I have watched Christopher Nolan's Memento more than once and I still can't get the real thing that happened. Yes I get that the movie is shown backwards, but it really confuses me.

I understand that Leonard Shelby has amnesia which makes him unable to keep new memories. What is the key detail in Mr. Shelby that I should be looking for to understand the ending scene?


4 Answers 4


You need keys. We need to help Teddy to find his keys! :-)

Joke aside, you should give attention to what Teddy says directly before the linked video.

Teddy: "So you lie to yourself to be happy."

and later:

Teddy: "Yeah I guess I can only make you remember the things you want to be true. Like Jimmy down there."

Leonard: "He's not the right guy."

Teddy: "He was to you. You got your revenge. Enjoy it while you still remember."

and sometimes later (that's in the linked video) Leonard is thinking:

"Do I lie to myself to be happy? In your case, Teddy, yes I will."

as he is writing down Teddy's license plate to form a new clue tattoo.

Also take notice of the memory of his wife in the scene where he is driving to the tattoo parlor--especially note the chest.

On his chest is tattoed "I've done it." while is wife is alive.

So, what do we make out of all this?

Everyone is using Leonard - including himself. He fudges his informations to stay on a constant path of Revenge. That is the thing that makes him happy. Probably it's because he killed his wife with an overdose of insulin, a story he attributed to Sammy Jenkins. He can't stand that, he needs to see "Johnny G." as the guilty for the death of his wife, although she survived the assault and rape (as his memory in the car-drive-scene shows).

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    It's true that Leonard has memory of wife touching his "I've done it" tattoo... but he had that memory after Teddy suggested it to him. And the only time he has that tattoo is in that memory... at other times in the movie when he has his shirt off, the "I've done it" tattoo is not there, suggesting he never really had it.
    – Shiz Z.
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 5:40
  • Interesting point. Ted induced this memory-flash. That is apossible interpretation. But to the last point: I think it is possible to remove tatoos.
    – Mnementh
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 8:47
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    its not a memory because the tattoo says murdered my wife so she wouldn't be there with him
    – JamesRyan
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 16:58
  • Is the last paragraph really a quote (if yes, what’s the source?), or your own?
    – unor
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 19:42

If you notice carefully (I had to pause the DVD for this) - for a fraction of a second, there is a scene in which Sammy Jenkins is sitting in a chair and for just a fraction, he turns into Leonard.

(see at 0:25)

A more detailed explanation is here.


Leonard is Sammy Jenkis - or is he?

That's the point.

Much like the end of Inception - we never see the top stop spinning - so is Cobb still dreaming?

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    Well, in contrast to Inception, we definitely know that Leonard is Sammy Jenkins. What could make you believe he isn't?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 21:56
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    It's never explicitly stated that he is. You assume he is but it's not bullet proof. Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 22:39
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    @Jack, hmm, there is a direct hint in the scene where you see Sammy Jankis in the clinic. Someone walks between Sammy and camera and then you can see a short glimpse of Leonard sitting in the place of Sammy. Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 5:45
  • @JackMarchetti It's not bullet-proof, but much more likely. There is a difference between ambiguity and implication. It's just a question of probablities given all the information from the movie and the ambiguity in Inception is much more balanced, while all the information from Memento really speaks for itself. Even if the facts may not be sufficient and there might be a very tiny chance that Teddy is a liar and Leonard is not Sammy Jenkins, that would be based merely on blind assumption, ignoring the information given in the movie.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 10:57

I think he at least planned on getting the I've Done It tattoo to remind himself once he had finally killed "john G". If you remember the photo Teddy shows him where he is smiling after getting his revenge, he is pointing to that area of his chest.

For those saying he got the tattoo removed, it would make sense that he get the Murdered part out of the John G Raped and Murdered My Wife Tattoo as well.

  • I personally wouldn't consider that the key detail. Commented Jul 5, 2014 at 19:47

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