I Saw ‘Titanic’ Again in Theaters So You Don’t Have To—Here’s What I Thought

Would seeing Leo with an age-appropriate love interest be too shocking to suspend disbelief?

Nostalgia can be a tricky drug. One minute, you’re impressed by your choice of classical music while running errands. The next, recalling that hideous, old sequined tube top from Rave leaves you thinking, “Damn, those were the days!

So, it was with a fair bit of trepidation that I purchased my ticket for the 25th anniversary theatrical re-release of Titanic.

Twenty-five years! Would it still be the transportive, earth-shaking epic love story I remember from so long ago? Will my heart still skip a beat every time Leonardo DiCaprio flips his hair out of his eyes? Older, more cynical me had my doubts, especially having seen the film mostly in bits and pieces in the years since.

The dialogue? Yikes. What about the three-hour-plus run time? Would seeing Leo with an age-appropriate love interest be too shocking to suspend disbelief?

It’s been a long time since Kate Winslet and Leo first set sail in director James Cameron’s sweeping portrayal of the passenger ship’s tragic maiden voyage at sea. Featuring a timeless romance, it’s set against a backdrop of historical facts and actual footage from the wreckage.

RELATED: The director of “Titanic” has recalled how difficult it was to make the movie, and it sounds like a total nightmare

After its release in December 1997, the movie broke record after record and took over pop culture. It became the first film to pass the billion-dollar mark at the box office, powered in the large part by teen audiences who went to see it over and over and over again. And then again.

This I know from personal experience. I was one of those teens. Fifteen-year-old me saw Titanic somewhere between 20 and 25 times in theaters. This is more shocking for me to recall than that god-awful tube top from Rave.

I’ve been to the movies once, maybe twice, in the last year, and the thought of spending around 75 hours on one piece of media is, well . . . sorry, I had to check my email after scrolling Twitter and texting my best friend to confirm how many times she remembers seeing the movie with me. (She thinks she clocked in at least seven or eight of the 20-plus times.)

But, settling into my reclining AMC lounger in the present day, popcorn and Coke in hand, it took only seconds to remember why teen me kept going to see Titanic weekend after weekend. When a movie sucks you in once, it’ll always be able to, no matter how much time has passed. Seeing Titanic again on the big screen, I realized I needn’t have worried about time hardening my perspective. 

Those first melancholic minutes of the movie, with James Horner’s haunting score and Sissal’s iconic vocals, the image of the ship setting sail in sepia tones — I was all in at 15, and I was all in now.

Yes, I was totally in despite lines like “I’m the king of the world!” And, despite knowing that Cameron recently proved himself wrong by determining that Jack absolutely could’ve gotten onto that door in the end with Rose and survived, dammit!

Even all in when my movie-going companion for the afternoon, my husband, turned to me at the romantic height of the movie when Jack and Rose finally kiss while “flying” near the bow of the ship, me already tearing up, and whispered in my ear, “Barf!”

I found a little bit of everything in the movie this time, the good and the bad and the silly and the serious. Sure, now I could see the cracks more and the parts that would instantly be turned into memes today. It didn’t matter.

I’ll never be able to objectively assess this movie. Kind of like how older Rose describes Jack near the end, it exists only in my memory. Yet there was one surprising constant between Titanic then and Titanic now: the overwhelming and devastating beauty of Leonardo DiCaprio.

There are some pieces of art that you can’t separate from a certain time, a moment in your life.

It’s not surprising to see it pull in over $20 million globally the first weekend of its 2023 re-release. Titanic is a great movie. Titanic is also a hokey movie.

I left the theater loving it still — but also feeling that many of us back in the day were just pretty horny for circa-1997 Leo.

Catherine Hensley
Catherine L. Hensley is a freelance writer and editor and the author of the 2014 rom-com novel, "New York Dolls." Read more
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