Cameron's inspiration for the film came from his fascination with shipwrecks; he felt a love story interspersed with the human loss would be essential to convey the emotional impact of the disaster. Production began in 1995, when Cameron shot footage of the actual Titanic wreck. The modern scenes on the research vessel were shot on board the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh, which Cameron had used as a base when filming the wreck.
Scale models, computer-generated imagery, and a reconstruction of the Titanic built at Playas de Rosarito in Baja California were used to re-create the sinking. The film was partially funded by Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox. It was the most expensive film ever made at the time, with a production budget of $200 million.
Upon its release on December 19, 1997, Titanic achieved critical and commercial success. Nominated for 14 Academy Awards, it tied All About Eve (1950) for the most Oscar nominations, and won 11, including the awards for Best Picture and Best Director, tying Ben Hur (1959) for the most Oscars won by a single film. With an initial worldwide gross of over $1.84 billion, Titanic was the first film to reach the billion-dollar mark. It remained the highest-grossing film of all time until Cameron's Avatar surpassed it in 2010.
A 3D version of Titanic, released on April 4, 2012 to commemorate the centennial of the sinking, earned it an additional $343.6 million worldwide, pushing the film's worldwide total to $2.18 billion. It became the second film to gross more than $2 billion worldwide (after Avatar).