James Cameron Doesn't Know If Titanic Would Be PG-13 Today

It's been twenty-five years, but "Titanic" still holds a special place in our hearts. It was the movie that launched Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet into A-list celebrity territory and proved that James Cameron could do no wrong. It's currently the fifth highest-grossing film of all time, proving popular enough for theaters to continue playing it over nine months after its initial release. 

One major factor in its box-office success was the fact that it was only rated PG-13. Younger viewers being allowed to see a movie on their own has always helped with box office performances, which explains why none of the top ten highest grossing movies are rated R. That's why it's good for Cameron that the movie came out at the time it did, because the same film could very well have received an R-rating if it had been released in 2022. With people today complaining about the significantly-less-traumatizing "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" getting a pg-13 rating, it's likely that the depiction of hundreds of people dying painfully in the final hour of "Titanic" would be enough to render an R rating by today's standards.

And even if the MPA gave that a pass, there's still the sex and nudity in the middle of "Titanic." It might not sound particularly scandalous, but considering how sexless mainstream movies have gotten over the years, it would stick out a lot more today. "At the time," Cameron explained in a 2017 interview, "I think their standard for a small amount of frontal nudity above the waist was more relaxed than it is now. Which is a little bizarre, but there you have it."

The sterile movie landscape

Although the standards for what earns an R or PG-13 rating have always been a little ridiculous, it's interesting to look back at "Titanic" and see how much things have changed in the past 25 years. The big blockbuster movies of today are stuff like the MCU films and "Star Wars," and despite all of their PG-13 ratings, they're all remarkably absent of any hint of sexuality. The original "Fast and Furious" films of the 2000s were an exception, but pretty much all of them after "Fast Five" were strangely chaste. As one culture writer summed up the mainstream landscape of today: "Everyone is beautiful and no one is horny."

Looking back at the lack of controversy over "Titanic" puts the controversy over recent blockbusters in perspective. "The Eternals" got some flak over its sex scene, despite the fact that the sex scene in question was almost absurdly boring, passionless, and as uncontroversial as such a scene could possibly get. 

Likewise, when publications were asking "What Spell Did Marvel Cast on the MPA for 'Doctor Strange 2' to Receive a PG-13 Rating?", it shows how much lower the threshold for horror currently is. Although the MCU has certainly gone to some dark places, those moments never linger for longer than a minute or two before the movie makes a joke to lighten the mood. The final hour and a half of "Titanic," meanwhile, is unflinchingly dark and serious, far less afraid to embrace the tragedy of the situation. 

Despite their similar PG-13 rating, "Titanic" feels far more adult than most of the big blockbusters of today. With Cameron's first movie in a long time coming this December, hopefully, this larger trend towards increasingly safe and lifeless films will start to change course.