In Titanic, the iconic ending shows Jack letting go of the plank and allowing himself to sink and die while presumably leaving Rose alive and safe. I find it controversial that Jack could have climbed on to the plank, and they both could have managed to save themselves still.

Jack and Rose

I have put forward a theory popular on this topic. But am certain there are much more explanations for this plot. Could it be an inconsistency? Or was it played up just because Jack had to die?

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    "the iconic ending shows Jack letting go of the plank and allowing himself to sink" No it doesn't. He'd died (of cold) while still holding her hand. When the lifeboat passes close to them, Rose tries to rouse him, still holding his hand. But realizing he was dead, she prizes her hand free of his (he was dead, and she'd become cold and stiff by then) and allows him to sink into the depths. – Andrew Thompson Jun 29 '14 at 15:27

While the space on the plank was plenty for two people to sit on it, the plank would have sunk under the combined weight. Since it was on water, it could float only when there was one person on it. If Jack had indeed climbed onto the plank, it would have partially or fully submerged into the cold water. So it was both dangerous and risky - if it didn't sink, then they would be in water and get hypothermia. Hence Jack decided to sacrifice himself so that Rose could stay out of the water and safe on the raft.

Also, James Cameron explains this in an interview

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  • If you knew the answer already, why did you post the question? – bobbyalex Jul 1 '14 at 5:53
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    This was a self-answer question with a wrong answer. :o) The better question is, why did it get upvoted? – Johnny Bones Jun 8 '15 at 15:05

If you watch the movie, and that scene in particular, you'll know that they tried to get 2 on the plank but it began to flip. Jack decided to sacrifice himself rather than put Rose in danger. In the real world, I'm sure they could have eventually worked out the weight distribution so that they both could have climbed aboard without it flipping, but for dramatic purposes they stopped trying after the first time.

To answer the question in the title, Jack never did let go of the plank. He held on to Rose until he was dead (presumably of hypothermia), as Andrew Thompson pointed out.

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    I believe this is the most satisfactory answer, as it specifies that he did not let go of the plank, but Rose had to pry his dead, frozen hands from hers. – DarthBotto Jun 8 '15 at 8:54

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