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And 105 years later, it’s clear that this ill-fated voyage will never be forgotten—in large part because movie-makers continue to remind audiences about it. Here are some of the greatest (and strangest) films about history’s most famous “unsinkable” vessel:
Saved From the Titanic (1912). Dorothy Gibson was an actress who went on that doomed voyage and managed to survive. She cashed in with remarkable speed, co-writing and starring in a film based on her experiences released only a month after the tragedy. (The print has since been lost.) Gibson’s life continued to take bizarre, horrific twists. Her affair with a producer was exposed after she killed a man while driving the producer’s car. She was in France during World War II and, while allegedly a German sympathizer initially, changed her allegiance and was imprisoned by the Gestapo as a resistance agitator. She still had her knack for survival and escaped.
Titanic: Disaster in the Atlantic—also known as Atlantic and Atlantik (1929). While it largely fictionalized the events leading up to the sinking, it’s significant as the first film involving the Titanic to feature sound.
Titanic (1943). Quite simply, one of the strangest productions in film history. Produced during World War II, this German propaganda film was intended to show that the Titanic’s sinking was, in fact, the fault of the Allies. Production delays were highlighted by Joseph Goebbels’ arrest of the original director Herbert Selpin, who died in Nazi custody (almost certainly murdered). Goebbels then wound up suppressing the film, deciding the panic as the ship sunk would be traumatic for German audiences.
A Night to Remember (1958). Based on Walter Lord’s book, the acclaimed film strove to take a more documentary-like approach to the Titanic. It’s also notable for including footage from Nazi Germany’s Titanic, in what would have surely been one final infuriation for Goebbels.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). This film went for slightly less realism: it’s a musical with a score by Meredith Wilson (best known for The Music Man). For those unfamiliar with the film that nominated for six Academy Awards, the trailer is a great chance to see the late, great Debbie Reynolds declare her big ambitions, ranging from, “I’m gonna learn to read and write!” to “I want to go see Denver!”
Raise the Titanic (1980). Based on a book by Clive Cussler, the film focuses on a Cold War race between the Americans and the Soviets to, as the title says, raise the boat and the treasures within.
Titanic (1997). 20 years after its release, it’s still the second highest grossing film worldwide of all time. And the only movie to top it at the box office is Avatar, which also happens to be written and directed by James Cameron. Besides its $2.2 billion box office haul, the film also netted a lot of gold—11 Oscars, including best picture.
Ghosts of the Abyss (2003). James Cameron is a man who can’t leave things alone. (After all, he has announced he is currently working on four Avatar sequels.) This documentary marked his exploration of the sunken Titanic with a team of scientists and… Bill Paxton? As Paxton rather sweetly notes in the trailer, “I can’t help but wonder what I’m doing here.”
Titanic II (2010). Let’s be clear: James Cameron is not involved with this film. No one you’ve ever heard of is. (With the possible exception of former Baywatch star Brooke Burns.) Still, this futuristic take is a reminder of how, over a century later, the tragedy continues to inspire us. And to inspire Hollywood executives to sink money into the storyline.
Or, as one of the characters declares in the trailer: “Looks like history’s repeating itself.”
—Sean Cunningham for RealClearLife