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"It seems to me that the disaster about to occur was the event that not only made the world rub its eyes and awake, but woke it with a start. To my mind, the world of today awoke April 15th, 1912."
Jack Thayer, Titanic survivor

The RMS Titanic was a British transatlantic liner that sank in 1912, causing approximately 1,500 deaths. At the time of her maiden voyage, she was the largest ship to have ever sailed the seas. Construction started in March 1909 in the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, then-Ireland (now Northern Ireland) and was completed a few months before the big trip—enough time for rumors to spread about the luxurious White Star Liner being "unsinkable". Then, said ship set sail for New York, hit an iceberg on the fourth day, and sank in less than three hours. Its fate has inspired at least 36 movies, including a Nazi propaganda film, an American melodrama, a classic British docudrama, a giant Box Office Bomb about raising the wreckage which became a major Creator Killer and Franchise Killer, two cartoonified versions in which Everyone Lives (with a sequel for one of them), a 1996 miniseries, a video game, a 1997 Academy Award-winning blockbuster from James Cameron, and at least two porn parodies. And also a Tony-winning musical (no, seriously).

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Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, as steamships reduced transatlantic crossing time from two months to two weeks, millions of European emigrants sought to go to America to start a new life, and mail services in Europe needed a swift and reliable means of transporting hundreds of thousands of letters and packages across the Atlantic, numerous shipping companies in Great Britain, the United States, France, and eventually Germany would answer the call with large, steam-driven liners. The most famous of these operators, Britain's Cunard and White Star lines, became the big dogs, fiercely competing against each other for emigrant passenger tickets (the real bread and butter of the trade, rather than first-class passengers) and the profitable license to carry mail to and from the UK. Hence the initials RMS on ships that held that license — Royal Mail Steamer.

But in the late 1890s, the nascent German Empire began to enter the realm of global commerce and wished to challenge their British rivals for international prestige. The Norddeutscher Lloyd and Hamburg America Lines threatened to encroach into Cunard and White Star's competition with the launch and maiden voyages of the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and Deutschland, two liners of unprecedented size, speed (with Kaiser running at a then-unheard-of speed of 22.35 knotsnote , and Deutschland traveling even faster) and luxury. In response, the Cunard Line, which had always placed speed and reliability as paramount for their ships, produced the 787 and 790-foot long Lusitania and Mauretania in 1907. These liners had top speeds of over 24 knots, thanks to their four turbine engines (the first class of ocean liners to be exclusively turbine-driven, after the comparative experiment with Cunard's liners Carmania and Caronia over the cost-effectiveness of the turbine in 1905) and were the largest liners in the world both in physical size and massnote , as well as among the first to have elevators (or "lifts" as the British know them) for passengers.

    Building a Titan 

White Star, seeing the threat Cunard's new "Greyhounds of the Atlantic" presented to the company, quickly drafted a response. As opposed to Cunard, White Star prided itself on comfort and luxury rather than pure speed (as that tended to come at the cost of passenger capacity, and resulted in a tendency to vibrate uncomfortably). Part of this included granting modest luxuries to Third Class, such as cabins with doors that closed, lavatories with functioning toilets and bathtubs, wide-open recreational facilities and promenade spaces, dining saloons that had linens, silverware, waiters who served hot food, and free postcards on their menus, so that they could praise White Star to their friends and relatives back home for even more business. If an emigrant travelled by White Star, they had ample cause to feel like royalty.note  As such, they sought to build two, possibly three, liners that were at least ninety feet longer than the Lusitania and Mauretania, and by far more luxurious than both put together.

The answer was the Olympic-class of ship: a trio of 46,000 gross ton, 882 foot long super-liners with the capacity for 3,000 passengers and crew, three lifts in first-class and one for second-class, and two reciprocating high-pressure engines for the two "wing" propellers, with a low-pressure turbine for the smaller, central propeller, increasing cost-effectiveness in steam economy by reusing steam wasted by the reciprocating engines. For luxury, the ships boasted promenade decks for each class; their cabins for third and second class were just as good as second and first-class cabins on other ships, and the first-class rooms were just as splendid as any suite at the best hotels in the world, with the most expensive suite of cabins went for hundreds of thousands of American dollars in 2020 money, with private baths for more first class cabins than any other ship afloatnote . As the popular ships of the day had four funnels, a fake funnel was added on at the back; this also doubled as a large ventilator for the engineering spaces, reducing the number of ventilator cowls on deck, producing a clean outline, whereas the Mauretania and Lusitania's deckhouse roofs, with their multitude of cowls, looked cluttered in comparison.

Safety was also considered in the design: a double-bottomed hull to contain flooding in the event of running aground; fifteen bulkheads that went two decks above the waterline (any two of which could flood with bulkheads above the floodwater to sparenote  that divided the ship into sixteen watertight compartments); these compartments featured the very latest watertight doors, which were held in place by a magnetic latch and could be sealed by flipping a switch on the bridge and letting gravity do the rest; in the event of a collision, or in the impractical probability of the first four compartments flooding the ship would still float, acting as its own lifeboat until help could arrive, at which point the ship's boats would be used to shuttle passengers to the incoming rescue ships; and above all, in the event of the worst, the ships boasted a new davit design that could hold up to 68 lifeboats, but for various reasons (cosmetics, impracticality, cost, etc.) the number was reduced to 20, which was still four boats beyond the legally required 16 for ships 10,000 tons and over in the British Board of Trade regulations.note 

Impractical being the operative word. Certainly, unpredictable things might happen, but as a major passenger tragedy had not befallen any White Star ship in nearly forty yearsnote , there was little reason for anyone in the shipping industry to be overly concerned beyond academics.

And so it became known in the shipbuilding world that the Olympic-class were "unsinkable", and the public bought it and ran with it. After all, in an age where men were flying, and one person communicating with someone else on the other side of the world in real time, and horses were losing buyers to the horseless carriage, the idea of a ship that could not be sunk was hardly unimaginable.

And so the first ship, RMS Olympic, set sail in 1911, and the response was so successful that White Star ordered a third ship, Britannic. Harland & Wolff designers heavily studied Olympic's performance and passenger satisfaction to make improvements on the subsequent ships.

    Titanic's maiden voyage 

It was in this environment that the middle child, Titanic, rose to prominence. On her maiden voyage, starting at Southampton, England and Cherbourg, France on April 10th before going off to Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, she was loaded with not only hundreds of emigrants from both the Continent and the British Isles, but some of the wealthiest aristocrats, by title or by position, on both sides of the Atlantic. John Jacob Astor IV, heir to the Astor Railroad fortune and his barely 19-year old bride Madeleine were returning home from their extended honeymoonnote  Also on board were the Strauses, Isidor and Ida, co-owners of the world-famous Macy's Department Store in New York, Benjamin Guggenheim, a business man from one of America's (and possibly the world's) wealthiest families, who was accompanied by his mistress Léontine Aubart, Denver socialite Margaret Brown and Archibald Butt, a friend and advisor to President William Howard Taft, along with scores of other members of the 1912 rich and famous. White Star was also represented on board, with managing director J. Bruce Ismay, Harland & Wolff's head designer Thomas Andrews, and nine luckynote  builders from Harland & Wolff known as the "Guarantee Group" traveling to observe the general performance of the new ship.

And at the helm, was Captain Edward John Smith, "The Millionaire's Captain," or "EJ" to friends and family, and White Star's favorite officer, who took out every new ship of the line on her maiden voyage for the past decade and a half. At the age of 63, Smith planned to retire. If not after this voyage on Titanic, then certainly after Britannic's in the spring of 1915. While the majority of the crew were hired at Southampton in the days prior to the voyage, which was a common practice at the time, Smith's officers were a handpicked collection of White Star's best. Despite Britain being in the middle of a coal strike, White Star was able to secure enough coal from berthed ships to ensure Titanic made her scheduled departure. However, with so many vessels unable to set sail, traffic on the North Atlantic routes was lighter than usual.

Titanic's maiden voyage almost ended in disaster just as it was starting. As the ship was leaving Southampton, its powerful suction pulled a nearby vessel, the SS City of New York, from its moorings and into Titanic's path. Captain Smith quickly ordered Titanic's port propeller into reverse, and the resulting wash pushed the New York away from Titanic, giving several tugs time to usher it safely away. The near collision still delayed the start of Titanic's journey by an hour. When the maiden voyage finally got underway, the first three days were calm and without incident. Titanic was crossing the Atlantic at a brisk pace and there was talk on board of a potential early arrival.note 

    April 14, 1912 

But the winter of 1911-12 was unusually warm, and the threat of icebergs breaking off from the glaciers of Greenland and northeast Canada was more dire than usual, with a thicker density of icebergs and pack ice farther south than usual. Titanic's wireless operators received a number of ice warnings, but due to the nature of their employnote , only sent a few to the bridge. Nevertheless, enough were passed along that Captain Smith ordered a course further south to go around what he believed was the greatest concentration of ice.

On the day of the disaster, the passengers had a very relaxing afternoon that quickly turned chilly as the ship entered a cold front. That evening, the operators were trying to clear a large backlog of messages that had accumulated as their equipment had broken down the day before. This made Senior Wireless Operator Jack Phillips a bit irritable, and when nearby ship Californian tried to warn them of an ice field right in their path and that his own ship had stopped for the night for that reason, Phillips told him to shut up and keep out, as the Californian was so close they were interfering with Titanic's signal to the mainland (the Titanic also had much more sensitive radio equipment than the Californian, this fact leading to dramatic rumors that the message nearly blew out Phillips' ear drums). The operator on the Californian then turned in for the night and shut down his equipment, and thus the one ship within 15 miles of the Titanic would not hear of the disaster until morning.note 

On Sunday, April 14th, at 11:40 PM ship's time, the majority of passengers and Captain Smith had gone to bed. It was a new moon and the sea was as smooth as glass, highly unusual for the typically swell-filled North Atlantic. These circumstances made the prospect of spotting icebergs almost impossible, without the light of the moon or the whitewash of waves breaking at the waterline of the iceberg. Normally, the lookouts would be equipped with binoculars, but a last-minute change to the command structure resulted in the binoculars being misplaced at Southampton.note  So it's a testament to Frederick Fleet's eyes and dedication that he saw the iceberg when he did (really more of a black mass where starlight wasn't), his co-watchman Reginald Lee ringing the bell as Fleet telephoned the bridge.

The officer on duty on the bridge, First Officer William Murdoch, saw the iceberg too, and ordered "Hard a-starboard" (technically to Port, or a Left Turn, but Titanic used tiller commands according to British Merchant Navy regulations and so the directions were reversed), and ordered all stop on the engines. Murdoch then ordered the turn reversed and engines stopped, bringing the bow back towards the iceberg. While seemingly counterintuitive, this order, known as "porting around," was the standard collision-avoidance maneuver for the time, reducing the ship's speed while swinging the stern away from the hazard - as an analogy, picture driving a car and having to slow down and change lanes to avoid a hazard in your current path; simply turning away could mean presenting the ship's entire side to be ripped open as her existing momentum would stretch the turning radius out to be farther than that of the ordered turn.note 

In any case, Titanic changed heading just in time to avoid a head-on collision, instead scraping her starboard side against the berg in a glancing blow. The impact caused some of the hull plates to buckle, allowing water to rush in.

Most of the passengers never noticed the collision, or felt little more than a slight rumbling bump. The first sign to the passengers that something was amiss came minutes later, when the engines and their steady, rhythmic vibrations were suddenly stopped. Third Class passengers in the bow acutely felt the impact and soon awoke to find their cabins covered in water. Thomas Andrews, the designer, never even knew of the accident until Captain Smith ordered him to go down below to examine the damage. After midnight, Andrews returned with the news, and it wasn't good. Six compartments had been breached: the forward peak, all three cargo holds, and boiler rooms 5 and 6.note  Titanic could float with any two compartments, or the four foremost compartments, flooding. Any more, and the ship would sink. The engineers were able to fix Boiler Room 5's two or so feet of damage and began pumping, but for every gallon the engineers pumped out, Titanic took on 15 more. Andrews informed the captain that Titanic would sink in less than two hours.

    The sinking 

Over those next two hours, the crew rushed to launch the lifeboats while Senior Wireless Operator Jack Phillips and his assistant Harold Bride worked frantically to get the word out, right up to the very end. The closest ship to respond to the distress call, the Cunard Line's RMS Carpathia, instantly rushed to Titanic's aid,note  but was four hours away.note  In the meantime, the lifeboat launchings were extremely chaotic and disorganized. While it was easy enough for First Class passengers to be roused and guided to the lifeboats, those in Second and Third Class mostly just got a hasty knock on their cabin door, a lifejacket and an order to go to the Boat Deck. However, thanks to the ship being specifically designed to keep the upper and lower classes fully separatednote , the Boat Deck was only meant for First and Second Class outside of an emergency; thus most of the passengers travelling on the lower decks had no idea how to get there and needed directions from the equally frightened stewards — who were vastly outnumbered by the people they were trying to help, a lot of whom couldn't speak or understand English, and who needed to be guided through a system of maze-like corridors which Second Officer Lightoller (who had served on Olympic) said would take someone weeks to memorize. note  To make matters worse, Titanic had only had one very basic lifeboat drill when the ship was docked in Southampton, and the crew (a lot of whom were stewards, kitchen staff or engineers rather than seamen) were barely trained in how to use the launching equipment or in what was expected of them in this type of emergency. note  And even if everyone had been able to get to the Boat Deck without a problem and the crew were more aware of what they were supposed to do, there was still the little matter of the ship only having enough lifeboats to accommodate barely half of the people on board.

Because of all the terror and confusion during the sinking, inevitably there are conflicting accounts about the actions of several people, including whether or not one of the officers shot a passenger in the chaos and then committed suicide by turning the gun on himself.note  According to some witnesses Captain Smith, upon realizing the scope of the emergency, gave vague and sometimes impractical orders and became so disconnected that he didn't bother to find out if they were being carried out; others said that he did everything in his power to prevent panic and to make sure the boats were being lowered safely. His command of "Women and children first" was interpreted by Murdoch to mean "Women and children first, let men in if there's room," while Lightoller took it to mean "Women and children only." Neither officer was informed of the rated capacity of the lifeboats and erred on the side of caution; furthermore, the ship did not appear to be in immediate danger, which made passengers reluctant to leave it on a small rowing boat in the middle of the freezing night, especially if it meant being separated from their loved ones. note  As a result boats built for 65 were often lowered only half-full and one lifeboat, #1, had only twelve people in it; all told, there were some 400-500 empty berths on the lifeboats. However, the passengers and crew weren't too concerned as they (mistakenly) thought help was just around the corner, as the Californian was visible on the horizon; by the time the deadliness of the situation set in, most of the boats had left. Due to the chaotic nature of the evacuation and the limited time in which they were launched, it has been speculated that even had there been enough lifeboats for all on board, only a small additional number would have been saved; particularly since most of the crew who actually had experience launching the boats had left with the first evacuees. The last boats were launched less than ten minutes before the ship went under, and the last two collapsibles — A and B — were never launched at all, instead being actually washed off the deck as the water swept over the bow.

At 2:20 AM local time, Titanic broke apart and slipped beneath the waves, with the bow and stern hitting the ocean floor about five minutes afterwards located 600 meters apart from each other. The some-odd 1,500 men, women, and children left behind had to contend with the 28°F (-2°C) water; almost everyone perished within half an hour. Only three lifeboats went back to look for survivors. Lifeboat 14 only found four in the water, one of whom died soon after he was pulled from the sea, although they were later able to save the people in the close-to-sinking Collapsible A; Lifeboats 4 and 12 managed to rescue Lightoller and the sixteen or so people who were balanced on top of overturned Collapsible B. This is another point of contention about the disaster, but it's usually agreed that so many desperate swimmers trying to climb into the lifeboats could have resulted in them capsizing, dooming even more to an icy death. With little to do but wait, around 700 people were picked up by RMS Carpathia at dawn — and, on top of everything else that went wrong that night, it turned out the boats were barely provisioned with emergency supplies, so if it had taken longer for rescue to arrive then the survivors would have been in real trouble. As it was, several of the men who had managed to get aboard the collapsible boats, even as the ship sank from under them, still ended up dying of hypothermia before the Carpathia arrived. Within hours, news of the disaster started to spread to newspapers across the globe, often with confused or misleading headlines such as claiming all aboard were rescued or that the ship was being towed in. However, it would not be until the Carpathia's arrival in New York three days later that the true scope of the sinking was clear.


After the disaster, the United States Senate and the British Wreck Commissioner held inquiries. Both reached similar conclusions: that Captain Smith had been traveling too fast in an area with known hazards, regulations on the number of required lifeboats was outdated, and there was a lack of crew preparation and training for disaster. New legislation was passed on both sides of the Atlantic to ensure that such a tragedy couldn't happen again. This included mandating enough lifeboats for all passengers and lifeboat drills to ensure the crew knew how to use them. 24 hour radio communications became standardized. In addition, the International Ice Patrol was founded to monitor icebergs in the North Atlantic.

As for the White Star Line itself, they did take a severe hit in the press for the tragedy, with director J. Bruce Ismay resigning after he was ripped apart by newspapers for merely survivingnote , but they remained a profitable company for nearly twenty more years. Olympic was a popular vessel until being retired in 1935 due to her obsolescence and subsequently scrapped. At the end of World War I, the company also received a number of German liners - including the Majestic, the world's largest liner - as compensation for wartime losses, which had included the Britannic, as she was sunk by a mine in 1916.note  In the 1930s, in the wake of the Great Depression devastating the global economy and the United States tightening immigration laws, impacting Third Class passengers who were the cornerstone of their business, the White Star Line was merged by the British government with their Cunard rivals, who had been suffering financially for the same reasons.note  The builders of Titanic, Harland & Wolff, continued to be a major shipyard for ocean liners and the Royal Navy.note  While the rise of air travel in the 1950s would severely cut into their business and all but eliminate ocean liners as a means of transportation, H&W is still in operation today, now focusing on offshore construction projects such as wind farms.

Though several accounts of immense gallantry emerged in the aftermath — husbands placing their families in lifeboats and calmly bidding them goodbye, gentlemen escorting solitary women to the Boat Deck to help them find a seat, wealthier passengers giving up their chance of survival to those less fortunate, couples refusing to part and choosing to die together, the officers and crew remaining at their posts until the very end — the disaster also shone a spotlight on the massive social inequality not just aboard the ship but in Edwardian society in general. Barely a quarter of both Third Class and the ship's crew survived, compared to slightly under half of Second Class and near to three quarters of First Class. note  While the Third Class passengers had far outnumbered the other classes, it still wasn't a great look if you were highly privileged and had apparently saved yourself while leaving hundreds of desperate women and children to die; several other people besides Ismay who made it into the lifeboats were plagued by the controversy for the rest of their lives. note  At the same time, the tragedy delivered a solid gut punch to the supposed triumph of man-made technology against the power and threats of the natural world. A ship that was declared to be unsinkable failed to live up to that promise, and not even all their money or influence could save some of the world's richest men from an awful death. note  While not precisely the End of an Age (considering a certain conflict that would erupt and engulf much of the world just two years later), the sinking of Titanic was a massive blow to the constantly preached superiority of Western society and innovation; a reminder that they were not all-powerful.

    The wreck 

The Titanic became another piece of pop culture, including the subject of a number of films, and expeditions searched the bottom of the Atlantic for the ship, with the more fanciful ones believing they could somehow recover the ship entirely. In 1985, a joint French and American team found the wreckage, and the following year the Woods-Hole Oceanographic Institute sent a team, led by discoverer Dr. Robert "Bob" Ballard, to dive and photograph the wreck. Curiously, the wreck was discovered a considerable distance from Titanic's last distress position, some 13 miles away.note 

Today, the wreck lies in two big chunks, with smaller chunks consisting of the middle section over a 15mi2 area. The bow is mostly intact and still resembles a ship, whereas the stern is a jumbled mess of decking and hull plating.note  A vast debris field of personal artifacts, large machinery and wreckage from when Titanic broke up lies scattered around the site. note  The wreck itself is being consumed by iron-eating bacteria, and, assuming that those don't finish her off, recent sonar scans show that dunes that dwarf the ship are slowly being blown her way by the currents, ensuring that the whole site will eventually be buried.

There is much controversy concerning the near-constant dives on the wreck and the issue of salvaging artifacts from the site. Moreover, some visits to the wreck have also caused more damage to it (the team that retrieved the ship's bell destroyed the crow's nest while doing so, which until then had been virtually whole and intact; and on one of the dives with the Russian Mir, a sub accidentally damaged a deckhouse with its propeller). Some, including Ballard himself, equate the salvaging with Grave Robbing, and that the ship should be left to (no pun intended) rust in peace. When Ballard found the wreck of the scuttled Nazi battleship Bismarck a few years after the Titanic discovery, he refused to publicize its location to prevent it from meeting a similar fate. Others claim that such comparisons are invalidated by the treatment of similar legendary disaster sites such as Pompeii, and that it is important to document the wreck site as clearly and thoroughly as possible while the ship still exists, both to ensure the stories of her passengers and crew continue to be told and that the scientific understanding of the tragedy is fully understood.

    The Titan tragedy 

On Sunday, 18 June 2023, the Titan, a commercial submersible operated by the private company OceanGate that provided tours of the Titanic wreckage, suffered a catastrophic implosion during its descent in the water column, instantly killing the five passengers within, including Stockton Rush, the company's founder and CEO.note  The remnants and debris field of the Titan submersible was found to be located 500 meters north of Titanic's bow five days later. The tragic incident garnered international attention and raised more concerns about treating the site as a tourist attraction, with families of Titanic survivors and victims arguing the site should be ruled out of bounds to future tourism ventures. James Cameron, who's very much an expert on the matter as he did 33 dives down to the Titanic wreckage after directing the hugely successful film, found similarities between the two tragedies. Cameron further explained that the Titan and Titanic wrecks both represented the nature of human recklessness and the disregard of caution which led to both of the incidents occurring. Ballard also remarked that, like the Titanic, the aftermath of the Titan implosion would lead to stricter and more refined regulations for future submersible dives to prevent history from repeating itself.note  A French leading expert on the Titanic and friend of Cameron, Paul-Henri Nargeolet, inexplicably was one of the passengers who died in the tragedy.

    Titanic today 

Current international legislation prohibits tampering with the wreck of the ship itself, but the debris field containing thousands of artifacts ranging from pots and pans to shoes to tableware to dolls to wreckage is more or less free rein from which the Salvor-in-Possession Titanic, Inc. (now Premier Exhibitions) is able to collect items, which can be seen in museums and traveling exhibitions the world over.

The Titanic museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland, overlooks the very shipyard where she and her big sister Olympic were built side by side. The museum's four exterior corners are built to the exact size and shape of the ship's hull. The exhibits focus on the construction of the ship and life in Belfast at the time she was being built, as well as the actual disaster and the events which followed; permanently docked just outside the building is the SS Nomadic, the much smaller vessel which transported first- and second-class passengers to the ship in Cherbourg.note  Meanwhile in Cobh, Ireland, her last port of call, a Titanic "trail" guides visitors around the city to important locations connected with the ship, such as the former White Star Line office, and the city garden includes a large memorial.

The last living survivor of the disaster, Millvina Dean (2 months old at the time of the sinking), died on 31 May 2009.

    Works Set aboard RMS Titanic 
Too many to list here, but there a few noteworthy works:
  • Saved from the Titanic (1912): The film was made shortly after the disaster. It starred actress and model Dorothy Gibson, who actually was on the ship and wore the clothes she wore on the ship when making the movie. The prints were destroyed in a fire in 1914 and the film is lost. Gibson, still recovering from her traumatic experience, was reluctant to do the project, but was coerced into it by her manager. Contemporary critics noted that the actress looked strained and on edge throughout the film, and some have criticised the film for cashing in on the tragedy so soon. Dorothy Gibson was so traumatized by the sinking and her subsequent appearance in Saved from the Titanic that she retired from show business after the movie was completed.
  • In Night and Ice: (1912): Originally titled In Nacht und Eis, an early example of a "mockumentary," reenacting the ship's crossing, iceberg collision, and sinking aboard the German luxury liner Kaiserin Auguste Viktoria, along with some laughable by today's standards model footage shot in the Baltic Sea. Unlike the Dorothy Gibson film made a few months prior, this film survives. A copy was rediscovered in 1998 and preserved by the F.W. Murnau Foundation.
  • Atlantic (1929): A very early talkie and one of the first sound British films. The film is a very loose adaptation of the sinking, based on a contemporary play titled The Berg. Due to a threatening letter from White Star Line, the original studio that released the film changed the ship's name (and subsequently the film's title) to a fictional "SS Atlantic."note  The film, while a bit primitive and sloppily made on a low budget, can be seen as a very early prototype of the Disaster Movie sub-genre, establishing various tropes and clichés that would be imitated by subsequent films in the decades to follow. Like many talkies of the time, this film was shot in three separate languages; English, German, and French, each version utilizing a different cast of actors. This was common before dubbing came to popularity as a more cost-effective way to release sound films internationally.
  • Titanic: A 1943 drama film made in Nazi Germany as an anti-British propaganda piece. However, the film was promptly censored and withdrawn after scenes of disaster and panic turned out to be a hot bed for Unfortunate Implications and it was banned in Germany by Joseph Goebbels. Taking cues from the earlier 1929 version, this film further established and cemented many conventions and tropes that were followed up by future Titanic films, like interweaving a fictional love story amongst real historical events and portraying J. Bruce Ismay as the villain. It also takes some weird liberties with the facts for the sake of propaganda—in this film Titanic is the fastest ship in the world, John Jacob Astor is a British Lord who is plotting a hostile takeover of White Star Line, and Ismay pushes Capt. Smith to go faster than necessary as a publicity stunt for the company in an attempt to raise White Star stock prices to fight off the takeover. The ship's sole German crew member, the righteous and incorruptible (and entirely fictional) First Officer Petersen, tries in vain to prevent the inevitable disaster. The special effects footage, using a model 6 meters long, were good enough to be reused in A Night to Remember however.
  • Titanic: "They just didn't care" would be a good way to describe this 1953 Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck movie, which concerns itself more with a fictional custody battle between two catty first class passengers than the actual ship and the subsequent disaster.
  • A Night to Remember: (1958) A docu-novel and later film that has aged remarkably well, and even today is considered one of the most accurate portrayals of the sinking put to film. The largest error is that this film shows Titanic sinking whole, which was the prevailing theory until the actual wreck was discovered in 1985.
  • "The Sinking of the Titanic": (1975) A experimental-classical musical piece composed by Gavin Bryers, which takes the legend of the Titanic's band playing until the very end and imagines the band's final performance reverberating throughout the waters of the Atlantic as the ship goes under.
  • S.O.S. Titanic: (1979) a British/American co-production miniseries using the same docudrama template as A Night to Remember, but covering the ship's entire voyage. Its historical authenticity is marred by lousy special effects, recycled stock footage from the 1958 film and some wildly inaccurate filming locations, which consisted mostly of the very art-deco liner RMS Queen Mary and a couple of luxury hotels in England. The fact that many actors are wildly miscast and look distinctly like they're from The '70s doesn't help the matters either. The film was aired on American television in its entire 144 minute length (excluding commercials) and was released theatrically in Europe as a 100 minute feature.
  • Raise the Titanic!: (1980) Based on the Clive Cussler novel of the same name. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, a team led by Dirk Pitt sets out to find and raise the ship, believing a rare mineral to be on board. The film was one of the most notorious financial and critical flops of the 1970s/1980s, sunk producer Lew Grade, the director of the movie, and ITC Entertainment, and led to an embargo from Cussler regarding his novels until Sahara, which had an even worse reaction from him. This is the final film about the Titanic made and released before the wreck was discovered.
  • "Titanic": This 1983 Chick Tract is set aboard the famous ship, and concerns a man named Chester who wants to get rich and is hostile towards efforts to convert him to Christianity.
  • Titanica: (1992) An IMAX documentary by Stephen Low and originally narrated by Leonard Nimoy, this was also the second ever IMAX exclusive film, done when the format was in complete infancy. This film features how the deep-dives to the Titanic work, and also features interviews from survivors Frank Goldsmith and Eva Hart. This is also the first of several films featuring the Titanic to also feature the research vessel Akademik Mstislav Keldysh, which is one of the primary vessels dealing with the Titanic wreck and would be featured again in both of James Cameron's Titanic films: the 1997 smash, and Disney's Ghosts of the Abyss.
  • Titanic: Adventure Out of Time: (1996) A video game (yes, Titanic has even inspired a video game) about a British agent who had a failed mission aboard the ship. After he's killed in the London Blitz, he's somehow sent back in time to the night of the sinking and given a chance to complete his mission, with the possibility of changing history. Notable for its graphics capturing every detail of the ship, to the point that several documentaries of the late 90s used the game to depict the sinking. Because it was released a few weeks prior to the 1996 miniseries below, this game holds the honor of being the first fictional work to show Titanic splitting in two.
  • Titanic: (1996) Another "they just didn't care" version (this time a TV miniseries) which features historical inaccuracies in nearly every scene, removing several figures from the sinking, and have completely out-of-left-field scenes such as Tim Curry raping a young Third Class passenger. Noteworthy for being the first live-action production to show the Titanic splitting in two before the sinking.
  • Titanic: (1997), James Cameron's multi-billion blockbuster that launched Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet into super stardom. Unlike other films, which generally use an existing ocean liner for the set, Cameron worked to literally build the ship itself and get every possible detail right, from the layout of the boat deck to the patterns on the fine china. Currently rivals A Night to Remember as the most accurate depiction of the sinking, as it includes the ship visibly breaking in two. The second of at least 3 films about the Titanic to use the research/submersible vessel Akademik Mstislav Keldysh; like Titanica, deep dives are shown in detail at the very beginning of the movie, and the main character retells her story on board the Keldysh. Unfortunately, Cameron wasn't one to let the facts get in the way of a good story - while no one can accuse him and his creative team of not doing the research at all, many liberties were taken, including the erroneous portrayal of Murdoch. Nevertheless, this was the highest grossing film of all time for over a decade, and currently holds a three-way tie for the most Oscars won by a single film (along with Ben-Hur and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).
  • The NewsRadio episode "Sinking Ship" (aired 1998) is a non-canonical What If? episode throwing the cast aboard the Titanic in an obvious parody of the Cameron film, including the obligatory references to the "King of the world" and nude portrait scenes. (Several props were apparently reused from the movie, at least according to the DVD Commentary.) As one might expect from a one off Bizarro Episode of a comedy series, it runs largely on Rule of Funny instead of any kind of serious historical accuracy - though the set design, special effects, and costuming are actually quite impressive for a multi-cam sitcom. (Said costuming even won the show's only Emmy award.) It's also used as something of a sly metaphor for the show itself, as the declining ratings and shoddy treatment by NBC left the staff convinced that the show was likely on the way out and wouldn't get a fifth season. (It ultimately did.) So they saw the show itself as a "sinking ship", so to speak.
  • Titanic: The Legend Goes On: One of the cartoonified versions, featuring a gender-flipped version of the 1997 film's romance, recycled animation, and a rapping dog. Seriously. Also ripped off a bunch of Disney Animated Canon films in the character designs.
  • The Legend of the Titanic: Another cartoonified version, featuring another ripoff romance, singing mice, a giant octopus who saves the ship, and everyone lives. And it has a sequel, In Search of the Titanic. You can't make this stuff up. All three movies earned scathing reviews from The Nostalgia Critic, with Youtube personality AniMat giving The Legend of the Titanic his "Seal of Garbage".
  • And from SNL's TV Funhouse, Titey, the purported Disney version.
  • Titenic (yes that's how its spelled), a Beat 'em Up (!!!) action game made to cash in on the James Cameron movie. It's also unlicensed, unsurprisingly.
  • Ghosts Of The Abyss: (2003) A follow-up by James Cameron on the Titanic (this one was done by Disney rather than Paramount or Fox), once again operating from the Keldysh, which was his base of operations for Titanic 1997 regarding dives (and was featured in the film) and had previously been the base of operations for Titanica 5 years earlier. This one also had a dive on September 11th, which got woven into the film.
  • Titanic, a 2011 trilogy of young adult books by Gordon Korman about four kids whose stories intersect aboard the liner.
  • Titanic: A 2012 miniseries by Julian Fellowes to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking. It's essentially "Downton Abbey at Sea." Aired in four parts, the series pretty much rehashes all the other fictional accounts of the Titanic disaster, filled with fictional characters, melodramatic intrigue, painful historical inaccuracies, and shallow caricature portrayals of actual historical persons onboard. It is also noted for a bizarre and unnecessary "Rashomon"-Style narrative.
  • Titanic: Blood and Steel: A 2012 12-part TV series also made to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking, which focuses on Titanic's construction at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. Filled with Foreshadowing as to Titanic's'm eventual fate, the series follows metallurgist Dr. Mark Muir as he helps build the Titanic'' in the face of White Star's (unsubstantiated accusations of) cost-cutting measures, Belfast's class, political and religious divides, and his own past with the city.
  • Saving the Titanic deviates from the usual Titanic formula by dramatizing the efforts of the engineering and boiler room crews on board as the ship sank.
  • The Last Signals is an independently produced Youtube film about the ship's two wireless operators, Jack Phillips and Harold Bride, and their increasingly frantic efforts to alert nearby ships for help. Despite its low budget, it was well-received for its historical accuracy and showing the desperation of the two men.
  • SOS: The Titanic Inquiry is a 2012 BBC TV movie which is a bit of a variant as it is a dramatization of the British Board of Trade inquiry of the disaster in which the crew of the Californian were grilled about their actions that night.
  • Titanic: Honor and Glory: A video game currently stuck in development. The original concept was to feature a story arc in which the protagonist must solve a crime he didn't commit, and also serve as a learning tool capturing every detail of the ship. The creators have been conducting exhaustive research into the sinking, even creating a real-time video of the sinking using the game's engine. Their YouTube channel is an absolute gold mine of information about the ship, the sinking, and the history around the same in the form of both informational videos and podcasts. However, after internal strife, the project is currently being reevaluated, now being focused on a virtual tour. A side project Britannic: Patroness of the Mediterranean has been released, in which players can tour Titanic's doomed sister Britannic, both as a hospital ship and in her intended White Star Line configuration.
  • The aptly titled Voyage of Despair revolves around four robbers attempting to steal a strange artifact. This wouldn't be anything that interesting... if it weren't for the fact that this is a Call of Duty: Zombies map. Needless to say, the cause of the sinking is very much different.
  • Titanic: a musical with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and a book by Peter Stone. It opened on Broadway in 1997 (incidentally, the same year as James Cameron's take) and swept that year's Tony Awards, winning all five categories it was nominated for (including Best Musical and Best Score).
  • Titanic — In Her Own Words is a 2014 BBC Radio documentary that takes the transcriptions of the Morse Code messages sent to and from the ship during the disaster, as well as the Morse traffic that happened around it, and uses voice synthesis technology to present the messages as a conversation between all the different ships and the Cape Race Lighthouse. The result is both heart-rending and chilling.
  • The Sherlock Holmes Stories of Edward D. Hoch: In "The Adventure of the Dying Ship", Sherlock Holmes is travelling aboard the Titanic and solves a murder as the ship is sinking. He also witnesses the last moments of Historical Domain Character Jacques Futrelle: a mystery author who perished in the sinking.
  • White Star Liner, a 2018 album by Public Service Broadcasting, tells the story of the ship from construction to wreckage.

    References in Other Works 
  • The Titanic is what set off the plot of Downton Abbey: Lord Robert's two closest heirs were on board and died in the sinking, leaving the next possible heir to his title and estates (and more importantly, his wife's money) a distant cousin who works as a solicitor.
  • The Doctor Who Christmas Special "Voyage of the Damned" takes place on board a spaceship modeled on the ''Titanic'', built by an alien race to experience "primitive cultures" like ours, with the rationale for the design being that Titanic is "the most famous vessel of the planet Earth". The Doctor lampshades the inherent Tempting Fate - "Did they tell you why it was famous?". Naturally, it meets with disaster, though it's closer to The Poseidon Adventure than the actual disaster or any of the works based on it.
    • The Titanic is alluded to twice in the Ninth Doctor's tenure: in his first episode he appears in a picture with a family that were due to be on the ship but mysteriously canceled their trip at the last minute, and indirectly in the next episode, where the Doctor claims to have been on the voyage himself.
      Doctor: I was onboard another ship once. They said that was unsinkable. I ended up clinging to an iceberg. Wasn't half cold!
  • Chapters 35 and 36 of Gardens of Time revolve around the Titanic.
  • Ghostbusters II: Played for Laughs when a ghostly version of the ship arrives in New York in 1989, and ghosts start disembarking. "It's some dock supervisor down at Pier 34 on the Hudson. The guy's going nuts." "What's the problem?" "He says the Titanic just arrived." Made even funnier by the dock supervisor being played by Cheech Marin. *shrug* "Better late than never!"
  • The heroine of the Danielle Steel novel No Greater Love takes charge of her younger siblings after surviving the disaster but losing her parents and fiance. The 1995 TV film adaptation reuses footage from S.O.S. Titanic, which in turn includes footage that S.O.S. Titanic reused from A Night to Remember.
  • The Visual Novel Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is set on the restored Britannic (though it's identified by the alternative name "Gigantic"). Actually, while a backstory event takes place on the actual restored Britannic, the events of the game take place in a replica built in a building in the desert of Nevada. References to the Titanic's sinking as well as the Britannic's own are prevalent, including correctly identifying the roles of Carpathia and Mackay-Bennett and mentioning an urban legend that it was actually Olympic that sank.
  • From Time to Time, sequel to Time and Again, has the protagonist aboard the Titanic to try to prevent the collision. Another time agent's actions cause it.
  • In Millennium (1983) (written in 1983, two years before the wreck was found), co-protagonist Louise says the wreckage was never found because the whole ship was brought forward in time.
  • Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?: During their first clash ten years before the events of the show, Dr. Maelstrom's end goal was to float and steal the sunken ship, while Carmen (an ACME agent at the time) worked frantically to catch up to and stop him before he succeeded. The wreck was mentioned to have been found by Dr. Ballard the day after Maelstrom's arrest.
  • Lady Marjorie of Upstairs Downstairs is revealed to have perished in the disaster.
  • Supernatural: In "My Heart Will Go On", Balthazar (off-screen) travels back in time and prevents the Titanic from sinking, creating an alternate timeline where the Earth's population is bigger because the people who would have died didn't and had descendants, plus other differences like Céline Dion never became famous and is nothing but a destitute lounge singer because the 1997 film was never made. Balthazar claims he did it because he hated the 1997 movie and Celine Dion, which may be true, but the real reason was that Castiel wanted to increase Earth's population so that there would eventually be more souls to bolster Heaven in its war against Hell. Atropos forces them to go back and ensure the Titanic sinks, restoring the timeline.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL: Umimi Habera (Brooke Walker) has a monster card called Supercolossal, Unsinkable Superliner - Elegant Titanic (Unsinkable Titanica). Despite its name and appearance, it doesn't get destroyed.
  • Time Bandits: Kevin and the titular bandits briefly visit the ship right before it hits the iceberg. This is Played for Laughs, as Randall asks for champagne with plenty of ice.
  • One chapter of Jigsaw puts you on board, right at the crucial moment.
  • The 1.5 Mod for Empire Earth II lets you build the Titanic from the Modern Age onward. It's the biggest unit in the game and has a carrying capacity of 500 (the last transport can carry less than 30), but has no defenses. And instead of voicelines, it plays snippets of "My Heart Will Go On".
  • Just a Pilgrim: Set in a world where the oceans have dried up due to the sun expanding sooner than predicted (as in, several billion years ahead of schedule), the pilgrim and the refugees he's accompanying come across the wreck of the Titanic and use it as an improvised fortress against wasteland raiders.
  • Jour J: One story sees the Titanic saved because a young boy was looking through his telescope and spotted the iceberg in time. The boy would later become a journalist who exposed Al Capone meeting with criminals (preventing Prohibition). World War II is prevented when the Titanic still sinks sometime in the 30s, taking two men named Einstein and Hitler with it. The journalist ends up as President but uses ever more extremist means to preserve his utopia, and when he voluntarily euthanizes himself at age 100 on a space station, the Earth is on the brink of a medical disaster due to the population being unable to resist antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • In Cavalcade, Robert and Jane Marryot's son Edward honeymoons on the Titanic, and doesn't survive. It's the first major tragedy for the family in the film, the second being World War I.
  • The Time Tunnel: The first episode has them travel back in time using the titular time tunnel to the Titanic. The last episode also has them go to the Titanic at the very end after they just did their latest adventure so it would lead to summer reruns. (The exterior ship footage is recycled from the 1953 film version.)
  • The ship makes an anachronistic appearance in Holmes & Watson, where it is the site of an attempted assassination of Queen Victoria, who died eleven years before the Titanic set sail.
  • In Goodbye, Mr. Chips, one scene has the school learning about the sinking of the Titanic, and that the father of one of the students was on board. The whole school celebrates when the news comes through that he got off safely. (In a sobering epilogue to the scene, the narrator adds that in the end, due to the war that broke out a few years later, the father outlived his son.)
  • At the end of A Scholar of Magics, set in an alternate history, one of the characters travels to America on the Titanic. It's mentioned in passing that this is not the ship's first voyage and that the crew are hoping to break their own speed record.
  • Wolf in Shadow is set after a great cataclysm greatly altered the shape of the Earth and crashed civilization. Just how much alteration the cataclysm caused is underlined when the protagonist comes across the wreck of the Titanic in the middle of the desert he's crossing.
  • The Big Bus: The oil tycoon known as Ironman is part of a conspiracy to discredit any source of energy other than oil. He mentions his grandfather causing the Titanic disaster.
  • Night Gallery: In "Lone Survivor", a ship picks up an amnesiac man in a lifeboat labeled from the Titanic, even though it has been three years since it sank. Eventually, the man remembers his past. He was a crewmember on the Titanic who cowardly got on the lifeboat by disguising himself as a woman, but when he jumped in, his weight made the lifeboat's ropes come loose and it fell into the water. While he was able to hold on, everyone else fell out and died. He found out that for his cowardice, he was damned into a form of the Flying Dutchman to float on the ocean forever and only be picked up by ships doomed to sink. The ship that picked him up is revealed to be the RMS Lusitania. It gets sunk by the German U-boats and the man is cast adrift in a lifeboat again, only to be picked up by the SS Andrea Doria.
  • Family Guy: The episode "Stewie, Chris, & Brian's Excellent Adventure" features Stewie and Brian taking Chris back in time in an attempt to help him with a history test. At one point, they end up on the Titanic. The ship is inaccurately depicted leaving London rather than Southampton, and the iceberg collision occurs during dinner rather than late at night.
  • Briefly referred to on Star Trek: Voyager when Tom Paris comes up with a way to upgrade Voyager's internal defenses based on Titanic's design. Captain Janeway points out that Titanic sank.
  • Canadian paranormal-themed TV shows Creepy Canada and Ghostly Encounters both had episodes about hauntings that take place at the Five Fishermen restaurant in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The restaurant is often featured in anthologies of Canadian ghost stories as well. The alleged reason for the hauntings is that the building used to be a funeral home and received several victims from the sinking of the Titanic.note 
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: Surviving the sinking (and finding himself still pursued by a voodoo zombie over the frozen Atlantic) is one of the many historical-domain events in Scrooge's Expansion Pack Past.
  • Tasting History with Max Miller has a short series on the stories and foods of the Titanic, a subject Max is fascinated by.note  Interestingly, the series is timed to end the week of the 110th anniversary of the sinking.
  • The 1960 musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown and its 1964 film adaptation is a highly fictionalised account of Titanic survivor Margaret Brown's life. The Titanic scenes in the film consist of stock footage from both 1953's Titanic and 1958's A Night to Remember.
  • The 17th book of the Magic Tree House series, Tonight on the Titanic, features Jack and Annie visiting the ship on the night of the sinking.
  • In "Kid Stuff", the Ultraterrestrial antagonist states that their Hidden Elf Village island was struck by the Titanic. The whole population working together managed to get the proper Perception Fiter in place.
  • "Titanic" is one of the houses on Glider PRO CD, and the Excuse Plot here is to make it off the cruise ship onto the dock. The ship hasn't left yet, but it's shown that parts have already started to flood.

Here is a gray lady, an elegant lady, the queen of the deep.
A sad lady, a silent lady, are you now asleep?
Can we learn from your sorrow to share?
Teach us to understand and certainly to care.
That never again will there ever be a gray lady, an elegant lady,
Slip unwillingly into the sea.
Dr. Roy Cullimore


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Titanic


Fozzie's Titanic joke

To try and win over his audience, Fozzie makes a joke about the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Waldorf thinks it's funny, but Statler, who happens to be a Titanic survivor, is offended.

How well does it match the trope?

4.96 (28 votes)

Example of:

Main / DudeNotFunny

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