20 Movies 20 Years Later

One 'Titanic' Film Made Oscar History And Gifted Us With A Tragic Romance That Defined A Moviegoing Generation

“Titanic” turns 20 this year.

20 Movies 20 Years Later remembers and explores the films that touched us back then and still resonate today. Join A Plus as we rewatch movies released in 1997 and celebrate their contributions to pop culture.

When you look at the history of cinema, it's impossible not to discuss a certain film from 1997: Titanic. There are few — if any — films that have dominated the box office, the awards shows, and the overall pop culture zeitgeist like this epic drama that is part romance and part disaster about two people, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet), who fall in love aboard the RMS Titanic, only to have the ship hit an iceberg and sink in the middle of the Atlantic.


As pretty much everyone on the planet knows, Titanic follows the true-life tragedy of the ship of the same name, which sank in 1912, but gives us a fictionalized love story to really amp up the drama. The gist of the plot is that, prior to and amid the iceberg incident, Jack and Rose fall for each other despite the world trying to keep them apart. There's the fact that Rose has a fiancé, Cal Hockley (Billy Zane), and the fact that they are from two different worlds, her being from a wealthy family background and him being a penniless artist.

James Cameron — who recently made headlines for a controversial opinion about Wonder Woman — famously pitched this as "Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic," and there are definitely some similarities there. These two star-crossed lovers — whose names happen to begin with the same letter of their Shakespearean inspiration material — got together even though the class-based society told them not to. We see moments of love at first sight in which powerful bonds are created with both sets of characters, something they put over all else. In the end, and yes this is a *spoiler alert* to a minuscule fraction of the population, but both lovers do not die as Rose goes on to live a long and fruitful life — as evidenced by the older version of the character (Gloria Stuart) narrating the story — after Jack's passing. As the internet has pointed out countless times throughout the years, Jack could have been saved had Rose just made some room on the raft thereby giving us a set of preventable deaths similar to the unfortunate suicides of Romeo and Juliet. That said, we later learn that Rose never gave up on the life she dreamed about having with Jack and we even see her reunite with him in the afterlife.

While Cameron was already on the map in a big way in the film industry, this was a departure from the action sci-fi movies he had created with 1984's The Terminator, 1986's Aliens, 1989's The Abyss, and 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day. And who could not mention the massive hit that was 2009's Avatar. For this project, Cameron was the director, writer, co-producer, and co-editor. Both Winslet and DiCaprio had been around prior to Titanic — her with 1995's Sense and Sensibility and 1996's Hamlet, and him with Growing Pains (1991-1992), 1993's What's Eating Gilbert Grape, 1995's The Basketball Diaries, and 1996's Romeo + Juliet — but it is certainly what catapulted them to the big leagues and cemented their spot in the Hollywood history books.

To say Titanic was a massive success would be the understatement of the millennia. At the time, it was the most expensive movie ever made with a $200 million budget, but that paid off as it was the first film to cross the $1 billion mark in terms of release date (it actually achieved this after Avatar did so). In addition to blowing the box office out of the water in 1997, it also made history at the 1998 Academy Awards. It is tied for the most-nominated film in history alongside 1950's All About Eve and 2016's La La Land with 14, and is tied for the most wins in history alongside 1959's Ben-Hur and 2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. It won for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Director (Cameron), Best Film Editing (Cameron and others), Best Original Score (James Horner), Best Original Song (Céline Dion's "My Heart Will Go On"), Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Picture (Cameron and Jon Landau). It was nominated for Best Actress (Winslet), Best Supporting Actress (Stuart), and Best Makeup, but lost in these categories.

As we are in the midst of comic book films, blockbuster movies, as well as endless remakes and reboots of today, Titanic is still looked at as one of the biggest and grandest works of cinema ever made. That is evidenced by the 3-D version we got in 2012 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the real-life moment in history. Perhaps the greatest things it has given us are the superstar careers of Winslet and DiCaprio, though it ultimately took until 2008's The Reader and 2015's The Revenant for them to win their Best Actress and Best Actor trophies, respectively. A friendship was ultimately forged between these two thespians as well, gifting us adorable moments at awards shows and the revelation that they "quote the odd Titanic line back and forth to each other, because only we can, and we find it really funny."

I, for one, will never get tired of seeing Titanic. I can vaguely remember going to see it with my parents in theaters — when I was just 6 years old — and the stories my parents told me about that trip. Apparently I was a bit antsy during the first half of the movie, fidgeting in my seat while Jack and Rose were falling in love, but I perked up as soon as that infamous iceberg arrived and chaos ensued. The stunning visual effects created by Cameron and the other creatives working on the film captivated me, and seeing the ship break in half and slowly descend into the Atlantic were enough to keep my mouth agape and eyes glued to the screen for the rest of the three-hour-plus epic. With Titanic's ability to transcend time, captivate people of all ages and genders, and domination of the cinematic world itself, there's no way we'll be able to — or want to — forget about it for a long time to come.

Titanic is available on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube.

Cover image via Paramount Pictures


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.