Titanic (1997)
August 21, 2022 10:03 AM - Subscribe

A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.

Titanic was, at the time, the most expensive movie ever made. It stayed at #1 in North America for 15 weeks, still the record. Nominated for 14 Oscars, it won 11 (tied for the record in both cases). It is, after Avatar, the second-highest grossing movie of all time.

Trailer, trailer, iceberg scene, 'My Heart Will Go On' video (the single hit #1), new ending, Lego set.

Reviews: Roger Ebert, Duane Byrge (Hollywood Reporter), Kenneth Turran (LA Times), 1997, Scott Meslow (The Atlantic), 2012, Alissa Wilkinson (Vox), 2017.

Currently streaming in the US on Netflix, available to rent on Amazon, YouTube, etc.

The two-VHS set, which sold 59 million copies, is available at the nearest thrift store.

Marking the 25th anniversary of the movie, a remastered 3D 4K HDR high-framerate render is scheduled to appear in theaters on February 10, 2023
posted by box (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm a sucker for a disaster movie, but really I'll watch this just to drool over Rose's wardrobe.
posted by supermedusa at 10:12 AM on August 21 [1 favorite]

The two-VHS set, which sold 59 million copies, is available at the nearest thrift store.

LOL! So true.

It was a very lonely feeling being someone who hated this movie when it came out. My opinion remains, but I seem to have more company these days. It's entertaining, but the love story just doesn’t work for me.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:15 AM on August 21 [2 favorites]

I was a high school girl when this movie came out and was thus legally obligated to see it in the theater. I think I only saw it once though, so there might still be warrants out for my arrest. Not sure of the statute of limitations.

It's fun, it's a spectacle, it's silly.

Please can we not do the "whether or not the door could have held them both" discourse. Size vs buoyancy, lord help me, leave it alone nerds.

Kathy Bates is great as Molly Brown, and Billy Zane is hilarious as the "a real man makes his own luck" by grabbing a random child to get on a lifeboat guy. The romance is fine. Kate Winslet is prettier than Leonardo DiCaprio.
posted by the primroses were over at 10:30 AM on August 21 [7 favorites]

I think that my original motivation for seeing it was that what's-her-name from Heavenly Creatures was in it, and honestly, for a movie whose premise wouldn't ordinarily have gotten me anywhere near a movie theater, it was pretty damn good.

Please can we not do the "whether or not the door could have held them both" discourse. Size vs buoyancy, lord help me, leave it alone nerds.

In general, the "How It Should Have Ended" school of film pseudo-criticism--or bitching about accents that aren't perfect, or any other thing that you find unlikely or improbable, based on one's assumed expertise in sweet fuck-all--is super-tiresome. (Even when I do it, and I'll admit that I have.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:39 AM on August 21 [1 favorite]

I appreciated how the film began, with the divers explaining in detail what happened to the Titanic. This eliminated the need to break away for exposition when the catastrophe began to unfold.
posted by SPrintF at 10:46 AM on August 21 [2 favorites]

Are we allowed to discuss spoilers here? I don't want to ruin this for anyone, but the cruise does not go well.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:04 PM on August 21 [18 favorites]

This movie has a really, really good Rifftrax.
posted by tomboko at 12:16 PM on August 21

I remain unconvinced by the DiCaprio/Winslet romance even if they were basically the same age, he looked like he was 16 max. Once that was out of the way and the actual collision with the ice berg happened, it got very interesting. The zooming shot from the stern as it plunged into the water was horrifying.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:22 PM on August 21 [4 favorites]

My brother and I went with our cousin to see Titanic on the Christmas after it came out. After the movie, our cousin went to the restroom. When she came out, she told us that the restroom was filled with girls crying their eyes out.
posted by Stuka at 12:26 PM on August 21 [2 favorites]

The Stedicam op on Titanic was James Muro, better known as the director of Street Trash.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 12:51 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]

I saw this at a drive-in theatre in 1999 as a double feature following Wild Wild West. I don’t know who thought that would be a good movie paring. It was a cold fall evening, not much above freezing, and the damn movie seemed interminable after having already sat through Wild Wild West, but we stayed until the bitter end. I had an old air cooled VW bug at the time, so there was no point in running the car to try to stay warm (if you know those cars, they are legendarily bad at heating the cabin). Freezing my butt off while watching the ship collide with the iceberg and people freezing to death in the water added an element to the viewing experience, but In the end didn’t care for the movie much and haven’t watched it since.
posted by fimbulvetr at 5:33 PM on August 21 [4 favorites]

The two-VHS set, which sold 59 million copies, is available at the nearest thrift store.

Heh. Some years ago we watched this very two-tape set at my in-laws’ cottage and headed home the next day because my wife wanted to see the premiere of this new period drama, Downton Abbey, which begins the day after news of the sinking reaches England and we meet the grieving family struggling with the news that the heir apparent to the estate has died in the disaster. What an unintentional but pleasing segue.

As I think I have noted before on the blue, the movie came out maybe five years after my brief span of being fascinated by the disaster, and I knew the story well enough to appreciate Cameron’s obsessive attention to detail. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic* (Halifax NS, ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) has a great exhibit on Titanic (ship, not movie), and had — when I visited — the largest single piece of the wreck: a segment of wooden trim from the wall of one of the lounges. Cameron copied the design (altering the dimensions a bit) and it made a pivotal appearance in the movie. Most people refer to it as a door...

I suspect that many visitors to the museum post -1998 or so who were the devoted teenage fans who saw the movie 44 times have been startled to find themselves looking at The Door.

*The museum is superb; the Windsor-McCay was the ship dispatched from Halifax to recover the bodies from the wreck site; it also brought back some flotsam like deck chairs and such that now repose in the museum. As if having one maritime disaster was not enough, Halifax was the site of the Halifax Explosion, in which during WWI, two ships in the harbour collided and caught fire; one was loaded with TNT. The resulting explosion levelled much of the city and was the largest manmade explosion until the advent of nuclear weapons.

Seriously, if you’re ever in Halifax, go.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:00 PM on August 21 [9 favorites]

I am thankful I saw Titanic on the big screen. It's a movie I've never been able to "unsee" again. Watching Kate Winslet, pale skin and damp red locks, making her away through the bowels of the ship, with Cameron's trademark blue lighting, in the theater was really effective for 16-year-old me. Not so much so ten or twenty years later on TV.
posted by Stuka at 9:22 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]

I think of this as big cheezy fun - sort of the modern equivalent of 1950's/1960's bible epics.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:10 AM on August 22

I saw this for free at a premiere in NY (former BIL did publicity for Paramount). Certainly I’d never have paid to see it on the big screen. The actual ship-sinking part was phenomenal; the rest of it I could have lived without.

Kate Winslet though [insert all the heart emojis here].
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:21 AM on August 22

My opinion remains, but I seem to have more company these days. It's entertaining, but the love story just doesn’t work for me.

I was a Titanic buff before the movie came out, and appreciated how much of the stories of the real people on the ship were told (as well as those that were changed in the telling). I've long said that Jack and Rose work just fine as as plot device for the viewer to follow to every single significant moment in the disaster. (Rose both gets to board a lifeboat when they won't let men on, and be on the stern with Jack when it sinks -- by the way, the man with them in cook's whites was the ship's baker, who survived the sinking).
posted by Gelatin at 5:58 AM on August 22 [4 favorites]

I have still to this day have never seen this movie in its entirety as a whole - largely because when it came out I was in a theater watching something else and was subjected to a suuuuuuuuuper-long trailer that was seriously the whole movie in like 2 and a half minutes. For real, it hit almost all the major plot points, the characterizations, disaster shots, the framing where we know this a reminiscence of a survivor, the flying bow shot, all of that. (OK, admittedly they didn't make it clear that DiCaprio dies during the wreck.) In retrospect it was a masterful bit of trailer creation, but after it was done I literally thought to myself, "Why on earth would I pay money to go see this? I know what happens and who it happens to and why."

Obviously that trailer didn't get a lot of play because when I would explain this to other people they had no idea what I was talking about, they had seen "normal" 30 second or 1 minute trailers, and most folks that had gone to see it had no real idea of the story of the flick going into it. Eventually I wound up catching the movie in pieces and parts and dribs and drabs during flights or on cable TV or whatever, and it just confirmed that I was right - their own trailer had basically "spoiled" the movie for me.

Years later I picked up a VHS copy of some other movie I wanted, and lo and behold, there's the Titanic trailer I remembered, in all its 2 minute and 45 second glory. Not only was it proof that I hadn't imagined that trailer, but when I showed it to various friends they were all like, "Uh, yeah, that's pretty much the whole flick, unless you were deeply invested in watching Leonardo and Kate swoon at each other for a couple hours I can see why you wouldn't bother after seeing that."
posted by soundguy99 at 6:05 AM on August 22

Yes! The "Jack and Rose" story is - itself - kind of 'eh', but it does a great job of getting us around the ship and seeing as much of the ship and the sinking as we can. I enjoyed the attention to detail, and shots of the engine room and I do love the fact that they shot on location.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:19 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]

I remember the guy bouncing off the propellor got quite a big laugh in our cinema.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:51 AM on August 22

I remember the guy bouncing off the propellor got quite a big laugh in our cinema.

Now immortalized in action figure form!
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:45 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]

and most folks that had gone to see it had no real idea of the story of the flick going into it.

I’m tempted to say that yeah, they might have had some idea, but no. Circa 1998 it was a hacky joke to say, “Spoiler: the boat sinks,” but fifteen years after the movie, when the hundredth anniversary of the sinking rolled around, a lot of people online seemed genuinely surprised that it wasn’t just a movie but an actual historical event.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:26 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]

Sorry; as a mefite was good enough to surreptitiously remind me, I flubbed the name of the ship that was dispatched from Halifax to recover the bodies — it was in fact the Mackay-Bennett. Mea culpa.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:39 PM on August 22

I liked it enough in theater that I went to see it twice. Never have I done that for any film before or since. (I mean, there were reasons besides the movie itself, but still) It did not survive the transition to VHS or whichever of HBO/Cinemax/Showtime/Starz/TMC it ended up on, however.
posted by wierdo at 4:10 PM on August 22

I was a Titanic buff, as was my roommate, so we were very invested in this. How much of a Titanic buff was I? I had actually read the transcripts of the Congressional hearings as well as many of the books that were out at the time. A number of pieces of dialogue in the film are lifted straight from the recountings of the survivors, things they say they overheard or said that night. That includes random bits of background dialog. I was also in my early 20s so I was very invested in the romance, too. Nowadays, I have a lot more sympathy for Rose's mom than I did in 1997.

Speaking of great little Titanic museums, I cannot recommend Titanic Experience Cobh highly enough. It was the last port of call of the Titanic (the city was called Queenstown at the time). My partner is not a Titanic buff but he is a "how things work" buff and there was enough there to interest both of us.
posted by rednikki at 6:15 PM on August 23

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