Watch James Cameron Defend His Worst Decision

James Cameron defends his choice to have Jack die at the end of Titanic during an upcoming National Geographic special.

By Phillip Moyer | Published

james cameron titanic

Jack Dawson didn’t have to die. At least that’s what many fans of James Cameron’s classic 1997 film Titanic believed after seeing Rose hogging a very-spacious-looking door floating in the frigid cold water as she watched her true love die before her eyes. However, a new clip from the upcoming National Geographic special Titanic: 25 Years Later with James Cameron shows James Cameron discovering that Jack (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) could have survived — but he still thinks he made the right decision.

The test involved putting two stuntpeople on a floating door in freezing cold water, then trying to find a position where both would survive the wreck until a lifeboat arrives. While they couldn’t find a position that kept the door out of the water, they did find one where their upper bodies were kept above the water. They found that despite being partially submerged, Jack would be able to stay warm by violently shaking, potentially staying alive for hours. 

This comes just two months after James Cameron claimed that science proves Jack would have died in Titanic. However, James Cameron still decided that his decision was right all along, and he used Jack’s characterization to justify his choice.

“Jack might have lived, but there’s a lot of variables,” Cameron said. “I think his thought process was ‘I’m not going to do one thing that jeopardizes her,’ and that’s 100% in-character.”

The controversial door scene that left one character alive and turned another into a Jacksicle is not the only thing James Cameron will address in the National Geographic Titanic special. It will also explore how the Titanic was eventually found at the bottom of the ocean and will explore other questions about the historical Titanic, including whether additional lifeboats would have saved more lives. 

James Cameron had always been a big-name director, but he became a legend after Titanic became the biggest box office success in the history of Cinema. The 1997 film made $1.8 billion worldwide upon its initial release, almost a billion dollars more than the previous record-setting film, Jurrasic Park. After numerous re-releases, Titanic has made almost $2.2 billion at the box office, giving it the third-highest lifetime gross in film history.

james cameron titanic
Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic

Of course, Jame Cameron is responsible for three of the top five highest-grossing films of all time: Titanic, Avatar, and Avatar: The Way of Water. Currently, the three have a combined total of $7.25 billion in box office sales — a figure that will only rise as Titanic gets a 25th-anniversary re-release this February.

James Cameron found more than just financial success with Titanic, he also found critical acclaim. The movie won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It tied with 1959’s Ben Hur for the most Oscars received by a single film — a record it would later share with the 2003 fantasy epic Return of the King

Titanic: 25 Years Later with James Cameron will premiere on Sunday, February 5 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time on the National Geographic channel. It will be available for streaming on Hulu the very next day: Monday, February 6. For those itching to see the original James Cameron film, Titanic, you’ll get the chance to see it in theaters that same week — it will release on Thursday, February 9.