jack and rose onboard the rms titanic in the 1997 film titanic

My Heart Will Not Go On: 25 Years Later, China Still Loves ‘Titanic’

The film’s romance, heart-wrenching sacrifice, and Celine Dion’s dulcet tones have secured ‘Titanic’ a lasting place in the hearts of Chinese people

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6:27 PM HKT, Thu October 20, 2022 1 mins read

The 1997 film Titanic, about a romance aboard the doomed RMS Titanic, remains one of the Chinese web’s most-searched-for films almost 25 years after its initial release, according to a list of the 30 most popular films compiled by search engine Baidu.

The film, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, is the oldest on the list, where it ranks 15th.

promotional poster for titanic in china

The Chinese poster for Titanic (1997)

Evidence of the hit film’s continued popularity in China abounds: There are still new posts about Titanic going up daily on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo and review aggregator Douban, where the film holds a rating of 9.4/10.

Additionally, the 2012 3-D version of the film grossed a then-record-breaking 67 million USD at the Chinese box office after merely six days of screening.

the sinking rms titanic in the film titanic

The film’s depiction of the sinking of the RMS Titanic

A life-sized replica of the titular ship has also been under construction at a Southwest China amusement park since 2016, reportedly costing 1 billion RMB (more than 138 million USD) so far. The project’s main backer was allegedly inspired by the Oscar-winning movie.

Titanic director James Cameron even worked with director Arthur Jones and producer Luo Tong to create the 2021 documentary The Six, which chronicles the stories of six Chinese survivors of the tragedy.

promotional poster for the documentary the six

A promotional poster for the documentary The Six

The original Titanic is a classic in the U.S., where about 85% of people reported having watched it. However, the film is slightly less enduring in the general Western psyche than it is among Chinese citizens. Case in point: All the films on Rotten Tomatoes’ current list of the 30 most popular movies are from the past two years, with the only exception being Halloween from 2018.

Suo Yabin at the Chinese newspaper People’s Daily theorized in 2012 that the popularity of Titanic was due to the tried-and-true trope of “a poor young man and a rich girl… [which] has a long history in the popular culture of China.”

This sentiment is echoed by some Weibo users, one of whom wrote, “Titanic makes me believe in love forever.”

jack and rose in titanic

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack and Kate Winslet as Rose in Titanic

The film’s theme of sacrifice may also register with many Chinese viewers. Ethnographer James Watson believes that some viewers subconsciously identify Jack’s sacrifice and Rose’s subsequent loss of innocence with the upheaval of the Cultural Revolution.

Notably, Titanic is Communist Party of China-approved: In 2012, former Party Chief Jiang Zemin said he had been moved by the film and recommended it to other members of the Politburo.

a scene onboard the titanic in the film titanic

A scene onboard the ship from the movie

Titanic also kick-started Celine Dion’s fame in China. Memorably, she sang the film’s theme song, ‘My Heart Will Go On,’ at the 2013 CCTV New Year’s Gala.

Whether because of its romance, heart-wrenching sacrifice, or Dion’s dulcet tones, one thing remains true: Titanic has found a lasting place for itself in the hearts of Chinese people.

All images via IMDb

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