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In James Cameron's Directorial Career, One Movie Stands Above The Rest

James Cameron is a one-in-a-million director. What kind of artiste can make a sequel that many argue is better than the movie that spawned it? Cameron's done it twice with "Aliens" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." And he may do it again, if and when "Avatar 2" eventually comes out.

From the beginning of his career as a model maker at Roger Corman Studios, Cameron proved his dedication to the artform. "I sort of proved myself as a production designer in the scrappy, stay-all-night-for-15-days-in-a-row kind of independent filmmaking that was done at Roger Corman's place," he told the Academy of Achievement. And since one of his first gigs was in special effects, Cameron has always been interested in advancing that particular art. "The Abyss" broke new ground in 3D modeling, which was used to even greater effect in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day."

In order to get the highest quality footage of the Titanic where she lies at the bottom of the Atlantic, Cameron invested in deep sea exploration. "I sort of joke about this, but it's more true than not, that I made the movie ["Titanic"] because I wanted to do an expedition to the wreck of the Titanic, and I did explore it," he told NPR. That investment paid off big time — and that's what makes "Titanic" the most impressive achievement of his long career.

Titanic was a record-holding Oscar winner

One reason "Titanic" is James Cameron's most important film is simply because it was recognized as such by his peers. "Titanic" won 11 Academy Awards, tying with "Ben Hur" for most Oscars won by a film. In 2004, "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" made the Guinness World Record a three-way tie. No movie has broken the trio's record yet.

"Titanic" was nominated for 14 Oscars, and won 11: Best Picture, Best Director, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume, Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, Film Editing. James Horner won Best Original Dramatic Score, and he and Celine Dion won Best Original Song for "My Heart Will Go On." "Titanic" was also an absolute crowd-pleaser, remaining the highest-grossing film of all time until 2010, when Cameron topped himself with "Avatar."

All that filmic excellence took its toll on cast and crew, however. The "Titanic" set was notorious for bad vibes, culminating in someone spiking craft services with PCP. "[T]he chowder was unbelievable. People were going back for second bowls. I really thought about going back because it was so good," prop artist Marilyn McAvoy told Vice. Probably a good thing she didn't.