Twenty years ago, the beloved (albeit controversial) star-crossed romance and disaster film, Titanic, premiered in wide release on December 19, 1997. And the world of movies was never the same! Love it or hate it, you’ve probably seen it – and perhaps more than once…or twice…or…well, you get the picture!
Titanic tells the story of Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet), a seventeen-year-old upper-class young woman, who falls in love with Jack Dawson (Leonardo Dicaprio), a poor struggling artist. Unfortunately, they also happen to fall in love on the Titanic, the doomed ship fated to sink.
Beyond that, the script weaves historical figures in and out with ease, creating the perfect historical fiction narrative.
What Makes Titanic Popular?
For many years, Titanic remained the number one bestselling film of all time. Only for Director James Cameron to beat his own record with Avatar. Today, even with the continual rise of ticket sales and unstoppable superhero films, it continues to slay at #2. Say what you will about his movies, James Cameron knows how to appeal to an audience. With Titanic, there was an epic, sweeping quality to the film that appealed to everybody and not just a niche crowd. Don’t care for the romance? Well, many watched the film for the visual effects and the Titanic disaster.
However, it’s hard to pinpoint any one reason behind the film’s success. Instead, there are many ingredients of the historical drama that led to the perfect recipe for success. James Cameron’s screenplay cleverly used old-fashioned storytelling techniques and familiar archetypes to quickly connect the audience to the story and characters with universal themes.
Beyond that, the star-crossed romance of the rich girl and poor boy – aka Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic – had universal appeal. Not to mention the unforgettable chemistry between Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio as Rose and Jack.
Plus, there were the groundbreaking visual effects and the gorgeous, haunting musical score and original theme song, “My Heart Will Go On” as sung by Celine Dion. Sure, the song’s become a bit of a joke by now, but if you objectively listen to it, the song is actually beautiful. On top of all that, the acting is top notch with characters you quickly love and root for. With the perfect blend of romance, humor, tragedy, and suspense, Titanic has you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
So, twenty years later, does Titanic still work as a film?
It’s been 84 years, and I can still smell the fresh paint.
Like older Rose looking back to the Titanic, I look back to the first time I saw the film. As a young girl filled with girlish dreams and idealism with a personality much like Rose, it was the perfect time to see the film. And I didn’t just see it once or twice. I saw it 7 times in the theater! While this is hard to believe now, there was something about the movie that appealed to my younger self.
And on re-watch all these years later, I can happily say the film still has that movie magic appeal so rarely found in movies today. From the story to the romance to the music to the visuals to the costumes and more, Titanic doesn’t make a false step. Sure, not everyone loves this movie. But many of us do as shown by its continuous success even all these years later.
Overall, I can’t help but love Titanic. Sure, there are a couple cheesy scenes and Leo calls out “Rose” a few more times than necessary, but who cares? James Cameron was able to capture a sweeping, magical epic that tugs at the heartstrings. You laugh, you cry, you hold your breath in suspense, and then you start all over again. From award-worthy performances that turned the lead actors into bona fide movie stars to haunting visuals of the real Titanic, James Cameron’s passion project continues to soar. And overall, it’s a timeless tale that draws you in again and again.
Content Note: PG-13 for sensuality, brief nudity, an implied sex scene, some language, and a few intense sequences.
Where to Watch: You can stream Titanic on Amazon Prime and Hulu. You can also rent/and or buy on Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, Youtube, and DVD.
Did you love Titanic? How many times have you seen it in the theater? Do you have a favorite moment? Let me know in the comments.
Photos: 20th Century Fox/Paramount Pictures
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
I have loved none but you.”
(Scroll down for the full Romantic Period Drama Breakdown)