There's so much to love about Titanic — the swoon-worthy love story, the divine recreations of historical detail, and that heartbreaking ending that makes everybody spout hot, angry tears forever. On top of that, there's also the peak-dreaminess of Leonardo DiCaprio, which is something that can never be understated. But even for everything it does right as a movie, there are still several things that Titanic got wrong about the tragedy. While some of those aspects may be small, perhaps even insignificant, there are other historical inaccuracies in Titanic which are far bigger.
Of course, when you consider the sheer scope of the film (which is over three hours long), these kind of mistakes are pretty understandable. After all, the movie isn't a factual documentary, but instead, a piece of entertainment that provides a fictional retrospective on the tragedy, with some of Titanic being based on theories rather than certainties. Though many of the events that take place in the movie were undoubtedly inspired by what actual happened on the ill-fated ship, some of them are obviously the sole design of imagination. And as such, bear no relation to what actually happened on the Titanic on that fateful night in 1912.
1. Third Class Passengers Were Not Locked Below Decks
The scene where third class passengers are forcibly prevented from reaching the lifeboats by being locked below deck might not be entirely true. According to historian and author, Tim Maltin, the theory that third class passengers were locked below deck is "total rubbish," as he explained to the Radio Times. He said, "As soon as the order was given to lower the lifeboats, the order was given to open all the gates and there was no discrimination on the boat deck between either first class or third."
2. There's No Way That Jack Dawson Could've Entered The First Class Section With Rose (& Vice Versa)
No matter what the conceit was, third class passengers were forbidden to be in any part of the first class section, just as first class passengers were also forbidden from entering third class. In the book Reel V. Real: How Hollywood Turns Fact Into Fiction, author Frank Sanello quotes an anonymous historian, who explains that on the actual Titanic, "the classes were strictly segregated. Leonardo DiCaprio wouldn't have been allowed anywhere near Kate Winslet." So there you go. Love is officially dead, guys.
3. The Boiler Room Would've Been Covered In Soot
Since the Titanic used coal, Rose and Jack would have both been completely covered in soot following their chase from Cal through the boiler room. Despite this, both Jack and Rose (who is wearing very light-colored clothing in the scene) emerge completely and inexplicably pristine from the place.
4. The Real "Molly Brown" Didn't Actually Use That Name During Her Lifetime
As explained in the History Channel U.K.'s biography of Margaret Brown (as she was actually known), the infamous passenger "was never known as Molly or as Unsinkable in her lifetime as this was a Hollywood invention, first started by Denver Post reporter Gene Fowler and author Carolyn Bancroft in the 1930s."
5. Upper-Class Women Didn't Wear That Much Makeup At The Time, Unless They Wanted To Make A Radical Statement
In 1912, the sight of "respectable" women wearing bold makeup (such as the overall makeup looks of the upper-class women portrayed in Titanic) caused such a commotion, that red lipstick was actually used by the Suffragettes as a radical act of feminist rebellion and protest. Historian Madeleine Marsh explored the significance of makeup during this era in her book, Compacts and Cosmetics: Beauty from Victorian Times to the Present, where she explained,
"Whilst the explicit intention of the suffragists was Votes for Women, the implicit message was that whether they were ‘New Women’ cycling in bloomers and sensible shoes, or elegant ladies in big hats and bright lipstick, women should be free to chose what they wanted to look like and who they wanted to be."
Though it's encouraging to imagine upper-class ladies like Rose, her mom, and Molly wearing such makeup in support of the cause, it simply doesn't line up with the stiff upper lip of their characters or the expectations of the time. They would have caused an outrage.
6. The Water Flooding The Ship Would Have Looked Much Dirtier
According to NASA, due to varying concentrations of different types of ocean life, ocean water can often appear murky and pretty dark. In Titanic, however, Rose and Jack try to escape the flooded lower decks and wade through crystal clear water (which also appears to be nowhere near as piercingly cold as it would actually be).
7. Jack & Rose Would've Suffered More While Trying To Survive The Ship
In the movie itself, a point is made that the temperature of the water that the Titanic is sailing in is near freezing. However, Jack and Rose (among others) are shown traipsing through that water while on the ship for at least 30 minutes or so, with very few consequences.
While physiological effects of immersion in freezing water vary, it is worth noting that in Daniel Allen Butler's book, Unsinkable: The Full Story Of RMS Titanic, it's mentioned that most people who entered the −2 °C (28 °F) water died in 15–30 minutes. Though the water entering the ship may have been less cold due to the lack of open air exposure, it still seems likely that Jack and Rose may have suffered symptoms of mild to moderate hypothermia and cold shock.
8. Rose's Clothing Likely Wouldn't Have Been Enough To Save Her From Freezing
Though she's wearing Cal's oversized, warm-looking coat, her garment beneath it is a fine, delicate lounging dress, which would be completely insufficient for keeping her torso warm enough to survive in such an aggressively cold environment.
9. The Ship Would've Been Beholden To British Military Traditions, Not American
Will Murdoch, the first officer of the Titanic, is shown giving a proud military salute before he shoots himself. This salute performed in the American style with his palm facing down. However, as The Titanic was an English ship with an English crew, it's likely he would have still done a British salute with the palm facing outward instead.
10. Murdoch Was A Hero When The Ship Sank, Unlike The Movie's Portrayal
The movie doesn't exactly paint Titanic's first officer Murdoch in the most best light, showing him committing suicide after shooting two passengers fighting for space on a lifeboat. However, as explained by The Telegraph, Murdoch helped evacuate passengers and launched 10 lifeboats as the ship was sinking. According to the BBC, in 1998, the Vice President of 20th Century Fox visited Murdoch's 80 year-old nephew, Scott, in Dumfries, Scotland to personally apologize for how Titanic had portrayed him.
11. The Titanic Wasn't Actually Known As An "Unsinkable" Ship
At the start of the movie, Rose's mom, Ruth, looks up at the ship in Southampton and comments, "So, this is the ship they say is unsinkable." Except, as quoted by Richard Howells for the BBC, "It is not true that everyone thought this. It's a retrospective myth, and it makes a better story." So, there you go, the Titanic being "unsinkable" may have just been a tall tale invented to suit a particular narrative all along.
Sure, it got some things wrong. But for the most part, Titanic also got a lot of things right. And regardless, it's still a great movie to rewatch.