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What Does the Ending of “Inception” Mean According to Christopher Nolan?

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Inception (2010) has an open-ended ending that has been tirelessly questioned and debated by viewers and fans of the film. The film ends with Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb passing through airport security and returning home to his two children. While at home, Cobb spins his spinning top to determine whether or not he is in someone else’s dream or in his own reality. However, the film cuts to black while the spinning top is still spinning, leaving the audience wondering whether or not Cobb is in dream state or reality.

In his 2015 commencement address at Princeton, Christopher Nolan finally explained the ending of Inception. Nolan sees reality in film and in real life as subjective, and reality and dreams do not need to be exclusive. “I want you to chase your reality” as opposed to “chase your dreams.”

“I feel that, over time, we started to view reality as the poor cousin to our dreams, in a sense ... I want to make the case to you that our dreams, our virtual realities, these abstractions that we enjoy and surround ourselves with, they are subsets of reality.”

“The way the end of that film worked, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Cobb – he was off with his kids, he was in his own subjective reality,” said Nolan. “He didn’t really care any more, and that makes a statement: perhaps, all levels of reality are valid.”