Did Only the Last Sequence in “Run Lola Run” Actually Happen, or Did All Three?


Run Lola Run (1998) is a movie about choices. It shows how the smallest decisions can have great effect, both on someone’s own outcome and the outcomes of those around them. Lola (Franka Potente) gets three “do-overs” during the course of the film that allow her to modify her decisions and get the best ending. Many have compared the film’s narrative structure to a video game, as each time Lola fails, she’s able to start over and make different choices.

The film ends three times - the first with Lola dying, the second with her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) dying, and finally one where the two successfully work things out. Is one of these endings real, while the other two are merely alternatives? Was it the first one where Lola died, and then she sees the other two as other options? Was it the final one, after Lola thought about the decisions that wouldn’t work? Did all three happen? If so, how?

The best interpretation may be that the film has no “real” ending. All three were possible, no one by itself is the “true” outcome. No individual segment actually happened, they each merely serve to represent an individual, plausible outcome. The film’s intention is not to make the viewer dwell on which outcome was correct, but the fact that any of them could be thanks to the seemingly insignificant variances in Lola’s 20-minute journeys. Some of the decisions she makes are conscious, and some are circumstance. How she interacts with the dog on the staircase changes how she hits the car. It alters the point in which she walks in on her “dad’s” conversation. Every minor detail along the way changes the final moments, and any ending is as viable as the next.

Many argue the film is evidence of string theory where all three timelines are happening simultaneously in alternate universes.

The video game concept is theorized by many, meaning Lola’s life is operating like a game. This idea comes from the film’s opening quotations, both which reference life’s “game-like” attributes, and the fact Lola seems to unconsciously retain certain skills between the “do-overs,” like how to operate the safety on a gun. In the first sequence, she doesn’t know about the safety. In a later sequence, she somehow knows how to turn it off without being told, as if remembering what she learned in the first attempt. This could be interpreted as evidence that Lola is indeed somehow getting the opportunity to replay the events until she gets them right (as in a video game), or it could be interpreted as merely Lola’s different states of awareness depicted in each sequence thanks to the way each sequence’s events are playing out.