• Christopher Nolan didn’t plan for all the deeper meanings in Inception, but the movie’s exploration of evolving technology and realities within realities resonated with audiences.
  • Inception marked Nolan’s first venture into thought-provoking sci-fi storytelling, following his successes with mid-budget films and The Dark Knight Trilogy.
  • Despite mixed reactions to his recent movie Tenet, Inception’s long-term relevancy highlights Nolan’s understanding of the sci-fi genre’s ability to provoke questions and engage multiple generations.



While regarded as a sci-fi classic, Christopher Nolan admits to not intending some of the deeper messages in Inception. The 2010 blockbuster movie centered on a group of professional thieves who utilize the method of infiltrating a target’s mind to supplant and steal valuable information, only for their latest job to become their riskiest yet. Featuring an ensemble cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, the movie was a critical and commercial hit, garnering eight Oscar nominations and winning four, including Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects.

In honor of the home release of his biographical thriller Oppenheimer, Nolan spoke with The Atlantic and reflected on the making of Inception. When asked about the ongoing relevancy of the movie’s themes of the dangers of evolving technology, the writer/director admitted that he didn’t fully plan for some of the deeper meanings audiences have taken away from the movie, having approached the script with the drive of being “instinctive and unselfconscious.” See what Nolan explained below:

When the film came out, in 2010, the smartphone was exploding in popularity, and some of its inward-looking structure was actually based on the branching mechanisms of the iPod. I’d been using iPods to listen to music, and on the menu screens, you have these branching networks that allow you to go deeper into different catalogs. This was a time when people were first looking at the potential of carrying a whole world in your pocket, the kind of stuff that William Gibson had written about years earlier as pure science fiction. Those sorts of things were starting to become part of people’s everyday lives, and so people started to look at reality differently. They started to think about realities within realities. This was all unwitting, by the way: There’s a tendency to speak about your past work as though everything was planned and intentional. You try to analyze in hindsight what was going on in your head, and what synchronized with the world. But at the time, and as I continue to work, I try to be instinctive and unselfconscious, and open to the things that move me in the world.

Why Inception Remains One Of Nolan’s Most Important Movies To Date


By the time he finally brought Inception to the screen, Nolan was one of the most well-regarded filmmakers in the industry, having enjoyed a string of successes after his breakout second feature, Memento. Though better known for his more mid-budget efforts in Insomnia and The Prestige, the director had been slowly building towards the big-budget fare of the 2010 sci-fi thriller, namely with Batman Begins and its Oscar-nominated follow-up, The Dark Knight.

It was with Inception, however, that Nolan finally began venturing into the realm of thought-provoking sci-fi storytelling. Following the conclusion of his Dark Knight trilogy, the filmmaker would return to this genre with the Matthew McConaughey-led Interstellar, which similarly scored multiple Oscar nominations and was generally well-received by critics. Though his next venture, Tenet, would see its release marred by the COVID-19 pandemic and some more polarized reactions, it was still a welcome return to the genre for the most part.

Though not poorly received, Tenet remains Nolan’s lowest-reviewed directorial movie to date, sitting at a 69% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

Even if unintended in its initial release and development, Inception‘s long-term relevancy properly shows his grasp on the sci-fi genre overall. Much like the Wachowskis with The Matrix before him, the filmmaker’s ability to still leave audiences with questions about the movie 13 years after it first hit theaters shows that he understands one of the big drives for stories in the genre is to provoke questions that are not only relevant to their time periods, but for the continuing generations who go back to revisit it. Details behind Nolan’s post-Oppenheimer movie remain unclear, though with the director indicating that it will be “less bleak” than his hit 2023 movie, it will be interesting to see if he elects to tackle a new genre entirely.

Source: The Atlantic

  • Inception

    Release Date:

    Christopher Nolan

    Tom Hardy, Elliot Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, Leonardo DiCaprio


    148 minutes

    Main Genre:

    Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Action

    Christopher Nolan

    A thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a C.E.O.

    $160 million

    Warner Bros. Pictures

    Warner Bros. Pictures


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