‘Titanic’ 25th Anniversary: Remembering the Iconic Movie

This month marks 25 straight years of our ongoing debate about how many people can fit on a big wooden door in the frigid Atlantic Ocean. The minute you read that sentence, you automatically replied with whatever opinion about it you’ve held all this time. That’s as it should be. We all must be able to immediately plunge back into the debate, like the Heart of the Ocean necklace sinking beneath the waves. This is our duty to the legacy of Titanic, one of the last glorious vestiges of a global obsession.

With so much to watch and so many different ways to engage now, it’s hard to fathom that Titanic took over the collective imagination for almost a year. It was the top-grossing movie in the North American market from December 1997 to March 1998. It stayed in theaters until the end of the following September. It was everywhere; it was everything. And this is particularly significant, because it came out within a year of other blockbusters like Men in Black, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and Face/Off. They were big, but nothing was as big as Titanic.

It’s a fool’s errand on the order of building an “unsinkable” ship to try to say anything new about it. But isn’t its ubiquity the best part? We’ve had every Titanic conversation because it isn’t just a blip on a timeline, it’s an integrated part of the pop culture present. When it comes up, we’re right back on the ship, like Rose in the afterlife.


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One of the most beautiful aspects of making art is that it takes on a life of its own.”

To be honest, my big points of contention about the film aren’t about the door. Instead, I’ve spent 25 years trying to figure out how it was that Rose goes through her whole life—has kids, other loves, and a career—but when she finally dies, she’s back on the Trauma Boat! And all the other passengers have spent their afterlives waiting to applaud her and Jack, her boyfriend from steerage? I’m just saying, if I was one of those other ghost passengers, I would file a complaint against Heaven

The other thing that really grinds my gears is Elder Rose’s choice to throw the Heart of the Ocean off of the boat. Sis, I get it—you’re healing. But you need to pawn that jewel and start a college fund for artists who like to dance jigs. I would have dived into that water like I was Tom Daley. Let’s be serious about this.

I get that Elder Rose was trying to teach a lesson that she’d learned over the course of her long life: Possessions won’t bring you happiness, only love will. That’s very sweet, but I would have told her, “Thanks so much, but I’m opting to learn that lesson the hard way: by being rich for about 70 years and seeing how that goes.”

Maybe my opinion will change after I’ve lived with Titanic for another 25 years. Perhaps it’s one of those films that reveals different meanings to you as you reach different life stages. I hope we all have films that travel through life with us. One of the most beautiful aspects of making art is that it takes on a life of its own. Twenty-five years after its record-breaking run, you can still cause a dust-up on Twitter by claiming there was room on the door; exhibits about the ship and the film are still touring the country; and a new parody musical, Titanique, was a hit in New York.

When it feels like no one is watching the same thing at the same time and we struggle to have a conversation, Titanic is a reminder of what’s possible. To paraphrase the song that was truly everywhere in 1998: “The art will go on and on.”

This article appears in the December 2022 / January 2023 issue of ELLE.

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