Titanic Ending Explained: What Happens To Jack, Rose, And The Heart Of The Ocean

Jack and Rose in Titanic
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Despite losing its place on the list of highest grossing movies of all time more than a decade ago, James Cameron’s 1997 epic romance disaster film remains one of the most important theatrical releases of all time. This is proven by the multiple re-releases that have been given to the Academy Award winner over the years, with the most recent having just debuted in honor of its 25th anniversary.

With the brief theatrical engagement, there are probably a lot of people who are planning to watch the timeless love story of Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) on the doomed “unsinkable” ship for the first time in more than two decades or for the first time altogether, as shocking as that may sound. 

That being said, we have put together a breakdown of the Titanic ending that answers some of the lingering questions about the movie and the fateful voyage on which it was based. Take her to steam, Mr. Murdoch…

(Obviously, major Titanic spoilers ahead!)

Leonardo DiCaprio in a tux during Titanic

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

What Happens To Jack At The End Of Titanic

Though he thinks winning a poker game would be his ticket to a new life, Jack Dawson’s lucky hand is nothing more than a quick trip to an early grave. After securing a ticket for the maiden voyage of the “unsinkable” ship in James Cameron’s Titanic, the artist and third-class passenger has a chance encounter with Rose DeWitt Bukater, which ultimately leads to the two young passengers falling madly in love, taking part in activities like dancing in a third-class dance hall, drawing perhaps the most iconic portrait in movie history, and seemingly distracting the night watch from seeing the deadly iceberg until it’s too late.

The epic love affair is short-lived, however, as only days after first meeting on the stern of the ship, the unlikely pair are torn apart by fate in the sinking of the Titanic. Though both survive the actual sinking of the ship, Jack freezes to death in the icy waters of the North Atlantic while awaiting rescue, leaving Rose floating alone on a door from the wreckage.

The Door Situation

This brings up perhaps the biggest debate of any ‘90s movies – was there enough room for Jack on the broken door? Over the years, Kate Winslet has called the situation “one of those unanswerable questions,” while Leonardo DiCaprio has refused to comment. However, Cameron has gone on to perform experiments that have proven that only one person could have survived on the door. 

Kate Winslet in Titanic.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

What Happens To Rose At The End Of Titanic

While Jack Dawson’s story ends at the bottom of the ocean, Rose Dewitt Bukater is able to live a long, fulfilling life, eventually returning to the Titanic’s final resting place as an elderly woman (Gloria Stuart) to help Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) in his search for the “Heart of the Ocean.” After letting go of Jack’s hands, but not his memory, Rose musters the strength to whistle for a lifeboat that has returned to search for survivors, eventually takes refuge on the Carpathia, and starts a new life in the United States as Rose Dawson.

Judging by the multiple photos in her home and state room aboard Brock’s ship, the Keldysh, Rose lived a long and fulfilling life. In the end, we see the young Rose returning to the Titanic once more, where she is greeted by Jack and the other passengers who lost their lives with the sinking of the ship, suggesting that either she passed away and has returned to him in spirit, or that she's dreaming of seeing him again. 

What If Rose Hadn’t Gotten Off The Lifeboat?

Rose went on to have a great and adventurous life after the Titanic disaster, but one must wonder what would have happened to the young woman if she hadn’t gotten off the lifeboat with her mother (Frances Fisher) and not gone back to rescue Jack, who was handcuffed to a pipe in the master-at-arms’ office. There’s a chance her upcoming wedding to Cal Hockley would have gone on as planned, though it is entirely possible Jack would have had enough of an impact on her that she would eventually break out on her own. 

We will never know, however, as the older Rose never mentions what happened to her mother after the sinking of the ship, though we do know that Cal didn’t survive the 1929 Stock Market Crash.

Rose holding the Heart of the Ocean in Titanic

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

What Happens To The Heart Of The Ocean At The End Of Titanic

The Heart of the Ocean, the majestic and incredibly expensive necklace that Cal gave to Rose as an engagement gift, is, for a lack of a better term, the heart of Titanic, as much of the movie’s plot revolves around the diamond said to have been owned by Louis XVI before he lost his head in the late 18th century. The blue diamond and connected chain is at the center of some of the movie’s biggest moments – the reveal of the drawing early on, the actual drawing scene, and then a couple of major scenes in the final act – and so some explaining could be in order.

Throughout the movie, the older Rose acts as if she no longer has the Heart of the Ocean -- or at the very least, doesn't mention having it -- implying that it could have sunk to the bottom of the ocean with the ship. But in the final moments of the movie, we are treated to a flashback showing a younger Rose on the Carpathia when she realizes that the necklace is in the pocket of the coat Cal put her in while escaping the sinking ship. The action then cuts back to the 1990s, showing the older Rose climbing on the railing of the ship and dropping the stone back into the sea.

Addressing The Alternate Ending

There is also an alternate Titanic ending that was luckily never used in the final release. In this ending, Rose still drops the Heart of the Ocean into the sea, but instead of a quiet and somber moment with no dialogue, the scene unfolds with Brock, Rose’s granddaughter LIzzy Calvert (Suzy Amis), and others trying to stop her. Not using this ending, which was called “unnecessary” by the late Bill Paxton, was probably one of the best decisions James Cameron could have made with Titanic.  

Liam Tuohy in Titanic

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

How Many People Survived The Real-Life Sinking Of Titanic 

When the Titanic departed Southampton on April 10, 1912, it carried with it 2,240 passengers and crew, and more than 1,500 would never make it to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. According to History.com, a total of 706 people survived the ordeal, with only a small number reportedly being pulled from the frigid waters before the North Atlantic became their final resting place. 

One of those who were pulled to safety after the sinking of the ship was head baker Charles Joughin, who, according to McGill University, was reportedly the final survivor to leave the ship, spending time in the water for a total of two hours before being saved by a lifeboat and eventually brought to safety. Joughin was the basis for the character (played by Liam Tuohy) seen next to Rose and Jack on the stern of the ship in Titanic, though the fate of his onscreen counterpart is never revealed. 

Hopefully, that makes sense of the Titanic ending. If you want to read even more about the 1997 megahit, now would be a good time to read about the movie’s historical accuracy (or lack thereof).

Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.