Passengers Movie Ending Explained: The Unexpected Conclusion

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Passenger is a 2008 movie directed by Rodrigo Garcia starring Academy Award-winner Anne Hathaway, Patrick Wilson, Dianne Wiest, and David Morse. It tells the story of a woman named Claire, who goes on an international flight and develops —out of the blue— a bond with a stranger named Eric. 

The movie is both a thriller and a romance, chock-full of suspense and unexpected twists. While some consider its ending disappointing or misleading, I consider it necessary to explain to you all what I think is my interpretation of this movie after rewatching it many years after I went to see it at the cinema. 

Passengers Plot

Claire Summers (played by Anne Hathaway) and five survivors of a plane crash, Dean, Norman, Shannon, Eric, and flight attendant Janice, are the main characters of a story that involves a catastrophic plane crash. 

Each one, Dean, Shannon, Eric, Norman, and Janice, have their memories of what happened, and there’s a sort of a Rashomon effect with that because their accounts are colliding with each other; they are dissimilar.

Passengers Ending Explained
Claire falls for Eric (Credit: Sony Pictures)

Dean’s side believes there was an explosion before the crash. While Claire holds group therapy sessions, Eric insists on having private sessions with Claire, and it is in those sessions where Eric’s euphoric behavior and personal knowledge about Claire’s life raise suspicions; he asks her about stuff that shouldn’t be a matter of therapy, mainly Claire’s relationships with her family, that comes up as stalker behavior and Claire is worried.

As the survivors navigate their trauma, the official narrative from the airline is that the pilot made a mistake, and suspicions of airline negligence and cover-up emerge. Norman’s memories about the plane crash start to change. First, he says he doesn’t remember anything, but then he changes his story, suggesting an engine explosion before the crash.

As Claire has more sessions with Eric, some professional boundaries are blurred because she starts to have some feelings for Eric, but Eric’s no jewel because of his strange behavior.

The tension between her role as a counselor and her growing attraction to Eric creates a central conflict. Claire’s attempt to reconcile with her sister, Emma, adds an emotional layer to the narrative. As the story unfolds, the survivors’ experiences become increasingly eerie. The survivors have all the textbook symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder: They have nasty, unsettling visions, their memories are bizarre and conflicting, and they have some strange occurrences.

The survivors suspect the airline is trailing them to shut up about a potential lawsuit concerning malfeasance, shenanigans, and negligence build.  Meanwhile, Claire, torn between the conspiracy theory and her professional duties, visits Eric and romanticizes him. They go on bike rides and boat rides, and eventually, they have sex. All the while, Claire tries to patch things up with her sister. 

Eric’s behavior becomes increasingly disturbing as he revisits the crash site and confronts traumatic memories. Shannon’s visions and encounters also contribute to the overall sense of unease. Claire’s interactions with Arkin and Emma further complicate the narrative, blurring the lines between reality and perception, making you wonder who’s alive and dead and whether this is an afterlife tale.

Passengers Ending Explained
Anne Hathaway as Claire Summers (Credit: Sony Pictures)

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Passengers Ending Explained

The following day, Claire discovers Eric on his yacht. He says he didn’t tell her that she and the other passengers died in the crash since each person had to find out for themselves. They were assisted in comprehending and accepting death by deceased family members, friends, and even pets from their pasts (unrecognized by the recent deceased).

Claire spoke to deceased friends or relatives, including her aunt, a lovely neighbor, and a schoolteacher she believed to be her boss. To enter the afterlife, she and Eric set sail from the harbor.

A flashback reveals Claire and Eric sitting beside each other on the plane along with other passengers and crew members. Claire and Eric grow closer during the flight. Eric reassures her they will be okay as the plane depressurizes and the engine catches fire before the screen turns white. As the movie ends, a landlord lets Emma and her husband into Claire’s flat. Emma discovers a letter Claire intended to send to apologize to her.

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