The Twisting Timeline of Inception in Visual Form


(click to enlarge)

I am told that this timeline of Inception is supposed to make Nolan’s complicated plot a bit simpler to grasp, but after ten minutes of staring at it, my brain is still rejecting the majority of it out of spite for me making it work too hard.

I’m sure it makes perfect sense if you’re tripping acid or Salvador Dali, but aren’t timelines usually straight? And this isn’t even a movie about time travel.

For a laugh, send this to all your friends who are still confused about the film. “Oh you don’t understand? Well just take a look at this timeline and it should clear everything right up for you. It’s been reported that toddlers could even understand Inception after reading it.”

  • Tishy

    I guess I’m one of the lucky ones in that everything makes sense to me, except why Yusuf’s pants are yelling.

  • chrystani

    The movie made sense to me… But this fucking chart!!!!

    Its like a whole higher level of inception that I cant comprehend.

    Its like Ive been incepted, extracted, AND mind freaked. O_o

    I fucking love Inception.

  • Madison

    The chart really isn’t necessary to understand anything. In fact, this just makes it confusing.

  • chrystani

    Ive got a question though…

    How come on the third level of Inception (the snow world) everyone wasn’t in “anti- gravity”… ? But they were in the second level?

  • Madison

    @ chystani

    I think it’s because in the van, the dreamers were being moved around and tumbling with the van, causing the zero gravity in the second level (hotel).

    In the second level (hotel), the dreamers were suspended in air with no forces acting on the bodies themselves, keeping things normal in the third level (snow). It’s not as if zero-gravity was occurring on the first level; the van flipping and falling created the zero gravity effect on level 2. There as no such force in level 2, thus things appear normal – gravity wise – in level 3.

  • John

    I loved the movie and the chart makes sense to me somewhat.

    The only thing I didnt understand was when the van started tumbeling instead of creating no gravity why didnt it “kick” Arthur out of level 2? I get why it didnt kick everyone else out since they were at level 3. (they need to be sent back to level 2 to be kicked up I would think) But shouldnt that have sent Arthur back to level 1 instead of creating zero gravity?

    Amazing movie though. Cant wait to see it again.

  • chrystani

    But it seems that if they were floating in level 2… Something should have been up.

    But i guess you cant really have a floating snow mountain scene.


    O shit I just got it. I remember him saying he had to do something with the bodies to prevent them from reacting in the 3rd level.

    Hence him tying everyone up.

  • Ben

    Love Inception very very much, but I’d like to point out that when they were in Limbo at the end, that was technically FISCHER’S dream, not Cobb’s. The world had been built by Cobb previously, but Ariadne and Dom only reached it by hooking up the briefcase device to Fischer’s dead body.

  • chrystani

    But if Mod or Mol (his wife) is a part of Cobbs subconscius I think that was Cobbs dream.

    There is no way that Fischer can fathom Cobbs sub consciuos right?

    So yea Fischer can’t dream on about what he doesn’t know…

  • Madison

    @ Ben

    Limbo was a shared state, actually. Only Cobb had been there before, hence the remnants of the world created.

    @ chrystani

    Mal (or Mol) appeared because she is a projection of Cobb’s subconscious, just like the runaway train in Yusef’s dream. One can project elements of their subconscious into other’s dreams.

    What I want to know is that if Eames could “imagine” a “bigger gun,” why not just imagine an F-16 jet and be done with it?

  • Bigdog


    I remember them mentioning how you shouldn’t make too many, or too big of, changes in the dream world. A bigger gun would be much less of a change than an F16 that you’d have to land and pilot around… just my 2 cents.

  • chrystani


    This is why I need to see this movie again. Just to pick up these little teeny pieces.

    And because the male cast was hot…

    Im just sayin’.

  • IcemanD

    My questions for Inception are all around the mechanics.

    For example:

    The architect designs the “level” and then someone is shown the “level” in order to recreate it. Right?

    The person(s) that have been pulled into the “level” populate the “level” with their subconscious. Right?

    So, where does the architects design and the peoples subconscious cross?

    What I mean is, what dictates whether or not something is rendered by the dreamer (based on the architect’s design) or the subconscious?

  • Odin

    The 2nd level was Fischer’s dream, not Arthur’s. Arthur just remained in Fischer’s dream instead of going deeper.

    Remember how the subconscious projections kept looking at Cobb, Arthur, and Ariadne? In Yusef’s dream they decided to enter Fischer’s dream and use the Mr. Charles gambit to get Fischer’s subconscious to help them rather than attack them.

  • Ryan

    @chrystani: The effects only go down one level. Zero gravity in level 1 trickles down to level 2, that’s it.

    @John: You need synchronized kicks to go up a level, Cobb even says this. And that’s why the music was used. Since he was still asleep in the van in level 1 he never felt the kick, therefore couldn’t wake up. Everyone needed a kick in the level they were in AND the one above to escape.

    @Odin: The 2nd level was Arthur’s dream. That’s why he’s the one that’s awake in it, and why Yusef puts the music on his ears in the van in level 1.

    I’d be glad to answer any more questions 🙂

  • John


    I get what your saying and I agree with you that if you are in level 3 you need to go back to level 2 first. A kick in level one wouldnt effect you if you were in level 3. (which is why level 3 had gravity) The question I have is why did level 2 lose gravity from the tumbeling? Wouldnt the tumble count as a “kick” in the same way the fall into the water was a “kick”? That should have sent Arthur back to level one when the van tumbled. Like I said its a small thing and doesnt effect my enjoyment of the movie. I loved it, but that one aspect doesnt make sense to me.

  • Ryan


    The tumbling would have counted as a kick if he was being kicked in level 2 simultaneously, but he wasn’t. He was in a fight. Now if had he been “falling” at the same time as the van was tumbling, then yes he would have been sent to level 1. They showed how it was supposed to work with Ariadne. She jumps off the building in level 4, as the fortress is falling in 3, as the elevator is blowing up in 2, as the van hits the water in 1. Everything was synced. He had no kick in 2 syncing him with the van tumbling in 1. At the end he blows up the elevator just before the van hits the water. There he had his two synced kicks. I hope that explains it better.

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  • John


    That makes sense. All the kicks had to occur at the same time. I get it. One last thing. In the beginning of the movie in the first dream. Cobb is “kicked” up a level when his chair is tilted and he falls into the bathtub. The dream the level down starts to fill up with water. (much like how the tumbeling van effected the gravity) When he was tilted into the tub, what was the simultanious kick in the lower level that sent him back up?

  • Edzone

    Ahhhhhhhhh, this has answered a lot of questions about Inception for me, I thought it was all done by aliens and Nicholas Cages hair.

  • chrystani


    I think the gravity would have continued into level 3 if he hadn’t tied them up.

    I figured that was the whole purpose of them being tied up.

    Because even though the anti gravity was an effect of level 2, the bodies would have been in motion falling if not tied down…

    Or did he just tie them down so that he could transport them better.

  • Ryan

    @ John

    They used a more powerful seditive when they tried to pull off the inception, it was different from the one in the beginning. Remember in the beginning Cobb kills Arthur in the dream and it wakes him up. Under the new seditive, they said you’d be in such a deep sleep that if you got killed in a dream it wouldn’t wake you up, it would send you to limbo. So he only needed the chair falling over to wake him up, and not the two kicks thing.


    Yes he only tied them up to move them together, instead of having bodies going all over the place. He didn’t have much time to get them in the elevator. I think at one point Cobb tells Ariadne that dreams become more stable the deeper you go, so that’s why it only effects the next level.

  • John


    Gotcha. Thats makes sense. Thanks alot for clarifying that for me.

  • Odin


    The dreamworld is populated with the dreamer’s subconscious. In level two we see the projections analyzing Cobb, Arthur, and Ariadne. Arthur’s own subconscious would not analyze himself, as Cobb’s didn’t in the earlier dream sequence with Ariadne.

    Additionally, we see the entirety of the projections stop analyzing the protagonists the moment Fischer believes Cobb’s gambit.

    Also, Saito and Eames run into Fischer’s godfather in the hotel lobby. That was a projection from Fischer’s mind, not Arthur’s.

    The entire second level is Fischer’s dream, not Arthur. The reason why Arthur hears the music is because he is just one level down, not because it is his dream. He is the only one that doesn’t need to go down to the next level.

    They made the decision to go into Fischer’s dream when they realized that not only was the relationship more complex, but they had to bypass Fischer’s mental training as well. They used Fischer’s own subconscious to complete their plan.

  • cass

    Ok guys on the 3rd level not loosing gravity as the van was falling.

    My question about all that is didn’t they feel some stuff from level one when the van was on the bridge? It caused some snow to fall i think. Think about it if that caused a reaction in the 3rd.. Why wouldn’t they also be weightless?

  • jayyr


    yusuf had to pee, and therefore that’s why his “pants are yelling” and his dream was filled with rain


    yes, the second level was pretty much fisher’s dream, and ryan was the “architect” of that level, therefore none of the projections would look at him

  • Shinkster

    Technically Saito did not die in the 3rd level, he died on the same level where he was shot. This is why he is stuck in limbo, he has no way to escape using the kicks.

  • lorion

    @Ryan “@chrystani: The effects only go down one level. Zero gravity in level 1 trickles down to level 2, that’s it.”

    They are in free fall in level one – hence the antigravity in level two…THAT effect should still carry on to level three – antigravity/freefall level two = no gravity level three.

    Saito is injured in level one – still wounded – and dies in level three from the effect of dying in level one. If the effect only carries one level, he would be up and runnin in level three. Also, being tied together doesn’t stop the inner ear from feeling like it’s in freefall.

    My theory is that the architect is awake in level three and can alter the gravity physics to her bidding. she is asleep in level two when the van is rollin round; hence the freefall/antigravity.

  • Ben A.

    @ Odin

    The second level is Arthur’s dream, not Fischer’s. There’s a difference between the dreamer and the subject. The dreamer creates the world based off the architect’s design. Line from Cobb’s lessons with Ariadne:

    “You (Ariadne) design the dream. The dreamer (Arthur) builds the dream, and we bring the subject (Fischer) into that dream, and they fill it with their subconscious.” (roughly that)

    Remember when Cobb’s subconscious kills Ariadne during training? This was after Ariadne (the dreamer) was messing with the dream too much and the subject’s subconscious (in this case, Cobb) realized someone else was invading them.

    That’s why you see Yusuf and Ariadne building level 1 together while the rest of them are discussing the 3 ideas earlier in the film. That’s why when they are discussing how they’re going to get their 10 hours in level 2 (before the job), Arthur and Ariadne are seen joining the group together after presumably building the rest of the hotel.

    Finally, if you want more proof, Arthur explicitly states that he is the dreamer right before he kisses Ariadne:

    “Cobb’s pointing out the strangeness of the dream to Fischer, which is making his subconscious look for the dreamer; for me.”