Titanic is a 1997 disaster film directed, written, co-produced and co-edited by James Cameron about the sinking of the RMS Titanic. It features Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson, and Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater, two members of different social classes who fall in love aboard the ill-fated 1912 maiden voyage of the ship. The main characters and the central love story are fictional, but some supporting characters (such as members of the ship's crew) are based on real historical figures. Gloria Stuart plays the elderly Rose, who narrates the film in a modern day framing device.
Production of the film began in 1995, when Cameron shot footage of the real wreck of the RMS Titanic. He envisioned the love story as a means to engage the audience with the real-life tragedy. Shooting took place at the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh for the modern scenes, and a reconstruction of the ship was built at Playas de Rosarito, Baja California. Cameron also used scale models and computer-generated imagery to recreate the sinking of the ship. Titanic became at the time the most expensive film ever made, costing approximately US$200 million with funding from Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox.
Originally slated to be released on July 2, 1997, post-production delays pushed back the film's release date to December 19, 1997. After word broke out that Titanic's release date was pushed back, the press believed that Titanic would fail and cause the downfall of Fox and Paramount. Despite low expectations, the film was both a major critical and commercial success, winning eleven Academy Awards including Best Picture and becoming the highest-grossing film of all time, with a total worldwide gross of approximately $1.8 billion (it is the sixth-highest grossing in North America once adjusted for inflation).
In 1912, young Rose boards the departing ship in Southampton England with the upper-class passengers, her mother, Ruth DeWitt Bukater, and her overpowering fiancé, Caledon Hockley. Also on board is Margaret "Molly" Brown, who meets Rose at a dinner. Distraught and frustrated with her engagement to Cal and her controlled life, Rose attempts to commit suicide by jumping from the stern, but a drifter and artist named Jack Dawson, who had won his ticket on the ship from a poker game, intervenes. Initially Cal, his friends and the sailors, overhearing Rose's screams, believe the penniless Jack attempted to rape her. She explains Jack saved her life, covering up her suicide attempt by explaining she slipped after trying to see the propellers. Jack corroborates her white lie to everyone present, but privately, Hockley's manservant, former police officer Spicer Lovejoy, expresses to Jack his skepticism. Jack and Rose strike up a tentative friendship as she thanks him for his corroboration, and he shares stories of his adventures traveling and sketching; their bond deepens when they leave a first-class formal dinner for a much livelier gathering in third-class.
Cal is informed of her partying in the steerage and forbids Rose to meet Jack again. Rose's mother also commands her to give up Jack and save her engagement to Cal in order to ensure their financial welfare. Eventually, Jack confronts Rose alone, but she is inclined to ignore their growing affection because of her engagement and responsibilities. However, after witnessing a woman encouraging her seven-year-old daughter to behave like a "proper lady" at tea, Rose later changes her mind and decides to offer her heart to Jack in a forbidden romance. As a sign of her affection, she asks him to sketch her naked wearing only the Heart of the Ocean, which she had previously been offered as an engagement present by Cal. Afterwards, the two playfully run away from Lovejoy, and they go below decks to the ship's cargo hold. They enter William Carter's Renault traveling car and have sex, before escaping up to the ship's forward well deck. They escape just in time, before two ship's hands, per Cal's orders, come and search for them in the cargo hold. Rose decides that when they arrive at New York, she will leave the ship with Jack. They then witness the ship's collision with an iceberg, which fatally damages it. Meanwhile, Cal discovers Rose's nude drawing and her taunting note in his safe. He plots revenge, deciding to frame Jack for stealing the Heart of the Ocean by having Lovejoy plant the diamond in Jack's pocket and bribing the master-at-arms to go along with his plan. Although Rose is at first indecisive, she later runs away from Cal, risking her chances of getting on a lifeboat with her mother, in order to find and rescue Jack, since the ship has begun sinking and the master-at-arms has no intention of going back to his office to free Jack.
Rose manages to free Jack with a fire axe, and finds that the third-class passengers are trapped below decks, since the stewards have been instructed to keep them locked up (to allow the first and second-class passengers off first). Frustrated, Jack breaks through a gate, allowing Rose and others to make their way to the boat deck. Cal and Jack, though enemies, both want Rose safe, so they manage to persuade Rose to board a lifeboat. But after realizing that she cannot leave Jack, Rose jumps back on the ship and reunites with Jack in the ship's first class staircase. Infuriated, Cal takes Lovejoy's pistol and chases Jack and Rose down the decks and into the first class dining saloon. After running out of ammunition, he angrily shouts at them saying that he hopes "they enjoy their time together" and realizes that he has unintentionally left the diamond in the pocket of an overcoat that Rose is wearing. Cal returns to the boat deck and gets aboard Collapsible A by pretending to look after an abandoned child. This is one of only two lifeboats remaining on the ship. Although Jack and Rose manage to avoid Cal's fury, they find that the lifeboats are gone. With no other options, they decide to head aft and stay on the ship for as long as possible before it sinks completely. Eventually, the ship breaks in half and begins its final descent, washing everyone into the freezing Atlantic waters. Jack and Rose are separated under the water but shortly reunite. Around them, well over a thousand people are dying painfully from hypothermia.
Meanwhile, in Lifeboat 6, Molly Brown tries to convince Quartermaster Robert Hichens to go back and rescue people, as there is plenty of room, but he refuses, knowing that there is not enough room for all of them and that all the boats will be swamped. Jack and Rose manage to grab hold of a carved oak panel, which can only support the weight of one person. So Rose climbs on top while Jack clings on to the side in the water. While lying on the panel, Jack makes Rose promise that, whatever happens, she must get out alive. When Fifth Officer Harold Lowe returns with empty Lifeboat 14 to rescue several people from the water, Rose tries to wake Jack, but then realizes that he has died in the freezing water. Upon this realization, she begins to lose hope and wants to stay there to die with Jack; however, she remembers her promise and does her best to call out to Lowe. She is hoarse and he does not hear her and rows away. Still remembering her promise to "never let go", Rose manages to unclasp Jack's frozen hand from her own, letting his body disappear into the sea. Throwing herself into the water, Rose takes a whistle from a dead Chief Officer Henry Wilde and blows it, and is heard. She is pulled to safety, joining five others recovered from the ocean, and is taken on board the rescue ship RMS Carpathia.
On the Carpathia's deck, Rose notices Cal coming down searching for her; when he turns in her direction, she turns away and avoids being seen by him thanks to a blanket wrapped around her. This is the last time she ever sees him. Upon arrival in New York City, Rose registers her name as Rose Dawson (adopting Jack's surname, which is why everyone, including everyone she knew thought that Rose died on the Titanic and never learned the truth about her surviving) and presumably starts a life on her own. Through the elderly Rose, we learn that Cal went on to marry another woman, and later committed suicide as a result of business losses in the Great Depression. The subsequent story of Rose's mother, who escaped on a lifeboat and was presumably rescued, is not told. After completing her story to the team (who now look at her with sympathy and awe), the elderly Rose goes alone to the stern of Lovett's ship. After she steps onto the railing, it is revealed that she still has the Heart of the Ocean in her possession. She then drops the diamond into the water, sending it to join the remains of the single most important event of her life. She kept every promise she had made to Jack, and did everything they ever talked about doing. Rose lies in her bed, next to photographs of her life's achievements, as the shot pans across her into darkness.
The film ends with a vision of young Rose reuniting with Jack at the Grand Staircase of the restored Titanic, surrounded by those who perished on the ship. They kiss and embrace, and all the people on the staircase applaud.
|"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|
He met with 20th Century Fox, and convinced them to make a film based on the publicity afforded by shooting the wreck itself and organized a dive to the wreck of the Titanic over two years. The crew shot in the Atlantic Ocean twelve times in 1995, shooting during eleven of those occasions, and actually spent more time with the ship than its passengers. Afterwards, Cameron began writing a screenplay. 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, though the newness of the ship meant every prop had to be made from scratch. Fox acquired forty acres of waterfront south of Playas de Rosarito in Mexico, and building of a new studio began on May 31, 1996. A seventeen-million-gallon tank 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 tall tower crane on of railtrack, acting as a combined construction, lighting and camera platform. After shooting the sinking scenes, the ship was then dismantled and sold for scrap metal to cover budgetary costs.
Filming Titanic was an arduous experience for all involved. The schedule was intended to last 138 days but grew to 160—twenty days shy of six months. Many cast members came down with colds, flu, or kidney infections after spending hours in cold water, including Kate Winslet. Several left and three stuntmen broke their bones, but the Screen Actors Guild decided, following an investigation, that nothing was inherently unsafe about the set. Cameron never apologized for running his sets like a military campaign, although he admitted, "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." After almost drowning, chipping an elbow bone, and getting the flu, Winslet decided she would not work with Cameron again unless she earned "a lot of money."
An enclosed five-million-gallon tank was used for sinking interiors, in which the entire set could be tilted into the water. To sink the Grand Staircase, ninety thousand gallons 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, though no one was hurt. The 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. The post-sinking scenes in the freezing Atlantic were shot in a 350,000-gallon tank, 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.
Cameron wanted to push the boundary of special effects with his film, and enlisted Digital Domain to continue the breakthroughs on digital technology the director pioneered on The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Previous films about the RMS Titanic shot water in slow motion, which did not look wholly convincing. He encouraged them to shoot their long miniature of the ship as if "we're making a commercial for the White Star Line. Afterward, 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 long model of the ship's stern that could break in two repeatedly, the only miniature to be used in water. 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 greenscreen. To save money, the First Class Lounge was a miniature set incorporated into a greenscreen backdrop.
The version used for the first test screening featured a fight between Jack and Lovejoy which took place after Jack and Rose escape into the flooded dining saloon, but the test audiences disliked it. 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 kill 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 (this explains the gash on Lovejoy's head that can be seen when he dies in the completed version of the film). The test audiences disliked this scene, saying 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.
Roger Ebert wrote, "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. The technical difficulties are so daunting that it's a wonder when the filmmakers are also able to bring the drama and history into proportion. I found myself convinced by both the story and the sad saga. It was his ninth best film of 1997. On the television program Siskel & Ebert, the film received "two thumbs up"; Ebert describing it as "a glorious Hollywood epic, well-crafted and well worth the wait" Gene Siskel found Leonardo DiCaprio "captivating" while he felt Kate Winslet "came off as flat in comparison. Richard Corliss of Time magazine wrote a mostly negative review, criticizing the special effects and lack of interesting emotional elements.
James Berardinelli explains, "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. It was his second best movie of 1997. 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 says, "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. Barbara Shulgasser of 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.
Titanic suffered backlash from many after its release. In 2003, the film topped a poll of "Best Film Endings", and yet it also topped a poll by The Film programme as "the worst movie of all time". Parodies and spoofs abounded and were circulated around the Internet, often inspiring passionate responses from fans of various opinions of the film.
|AFI's 100 Years... 100||Rank||Notes|
|Thrills||25||A list of the top 100 thrilling movies in American cinema compiled in 2001.|
|Passions||37||A list of the top 100 love stories in American cinema, compiled in 2002.|
|Songs||14||A list of the top 100 songs in American cinema, compiled in 2004. Titanic ranked 14th for Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On".|
|Movie quotes||100||A list of the top 100 movie quotations in American cinema, compiled in 2005. Titanic ranked 100th for Jack Dawson's (Leonardo DiCaprio) yell of, "I'm king of the world!"|
|Movies||83||A 2007 (10th anniversary) edition of 1997's list of the 100 best movies of the past century. Titanic was not eligible when the original list was released.|
|AFI's 10 Top 10||6||The 2008 poll consisted of the top ten films in ten different genres. Titanic ranked as the sixth best epic film.|
It tied All About Eve for having the most Oscar nominations in history, with 14. It won Best Picture and Best Director. It also picked up Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography. 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. It was the second movie to win eleven Academy Awards, after Ben-Hur. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King would also match this record in 2004, with its 11 wins from 11 nominations.
The ending credits' song also 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. The film was voted as Best Film at the People's Choice Awards. It won various awards outside the United States, including the Awards of the Japanese Academy as the Best Foreign Film of the Year. Titanic eventually won nearly 90 awards and had an additional 47 nominations from various award-giving bodies around the world.
Six years after the original DVD release, on October 25, 2005, a special edition release finally occurred with a three-disc set marketed as Special Collector's Edition in North America and as the Ultimate Edition in Japan. The release included an anamorphic widescreen presentation of the film divided onto two discs, with 6.1 channel surround sound. The supplements included 29 deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a faux 1912-style newsreel, a crew tribute/gag reel, and other features. Ed Marsh was originally commissioned to shoot and edit a two-hour retrospective documentary, and had completed it when Cameron decided to drop it from the DVD set.
An international two- and four-disc set followed on November 7, 2005. 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. This set included all of the material of the three-disc edition, with the fourth disc containing the HBO special Heart of the Ocean, spoofs and parodies (available as Easter eggs in the Region 1 edition), and a gallery of trailers and TV spots, some never before seen. This set, alongside the two- and five-disc set, has not yet been released in North America. The four-disc edition was released in Mexico for Region 4 on December 21, 2005.
Available only in the UK, a limited five-disc set of the film, under the title Deluxe Limited Edition, was released with only 10,000 copies manufactured. The fifth disc contains James Cameron's documentary Ghosts of the Abyss. Unlike the individual release of Ghosts of the Abyss, which contained two discs, only the first disc was included in the set. Each set is numbered, for buyers to easily tell the difference between an authentic copy and a bootleg copy. The set was exclusive to HMV and Virgin Megastores, but were only available in December 2005. The 10,000 sets produced were split, 5,000 to each store chain.
On September 1, 2007 it was announced that a two-disc tenth anniversary edition would be released by Paramount Pictures on November 20, 2007, but the re-release turned out to be a re-package of the first two discs from the 2005 release.
The soundtrack CD for Titanic was composed by James Horner and sold more than twenty-seven million copies, notable because it included only one pop song with lyrics. The soundtrack includes performances from the Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø, and the Canadian singer Celine Dion. It became a worldwide success, and led to the release of a second volume that contained a mixture of previously unreleased soundtrack recordings with newly-recorded performances of some of the songs in the film, including one track recorded by Enya's sister, Máire Brennan of the Irish band Clannad. "Hymn to the Sea" features Bad Haggis's Eric Rigler on the uilleann pipes and whistles.
James Horner 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. 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". It eventually won the 1997 Academy Award for Best Original Song.