Titanic (1997) : Was Jack A Time Traveller?

This theory has been doing the rounds nearly as long as the film has been around. James Cameron’s Titanic has been an endearing tale for some time. But when viewed through this particular lens the film takes on a fresher and more interesting quality. Join us as we dive into this popular film theory…

The Theory

The theory was popularised in recent years via the TV Tropes and Reddit sites. The compelling details of which could be attributed to either pure sloppy research OR subtle and intricate subplot. I’m going to go ahead and suggest it was the former, but it’s still fun to speculate.

What makes it so interesting is that such a big-budget project (timed literally to the second of the actual boat sinking) as this would have had multiple writers, rewrites and researching before anyone yelled “ACTION“! This film was the first to break 1 Billion Dollars at the box office, which for 1997/1998 was big money!

So what are these compelling arguments that have given this theory such long legs?

The Details

Money And Tickets: At the beginning of the film we see Jack gambling which is how he earns his ticket on to the Titanic. It is proposed that he doesn’t have currency for this time period and that he would leave no documented trace on the timeline.

Doesn’t Exist In 1912: Jack talks to Rose about growing up beside Lake Wissota, Wisconsin – a man-made lake which didn’t exist until 1915 and wasn’t finished until 1917. He talked about the two of them riding the rollercoaster at Santa Monica Pier, (The Blue Streak Racer) which didn’t exist until 1916.

Style: In 1912 there was a prevalent trend of “close-cropped at the sides, with some length on top, but neatly slicked back” hair style. Jacks haircut, that slick back floppy style didn’t come into popular fashion until the 30’s.

As did his rucksack, a “moosesack” which didn’t become popular until they were used by the Swedish Military in 1939.

The cigarettes Jack can be seen smoking featured a filter tip, again something that did not exist at the time of the Titanic and were not in circulation until the 1940’s.

titanic jack was a time traveler theory

Quantum Leap / Terminator

The theory also dictates that Jack came back (or was sent) with the intention of saving Rose or the Titanic itself. To me this is the most fascinating part of the theory with the most obvious connotations.

To extrapolate this part of the theory we see that Jack saving Rose was the reason he was there and to ensure the ship hit that iceberg. If Rose had of committed suicide (or at least jumped), the Titanic would have stopped to look for her. This portion of theory holds considerable weight as she was a first class passenger who came from a rich family, that had ties to the White Star Line and were all chummy with the Captain. This line of thinking means that the ship would potentially not have hit that fateful iceberg because of a delay and explains why he spends so much time with her to ensure she doesn’t try to attempt suicide again.

A further dive into the theory suggests that Rose was in fact Sarah Connor’s great grandmother. We know that James Cameron pumps out both Sci Fi and time-travel based films as the majority of his output (alongside Terminator), so this theory makes a bit of sense. Could Jack have been sent back in time to save the lineage?

Maybe Jack had to die? Maybe it was all so Rose would throw the Heart Of The Ocean into the sea? Maybe Jack didn’t exist and Rose was an “unreliable narrator”?

There is definitely an argument for Jacks mission to subvert the course of WW1. The Film Theorists include a fantastic parallel history exploration in their rundown of this theory. You can find this here.

Either way these variations of the theory still dictate that Jack was sent back in time to steer the timeline toward or away from certain unfolding events. What we do know is that jack being there changed the course of history to the timeline we now know, causing the deaths of 1500 people.

titanic jack terminator time travel

My Theory

I believe Jack was there to save Rose, rather than stopping the Titanic from sinking. I believe the sinking was just an unfortunate side effect of having saved her. We see evidence of this in the scenes where he is dealing with the new knowledge that the boat is going down.

After all, the ship sank because the lookout didn’t see the iceberg in time, because he was too busy watching Jack and Rose having a snog. This also accounts for why Jack hardly left Rose’s side the whole trip – he had to ensure her continued survival.

This goes further to explain why hes so adamant she survives alone on the door – he knew that she would have a greater chance of survival by herself, at the cost of his own life. (Here come the comments from the people who saw The Mythbusters Titanic Door episode)

titanic jack time travel theory

Conclusion

This is a wonderful theory and makes watching the film a hundred times better in the knowledge of this proposed subtext. It turns a drippy love story into an epic Sci Fi masterpiece.

This theory adds a layer which is woven so deeply into the fabric of the film that it gives the main plot a whole new dimension. Do yourself a favour and rewatch this one with opened eyes.

You can chime in below with your own variation on the theory or why not check out our other theory articles like Murder She Wrote : It’s Time We Stopped Pretending Jessica Fletcher Wasn’t A Serial Killer.

titanic jack time travel

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