Inception's Ending

Inception’s Ending Explained: Are We Still Dreaming?

Inception came out a decade ago, but fans still are unsure about Cobbs and whether he is dreaming in the ending scene. As the confusion continues, it is time we finally put it to rest. So for all the people looking for the meaning of the end of Inception, all these clues might be beneficial.

But before we get into the depths of the ending, it is crucial to understand the conclusion we know compared to the actual Inception meaning.

Inception – The Ending We Know


Christopher Nolan’s movie, Inception showcases a world where your dreams can be shared with others by intaking drugs and technology. Now the technique has been brought forward by the military, but Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb, who can easily slip into the minds of other individuals freely. Along the way, he takes on valuable and essential information from different people. In Inception, the protagonist Cobb goes in-depth, where Saito offers him an exit ticket to his kids and implant an idea!

In the process of getting the heist done, Cobb’s team uses the primary sedative, which is a combination of three different layers of dreams. But in the process of all this, they are in a whirlwind of risk and could fall into the Limbo. This state of mind is complex because your brain can no longer comprehend reality and your dream. Amid the primary mission of the movie, Saito faces some unforeseen circumstances where he is struck by a bullet and ends up dying. This puts him in Limbo, turning into an older man living in an ornate temple far away. Eventually, after all of this happens, Cobb is set out to drag Saito out of this phantasm. A change of events occurs when they finally can escape and land on a plane. This leads to Cobb finally going to greet his children.

Inception may have a happy ending for some people, but there is more to the ending scene than shown. Some people assume Cobb does not wake up on the airplane and he does not end up meeting his kids. It seems as if he is in some Limbo. Inception continues to confuse the users, which is why we have come up with a few scenarios.

Inception Ending Explained

We don’t see the Totem fall

This is the primary detail that has been discussed over the decade. A totem is an essential object in the world of Inception, which is carried to help penetrate dreams and is used to differentiate between reality and an illusion. Every individual has a unique totem and is impossible to replace and replicate. 

In the movie, Cobb’s Totem is the spinning top that continues to turn in the dream and only falls when it is in the real world. Now Cobb makes a habit of spinning his totem on every risk adventure he takes. But as soon as he gets off the plane after a mission and begins his test, his attention is drifted toward his children. Meanwhile, Cobb ignores his totem, and the camera turns black before the reality is revealed to the viewers. Some people believe the totem keeps swaying even after the credits roll down. This is the first clue that Cobb might be sound asleep in the business class on the airplane. 

We don’t see Cobb exiting his dream

This is another reason to test the fastness of the ending scene and how abruptly Cobb gets kicked out of his Limbo. During the ending reveal, Saito ends up dying and going into a Limo, and Cobb and Inception Adriadne follow through. The Limbo is exited by Fischer and Adriadne, who jump out of the building. On the return to Level 3, Fischer ends up completing his Inception. Meanwhile, Adriadne wakes up at the right time in a hotel and reaches Level 2. 

Whereas Saito and Cobb unusually leave the Inception. To escape the state of Limbo, they end up killing themselves, and then the subsequent shot ends up taking place in the airplane, where they both end up getting.

The Airport Seems Like a Dream

When Cobb wakes up and goes to board the plane, the film seems quite different. This is when things get confusing because it is a possibility that it could be Nolan leading towards a happy ending, or is it just Cobb dreaming a scenario he wants. But as soon as he wakes up on the plane, things seem normal now. The air hostess moves around with hot towels, Fischer can be seen contemplative, and Saito also looks quite promising. But as Cobb strolls past everyone at the airport, the scene becomes quite bucolic. 

We see the migration officer greeting him happily into his country. The whole team is giving each other a look or wink. They are all forming a guard of honor as they bid Cobb finally as he leaves his old life behind and welcomes his new life. The whole scene has an ethereality, and unlike the reality the film portrays in the scenes. 

Professor Miles and how he reacts to Cobb

Professor Miles

Dark Knight fans, we have Michael Caine in the house for you. He plays the role of Professor Miles and Mal’s father. After Cobb goes on the run, Miles starts looking after the children that his daughter leaves behind. He isn’t supportive of his son-in-law’s line of work. Now when Cobb and Miles end up meeting in the classroom of the French University, there seems to be a bit of tension between the two. 

According to the original script, Mal’s mother left Cobb because of his association with Cobb, which adds a layer of pull between the duo. As Cobb finally meets Miles, he suddenly becomes the excited grandpa who is quite happy to see Cobb back in America. Now there is a possibility that he is ecstatic for his grandchildren and how their father has returned. But the scene seems quite odd, which may be another reason Cobb is still stuck in his dream with the idealistic homecoming he receives. 

Mal proves that Cobb himself wanted to be in the Limbo

Nolan himself tells the viewers how the movie’s point isn’t if it is a dream or reality. The film is more toward Cobb not caring. After his confrontation with Mal, all the guilt that he has over the years has been let go of. Even though he does up finding his intent, but surely does not mean that the future will be a showcase of reality. When Mal is shown in Cobbs’s dream, she’s a by-product of all the distress he is feeling. So when she attempts to bring her husband down in the state of Limbo. That is a complete show of Cobb’s temptation to choose a dream over a distressing reality. 

The main scene is when Cobb and Ariadne return together. After leaving Mal, this is his first visit, and it is possible that seeing the streets intensified his desire to return. Mal and Cobb have their final confrontation over Fischer’s body. This is part of Cobb’s dream, but the conflict is more turmoil inside his mind than outside. As the discussion ends, the audience believes that Cobb wins the argument by putting aside Mal and his guilt. But he may be finally giving in to what Mal has to say. 

Mal even insists that he does not care about reality anymore and can’t differentiate between what’s superficial and genuine. But Cobb, along the lines, insists that reality is the central concept. But after his ignorance towards the spin of the totem, Cobb proves that eventually, Mal has won the fight and that he does not care about the reality anymore. So the question is, did Cobb give into the Limbo after the departure of Fischer and Ariadne? 

Cobb’s kids are exactly how he remembered

A common misapprehension has been flowing in the air of how when Cobb and his kids reunite in the ending scene, and they are not older than how he remembers them in his dreams. But not only are the two youngsters bigger than how they are in Cobb’s head. In the movie, the time apart between the kids and their father has never been revealed, giving Inception room for their looks and appearance. 

In a Nutshell

Things may appear more transparent from the actual Inception meaning to what we have perceived. The Inception ending is a crux in itself, some viewers may still be confused, but we can say that this Leonardo DiCaprio movie was a massive hit! It showed a change of scenes, with a mixture of both dreams where the subconscious side ruled and the reality led by the consciousness. Now the question is Cobb still dreaming? From the clues we have here, it seems as if he is. 

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Abdul Wahab is a Software Engineer by profession and a Tech geek by nature. Having been associated with the tech industry for the last five years, he has covered a wide range of Tech topics and produced well-researched and engaging content. You will mostly find him reviewing tech products and writing blog posts. Binge-watching tech reviews and endlessly reading tech blogs are his favorite hobbies.