The records set by James Cameron’s Titanic weren’t limited to the box office.
Released Dec. 19, 1997, the movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, became the first U.S. film to gross over $1 billion worldwide.
The movie’s soundtrack achieved rarefied success, as well. The LP topped the Billboard 200 on Jan. 24, 1998, and spent 16 weeks at No. 1 – an achievement that put it at the top of the year-end Billboard 200 ranking. At the time, Titanic was one of only five soundtracks to claim that distinction. The first four: West Side Story (1963), Mary Poppins (1965), Saturday Night Fever (1978) and Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard (1993). Only Frozen has led the year-end list since, in 2014.
Titanic benefited from Céline Dion‘s smash single, “My Heart Will Go On,” which led the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks and dominated the Radio Songs chart for 10. The track was also released on Dion’s LP Let’s Talk About Love, which topped the Jan. 17 Billboard 200 – and finished at No. 2 for 1998, below the Titanic soundtrack (which had also dethroned it atop the weekly tally).
Dion performed the song at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, where she recalled that Cameron initially didn’t think that the movie needed a signature tune. She was also reluctant to record another big ballad. Today, Dion says she treasures the song’s legacy. “[In concert] I’m like, ‘I’m not going to sing that song again.’ And then the curtain opens and the smoke starts and people are crying.”
The soundtrack has sold 10.2 million copies, according to Nielsen Music, and the film helped inspire a number of musical tributes. Most recently, Charli XCX and Troye Sivan re-enacted Winslet and DiCaprio’s now-classic scene at the ship’s bow in their “1999” music video.