When it was first announced that Christopher Nolan was working on an action movie about a team of specialists who enter people’s dreams to steal ideas, a lot of moviegoers were skeptical. For starters, the director was mid-Batman trilogy, so moviegoers were more excited to see his Dark Knight story wrap up than some other movie.
Also, it was an original story about a dream heist, so audiences weren’t on board, initially. However, it turned out to be one of the most critically acclaimed and highest grossing movies of the year. Here are 10 Inception Quotes That Will Make You Think.
10 “Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.”
This might be the most thought-provoking quote in the whole movie. Cobb makes a fantastic point about the psychology of dreams. It’s probably the first thing that comes up in a lecture about that part of human psychology, but to a common audience, like the people who are watching Inception as opposed to the professional consultants who informed its script, it’s an innovation.
Cobb says, “Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.” This is true, but it’s not something that most people would consider without watching the movie.
9 “Come back to reality, Dom.”
Michael Caine is Christopher Nolan’s go-to guy for a wise old mentor figure who explains things to the lead, and there’s a good reason for that. Caine is one of the world’s finest actors, with an impressive résumé that includes roles in some of the greatest movies ever made, and he gets Nolan’s style, playing all the ambiguous moments like this one with a knowing smile that sells the idea that there is actually a definitive answer to everything.
His character Miles is integral to Cobb’s story arc at the heart of the film, as he’s Cobb’s tie between reality and the dream world. He even tells him at one point, “Come back to reality, Dom.”
8 “That many dreams within dreams is too unstable.”
This quote from Yusuf relates to the plot, but it might as well be referring to the movie itself. As soon as we started entering dreams within dreams, the common moviegoer was lost. They still enjoyed the spectacle, like the snow-bound James Bond-esque action sequence and a train plowing through a city street, but their grasp of the plot was gone.
This is where, if you read the movie a certain way, it actually gets a little meta. When the team started mentioning the idea of entering dreams once inside a dream, Yusuf said, “That many dreams within dreams is too unstable.” Tweak that slightly and it’s, “That many dreams within dreams is too difficult to follow,” which echoes the thoughts of many audience members.
7 “Building a dream from your memory is the easiest way of losing your grasp on what’s real and what is a dream.”
Dom Cobb doesn’t come up on a lot of lists of the greatest movie characters in recent memory, because the concept and plot of Inception overtook the response to its characters. Still, Cobb is a complex guy who brings up a lot of important points.
One of those points has to do with the creation of dreams: “Never recreate places from your memories, always imagine new places. Only use details. A street lamp or a phone booth. Never entire areas. Building a dream from your memory is the easiest way of losing your grasp on what’s real and what is a dream.”
6 “I’m still dreaming.”
Saito says this when Cobb throws him onto the floor and starts yelling at him, “Tell us what you know! Tell us what you know now!” Saito feels the carpet he’s lying on and realizes that it’s made of polyester and not the wool that the actual carpet in his apartment is made out of, which is how he figures out he’s still inside his own head.
5 “An idea is like a virus.”
When Christopher Nolan had the idea to make an action heist movie set in people’s dreams, he must’ve thought he was crazy and put off developing it for quite some time. As we know, it turned into one of the greatest movies in recent memory. But on paper, before all that, it must’ve sounded pretty odd.
But in the film, Cobb makes an excellent point about ideas: “An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.” Everything, whether it’s a political movement or a war or a technological innovation or a heist movie about dreams, can be traced back to a single parasitic idea that appeared in someone’s head and refused to go away.
4 “Who would wanna be stuck in a dream for ten years?” “Depends on the dream.”
Inception is like The Matrix in a lot of ways, but its psychology of dreams is a lot more accurate than The Matrix’s science of cyberspace. At one point, Yusuf explains, “Brain function in the dream will be about twenty times to normal. When you enter a dream within that dream, the effect is compounded: it’s three dreams, that’s ten hours times...”
When Eames is confused by this, Cobb explains, “It’s a week the first level down. Six months the second level down, and the third level...” Ariadne butts in, “...is ten years! Who would wanna be stuck in a dream for ten years?” Yusuf adds, “Depends on the dream.”
3 “Do you want to take a leap of faith or become an old man filled with regret waiting to die alone?”
This is a line that we can all relate to (well, we’d have to gender-neutralize it to make it truly relate to everyone, but the sentiment can be felt by everyone), because leaps of faith can feel frightening and uncertain before the fact. It’s only after we’ve actually taken the leap of faith that we realize whether or not it was a good thing.
But Saito still makes a good point: “Do you want to take a leap of faith or become an old man filled with regret waiting to die alone?” Whether or not taking that leap of faith leads to a good thing is unclear, but if you don’t at least take the leap, you’ll end up old and full of regret.
2 “In the dream state, your conscious defenses are lowered and it makes your thoughts vulnerable to theft.”
What Arthur is describing in this line is the concept of “extraction.” Inception doesn’t just throw its titular concept at you for you to get your head around, it also throws equally mind-boggling in-universe concepts that the movie could’ve been named after but wasn’t like “extraction” at you.
The concept of “extraction” is essentially what makes Inception a heist movie and not just a sci-fi movie. It’s a sci-fi movie with a totally unique premise that is also a heist movie, thanks to this line: “In the dream state, your conscious defenses are lowered and it makes your thoughts vulnerable to theft.”
1 “Admit it: you don’t believe in one reality anymore.”
All throughout Inception, we see Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Dom Cobb grapple with reality as he loses touch with the line between dream and real life. To be fair, as we watch the movie, that line starts to blur for us, too – that’s a symptom of Nolan’s genius. It doesn’t help that he’s constantly haunted by his deranged wife Mal.
She messes with his head: “No creeping doubts? Not feeling persecuted, Dom? Chased around the globe by anonymous corporations and police forces, the way the projections persecute the dreamer? Admit it: you don’t believe in one reality anymore. So, choose. Choose to be here. Choose me.”