After Titanic was released in 1997 it cleaned up at the box office and during awards season alike. To this day, the three-hour epic is still generally held in high regard by critics and the general public alike. But upon closer inspection, the film is actually riddled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Unconvinced? Then read on….
40. Lake Wissota
When Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jack first meets Rose, played by Kate Winslet, she is contemplating suicide by throwing herself off the ship. But Jack manages to talk her down, partly with an evocative story about Lake Wissota. While a touching moment in the film, the ice-fishing tale actually doesn’t make sense. That’s because the artificial reservoir didn’t come into existence until 1918 – long after the Titanic had already sunk.
39. Jack and Rose ditch Molly
At one point in the film, Jack acts as the perfect gentleman by agreeing to accompany both Rose and Molly – played by Kathy Bates – to dinner. But when the aspiring artist arrives at the said meal just a few seconds later, Molly is no longer on his arm. Instead, she follows behind and appears back at Jack’s side independently.
38. Modern-day handcuffs
When Jack gets arrested and detained in the master-at-arms’ office, it falls to Rose to release him in a bid to spare him from a watery fate. But the curious thing about this scene is the apparent age of the handcuffs used to restrain the captive. A close-up of the shackles revealed that they have a welded joint – but this didn’t exist back in 1912 when the Titanic took its maiden voyage.
37. Suspicious sunset
The direction in which the Titanic was traveling is well documented and, for the most part, director James Cameron used these records to inform his creative decisions. But when Rose and Jack practice their spitting technique on the port side of the ship, there’s something amiss. Given their location on the boat and the position of the sun as it sinks below the horizon, it would appear they are moving in a northwesterly direction, as opposed to the southwest route the cruiser really took.
36. Hills of Connemara
In one of the more jovial scenes from Titanic, Jack and Rose let loose with the third-class passengers by performing a jig in steerage. Curiously though, the song to which they dance is called “Hills of Connemara.” It’s credited to one Sean McCarthy, who wasn’t born until 1923, over a decade after the film is set.
35. Jack’s floppy locks
In recent years, Jack’s hair in Titanic has become almost as iconic as the movie itself. But his floppy cut apparently caused quite a few continuity problems in the finished film. For example, when Jack talks Rose down from the edge of the boat, his locks alternate from being tucked behind his ear to flowing freely as the scene plays out.
34. Faulty Freud reference
At one point in the film, Rose shows off her education by telling Bruce Ismay all about Sigmund Freud’s work on masculinity. Her knowledge of Freud should be considered impressive indeed, given that the theory to which she’s referring, the male preoccupation with size, wasn’t published until 1919. That’s seven years after the Titanic sank.
33. Reappearing glass
In order to break Jack free from his prison, Rose makes use of a fireman’s axe from a box mounted in a corridor. In the dramatic scene, she’s seen smashing through the glass to get to the tool. She does a good job of this, clearing most of the frame. But when we cut to another shot, many of the shards have magically reappeared.
32. Wrinkled capstan
To make the film as realistic-looking as possible, Cameron relied on a good degree of stunt action, rather than visual effects. This mostly pays off. But in the scene in which the Titanic starts to sink, a passenger is seen smashing into a capstan as the ship tilts vertically. The only problem is the supposedly-metal cylinder wrinkles on impact, confirming that it is in fact made of foam.
31. Thomas Andrews
Thomas Andrews is one of the real-life Titanic passengers depicted in the movie and is played by Victor Garber. In the film, the chief designer of the ship is seen watching a clock tick by as the vessel submerges. According to eyewitness accounts though, the real Andrews acted as a hero in the thick of the action – helping people onto lifeboats and throwing furniture overboard to act as floatation devices.
30. End of set visible
In the scene where Jack is imprisoned, there’s a shot of him staring out of a porthole. But as the camera tracks along the length of the ship, the end of the set is visible, with the hull abruptly missing beyond a certain point. The error isn’t that noticeable for the split-second that it’s on view, but effectively shatters the illusion if you do spot it.
29. Rose’s beauty mark
When we first meet Rose at the start of the movie, a beauty spot can clearly be seen on the left side of her face as she steps onto the dock. For the rest of Titanic, though, the mark is on the right of her face. It turns out that filmmakers visually reversed the first scene so that it slotted in with another sequence.
28. Visible stunt double
In scenes where the action is cranked up, stunt doubles were used to fill in for the film’s main actors. Usually, the switch occurs without the audience even knowing. But when Jack hauls Rose back over the railings of the ship after her talking her out of ending it all, it’s quite clearly not DiCaprio doing the lifting.
27. Moving handprint
In one romantic scene, things get steamy – quite literally – between Rose and Jack in a car. In the heat of the moment, Rose leaves a handprint on the condensation-soaked window. But when this print is shown from another angle, it’s neither the same shape nor in the same position as the original.
26. White flashlight
When the crewmembers are looking for Jack and Rose in the storeroom, the torches they’re carrying admit a bright, white light. This is at odds with the technology available in 1912, with bulbs back then glowing a yellow color. Some buffs have even pinpointed the exact bulb used in the scene – the Short-Arc Xenon – which certainly wasn’t available in the early 20th century.
25. “Jack’s” reflection
On a number of occasions throughout Titanic production staff are accidentally caught on camera. One particularly glaring example of this occurs when Jack ventures into first class. This scene unfolds supposedly from Jack’s perspective, but as we approach the glass door, the reflection reveals a cameraman and his equipment rather than our leading man.
24. Obvious wig
In the film, Billy Zane stars as the villainous Cal Hockley, who sports a thick head of dark hair. Unfortunately, though, the mane was all fake. If you look closely at Cal’s hairline, a line of glue that holds the wig in place is clearly visible. While the oversight may have been less obvious when Titanic was released in 1997, advancements in HD technology mean that the false hair is now hard to miss.
23. Jack’s Santa Monica story
At one point in the action, Jack and Rose fantasize about visiting Santa Monica Pier together. Painting a vivid picture, Jack even tells his sweetheart they’ll “ride on the roller coaster until we throw up.” While not the most romantic day out, such a trip would have been an impossibility in 1912 too, because the ride wasn’t built until four years later.
22. Silent double bass
Survivors of the Titanic disaster reported that the band continued to play as the ship sank in order to maintain morale. And this legendary story of heroics is depicted in the movie, but some things don’t add up. One of the musicians seen playing on deck has a double bass, but that instrument is impossible to discern in the moving rendition of “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”
21. Computer-generated faces
In the scene where Jack and Rose run through the ship’s corridors trying to escape the rising water, stunt doubles were used. But in one shot, with the characters running towards the camera, it was necessary to overlay DiCaprio’s and Winslet’s faces over their doubles’ to sustain the visual narrative. Unfortunately, the computer-generated faces aren’t that well-executed, and at some points, you can even see the stand-ins’ faces through the graphics.
20. Molly Brown
Molly Brown was a prominent character in Titanic, but the real-life woman was much more heroic than the narrative would have us believe. After escaping the sinking ship on a lifeboat, Brown took over the vessel and returned to the site of the disaster in order to look for survivors. What’s more, while the character is called Molly by name in the movie, she never actually went by that moniker during her lifetime.
19. Jack’s vanishing suspenders
In the scene in which Rose busts Jack free of his handcuffs, there are some curious discrepancies in the jailbird’s wardrobe. Before Rose swings an axe in his direction, he’s seen wearing suspenders. But as she strikes his handcuffs, the apparel vanishes into thin air. It seems that the costume department forgot to finish DiCaprio’s stunt double’s outfit, hence the omission of the suspenders.
18. Third-class passengers weren’t locked below deck
As the Titanic sinks in the movie, third-class passengers are locked away in steerage to allow wealthier passengers to escape first. While this is a dramatic point in the narrative, it’s completely fictional. Though there were gates to separate lower-class passengers from the others, there’s no evidence that crowds were forcibly kept from the ship’s deck.
17. Stuntman’s wire
When the Titanic starts to sink, there’s a scene in which some men fall into a hole created in the splitting deck. At first glance, the action looks pretty dramatic, but on closer inspection, you can clearly see the cable used to haul the stuntman into the void. It’s a small detail, but it certainly ruins the effect when noticed.
16. Disappearing deck items
Just before the Titanic breaks in two, a wide shot of the ship shows a bunch of stuff mounted on the deck towards the bow. But when the point of view changes, all the pipes and cranes visible from the previous angle are somehow no longer there – with no explanation as to where they went.
15. Left-handed crank cameras
Before the Titanic sets sail, a man can be seen filming the ship’s departure on a left-handed crank camera. The problem is, such a device didn’t exist, as all of them were operated by the right hand. The historical inaccuracy was caused when the scene was flipped to ensure the Titanic was setting sail in the right direction. But by fixing one error, filmmakers created another.
14. Stage light in shot
Watching an armed Cal chase Jack and Rose through the flooding decks of the Titanic, you may have been too engrossed in the action to notice a visible stage light to the left of the shot. Still, the error was actually picked up by editors. As a result, it’s been removed from later editions of the movie.
13. Song from the future
When Jack emerges on deck on his last day on the Titanic he is greeted by the sound of a congregation singing “Eternal Father.” While some believe the hymn was sung on the voyage, it won’t have been the version we hear in the film. That’s because the verse about protecting the Air Force wasn’t added until 1937.
12. Lifeboat lowering continuity
As Rose departs the Titanic in a lifeboat her descent is observed by Cal and Jack. And we hear the vessel continuing to be lowered into the water as the shot cuts to the two men talking. Yet when we return to Rose, it seems she’s been raised rather than lowered, as she’s now closer to the deck than she was before.
11. Vanishing crowds
Before the Titanic departs, a large crowd is gathered on the side of the dock to wave the ship and its passengers off. But when the action moves to Jack, who is playing cards in a nearby pub, a view through the window suggests the hundreds of people have all cleared off. Somehow though, they all return in time for Jack to leave the establishment and make his way to the ship.
10. Rose’s helping hand
In the intimate scene where Jack draws Rose, the pair are meant to be completely alone. But when Rose enters the room to pose, it’s clear that there’s a third person involved in the action. That’s because, if you look carefully, you can see a mysterious arm wrenching open the door for the character.
9. Design of the ship changes
Eagle-eyed audience members might notice that the design of the Titanic differs somewhat from scene to scene. For instance, comparing the scene in which Jack and Fabrizzio stand at the bow of the ship with the iconic part when Jack and Rose do the same, things look very different. This is because a set and a model were used to recreate the cruiser, but they didn’t match completely.
8. Will Murdoch didn’t crack under pressure
In the Hollywood blockbuster, William Murdoch – the officer in charge when the Titanic capsized – is seen cracking under pressure. The character, played by Ewan Stewart, dramatically shoots two passengers, before turning the gun on himself. By all accounts though, the real-life Murdoch did everything he could to prevent the collision and subsequently helped 330 survivors onto eight lifeboats.
7. Reappearing lifejacket
As the stern of the Titanic sinks, what remains of the ship first tilts vertically, and Jack and Rose are seen clinging to a railing for dear life. Other passengers around them also grip to whatever they can, including one man who’s clinging desperately to a flagpole. What’s unusual about him is the fact he’s not wearing a lifejacket in one shot but appears to be in the next.
6. Statue of Liberty
When Rose arrives in New York, she’s greeted by the Statue of Liberty, which looks much like we know it today. The problem is that, back in 1912, the monument would have been more like its original brown color rather than green. What’s more, the golden hue which adorns the flame atop the torch was only added in 1986, with the original having been lit from inside.
5. Jack’s nose icicles
Before Jack [spoiler alert] meets his watery end in the film, he’s seen freezing to death in the ocean alongside Rose. At first, while his hair and eyebrows are coated in icicles, his nose is completely frost-free. But in a later shot, his upper lip is covered in frost, despite the fact he doesn’t appear to be breathing at all.
4. Lifeboats weren’t offered to first class passengers first
In the film, it’s suggested that the limited lifeboat capacity on board the Titanic meant spaces on them were offered initially only to first-class passengers. But there’s no evidence that such discrimination was at play during the evacuation. The order was to give women and children first priority, but lists of survivors show these came from all classes of passengers.
3. Wayward flashlight beam
When some crew return to the site of the Titanic disaster, two of them are holding flashlights to look for survivors in the water. But there seems to be a third light shining directly onto the lifeboat itself. There’s no clear explanation as to where this beam is coming from. Strange, given that they’re in the middle of the ocean.
2. That they used flashlights at all
While we’re on the subject, it also seems unlikely that flashlights would have been used in the Titanic rescue efforts at all. The flashlight was a relatively new invention in 1912 and its use wasn’t widespread at the time. Cameron was aware of the inaccuracy, but apparently, let it slide for the sake of convenience when filming.
1. Rose hits Jack’s hand with the axe
In the film, it seems that Rose has extraordinary accuracy as she manages to split Jack’s handcuffs using an axe with her eyes closed. But if you watch the scene frame by frame, it becomes obvious that Rose actually hits her lover with the tool. Thankfully, the prop was seemingly made of rubber, which seems lucky given that the characters already had a sinking ship to deal with.