Inception’s Ending Explained At Last: Did The Top Keep Spinning? Is Cobb In Reality?

By Josh Tyler | Published

Inception ending explained

If you’ve seen Inception, then you probably finished it wondering whether Cobb’s totem spun off the table or not. Did the top spin off to indicate Cobb was in reality or keep spinning to indicate he was really trapped in another dream? It’s not as ambiguous as you might think.

Cobb’s kids always wearing the same clothes make some theorize he is still trapped in a dream

Cobb's kids

One of the big reasons many have theorized Cobb might still be trapped in a dream revolves around the appearance of his kids. We see them throughout Inception, but only through the lens of Cobb’s memory of them. When we see them that way, they always look the same. They wear the same clothes; they have the same haircut. Yet in reality it’s been months or even years since Cobb saw them, yet at the end of the movie, when he’s supposed to see them in reality… they look exactly the same as they did in his memory. Specifically, they seem to be wearing the same clothes. If they’re wearing the same clothes as they are on Cobb’s dream, then that means they aren’t real, and he’s still dreaming. Except it seems they aren’t wearing the same clothes.

They aren’t the same kids, they are in fact even totally different actors

Inception ending explained

Though it may look like the same kids at the same age wearing the same clothes at the end of the film, IMDB confirms that two different child actors of different ages played Cobb’s kids in the movie. And more importantly Inception costume designer Jeffrey Kurland insists in this interview that though you may have thought their clothes were the same, they weren’t. He says, “the children’s clothing is different in the final scene… look again…”

Cobb appears to wear his wedding ring only in dream sequences, but he’s not wearing it in the final sequence

Inception ending explained

Sharp-eyed viewers have pointed out another significant detail: Cobb’s wedding ring. Throughout the film, Cobb appears to wear his wedding ring only in dream sequences, taking it off in what are presented as real-world scenes. In the final sequence, he is not wearing the ring, leading some to argue that he is, indeed, in reality.

Cobb’s emotional resolution is a sign that Cobb’s arc is complete and that he has returned to reality

Inception ending explained

Another layer of interpretation hinges on Cobb’s emotional arc. The film is as much about Cobb’s inner journey as it is about inception. He is a man burdened by guilt over his wife Mal’s death, unable to return to his old life. The crux of his emotional journey is to let go of his guilt and his idealized memory of Mal.

In the film’s climax, he does just that. For many, this emotional resolution is a sign that Cobb’s arc is complete and that he has returned to reality, regardless of whether the top falls or not.

Director Christopher Nolan has been coy about providing a definitive answer.

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan himself has been coy about providing a definitive answer. In interviews, he has emphasized that the point of the ending is how Cobb doesn’t wait to see if the top falls, indicating that he no longer cares to distinguish between dream and reality. He’s happy, and that’s what matters.

The evidence clearly points to the idea that Cobb is in reality at the end of the film

Inception ending explained top spinning

I’m sure the debate will rage on, but the evidence clearly points to the idea that Cobb is in reality at the end of the film. If he isn’t, how do you explain his kid’s change of clothing?