When it comes to romantic epics, few are as memorable as James Cameron’s 1997 film about the sinking of the RMS Titanic. “Titanic” won 11 Academy Awards, including best picture, and made bona fide stars of its leads, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Their characters, Jack and Rose, fell in love despite their disparate social classes, and their passionate affair met a tragic, inevitable end.
The film itself became a phenomenon, permeating pop culture in a way that has endured through the advent of social media and Internet memes.
Twenty years after it hit the big screen, these are the moments from “Titanic” that we remember most.
The scene: Despite his third-class passenger status, Jack’s very excited to be onboard. He stands at the bow of the ship as the wind blows through his hair, pumps his fists into the air and shouts, “I’m the king of the world! Woo hoo hoo!”
Why we can’t forget it: Sure, it’s a cheesy line, but DiCaprio’s unbridled enthusiasm reminds us why this film shot him to superstardom. The declaration is also on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years . . . 100 Movie Quotes” list, coming in at No. 100.
Where we’ve seen it since: When he won best director for “Titanic” in 1998, Cameron ended his acceptance speech at the Oscars with the iconic line, although he later confessed to “making a fool of” himself. It’s also been a part of oh-so-many pop-culture moments since, from an irreverent “Amistad”-themed spoof that accompanied 2000’s “Scary Movie” in theaters to a line in a 2009 “Saturday Night Live” digital short — (“I’m the king of the world/on a boat like Leo”) — aptly titled “I’m on a Boat.”
The scene: After rebuffing Jack’s advances out of obligatory loyalty to her arrogant and abusive fiance, Cal (Billy Zane), Rose escapes from a stuffy first-class tea and finds Jack at the end of the gliding ship. “Close your eyes,” he tells her, helping her step onto the boat’s railing. Once steady, she opens her eyes. “I’m flying,” Rose says breathlessly as Jack holds her tightly, interlocking his hands with hers.
Why we can’t forget it: This is where Jack and Rose share their first kiss. So much chemistry!
Where we’ve seen it since: In terms of scenes to reenact on large boats, this is right up there with the aforementioned “I’m the king of the world.” When Jonah Hill hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 2014, his “Wolf of Wall Street” co-star DiCaprio stopped by to riff on the scene during a “nervous” Hill’s monologue. “Can we do the thing, the thing we always did every day, the thing that made me feel safe?” Hill asked. DiCaprio obliged by wrapping his arms around Hill’s midsection and nuzzling his cheek. “Am I flying, Jack?” Hill asked. “Yes, you are flying,” DiCaprio replied.
Winslet got in on the fun during a 2015 episode of “Running Wild With Bear Grylls.” “Jack! I feel like I’m flying,” she called out to the survivalist host while scaling down a Snowdonia mountain range.
The scene: After discovering Jack’s passion for art, Rose asks him to sketch her portrait. In a snub to Cal, she suggests posing in an expensive, rare blue diamond he gave her. As in, wearing only the diamond.
Why we can’t forget it: It’s a decidedly feminist moment. And DiCaprio’s boyish good looks complement his character’s shaky nerves as Jack respectfully accommodates Rose’s request.
Where we’ve seen it since: All over the Internet, as a go-to caption for photos featuring seductive poses. They are usually of the silly variety — think a chunky pug lying on pillows in an ornately decorated room, or an animated Spider-Man splayed out on the floor.
The scene: While exploring the ship, Jack and Rose find a Renault town car in the cargo hold. Jack pretends to be Rose’s chauffeur, but things get steamy when Rose pulls Jack into the back seat with her. “Put your hands on me, Jack,” she says. Cameron leaves much of the scene to the imagination, but it’s actually Rose’s hand that ends up, indelibly, in another place: sliding down the car’s fogged-up window.
Why we can’t forget it: Is it hot in here? Asking for a friend.
Where we’ve seen it since: In our heads, whenever we see a steamy surface. And we’re not the only ones. Jezebel once played host to a heated debate about which position the couple would have had to be in for Rose’s hand to end up against the window.
The scene: After the ship sinks, Jack gets Rose to relative safety by guiding her toward a door floating in the North Atlantic. But, as the scene goes, there is only enough room for Rose, leaving Jack to freeze to death.
Why we can’t forget it: Whether Jack could have fit on the door has become one of the most hotly debated questions of our time.
Where we’ve seen it since: In 2012, following a viral photo reenactment that successfully placed two people on a space equivalent to the “Titanic” door, Cameron responded to the controversy by saying that it was a matter of buoyancy, not space.
Later that year, “Mythbusters” put Cameron’s claim to the test. It took a few attempts, but hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage discovered that there was a plausible way to fit two people on top of the wood. The director was on hand to hear the conclusion.
“I think you guys are missing the point here,” Cameron said. “The script says Jack dies. He has to die. So maybe we screwed up and the board should have been a little, tiny bit smaller, but the dude’s going down.”
The scene: As the Titanic sinks and passengers die en masse, Jack tries to get Rose to envision her future and asks her to promise him she won’t give up. “Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that promise,” he tells her. “I promise,” she says. “I will never let go, Jack. I’ll never let go.”
Her promise becomes a metaphor for their love, but audiences also took it literally, since Rose and Jack were tightly holding hands. Alas, Jack is dead by the time the rescue ship arrives, and Rose must let go. She pries Jack’s hand from hers, kisses it and reiterates the promise as he sinks into the ocean.
Why we can’t forget it: We can still hear the sobs echoing through the theater.
Where we’ve seen it since: The Internet loves to point out the irony of Rose’s promise through cynical memes that play on the inherent cruelty of her impossible choice. Take this depressing line, superimposed on an iconic image of the icicle-riddled duo in Jack’s last moments: “I’ll never let go. (Lets go immediately.)”
And like most Internet memes, cute animals — such as otters clinging desperately to one another — factor into other iterations.
The scene: A salvage ship crew, searching for Titanic-era artifacts, asks Rose, who has come onboard, to recount her experience on the ill-fated ship. She begins by saying, “It’s been 84 years.”
Why we can’t forget it: Rose’s beleaguered introduction to her saga somehow perfectly explains long lapses in chores, wellness maintenance and other arduous tasks we like to put off.
Where we’ve seen it since: On social media, as a sassy retort to significant elapsed time. Example: “When’s the last time you’ve been to the gym?” “It’s been 84 years . . . ”
The scene: The film’s final moments reveal that Rose, now an elderly woman, still has that gorgeous blue diamond — for which the salvage crew has been feverishly searching. Rose makes her way out to the deck of the boat one night, lets out a small squeal and drops the necklace into the ocean.
Why we can’t forget it: The next scene is open to interpretation, but it’s a real tearjerker. We see older Rose in her bed, surrounded by photographic evidence of a life fully lived. In a dreamlike sequence, young Rose walks through a restored Titanic, where passengers happily greet her as she walks up a staircase to meet Jack, who kisses her passionately. One credible theory is that Rose died, as Jack predicted, “an old woman, warm in her bed.”
Where we’ve seen it since: Three years after “Titanic,” Britney Spears reminded us that such an expensive diamond really shouldn’t be languishing at the bottom of the ocean. The bridge for her massive 2000 hit “Oops, I Did It Again” features dialogue between the singer and a love interest, who gifts her the treasure. “But I thought the old lady dropped it into the ocean at the end,” Spears says. “Well, baby,” her lover replies, “I went down and got it for you.”