In 1996, aboard the research vessel Akademik Mstislav Keldysh, Brock Lovett and his team search the wreck of RMS Titanic. They recover a safe they hope contains a necklace with a large diamond known as the Heart of the Ocean. Instead, they only find a drawing of a young nude woman wearing the necklace. The sketch is dated April 14, 1912, the same day the Titanic struck an iceberg. Rose Dawson Calvert, the woman in the drawing, and her granddaughter, are brought aboard Keldysh. Rose recounts her experiences aboard Titanic.
In 1912 Southampton, 17-year-old Rose DeWitt Bukater, her wealthy fiancé Cal Hockley, and Rose’s widowed mother, Ruth, board the Titanic. Ruth emphasizes that Rose’s marriage to Cal will resolve the family’s financial problems and maintain their upper-class status. Meanwhile, Jack Dawson, a poor young artist, wins a third-class Titanic ticket in a poker game. After setting sail, Rose, distraught over her loveless engagement, climbs over the stern railing, intending to jump overboard. Jack appears and coaxes her back onto the deck. The two develop a tentative friendship, but when Cal and Ruth strongly object, Rose acquiesces and discourages Jack’s attention. She soon realizes she has feelings for Jack.
Rose brings Jack to her state room and pays him a coin to sketch her nude, wearing only the Heart of the Ocean necklace. They later evade Cal’s servant, Lovejoy, and have sex in an automobile inside the cargo hold. On the forward deck, they witness the ship’s collision with an iceberg and overhear its officers and builder discussing the serious situation. Cal discovers Jack’s sketch and Rose’s insulting note left inside his safe, along with the necklace. When Jack and Rose return to warn the others about the collision, Cal has Lovejoy slip the necklace into Jack’s pocket to frame him for theft. Jack is then confined in the master-at-arms’ office. Cal puts the necklace into his overcoat pocket.
With the ship sinking, Rose flees Cal and her mother, who has boarded a lifeboat. Rose finds and frees Jack, and they barely make it back to the boat deck. Cal and Jack urge Rose to board a lifeboat. Having arranged to save himself, Cal falsely claims he can get Jack safely off the ship. As her lifeboat is lowered, Rose, unable to abandon Jack, jumps back on board. Cal grabs Lovejoy’s pistol and chases Rose and Jack into the flooding first-class dining saloon. They get away, and Cal realizes that he gave his coat, and consequently the necklace, to Rose; he later boards a lifeboat posing as a lost child’s father.
Jack and Rose return to the boat deck. The lifeboats have departed and the ship’s stern is rising as the flooded bow sinks. As passengers fall to their deaths, Jack and Rose desperately cling to the stern rail. The upended ship breaks in half and the bow section dives downward. The remaining stern slams back onto the ocean, then upends again before it, too, sinks. In the freezing water, Jack helps Rose onto a wooden panel buoyant enough for only one person. Some time later, Rose is saved by a returning lifeboat, but Jack, still clutching the panel, has died of hypothermia.
The RMS Carpathia rescues the survivors; Rose avoids Cal by hiding among the steerage passengers and gives her name as Rose Dawson. Still wearing Cal’s overcoat, she discovers the necklace tucked inside the pocket. In the present, Rose says she later heard that Cal committed suicide after losing his fortune in the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Lovett abandons his search after hearing Rose’s story. Alone on the stern of Keldysh, Rose takes out the Heart of the Ocean that has been in her possession all along, and drops it into the sea over the wreck site. While she is seemingly asleep or has died in her bed, her photos on the dresser depict a life of freedom and adventure. A young Rose reunites with Jack at Titanic‘s Grand Staircase, applauded by those who died on the ship.
A classic telling the story of the tragic sinking of the Titanic on its maiden voyage. Plot, realism and music will forever be held in a special place.