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The Meaning of the Ending of "Inception"

Updated on August 20, 2010

ATTENTION: those of you who have not seen this movie and don't want the ending spoiled, turn away now while there is still a chance. This entire article is me giving away the ending. You have been warned.

Alright, now that that nonsense is out of the way.....

Seriously, you haven't seen it and you are still here? Stop reading, you're gonna regret it. This was a great movie and you won't want to ruin it for yourself. Go watch it and then come back to read this!What? You're going to ignore my good judgment anyways? Ugh, fine...if you're going to be that way, let me at least slap on a good disclaimer.


DISCLAIMER: the author of this content is in no way, shape, or form, responsible for the disappointment of Inception moviegoers when they watch this movie for the first time and realize that they already know how it will end because they did not heed prior warnings and decided to read this hub anyways.

Okay, i have said my piece. Now on to the good stuff...

Let's recap

There has been some much unnecessary speculation as to the meaning of the ending of the feature film of the summer, "Inception" (starring hottie mc hotties Leonardo Dicaprio and Joseph Lovet Hewitt)....(Oh yeah, and Ellen Paige, sure...if you're into that sorta thing....) which centers around the exploits of super awesome "dream" agents, who must uncover top-secret information on a mission that delves into the subconscious of their subject, in, you guessed it...DREAM WORLD.The agents go into collective dreaming, where they can interact and carry out their mission as planned.

Well, after all of this awesomeness ensues, we get thrown into the predicament that so many dreams within dreams has confused our heart-throb (Leo) into muddling his dream state with reality. The oh-so-loved "totems" that the characters carry around are meant to distinguish their realities from their dream states. Since only the totem holder is allowed to touch the totem, they know that no one else would ever be holding it in dream world...so when they see their totem in their hands, it is not a dream. Now, here is the discrepancy:

The discrepancy

As you well know, Leo's character uses a silver top as his totem (and if you didn't know that, you need to stop reading this...go away and watch the movie already, for the love of God!!!).

The very uniquely identifying thing about this top in the real world versus in the dream world: The top never stops spinning in his dreams. In real life, it will fall down, as physics of the real world would have it. At the end of the movie, the top keeps spinning. It looks as if it may waiver...oh, wait...yes, no...maybe...and then GOODBYE FILM, HELLO ENDING CREDITS, as it switches over to blackness and leaves you wondering if the top ever actually fell down or not. Well, GREAT. Now we are left with these silly little theories, that I am about to shatter for you with one minor detail. But first, the theories:

The Silly Little Theories:

  • Leonardo Di Caprio is not real. Neither was anyone else. Everything was fake. The main character fabricated his reality, including his peers, solely in his mind.This is a "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", twisted, alternate reality, Leo is a psycho or on drugs scenario.
  • The ENTIRE movie was one big dream. I mean, come on! The top OBVIOUSLY kept spinning at the end, am i right? He. He. (Annoying laugh).

Alright, so MAYBE the real issue here, is that no matter how you look at it, you are always going to be divided between those who believe the top fell, and those who believe the top kept spinning, right? Either the whole movie was a dream, or a bunch of bull, or whatever...or it was real. And Leo woke up. So I am telling you right now, plain as day, that there is absolutely no fathomable way that the top would have kept spinning, and here is why:



Here's Why:

Throughout the movie, we saw the top fall several times. With the logic that the top would never fall in a dream, there must have been times throughout the movie that Leo's character was awake. So we could never say that the entire movie was a dream. The top totally falls at the end: they cut it out in the ending as a marketing ploy to keep people who couldn't get it the first time to watch it again, in hopes of "getting" it, thus spending more money in theaters. Quite brilliant, actually. 

But I would still watch it again. Great movie. Especially considering how I love dreams, and all. Hope this didn't put too much of a damper on your theories. If you have a rebuttal, leave me a comment! I would love to debate this to the death with anyone willing to go there. Oh, and if you want more dream reading, check this out....oh, and this....some more articles I have written on the strange phenomena that we call dreams. =)

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    • profile image

      Al 6 years ago

      Not to mention the wedding ring. But there is a way the top could have wobbled. When they are in a dream, sometimes the gravity will be altered and wobble because that is what is happening to the dreamer. So, Cobb's architect could be in a truck or a plane that might have wobbled a bit, causing the top to wobble or even fall down.

      But, the wedding ring, kids' shoes, and kids' faces all show that it is reality.

    • profile image

      amanda 7 years ago

      Oh yea and the fact that he was actually able to see his childrens faces in the end I believe was also made to show that he was indeed awake considering that he was never able to see their faces in any of hois dreamsm Big clue right there that I've noticed many people seem to leave out and or miss.

    • profile image

      amanda 7 years ago

      So I pretty much agree with MOST of what you have to say, but the explaination of the totems I believe is a bit different then what you said as per what would respresent them actually being in a dream instead of reality.. No one was allowed to touch another persons totem so that they could not figure out the exact demesions of said totem and consequently trick the totems owner into believing dreamland was reality by getting the demensions correct when they build the dreamworld..I guess its basically the same theory though.. Secondly you say 'there is no possible way the top could have kept spinning in the end' and 'here's why' I don't really see where you explained why it could not have kept spinning.. That's not to say I believe it did keep spinning, but I definately wouldn't say it could not have.. In my opinion the fact that it begins to shake and topple shows that it was going to fall but I believe the point of the end was to keep you guessing and to leave the ending up to interrpretation by the viewer, therefore being no real ending. Otherwise great explaination!

    • Teresa Schultz profile image

      Teresa Schultz 7 years ago from East London, in South Africa

      I felt the movie was not totally about "does the top fall at the end or not" as it's not even Cobb's top; it's Mol's - which could throw a spanner in the works. Then, to top (no pun intended) it all, if Cobb is actually the subject of somebody else's inception, the thought that the totems represent the difference between reality and a dream could have just been planted in his mind.

      I am not satisfied by anybody's explanations of the ending, not even my own ideas of what the ending or the movie means, and I think I'm quite happy with it just like that. The "not knowing" is what made the movie brilliant for me. It's fun to read through what everyone else thought of the movie, though, and of the ending.

    • profile image

      semadar 7 years ago

      I have to say the top falls because it starts to wobble, and if you pay attention to every time the top is spun in the movie especially the begging it never even wobbles.

    • profile image

      m.awal 7 years ago

      absolutely right............... thx

    • TruthAwake profile image
      Author

      TruthAwake 7 years ago from The Dirty South

      Thanks Skaditch. "Half empty or half full"...that's definitely true of people. I'm curious as to what makes those who theorize that the top keeps spinning come to that conclusion? Alas, thanks for the feedback! =)

    • Skaditch profile image

      Skaditch 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      I took a bunch of friends to see this movie and we split down the middle whether or not the top falls. I say, it does not. I also saw an online news pole, I forget which site, and it was split 50-50 on the top falling. It's kinda like the whole, how people view a glass with water in it, half empty or half full. Good read. Cheers!

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