Titanic plot summary
James Cameron’s 1997 film won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, at the time of its release. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio play fictional characters on the Titanic in this romantic historical drama, using a combination of fictional and real characters from the doomed ship.
The story is split between two different time periods, with the first set in the heart of 1996. A research vessel led by Brock Lovett and his crew begins to investigate the wreckage of the Titanic.
They recover the safe, hoping it contains a large rare diamond necklace known as the Heart of the Ocean. Instead, they find a painting of a young nude woman wearing the same necklace. The sketch is dated April 14, 1912, the day the Titanic hit that iceberg.
Rose calls the crew and tells them it’s her in the painting. She is brought aboard and tells the story of how she met Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the events that led to the sinking of the ship.
From here, we flash back to 1912, when we see 17-year-old Rose DeWitt Ducater board the HMS Titanic to America. But as she says, she likened the Titanic to a slave ship and took her in chains to marry Caledon “Cal” Hockley.
When Rose decides to commit suicide one night and jump off the back of a ship, she befriends Jack Dawson.
Why does Rose write her sarcastic note to Kala after the painting?
As Jack and Rose grow closer, Rose brings Jack into the stateroom and pays him to sketch her naked, wearing only the Heart of the Ocean necklace that Cal gave her earlier in the film. She never particularly liked the dress, claiming it was bulky and heavy – ironically symbolizing her own heavy heart at the proposed marriage.
After sketching, Rose puts the picture of the alma mater in a safe next to a note that reads, “Darling, now you can keep us both locked in your safe.”
This, of course, serves as a metaphor for Rose’s life before she boarded the Titanic, cursing Cal and his controlling ways. It’s a way to free yourself, thanks to Jack’s help.
After making love to each other, the couple go on deck and watch the ship collide with an iceberg, overhearing the officers discussing how serious the situation is.
He makes Lovejoy slip the Heart of the Ocean necklace into Jack’s coat, framing him as a thief. Unfortunately, he is a prisoner in the gunsmith’s office downstairs.
How does Jack escape?
Rose leaves and finds Jack and frees him from his shackles with an ax. After a few questionable “practice” shots, he miraculously breaks her bonds.
The pair manage to get back on deck, where Cal catches up with them both. An opportunity arises for Rose to leave, and Cal promises that they will soon follow in their lifeboat. They won’t agree, of course, because the contract is only for Cal, and Jack intends to stay and die on the ship.
Does Cal survive?
Rose decides not to go at the last minute and returns to the boat. It’s the last straw for Cal, who grabs Lovejoy’s gun and chases them into the flooded first-grade dining room. After they’re out of sight, Cal realizes with bitter irony that Rose was actually wearing Cal’s coat the whole time. The heart of the ocean.
Cal decides to abandon ship and does so by grabbing a crying child and posing as his worried father. The pair manage to board a lifeboat and survive, though Cal gets a few dirty looks from the officers on board.
What happens to Jack and Rose?
As time runs out and the ship is rapidly filling with water, Jack and Rose return to the boat deck. All the lifeboats left and the stern of the ship began to heave. They cling desperately to the stern rail, where they watch the infamous “fanboy” fall and bounce off the ship’s propellers.
The ship splits in half, giving the couple a few precious moments before they both fall into the freezing water together; The Titanic was lost forever in the depths of the ocean.
How does Rose survive? Why can’t Jack join him?
In the freezing water, Rose and Jack are separated for a moment before deciding to leave the crowd of people scrambling for help. Together they find a floating door and try to survive. Jack and Rose both try to overcome this issue, but their combined weight prevents them from doing so.
We actually see them both try it once (I mean, they could have tried several times…) but in the end, Jack is limited by his own destiny. He decides to sacrifice his life so that Rose can live hers.
So in the end, Jack held onto the edge of the door while Rose lay on her back. Now, there’s the subject of hypothermia and a few tricks, but regardless, time flies and Rose is finally saved by the returning lifeboat.
And where is the Heart of the Ocean? What happened Cal?
As the film reaches its climax, the Titanic survivors are rescued by the RMS Carpathia, which rescues survivors. Rose sees Cal wandering around trying to find her, but she manages to stay hidden.
This is the last we see of Cal, who we learn (courtesy of the narration in the present timeline) actually committed suicide after losing his fortune in the 1929 Wall Street crash.
What is happening to the Heart of the Ocean?
In the theatrical release (we’ll move on to alternate scenes in a moment), Lovett decides to give up his search for the Heart of the Ocean, believing it to be a lost cause. He finally realizes the emotional turmoil this horrific accident has caused him and decides to put his past to rest.
But that night alone, Rose pulls out the Heart of the Ocean from her pocket. He was with her the whole time! He throws it overboard and lets it disappear among the wreckage, knowing no one will ever find it. At least not soon!
Does the flower die in the end or is it dreaming?
That night, Rose returns to her room and sleeps peacefully. But… does he die in his sleep or is he still alive? This is a subjective scene, one that Cameron himself deliberately leaves vague. The script simply states that he’s “very quiet” and “could have been asleep or something.”
As the familiar theme music plays, the camera pans to various snapshots of Rose’s life, ironically as she and Jack take part in the various activities they promised each other. From riding horses to raising her family, Rose has made the most of her life, and throwing Heart of the Ocean overboard feels like her final closure from a very full life.
Not only that, but Jack promised Rose – while they were both chilling outside – that she would die a warm, old woman in her bed. This only reinforces the idea that he is dead.
However, on the other side of the argument, you could argue that Rose didn’t die. He lived a long, happy life, married with children. But instead of reaching the afterlife with her loving family, she ends up with a man she only met for a weekend who changed her teenage life.
Why did she give it all up to be with Jack in the afterlife?
Given that Titanic is a romantic drama, we’re more inclined to say it’s the former. As the film ends, we are once again on the Titanic as Rose and Jack are reunited on the Grand Staircase to cheers from all those who died on board.
What happens in the alternate ending?
The alternate ending is… different. When we say different, we mean absolutely terrifying. Here, the ending is changed so that Lizzy (Rose’s granddaughter) sees her grandmother climbing the railings. He runs forward with Brock, where Rose tells them not to approach. He grabs Ocean’s Heart and threatens to throw it away.
“Have you been like this the whole time?”
Brock asks in disbelief. Rose explains that she thought about selling the diamond, but couldn’t because it made her think of Cal. Rose’s real goal on this trip was to “get it [the Heart of the Ocean] back where it belongs.”
Brock asks Rose to let him hold the diamond just once, but Rose tells Brock that he is “looking for treasure in the wrong places”, saying that life is priceless and that they should cherish each day.
Rose throws the diamond onto the ship, while Brock’s team appears and watches in disbelief. The same scene is used with the rock hitting the water before we go back to Brock and Rose. The ex laughs at his team before asking Lizzy to dance.