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Titanic's Alternate Ending Would Have Changed Everything

Nearly 25 years after its release, James Cameron's majestic historical fiction epic "Titanic" still stands as one of the most esteemed modern blockbusters. The sweeping love story, jaw-dropping set design, lush score, and riveting disaster sequences earned the movie a record-tying 11 Academy Awards. The movie grossed over $1.8 billion worldwide during its original release (via Box Office Mojo). Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio's natural chemistry made "Titanic" protagonists Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater one of cinema's emblematic couples, alongside a stellar supporting cast. The movie also benefits from being an authentic, engrossing depiction of the ship's tragic sinking in April 1912, a result of Cameron's deep knowledge of the ship's actual history, per NPR.

A crucial part of the film's enduring resonance is its ending scene. Rose (Gloria Stuart), now much older and having lived the full life that Jack promised, walks to the edge of the Keldysh, the expedition boat carrying the crew searching for the Heart of the Ocean necklace. Little do they know she's secretly kept it for more than 80 years. After a moment of reflection, she throws the necklace into the sea, watching it sink before passing away in her sleep in the next scene. The final shot shows her reunited with Jack in the afterlife on the Titanic's Grand Staircase, while passengers and crew look on and applaud.

It's an understated yet perfect way of bringing the film's grandiose emotional arc to a resolution. However, Cameron originally wrote and shot an entirely different ending that would have changed everything about "Titanic" and perhaps affected the film's legacy most of all.

Rose isn't alone in the Titanic alternate ending

In February, Insider reminded fans about the ridiculous alternate ending for "Titanic." The outlet pointed to @pattbrennan8's tweet featuring a video clip that begins when Rose (Gloria Stuart) walks to the stern of the Keldysh and steps up on the railing. In this new ending, she's spotted by her granddaughter, Elizabeth (Suzy Amis), and deep-sea explorer Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton), who fear she's about to jump off the back of the boat as she considered decades earlier. Instead, she reveals she has the Heart of the Ocean and proclaims her intention to throw it into the sea "where it belongs." Other members of the crew show up, staring in disbelief at the sight of the necklace. Lovett pleads with Rose not to throw it overboard. She lets him hold it in his hand for a brief moment, insisting that the true treasure he should seek in life is making each day count. He understands and allows her to throw the necklace overboard. As she does so, Lovett laughs, the music swells, Rose and Elizabeth smile, and the crew are apoplectic.

It's understandable why Cameron originally considered this as the film's conclusion. At face value, the alternate ending seems to bring the search for the necklace full circle with all of the present-day characters. However, it's safe to say that the final ending works far better by focusing on Rose as she throws the necklace into the sea, allowing her story to resonate with viewers. Rose's message about life in the alternate scene is conveyed in a far less manipulative way. Moreover, the image of her standing alone on the stern recalls her first meeting with Jack. Also, Rose's lecture about life, as well as Lovett's epiphany, feel too obvious and contrived. Even with its captivating story, it's likely "Titanic" wouldn't have earned quite as much praise with such a forced resolution.