Does the ‘Inception’ Wedding Ring Theory Really Explain the Movie’s Confusing Ending?

When the movie Inception was released in 2010, people weren’t sure what to think of it. It made quite the stir, and fans were fascinated by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio, Dom Cobb.

Over a decade later, plenty of people still aren’t sure what actually happened in the movie. There have been lots of theories to try to explain what was going on, especially in the final scene. One of those theories centers around Cobb’s wedding ring. But is it right? 

The strange world of ‘Inception’

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Christopher Nolan wrote and directed Inception, and the resulting movie is a mind-bender. According to Screen Rant, the premise of the story is that thieves develop the ability to enter the mind of people while they sleep and steal information. However, the process of taking something from a person’s mind isn’t as simple as a bank robbery. 

To access the information they’re after, a thief must enter the victim’s mind in a dream state. Because they will also be dreaming during this process, thieves must bring with them a totem, something that links them to the real world. This helps them understand if they’re dreaming or awake. 

The job that must be accomplished in Inception is extra complex. Instead of taking an idea, the thief must plant one, a process that requires much more skill to travel deeper in the victim’s mind.

For a job like that, no one but Cobb will do. 

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb

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In the movie, DiCaprio plays Cobb, a thief who is portrayed as the best at what he does. According to Insider, Cobb uses a silver top as his totem to help him know if he’s in a dream. He spins the top, and if it keeps spinning without stopping, he’s dreaming, but if it slows, falters, and falls, he’s back in reality. 

But for many viewers, the movie’s final scene was frustratingly ambiguous. Cobb is shown after the job is finished, finally reunited with his children. But is he really? He spins his top, but he doesn’t wait to see what it does. Just as it seems that the top might be about to falter, the scene cuts to black. 

Viewers were left baffled. Did he actually get back to his children? Even DiCaprio didn’t seem to know. As he once stated in an interview, “What happened? I have no idea.”

The wedding ring theory

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio | VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

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But of course, fans weren’t content to let the question hang unanswered. According to Looper, for years, they’ve tried to puzzle out what actually happens at the end of the film. 

One theory is that the top isn’t actually Cobb’s totem. They point out that he’s never shown wearing his wedding ring when he’s awake, suggesting that he can tell he’s dreaming just by checking for the ring. Since he’s not wearing it in the final scene, that’s evidence that he’s back in reality. 

But according to actor Michael Caine, who played Cobb’s father-in-law in the movie, the thing that gives away the truth is neither the top nor the ring — it’s him. 

When he first looked at the script, Caine was also confused by the movie, so he asked Nolan to clarify what was going on. 

“‘I don’t understand where the dream is,'” he asked the director. “‘When is it the dream and when is it reality?’ He said, ‘Well, when you’re in the scene it’s reality.’ So, get that — if I’m in it, it’s reality. If I’m not in it, it’s a dream.”

Since Caine’s character, Professor Miles, can be seen in the backyard during that famous final scene, viewers can conclude that Cobb really did make it home. Hopefully, that will put a few minds at ease.