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8 timeless films to watch on the anniversary of the Titanic tragedy

Distress and drama on the oceans: OTT platforms are screening these films and documentaries inspired by misadventures at sea.

April 15, 2021 / 12:26 PM IST
From the 2017 National Geographic film 'How Did the

From the 2017 National Geographic film 'How Did the "Unsinkable" Titanic End Up at the Bottom of the Ocean?'

In the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, the largest ship in the world, making her first and only voyage from Southampton (UK) to New York, collapsed after hitting an iceberg.

Thought to be unsinkable, the liner was taking some of the richest men and women from Europe to the new world in luxury: the best wines, foods, beautifully appointed cabins, lounges, special gyms and game rooms, and even three elevators… If only this floating palace had twice the number of lifeboats, many more lives could have been saved. But who has safety in mind when there’s plenty of Heidsieck champagne (Gout Americain!) to drink!

The voyage was dubbed the Millionaire’s Special because of the passengers who were travelling on board. Among the passengers were American businessman Benjamin Guggenheim (his brother Solomon Guggenheim created the museums which are amazing architectural marvels), John Jacob Astor (who was America’s first multi-millionaire), Isidor Strauss and his wife Ida (co-owner of the Macy’s department store; the couple who choose to sleep in the James Cameron movie) and yes, among the women who survived, were the two unsinkables: Molly Brown (Debbie Reynolds played her in the film The Unsinkable Molly Brown) and a stewardess Violet Jessop (who survived not one but three sinking ships!). The president of the Star Line cruises that was running the Titanic (and quite hated by the survivors) J. Bruce Ismay also made it to New York.

1. The Titanic

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There are many stories of the survivors, but the best known is James Cameron’s multi-award winning film about the romance of a young stowaway on The Titanic, and you can watch it on DisneyPlusHotstar.

2. The Poseidon Adventure

I’d rather be awed by a giant disaster though. So let me steer you away from the villain that was the iceberg to The Poseidon Adventure. The fabulous Gene Hackman is aboard a ship that’s partying like it’s the end of the world, and has to lead a band of really difficult people when a fire breaks out on the ship. The film is on YouTube and it is witness to what lengths people go to survive. The film is ancient, but the panic is loud, ‘Happy New Year!’ from the movie remains in my head to this day! And if you ever go on a long cruise (and I’ve been on a few!) do not step into their DVD library because inevitably they’ll have a copy of this film!

3. A Plastic Ocean

Man has always harvested the sea for fish, for oil and even gold. But when you’re standing on a beach, looking at the vastness of the ocean, do you not feel that some day our selfishness is going to be the end of us? A Plastic Ocean is a documentary on Netflix that is a must see, especially because we don’t think twice before digging into that grilled Alaska salmon or putting up gigantic marlins that we caught on a fishing trip as trophies…

4. Deepwater Horizon

Our greed for oil has led to some of the biggest man-made disasters at sea. Deepwater Horizon is a reality that we have to live with even today. The film is so impactful, it will make me not swear at the ONGC helicopters that sometimes fly noisily by. Watch the film on Netflix.

5. In the Heart of the Sea

My favorite film about adventure on the high seas is Moby Dick. A giant whale so vindictive, so set upon revenge, it will destroy the boats that seek to harvest the precious blubber. Herman Melville’s introspective book rests sadly on my shelf as I watch Chris Hemsworth harpoon the big fish. In the Heart of the Sea is everything you’d worry about when you set foot on a boat.

6. The Wave

But there’s one film that’s not Hollywood but it will keep your heart in the pit of your stomach all through its 105 minute run time is The Wave. It’s on Amazon Prime Video and it will make you look up with true awe (and prayers) at the magnificent fjords when you take that cruise to see the Northern lights.

7. The Shallows

A couple of years ago, they made a movie which they said would wipe out all memories of a big fish preying on vacationers. The Meg was laughable, not scary at all. Scarier though is a film called The Shallows which promises to be on Netflix, but you can watch a vindictive big fish prey on a stranded surfer on YouTube. Even more than the Titanic, the sinking of a little boat at sea will keep you frozen in your spot in front of the TV.

8. Jaws

Hollywood in the '70s was all about disaster films, and this one by Steven Spielberg reigns supreme even after 46 years. I am talking about the one and only disaster at sea film that scares you even though you know Bruce was mechanical and you have seen pictures of Bruce being hauled up by cranes for display in the Academy Museum. Was it the ominous music created by just two notes that signified the arrival of Bruce, or was it Roy Scheider saying, ‘We’re going to need a bigger boat.’ that scares you? Watch Jaws on Netflix and stay away from the beaches.

Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.

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