At First: James Cameron did the impossible! He made the most expensive movie in history, it wasn’t a sequel to anything, the release date changed a bunch, the buzz was bad, and it turned into the biggest movie ever that made audiences of all ages gasp, cry, and come back for more. What a technical, emotional, and financial achievement!
But Then: James Cameron wrote terrible dialogue and imposed a cheesy romance onto a historical tragedy, plus wasn’t there really room on that wooden door for Jack AND Rose? What a piece of emotionally manipulative big-budget garbage.
Notable Competition: L.A. Confidential was the standard Movie of Real Quality that Titanic defeated, the Goodfellas to its Dances with Wolves. There was also the smaller, scrappier Good Will Hunting.
Strength of Backlash (1-10): 6. It became a symbol of unhip bloat for a while, but it’s hard to really argue for a crazy backlash against such a huge hit – or if you can, it seems like some of the rancor was moved over to Cameron’s follow-up Avatar, which also became the most expensive and biggest-grossing movie ever, but did not win Best Picture.
Degree of Deserving (1-10): 2. Hot take: Titanic is fucking awesome. Hotter take: It’s a better movie than L.A. Confidential.