Movie Discussion: Inception (2010) ending

I decided to ask a few people for their interpretation of the inception (2010) ending.

Article Featured Guest blogger Movie Discussion Movies

Popcorn On Couch presents its very first movie discussion, where I invite some people to discuss the topic or ending of a film. For this discussion, I have invited some amazing people to share their thoughts and theories on the sci-fi film Inception (2010).

Inception is an excellent, innovative and thought-provoking Sci-fi directed by Christopher Nolan. It’s an intellectual sci-fi filled with original ideas, just when you thought you have understood everything you have seen, the ending completely throws you off and makes you rethink the whole movie.



Inception ends with a continuously spinning, spinning top. It’s a simple shot, but the meaning behind the shot is what gets people talking. In inception, the spinning top is a totem which Dom Cobb uses to distinguish a dream from reality. If the top continuously spins then he is in a dream and if the top falls he is awake.

Due to inception’s debatable and vague ending, the movie has been interpreted in various ways. Some people believe that Cobb is still dreaming, whereas, others believe he is awake. Some theories even state that Cobb is actually dead, so, as you can see there are a lot of different theories out there.

So I decided to ask a few people (including myself):

“What is your interpretation of the inception (2010) ending?”

Here are the results:

Inception ending

To put it simply, he’s awake.

If you’ve paid attention to a lot of the “fan theories,” you know that one of the main ones is that of the identity of Cobb’s totem, the item of the extractor’s choice that lets them know if their current world is reality or dream. The movie suggests that Cobb, Leo DiCaprio, has a totem of a top, where if it spins infinitely, he knows he’s dreaming. Well, there’s two problems if the top really is his. One: when Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character, Arthur, demonstrates his totem to Ellen Page’s Ariadne, he doesn’t allow her to touch it, because he states that only he should know the feeling of the totem, so that it can’t be sabotaged or confuse another dreamer, etc. However, previously in the movie, the plot shows that the top is actually Cobb’s wife’s totem, which he then plants as a spinning top in his wife’s subconscious, letting him know that Inception (planting ideas instead of taking them) is possible as it ultimately leads to his wife’s suicide as she thinks she is still dreaming. So unless Cobb is actually just trying to sabotage himself, the top is really just a reminder for what he did to his wife.

IN THAT SAME VEIN, Cobb’s real totem, according to fan theories that I agree with, his real totem is his WEDDING RING, because in his dreams he and his wife are still together and she never died. Throughout the sequences in dream-world, his wedding ring is visible, whereas when he is in reality, no wedding ring can be seen.

Also, the top never starts to wobble in a dream, it retains a perfect spin. In the last few frames, you can tell that it starts wobbling, just never completely falls.

And this is further reason why Christopher Nolan’s films have the best stories

– Noah Jackson (@movieswhynotm8)

Inception Mal and Cobb

While watching the film I always thought Cobb was awake (except during the dream scenes), but then when the totem didn’t fall at the end I realised he wasn’t. I think the whole movie is a dream taking place in Cobb’s mind. I think the dream started when Mal and Cobb got stuck in Limbo. Limbo can be entered by traveling deeper through the dream levels. When Mal and Cobb killed themselves together they only woke up from one dream level (limbo). This is the dream level Cobb is currently stuck in, however, Mal still thought she was dreaming and killed herself therefore she is probably in the above dream level or is actually awake. Cobb believed he was awake, and felt so guilty for killing Mal (as he planted the idea in Mal’s head that their world isn’t real which led to her suicide) that he made himself a criminal in his own mind, not allowing himself to see his own kids as punishment.

The movie is a dream showing the journey of how Cobb was finally able to reunite with his children. Regardless, Cobb doesn’t care if he is awake or not as he is just happy to finally see his kids. I’ve heard theories of Cobb’s totem being his wedding ring rather than the spinning top. However, I don’t believe this theory as Cobb can always dream that he is not wearing a wedding ring just to make himself believe he is awake. In scenes when the top falls, Cobb dreams that it falls. In the final scene, the top doesn’t fall as he is dreaming. He is too distracted by the sight of his kids that he can’t even manipulate the top to fall.

– Olatide Renee (@popcornoncouch)

Inception dinner scene

I’ve always been under the impression that at the end of the film Cobb returns home to his children for real. My conclusion comes down to the simplest of factors; I believe that his totem begins to waver slightly before the film cuts to black. As audiences are informed the totem will spin continuously if Cobb is dreaming but here it really seems to lose momentum, unfortunately not enough to be fully conclusive though. I’m aware of the theories that Cobb is still dreaming and in fact that the whole film is a dream, however I struggle to imagine a filmmaker of Christopher Nolan’s calibre opting for an ‘it was all a dream ending’. Although upon rewatching the film there are some hints that could suggest Cobb never made it back to the real world. When he returns to his children it seems to be the exact moment that he constantly constructs from his memories in the dreams. Surely, it’s highly unlikely that this moment would be so exactly replicated if he was in back in the real world. Despite this I then wonder if it is a dream then in which reality or level is Cobb dreaming in. Therefore, I find it easier to accept the logic of the totem beginning to stop rather than Cobb being in a further dream state. Regardless of the ending the film is a spectacular achievement, offering massive entertainment and much potential for discussion, any cinephiles dream if you will!

– Hamish Calvert (@HCMovieReviews)

Inception Dom Cobb

In my experience, the only people who are certain they understand the ending of “Inception” are also certain that the top – Cobb’s totem – is about to topple. While the top does admittedly falter a bit, that would be too easy; more of a Michael Bay ending than a grand Christopher Nolan finale. If we assume that the top falls, we’re essentially closing the door to all other possibilities, leaving no room for debate. If the top falls, the film loses its impact and is less thought provoking.

In “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (both the book and the film), Dumbledore warns, “It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live.” In the context of the film, he’s warning Harry about not wasting time wishing for things that are impossible to obtain. Taking on different meaning, it applies to the ending of Inception, too. Cobb has been reunited with his kids – the one thing he’s wanted for years. So, does it matter whether or not that reunion happens in reality or dreams? Nolan himself has admitted that the final scene is not supposed to be about whether or not Cobb is in reality, but about the fact that he’s happy. So, I’ve chosen stop dwelling on whether or not Cobb is dreaming, but to just accept that he’s happy and is finally seeing his kids again.

– Alicja Johnson (@reelredreviews)


After reading these theories, What do you think? Do you agree with any or completely disagree with all of them? Let us know by leaving your thoughts in the comments!

I’ll like to thank Hamish Calvert from HC Movie Reviews, Alicja Johnson from Reel Red Reviews, and Noah Jackson from JumpCut UK for collaborating with me on the first movie discussion.

I am the creator of Popcorn On Couch, freelance web developer,a Tennis & WWE fan, I love watching movies, studying and sleeping.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>