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Titanic Ending Explained

ScreenRant logo ScreenRant 3/31/2023 Zachary Moser
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The ending for Titanic (1997) ties up nearly 195 minutes of runtime in a satisfying and emotional finale. Titanic is a historical romance based on the real-life tragedy of the RMS Titanic. The movie jumps between the romance of Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) and the contemporary search for the ship's wreck by a research team with the help of an elderly Rose (Gloria Stuart). This is the seventh film by James Cameron and was, at the time, the highest-grossing movie of all time, earning $1.843 billion (via Box Office Mojo). It was only surpassed in 2009 by Cameron’s Avatar, which earned $2.923 billion (Box Office Mojo).

Titanic was not only a financial success but a critically acclaimed blockbuster as well. It broke records as one of the movies with the most Oscar nominations. At the 70th Academy Awards, Titanic was nominated for 14 awards and won 11 categories, including Best Picture and Best Director. It’s an epic tale that examines themes of class, ambition, obsession, and love, all with the backdrop of an extraordinary CGI setpiece of the Titanic’s sinking. Titanic’s ending is a thrilling conclusion to Jack and Rose’s love and a meaningful resolution of the themes of the movie, both in the past and in the present with the older Rose.

Related: Why Titanic Is Still A Masterpiece 25 Years Later

What Happens In Titanic’s Ending?

The frame narrative of Titanic is of Rose in the present day. She has been asked by scientists aboard the research vessel Akademik Mstislav Keldysh to recount her experience on the Titanic. The captain of the ship, Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton), has been obsessed with finding “the Heart of the Ocean”, an invaluable diamond necklace that was presumably lost in the sinking and once belonged to Rose. Titanic ends with Rose finishing her story, and the crew accepting that the jewel will never be found. Brock, though disappointed, is moved by Rose’s story and gains a keener understanding of what really happened that night.

However, Rose still has the Heart of the Ocean, a secret token of her experience. Rose tosses the necklace into the ocean relinquishing her last hold on that tragic but life-changing voyage and symbolically gives her heart to Jack. The end of the Titanic shows Rose in bed as the camera pans over pictures of the adventures she went on over the years, revealing that she fulfilled a promise she made to Jack, to lead an extraordinary life. In her dreams, Rose finds herself on the Grand Staircase of the Titanic, surrounded by everyone who died, including Jack who turns to face her, just like he did in her memory.

How Did Rose End Up With The Heart Of The Ocean?

The Heart of the Ocean is an incredibly expensive large diamond necklace that Cal Hockley (Billy Zane) gives Rose at the start of the voyage. At first, it may seem like a kind gesture but the more is shown about Cal, the more it’s clear that the necklace is a symbol of his ownership of Rose. When it’s clear Rose chooses Jack over him, Cal is single-minded in his pursuit of the necklace. It becomes a symbol of his loss of control over his fiancée, and to Rose, it becomes a symbol of her freedom and love for Jack.

During the final moments of the boat’s sinking in Titanic’s ending, Cal convinces Rose to leave Jack behind and board a lifeboat. He wraps her in his coat, which he placed the necklace in. When she leaves the lifeboat for Jack, she takes the coat and necklace with her. Rose holds on to this precious gem because she chooses Jack over Cal, and Cal loses both his fiancée and the necklace because he unappreciated both their worths.

How Did Jack Die?

Jack and Rose are left in the freezing North Atlantic water at the end of Titanic. They find a floating door and attempt to climb on together but their combined weight is too heavy for the debris. Jack tells Rose to get on the door while he stays floating in the water. He convinces her he’ll be alright and not to say goodbye because he wants Rose to grow old, have adventures, and have children. Jack dies from hypothermia hanging on the door, and Rose must decide whether to call for help or stay and freeze with Jack.

After a moment of hesitation, Rose tearfully pushes Jack off the door and watches him slowly sink down. HJack's last line in Titanic shows him continuing to push Rose to not only survive but truly live her life how she wants to, in a way he showed her was possible on this trip. It’s heartbreaking watching him sink below the surface, but it’s necessary for the movie. The Titanic shows hundreds of people trapped in their flooding cabins and dying in the ocean. Jack’s death at the end shows how the tragedy affected many stories, even the storybook ones.

How Did Rose Survive?

Once Rose decides to keep living and not give up, she is forced to swim across the icy water to grab a whistle. She desperately tries to get the attention of the search party and her whistling eventually does. Rose and the other survivors are brought to the RMS Carpathia, safe at last. On the door, there’s a moment where Rose doesn’t want to leave Jack. She’d rather freeze to death than let him go. Jack’s words come back to Rose at the end of Titanic, and she remembers her promise to live a full life, which is what ultimately drags her through the water to call for help.

What Happened To Cal Hockley?

Cal is an unpleasant character in Titanic. He tries to kill Jack and then Rose, he is discriminatory to those he thinks he is better than, he tries to bribe his way onto a lifeboat, and he abducts a child to sneak on when money doesn’t work. The end of Titanic seems to set up Cal to die, but he survives and even seems mildly ashamed of his actions afterward. Rose never sees her ex-fiancé again but learns he took his own life after the Wall Street Crash. It’s a banal end for a man who didn’t end up meaning anything close to what Rose thought he would end up being to her.

RELATED: Titanic Deleted Scene Better Explains A Big Part Of Cal's Story

Rose Never Forgot About Jack

It may seem like Rose ended up forgetting about Jack. She has a family with a different man, has lived a fulfilled life, and seems content. When Rose sees the news report of the Titanic discovery, it almost appears like it’s the first time she’s thought about that experience in years. But that doesn’t mean she has forgotten Jack. The life she’s lived and the experiences she’s allowed herself to have been all because of Jack and what he made her promise before he died at the end of Titanic. Rose kept the Heart of the Ocean all those years as part of her pledge to him.

Titanic’s Alternate Ending

Titanic’s ending originally had a very different context and slightly altered how the movie could be understood. This scene was first introduced to fans on the 10-year anniversary special edition DVD. When an elderly Rose goes to the boat's edge to toss the Heart of the Ocean into the waves, the alternate ending begins. Brock and Rose’s granddaughter Lizzy Calvert (Suzy Amis) see Old Rose and rush over to stop her from tossing away the diamond. Brock begs Rose not to throw it over, but Rose reminds him that she could have sold the necklace, but then she would, in a way, be accepting assistance from Cal.

She tells Brock that “Only life is precious,” and allows him to hold the necklace in his hand before tossing it over and the treasure hunter laughs. While the alternate ending would have been a way to tie up Brock’s story more tightly, it also would have shifted the focus of the end of Titanic to Brock rather than Rose. The alternate makes the story more about Brock coming to terms with his obsession with finding the necklace and discovering something more important. That’s a fine lesson from Titanic but the main focus and themes of the end need to be on Rose, and how her experience changed her.

Replay Video

The Real Meaning Of Titanic’s Ending

Titanic is a true blockbuster epic. There aren’t small lessons or mysteries to be unraveled. The end of Titanic is a sweeping finale of the journey the characters, primarily Rose, have been on. Rose attempts to end her life on the Titanic because she feels so trapped by her impending marriage, familial duties, and life in general. Jack talks her out of jumping and shows Rose that there is more to life than conforming to what is expected. Instead of doing what she thinks she ought to do, Rose does what she wants to do.

For her courage to survive at the end of Titanic, Rose earns a fulfilling life filled with everything she promised Jack. The sinking of the Titanic was a monumental tragedy, but Rose’s life afterward shows that there can be hope even after an event like that. Rose throwing away the Heart of the Ocean is not her giving up Jack; it’s Rose acknowledging she accomplished what she and he had dreamed of and recognizing she did it for them both.


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