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At the end of 'Inception,' Cobb was:

  • Awake

  • Dreaming

Posted 8 years.


  • Souvik Dutta - 6 years ago

    I think the same way COBB inserted the idea about the spin in MALL'S brain, SYTO- the asian, have inserted the same idea in COBB'S MIND...........

  • Tibor - 6 years ago

    I have yet another interpretation I haven't come across on the Internet yet (but it sure must be there, I didn't search for it so wild to be honest:-)) Here it goes: Everything what happened before Cobb's final wakeup on the plane was his dream, BUT: nothing like inception had actually happened. In fact it could not. The inception and any way of entering one's dream was only his imagining (dreaming) it. He didn't even know the people on the plane. Notice that Saito is making a phone call in the end but we do not know what he is saying, Ariadne is looking at Cobb at the immigration check but it might just be because he is a handsome guy... So my point is that Cobb was dreaming one complex dream in "our world" reality where nothing like inception or extraction is possible. He just happened to have a dream about all those people he was flying on the plane with, realizing too well after he's woken up that it was a dream. When he comes home and spins the top, he doesn't look at it much, it's just a kind of private joke referring to the dream he had - and he knows it was just a dream... In this interpretation, it's important to acknowledge that he is dreaming about real people, but nothing of the plot can be taken for sure about their real lives, as nothing really happened. He is NOT a criminal, he did NOT indirectly kill his wife, Mal can even be there after the final blackout. The fact that the characters do not speak after the final awakening makes it possible. I personally do not think that this is "the right" way of interpreting the movie, intended by Nolan, but I think he meant it to be there potentially, as a possibility. Also, my final word: great, really great movie, splendid narrative-questioning narrative! ;-)

  • Corky - 6 years ago

    The ending was a dream. Remember the guy that got shot? (I can't remember his name) He died in the artic dream. And when the dream is "concluded" he wakes up. But he shouldn't have. He should have never woken up. He would have been in "Limbo." So that's proof that he was dreaming.

  • Myrealname? - 6 years ago

    I realizethat yes, Iam a bit lat fo this lttle chat, but for anyone still readin these comments, there are many goo points, ad many plain stupid conclusions(DividJK). The most likely reaso for two lists of chil actors in te movie is entirely possible becaue thy needed older children fo when Cobb talks to his children heir voice are indeed deeper, and older sounding. I came into this convesation convinced that he was in a dream, on the sole basis that the top does not stop spinning at the end, the children have no apparent signs of aging at the end, and that none of the other character's acknowlege his awakening. After reading a bit into this growing argument, the person who stood out the most is undoubtably Mikey as his points are logical and backed with proof, a quality not many seem to share. Most others twisted facts to fit theories, whereas you twisted theories to fit facts, n for that I applaud you. And yes, for those of you who are reading this and have goodmeories, I am quoting Sherlock Holmes.

  • Rose BP - 7 years ago

    Since the ending takes Cobb from his wife's death to the start of the movie and ending with his children in the same position (playing) and the same age as he remembered them when he last saw them. Without any reasoning or explanation on how he arrived from frame to frame, that is the kind of craziness that only make scene in a dreams. ''WELL DONE''.

  • Theresa - 7 years ago

    There are two ways to look at it and I think I may need to watch it a second time to fully comprehend both sides

    Awake- how I see it the end shows him returning to his kids, and they are unchanged. However; in each level of dreaming, you never learn the exact amount of time that passes in the dream world in comparison to the real world. So when we see his children for all we know, time could've barely passed.

    Dreaming- as stated at the end of awake, time barely could've passed. But if you take a look at the cutscenes given when he first leaves them in reality, they have run off and he doesn't see their faces. In the end, they are exactly as he left them, only it's as if he never left. Yet can someone answer this question:

    Was getting mr. Fischer on the airplane, the first portion of a dream, or was that part reality?

  • DeN - 7 years ago

    He's awake in the beginning but dreaming in the end.

    Here is my theory on the two sets of child actors. The younger set are the ones you see, which he only sees in his dreams and memories of the last time he saw them. The older set are the ones you hear on the phone, since Cobb has been away for two years they need to sound more mature than a 3 yr old and a 20 month old child.

    Towards the end Cobb knows when Saito dies, and goes into limbo, any chance of being able to go home to his children dies with him. In the end the older version of Saito is a projection of Cobb's subconscious. By finding Saito and bringing him back, thus allowing Saito to make the call, makes it easier to accept that his final dream state is reality and he can finally return home to his kids, who by the way happen to be the same age and appearance as when he first left them.

  • Chase - 7 years ago

    EVERYONE READ THIS...well if he was awake then he had to have been waken up fom other dreams, such as in that mtn base, in the hotel, and the pplace where he kidnapped that one guy. (i forgot his name)

  • Mason - 7 years ago


  • Jessie - 7 years ago

    I can't believe this movie ended this way ! Idont know about anybody else , but iloved this movie until the ending scene . Ijuss wanna watch a movie were it's long , good , and comes to a conclusion . Ihate movies that leaving yu waiting for a never coming sequel .

  • seb - 7 years ago


    I have to agree with you ...
    But I'm still not sure if he was awake or if he was dreaming lol

  • smiley17 - 7 years ago

    he is awake beacause as he said before (not word for word) that if your dreaming than you dont know where you came from hence he knows where he came from.

  • Kennie - 7 years ago

    There are 3 ways to view the movie.

    1.)Cobb was dreaming at the end.
    2.)Cobb was not dreaming at the end.
    3.)Cobb was dreaming the entire movie.

    Despite how you look at the movie, the feelings and emotions you experienced throughout the journey are real. It's a beautiful metaphor about movies and "reality". Everything is staged, much like it is in a movie, but the feelings are real. The illusion of fear is real. What Fisher feels in the vault with his Dad to him is real. Cobb's pain and guilt are real.

    I suppose a lot can be said about the individual and how they interpret the movie. Movies are meant to indulge, entertain, inspire and evoke emotions in the viewer. If you watched Inception and you were even the slightest bit moved or excited, then it wasn't pointless.

    To relate the perfect example. A large majority of the battles, turmoil, conflict and resolution in The Matrix never really happened; and every event, except one or two, made absolutely no relative difference to the internal plots outcome. It all happened in their minds and was a made up twist of lies and veils. However, none of this detracts from the journey that each individual character takes and how the movie makes the viewer feel.

    The main idea of the dream world is that you make your own reality. It's PURE CREATION. Either way you look at the ending, this movie is brilliant and does a great job at testing the limits of what we define as "REAL"

  • jackson welch - 7 years ago

    most all of these "was he dreaming right the whole time" comments suck, the very first scene of the movie was the limbo scene, and from there the extraction, and so on, you clearly grasp what is and isn't reality, so i would highly doubt that the 'big twist' is that the whole thing is only a dream, that would kind of make everything you just watched pointless, hahaha. and as for him having his wifes totum... he pick that up on the anniversary night when she killed herself, he picked it up next to the broken glass.

  • Cal - 7 years ago

    Everyone seems to be missing the fact that all of these points are moot. Time is multiplied every time a new dream is entered, therefore if he is dreaming either at the end of the movie or throughout the films entirety, his reality will still have only moved forward in time a fraction of what it does in the dream worlds. This means that he can live any reality he wants and nothing really matters; When he actually makes it back to his true reality, he wont have missed much.

    If I was in his position I would live each reality as if it was true. When one reality dies, he is suddenly relieved with a young and prosperous life with his loving wife and beautiful children. Can anyone here honestly say they wouldn't want that sort of immortality?

  • javier - 7 years ago

    They don't have the same clothes, his daughter has a white t-shirt with the pink dress, and they are older. also the top maybe stopped spinning after the screen got black. check out the dvd when it comes out :-D

  • Tim - 7 years ago

    Well the thing is, he would've come back to see the totem after the scene we saw, so he would be able to kill himself had it kept spinning.
    I'm not saying he would, because he was finally with his kids, so he might just stay there. But for the record.
    I think he's awake.

  • Mark - 7 years ago

    Does Cobb know how he got to where he is? Simple enough......

  • anthony - 7 years ago

    I believe he isnt dreaming at the end. The totem generally spins very stable during previous dreams but the fact it slows down and begins to fall suggests he isnt dreaming.....why dont we see it fall then? As it slows down towards the end i was prayingggg for it to fall and i was like nooooooo when it cut off but i came to the conclusion that it didnt matter what happened to it - cobb was where he wanted to be.

  • paddy - 7 years ago

    The fact he was in the plane and not confused is proof enough that he is awake. The top is not really his totem so it does not matter. He goes back to his children.

  • Jonny - 7 years ago

    Okay im just going to start off by saying that if you watch through the entire movie, credits and all, there is an audio clip of the top falling . This irevocably reveals he is not in a dream. Comments about the children's age are completely irrelevent, the time line you are given get's completely distorted by the fact that you are seeing dream after dream. The main thing that people should consider however, and I think someone else shared a similar opinion, is that if it is a dream then the hole movie is pointless. You can't debate about children's age, about the totem belonging to Mal, or what ever other theories are floating around because then nothing is real and therefor you cannot trust the logic in the movie and anything else that people say or do. It being a dream means you relinquish any pillars of logic within the movie, even the concept of inception whichis the NAME OF THE MOVIE. When it really comes down to it you have to ask yourself "if it's a dream, did I just spent 3 hours of my life watching a movie with no point other then being visually satisfying?. If your okay with that then good on ya, but if you're not then h'es awake no if ands or buts.

  • vision_airy - 7 years ago

    This is what it’s all about!!!!!! The fact that so many are searching so diligently for even the most obscure hint of conclusion we can wrap our minds around tells me that the director knew exactly what he was doing. All of these posts are true, anything you want to happen can and does because there is either enough sufficient evidence or the complete lack thereof to prove it. Many times I have been tempted to change my point of view based upon the inception planted there by the points others are making, ah, but my security is much too clever for that!!!

    It seems for as many levels of dream our clever imaginations can generate, equally there are many levels of reality we can create for ourselves too. Bravo to all of you for figuring it out and Bravo to the director for making it so ridiculously impossible.

    Naturally just as myself there are those who believe they are absolute in there perception of inception and will further struggle with their injections of projections in order to skew the thoughts of others closer to the reality the believe they know for fact. Perhaps in order to relieve the perplexity in which at this moment continually scrambles their brain into a frenzy of anxiety they only wish to awaken from.

    That my friends is great directing!!!!! Wait a minute, are we really awake or is this really a dream, and, are you trying to incept me or is the other way around????

    Chance makes a very good point, “Masterpiece…” "They come to be woken up, who are you to decide?" In this scene we find ourselves in a chemist shop (What the hell is that?), speaking to an individual in a fairly normal setting with the exception of the hundreds of bottles of potion lining each and every wall (nothing odd there!). Then we step into a darkened basement that is completely out of place and hear an individual say something so off the wall we know for certain it is not reality but we tell ourselves it must be, because we beforehand convinced ourselves so desperately that it was, (ouch I have a headache).

    I’ve watched this post, read and re-read many thoughts, arguments and ideas, however,
    “Could Cobb be incepting himself by practicing the art of self manipulation with creating the ability to make “Mal’s” Totem fall, thus as well creating the illusion in himself that he was actually awake, or, is Mal herself trying to create a true projection of Cobb so they can be together again instead of pretending she is actually him and not all alone in Limbo????? Oh oh, better go see it again…… ca-ching ca-ching $$$$$$$

    Either way, each of you is correct in any assumption you could possibly dream up because Nolan did exactly what he set out to do, “Turn reality on it’s head.” Bravo.......

  • Jeff - 7 years ago

    I think the whole movie is a dream by Teddy Daniels from Shutter Island. r

  • deborah - 7 years ago


  • deborah - 7 years ago

    I believe he was awake, because if he was dreaming the top wouldnt have "wobbled" at the end it would have spun perfectly. Also his kids clothes were similar but not identical to his dreams, and they were slightly older. If you remeber his phone conversation with his kids they still sounded relatively young. And when someone said his kids couldnt be that young because Cobb and Mak grew old together, well your wrong because they grew old together in Limbo and time there is not like real time, it seems like years go by when in reality its only been a few minutes. Also I heard that during the credits you heard what sounds like the top falling which gives the impression he was really awake.

  • khaleid charles - 7 years ago

    Cobb expalined to the young sexy Architect that he was in state of Limbo him and MAL.wHILE TELLING HER WE WERE SEEING HER THOUGHTS OF WHAT WAS BEING TOLD TO HER.Reason being the scenes shown during that conversation showed Cobb and Mal very young.Take you a little further ...When Cobb faced Mal in tryiing to retrieve Fischer he was explining things to her and the scenes with him and her on the track were AN AGED COUPLE.He even said it that they had a life time in that world.
    Cobb and Mal took there lives in that limbo state to get back to reality....thats the scene where they laid together on the floor and she woke up crying...they were back!

    When the vn went down in the water CObb AND saito did not wake becuse they were in the last level and no kick will bring them back but death only at that level.The young sexy architect knew Cobb had been there and understood he will be alright.On the river bank after the Van sunk in the river her accomplice asked about Cobb , she smiled and said he will be alright.

    When Cobb reached to SAITO in Limbo land they were aged..and they understood what needed to be done..The scene was cut when Saito took Cobb's gun which was left to our imagination..Only DEATH CAN RELEASE THESE MEN FROM liMBO BACK TO REALITY.


    Now someone tell me based on all the facts that the movie defined and I have not deviated from the basic fundamnetals of the inception scheme.

    How could COBB be dreaming in the limbo state??

  • Jennifer - 7 years ago

    Maybe it's because I have kids, but I am going to assume he was awake!

  • Victor - 7 years ago

    If the whole movie is a dream, Cobb could choose whether or not the top will fall. I mean, there are some parts in the movie where Cobb could see the top falling, so he had the control. If not, then the ending was indeed a dream.

  • danny - 7 years ago

    First of all i got to say that the movie was highly enjoyable and felt very much like an action ride, which is what i think Nolan intended it to be, aside from all the philosophical/thought provoking plot lines. The cast was great and some amazing performances were on show i gotta say, as for Leo he's still got it. Now, the big debate. From a personal point of view i am , just like cobb, happy with the reality of the movie and how it ends weather it points to one direction or another. There is definitely far too many logical and some illogical (but good) explanations on the many theories the movie produces for there to be one clear outcome everyone could happily agree on. I think that was not the intended purpose of the film, to have a clear explanation.This is what separates it from most Hollywood blockbusters and recent films in general where the answers are simply given away far too easily and everyone is left with something they will forget by the time they catch the next flick. This will remain a memorable piece because of its conflicting, complex and constantly evolving story. It really doesn't seem to leave you even when the movie finishes which are signs that we have a classic on our hands here. I just think the story is immensely well crafted and thought out while some parts have even unintentionally become story twists because of the detailed analysis on the film by everyone who has seen it so far, trying to look for clues and hidden meanings. I think just about every theory can be looked at from the two opposing views that conclude the film, (reality vs. dream) and weather you stand by one of them or not , the answers are left to endless possibilities. Overall a great movie and something everyone interested in challenging and original films should see.

  • nils - 7 years ago

    I'm not sure if he's dreaming or not, but i think it is rather a dream than reality. The hint for me is that when he wakes up he seems not to recognize the other Team members, but they smile an laugh at him? Strange.
    But the strangest thing about the ending is michael cains character appearing at the airport. How on earth could he now, that they can get the job done? I mean he lives in Paris actually.
    and the strangest thing is, that ariadne says to arthur in the end of the movie that cobb will make it. how does she know?
    i have so many questions, and just not enough answers ;).

  • cobddd - 7 years ago

    So many people are using the wedding ring as evidence that Cobb wasn't awake, since he wore the ring in dreams. But think about it - he finally let Mal go. So would he continue wearing the ring, or would he have finally let go of that, too? :)

  • Dimitri T - 7 years ago

    Laura P nailed it, Michael Cain's character orchestrated the dreams to help Cobb, thus the whole movie is a dream. Recall, Cobb meets with him early in the movie at what appears to be the professor's school while Cobb is in Europe, and picks him up at the airport at the end of the movie to bring him "home" to the kids in the US. The professor can't work on one continent and live in another. Although I have only seen the movie once, I believe Cain's character was wearing the same clothes on both sides of the Atlantic. If I'm right, the movie ends in a dream state, where at least Cobb no longer blames himself for his wife's "death". The next challenge for Cain (do I hear sequel?) is to get Cobb out of this dream-state to the one above, which could be reality (his wife is alive his kids still quite young) or another dream or sets of dreams where it may turn out he's not even married? Who knows, I slept through the entire movie.

  • Dawn - 7 years ago

    With the two ages of the children, Cobb could have just been dreaming that he has just come back from his whole adventure. He would then dream that they were older.

  • esteban - 7 years ago

    Cobb is still in Mal's dreams

  • aaron - 7 years ago

    I believe he was awake, if you change the childrens clothes or use different actors to make them look older it would defeat the purpose of leaving the top spinning. Obviously Nolan was looking for this cliffhander ending so he had to do that.

    I think he's awake because being in a dream doesn't make sense.. killing yourself in limbo or any dream will bring you back to reality we have no indication thoughout the whole movie that it could take him to a new dream.

    You could think he's been dreaming the entire movie, Mal makes a great point that he's being chased all over and she killed herself removing her from that dream that he is still in. But you either have to believe that he is in reality at the end or that he has been dreaming that whole time and that we never saw a scene in the enitry movie that was reality.

  • javi - 7 years ago

    i think he was dreaming at the end because member in the scene when he calls his kids and he talks to his daughter and son.... didnt the son sound older on the fone then how he looked when he saw them in the end?? i might be bugging but thats what i think....

  • Colleenlaughs - 7 years ago

    1. The 'whole movie was a dream' plot line is so cliche I won't insult Nolan by even debating it. I think every single twilight zone episode ended like that. I really refuse to believe that in the last 3 seconds of the whole movie we are asked to throw out all the 'rules'.

    2. When the dreamer jumps from one dream level to the next he/she has no recollection how he got there. We see Cobb waking, moving through the airport, getting picked up etc. If he was dreaming he would have started right at home.

    3. More observant (and wealthier apparently- I can't afford to see this thing 5 times!) people than myself have watched and noted that the children are in fact slightly older in the final scene. Also the wedding band is off in reality and he isn't wearing at the end.

    4. I think his repudiation of 'dream Mal' while in limbo would make it impossible to accept 'dream children'. They would be just as two dimensional as he believed 'dream Mal' to be and I think that would not be enough for him. Meaning- his 'dream children' would never be as complex and rewarding as the real deal.

    5. I really like the fact that the reality of himself with his children is good enough for him in the end. He walks away from the spinning top because he doesn't care any more. That isn't really proof that he's awake (in fact kind of the opposite) but I do like that . So even if I'm wrong that is a real nice little plot arch.

  • Ed Xue - 7 years ago

    The clothes are actually different, if you payed close attention.

    1) the boy has a blue plaid shirt with a red stripe that goes down the center of his back, starting over his left shoulder.
    2) the girl has a pink dress
    3) the girl is wearing no shoes
    4) the girl enters Cobbs line of site from the right of the door and positions herself between the boy and Cobb.
    5) the boy and girl run off screen away from the door before Cobb turns away

    1) the boy has a blue and red checkered plaid shirt
    2) the girl has the same pink dress, only with a white undershirt
    3) the girl has shoes on
    4) the girl is already kneeling down next to the boy, positing the boy between herself and Cobb
    5) they never move, only turn around.

    Also, if you notice his wedding ring, he wears it while he is dreaming and not in "reality" and he does not wear it in the ending. This "reality" is reality because how could it be a dream? Everything that happened in "reality" is grounded into the rules of reality: such as gravity, physics, etc.. how could Cobb dream of a world so large, so detailed, so realistic by plain memory alone?

  • Gary T - 7 years ago

    The concept of shared dreamspace was fully explored in the first season of Spongebob - "Sleepy Time"

    By the way, Mal was right. People don't chase you with guns in real life. His reality was a dream.

  • Laurent - 7 years ago

    Just want to make sure on what game we are all playing by searching a certain logicality
    about if he is dreaming or not at the end. I want to point out that every possible end is not false,
    BECAUSE it's all about a story where 1.every scenario are possible because NOTHING is impossible
    (it's a dream) 2.once there is the possibility that the top of Cobb may not work, he could possibly be
    lost in a trap...or not, if it finally work properly
    But, we don't know, and we can't assume the invert! If you want to know what happen to him, just let's say that
    Nolan give us kind of multiple way interpretation movie, just like Shutter Island
    Sorry for the mistake, english's kind of a foreign language for me;)

  • David - 7 years ago

    To those of you using the spinning top beginning to wobble a little at the end as an argument for 'awake', I feel I should mention one thing. Dom clearly points out that you shouldn't reveal to anyone how your totem works. If someone know how it works, you can potentially change how it reacts in the dream. Unfortunately, it seems that more than one character knows how his/Mal's totem works thus making it impossible to use that as barometer for awake/asleep. Food for thought.

  • Emily - 7 years ago

    i looove the ending. i honestly think he's in reality, maybe just because i love happy endings.
    but i love how it ends without you knowing, it was like Nolan was saying reality is whatever you make it. ya know?

  • yerel - 7 years ago

    If Cobb's reality is a dream then shouldn't Mal be able to randomly show up in what we are led to believe is the real world? Another theory......

    I believe the ambiguities in the movie are intentionally placed there by the filmmaker. The reason being that Nolan is subtlety breaking the fourth wall by getting you, the viewer, to question your own reality. Remember, Nolan can't come right and tell you that the world isn't real. As explained in the movie, the target can't be able to trace the genesis of a given idea back to anyone else. I would then submit that Nolan is trying to get the audience to think about the nature of their own existence by performing an inception on us. Perhaps this is a reflection of Nolan's approach to life or his thoughts of religion.

  • hugo - 7 years ago

    clear proof that he was dreaming is that when he finally came home in the end of the movie his kids were still wearing the same clothes as when he sees them in his dreams BOO YAH!!!!

  • prov31girl - 7 years ago

    I LOVED this movie, all though there are a lot of complications (as stated above). There's one things that I don't agree with AT ALL. I don't like how everyone is saying how it doesn't matter if he's awake or not as long as he's happy. Just like Zoe I feel it's a simple fact that his CHILDREN, would not be happy if they found out that there Dad is in a coma. It would be even worse because their grandma would most likely speak badly about him anyways. it's pretty obvious that she and Cobb don't have the best relationship, I mean, she wouldn't even talk to him on the phone. And- Big Ben, did you see how they were sitting on the beach, and then we flash to Cobb at the end? that leaves room for the interperatation that they could be sitting there talking for a week before we jump to Cobb waking up in the plane. I'm still not sure if he's awake or dreaming though. My main issue is that I would LIKE for him to really be living happily ever after with his kids, BUT my brain keeps throwing all these little details out at me, like how the guards never actually succeeded in killing anyone, but the person who Cobb didn't seem to like anyways (could that be his subconsious getting rid of people from greatest to least threat, or just coincidence?). But I DEFINETLY don't think that Cobb was dreaming the whole time. Given the fact that the top did stop sometimes, and he said that it would only stop in reality, not sometimes in reality and sometimes in the dream world.

    All in all, I must say... Well done Nolan, well done.

  • BIG BEN - 7 years ago

    here is my piece. people can argue that the kick to bring you back has come from a previous level of dreaming/reality. for instance, in the beggining leo is kicked by being shoved from the chair into the bath. he is "awake" in the second dream level at this point. he is kicked (pushed into the bath) from the first dream level and "wakes up" into that level from which he was kicked (the first dream level) they talk to saito and after a bit come back to reality (on the train) because the timer goes off, thus woken up.

    now heres what i cannot process...

    for the last job (inception on fisher) they need sedation to go 3 levels deep and need ample time to complete the job. (reason for saito buying out the airline and needing to have him alone for 10 hours in real time) also they needed sedation because of the instability of the 3rd dream level. this sedation did 3 things. 1. it accelerated brain function even more than it normally does in a dream state. and 2. caused them to go into limbo rather than reality if killed. and finally 3. left inner ear function not affected so that they could be kicked back into reality. now this is what gets me. like on the first job we see cobb and arthur do, they show arthur being kicked from reality back to reality multiple times when they are explaing what a kick is to ariadne in the middle of the movie. at the end you see ariadne kicked from each level back to each level. falls in hospital wakes in hospital, falls in elevater wakes up in elevator, falls in water wakes up in water. but how do they get back to reality?

    reasons i dont think the airline attendant could have kicked them from reality back to reality. there are intangibles she could not have accounted for. 1st they did not know that fisher's sub-concious had been trained untill they had gotten into the first level. so they had to speed up the plan. the flight attendant would not have known that. so she would not have know when to kick them. 2. she has no idea when they got back to the first level, and she cannot kick them untill they are back in the first level. so if they are in reality a couple of things would of had to happen. timer runs out (which they could not have waited for, because that is one week in the first level. they would not have survived and all sent and lost to limbo because they would have been killed.) or the flight attendant magically knows where they are and has a lucky guess to kick them back to reality.

    so either they wait it out the whole week and cobb is awake at the end because when you kill yourself in limbo we are told you come right back to reality. bypassing the other dream levels. or he was dreaming the whole job. but was the whole movie cobbs dream or was he only dreaming from mombasso on?

    someone help me out, lemme know if im missing something and shed some light on this!! ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. my brain hurts!

  • BIG BEN - 7 years ago

    All I have to say is when the movie comes out on DVD, watching the movie with commentary from Nolan will be a must. Maybe he will give justification to one side or the other! I honestly cannot decide what to believe. sooooo many details, soooo many rules, so many great arguments its to much to process even after THREE viewings. This movie is gonna bankrupt me!

  • Zoe - 7 years ago

    Hmm... I think that he's awake at the end. I know the children's appearances haven't changed, but that could be to make the scene more instantly recognizable to the viewer. He goes home and sees his kids, just like the scene he's always dreamed about - except this time it's real.

    My backing for this is that the top wobbles, yet we never see it wobble at all in the dream world. Also, even though in falls in Mombasa, wouldn't it still keep spinning as it hit the floor if it was a dream? If it tumbled off the counter and landed properly in the floor, it would still keep spinning.

    I also refuse to believe that Arthur and Ariadne were projections (despite their lack of backstory) simply because it would render the interactions between them meaningless. Also, if everything was Cobb's dream, how come there was the seperate scene where Fischer goes to see his dad who breaks the photograph?

    Everyone says that it doesn't matter because Cobb is happy, but what about his kids? "Oh, your dad is in a vegetative state, sorry." It's not a good ending for them.

    I'm going to have to watch this again and pay attention to the airport scenes, because people here have brought up some really good points.

  • Adonna - 7 years ago

    Dreaming or was a great movie.

  • Nate - 7 years ago

    he was dreaming heres why : his kids were wearing the same clothes and they never aged. i agree that its his subconcious that gave them faces. wouldnt they have aged over all those years or change their clothes? ugh my head hurts

  • Corbin - 7 years ago

    sorry i meant sub-concious ^

  • Corbin - 7 years ago

    It could go either way, but if it was Fischer's dream why would Mal be in it. If projections were coming from Cobb's self-concious it was probably his dream right?

  • SonOfZod - 7 years ago

    I love it that the poll is 51-49. Proof that the ending works. Fantastic stuff. Proof that US audiences are not dumb, they are just treated that way usually. People, overall, love a challenge. It just doesn't happen very often. Thanks Nolan for not making that assumption.

  • MissMarie - 7 years ago

    At the end I believe he was either A) dreaming or B) in the final moments before death. You see Cobb never got out of the van after it went underwater he was just left by everybody to drown. I mean as my boyfriend pointed out after a few minutes underwater you die no matter if your in a subconcious state or not. That means if Cobb was still in fact dreaming as I believe he was he must be killed either by his father who brought him to the house (the house that was the same interior as the apartment of his dream for all the people who think he was awake) or his childrens before he dies from drowning in the real world.
    Now also since it didnt show him leaving the van when the others left it in reality I think that the last part of the movie where he gets off the plane and sees his childrens faces could actually be the memories a dying man sees quicker than a blink of an eye while he is near death or essentially "dying". People with near death experiences I have described bright lights but also loved ones right before they "were almost to the other side". Cobb could have been drowning in real life and seeing the images of his children to make him at peace with himself so he would truly be able to "rest in peace" with his imminent drowning death.
    The whole movies message is simply, "Life is a dream". We dont know when we are going to be born, we dont know when we are going to die, but the beauty of it lies in the mystery in between.

  • Victoria - 7 years ago

    He's Dreaming!! The moment he was able to see his children's faces gave us, and him, the understanding that he was home, yet the definition of home is not reality. He spent so much time in limbo that "unreality" became his home. And Again, the top was not his totem, it was Mal's. In Mal's dreams the top never fell, but in Cobb's dream that does not necessarily have to be the case. Not to mention the children never aged, not even by a day. I realize that the dream time works much more quickly than real time, but the children never even changed their clothes. This is another clue that Cobb was dreaming throughout the entire film.

  • norm - 7 years ago

    I read tiger99's comment about the ending credits. This is a good catch, but the two different actors and actresses could be attributed to the voices of the older children when Cobb is talking to them over the phone and their grandmother told them he wasn't coming back in the beginning of the movie. As for whether or not he's dreaming I think it's up for debate.

  • lola - 7 years ago

    Nolan is a master...Who wouldn't want to create or manipulate their reality? Nolan takes this theme and amazingly weaves this story into limitless possibilities. Is Cobb awake is he dreaming? Nolan does a beautiful job of leaving just enough hints/clues to make either a possibility. This is what makes this movie a must see again. I want be incepted into Nolans dreams and hi-jack his next screenplay.

  • Backslider - 7 years ago

    He was clearly dreaming at the end. Whether the totem stopped spinning or not is irrelevant. It was his own dream, and he performed inception on himself (the only way it can work) so that he would believe it is real.

    In fact, the entire movie was Cobb's inception on himself. The movie was a Penrose Stair - the begging/end being his meeting with the aged Saito. He was the architect of the entire dream, but he used an architect within it, and kept insisting that she not tell him the layout so that he could perform the Inception on himself.

    Very similar to Nolan's Memento, where the main character performs Inception on himself by writing a false "clue" that he won't remember is false.

    If you think it isn't a dream, explain how they ended up under the water in the first-level dream, after the "final" kick. Hitting the water was the kick to bring them back to the plane ("reality") and yet we see them swimming out of the van, sitting on the side of the water. And the unstoppable projection army that is just above them on the bridge is just letting them be. Why? Because the only way the inception will work is if he convinces himself that it can work on the projection of Fischer. He has to see Fischer come to the decision, and it can't happen in the "real" world of the airplane where Fishcer will think it a dream.

  • Glenn Snackwell - 8 years ago

    Cobb is still dreaming. If one were to ask our dear friend how he had gotten from the airport to his home, he would not have been able to immediately recall. We know that his father escorts him, but more significantly, the setting of the movie jumps from the terminal to his kitchen. Previous scenes indicate that when the setting changes so abruptly the character is in fact dreaming.

  • Donnie - 8 years ago

    Cobb mentioned that him and Mal were stuck in the dream world for 50 years. But according to the math, that means that they were only in there for either almost three years (dream phase 2) or a mere 50 hours (dream phase 3).

  • Chance - 8 years ago

    Masterpiece... "They come to be woken up, who are you to decide?"

  • Kurt - 8 years ago

    I think he wanted to go deep, and then deeper, past any of his team, so he could be with his children. He knew he couldn't go home. This would work. It did with Mal.

  • Natcha - 8 years ago

    He's still in a dream. I think 2 kids on the beach are not same kids at the backyard. 2 kids on the beach look smaller. That's maybe why they have 2 set of kids

  • Di - 8 years ago

    Sequel coming soon to a theater near you, that is what i got from it, can't wait. most awesome movie in a longggggg time:)))

  • Gabe - 8 years ago

    There is no way that he wasn't dreaming, his totem remained spinning; that's concrete proof that he was still dreaming. I'm tempted to declare that the whole movie was a dream, but I will have to hold off on that until I can see it once more. This movie fits in the category of "multiple viewings necessary to understand," without a doubt.

    Very well crafted movie.

  • Wayne Klein - 8 years ago


    Regarding your comment--we SEE Cobb reach for the gun but we DON'T see him shoot Saito or himself--the comment about NOT remembering how you got some place in a dream suggests that he was still in a dream. Nolan deliberately chose not to show the scene where Saito and Cobb dies because it would have suggested definitively that they had woken up.

    Withholding that informtion makes it possible to interpret the film both ways but Nolan deliberately withheld information on this AND showed us Cobb's children EXACTLY as he last saw them including the age they were at wearing the same clothes, etc.

  • Laura P - 8 years ago

    I suspect that someone practiced inception on Cobb since he was unable to forgive himself for "causing" his wife's death. I think that Michael Caine's character (the professor who is the expert on inception) manipulated the whole event, which is why he picks Cobb up at the airport at the end. In the scene where Mal jumps from the window, I found it odd that she and Cobb were in windows across from each other, not seemingly in the same room. If they'd been in the same room, Cobb could've grabbed her, so that must have been a dream, not a memory. He didn't cause her to die, really; but he blames himself. For him to find peace, he had to essentially arrange to "get a call", as in do penance in some way so he could be with his children. The penance that was constructed was to engineer forgiveness between the father and son, which he did. Thus the idea of penance and forgiveness was "incepted" into Cobb and he could live out his dream of being with his kids in his own mind. So, I think he was dreaming and never woke up. And this is also why Ellen Page's character was involved...she was protege of Michael Caine, so he used her to "incept" the forgiveness idea in Cobb's mind.

  • Debi Z - 8 years ago

    You all seem to have missed what I think is the obvious answer. The last time we see the totem topple is in Paris. My theory is that he never woke up from his dream in Mombasa. He tries to spin the totem but drops it right after he "wakes up" in Mombasa. What evidence do we have that everything after that is not a dream?

  • Miro - 8 years ago

    So I was wondering when people were talking about how everything that happens is in a dream and that he preformed the first inception on himself but refuses to accept his current state as a dream because he believes it is reality. Lets say this is true for this example. When Mal jumps off of the building she would wake up but then why wouldn't she be able to wake up Cobb? If she did die and wake up in another layer of her reality then she should be able to wake up Cobb to the next level of reality. The series of dreams that everyone goes through is similar to the Penrose Staircase in that every single time you die you wake up with an indeterminable amount of reality layers awaiting you. So I guess the point is to make due with world you're in because you never know that if you die, you are gone or wake up anew.

  • Robert - 8 years ago

    Most of the comments here effectively dissect the whole film and may, in fact, bring what Nolan may have had in mind to full circle. It appears to me that he introduced the rules and limitations of the story and then structered the whole story itself within the same confines. In turn he has masterfully created a movie that is multi-dimensional in scope and neverending in concept (particularly from a retrospective point of view). Props to him and everybody's analysis here.

  • Lex - 8 years ago

    Bounced around the web a bit. Karn may be right. Saito is the architect, controlling everything. HE is the one who suggests inception to Cobb, but would that make Limbo Saito a Cobb projection???

    Mindfuckery to the nth...

  • Lex - 8 years ago

    I don't recall seeing Cobb dialing the combination on Mal's safe to open it, meaning that it t wasn't locked, meaning that Mal may have meant for him to retrieve the top, meaning that Cobb was supposed to "go home" because Mal knew that Cobb needed to reunite with the kids more than he needed to be with her in Limbo???

    Like Berardinelli said, the movie is a "mind-fuck."

  • Adam - 8 years ago

    Apologies if this is repeat observation - near the end, was the passport check agent and the last security dude the same guy? If so, dream.

  • Lex - 8 years ago

    Cobb didn't have his own totem. Why not? He may have been Mal's projection. When she placed her totem in the safe in her Limbo house, it wasn't spinning. Nor was it spinning when Cobb dropped it on the floor in the bathroom, which was when Saito saw it for the first time, but it continued spinning when Saito spun it in Limbo as an old man.

    One reviewer, James Berardinelli, called this movie a "mind-fuck." I agree.

  • Karn - 8 years ago

    Everyone seems to e concentrating on the fact that if it's a dream Cobb's being dreaming the whole time; nobody considered the possibility that he might have been put in a dream somewhere in the middle of the film.
    1) Saito tells him, "Just like Inception" and plants the idea of Cobb finally going home in Cobb's head.
    2) Very conveniently Saito's there at the place where he meets the Forger, hinting that Saito might already have had a talk with him himself.
    3) The scene where they visit the chemist and Cobb tries out the ultra-dream-RDX: once he's awake, he begins to spin the top but Saito interrupts and Nolan doesn't let us know whether the top would have spun.
    This is the only time when Cobb's (apparently) returned to reality and the top not spinning has not been shown.

    Inference: Saito put Cobb in a dream-state in that chemist shop, where the rest of the movie took place, Saito and the remaining crew got to know how to execute the whole plan of Robert's inception, and Saito also took care of Cobb's 'returning home' problem by making him believe that he did.

  • asher - 8 years ago

    at the begging he was awake with the idea he can't see his kids because he would have faxed criminal charges.
    at the end he was awake but he had closure with his late wife. thus also was ready to see his kids.
    the hole story was about him going through the proccess of inception that he could see his kids again.

  • Matt - 8 years ago

    Whether or not he is awake or dreaming at the end, there is plenty of evidence the entire movie isnt a dream. His totem falls over when he is in reality. If he was in a different level of dream the totem would continue to spin, so obviously he is in reality. You are just trying to make it more complicated than it actually is by saying the whole thing is a dream.

  • lindaluau - 8 years ago

    I think when Cobb goes through customs his passport is stamped with the symbol that he drew for Ariadne. I don't know if the entire movie was a dream but I believe he was dreaming at the end.

  • Ariel - 8 years ago

    For those people who keep focusing on the totem, remember that the totem can only indicate whether or not you are in someone else's dream (which is why they do not share their totems). So in the end scene, whether or not the totem falls doesn't really indicate anything since if Cobb is in his own dream, it will fall. Also I believe the evidence of the casting (having kids that are 2 years older than the original kids) is enough to say that he was awake.

  • NightLuna - 8 years ago

    I choose dreaming. I don't know about the two 2 years older children actors, but if i didn't see the difference of the children at the end and the ones in Cobb's memories. Furthermore, the children were in the same position and in the same clothes as in Cobb's memories. I don't think it is coincidental.

  • Alex - 8 years ago

    We are dreaming. Cobb is awake. Don't forget that it is only a movie.

  • Travel Blog - 8 years ago

    The kids hadn't aged, despite Cobb having been away for a few years. I think that alone is evidence that he was still in the dream state. I think the moral of the story is that it shouldn't matter if the world is real or not, only that Cobb finally found a way to let go of Maul and finally be with his kids, even if that meant ending up in limbo.

  • Aaron - 8 years ago

    I choose awake. I find it interesting that only a few people pointed it out. It doesn't matter if the top falls. It didn't matter to Cobb. It's all about his perspective. He will get to spend a lifetime with his children either way, and whose to say that Cobb wasn't a projection, himself?

  • eric bogle - 8 years ago

    i belive he was dreaming,because at the end when he finally says goodbye to mal,that makes amends for his tortured mind,therefore has the right to look at his kids faces.

  • cody - 8 years ago

    dreaming. same as shutter island. he can't escape it.

  • mark - 8 years ago

    Just like a dream, the movie can end however you want it to... there is no clear cut ending. You can argue for either side like other posters have done above. I really don't think there is a right answer. You can make up your own reality here.

    Having gotten all philosophical I think he was dreaming.

  • Sofia - 8 years ago

    Tiger99: The only reason that Cobb's daughter is listed as being played by two different girls is because it was probably much simpler to use sisters. Notice how they have the last name? It's been done before. They look almost identically alike. It's not a coincidence that both children are wearing the same clothes as in Cobb's memories. He is definitely still dream. I am just confused about where his reality begins to be a just a dream.

  • E - 8 years ago

    You only slip into limbo if your sedated and in deep in alot of different dreams wthin dreams. But this movie required so much da*n thinkng that when i saw the top at the end my brain was mush anyways. I would like to think hes awake *but* the top did never stop. (it could be possible that that is the longest the film crew could get the top to spin without falling so they drug out the shot as much as they could without catching it falling. (unless they were dreaming when nolan filmed the movie................

  • Cable - 8 years ago

    You can't make an argument based on the way the top falls at the very end. Nolan gave us that little wobble just so we can do what we're doing now: think and argue. Also, that was his wife's totem, not his.

    As for me I think he's dreaming.

    The movie lacked the specifics needed to create a logical argument from either side given the fact that the subject is about hi-jacking dreams; something most people aren't too familiar with. However, one big sign for me was the fact that they killed themselves in limbo. See the writers didn't really give specifics on what a "kick" had to be for it to work, but killing your self (by the train in this case) isn't a logical solution for bringing them back to reality and out of limbo. All they really did was just push themselves into a different level of limbo in which they thought was reality. With this, Mal was right all along and by jumping off the building maybe she got the "kick" she needed to go back into reality.

    Mikey: You say that "If you enter Limbo after having died in a previous level, the way to escape that Limbo is death; we see this from Cobb and Mal when they lay their heads on the train tracks"... How do you know that they got out of Limbo at all? You're talking about this like your a master at this subject. It's made up.

    Nolan gave us the ending that he did so that we could get what we wanted out of the movie. He also gives us enough evidence to argue each side sufficiently. I like to think that he's dreaming because that shows to me that the writers and director put more thought into the movie and gave the audience more thought into how it all works. As opposed to him going back into reality, happily ever after with everything working out perfectly.

    As an alternate ending I would have liked to see Leo take the spinning top and put it in his pocket or something showing that he doesn't care if he's in a dream because this dream is as good as reality

  • Rino - 8 years ago

    Cobb was AWAKE in his dream and that is what really matters

  • Kaitlyn - 8 years ago

    I think he's awake. When they first show the kids when he gets home it's his memory, then you look again and they are older. The daughter is significantly taller for sure.
    And the top was wobbling.
    Also if it was a dream I think he would go straight from the plane to his house and not wait in customs lines.

  • David J. K. - 8 years ago

    LOL Mikey, Ellen Page is the dominate female actress in this film, and has the lead role. What more do you need for her to be in the Best Lead Actress category? Secondly, her performance is AMAZING.

  • MikeyBinMike - 8 years ago

    Oh and Joe: Not sure what century you've been hangin out in, but it no longer takes "several months" to travel from Paris to Mombasa and back.

  • 240shwag - 8 years ago

    He is dreaming. Definitely.


    1. When he speaks with his children on the phone and imagines that same scene where they are playing, their voices are completely different (lower pitched) and the way they are structuring sentences is much more advanced. That was reality.
    2. At the end, the children are still very young, their voices are higher pitched and both sound like girls. Children grow FAST.

  • MikeyBinMike - 8 years ago

    To everyone who keeps claiming he's dreaming: first read All the comments, then go watch it a second time.

    David J.K.: Ellen Page was not a leading actress in this movie, she was a supporting actress, and there really isn't any case for getting a nomination for it. There aren't any Oscar-worthy performances outside of Leo's; nobody has a big enough part for it.

  • David J. K. - 8 years ago

    While everyone is arguing about whether he's dreaming, check out this review of the movie. It's at Make some comments.

  • Ranjit - 8 years ago

    Just read tiger99's post about older actors for the children. This makes it interesting. But the kids do look exactly the same ... damn, this increases the conundrum :)

  • Ranjit - 8 years ago

    Dreaming. Totally agree with Raven. The fact that the children are completely *unchanged* is the kicker.

    Regarding the concept that the movie started with a dream, and that Mal was right in escaping by killing herself : I think Nolan eventually wants us to think along those lines, and bring home the point that *everything* is a dream within a dream. Death awakens us in another level of consciousness. Which 'level' of a dream anyone is in becomes a moot point.

  • Dark enV - 8 years ago

    Only thing is that you see the kids at that age at a point in the movie when Dom and Mal are arguing when she says "I'm their mother. Don't you think I can tell the difference?" because she thinks it's all a dream. Each other time we see them they appear to look exactly the same age as when he sees them at the end.

    I believe he's awake and for the simple reason that the top is beginning to fall. I've seen the film 3 times now and I've focused on how the top spins in reality and in the dreams and when you see it at the end it clearly resembles how it was in reality toward the end as it begins to wobble.

  • tiger99 - 8 years ago

    Here's proof for my statement above from which displays the full credits for Inception. It lists:

    Claire Geare... Phillipa (3 years)
    Magnus Nolan... James (20 months)

    Taylor Geare... Phillipa (5 years)
    Johnathan Geare... James (3 years)

    The only reason for the second casting is because in reality the kids have gotten older

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