwide in widescreen and pan and scan formats on VHS and laserdisc on September 1, 1998.[121] The VHS was also made available in a deluxe boxed gift set with a mounted filmstrip and six lithograph prints from the movie. A DVD version was released on July 31, 1999 in a widescreen-only (non-anamorphic) single-disc edition with no special features other than a theatrical trailer. Cameron stated at the time that he intended to release a special edition with extra features later. This release became the best-selling DVD of 1999 and early 2000, becoming the first DVD ever to sell one million copies.[122] At the time, fewer than 5% of all U.S. homes had a DVD player. "When we released the original Titanic DVD, the industry was much smaller, and bonus features were not the standard they are now," said Meagan Burrows, Paramount's president of domestic home entertainment, which made the film's DVD performance even more impressive.[122]

Titanic was re-released to DVD on October 25, 2005 when a three-disc Special Collector's Edition was made available in the United States and Canada. This edition contained a newly restored transfer of the film, as well as various special features.[123]

An international two and four-disc set followed on November 7, 2005.[122][124] The two-disc edition was marketed as the Special Edition, and featured the first two discs of the three-disc set, only PAL-enabled. A four-disc edition, marketed as the Deluxe Collector's Edition, was also released on November 7, 2005.[124]

Also, available only in the United Kingdom, a limited 5-disc set of the film, under the title Deluxe Limited Edition, was released with only 10,000 copies manufactured. The fifth disc contains Cameron's documentary Ghosts of the Abyss, which was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. Unlike the individual release of Ghosts of the Abyss, which contained two discs, only the first disc was included in the set.[73]

As regards to television broadcasts, the film airs occasionally across the United States on networks such as TNT.[125] To permit the scene where Jack draws the nude portrait of Rose to be shown on network and specialty cable channels, in addition to minor cuts, the sheer, see-through robe worn by Winslet was digitally painted black. Turner Classic Movies also began to show the film, specifically during the days leading up to the 82nd Academy Awards.[126]

3-D conversion and 2012 re-release

During the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, Cameron announced that Titanic was in the process of being converted into 3-D for a theatrical re-release; he estimated that it would take six months to a year to do it right,[127] and initially felt that it would be ready at some point in 2011.[128][129] "We've tested it, seen a couple of minutes converted. It looks spectacular. But it really requires the filmmaker to be involved to make sure that the Stereo Space decisions are made correctly," he said.[129] In March 2010, he set a spring 2012 release date,[127] which was later confirmed through Paramount Pictures in May 2011; the studio said the film is set to be re-released on April 6, 2012, which is both the 100th anniversary year of the sailing of the ship and of Paramount Pictures.[13]

In October 2011, it was revealed that there will be an opportunity to see Titanic in a pristine new digital 2D and 2D IMAX versions coming off the new 4K Master created in the process.[130]

See also

Further reading

  • Frakes, Randall (1998). Titanic: James Cameron's Illustrated Screenplay. New York: Harper. ISBN 0-0609-5307-1. 
  • Cameron, Stephen (1998). Titanic: Belfast's Own. Ireland: Wolfhound Press. ISBN 0-8632-7685-7. 
  • Mireille Majoor; James Cameron (2003). Titanic: Ghosts of the Abyss. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 1-8958-9231-7. 
  • Molony, Senan (2005). Titanic: A Primary Source History. Canada: Gareth Stevens. ISBN 0-8368-5980-4. 


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