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The Things You Realize While Watching ‘The Titanic’ as an Adult

For the millionth time

12.19.16
Kate Winslet offers her hand to Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from the film 'Titanic', 1997. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

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Watching Titanic as an adult is a humbling, three-hour test of your emotional willpower no matter how many times you’ve seen it since it premiered on December 19, 1997. Revisiting James Cameron’s heart-wrenching masterpiece is similar to that of riding The Tower of Terror at Disneyland after you’ve reached your mid-twenties. You board the ride with full confidence in your ability to keep it together because you are a strong, grown human with $300 in savings. You still lose it, hard, and your face in the souvenir photo rivals Kim Kardashian’s expression when she cries, which is exactly what I saw in the mirror after I finished Titanic for the fifth time in my life.

The movie isn’t entirely depressing, though. Cameron was generous enough to give his audience a 45-minute window at the beginning to finish their popcorn as he introduces his characters. We meet Young Rose and her fiancé Cal, a D-bag by design. We also learn that Old Rose is a boss and that her travel rider states that she is never to be without her bowl of goldfish when she flies.

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It is foreshadowed in Jack’s introduction that newsboy caps will be a big hit in Leo’s wardrobe in the future.

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Kathy Bates is on the ship, too, as the realest female in First Class who constantly gets side-eyed by wealthy airheads that wouldn’t appreciate a good hat even if its feather swiped caviar off of their upper lip.

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The events leading up to the ship’s collision with the glacier are just as delightful as you remember them. Rose and Jack fall in love, Jack draws his famous portrait of Rose and takes his time detailing her belly button, and the people in charge of the boat make terrible decisions in interesting accents. It’s evident why Titanic received the 14 Oscar nominations that it did, but I’ll argue that the Academy could’ve recognized it for a few additional categories.

Winslet, for Most Confident Sprint with a Really Sharp Object:

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Winslet and DiCaprio for Quickest Recovery After Having Backseat Sex:

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Fabrizio (the young Italian gentleman who received Jack’s extra ticket onboard the Titanic), for Best Execution of Consent by a Supporting Actor

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And This Guy, for the Lifetime Achievement Award in Indoor SPF Protection, who also embodies how the film’s dialogue is very on-the-nose when it comes to alluding that The Ship of Dreams is so very fucked:

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When I asked my dad for his take on the Titanic, he said that what depressed him the most was that its sinking could have been avoided, and I wondered if that was true given the big picture. In that era, marred by gender and class disparity, could a love like Jack and Rose’s have existed outside of their buoyant utopia that was inevitably weighed down by greed? Unfortunately for us, the old lady threw the answer into the ocean at the end.

Feature photo via Getty Images. 

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  • I can watch Titanic all over again and (I feel pretty embarrassed saying this) every time it makes me cry. 😉
    – Marta
    mrs-sarcastic.blogspot.com

    • Same! It’s always the last 30 seconds though! The camera spanning through all of Rose’s youthful images that Jack never got to live through, seeing old Rose sleeping, then the camera goes through the window, underwater, and through the wreck which turns into the old ship… And then you see Rose at the bottom of the staircase (by now my tear ducts are full), you blink, you Leo’s standing at the top of the staircase beaming down (the tear rolls down my cheek). Oh and the music. Gets me every single time!!!!

    • As the kids say, it “hits you in the feels”

  • Ash

    Jack is the reason I’m still in love with Leo. My mom even bought me a book about him around that time and went through it with a black sharpie to mark out all the curse words. She’s a saint for enduring my repetitive watching of Titanic…she probably (unwillingly) knows all the lines by heart.

    No matter how many times I’ve seen it…if it’s on TV…I’ll watch it again. Everyone has that “one” movie and this is mine.

  • Jill

    Don’t forget Victor Garber! *hearts* I still love this movie, though I haven’t seen it in many years. I saw it with my (hopeless romantic) mother in the theaters (twice) and loved it both times, even though I am not a hopeless romantic (more clear-eyed practical-ist). I’d watch it again just for the dang wardrobe (Kate’s) alone. Both actors so young, beautiful, almost so much so that you feel like the match *had* to be ill-fated. I’ve heard that James Cameron can be a real d*ck and that Kate Winslet (and others, I’m sure) got sick repeatedly from being in the cold water for extended periods of time…but it’s still a stunningly beautiful (and horrifying, at the end) movie. That moment before the sinking, when Rose and Jack are gazing at the sunset…both beautiful and eerie at the same time, knowing what comes next…damn! You’ve made me want to watch it all over again. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  • Molly D

    Was Leo 14 when he filmed this? Or 13

    • I think he was 23! Can you believe it?

      • Allegra

        He was 21 when the filming began and 22 when the filming ended. He had just had his 23rd birthday when the movie premiered in Nov 1997.

  • Aubrey Green

    Rose let Jack sink to the bottom of the ocean, even though he could have gotten on the door – I can’t handle it.

    • Ashley Flores

      Thissssss! Yessss! Every time I’ve watched this movie since first seeing it in the theater, I’ve had the same sentiment. Really Rose? Let Leo freeze to death in the Atlantic while your on this huge piece of wood??? Thank you for saying this.

  • Samantha Lee

    “She’s so lucky, she’s a star.”
    The part that gets me EVERY SINGLE TIME is the elderly couple just lying in bed together waiting for the end. EVERY TIME.
    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

    • yyyyyyyyyyyyeah

    • PCE

      That, and the one with the Irish mom reading to her two little babies in their bed…. horrible.

  • Grace B

    Well, my whole world was turned upside down when I saw this version. Tears of laughter. Takes it a whole ‘nother realm. Also, young Leonardo DiCaprio was SMOKIN’.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BEFcuMh_cA

    • pretty much covers it!

      • Grace B

        Mia, I think you and I have the same taste in youtube videos!! 😉

  • Basil

    When your dad said the sinking could have been avoided, did he elaborate? Like, Jack could have helped save everyone by spotting the ice berg, diving into the water with a rope tied around his waist and acted like a tugboat pulling the ship away, but none of this happened because he was off cavorting with Rose?

    • To be honest, he wandered off with a bowl of cereal somewhere after he said that, but I think what he meant was that the ship’s captain and the engineers in charge could have avoided the iceberg if they were more careful/less greedy. What I wrote was an elaboration on that sentiment tied to Jack and Rose’s relationship.

  • Ashley Flores

    I still remember seeing this in the theater. It was so long it had an intermission if I renember correctly. It was packed, not an empty seat, and almost every person was just balling by the end. I was inconsolable for like hours after, so many beautiful and traumatic scences. The musicians playing as everyone tried to load the boats, the elderly couple in bed, the captain, the people stuck below…

    • Allegra

      I think you mean bawling, not balling. (Sorry, a pet peeve.)

      • Ashley Flores

        When people correct other people’s grammar (sorry, a pet peeve)… Ha

        • cantdontstop

          Yah but Balling means Fucking, bawling means crying. Yah I know it’s been months.

  • Mariana

    I used to listen to My Heart Will Go On non stop and cried every time. Oh, pre-teen years are so tough :p. The other day I saw some scenes of the movie and I instantly became a ball of feelings and I almost become 12 again with a bedroom full of Leo’s posters and bouncing hormones.

  • Adrianna

    I realized I was officially an adult when I watched Titanic at 18 years old. It dawned on me that Jack and Rose only knew each other for a few days, and the movie stopped representing “a great big love” like I thought of it when I was a pre-teen in 1997.

  • Allegra

    The line that always does it for me is old Rose talking about Jack at the end, about him having saved her “in every way that a person can be saved”. Makes me cry just writing this.

    And like someone already said here, Jack is the reason I’m still in love with Leo.

  • You win the internet for the Britney reference.

  • I loved Kathy Bates in Titanic so much. And I’ll never forget when I first watched this on VHS with a friend. We were sitting on a bed and it was shaking as we both quietly sobbed trying to hide it from each other. At one point it just got too much and we both started wailing uncontrollably.