Memento Explained

memento explainedMemento Explained

Welcome to Memento Explained – but before begin I must give a word of warning to those who have yet to see the movie… this review is intended as an extended dissection – an exegesis if you will – of Memento, its themes and its potential meanings. Please do not read this and then email me upset because I ruined the movie for you.

Memento Explained
Memento could easily be chalked up to a gimmick. Take a basic film noir story, toss in a brain injury as an excuse, shake vigorously until the extremely mundane storyline is unrecognizable to anyone and voila you have an Oscar nominee. This would be a viable reading of the movie if it weren’t for the fact that most critics & reviewers that came to this conclusion failed to even comprehend the ‘basic’ storyline. In my opinion for a critic to come to this conclusion requires them to actually comprehend the ins and outs of the storyline before they dismantle it and discard it as basic noir tripe.

And yet even if you were to cut the movie in the correct order and ‘straighten’ out the chronology², it is my opinion that Memento still out performs other movies in its own genre. Just the simple inversion of the hero/mystery investigator into a dubious half breed of good guy, bad guy makes it reason enough to fall in love with this movie. Memento takes the noir genre places it’s never been before.

¹ If you are looking for a non-spoiler filled review of the movie I’m certain that another google search will yield you the results you are looking for.
² Which Nolan actually did do eventually – he placed it on a DVD hidden as an easter egg. But its like hiring Picasso for a museum showing to repaint each of his paintings in the show minus that little thing called cubism. The original IS the point… not what it would look like in normal mode.

Memento Explained – Riddles
It seems as though this movie has been haunting me from my first very encounter with it. Riddles wrapped within riddles – mazes set inside mazes. It almost seems as if Christopher Nolan shot a coherent storyline and then allowed a chimp into the editing room to finalize the order of events. It’s almost too much for the senses to handle. Interspersed sections of black-and-white footage trip in and out amongst the larger color story that seems to be running in juxtaposition to its monochrome counterpart. Memento is enough to make even Tarantino¹ drop into a double handed head clutch wondering what in the world is going on.

The question I have been working on for the past few weeks and months has been whether or not it is possible to make any sense out of the entire jumble of techno color celluloid. From how I see it, understanding the chronology and untying the knots is just the first step to understanding the larger picture that Nolan has set before us. Reading review after review and discussing the movie with almost any poor sap that was unlucky enough to cross my path I have tried to get a handle on not only the events of the actual movie itself, but also its back story. It was actually a surprise to find out that most people, although they enjoyed the movie very much, were quite content with being completely and irrevocably confused². Which is why I have contented myself with the fact that this review will be hated far and wide – this is actually my final step in a 10 step program to rid myself of the monkey on my back that is Memento – I’d do just about anything to pull that little full gainer off.

¹ Terantino’s Pulp Fiction is still one of the great examples of dramatic film edits that upend the chronology of the basic story to both intrigue and highlight the story from a different perspective.
² After thinking about it a bit more, maybe these are the wise individuals amongst us? How many brain cells did I fry trying to run the gambit of possibilities and weed out the various ‘unacceptable’ explanations? And yet I can’t shake the idea there has got to be an intense study in human behavior here somewhere that could be used for some Sociology Masters program that would eat this stuff up.

memento explained - characters

Memento Explained – Characters
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie in a little while I have included a quick walk through of each of the major characters¹. I am certain that I have missed a few², but these are the main individuals that interact with Lenny anyway.

Leonard Shelby – (Guy Pierce) is a former insurance investigator who apparently has anterograde amnesia – which is a condition that keeps Lenny from creating long-term memories. The mental trauma was caused by an attack on him and his wife. Lenny can remember everything prior to the attack with at least some degree of reliability, including the attack itself but his new memories don’t usually last more than in 15 minute sections.

Mrs. Shelby – (Jorja Fox) it is unclear whether Lenny’s wife was killed in the attack that caused his anterograde amnesia or not.

J.G. – Potentially the initials of one of a possible two attackers that broke in to Lenny’s house, raped his wife and cracked Lenny’s skull. It appears that Lenny killed one of the attackers before ‘John G.’ could escape.

Teddy – (Joe Pantoliano) One of the original cops that investigated the attack on Lenny and his wife. Teddy seems to have taken an interest in Lenny for some reason or another. It is Teddy’s monologue towards the end (beginning) of the movie that gives us the largest amount of information regarding Lenny and his life before the accident.

Natalie – (Carrie-Anne Moss) Supposedly Jimmie’s girlfriend and eventual love interest to Lenny. It is Natalie that shows us more than anyone else that we aren’t in Kansas anymore. The connections between her, Dodd and Teddy intricately define Memento’s plot line.

¹ For the Memento gods out there, don’t take offense. Think of this as the mental stretches before an intense cerebral workout – or more appropriately, the quiet before the storm.
² Like the tattoo person – who, I might add is the only individual I noticed that didn’t take advantage of Lenny’s mental state³.
³ Nah, I am certain she charged him for two tattoos – she must have.

Jimmie Grantz – (Larry Holden) The drug dealer Lenny kills at the beginning (end) of the film in his attempt at avenging the death of his wife.

Dodd – (Callum Keith Rennie) Jimmie’s boss, who Lenny beats up and is run out of town because Lenny believes Dodd is beating Natalie up.

Sammy Jankis – (Stephen Tobolowsky) Lenny has a tattoo that says ‘Remember Sammy’ to remind him of the Sammy Jankis claim which he supposedly investigated before he and his wife were attacked. Apparently Sammy also had anterograde amnesia and eventually ended up accidentally killing his wife when she tested him by continually telling him it was time for her insulin shot. Teddy brings this story into question by saying Lenny is actually Sammy and that Lenny is the one that killed his wife accidentally.

Mrs. Jankis – (Harriet Sansom Harris) She is either the woman that Sammy Jankis accidentally kills with insulin or she is a fictional character that is actually Leonard’s wife depending on who you believe. Teddy says that Sammy is single and Lenny firmly remembers Sammy as having a wife that tested him.

Memento Explained – Chronology
I know that there are pockets of people who believe that Memento is a complete sham that has been cobbled together out of car parts that don’t work together. Turn the ignition and nothing happens. It is also widely held that Memento runs from the end of the events that took place back through to the beginning – in a word – backwards. This is not necessarily true. Nolan has taken extreme care to write a story that works as you assemble the pieces back together again¹.

You will notice that through out Memento there are scenes that are in color and scenes that are in black-and-white. These two separate threads in the movie are actually running away from each other. Interestingly enough they both begin with the first scene of the movie, which you will notice is in both black-and-white and also in color². The color fades in as Lenny is watching the picture to appear within the Polaroid he has just taken.

¹ I am not speaking of the back story at this point – that is a completely different matter that I will get to soon.
² I first learned of these juxtaposed threads in a Salon article by Andy Klein entitled ‘Everything you wanted to know about Memento’. This is the first article that I have found to describe the chronology in an easily understandable and completely accurate way.

As Andy Klein puts it ‘So, if you want to look at the story as it would actually transpire chronologically, rather than the disjointed way Nolan presents it – you would watch the black-and-white scenes in the same order (1 to 21), followed by the black-and-white/color transition scene (22/A). You would then have to watch the remaining color scenes in reverse order.’¹ Klein has beautifully explained what we all felt innately as we watched. The black-and-white forward scenes give a wonderful respite to the chaos of the continual backwardness within the color scenes. It is his connecting of the scenes at the last scene of the movie that is so brilliant. I never truly understood how we managed to travel forwards and backwards without grinding serious number of gears and eventually throwing a rod through the hood of the car.

Memento Explained & Untangled
With the help of a DVD player, and a well-exercised thumb², I was up for the challenge ahead of me. Walking through the steps described above I was able to verify Klein’s reordering of events as he described it should work out. With that in mind, I thought I would lay out the story as I saw it with my remote in one hand and a notebook in the other³.

1. Opens with Lenny in a motel room talking with Teddy on the phone – telling him about Sammy Jankis and his mental condition.

2. Teddy tells Lenny that Jimmy (supposedly the man who killed his wife, actually he is a drug dealer that Teddy wants to get rid of) will be at an abandoned building.

3. Lenny kills Jimmy and takes his clothes and his Jaguar (which has $200,000 in the trunk). Teddy tells him that Jimmy was not the killer – and that he has already killed the killer. Lenny decides Teddy is now on his bad list and writes down his license number.

¹ Klein even goes so far as to give a road map to putting the movie back together again – using his schema (black-and-white scenes are granted numbers 1-22, while the color scenes are lettered A-V) the movie in its original form looks something like ’1, V, 2, U, 3, T, 4, S, … 20, C, 21, B and 22/A’. The untangled version would run something like ’1, 2, 3, 4, … 20, 21, 22/A, B,C, … T, U, V’
² From years of Super Mario (the original mind you) on the Nintendo
³ Yeah, yeah, I am sure you all have this bit sorted out and memorized but it is still good to have it all out in the open. Keep in mind that the real serious Think-Tank work happens after this is over and it is all between the lines.

4. Lenny heads to the Tattoo parlor to get the license tattooed to his thigh. Teddy shows up and tries to get the keys to the jaguar. Lenny gets away.

5. Lenny finds the note in his (Jimmy’s suit) pocket and heads for Ferdy’s bar to meet someone named Natalie. Natalie tests the validity of his anterograde amnesia and then takes him to her house.

6. Natalie leaves and then returns and hides all the pens and pencils in her house. After which she provokes Leonard into hitting her. Natalie leaves, only to return minutes later crying about someone named Dodd having beaten her.

7. Lenny promises to defend Natalie. Leaving to go after Dodd he encounters Teddy that tells him not to trust Natalie and suggests he get a room at the Discount Inn¹.

8. In room Lenny calls for an escort to recreate the night of his wife’s supposed death. He then goes out and burns the items that once used to belong to his wife.

9. Leaving the site, Dodd spots him and he makes a run for it. Lenny ends up in Dodd’s hotel room². When Dodd returns Lenny mistakes him for an intruder and beats him up and then calls Teddy.

10. Teddy and Lenny send Dodd packing and then Teddy tries to get access to the Jaguar’s keys once again. Checking his notes he realizes Dodd had something to do with Natalie, whom he then goes to see.

11. Natalie calms him down and agrees to help him find who the owner of the license plate is. In the morning she goes to find out about the license plate number and Teddy runs into Lenny and they have lunch.

12. Returning to the Discount Inn he finds the note he is supposed to meet Natalie for lunch and he also realizes he is being charged for two rooms. Rushing to meet Natalie he finds out that the license plate number is registered to Teddy³.

13. Lenny calls Teddy and they go back to the abandoned building where the movie ends (starts). Lenny shoots Teddy (this is the scene we saw actually run backwards in the opening).

¹ Lenny’d been given the room number by Natalie and he believed it was his own)
² Humorously, Lenny gets a second room there
³ Just as Lenny had planned that he would discover

I must say that if this isn’t helping you out any – many apologies – but from where I’m sitting I figure this 10-step stuff might just work. Now I know that the chronology is just the bare bones of this movie upon which the real heavy lifting is done. Take for example the Sammy Jankis scene where Teddy explains that Sammy doesn’t exist, that Lenny was the one that actually killed his own wife. Do we believe Teddy? Here are two frames of the Lenny – Sammy metamorphosis to remind you of this scene’s goodness:

Memento Explained - Sammy

Memento Explained - Lenny

Or do we assume that she died due to complications in the attack some time later? We are confronted with dozens of conflicts similar to this one.

Another question that hits us early on is whether or not there are two attackers or not? If there was a J.G., did he die in the attack on Lenny and his wife? Or changing gears, consider the most controversial scene by far in the movie. Towards the end of the movie¹ after Lenny kills Jimmy; Lenny has a flash² where he has the ‘I Did It’ tattoo on his chest and he is with his wife smiling and laughing on a bed. This one moment throws many fans into a dither when you bring it up. It is this latitude, which we are allowed to think within and rationalize for ourselves, that makes this movie such an awesome experience even long after you’ve walked out of the theater.

Memento Explained – Theories
There are many different theories within the Memento community that range from the asinine to the epiphanic that attempt to answer many of these questions. Each theory is interesting in its own right. It is through developing and weeding out these theories that we get closer and closer to an acceptable meta-theory for Memento. Below, I have given a précis of the most prominent theories I have heard discussed in various places around the net.

Theory 1 – ‘The Disney – Happily Ever After – Theory’
The Disney Theory³ states that Leonard’s wife doesn’t die, but he himself does end up in a mental institution for some unknown reason. Eventually he escapes from the institution, either by himself or, more likely, with the help of Teddy, who has realized what a great weapon Lenny can be. Teddy convinces Lenny that his wife died and assists him in seeking out revenge. Teddy gives Leonard the police file with the crucial pages missing. Teddy’s monster killing machine eventually turns on Teddy, and kills him. Eventually Leonard learns his wife is still alive and is reunited and voila, we have the confusing ‘I Did It’ scene with smiling wife present.

¹ The beginning of the chronology
² The big question here is whether it’s backwards, forwards or neither.
³ Sometimes better known as the ‘Happily Ever After Theory’

Disney Deconstructed
The only minor problem with this theory is that the official Memento Web site clearly and unambiguously states that Lenny’s wife definitely died. It is on a psychiatric report, apparently from early 1998, that first refers to her as having passed away – but, interestingly enough it suggests that Leonard thinks she’s still alive. Outside of that little snafu this theory parallels the movie perfectly.

Theory 2 – ‘The Literal Theory’
This theory pretty much takes the evidence given to the viewer at face value. One attacker (or the one attacker, either way) escapes and Lenny’s wife passes away. Sammy is only there as a reminder to live his life more intelligently than Sammy did. Eventually, knowing a good thing when he sees it, Teddy begins using Lenny for his own means. Eventually Teddy gets tired of retelling Lenny everything that happens – snaps – and tells Lenny the truth. Bad idea. Lenny writes down on Teddy’s Polaroid ‘Don’t Believe His Lies’. The rest is history.

Literal Theory Deconstructed
The two major questions I have for this concept is what do we do with the metamorphosis scene where Sammy morphs into Lenny while Teddy is talking. The second is the ever-tricky ‘I Did It’ scene. Both of these snippets of the movie would have to be explained by saying they are errant memories of Lenny I would guess.

Theory 3 – ‘The Verbal Kint theory’
The ‘Verbal Kint Theory’ is an intriguing one that does a Borg-job on several of the various ideas out there. The cornerstone to this theory is that there is only one attacker that rapes and beats Lenny’s wife. This single attacker then dies from the wounds inflicted upon him by Lenny during the attack. Sammy Jankis doesn’t actually exist at all in this theory, it is Lenny who kills his wife with an insulin overdose.

Verbal Kint Deconstructed
The ‘I Did It’ scene is the only question that isn’t answered by this argument. This theory is probably the strongest argument I have heard so far. The thing that is brilliant about the ‘Verbal Kint Theory’ is the fact that Sammy Jankis is just a scapegoat, the killer is just a scapegoat and Lenny is far from admitting to himself he might be his own worst enemy.

Memento Explained – Conclusion
I am sure I have spent too much time playing with the various intricacies of this movie. And yet at the same time the sheer potential there for this type of mental exercise speaks volumes about how intricately designed Memento is. I don’t want you to think for a moment that I believe these theories are the end all – actually I think that they don’t even scratch the surface¹. My whole point in undergoing this exercise was to provide a springboard for some who haven’t taken the time to think deeply about the movie and see how wonderful it truly is. Most importantly join the conversation below and share your theories!!

¹ I read an extremely thorough argument linking Sammy’s wife to actually being Lenny’s wife based upon the sheer basis of Sammy’s wife’s wrist watch and Lenny’s wife’s alarm clock. The alarm clock being one of Lenny’s final possessions of his wife. To be honest my head swam at the detail and the inferred implications.

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173 Responses

  1. fryyyyy says:

    i agree with theory 3, and i’ll add that maybe he has the tatoo of i did it removed so he has something to live for. Only way for it at all to make sense

  2. Taylor says:

    That makes sense to me too. I would actually prefer the Disneyland theory much more. That his wife is alive and he just needs to find her, etc. But seems like too much mental gymnastics to make it all work. But what I like about the Verbal Kint theory is how stinking tragic it all is! He is so hopelessly scarred by his wife’s death (his killing her actually) that he wanders the planet looking for her “killer”. Very very sad!

  3. claire says:

    I thought it was theory 3 at first, but it can’t be.

    Lenny remembers everything before the incident. Therefore he would remember that his wife is diabetic, he would have been administrating the insulin for years if she was.

    However towards the end of the movie (beginning of the storyline…) Teddy tells Lenny his wife was diabetic, and Lenny didn’t remember this. If it was true, he would have remembered this. How he could he forget?

    Even if he wanted to forget this fact to remove himself from the potential truth that he killed his own wife, he wouldn’t be able to, how can you remind yourself to forget something if you don’t remember in the first place! You can only delude yourself if you remember to!

    Also Lenny ‘remembers’ Sammy with complete detail, it’s not written down, he remembers it.

    If Lenny is Sammy, and he has overlayed his own terrible actions of over dosing his wife onto a fictional character of Sammy, then how would he remember this fictional character / story? He would’ve ‘invented’ Sammy after the incident as a scapegoat for his own actions, but he couldn’t of invented someone after the incident, he wouldn’t be able to remember it without it being written down.

    If he created this story to make himself feel better and let himself off the hook, he would of had to of done this after the incident, which is impossible, he is incapable of holding new memories after the incident.

    Even if Sammy did exist to a certain point, but just didn’t have a wife (as some articles have suggested) and Lenny has just moved the killing of his wife at his own hands, onto Sammy’s similar life story to rid himself from guilt, i still don’t understand how he would be capable of doing that without the capability of remembering anything after the incident.

    It suggests he is able to manipulate his memories to suit himself even after the incident, i can’t see how this is possible if you can’t hold onto any new memories.

  4. Taylor says:

    Well argued Clare,
    What do you think happened? How do you piece it all together with this understanding of how the movie worked? I personally think he didn’t intentionally overlay his accidentally killing his wife on Sammy. It was just a psychological trauma and voilà he’s repressing the truth. But I’d love to hear how you thought it went down.


  5. Josh says:

    I think ultimately, part of the magic of this film is that there can truly never be an answer other than sitting down and getting one from the Nolan brothers themselves. I would like to state that Claire argued some very excellent points – but I am curious as to what she thinks about this: Leonard states repeatedly that he is disciplined, and learns from habit, repetiion; he relies on instinct. He repeatedly states throughout the film that he pursues John G. because he “destroyed my ability (Leonard’s ability) to live”. Is it not possible that Leonard, over time, adapated to the situation, in order to give his life purpose? Much like at some point, Leonard purposely made the decision to alter the police file? Also, consider the fact that this is very similar to the decision Leonard makes to make Teddy into his John. G. – If Leonard’s conscious mind and conscience are capable of ignoring his inate morality in order to justify his purpose and give meaning to his existance and actions, is it not both possible and probable that Leonard’s subconscious is capable of this as well?

    While I tend to accept Leonard’s memory as accurate for the most part, I should point out Leonard’s monologue during which he repeatedly states to Teddy the many inadequacies of memory. Perhaps the purpose of that scene is to suggest to us all that the past as Leonard recalls it is suspect in a major way?

    I was extremely glad to stumble across this page, as I just watched this film with my roommate who has never seen it – it is great to know that people are still as into this movie as I am – And this post is so current too!

    In any case, I choose to believe the following, drawing from the theories posted here, researching the internet, and reading the original short story: Memento Mori by Jonathan Nolan, and from my own opinions regarding this movie:

    Sammy was real. He was a faking his disease, and Lenny denied his claim.

    At some point, Lenny and his wife were attacked by two men, one of them being John G. Lenny killed the first man and was injured, during the ‘incident’.

    Lenny’s wife survived the attack. Eventually, his wife is killed by an accidental overdose of insulin administered by Lenny.

    Lenny is institutionalized as a result of this, declared mentally incompetent.

    [From this point, past his wife's death, is where I choose to believe what many of you may perhaps think is questionable. I am really curious as to what thoughts you all might have.]

    Lenny is somewhat completely unable to cope with the situation. Constantly becoming aware, he is stricken with dealing with the severe emotional trauma caused upon him by his wife’s death. He comes to, periodically in the institution, starts questioning where his wife is – what has happened to her – where is he – what happened after the attack? After countless sessions of having the truth revealed to him, dealing with the grief, etc., he eventually starts to adapt through habit, similar in concept to how the doctors Lenny had hired to test Sammy were testing him – Lenny eventually learned to avoid the electrified objects. Rather than dealing with the emotions of his wife’s death, possibly with the guilt that he killed her himself (assuming the physicians continued to go through the assumed difficulty of explaining this to him roughly every thirty minutes), he simply redirected it – channeling it into revenge, warping his memory, distorting his recollections.

    Based off of the various ideas that Leonard states throughout the film, it is not that difficult to make the assumption that Leonard himself adapted psychologically, as well as physically, to his condition, and the emotional trauma inflicted upon him by his wife’s death. All the pieces are there, stated by the main character himself. Eventually, it simply isn’t as bad. He learns to not question where his wife is. He learns not to reach over to her side of the bed. He learns not to miss her. He eventually becomes callous.

    This is even suggested during the meeting between Leonard and Natalie, consider when Natalie asks Leonard to tell him about his wife again. Natalie quickly stops Leonard, asking that he not simply ‘recite’ lines, that he actually think back and describe what he recalls.

    To me, this strongly suggests that Leonard has clearly learned over time to suppress his grief and pain, or to at least not question or pursue them. He says himself, that the truth for someone with his conditionis that sometimes you feel guilty, or angry or scared – and you simply don’t know why. But Leonard, through habit and instinct – has simply learned to press on – to move forward. He simply keeps moving, never stopping long enough to allow himself to become swept up in emotion – he is a man who has learned to run from the past through instinct, rather than selfish compulsion.

    Another thing which is unclear to me, is just how bad Teddy actually was. In continuting my thoughts on this movie, I’ll start to address Teddy’s character.

    Leonard at some point overcomes his emotions and begins to plot for his wife’s ‘vengence’, choosing to believe (much like he chose Teddy to be his John G., in order to give himself purpose) that John G. BOTH raped and killed his wife, rather than just having participated in her rape. [Please note, that I am choosing to accept that Leonard's recollection of the past is for the most part, accurate - with the fabrication that his wife died in the attack, and removing from his memory the fact that his wife was a diabetic (the scenes where Leonard is shown administering a insulin shot to her leg, and then the quickly shown following scene where he is pinching it).]

    Leonard at some point obtains a police file regarding his wife’s death from Teddy. I am not sure if this is prior to his escaping the asylum, or after.

    Leonard escapes from the asylum at some point, with or without the assistance of Teddy.

    Teddy’s motivations are clearly self motivated, but what is unclear is just how long they have been working together. Is Teddy’s shady business simply a one time thing, or has be been carefully maneuvering Leonard for possibly years, from place to place, using his police connections in order to keep him hidden and off the radar to further his own agenda? (Please note, that I am not sure if Teddy is actually an active police officer, if he is truly under cover, or if he is simply a fake himself…)

    It should be noted that Teddy is very like the following:

    Extremely concerned about getting to the Jaguar for the money.
    Concerned about Leonard leaving town because it isn’t safe (I choose to accept because Leonard being in one place for too long tends to lead up to the gradual reveal of Teddy behind the scenes, as Natalie had started to hear his name around, and clearly Jimmy knew and dealt with him – perhaps others [remember that Teddy, clearly concerned, looked to the Innkeeper for a look of recognition, concerned that he might have overheard Leonard address him as 'Officer Gamell']).

    Generally acting in the best interests of Leonard, as both of their paths tend to wind up beneficial – Lenny gets to live his romantic quest while Teddy, stuck yes with cleaning up the mess, gets to reap the rewards.

    Teddy supplies Leonard with money and supplies while manipulating him via telephone and in-person conversations.

    Teddy has been using Leonard for some time and has become quite used to dealing with his condition. I noted that he essentially brushed off the fact Lenny hit him over the head at the midpoint chronologically.

    In any case, these are some of my thoughts. I think I’ve rambled on a bit, and am tired so I think I’ll wait to see if any of you want to discuss this film further.

    If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you read the original short story.

  6. Taylor says:

    I buy what you are selling. But first let me say this post actually originally came out soon after the movie came out. I posted it on a board called epinions that paid people (if you want call it “pay”) to review movies & products. I picked it and dropped it here after writing a review of Nolan’s inception (, which is nowhere as tricky to understand – and even so has still garnered numerous discussions and fun arguments. You should find my 7 Lsyers of Inception and weigh in. Would love to see your insightful conjecture pointed that direction. Better yet – what’d you think of the Prestige?!? I did a review here thatight just scald your cortexes it is so controversial (

    Your theories positted here make sense and seem similar to theory three here… At the face of it anyway. (but much more eloquently argued.). For a very long time I wanted to believe Lenny’s wife was alive. And worked hard to make that make sense. But ultimately I think that the whole Sammy bit can’t be ignored. It is way too central to the movie – and for what? An anecdote about memory? Doubtful.

    You really do a lovely job of explaining Leonard’s ability to condition himself through hard work and rote recital. He obviously is caable of some memory abilities even if mechanical and more primal in nature. So kudos to you fine sir. Here’s hoping you will take the time to comment out on my inception or prestige posts…

  7. Ethan says:

    I like Josh’s theory. I’m having trouble making sense of Natalie’s role in the movie though. When he pulls up in Jimmy’s car, she mistook him for Jimmy. Then again in the bar when he explains the note on the coaster and says he found it in his pocket she sarcastically says “yeah, your pocket.” She clearly must know that he had a hand in Jimmy’s death, but she never says anything. Also, Teddy had been in the bar talking to her about Lenny, and when she gave Lenny the information on John Gammel she said she had seen him in the bar before, so she obviously made that connection. Does she know its Teddy?

  8. Timmy says:

    just listen to teddy hes telling the truth the whole time!

  9. Taylor says:

    Obviously the reason Natalie mistook him for Jimmy was because he was wearing Jimmie’s clothes, had his car, Etc. Natalie obviously knew that something went down, but there was no skin off her noes as Jimmy was obviously a bad guy and she wasn’t exactly Lilly White herself and was definitely gaming Lenny – maybe for the trunk stash? Even if she wasn’t after anything she was definitely using Lenny for her own purposes… possible playing the Teddy angle?


  10. Chase says:

    Just a little side note…When Mrs. Jankis tested Sammy’s illness by giving her the insulin shots, I noticed that she would turn the time back 15 min on her watch (which to my knowledge is the time it took Lenny to forget, whereas it only took ‘Sammy’ like 1-2 minutes to forget) before she got ‘Sammy’ to issue her another shot. Why didn’t she just turn the time back say 5 minutes…so this scene in itself proves that Sammy is a made-up character and that Lenny is the true accidental murderer of his wife. But if you ask me, the wife is the truly mentally ill person for letting her husband give her a lethal dose of insulin…she should have known that when he was about to give her the shot that he was ill, instead of ACTUALLY letting him do it!!!

  11. Matt says:

    In terms of Natalie’s role, one could conclude that Natalie knew about the stash the whole time and was working with Teddy to acquire it. Teddy and Natalie were together using Lenny to kill off Jim/get rid of Dodd. But then, Natalie uses Lenny to get rid of Teddy in hopes of getting the money herself at one point in time. Teddy, while working with Natalie, was still suspicious of her so he tried to make sure Lenny did not trust Natalie, but Lenny could read through it. This would explain her not saying anything when we wound up in Jim’s car/clothes, because she had known he would be involved in the killing.

    Its also possible that it was Lenny/Natalie helping him redirect his memory and creating this story, to give his life purpose and cope with the pain of his wife’s death, similar to how the physicians tried with Sammy, all with the idea of using him for their own gain.

    This likely has holes in it that I am not addressing, but maybe it could explain Natalie’s role a little more.

    Another minor detail I found troubling was Lenny stated there is nothing he can trust more than his own handwriting. However, the note he found in his pocket to meet Natalie in the bar was Jimmie’s handwriting, and not his own, yet he went to the bar. My question is did Lenny think it was he that was supposed to meet Natalie or did he just go to the bar?

  12. Mubashwer Salman Khurshid says:

    Heres my theory! Call it theory #4: Sammy’s Revenge ; The 2nd attacker (or maybe the first?) was Sammy Jankis.

    Lenny’s wife was not diabetic as Lenny does not remember it (he should if she was) so Lenndy didnt kill her. Lenny remembers Sammy with great detail. Lenny is supposed to to have his old memories and should be unable to create new ones, so Sammy is real.

    Jimmy whispered “Sammy”. Why would he say that? Put yourself in his position, what would his last words be? He whispered Sammy because he knows Sammy raped Lenny’s wife and maybe with Jimmy or his organization’s help (as Jimmy knew Lenny).

    Ted is a bad cop and he also lied to Lenny at the tattoo parlour talking about a fictional bad cop (it was himself). So we can’t trust what he says.

    Lenny’s wife may have survived and maybe subsequently left Lennman y or was killed or died. The last scene shows that his wife survived. The “I have done it” may just be one of the (prolly the first) man Ted used Lenny to kill (It may or may not be Sammy.)

    Reason behind Sammy’s rape: We learn from Natalie, that this memory loss stems from a venereal disease. Lenny was the cause Sammy killed his own wife. The same way Lenny was searching for the attacker, Sammy also should search for Lenny through notes and all (or maybe he recovered?) Sammy wanted to give the same disease by raping Lennys wife and ruin his life.

  13. Matthew says:


    I’m not sure if your 15 minute theory (for turning back Sammy’s wife’s watch) should hold much weight.

    I’m not Diabetic, but I used to inject myself daily with a medication that was freeze-dried. If I remember correctly, it took about half an hour, but I had to re-constitute the medication from the powder. Just the time to go to the refrigerator and get the insulin, get a syringe, the swabs alcohol, etc. arranged would take more than five minutes, I think. If she left a few minutes for him forget (I’ve only seen it once.) I can imagine it being more than ten minutes easily.

    To me the fifteen minutes seems reasonable, but I think that a diabetic person would be able to give a much clearer take on how reasonable fifteen minutes is.


    I don’t buy the disease as a vector theory. If VD predictably caused this type of amnesia, we’d all be familiar with it – it would be a part of our folklore. I learned of this type of amnesia from reading Oliver Sachs, as a very rare condition – but they have clinics specifically for treating VD!

  14. Colleen says:

    Hi there! Fascinating to read all this stuff, but still a bit confused… My take on the scenes with the wife and the I did it tattoo. Weren’t the colour scenes in flashback order? That would indicate to me that she WAS still alive when he and Teddy killed the first guy (that Teddy reminded him of at the end/beginning) and he got that tattoo, and then it was AFTER that that he accidentally injected her. I get this part as the flashes of her alive are in colour, indicating backward not forward.
    Two other things that I noted: when asked how he survives for money, he says because of his wife’s insurance policy – but is it really out of Jimmy’s money in the boot? If it’s been a couple of years since he broke out of the mental home, how did he survive till then? Insurance wouldn’t be paying an escaped mental patient! Also, he tells Natalie you can’t just screw the photo up, you have to BURN it. But we don’t see evidence of him burning a photo till the end/beginning. So how would he remember to do that if he had no memory?

  15. Tony W. says:

    I’d like to share my theory with you all, as I think I have a couple of new things to consider. I’ve just watched the movie for the 1st and 2nd time in the last 2 days, so it is pretty fresh in my mind. The following conclusions make up the heart of my theory. I will omit conclusions taken from Jonathan Nolan’s official website, since there is debate of whether or not it is truly official.

    1. All of the flashback’s and Lenny’s memories can’t be completely trusted. Some of them are tainted.
    2. Every color scene in the main storyline that we see reflects what actually happened during those moments.
    3. Lenny’s wife survived the attack.
    4. There were 2 attackers.
    5. Lenny’s wife did have diabetes, and Lenny administered the accidental overdose that led to her coma, and eventual death.
    6. Teddy did help Lenny kill the second attacker (over a year ago).

    For the statements above to hold any weight, you have to agree with my next conclusion: Lenny is not able to successfully condition himself to remember things at a behavioral/instinctual/primal level. However, he is able to condition himself to taint his existing memories that occurred before the incident through repetition.

    With respect to Lenny’s inability to condition himself at a instinctual level, the primary evidence for this comes from a very subtle queue when Lenny enters the Discount Inn. As he is entering the building, we see him push the door to open it before noticing that he must pull the door open. Remember, Burt admits to Lenny that he rented him the original room the week before. So in at least over 1 week’s time, Lenny has entered the Discout Inn enough times that he should instinctively know by now that he has to pull the door to open it instead of pulling it. In the same way that Lenny said Sammy couldn’t condition himself at a primal level to avoid the electric shocks, Lenny cannot condition himself in that way either. As Lenny himself stated in Sammy’s case, that means the disability is psychological/mental, and not physical. This is a very powerful revelation in helping to understand the movie.

    Even though we now know that Lenny cannot condition himself to form new memories (primal or otherwise), we are constantly reminded that he has been trying to do this nonetheless. He has a tattoo on his chest that says “condition yourself.” He has another tattoo that says “learn by repeating.” Lenny says that he “uses habit and routine to make his situation work.” Hard as he may try though, he is unsuccessful at it.

    Now lets consider the notion that Lenny has also been conditioning himself to alter his existing memories. There is an obvious reason why he would want/need to do this. In a moment of realization that he actually killed his wife, Lenny must have thought that the grief was too unbearable. If he goes on remembering that she survived the attack, but is still not in his life, then that would only confuse or sadden him. A more convenient memory of her last days would be that she died at the hands of another, and that his life could have meaning if he avenged her. In an effort to do this, Lenny has conditioned himself to alter several memories. He alters any prevalent memories of him administering insulin to her, as well as the memory of her eye blinking and her breathing after the attack. As Lenny mentioned to Teddy, memory is unreliable…colors can change. The alteration of these memories support his new crusade. Lastly, he alters his memories of Sammy as well.

    There is further support that this is what Lenny is doing when he and Teddy are having their heated exchange. Below are a couple key statements.

    Teddy tells Lenny “you don’t want the truth. You make up your own truth. Like the police file. It was full when I gave it to you.”

    Teddy: So you lie to yourself to be happy. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all do it. Who cares if there’s a few little details you’d rather not remember.
    Lenny: What are you talking about.
    Teddy: I don’t know. Your wife surviving the assault. Her not believing your condition. The torment and pain and anguish tearing her up inside. The insulin.
    Lenny: That’s Sammy not me.
    Teddy: Oh, yeah, like you tell yourself over and over again. Conditioning yourself to remember. Learning through repetition.

    This ability to alter existing memories can also explain the fantasy of Lenny lying in bed with his wife with the tattoo on his chest. That moment may have actually happened when she was alive, but he is probably trying to condition himself to envision the tattoo so that he can finally move on.

    Even if you don’t belive everything Teddy says, you can’t complete discount everything. Throughout the movie, there is a lot of consistency, and many themes are repeated. Among these is the theme that all of the key characters (Teddy, Natalie, Burt, and Lenny himself) have both dishonest as well as truthful exchanges with him. They all manipulate him, but they all also have moments where they are also honest with him.

    There are a couple of other interesting things that I’ve noticed in the film. The first has to do with the fact that sometimes, people in the movie call Leonard “Lenny,” even though he does not like it, and other times they call him “Leonard.” Given my notion that Nolan is very deliberate, I’m still struggling to make a connection to what people call Leonard, and when. I originally thought that maybe it could be correlated to “truthful” encounters or statements to Leonard, or perhaps as an attempt to establish trust in him to manipulate him, but it seems to be somewhat inconsistent.

    The last thing that I’ll leave you with is the irony that I noticed from one of Lenny’s memories. Consider the following exchange between Lenny and his wife when she’s reading the book:

    Lenny: How can you read that again?
    Catherine: It’s good
    Lenny: Yeah, but you read it like a thousand times
    Catherine: I enjoy it
    Lenny: I always thought the pleasure of a book was in wanting to know what happens next?
    Catherine: Look, don’t be a prick! I’m not reading it to annoy you. I enjoy it. Just let me read.

    There is an obvious parallel between Catherine’s desire to re-read a book that she enjoyed (and already knows the ending to), and Lenny’s desire to continually re-avenge his wife’s death (even when he knows he has already avenged her). Although it originally seemed like a silly and trite thing to do by Lenny, he now finds himself exhibiting the same type of behavior. The only difference is, Lenny has the unique ability to not simply pretend that he doesn’t already know the outcome, but to forget the outcome and experience it all over again. Perhaps this was Nolan’s attempt to provoke us to think about what we truly value in life. Is it comfort in knowing that in the end, everything will be ok, or the actual journey of getting there that we value more?

  16. Taylor says:

    Hey there Tony,
    great ideas here. I liked your concept of the psychological trauma verses the physical illness concept. I too have thought through each side and figured a large portion of Lenny’s problem are probably psychological. (Thus his mental institution admittance as opposed to a medical facility.)

    There is nothing here that jumps out at me as implausible, at least in the light of what facts we do have. All very well thought out. Well done, well done!

  17. gassy says:

    Great stuff, what about the brown-ish shoes(Jimmy’s shoes? or Lenny’s old shoes, because Lenny is wearing Jimmy’s clothes?) Teddy matches over his own shoes, I haven’t had the chance to see if Teddy wears them in the rest of the chronology, but why would he match them? We know he wants the money from the car, but shoes?

  18. Tony W. says:

    Hi gassy, you must be reading my mind because that was the one thing that didn’t seem to make any sense to me either. I spent a lot of time trying to understand why Teddy did that, but couldn’t come up with anything. In the other scenes, Teddy is wearing black shoes, so I don’t think he ended up taking the shoes from the scene of the crime.

  19. Colleen says:

    I just realised that the copy I have must have bits missing out of it, so no wonder it’s making less sense than it should! Have to get a new copy and try to make better sense of it all.

  20. Taylor says:

    Colleen –
    you sure? Its pretty confusing! I thought mine was broken too at first! hahah. What bits are missing? How would one even figure out there are bits missing? I am SOO intrigued!


  21. Kevin says:

    Tony W.

    exactly the conclusions that I have come to as well. It is easy to try to twist it even more, but Teddy is telling the truth at the end (beginning). Then Lenny goes on to tell us that he is making Teddy his John G. That he does indeed lie to himself to be happy. The wife’s survival, the “accdental” insulin overdoese etc, all were Lenny and he has lied to himeslef, changed his mind to live with himself.

  22. John says:

    Christopher Nolan probably had no idea what his movie meant when he made this movie…

  23. Tatiana says:

    I agree with John (and it’s the same for Inception).
    If it was perfectly done, constructed, wanted, all theories would be possible. Instead of that, we only have theories that can all be deconstructed.

    Anyway, I love C.Nolan’s movies but searching for THE TRUE THEORY is only a waste of time (but again… I enjoyed wasting my time to read all theories).

  24. Christopher P. says:

    Theory: Leonard is faking the memory condition, and that when Teddy said that he (Leonard) lies to himself to be happy, that he was lying to himself, among other things, about having the memory loss. Maybe conditioning himself to not remember?

    Leonard’s masochism would cause him to lie to himself, similar to when he contracts the female escort to visit his room, just to feel the bed warm for a second to make himself believe that his wife is still alive, although he must know as he is arranging the encounter that he is going to feel the pain of realising that she is dead immediately (when he finds the escort in the bathroom) after thinking that she is alive, due to the warm bed and the placement of her things around the room.

    I also liked how there were not any totally good and totally bad characters. The ambiguity of the film makes it much more interesting.


  25. Frank L. says:

    Hi Folks, here’s my 2 cents in no particular order:

    1- if i had to gamble, i’d take it as self-evident that Lenny ODed his wife with insulin and wound up in an institution himself. My belief is for a few reasons:

    A) The scene at the end where Sammy morphs into Lenny (for a split second) in the institution (see photos above). It would seem misplaced to cut in such a cryptic and powerful message/hint if it were untrue. Teddy’s summation/answer of all the questions we had throughout the movie I feel would lose it’s impact/purpose if Teddy was actually lying. I’m of the belief that Teddy was telling the truth in that scene.

    B) if you paid close attention, on numerous occasions when we’re viewing Lenny’s flashback of the attack, the directors gave us a hint (through the semi-transparent shower curtain)via Lenny wife’s blinking eyes that she survived.

    C) Another hint lies in the things Teddy said to Lenny: “So you lie to yourself, everybody does it.” And his assertion that Lenny removed the pages from the police report, himself. It would be fitting that Lenny (in denial about the overdose) would have removed the parts of the report that stated his wife survived.

    2) Sammy was likely a real person that Lenny investigated that was trying to run a scam on him at his job. Lenny infused (lied to himself) by combining Sammy (a pre-attack person from his job experience) with himself, projecting the horror of the overdose onto another person.

    Teddy hints at this when he tells Lenny that he knows the story about Sammy, and the “story keeps getting better and better every time he tells it” which hints that the tale gets more distorted every time Teddy hears it.

    Another hint that Sammy is in fact Lenny hints in the assertion that Lenny repeats many times in the film that “there’s nothing physically wrong with him, it’s psychological.” and “he should be capable of making new memories.”

    IMO, it’s implied that Lenny should be able to make new memories but doesn’t because he’s repressing the overdose, and perhaps his tales about Sammy have grown incresingly far fetched as well because he now has to repress the memories of all the murders he’s commited for Teddy.

  26. Christopher P. says:

    Frank, I agree with that interpretation completely. That aspect of Leonard’s psyche, that he is physically capable of making new memories but supresses them, really makes the movie. He obviously loved his wife, and for him to be supressing his memories so powerfully that he overdoses her, really says a lot about Leonard. As he says, he’s disciplined.

  27. Mr Mann says:

    I have spent at least an hour reading all the comments. First thing first, this film is in my top 5 movies of all time!

    I was hoping that someone noticed the scene where Lenny returns to the Discount Inn, only to realise that ‘Burt’ rented Lenny a second room. After Burt tells Lenny his boss put him up to it because business was slow, Lenny’s reply was “You don’t have to be that honest, Burt” – Although this is a very small funny as hell detail, to me it is the most important. It suggests to me that Leonard is a fake, how did he remember Burt’s name?

    Again, my argument for Lenny falsifying his condition was at the end/beginning. After loading his gun and leaving his room, he paused to control the adrenaline before speaking to Burt again for the first time regarding holding his phone calls. Habit and routine guys!!

    Also, it seems that Lenny only speaks of Sammy Jenkis over the phone to provoke empathy and to further influence the plausibility of his condition. There was only two other times in the entire film that Sammy’s name was mentioned without it being part of the monologue. The first was in the Cafe with Teddy

    “Have I told YOU about Sammy Jenkis?” – A question Lenny asked to confirm who he had spoken to over the phone.

    And the second in the abandoned building with Jimmy whispering Sammy’s name.
    “How does he know about Sammy?
    “You tell everyone about Sammy Jenkis” – This has to be another lie from Teddy, unless the person Lenny would normally speak with over the phone was impersonated, Hence the Tattoo never answer the phone.

    With Teddy, He told the truth once. “My Mother calls me Teddy” I can’t explain the photo he had of Lenny.. but in truth, I’ve had pictures taking of me and I can’t remember how, where or when it was taken and I don’t think I have a condition? Teddy did not give Lenny the tampered Police report. It was someone else. Teddy posed as this person, beliving that Lenny had a condition. It was only at the end just before Lenny shot Teddy’s face off that Teddy knew that Lenny was faking it all along.

    With Nat, she can only know of Lenny and his *condition* before meeting him through conversations with Jimmy. The plan was to always get rid of Dodd and Lenny would have been the murderer.. Possibly even being murdered afterwards himself by either Jimmy or Teddy

    ‘She has also lost someone, she will help you out of pitty’ – Remember Lenny wrote this down on the back of the photo after his encounter with Dodd!

    Natalie “You know what we have in common… we’re both survivors!”

    Obviously we all know the rest of the story, Teddy had other plans and wanted to keep the money himself, get rid of Jimmy and let Lenny be the fall guy for Dodd

    Jimmy “I knew I shouldn’t of trusted that Dum fuck”

    What we don’t know is what Lenny had said to Dodd for him to leave town? Whatever the circumstances, I’m sure both Lenny & Dodd sang like a bird and an unsurpassed amount of truths were told.

    Lenny loved his Wife but couldn’t deal with the reality of her rape. It put a strain on the relationship, he developed a pretend condition to help deal with the pain and frustrations, she felt more lost, committed suicide. Lenny got sent to a ward and kept up the pretence, while he was there he acted out Sammy Jenkins, perfected his routine and yeah…. A classic double-double-double crossed movie – My conclusion sucks but hey, I just needed to add my 2cents!!

    Oh before I go there was a comment that I read on here where one of the attackers may have been Sammy Jenkins.. LMAO. Loved it!!!

  28. Mr Mann says:


    The whole shoe thing to me is metaphoric. Imagine living your life day by day without doubts, hopes or false promises. You wake up and you live the moment. All your insecurities gone, you don’t care about the mistakes you’ve made. You know what you know and no one can take that from you. There is no past, no future, just the present. Life can be messed up sometimes, so much so that I’m guessing Teddy wanted to walk in Lenny’s shoes. A subconscious acknowledgement of admiration I presume.

  29. Chewie says:

    Hey there everyone. I just watched Memento for the first time and found myself dumbfounded by the supposed profoundness of the movie, in that it was the first movie in a long long time I couldn’t understand in one sitting. I still don’t think I understand it and intend on watching it again with friends to discuss.

    I do, however, have a theory. It leaves things even more open ended unfortunately, but it can hold water when more practical and logical thoughts are taken into place. Every memory that Lenny has is fake. He has no wife, he never worked as an insurance investigator, he never met “Sammy” or any of that. If anyone has seen the movie “Ichi the Killer”, you might understand what I’m talking about just a little bit better.

    Not to ruin this other movie, but in “Ichi the Killer”, “Ichi”, a deranged serial killer, is tricked via brainwashing to kill countless people on the pretense of them being bullies.

    Teddy is a horrible, horrible man. I would rather consider that everything that Lenny remembers is actually just a created memory that Teddy has put into his mind. Its eerie how similar Memento is to Ichi the Killer in that with this theory, they’re almost the same, minus the mind trickery, the backwards story telling, the gore in Ichi the Killer, etc. Its classic “find a crazy person, feed them stories, profit” scenario. Think about it carefully, the picture covered in blood that was given to Lenny under the door showed Lenny with only 1 or 2 tattoos, and him looking about 5-6 years younger than he looked in the movie. He was smiling, happy, and way younger than in any memory that he gave us during the movie, meaning that he killed someone before his wife would have died.

    Photoshopping is common, but you can’t tamper with, or destroy a polaroid picture without burning it, like it was said in the movie.
    I think i kind of got mixed up in my explanation I suppose… this entire theory is based on “you can’t trust what is heard, only photographic proof”. Basically, take out everything said in the movie and only consider the polaroid pictures, the factual un-tampered with evidence. Assume everything in the movie is “Lenny’s Memory”, which is very well could have been having no scene without being directly related to him, allowing no “3rd person” or omnicient view of the plotline, only what Lenny remembers.

    Basically… the memories Lenny perceives are muddled up, but the pictures can’t lie, disproving anything that Lenny would say, and therefore it means that he really doesn’t have any memories of his own because he’s had this problem for a lot longer than its projected in the movie. Going back to the repetition part of the story, and how he consistently is unable to remember certain things that would seem trivial, or “common-place” to the human mind is obvious that he cannot be conditioned at all, he has no ability to learn. However, he most certainly has the ability to forget, and have his own memories muddled with heavily, right at the end where the mere mention of something more sinister by Teddy, the person he listens to the most, causes his entire memory bank to go haywire and lead him to think he killed his wife, she was a diabetic, he was Sammy. He has the capability to be tampered with, but no capability to forget when he’s been tampered with, to learn how not to be tampered with. Lenny is basically an apple: he can’t prevent a worm from eating him.

    It sounds mixed up… I’m writing this really late… I’m just trying to add the idea that him repeatedly saying “I don’t know how long she’s been dead” and that he basically doesn’t have any “facts” to back himself up besides the pictures he takes, he really doesn’t have a clue. Teddy has been abusing poor, poor Lenny for a very, very, very long time.

    I’ll try to make something up thats better put together later, after I’ve really discussed it with my friends, sorry for my ramblings!

  30. Chris says:

    Well i good explanation (just because i want to stop thinking of it anymore :P ) is that we listen to what teddy says (Theory 2) when he cracks up-after all, he didnt care telling the truth to a short term memmory guy-Leonard’s memmories cant be fully trusted as some of the images appeard are fictional and not memmories.Besically when someone someone tells him something about his past, he is so confused that creates his own memmories.For example we shaw him remembering both his wife dead and alive.Now about the tatto “i did it”, after he killed his wife with the insuline, he removed it,so he would have something to leave for..

  31. Chris says:

    sorry about my spelling my mother tongue isn’t english

  32. Chris W says:

    I have nothing to add of any substance, just wanted to say that this page is awesome. Reading all these theories is awesome. Well done everyone.

  33. Taylor says:

    @Chewie –
    Let me get this straight. You believe this has been going on forever then? Or for a long time anyway? That this memory muddling has been getting worked by Teddy even before the break in occurred? Or that the break in is a contrived memory as well?

    If that is the direction you are going I can honestly say your theory is perfect because if physically CAN’T be disproven – since everything is made up – all “facts” just got warped and discredited. A bit unnerving – but I’m sure some people think some of my theories are even more unnerving than yours! haha.

    You are doing well though with only having watched it once. See it again and see what you think afterward. I know my perspective on the movie changed dramatically between viewing one and viewing two. Viewing three was a bit of a lost cause… because of the thing with the poodle and the cotton candy. But then on viewing four and five – EUREKA! hehe.

    Take care,

  34. Chewie says:

    Haha, I guess it can’t be disproven with the way I set it up. I’m not necessarily saying this is the exact way, its just what I caught after watching the movie, and found bits and pieces in the movie to prove it. I’m sure its not what he was thinking, but its another answer and the incredibly young version of Lenny would be my biggest evidence.

  35. Alex says:

    I didn’t think of it before but now I realise that the theory where Lenny convinces himself that there is a John G to give his life purpose and relieve him from guilt for the overdose makes a lot of sense.

    I would like to add my share to that theory: In the moment of clarity Lenny has when he chooses to make Teddy his next John G-victim, he doesn’t care that it isn’t for real and that he uses his own condition to his advantage. He writes himself a note to tattoo Teddys liscense plate and drives off knowing that he’s gonna forget what he just did but with a renewed sense of purpose.

    In a similar way, I believe that some time after the insulin overdose, Lenny decided he could not live with the guilt (assuming physicians reminded him) and wrote a note to himself: Tattoo over chest “JOHN G RAPED AND MURDERED MY WIFE”, knowing that he would forget that this only was a self-decieving lie. Again with a renewed sense of purpose.

  36. yidu says:

    he might of put the i did it tattoo to remind him that he gave the shot already and try to prevent himself from overdosing his wife not to be like Sammy and the flash back is before he killed her bi mistake and he removed it so it shouldn’t remind him that he killed her

  37. sallysellsseashells says:

    If Lenny confuses elements of his own life with those of Sammy Jankis’, then is it possible that Lenny was a conman himself, as Teddy revealed about Sammy? Then, one could argue that Lenny lives in his own alternate reality which he created in order to justify the loss of his wife. I realize that this sounds like a total stretch, but Lenny worked as an insurance investigator prior to his accident, so he understands the system. Lenny’s wife could have also had diabetes, as Teddy reveals to him at the end. Lenny could have faked his condition after he inadvertently killed his wife due to the insulin overdose. Then, his memories are created as manifestations of his guilt; the idea is that John G. and Teddy are both manifestations of Lenny’s character which he himself resents. John G. is a more exterior manifestation of himself- since John G. killed his wife, Lenny seeks revenge. Teddy is manipulative, and he represents Lenny’s manipulation of the system (as he suspected with Sammy). Both characters are created in Lenny’s mind as a way for Lenny to deal with the guilt surrounding his wife’s accidental death.

    When Lenny kills Teddy and John G., the flash of himself with the tattoo and his wife are also produced in his mind, becase he feels that he has absolved himself internally. Since he is with his wife, who is dead, the tattoo signifies that the Lenny has “killed” the manifestations of himself that he resents, and gotten rid of the guilt that plagued him over his wife’s death.

  38. Abhishek Bhattacharya says:

    Sammy is Lenny.
    Lenny killed his wife by an insulin overdose much like
    what he thinks Sammy did.

    People have been using Lenny for years for their own
    benefit. Teddy did it to get rid of bad guys and for his
    own promotion (probably). Natalie did it to get rid of
    Dodd and her problems and possibly for the $200k
    stash. Even Teddy wanted it and he suspected Natalie is
    also eyeing it, hence advises Lenny not to trust her.

    Lenny has a psychological condition (lenny is sammy).
    In such a condition, a man suppresses his pain or the
    reality to comfort himself. So, all the puzzles are crafted
    by Lenny himself possibly to give his life a new
    meaning every time he actually avenges his wife’s
    death. Lenny’s memory can’t be trusted by his own
    sayings that memory could be distorted and changed,
    but facts can’t be. Hence, we have to rely on the facts
    etched throughout his body as being true.

    Lenny is Sammy theory is stregthened by three
    1. Sammy’s wife put back the clock by 15 minutes and
    not by 2-3 mins as Sammy forgetted in just about 2-3
    minutes and not 15 minutes. Therefore, it could be no
    one else other than Lenny who was sitting on the couch
    watching TV and administering doses to his wife.
    2. Psychological condition explained in the previous
    3. At the end, when he killed Jimmy, he called him
    Sammy and not Lenny. Jimmy knew about Lenny’s
    condition and also must have observed him. (this is
    only a hypothesis as this corresponds to the part earlier
    than the b/w story which is not part of the film, a
    prequel to it. The hypothesis can be argued by
    remembering the bar scene where Natalie test Lenny for
    his condition and when she is satisfied, she deludes him
    and uses him for her benefit subsequently to kill Dodd).

    There is no reason for Jimmy to say an arbitrary name
    like Sammy when he is about to die. (I can deconstruct
    the other theory of Sammy being the killer, as Jimmy
    says that Lenny is making a big mistake and perhaps it
    was Sammy who killed his wife and mumbles his name
    towards the end. So, it is actually Sammy (= Lenny)
    who killed his own wife and it was a mistake for Lenny
    to think otherwise and gag Jimmy.

    Also, I believe that in total Lenny has killed six persons,
    with a new clue added for each person he killed. The
    story which only talks about two killings (Jimmy and
    Teddy) are the 5th and the 6th clues. So, we assume
    that the other clues lead to other guys, one per clue.

    Fact 1: Male
    Fact 2: White
    Fact 3: First Name John or James
    Fact 4: Last Name G___
    Fact 5: Drug Dealer
    Fact 6: SG13 7IU

    The “I did it” scene could be explained by saying that

    Lenny’s memories can’t be trusted as they were
    distorted by Lenny to give a purpose to his life
    (strengthened by the last scene). Thus, that scene
    etched in his memory is a distorted one.

    It is unclear whether he avenged his wife’s death
    (basically his wife survived but he was avenging his
    own disablility which he said a number of times that he
    wanted to kill the person who gave him this condition.)
    before his wife got killed by the insulin overdose or
    after it because it is not part of the story (part of the

    1. Teddy’s says the truth at the end.

  39. skc087 says:

    Hi! I just wanted to say ty for making this page. I just finished watching the movie for the first time and I was a bit lost at the end like many others I hope and after reading the 10 steps I am no longer lost.

  40. Taylor says:

    skc087 – thanks! Hopefully you are a little less lost anyway. Appreciate your taking time out to shout out.

    Abihshek – brilliant points. I liked your 6 people killed theory. There is a bit of stretch there in that he only learned one thing from each death. Which seems odd. But, yeah, I like it over all. There is a ton of stuff that happened outside our viewing periphery.

    Sallysells – I actually like your theory that Leonard is a con-man lost in his own web of lies after killing his wife theory. Sort of an understandable response to an overwhelming psychological trauma but exponentially worse for him because he now has a hard time telling reality from fiction, etc. I think we just segued to Inception… ANYONE HAVE A RED PILL HANDY?!?

    You guys are rocking the comments. Loving reading the various theories and ideas. Shows me I didn’t even come close to scratching the surface on all the various possibilities.

  41. Meg says:

    Did anyone else wonder about the flashback scene where Lenny’s wife is reading in bed and he is bothered by the fact that she is repeating the same action over and over? Naturally, as everything in this movie has been analyzed and appears to contain some symbolic meaning, I assumed that the one significant scene between him and his wife would allude to something much deeper. Any ideas??

  42. Chris says:

    After reading all of these conclusions and thinking a lot, I believe that this movie wasnt made to be understood, its a movie designed to makes you piece together things looking for something that isnt there, just like our protagonist did.

  43. D says:

    I had a roommate that watched this movie every night freshman year in college. Now I watch it whever I cannot find anything else worth it. This is what I have learned from having to watch this countless times. Sorry there are not many answers just some logical conclusions and a bit more questions raised, hopefully my take on it will help someone figure it all out. Sorry if I mistype I am using my Droid.

    1. The b&w vs color parts of the film serve as a parallel to a polaroid. The color parts are ‘actual events’ and developed, the black and white are memories and are not. Thus, the color we know is real, the b&w we don’t. The phone scene that is spliced in may seem not fall into memory, but it is Lenny’s memory about Sammy…so, we see that it is undeveloped. This may also have something to do with opening scene and the photo.

    2. As stated above Lenny has a faulty (or regular, if you listen to him in the diner) memory system. His condition is psych/mental. Proof of this is the “Remember Sammy Jankis” Tattoo. Sammy is a memory, prior to the point where Lenny cannot remember. So why would he need to tattoo it on him? 2 options, 1) conditioning, 2) Sammy was real (per Teddy’s story), but each time he sees it it remind him to build his mental construct of Sammy. Could the tattoo be to remind him of his condition, I think not. A) he would remember Sammy thus his condition, it might a nice hint, but a tattoo? Seems like a note would do, even if he lost it he would remember quickly. 2) Almost every case of this condition people know they have it, so I know the Nolans know that.

    3. The police file is missing pages because either they recorded the OD of Lenny’s wife, that was administered by him or they contained the record of the second attacker. Either way Lenny is the one that tampered with it.

    4. Sammy Jankis’ story about the wife and test is Lenny. Sammy did exist, but was a conman. Again, Teddy wasn’t lying.

    5. The attack. There might have been 2 attackers, might have been 1, there might have been no attack at all. I think that there was since Teddy and Lenny both agree to it. Also, this probably the even that broke Lenny.

    6.”I’ve done it tattoo” Probably the most confusing part. Could Lenny have committed suicide and that was it? Could he have gotten the tattoo prior to the film as a reminder that he killed his wife? Could he have got after killing Teddy?

    7. Teddy was truthful, except whenever using Lenny to get the money or avoid Nat getting it. Which means that John G. was used by Teddy in order to get the 200k from Jimmie. John G. may or may not have been the attacker, Teddy or Lenny may have invented him.

    8. Lenny has no real condition, he is either faking it or psyching himself into it. I think psych. This is based on the Sammy story. If it is as Teddy says and Lenny seems to recall, then Sammy was just a cheap conman and Lenny busted him. So, Sammy Jankis is not real, he existed, but what we see and hear about him is Lenny. The testing, upset wife, insulin, and mental home were all Lenny. The investigator was probably Teddy.

    9. The photo that Teddy shows Lenny is real, it is Teddy’s ace in the hole. Teddy helped Lenny find John G. hoping that after it was done that Lenny would snap back. After that didn’t happen he took the photo so that if Teddy was ever in the situation that he was in when he got shot he could “prove” to Lenny that he had done already.
    10. The tattoos. One interesting theory my roommate had was that the tattoo where there not guide and help him, but originally to help him keep his lies straight and condition him.
    11. Now I have avoided Natalie, Jimmie, and Dodd. 1) Natalie only serves to flush out the Teddy character. She is only there because of the note that Lenny found ing Jimmie’s pocket. She offers not insight into Lenny or his past. Her motive is not the money, she could have taken it while he was sleeping, she wanted Dodd gone.2) Dodd was only there to link the Natalie story more to the Teddy story. He had nothing to do with Lenny. 3) Jimmie is the interesting one, only because he said “Sammy”. and this is the turd in the punchbowl. Was Lenny really Sammy? Did Jimmie know Sammy, the Real Sammy, who had turned into Lenny. How far did Lenny’s lies to himself go?


  44. JohnG says:

    What an awesome site here.. watched memento again after about 8 years and was just as confused as before. some great theories on here.. so I’ll add mine..
    A couple things that bother me in the film, in that I can’t get them out of my head and seemingly have no explanation..
    1)When Jimmie says ‘Sammy’ at the end/beginning. I know this has been covered by others, but no one is going to utter those final words unless they have real meaning. Teddy’s explanation of “you tell everyone about Sammy” is no good. Either Lenny was Sammy, or Sammy was someone else who was involved with everyone somehow.
    2)When Natalie see Lenny for the ‘first’ time in Jimmy’s car and suit, she mistakes him for Jimmy, but when she sees that it is not, her reaction is strange. It’s again, almost like she already knows him.. which is supported by her statements in the bar.
    3)This is the biggest.. when Lenny confronts Jimmy in the warehouse, Jimmy reacts with almost indifference and distain. He clearly seems to know Lenny and recognize him, and almost treats him in a condescending manor until he gets hit in the head. Also, the jumping back and forth between Jimmy talking and images of Lenny’s wife was strange. It was almost like something big was about to be revealed but wasn’t. Was there some connection between all of these characters?
    4)When Lenny shoots Teddy, right before he does, it almost seems like there is a moment of recognition. Maybe it’s just Teddy recognizing that he actually is going to die, or maybe it’s more. Maybe he sees something in Lenny’s eyes that tells him Lenny knows exactly what he’s doing? He says “Let’s go down to the basement and I’ll show you who (or what) you are” Obviously, Lenny intended to kill Teddy, whether he set himself on that course or was faking all along. (I don’t necessarily buy the faking theory,as it seems too difficult to incorporate in much of the film).
    There’s obviously other ones, but most have been well covered in other posts. Any thoughts on these? I’ve only seen the film twice, so I may be misremembering.

    ok, now time for a super-crazy theory..
    Sammy/Lenny, Jimmy, Natalie, and maybe Teddy were all involved in a insurance fraud scheme that went bad, and that’s why Jimmy recognizes Lenny. Maybe it was thru Sammy, or maybe it was Lenny, or maybe (and I doubt this one) maybe Lenny set up his own wife’s murder and then had to cover it up by the insulin thing, and then fake his ‘illness’ and then broke out to track down his accomplices and kill them off. Like I said, crazy.

  45. JohnG says:

    Ok, here’s another one about the end/beginning scene, when Lenny confronts Jimmy. Jimmy clearly knows Lenny and knows about him and is kinda amused about it (again, until he gets hit in the head). So, what’s they’re prior relationship?
    Also, regarding my earlier question.. watch the scene sequence again and how it cuts back and forth between Jimmy driving up and images of Lenny’s wife. Is this just Lenny remembering his wife and the fact that he is going to kill her ‘killer’? because the way it’s shot, it is like one of those effects where she is responding to the same dialog that is going on with Lenny and Jimmy. Was Jimmy at their home before at some point?
    I’m sure there’s no answers.. but man this movie is a mind-twister!

  46. jinx says:

    Haven’t read all of the comments yet, but I just watched it again last night (had seen it many years ago) and I have to correct your “I did it” to the actual tattoo that read “I’ve done it”. That wording makes a WORLD of difference in the interpretation.

  47. Taylor says:

    How, prey tell, does it make a difference? I am, in a word, all ears. Both are past tense… no? Seriously, would love to hear how it works in your mind.

  48. jinx says:

    OK. Read all of the comments now, and I’ll throw out my simple solution that seems to fly contrary to all of the given theories.

    I went into the movie remembering (after seeing it years ago then again last night) he had killed his wife and it was revealed at the very end. I came out with a very different impression last night.

    I pointed out the tattoo actually says “I’ve done it” because it is the crux of my theory (on a movie that has no correct answer) that he has finally accomplished his goal. He has killed both “John and James G.” and has revenged his wife’s death.

    My theroy is that Teddy is actually the John G. that Lenny is looking for the whole time. Teddy has found it easier to manipulate him than to run from him. Jimmy and Teddy were responsible for killing his wife and Teddy is looking to have Jimmy killed to end the trail. He figures that his familiarity will keep him from harm, but it ends up making him the primary target. Lenny kills the right guy by stroke of luck.

    I guess this fits into the original “Disney” theory, but it was the conclusion that I came to after watching last night. I remembered it as “I did it” (assuming guilt) but saw last night that it was “I’ve done it” which implies accomplishment.

    Just a shot from left field. I love the site and theories.

  49. JohnG says:

    jinx – that’s a good one.. had not thought of that. I like all of these theories, but I wonder if it is more simple and, because Nolan never gives us the straight anwer, we’re left to conjecture more than we should? I would defer to most of you on here, cause again I’ve only seen it twice, but am still enthralled by it.
    One problem I see with your theory is that at the end of the film, as he’s writing down Teddys license number, he admits in monologue that he’s lying to himself and he’s going to make Teddy “his John G.” But, if you’re saying he just doesn’t realize it and ‘lucks into it’, then I guess it could still work. But again, that seems to read into it.
    I still would like any ideas about the end of the film and the dynamic about Jimmy and Lenny and Natalie. (read my questions in earlier post) Like, how bout this one.. when Lenny is choking Jimmy, it flashes to a scene of his wife being choked. Is he just thinking of the justice he is doing? Or is it a memory of HIM choking her?
    Natalie states that one of the causes of Lennys condition is VD.. this is actually correct, herpes specifically. Was his wife cheating on him? like I said, we go crazy cause we don’t get the answers.

    Also, another item that I read somewhere else.. assuming everything in the film is there for a reason – is there any connection between Lenny’s handwriting? He writes in block letters everywhere but once – when Teddy tells him not to trust Natalie, he writes that in cursive. Granted, he ends up scrathing it out, but…? The only other cursive writing is the Sammy Jenkis tatoo. What’s the connection? is there one? does something click in Lenny’s brain when it comes to Natalie? Again – is Natalie’s character more pivitol than we realize?

  50. D says:

    Just a point. If Teddy was THE John G. and just pretending to be Lenny’s friend then why would say “Hell, I’m a John G.” ? That would defeat his whole ploy.Yes, Lenny already found out for the DMV paper, but Teddy doesn’t know that.

  51. AnonymousGuy says:

    I have a really crazy theory. Teddy is, at times, not actually real, and part of Lenny’s mind. The part that struck me as odd was when Teddy lined up Lenny’s shoes to his own, and, from what I remember, matched up perfectly in size. I also feel that Lenny was a cop prior to the incident, and that Sammy was, in fact, a con artist, whose case Lenny was looking into. Now I know that other characters have openly addressed Teddy while Lenny was present, but I still feel that at certain times, Teddy isn’t actually there; kind of like a corrupted part of Lenny that is based on Teddy.

    I’m sure I could come up with more examples to support my completely ridiculous and most likely false theory, but it’s late at night. But one must admit, that however unlikely it may be, it’s fun to seriously consider Teddy as a made up person ;)

  52. Crippledknight says:


    Thank you for the explanation, it sounded great and helped me understand the literal movie’s meaning. I don’t want to sound like the only wierd skeptical person here but I just wanted to add this perspective. The movie not only talks about leonard, and his wife, teddy or others… if you listen do the dialogue… I believe it has a wayy more profound meaning…

    With much thinking, we know that throughout history, we tend to forget about our ancestors, about our past, about what actually DID happenned and the knowledge of our ancient forefathers. We then only have accounts, mostly written accounts of what happenned. No matter how many written accounts we have, how much evidence in there is, how many pictures, drawings, interviews or books, the reality, is changed. Hence, history is only a reflection of our memory. That’s why when we go to books like the bible, the pentateuc, explanations about the egypcians, or other way more ancient accounts, we can barely make out what the hell it’s saying there. We’re suffering from a memory loss and sometimes, someone takes advantage of this and tells us to do horrible things… “We’re not orriginal killers… that’s why we’re so good at it…”

    We can see many references to what I’m saying in the dialogue, specially in the fact that, even though he write specific facts anbout what happenned, he is confused and makes wrong actions based on malinterpretations of what he himselft wrote! Same thing that has happenned throughout our history, which repeats itself in a horrible manner!

    —–I’m not going to say the specific ancient character that is being represented by Natalie due to the obvious abguiguity and easy interpretation if you look at it this way. She knows, that we, as humans, forget our past, she knows we’re weak and looking for answers. She decided that she can fool us into doing her dirty business. She’s pretty and knows our weakness “our lack of knowledge”. She even explicitly says it when she says: “”I can call your wife a whore, I can hurt you so bad, and you won’t even remember! You’re pathetic!”" Hence she decides to use us to acheive her goal, which, is not clearly explained in the movie :)

    —–Teddy: His wonderful line at the end: “You’re not a killer, that’s why you’re so good at it” I think the writer could not have picked up a better choice of words fot this meaning… we as humans are not really meant to kill each other… we’re just thauoght wrong and deceived that war is the way… Teddy is also represented the WHOLE movie as… the great deceiver… because he uses us for his deeds, we even write on a note “DO NOT BELIEVE HIS LIES” Sadly, we write it for the wrong reasons, even if he was lying, we even forgot what he was lying about in the beggining!

    —–Lenny’s Wife: Wow… I didn’t realize the whole meaning of this character… until… she decided that she loved lenny “US” So much, that she was willing to do the ultimate sacrifice and come to him “us”in person. Told him “us” that she loved us, and tried to live with him… sadly… we , in our confusion and forgetfulness of our whole, forgot our real nature, and instead of doing what we’re supposed to… we killed him… I mean he killed her because he forgot :)

    —Lenny: Forgetful human race. That writes down history to remember himself of his stupid actions, to not commit them again or to solve the problems of the future… sadly… in our confusion and forgetfulness, we are easily deceived into burning or misinterpreting the evidence we’ve written throughout OUR history…

  53. JohnG says:

    Ok, CripKnight..
    you win. that’s the craziest one yet. lol.

  54. Anonymous says:

    I haven’t seen anyone address this detail yet, so I may as well add this in. Lenny tells (Teddy?) that memories are often warped, they are not a reliable source, and that facts always win. He claims to remember the story of Sammy, but what if this memory was warped. He also explains how Sammy was not able to be trained into instinct. what I think is happening is that Lenny is actually Sammy, and that when he disguises the truth he is able to remember. And that these repetitive things, such as the insulin, and the shape training, did indeed get burned into his mind; however, they were burned as past, and that when he would try to remember the past, he remembered those memories. He always explains how the last thing he remembers is his wife dieing, but in the clip he believes to be real, he didn’t actually see his wife die, but in the case of the Sammy story, he did. Another question, why did he have such vivid memories of the Sammy incident, if it was just one case out of his old career? Why did he bring it up every time? One last thing, I think this one is good. How did he find out Sammy’s wife’s death? She was dead, and he didn’t have memory and yet Lenny was able to explain how she planned it and how it happened. I think that Lenny is actually Sammy and that the bathroom incident did indeed happen, but she wasn’t killed during it. Sorry if that was confusing, I’m still trying to understand my theory…

  55. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, I forgot to read the comments first, seems like you already touched on that. I think you might have also touched on his tattoo “Remember Sammy” I think he used that tattoo to alter his previous memories… Also, to prove that he can actually create new memories over repetition, he knew every time when he talked to someone what condition he had, and how it effected him. He knew at all times his condition and that he would forget it within a few minutes… That was burned into his memory at the institution when they would tell him constantly about it.

  56. Alex says:

    This is a random note but it could be fun to look into if it piques any of your respective interests. Without further adieu… What’s up with all off the names ending in a long E sound? Teddy, Natalie, Mr. (Lenny) Shelby and Mrs. Shelby, Jimmie, and Sammy. Only Dodd and Mrs. Jankis have names that go against this trend. Why? Also, Lenny consistently reiterates that he hates being called Lenny. His full name would not fit the trend… Significant? You may say that he couldn’t help telling people each time they nicknamed him Lenny. But, why would the writer have every single person call him Lenny, and why would the writer have Lenny correct everyone each time? For me, the reason is that there is some hidden significance behind all of those rhyming names…

  57. Marta0710 says:

    This film is complex or we wouldn’t be discussing it. I’m no expert, by any means, but I would like to express my opinion and welcome comments and critique. I think Lenny has mulitple personality disorder that surfaced and/or was flabergasted by the attack on he and his wife. Lenny is Lenny. Lenny is Sammy. And Lenny is Teddy. Lenny is confused and can’t rememer anything for very long because the other personalities step in. Sammy is the personification of all Lenny’s fears. Teddy is the personification of Lenny’s truth and acts as his voice of reason. I think Lenny accidently killed his wife with an insulin overdose and the other personalities were created in an effort to cope. In reality, Lenny is a mass murderer who has a mental illness. He will kill again.

  58. asdf says:

    anonymous from august 4th made a great point. sammy must be lenny, otherwise how could he or anyone else know about the insulin overdose if sammy could not remember it

  59. joshiixo says:

    I don’t think there is really any answer at all. I think the entire movie is up for interpretation. Christopher Nolan has always had a good way of doing that. If you watch the more recent ‘Inception’, it ends the same way. Is it real or not? As for the idea that Sammy is Lenny, you can never really know. Lenny says facts always win and memories can be distorted. So when Teddy tells Lenny that he’s Sammy, is he telling the truth or is he distorting Lenny’s memories? There is no proof of either side, so you can never really know. You can say the Sammy is Lenny because that’s the only way he could know how Sammy’s wife died, but in reality, how would anyone know at all? If it was Lenny killing his wife with the insulin shots, he would forget a couple of minutes later before anyone could know. The same would happen if Sammy was a real person. So I believe this is just a hole in the plot.

  60. rwthewheel says:

    Leonard new of the Insulin injections because he first investigated Sammy’s insurance claim. It is very likely that he would have the data of Sammy’s wife’s death as well. The cause of death would have been identified, and Leonard knew that Sammy gave his wife her injections. “Remember Sammy Jenkins” is a way for Leonard to know his condition in each of his “aware” moments.

  61. Adam says:

    I think what started his whole killing rampage was the fact that he is sammy, and killed his wife with insulin, but since he forgot he had just given her the insulin he thought someone had broken in and suffocated her. The rape thing can be satiated by them getting jiggy before the insulin shots and Lenny/Sammy not remembering it :P

  62. Anonymous says:

    I believe that Lenny is in fact Sammy and the the reason he has “Remember Sammy” tattooed on his hand is to that he can remember his name, which doesn’t seem to help.

  63. Mo Hassan says:

    Lenny is actually the second Neo after a new anomaly within the matrix surfaces after the saving of Zion. Teddy is still Cypher and attempts to use new-Neo to out Sammy (the new Morpheus)

  64. Grob Slubbly Flaiye says:

    SPOILER FOR Inception FOLLOWS: In Inception it’s been pointed out that Cobb only wears his wedding ring in the scenes that are dreams, and doesn’t wear it in the scenes that are real. The big question is the end scene which Nolan said he leaves entirely to the viewer to interpret. Nolan says people interpret that scene depending on if they have kids. People with kids want to think Cobb made it home to them. People without kids like to think Cobb is in a dream hell abyss. But Nolan has kids and says he likes to think Cobb is in fact home. So is he wearing the ring? No! Where am I going with this? Conclusion: Like Cobb’s wife’s ring, Sammy/Leonard’s wife’s watch may be a Nolan clue. Over to you because Now I need a drink! \O_o/

  65. Andrew says:

    One problem with this – you said they start with the same scene, but they don’t. The color scene begins – if watched chronologically – at the end of the black and white scene. Therefore, they do not head in separate directions like you said (you said this also). The black and white scenes are previous to the color scenes. Think about the
    note on his leg to shave his thigh. In the color scene, he went to his “old room,” which had been switched about a week prior. The note and shaving cream were on the bed. Obvious.

    Claire – While you did make good points, I must agree with Josh. And remember a quote from Lenny himself. He said that memories can be misleading and can’t be trusted. “.. they can change the color of a car..” So how can Leonard’s own memories be trusted? He could have conditioned himself to alter his conception of reality. Just because Sammy “couldnt” doesn’t mean he can’t.

  66. Andrew says:

    and the majority of the times he lost memory involved something being slammed – door, dumpster, car door, cup on a table, etc. He also wanted that hooker to slam the door when he went to the bathroom. His wife being raped may have involved slamming sounds (door, her hitting the floor, whatever), and the trauma that he experienced knowing his wife was raped before the injury set him to wipe his short-term memory at the sound of a slam.

  67. matt says:

    lenny cant be sammy because the tattoo artist tells sammy to gtfo while lenny is getting ink. and the multiple car thing wouldnt work out. and trinity looked up sammy’s plates in a dmv database

  68. Ian says:

    In the “The Verbal Kint theory” how would Lenny have gotten brain damage if there was no second attacker to cause it?

    I believe that Lenny and Sammy are the same person. I think that his wife survived the attack. In the scene where Natalie is looking at Lenny’s tattoos in the mirror, she put her hand over his chest and says “what about here” to which Lenny responds “maybe it for when I find him.” I look at this scene and then at the “I did it” scene and cannot think of any other explanation than Lenny killed his wife. Perhaps he creates Sammy as a person who he can relate to and learn from.

  69. Iona says:

    The literary source interweaves with the movie and gives you a better understanding of the movie. It is sort of like a prequel to the movie itself.

  70. Dave says:

    To Andrew: I agree he could have been clearer when he said the color and b/w scenes were “running away from each other” (I think that’s what you are referring to). Really they’re converging: the black and white scenes moving forward in time, the color scenes moving backward in time until they meet in the middle in the scene that transitions so subtly from black and white into color.

    I think the scene where he’s lying in bed with his wife who’s ALIVE and has the tattoo saying he’d DONE it is not a big problem at all. It’s one of the easiest puzzles to explain: it was a fantasy, nothing more, just as Andy Klein says in the salon article.

  71. Bob says:

    Something left out of all of this commentary is the importance of the scene in the pickup right before Leonard kills Teddy. He has a conversation with himself and says:

    “Can I just let myself forget what you’ve told me? Can I just let myself forget what you’ve made me do? You think I just want another puzzle to solve? Another John G. to look for? You’re John G. So you can be my John G… Will I lie to myself to be happy? In your case Teddy… yes I will.”

    Add in this quote:

    “Sammy Jankis wrote himself endless notes. But he’d get mixed up. I’ve got a more graceful solution to the memory problem. I’m disciplined and organized. I use habit and routine to make my life possible. Sammy had no drive. No reason to make it work.”

    And what I get is that Lenny does have anterograde amnesia, Teddy is using him to fleece criminals and drug dealers for cash (ie, he’s a dirty cop), Lenny needs motivation to go on so he intentionally sets himself up to believe he has not yet killed “John G” (in a moment he will forget he fabricated the “evidence” and legitimately believe Teddy is his target).

  72. Anonymous says:

    So, I just finished watching this and it really made me think. Especially the last monologue given by Lenny after Teddy says Lenny is Sammy. Sammy was a con artist and faking his amensia, according to Teddy. According to Lenny, his memory problem WAS NOT PHYSICAL, but instead was a mental block likely an adverse reaction to blocking out the traffic accident he was in. What if both these theories are true to an extent? What if Sammy exists as a man who had partial memory loss due to a mental block, but later overcomes it, however’ still seeks out the insurance money? And what Lenny’s wife was raped, and Lenny killed her attacker? In order to block out the horror of his wife’s defilement and murdering another human being, Lenny mentally blocks out his short-term memory. And then the story continues much like it was told in the film, Lenny’s wife has diabetes and in her utter frustration of her husband’s unwillingness to “come to” she tests him via her insulin injections. Lenny obliges her, and ends up killing her. At some point in time (probably after her death), Lenny breaks down his mental barrier and is in fact able to make and retain short-term memories. Rather than accept responsibility for his wife’s death, he chooses to remain blind to the facts and creates a second attacker in order to give him purpose and to allow him to seek his own kind of redemption. An this brings us back to the closing scenes. Teddy says Lenny is not a killer, which is true to a degree in this theory. Lenny is mentally incapable of handling murder unless it has the purpose of revenge (redemption), which is also why he refuses to believe he is resposible for the death of his wife, the only killing in which he would be held accountable not for revenge, but out of neglect or selfishness or at best, inability. And in the closing scene, where Teddy forces Lenny to face the truth of his own actions, Teddy has essentially broken through all the five layers of defense mechanisms Lenny has been using to try and redeem himself. This call back to reality forces to the forefront all the emotions Lenny has been repressing about the attack and the death of his wife and Lenny resolves to kill Teddy, not because Lenny actually has amnesia, but because he doesn’t. Lenny remembers everything, but actively chooses to repress it, deny it, regress to a state of mental confusion, and finally projection. He projects his own moral reality on to everyone else around him because he can’t face his own. So the closing lines from Lenny are a recognition of his past and a resolution to stay burried in his own defense mechanisms, thus resolving to kill Teddy. Killing him will effectively end the life of the only other person who can make him face the truth, and simutaneously reaffirming his own defense mechanisms by projecting his reality on Teddy once more, only this time with him as the mark he needs to kill to redeem himself.

  73. RobK says:

    Excellent article and a joy to read after having seen the movie (again) last night.

    It seems to me that the “Verbal Kint” theory is the best one, except that there really were two people, not one that raped Lenny’s wife. So, on the one hand, he and Teddy actually do end up finding and killing the other guy and Lenny used the exact methods employed in the film. So there is a whole other story there, but not really another movie, because in that case there was no twist to the story. Meanwhile, intertwined with that story (perhaps happening before, perhaps after) Lenny kills his wife with an insulin overdose and constructs Sammy to cover over his memories. After all, it is these memories/lies that keep him happy, just as we all tell lies to make ourselves happy. Clearly this is not something that he is incapable of doing since he does it in order to get Teddy.

    A great movie to show in a into to philosophy class, especially with Lenny playing with the idea that maybe the world doesn’t exists when we close our eyes. He appears to convince himself that it does…but them maybe not completely an “external” world. After all, by closing his eyes, that is, telling himself a lie generates a new world in which he can find meaning.

    A brilliant, brilliant movie that doesntt even come close to Inception.

  74. Michele says:

    I, for one, am very appreciative of the many thoughts and opinions being shared here. I am going to re-watch Memento and go from there. Amazing film in my book.

  75. Taylor says:

    I agree Michele – I have been lurking here for a while, longer than I remember… and have just had a lot of fun every time another person drops by and throws their two cents out there. Memento is such an epicly wide open move and so disjointedly foreign that it really can go any which way.

    I didn’t realize the comments plugin jacked up the readability of the older comments. Need to go fix that pronto. Regardless, would love to hear your comments after you’ve rewatched it again!

    Until then,

  76. John says:

    This may be a bit far-fetched… but maybe the “I did it” is in fact insinuating that Leonard himself (for whatever reason) killed his own wife. As was the case with Sammy, perhaps his problem was not physical at all, instead perhaps it was mental. We see a similar situation in the movie “Shutter Island” in which Leonardo DiCaprio kills his own wife and thus has memory loss and plays an investigative game (similar to what Lenny does). Also, the parallel between the names Lenny and Sammy strike me as interesting. The rhyming in these names perhaps represents a parallel between the two where both killed their wives, just by different means. Lenny creates the Sammy story so that he would not remember how he had actually killed his wife. Thus, he may have been put on trial, put in a home for mental treatment and imagines everything in his own mind.

  77. alex says:

    @ claire
    Theory 3 can still be plausible. If the certain details of “sammy jenkins” character are in fact meant to be transposed onto Leonards character, then the repeated phrase “his condition was mental, not physical” can also be transposed. Basically I am saying that the pure and constant repetition of that phrase could be done by nolan to highlight that there is nothing wrong with any physical connections or mental capabilities in Leonards head, and therefore if the urge is strong enough the mind still has the potential ability to delude itself.

  78. aaron says:

    What would happen if you took out all the stuff you werent sure about this movie and only went on fact. I remember Lenard saying that you cant trust memory only facts? what would the story be like then?

  79. Rick says:

    I’ll try not to rehash everything said here, but will reiterate some…

    As a viewer I think we have to take Teddy’s comments at the end as being sincere. You can tell Teddy doesn’t feel in danger at all while in the warehouse with Lenny, so there isn’t any reason for us to assume he’s lying.

    So assuming Teddy was telling the truth..
    1) There were two attackers and later, with Teddy’s help, Lenny did kill the attacker that got away. Teddy actually seemed really sincere when he said (in affect) “I thought killing him would break you out of it but it didn’t. ” (I’m suspecting Teddy started out with the good intention of really trying to help, but now at this point Teddy was just being corrupt and decided he could use Lenny.)
    2) There was a REAL Sammy Jankis, but he was just a con man. (More on this though below)

    More than likely, I subscribe to the view Lenny did kill his wife with the insulin. She didn’t die in the attack, as evidenced by the constant clip of her with her eyes blinking while on the bathroom floor – plus the other allusions to him being ‘like’ Sammy Jankis.) I tend to think that Lenny’s condition was also mental (not physical) and his condition was more a result of the grief of the rape vs the head trauma (which would explain how Lenny could condition himself and how he could repress certain things – such as ignoring the fact that he had a tattoo on his chest – that natalie pointed out and we see at the end – that said “I did it.” It’s interesting how in the movie we don’t see that tattoo but I think Natalie sees it when she says “What about here?” and Lenny goes “Maybe that’s for when I find him.” I think you’re supposed to believe it’s really there, but Lenny blocks it out because he’s able to repress that memory to allow his drive of revenge – his meaning to life – to continue. (Unless you are supposed to think he doesn’t put it there until after he kills Teddy? – but I’d suspect he would have donned that tattoo after the first kill of the real John G.)

    Side note, the “I did it” tattoo also wasn’t yet over his heart, in this picture that Teddy took of Lenny – presumably at the crime scene where Lenny killed the real John G Note, how he’s pointing to where he’s going to put the tattoo. This means that tattoo was referring to him killing the real killer and not a tattoo to remind him that he killed his wife (with the insulin overdose) as some others have mentioned. It also would confirm that he probably added that tattoo shortly after the first killing.

    The three things I’m still most confused about:

    1) How does Jimmy know Lenny? Like others have pointed out, he clearly knows him (he even says as such “Yea I remember you” – he even says “Yea memory man.”) My first guess is that Jimmy and Teddy have used Lenny before in the past on another job? Another (but less plausible reason) is that Jimmy somehow was involved with Lenny and his wife in some way. As another poster pointed out, it’s interesting how in the scene were Jimmy pulls up to the warehouse, they pan a few times to Lenny’s wife – first looking out the window, as if someone was pulling up, and then her going outside. Maybe were supposed to think Jimmy has pulled up to the house before? I prefer the first theory though, as this latter one seems like a stretch (why would they be involved with the likes of a Jimmy in the past?)

    2) Why does Jimmy whisper “Sammy…” to him? If there never was a real Sammy to begin with (which is what I used to think), then this makes sense since the first thought in the movie is that Lenny was Sammy and there never was a real Sammy. The problem with this is when Teddy says “Sammy was a con man.” “Sammy didn’t have a wife.” Teddy seems sincere when he says it – almost to the tune of “Sammy was a con man that was faking, but you Lenny, you’re really messed up and have this condition.” If there truly was no ‘real’ Sammy then why wouldn’t Teddy just go “sheesh Lenny, how many times do we have to go over this, YOU are Sammy!” Teddy seems to be spilling out as much truthful stuff as he can there in the abandoned house so why would he leave out this information? – why bother even saying “Sammy didn’t have wife?” There wouldn’t be any point to putting on a rouse that a real Sammy existed. So I’m really stumped why Jimmy whispers “Sammy…” Jimmy and Lenny obviously have met before, but even if Lenny did ramble on about Sammy (Teddy: ‘You tell everyone about Sammy’), that wouldn’t explain why Jimmy would say “Sammy” while dying.

    (In regard to the shoes, I just think Teddy was being opportunistic… he’s obviously greedy so his character seems like the type that would go “Hmm, not going to leave a pair shoes behind if they might fit me.” It’s a pretty cool scene in a way since it shows Teddy’s character driven by opportunity and greed.)

  80. Rick says:

    @ME (sorry only two things confused about.. didn’t mean to put three.)

  81. Nate says:

    One thing i am surprised noone sees is something that put all my curiosities to rest once it hit me. The real question everyone should be asking before they take apart the storyline is the same question lenny himself ask about sammy.. is it psychological or physiological. lenny claims it must have been the blow to the head that caused his anterograde amnesia so lets apply the symptoms. Amnesia caused by blunt trauma can very likely cause lennys symptoms and is the leading cause of amnesia but it subsides and eventually all but disappears but lenny may still be in his confusion faze so lets not exclude that yet. lenny may very well be telling the truth but if that is so and he has brain trauma that completely blocks his ability to form new memories HOW COULD HE KNOW HE HAS THE PROBLEM!? i would have to say that is something that happened after the accident and he showed his knowledge of it many time throughout the movie by explaining it to people when he first meets them (or meets them again) the other inconsistency is the fact the he knew information about the police case? that really doesn’t make sense.
    i have to admit that Claire made me see something i must have refused to see. the fact that he would have known his wife was diabetic if he were in fact sammy but this doesn’t dispute the facts that there is no way that there is no psychological aspects (by that i mean non-physiological) to this case. another important fact about anterograde amnesia is that most display an indifference towards everything and someone with real brain damage would not be so passionate and angry about finding a killer. lenny may not be sammy but it is obvious to me that this is psychological and i think this is proven throughout the movie because lenny shows at many times there are things he is repressing. to move on to what i actually think is the case is completely anecdotal because with all Nolan films there is no answer he leaves it up to us. but what i see is the most plausible answer is that lenny was in fact sammy and all the information lost about his wife was the result of the second traumatic experience of killing his wife. i hold this stance despite the addition of Claire’s point because of the flashback where he is injecting his wife in bed that he previously recalled as a pinch. i think the part of this that makes it more confusing for us is that we don’t know the original cause of lenny’s or sammy’s amnesia and compounded with the new trauma of killing their wife’s (which subconsciously they still know) throws a complete curveball at a easy diagnosis. for my last statement i will offer my last conclusion that i have just pieced together as i wrote this last paragraph but is still entirely anecdotal.. if the amnesia was in fact all psychological and they in some were conscious of the fact that they were killing their wife’s perhaps it is what they wanted. did lenny really look like a man who was meant to be living the boring life of a insurance investigate or whatever it was he did? perhaps it was his boring life that caused his brain to throw that curve ball to bring some excitement into life and when he killed his wife he was able to live the badass vigilante life he dreamed of. i think this completely explains all aspect of my theory though it may be sparse and again completely anecdotal.

  82. Rick says:

    Read my post at the end of page 16. The issue with him definitely being Sammy is that it doesn’t make sense when you factor in the conversation he had with Teddy at the end. There wasn’t any reason for Teddy to lie at that point, so why would Teddy talk about Sammy and say “Sammy didn’t have a wife.” (Another question is how did Teddy even know that? And like I point out in my previous post, why did Jimmy whisper “Sammy.” Obviously Teddy and Jimmy knew about Sammy.) Teddy would have just told Lenny, “There is no Sammy. You’re sammy. Like I’ve told you before but you keep wanting to forget it.”)

    I do believe though that when Lenny was describing Sammy, that he was referring to himself and that Lenny definitely did kill his wife with the overdose. It’s as if Lenny himself knew deep down that even his own condition was psychological yet he couldn’t come to grips with it (which would also explain how he knew about the police report. It also explains why he acted like he didn’t know his wife was diabetic … since he was just repressing that whole ordeal to avoid the pain of what happened.)

    Read my post though on page 16, because I’m still really confused on the two questions I have there at the end.

  83. Nate says:

    @ Rick i see your ‘@Me’ post but not the one before i looked through the pages too if you just wanna repost them or maybe find them id love to discuss them.
    but i just watched it and forgot about that end part where his with his wife and has he tattoo “Idid it” along wih the others idk if thats suppose to be imagined or what? if its imagined and not real then was a dick move by Nolan to fuck with us people who wanna take apart this movie (or to teach us not to look too far into it lol) or perhaps this meaning hes looking for he eventually finds and maybe his wifes not dead and when he finally finds this meaning he is cured maybe going with my theory of he invented this illness to bring meaning to his boring life. and yea sammy would have had to be real to some extent for him to integrate the two memories.

  84. Rick says:

    Oh interesting.. my initial post was still awaiting moderation:)… people will be confused now with @me comment on page 16… here was what I posted .. (that I think taylor just missed approving)…

    I’ll try not to rehash everything said here, but will reiterate some…

    As a viewer I think we have to take Teddy’s comments at the end as being sincere. You can tell Teddy doesn’t feel in danger at all while in the warehouse with Lenny, so there isn’t any reason for us to assume he’s lying.

    So assuming Teddy was telling the truth..

    1) There were two attackers and later, with Teddy’s help, Lenny did kill the attacker that got away. Teddy actually seemed really sincere when he said (in affect) “I thought killing him would break you out of it but it didn’t. ” (I’m suspecting Teddy started out with the good intention of really trying to help, but now at this point Teddy was just being corrupt and decided he could use Lenny.)

    2) There was a REAL Sammy Jankis, but he was just a con man. (More on this though below)

    More than likely, I subscribe to the view Lenny did kill his wife with the insulin. She didn’t die in the attack, as evidenced by the constant clip of her with her eyes blinking while on the bathroom floor – plus the other allusions to him being ‘like’ Sammy Jankis.) I tend to think that Lenny’s condition was also mental (not physical) and his condition was more a result of the grief of the rape vs the head trauma (which would explain how Lenny could condition himself and how he could repress certain things – such as ignoring the fact that he had a tattoo on his chest – that natalie pointed out and we see at the end – that said “I did it.” It’s interesting how in the movie we don’t see that tattoo but I think Natalie sees it when she says “What about here?” and Lenny goes “Maybe that’s for when I find him.” I think you’re supposed to believe it’s really there, but Lenny blocks it out because he’s able to repress that memory to allow his drive of revenge – his meaning to life – to continue. (Unless you are supposed to think he doesn’t put it there until after he kills Teddy? – but I’d suspect he would have donned that tattoo after the first kill of the real John G.)

    Side note, the “I did it” tattoo also wasn’t yet over his heart, in this picture that Teddy took of Lenny – presumably at the crime scene where Lenny killed the real John G Note, how he’s pointing to where he’s going to put the tattoo. This means that tattoo was referring to him killing the real killer and not a tattoo to remind him that he killed his wife (with the insulin overdose) as some others have mentioned. It also would confirm that he probably added that tattoo shortly after the first killing.

    The two things I’m still most confused about:

    1) How does Jimmy know Lenny? Like others have pointed out, he clearly knows him (he even says as such “Yea I remember you” – he even says “Yea memory man.”) My first guess is that Jimmy and Teddy have used Lenny before in the past on another job? Another (but less plausible reason) is that Jimmy somehow was involved with Lenny and his wife in some way. As another poster pointed out, it’s interesting how in the scene were Jimmy pulls up to the warehouse, they pan a few times to Lenny’s wife – first looking out the window, as if someone was pulling up, and then her going outside. Maybe were supposed to think Jimmy has pulled up to the house before? I prefer the first theory though, as this latter one seems like a stretch (why would they be involved with the likes of a Jimmy in the past?)

    2) Why does Jimmy whisper “Sammy…” to him? If there never was a real Sammy to begin with (which is what I used to think), then this makes sense since the first thought in the movie is that Lenny was Sammy and there never was a real Sammy. The problem with this is when Teddy says “Sammy was a con man.” “Sammy didn’t have a wife.” Teddy seems sincere when he says it – almost to the tune of “Sammy was a con man that was faking, but you Lenny, you’re really messed up and have this condition.” If there truly was no ‘real’ Sammy then why wouldn’t Teddy just go “sheesh Lenny, how many times do we have to go over this, YOU are Sammy!” Teddy seems to be spilling out as much truthful stuff as he can there in the abandoned house so why would he leave out this information? – why bother even saying “Sammy didn’t have wife?” There wouldn’t be any point to putting on a rouse that a real Sammy existed. So I’m really stumped why Jimmy whispers “Sammy…” Jimmy and Lenny obviously have met before, but even if Lenny did ramble on about Sammy (Teddy: ‘You tell everyone about Sammy’), that wouldn’t explain why Jimmy would say “Sammy” while dying.

    (In regard to the shoes, I just think Teddy was being opportunistic… he’s obviously greedy so his character seems like the type that would go “Hmm, not going to leave a pair shoes behind if they might fit me.” It’s a pretty cool scene in a way since it shows Teddy’s character driven by opportunity and greed.)

  85. Rick says:

    hmm I tried to post again.. and I think it’s awaiting moderation because it has some links to some images .. images I took as screen shots from the movie. (or this post is too long:) Here is the post I’m tried to make on page 16 without the images to see if it goes through…..

    As a viewer I think we have to take Teddy’s comments at the end as being sincere. You can tell Teddy doesn’t feel in danger at all while in the warehouse with Lenny, so there isn’t any reason for us to assume he’s lying.

    So assuming Teddy was telling the truth..

    1) There were two attackers and later, with Teddy’s help, Lenny did kill the attacker that got away. Teddy actually seemed really sincere when he said (in affect) “I thought killing him would break you out of it but it didn’t. ” (I’m suspecting Teddy started out with the good intention of really trying to help, but now at this point Teddy was just being corrupt and decided he could use Lenny.)
    2) There was a REAL Sammy Jankis, but he was just a con man. (More on this though below)

    More than likely, I subscribe to the view Lenny did kill his wife with the insulin. She didn’t die in the attack, as evidenced by the constant clip of her with her eyes blinking while on the bathroom floor – plus the other allusions to him being ‘like’ Sammy Jankis.) I tend to think that Lenny’s condition was also mental (not physical) and his condition was more a result of the grief of the rape vs the head trauma (which would explain how Lenny could condition himself and how he could repress certain things – such as ignoring the fact that he had a tattoo on his chest – that natalie pointed out and we see at the end – that said “I did it.”

    It’s interesting how in the movie we don’t see that tattoo [in this scene I removed image link] but I think Natalie sees it when she says “What about here?” and Lenny goes “Maybe that’s for when I find him.” I think you’re supposed to believe it’s really there, but Lenny blocks it out because he’s able to repress that memory to allow his drive of revenge – his meaning to life – to continue. (Unless you are supposed to think he doesn’t put it there until after he kills Teddy? – but I’d suspect he would have donned that tattoo after the first kill of the real John G.)

    Side note, the “I did it” tattoo also wasn’t yet over his heart, in this picture that Teddy took of Lenny – presumably at the crime scene where Lenny killed the real John G [image link removed] Note, how he’s pointing to where he’s going to put the tattoo. This means that tattoo was referring to him killing the real killer and not a tattoo to remind him that he killed his wife (with the insulin overdose) as some others have mentioned. It also would confirm that he probably added that tattoo shortly after the first killing.

    The two things I’m still most confused about:

    1) How does Jimmy know Lenny? Like others have pointed out, he clearly knows him (he even says as such “Yea I remember you” – he even says “Yea memory man.”) My first guess is that Jimmy and Teddy have used Lenny before in the past on another job? Another (but less plausible reason) is that Jimmy somehow was involved with Lenny and his wife in some way. As another poster pointed out, it’s interesting how in the scene were Jimmy pulls up to the warehouse, they pan a few times to Lenny’s wife – first looking out the window, as if someone was pulling up, and then her going outside. Maybe were supposed to think Jimmy has pulled up to the house before? I prefer the first theory though, as this latter one seems like a stretch (why would they be involved with the likes of a Jimmy in the past?)

    2) Why does Jimmy whisper “Sammy…” to him? If there never was a real Sammy to begin with (which is what I used to think), then this makes sense since the first thought in the movie is that Lenny was Sammy and there never was a real Sammy. The problem with this is when Teddy says “Sammy was a con man.” “Sammy didn’t have a wife.” Teddy seems sincere when he says it – almost to the tune of “Sammy was a con man that was faking, but you Lenny, you’re really messed up and have this condition.” If there truly was no ‘real’ Sammy then why wouldn’t Teddy just go “sheesh Lenny, how many times do we have to go over this, YOU are Sammy!” Teddy seems to be spilling out as much truthful stuff as he can there in the abandoned house so why would he leave out this information? – why bother even saying “Sammy didn’t have wife?” There wouldn’t be any point to putting on a rouse that a real Sammy existed. So I’m really stumped why Jimmy whispers “Sammy…” Jimmy and Lenny obviously have met before, but even if Lenny did ramble on about Sammy (Teddy: ‘You tell everyone about Sammy’), that wouldn’t explain why Jimmy would say “Sammy” while dying.

    (In regard to the shoes, I just think Teddy was being opportunistic… he’s obviously greedy so his character seems like the type that would go “Hmm, not going to leave a pair shoes behind if they might fit me.” It’s a pretty cool scene in a way since it shows Teddy’s character driven by opportunity and greed.)

  86. James says:

    hey man, i was just posting to say that i didn’t read you commenting about why we see Lenny, in the psychiatric hospital’s chair ? It firstly shows Sammy Jankis in it, then suddenly for 0.5 seconds switches to Lenny sitting in it. You can find still of it on the net, or if like me didn’t believe look for it in the movie. I can’t remember exactly where in it but it’s in one of Lenny’s flashbacks.

    Also commenting about how it was made on purpose to give the characters names finishing in phonetic “ee” (as in Yepeeee)
    Lenny, Jimmy, Teddy, Sammy,…


  87. Rick says:

    @James. That pic is right on the first page of this blog so not sure what you’re talking about it not being mentioned.

  88. Bryan says:

    What’s the chance that Lenny had a personal experience in his past with a person he now shares the same condition in a movie told in this matter? The chances are nonexistent. Lenny and Sammy are the same.

  89. Rick says:

    I definitely believe the condition Lenny is describing when he talks about Sammy is referring to himself… and in fact it was Lenny that killed his wife with the overdose…so in a sense “he was Sammy” however, as I start to point on page 17, I’m not convinced though that there wasn’t “a real Sammy” ( A Sammy that may or may not have had a similar condition.)

    The reason I say that is referenced on page 17, but it boils down to the last scene were Teddy says so much stuff “about Sammy.” Even if Lenny (and Dodd) only heard about Sammy from Lenny’s ramblings over the year(s), it wouldn’t make sense that Teddy would bother to “play along” like he did at the end. Teddy says things like “Lenny, Sammy was a con man. He was faker.” and “Sammy never had a wife.” If there really never was some kind of Sammy’ why does Teddy even bother acting is if there was? Why not just say “Teddy, you’re Sammy. There is no Sammy. I tell you this all the time but you never remember it because you’re messed up.” Teddy never says this though.

    I still don’t get though why Dodd’s whisper “Sammy” when Lenny is dragging him down the basement half dead? Dodd obviously knew Lenny (I happen to think Dodd and Teddy worked other deals together using Lenny for their criminal needs.), but I can’t figure out why Dodd would whisper “Sammy.” (I’m leaning towards the guess that it was thrown in just to really let you know that Lenny was Sammy – in the sense of they Sammy that Lenny was describing. )

  90. Kyle Bond says:

    Anyone ever think about how Leonard didn’t like it when is wife called him Lenny? Maybe this is because Lenny sounds an awful lot like Sammy. Maybe his wife actually used to call him Sammy (because he was/is Sammy), but Leonard subconsciously manipulated this memory so that his wife called him Lenny instead. He doesn’t like the memory of his wife calling him Lenny because he is getting to close to the memory of being Sammy, and he has trained himself through habit to avoid this memory.

  91. Glenn says:


    i cant be assed writing anything too long haha but i agree with josh in that i think lenny after realizing he had killed his wife (as in shutter island) he tries to repress his memories and almost becomes mentally unstable.

    only thing with this theory is if you believe his wife was diabetic and he actually killed her or not.

  92. Bradley Civick says:

    In regards to whatever happened to Leonard after the events in the movie, Nolan pretty much suggests Leonard continues what he’s been doing, just starting over when need be, in a never ending cycle, like a junkie in the downward spiral of addiction that only end in death or arrest.. The website ‘news’ article supports this, since he’s gone, but he’s left behind all his ‘work/clues/photos’. I think maybe Nolan throws out a little clue to Leonard in ‘Batman Begins’. The ‘Joe Chill’ character looks at lot like Leonard during the trial (a Leonard with many, many miles on him physically). Joe Chill is wearing the same color suit and blue shirt that Leonard wears most of the movie, as he explains to the judge his ‘down on his luck, never gets a break story’.

  93. steph says:

    A new therory…
    I have a new theory not discussed and so far no one I talked to likes it. I call it the “reverse psycho theory” based on the hitchcook film and not the mental illness.
    If you recall in psycho the audience knows a lot more about the murders than the characters in the film and the characters believe the murders were committed for money, when in fact they were the result of a mental illness and money had nothing to do with it.
    In memento the opposite is true. The audience knows less than the characters and the “murders’ were committed for money, not on the basis of a mental illness….WHAT THE HEY???
    My theory is that Lenny is faking it, after learning of the “illness” of a single man known as Sammy Jenkins and he learns all about it and plans to murder his wife…..
    In the story of Sammy, you may recall that his “wife” turns back her watch and requests that Sammy inject her. But if she wanted to commit sucide, why would she need to turn her watch? Wouldnt she just tell Sammy to inject her, as Sammy would have no idea what time it was..
    The reason for changing the watch is FOR THE POLICE AFTERWARDS…The police would check the dead wife’s insulin level and find it high, BUT AS HER WATCH WAS WRONG….she must have told he ill husband the wrong time and he being ill couldnt tell. So “Lenny” just overdosed her, and changed her watch. They put him in the institution until they figured it was an accident and he left…
    He works with Teddy to put together schemes where he kills drug dealers etc, claiming the mental illness and keeping the money. Teddy believes his illness, but uses it to get rich with Lenny.
    Only Teddy gets greedy so Lenny plans with a new girlfriend Natalie how to get rid of Teddy and steal Jimmy’s money. On the night of Jimmy’s death, Natalie puts the cup protector in Jimmy’s pocket knowing that when Lenny kills him and takes the clothes he will find it. Also Lenny throws the keys away so Teddy cant follow him to Nataile.
    Lenny and Natalie fight to keep Teddy off guard as Teddy is watching him, as he “surprises: Lenny in the car.
    In fact the scene with the tatoos of Lenny laying with his “wife” are not imaginary but in the future.
    The ‘i did it” doesnt involve the killing of Jimmy g but the success of Lenny fooling everyone into thinking he has a mental illness which he can use to kill people and take their money.
    The film ‘ends” (although this is the middle of the story) with Lenny driving an expensive car with 200,000 dollars in it.
    The events after that are to cover their tracks (ie Natalie and Lenny) by getting rid of Dood and killing Teddy before they leave town to do it again.
    In this case Lenny is simply letting everyone believe he is mentally ill so he can kill for money….the opposiite of the Hitchcook film in which a pscyho is killing unrelated to money…

    Think about it…Another interesting theory..

  94. Rick says:


    Sorry that theory doesn’t make sense on a lot of levels but to start with… Why would Sammy go on consciously faking a mental illness and let himself be used by Teddy when he’s been acquitted of murdering his wife? I could see him faking it to get off of the murder rap, but what benefit is it for him to then continue to be faking and to be used Teddy? If Sammy wants to still kill people he no longer needs the whole guise of a fake illness.
    Second, the movie shows him faking things while he’s in private. There wouldn’t be any need for him to be consciously faking things in private.

  95. KG says:

    @Steph That theory is nice, but doesn’t really work out. For instance when he is chasing Dodd and goes back to his hotel to get the beat on him he sits down in the bathroom with the bottle of alcohol. Then he ‘restarts’ and doesn’t understand why he is holding the bottle, so he starts to take a shower. So if he was faking, why would he do this? This clearly doesn’t benefit him and he is in private so it doesn’t make sense to fake it.

  96. luke says:

    Its simple guys, leos wife survives the rape ,but leos head is slammed in and his memory problem starts.Leo kills his wife soon after over injecting her.Leo is sent to the mental hospital were teddy rescues him and uses him to his own greed after he helps kill the real killer and his greed over comes him.Natalie knows that teddy used leo which is why she keeps saying teddy was involved with her husband/friends murder.

    Leo creates the whole samy story, which is basically what really happened to him and his wife.He had a memory problem killed his wife and ended up in the mental house.How ever leo makes this other character sam up to separate reality with this fake sam story with the use of constant repetition telling every single person he meets the story of sammy over and over again.Eventually not even needing the i did it tattoo.

    Leos figure in samys fake reality could honestly be tedy.Since the samy story is nothing more than leos past reality he broke off into a story he tells others.

    Then who raped leos wife?Well teddy in the heat of the moment spills it all out he died years ago with teddys help.But leo does not want to accept the truth and writes on his picutre “Teddy lies” to avoid the truth hes been avoiding. He finally realizes that no matter how many times he repeats the samy story or attempts to find a imaginary killer teddy is the voice of truth(yes mixed with a little greed),and kills him.At the end he stares at the bloody killing of teddy ONCE MORE TWISTING REALITY WITH repetition. PROBABLY SOON FORGETTING HE KILLED TEDDY!!

  97. sammy says:

    Very interesting. Though I am very late to the party (the fact that I literally just watched the movie I nevertheless enjoy reading everyone’s inputs and takeaways about the movie. In actuality, this discussion in itself helps to provide at least one universal truth that this movie has: it leaves the viewer in awe and perplexed simultaneously, which underscores just how magnificent this movie is. However, after reading through the posts, I noticed some minor details that weren’t mentioned (or perhaps I missed them). Now mind me, I am simply enthralled by the tone of the conversation and the enigma that is Memento, but I simply need clarification on a few points:

    1. The mirror writing. There are a few points I want to bring up with the mirror writing on his upper chest. First off, it was written so that only through the mirror it can be read. Though this is obvious, it hide one implicit detail: this must mean that the writing was for Lenny’s eyes only. Why should only Lenny be accessed to this knowledge? Does it add a more personal touch to his quest that he is the only one who truly understands the “goal”? Also, we see that it is written in a different hand style. I know that it is VERY difficult to write vicariously from outside one’s body, but perhaps Nolan wanted us to note this subtlety and think, perhaps someone else wrote it? Perhaps he was given a motive to live, from whatever puppeteer controlling him it may be.

    2. NEVER ANSWER THE PHONE. This tattoo is not revealed until late movie (black/white scene) where there is a bandage covering it up. The bandage and the font of which the tattoo was engraved tells us that it is both made by a tattoo artist, and that it is new. However, we are only given on snippet of the tattoo lady, and it was for the license plate fact (Fact 6 if my memory holds…no puns intended). So the question is when did he get this tattoo, and from what context does he derive this fact? Since it is a later fact, it must have been introduced later on in his journey (beginning of movie) but from where? Also, to note, the font is very different from the other tattoos he has. The facts on his leg are clean cut, without size differentiation and font scaling. However, the NEVER ANSWER THE PHONE has an artistic spin on it. What is the significance of the artistry in this tattoo, if any? To my eyes at least, it seems that the NEVER ANSWER THE PHONE tattoo’s art is similar to the ones on his mid chest, which I didn’t get the chance to read coherently yet.

    3. Jimmy knows Lenny. In the end of the movie (beginning of Lenny’s story) Jimmy implies that he recognizes Lenny. I believe he calls him the memory man, or something to that effect. Perhaps it is just through the grapevine if Ted has been using him for a while, that Jimmy learns of Lenny as the killing machine, but that is just a theory. I want to know how Jimmy could possibly know Lenny in the context that he does: a bit ticked off and also a bit relieved. Also, to note, on Lenny’s body notes he writes that it is John G OR Jimmy. However, the font of which “Jimmy” is written is rushed and not in sync with the rest of the writing, which leads me to ask why rush the word “Jimmy” or perhaps even WHO wrote it on his arm?

    4. The Courtesan. Why does Lenny actually need this woman to lay things out to her accord? And why does he need her to wake him up loudly? In mind of what he saw and heard from his wife’s “incident” it is vaguely similar. There was a knocking of the door and the wife’s belongings were set up too during the “incident”. There is an allusion that I’m just not getting here. Lenny has waken up before and has never needed another person to help him. In fact he seems to dislike the presence of others when he wakes up, though this should be unbeknownst to Lenny due to his condition. However, my questions still hold weight: why the Courtesan, the slam of the door, and the fung shway of the objects?

    If you have read this far, I congratulate your attention span (puns galore!). I do not have a lucid idea of what is going on so I don’t have a conclusion to make. I just want people to answer some of the questions I have above. Or, if they have already been discussed and answered, please let me know. Thank you for your divine interest in Memento!

  98. Endre says:

    I have a quick thought about the remember Sammy tattoo…

    In the beginning of the movie, you see him rub the tattoo several to check if it were written in pen (I guess?)

    But later on in the movie, every time he sees it, he does not try to rub it away… Maybe he did manage to learn something?

  99. Taylor says:

    I didn’t see your comments sitting there to be moderated until I opened up the site via the wordpress app on my iPad. No idea why they didn’t show on the site proper. But I guess because you included links it wanted me to check them. Which is understandable, but I didn’t get an email notification or any sort of heads up. My bad amigo.


  100. james says:

    did everyone forget that at the somewhere in the movie (at least the one copy I have) when Leonard has a flashback about Sammy in the hospital sitting on a chair, there is a frame that quickly appears and you see that it is Leonard sitting in the chair. So maybe a definite hint from Nolan, as if to say “Leonard made it all up” ?

  101. Jane says:

    One basic question…
    Why is it that Lenny remembers only the name of his wife’s attacker ? It would make more sense if he remembers the attacker’s face or some aspect of his physical identity – given that Lenny had never seen “John G” anytime before. (If Lenny had seen the attacker before the incident he would have remembered him)

  102. james says:

    well simply because he lost consciousness, and when that happens your memory (short term memory) gets wiped out. you don’t recall, let’s say the last 2 hours or even day of what happened, but you would have the long lasting memories (from the long term memory.. derp) of your family, friends, loved ones, along with memories from what might have happened with them.

  103. Chuck W 3 says:

    I Believe that Lenny’s wife was killed by 1 attacker and one attacker alone. He then was psychologically scarred from this event. He felt guilty that he could not protect his wife. He then concocts this whole persona. He I believe had never lost his memory (Short or Long-term). He chose to repress the memories he wanted to and invent the ones he chose to. He wants to believe deep down that he still has meaning in his life, after he had lost the most important thing in his life. So he pretends to have this short-term memory loss in order to validate his perception; being his life has meaning. The one line that has resonated in my mind is ” You cannot alter the facts. Memories are distorted and created to match the perceptions we choose to validate within ourselves. That being said: We can not prove that Lenny had ever lost his memory, nor can we assume that there was more than one attacker. This is my interpretation of the movie. What are your thoughts?

  104. Jonny says:

    I think that the ‘I Did It’ scene is merely Lenny’s fantasy. It’s what he wished could be reality. Earlier in the film he mentions to Natalie that the space on his chest was to be left for when he had done it (killed the attacker). This thought has been with him ever since the incident and therefore he can remember thinking it. Thus, the ‘I Did It’ scene is just a snippet of Lenny’s subconscious and not an actual occurrence.

  105. james says:

    This is erroneous. During the movie Teddy used him. To kill someone for Teddy, so Teddy doesn’t get his hands dirty and Lenny won’t remember it. But then Lenny’s mind tricks him into thinking that Teddy Gammell (John his real name!) [> the John G. tattoo] is his wifes killer.. Or did it? I am sure his mind knew (the mind always knows) that he solved the problem a while ago but had to choose someone to keep serving his “newly acquired” purpose. Everyone has a purpose, and his is, well, to solve. It’s one of the great miracle of the mind. His mind tricked him to keep him alive, to save him. Otherwise he would have gone crazy.

  106. dara says:

    Great blog.

    Nolan is a genius. Almost all his movies leave you scratching your head and offering you different explanations of the plot. The Prestige us also a great labyrinthian film.

    I think I go fir the literal plot explanation but really want to see that little “I did it “as I missed that first time round.

  107. glubfoot says:

    I thought it was a wonderful movie – but I think a lot of you are taking it too seriously. It was after all just a movie. And part of the point of it must surely be that we can never know what “really” happened, as memory is so unreliable (as pointed out by Lenny.). cf. The Hunting of the Snark – say something three times and it becomes true (at least to you). I’m sure my life is made up of loads of memories I have rationalized, embellished, reframed and generally changed to put myself in the best light. And others will remember things differently. And of course there are all those other memories from the film that ended up on the cutting room floor.
    I particularly liked Lenny’s memory of injecting his wife’s leg with insulin, quiclky followed by the replay of him pinching his wife’s leg. To me that was brought on by Teddy’s speech, but which memory was correct Lenny (and us) can never know.

  108. Taylor says:

    Hey Glub,
    I liked your vantage very much. I do find it funny tho that while telling us we take it way too seriously (which is probably the most obvious statement of the month) you also extend a theory of your own. I recently read a book called ‘Berore I Sleep’ that deals with a similar situation like Lenny’s memory limitation except the gal could keep her memory the entire day. And throughout the book her memory shifts and moves and it’s difficult to tell what is her disability and what is just from the pain of her past and normal rewriting that occurs to protect ourselves. It was a brilliant and clever book I highly recommend, especially to folks that liked Memento.

    Regardless, I do agree somewhat that there are aspects of this movie we can never know. Which I actually see as both a flaw and a strength simultaneously. Part of me wants to know the one key answer of the movie which is, the meaning of the ‘I Did It’ scene. But I also like that it is somewhat ragged and unknowable as well because we are flawed and imperfect creatures. So I agree, memory is messy… Which makes a messy movie. Which works for me anyway. Others? Or do you all think it has to be knowable and Nolan intended an answer? If that was the case for The Prestige I would be very mad – which I’ve documented fairly extensively out on that blog. But with Memento I’m ok with that. But that’s just me.

  109. Jane says:

    If Nolan intended an answer at least one of us would have figured it out by now.. So I believe he meant us to remain confounded :)
    I am impressed that a movie can inspire so many people to come up with so many different theories. BUT am unhappy that each and every theory can be so easily deconstructed. You could have your favourite theory and I could have mine.. But at least one theory should be plausible i.e., It should be unable to be proven wrong – even if it cannot be proven to be right.

  110. Taylor says:

    Hahah Jane,
    Love it, totally agree. But do you have one you are partial to? I think I mentioned this in the blog post (it’s been years now, can’t remember) saying that my preferred theory is any theory that gives Lenny a chance to reconnect with his still living wife regardless of the mental gymnastics necessary to make it happen. I got close there for a while, but don’t know if it’s possible. The thing that derailed me I think was the movie website. But do you guys think that is canon or not? If I stick to the movie itself it may be possible. But regardless, what is your leaning Jane if you had to pick one to head towards, or that you enjoyed more than the others?


  111. Jane says:

    Hi Taylor,
    Can’t swallow either theory in entirety but I do believe Lenny’s wife is definitely dead. If she had survived the attack that gave Lenny his memory loss problem he should have gotten a tattoo that said, “My wife is alive” .Or something like “Find my wife” if he suspected even remotely that she MIGHT be alive. Lenny sure is a messed up guy, but there is a method is his madness – as asserted by the tattoos and the note-taking habits.
    Wouldn’t he have made sure his wife was really dead before he made revenge his purpose in life ? Wouldn’t he be searching for his lost wife if he believed or even hoped she was alive ? Positive emotion triumphs every time, right ?


  112. Taylor says:

    Did Lenny’s wife survive the attack? It begins and ends right there. (The official site – in the medical records – state she did survive the attack. Never mind the fact that she would have to survive if you believe Lenny killed her.) The question after that is ‘did Lenny kill her with an overdose or was that just a projection?’. Right? And finally, what do you do with the ‘I Did It’ scene? I can choose – because I love my love story happy ending, or what have you – to believe that I did It scene is reality, and then all I have to do to make that happen is just say that Lenny just convinced himself (with the obvious manipulation of Teddy) he was Sammy when he actually wasn’t.

    Do I believe this? No, but not because it’s a stretch but more because it doesn’t fit. Am I missing something in the logic? I don’t think so, but am known for my grandiose theories!!

  113. Rick says:

    The part I’m still trying to have someone explain is why did Jimmy mutter “Sammy” while half unconscious when being dragged to the cellar? ( I posted earlier about this – page 17 I think – but lot of threads on this blog:)

    The reason it seems odd is:

    1) Teddy had no reason to be lying when confronted by Lenny (at movie order end) when he explained that there was a real Sammy. Teddy says things like “Lenny, Sammy was a con man. He was faker.” and “Sammy never had a wife.” Lenny obviously new there was a real sammy who was different than Lenny. There isn’t a reason for Teddy to lie at all here. He could state the full truth and he knows Lenny won’t remember anyway.

    2) So why does Jimmy murmor “Sammy?” No matter how I try to dice the plot, it doesn’t really make sense. Even if 1 above is wrong (which I don’t see how it could be) and there was NEVER a REAL Sammy, why does Jimmy mutter it? He just got attacked by Lenny…. even if Jimmy hung out with Teddy and Lenny and he knew Lenny mentioned Sammy all the time.. it’s still an odd thing to mutter.

  114. Jennifer says:

    So here’s another theory.
    All the tattoo’s on Lenny’s body are done to make him believe what is the truth, with that altering his memories of the past.
    But, none of the tattoos are the truth.
    There is no killer he’s looking for, he is looking for a substitute for what he has done himself.

    Lenny gives his own turn to reality and therefore twists his own memory, using the case of Sammy to forget things.
    The part where Sammy is in the instution , Lenny says Sammy doesn’t know that his wife is dead.

    When Natalie asks about Lenny’s wife, he says “She was perfect for me”, suggesting that she wasn’t perfect, probably because she had diabetes.

    I believe Sammy existed, but was faking his illness, and Lenny using this story to create his own truth, and trying to be able to alter his own memory by forgetting things on purpose.
    (which Teddy knows and says at the end of the movie – beginning of the story).

    Among Lenny’s first tattoos are “remember Sammy Jankins” and “condtition yourself”, if this two would be the first two, this would be because of Lenny wanting to forget things on purpose.
    He also wrote “remember Sammy Jankins” on the side of his hand, a place he would always be able to look at, even with his clothes on.

    None of the other tattoos can be confirmed as the truth, there are 4 facts already and fact 5 and 6 are not reliable, fact 6 is even made up to create new truth.
    Lenny knew that this facts would lead him to one person, identified as the killer of his wife.

    Further, the polaroids are evidence of what has really happened – The text underneath the pictures isn’t, these are stories made up by Lenny, therefore not reliable.

    Teddy isn’t telling the truth. We cannot confirm that he is indeed a cop;
    When Lenny goes to meet “the cop” in the lobby, Teddy shows up, knowing that Lenny won’t remember who Teddy is. But he makes sure that the man behind the couter does not see what is going on, because that man knows that Teddy isn’t a cop (he has apparantly showed up before at the motel: the man behind the counter also says during the beginning of the movie “I thought he was a friend”, suggesting Teddy has been there before, but not as a cop).
    Also Teddy hasn’t got a gun, it’s Jimmy’s gun we see during the story.

    Teddy and Natalie are only in it for the money and know how to take advantage of Lenny’s memory loss.
    Lenny doesn’t know he killed Jimmy, Natalie does, she says Lenny has helped her, so now she’s helping him.
    By tracking the license plate she sees it’s from Teddy, she thinks Teddy has the money from the drugdeal, therefore she won’t mind if Lenny kills Teddy too.

    Just my 2 cents of how I saw it.

  115. james says:

    the scene that says “I did it” could either be for 1) Lenny killing his wife or 2) Lenny killing the murderer.

  116. Jane says:

    If the ‘I did it’ tattoo means “I killed my wife” – why should Lenny get such a tattoo at all ? It would be a very painful thing for him to remember.. And we do know Lenny lies to himself to be happy. If he did kill his wife by an unintentional insulin overdose he could have simply forgotten it – which is very easy for him to do !

  117. Taylor says:

    The part I’m still trying to have someone explain is why did Jimmy mutter “Sammy” while half unconscious when being dragged to the cellar?

    Hey there Rick, thanks for being persistent. I’m sorry that I missed your comment originally. I have tried to let this runaway board blossom on its own a bit. Seems there is a bit of a minor community thing going on here. Actually, with the release of dark knight rises (see my review ) the page visits for this post have doubled to about a couple thousand a day. Kinda crazy actually. But welcome!

    But I digress. Here’s my only thought on Jimmmy’s muttering Sammy. Maybe Jimmy and Lenny are acquaintances or at the very least he’s aware of Lenny. After all he’s the memory guy everyone seems to know about. Maybe even Jimmy has spoken with Teddy? Or maybe this is the proof he had to of. That or he definitely has spoken with Lenny in detail. Either way it shows a level of intimacy that we were not privy to. So why would he say it? It was his last defense maybe? Lenny, you killed her. You are on a witch hunt. Don’t kill me.

    And that’s all I got. Yes, no? Seems to logically follow to me.

  118. Taylor says:

    Lenny says outright that he is saving this spot on his chest so that once he finally gets the killer he can put “I did it” there. But you are right, it is a poetic thing that he may be right on both counts – he got the ‘killer’ and he also killed his wife. If you believe the Sammy Jenkis side of things. But the double meaning is just a meta-hint, a tip off that all might not be well in what it is we are being told.

    Also, just for kicks – I went looking online for all the tattoos Lenny had and then tried to figure out how many of them might have been lies. It quickly became a regressive Alice in Wonderland experience. But of the 26 (or 27 if you count I did it) tattoos almost all of the are generic… eat, trust no one, get film, and the like. The central tattoos that matter to the film really are just the 1-6 evidence tattoos and whether you believe those to be lies just depends on your thoughts on where Lenny learned about John G. Originally. (the official site seems to indicate that Lenny knew of a John G. While in the hospital and that he was obsessed with a second attacker.)

  119. james says:

    John G is the real name of Teddy Gamell isn’t it ? Teddy is the nickname given to him. At least that’s how it unfolds in the film.
    I just thought, when he recalls events or analysis, the name ” Sammy ” ( Sammy Jenkins ) always comes up in his mind – out loud in the movie -, which could mean that Sammy was a pure invention from his mind. He never existed, Lenny killed his wife. But it’s so painful to admit/remember, that his mind made a side story (again, as some sort of mental protection). His mind is locked on ‘revenge’ on an absent killer, which is why he is always going to find a ‘killer’… I wish there was a sequel to it, or another perspective of Memento (from another character’s point of view, for example, the life of Teddy or Natalie).
    Still, a great movie from Nolan :3

  120. glubfoot says:

    Or maybe Sammy is Lenny’s real name, and Jimmy used to sell him drugs

  121. glubfoot says:

    PS. Have you seen “Primer” – now that’s a film to deconstruct

  122. Taylor says:

    Funny you mention it – have you seen my top 10 mind job list? Primer is number 1. Hehe. But yeah, I have the review/devonstruction half written – but it’s such a mindjob I would like to photoshop some visuals for it and that requires epic time for a movie like Primer. Good idea though. It’s an amazing movie!

  123. james says:


    Yes I have seen Primer few times. I love it. It’s on my HDD, along with Memento and another great movie called Time Crimes, which is really good like Primer on the fact that you lose your mind.

  124. andy says:

    having just witness this film for the first time, does anybody think the whole story is designed to make us feel like we have the same condition? i.e its so complicated that we can barely follow and keep track of what just happened? there is so much mental gymnastics involved that it screws with our heads thus creating the same condition within us and the only continuity for us as the viewer is what happened before his wifes “death”. as much as i’d love there to be a full anwer as to what happened i think it is all part of an incredible experience into what its like to be inflicted with this condition.

    for instance whilst i was watching:

    1. i could barely remember what just happened.
    2. the only thing i remembered throughout the entirety of the film were the scenes of him and his wife before the “event”.

    just putting it out there

  125. Double says:

    Good god I love this Website and this Post! Ive been reading all these comments and theyre just wow! Im glad there are other people out there that appreciate a good Mind Fuck :]

    Anyway In regards to the theory that Lenny inadvertantly killed his wife and then suppressed his memory through guilt. Im curious to know how itd be possible for him to overdose his wife when he didnt have the condition? How could he possibly kill his wife accidentally while being physically stable.

    Perhaps Lenny had spite for his wife and killed her purposefully, Only to realize the mistake he had made afterwards? I look at the scenes where he is remembering his wife in the kitchen and around their house. Catherine didnt look very happy in a few of those scenes.

    Also when he asks her why she is reading the book again. Their conversation seems to have a bit of tension within it, especially from Catherine when she calls him a prick. Could the happy memories that we are shown of Lenny and Catherine just be another falsity made up in Lenny’s head?

    Someone please sound off on this!

  126. Taylor says:

    Hey Double – glad you are enjoying the site. I think whether Lenny had the condition or not is the question. This theory assumes they both survived the attack and Lenny came out scarred mentally by the attack. He then inadvertently killed his wife through the overdose. Afterwards Lenny then pushed blame away by associating the memory with either a fake client named Sammy or real. Right? Does that make sense?

    I’ve always read the animosity between the two was caused by Catherine’s dissatisfaction with Lenny’s condition and their relationship as a result. This then caused her to doubt his condition and then fatally test him to see if he was truly incapacitated in this way. Everyone, feel free to disagree if I’ve missed it.

    Welcome to the party Double…

  127. Taylor says:

    By the way – did you guys all see my primer post over here: – I am like DYING to find out what you all thought of it. Come on gang. Chop chop! Throw me under the bus already. I need to know if I’m totally missing it on this movie! hahah.

    ps – Josh, amazing post. Working through it… hopefully will have a response for you soon!! Man you guys are awesome.

  128. Laura says:

    I just watched this for the first time. And my gut reaction was that Lenny arbitrarily killed Teddy with no evidence as well as Jimmy. Although it is so open ended due to the flash backs of his wife when she was being pinched or diabetic.

  129. Stevey says:

    I have read the whole article and most of the comments, also noting that this is about two years old, hopefully someone will see this. I can agree with all of the theories as well as some reader comment theories but the one thing that I cannot grasp is that:

    - When the rape and murder scene happens, Lenny is tattoo free.
    - At the end of the movie, you see him and his wife cuddling and he is covered in tattoos most notably the “John G killed and murdered your wife” tattoo across his chest.

    This leads me to believe the “Disney” theory when in fact it was probably the least likely one to me when reading the article.

  130. MementoMori says:

    Here’s a wild guess…

    When the attack takes place Leonard’s wife gets raped but not murdered. After the bang on the head Leonard truly develops the condition he’s talking about.

    Enter Teddy, a rotten cop seeing his opportunity and seizing it. He starts using Leonard while ‘helping’ him get his wife’s rapist. When Leonard kills the first John G he tattoos “I’ve Done It” on his chest (as in ‘I’ve accomplished my mission’, in contrast to “I Did It” which would mean ‘I am guilty, I murdered my wife’). He then goes on to live with his wife (the scene at the end of the movie is thus real).

    Leonard’s wife however cannot cope with her husband’s condition and wants him to ‘snap out of it’, so she puts him through the ultimate test. He goes on to accidentally kill her with insulin. Upon realizing what he’s done, he ironically does snap out of his condition, only to further realize he cannot possibly live bearing such guilt. The trauma of his murdering his own wife leads to a relapse of sorts, where he blocks out the episode (and later blends it into Sammy’s story)—Leonard is now on a path to believing his wife has been raped *and* killed by the attacker. He removes the “I’ve Done It” tattoo, as well as the pages from the police file, all to make himself forget. He blocks out (or alters) all the details that could make him remember the truth, along with facts such as his wife being a diabetic. Institutionalized for his wife’s murder, he uses the time to cement his belief that he still has his condition and the killer is still out there waiting to be found and brought to justice.

    Teddy helps Leonard get out of the mental institution in order to use him for his own agenda, whatever this may be. Leonard of course falls right back into rhythm looking for his wife’s killer, now without the crucial tattoo and convinced he hasn’t accomplished his mission. When at the end of the movie (beginning of the story) Teddy gets fed up and reveals too much, it triggers long repressed truths in Leonard’s mind, leaving him with no choice but to kill Teddy so he could continue running away from the painful truth he can’t handle—by killing one more John G. He would then start it all over again…

    I admit (if you can’t tell) that I have only watched the movie once and I haven’t thought this one through all the way, so there are likely numerous holes in my fantastical theory. I haven’t read all the other (and probably way more credible) theories suggested here either; I don’t know if a similar scenario has been elaborated on or not. But I would appreciate more thoughts on the matter, so tell me where I’m wrong and what I’m missing.

  131. jayne says:

    I’ve loved reading these posts. I got a lot of my questions answered. Like why the killing Jimmy scene was in b&w, then morphed into color (because the two story lines merge into time there.) I spent a long time wondering about that one! Here’s my take:

    1. Lenny really does have a memory problem. It happened when he was hit on the head during the attack.

    2. There was a real Sammy, who was a con man. Lenny merged his wife’s death into his Sammy memories to avoid facing what he had done. His tattoos and behavior show he is constantly conditioning himself to remember Sammy in a way that reinforces the story he wants to believe. (After all there is no way anyone could have known what Sammy’s wife did. Sammy doesn’t remember. All anyone would know is that Sammy’s wife had too much insulin in her blood. This clearly is a made-up “memory.”)

    3. I remain unclear about Lenny’s relationship with his wife. Despite all his talk of love, his memories of her aren’t very loving. I agree that there’s a nice symbolism in the book reading scene. It doesn’t matter if Lenny really loved his wife or not. Since he needs a reason to live, to believe his life has meaning, he needs to believe it was a grand, deep love.

    4. The photo of a much younger looking Lenny pointing at his chest after supposedly killing the first, and real, John G. is odd. Lenny looks much younger than just year before. And he has much fewer tattoos. Either way, since he quickly forgot he had killed John G. (and he didn’t want to remember anyway), he didn’t get his final tattoo.

    5. There are connections among all these people that we don’t know about. Although Jimmy may have met Lenny only very casually. You wouldn’t forget a guy like this and you wouldn’t be very afraid of him even if you’d met only once.

    6. Jimmy saying the name Sammy. Perhaps this was just in Lenny’s imagination. It’s certainly the easiest explanation. How could Jimmy be saying anything? He was just strangled. If he’s talking, he’s breathing. So would he die? And I’m sure Nolan and his brother would totally enjoy throwing out this red herring.

    7. The “I’ve done it” tattoo is a fantasy as is his wife’s happy, loving face. We’ve never seen her like this. Lenny describes his marriage as loving, but what do the visuals show you. And what does Lenny say to believe: not memories, the facts. And photos are one of his primary “facts.”

    8. Trust the snippets more than the scenes. In other words, trust the snippet of Lenny’s face in the mental institution. Trust the brief flash of Lenny giving his wife an insulin shot. Does Lenny flash on his wife while he’s attacking Jimmy because in he’s killing someone and it brings back killing his wife?

    9. Not every teeny tiny detail probably fits. Although I think Nolan has worked very hard to make 99.9% of this fit, there are a few details that are poetic license or red herrings. There are inconsistencies that are very hard to explain including Lenny remembering that the license plate is Fact 6. He might remember a sort of major rule–take pictures, trust no one, write down what you want to remember–but he would be remembering much further back than his short-term memory would allow to remember that this was Fact 6. And, again, I don’t believe he was faking. I think this is an example of poetic license. It just makes for a more dramatic scene.

  132. jayne says:

    I know no one is probably checking in here anymore, but even so I gotta take back my saying that Lenny writing Clue #6 on his note to himself was just artistic license. It’s the proof, the confirmation that Lenny’s condition is purely psychological. His memory lasts way too long in that scene. He’s just been confronted with the truth and for his psychological survival he needs to nail this thing down. So he remembers just fine. He remembers what Teddy told him, keeps it together long enough to set up his plan, remembers it all the way into town, then screeches to a halt in front of the tattoo parlor. Right where the viewer comes in, which is when Lenny kicks back into short term memory mode.

  133. Jane says:

    @jayne : We are checking in here, no doubt ! Never tire of discussing Nolan movies :)
    BTW, love the observation you have made in point #3. I never considered this before.

  134. Jayne!
    My apologies – I’ve been woefully behind on my responses on this thread. Let’s see if I can tackle your assertions one by one:

    1. Lenny really does have a memory problem. It happened when he was hit on the head during the attack.

    Yup! I agree. Definitely legit on the memory front.

    2. There was a real Sammy, who was a con man.

    Yup Yup! A con-man police officer who used Lenny to his own ends. Concur.

    Lenny merged his wife’s death into his Sammy memories to avoid facing what he had done. His tattoos and behavior show he is constantly conditioning himself to remember Sammy in a way that reinforces the story he wants to believe. (After all there is no way anyone could have known what Sammy’s wife did. Sammy doesn’t remember. All anyone would know is that Sammy’s wife had too much insulin in her blood. This clearly is a made-up “memory.”)

    This is where the complicated stuff gets going. I come and go as to whether there was actually a Sammy or not. But your line about “no one could have known” is brilliantly put. Very well argued. I buy it.

    3. I remain unclear about Lenny’s relationship with his wife. Despite all his talk of love, his memories of her aren’t very loving. I agree that there’s a nice symbolism in the book reading scene. It doesn’t matter if Lenny really loved his wife or not. Since he needs a reason to live, to believe his life has meaning, he needs to believe it was a grand, deep love.

    I personally love the romanticism of his desire to avenge his wife. So much so that I want her to still be alive – and have even manipulated the facts to try and support that end! See, I just outed myself as a fact manipulator. But with this movie its easy to do. Seriously though – I want the “I DID IT” scene to be fact, not wishful thinking. He is with her after all. Tattoo in place. Its a seminal moment in the movie. One that has to be explained one way or the other.

    4. The photo of a much younger looking Lenny pointing at his chest after supposedly killing the first, and real, John G. is odd. Lenny looks much younger than just year before. And he has much fewer tattoos. Either way, since he quickly forgot he had killed John G. (and he didn’t want to remember anyway), he didn’t get his final tattoo.

    Which supports your earlier position that Sammy was a con-man and used Lenny not just for one killing but probably multiple jobs. Right? Lenny parties a little too much and forgets to get the tattoo. Sammy needs another goon taken care of… voila we have ourselves the perfect hitman.

    5. There are connections among all these people that we don’t know about. Although Jimmy may have met Lenny only very casually. You wouldn’t forget a guy like this and you wouldn’t be very afraid of him even if you’d met only once.

    I buy that. There are sub-layers of occurrence going on here that we know nothing about. They are only hinted at obliquely but they are there constantly bubbling up to the surface. Like the first time Lenny went to the bar.

    6. Jimmy saying the name Sammy. Perhaps this was just in Lenny’s imagination. It’s certainly the easiest explanation. How could Jimmy be saying anything? He was just strangled. If he’s talking, he’s breathing. So would he die? And I’m sure Nolan and his brother would totally enjoy throwing out this red herring.

    That is an interesting one I’ve thought a lot about lately. Basically there are several flaws in Lenny’s memory deficits that makes you wonder about everything. Right? Enough that people have said it was just a psychological issue and not a physical condition.

    7. The “I’ve done it” tattoo is a fantasy as is his wife’s happy, loving face. We’ve never seen her like this. Lenny describes his marriage as loving, but what do the visuals show you. And what does Lenny say to believe: not memories, the facts. And photos are one of his primary “facts.”

    Bah! You are raining on my parade here Jayne! They are to be happy in the end! Have to be! hahaha. No, I agree, all signs point to this being myth. A constructed fantasy inserted in the middle of a lot of other mayhem and chaos. It just doesn’t jive with the truth. Right? Its a bummer, but I do agree.

    8. Trust the snippets more than the scenes. In other words, trust the snippet of Lenny’s face in the mental institution. Trust the brief flash of Lenny giving his wife an insulin shot. Does Lenny flash on his wife while he’s attacking Jimmy because in he’s killing someone and it brings back killing his wife?

    JAYNE! PULL UP YER LOSING ME,… PULL UP!!! hahaha. No I think I get what you are saying. The flashes are a view into his deep psyche which gives us a more realistic vantage point on the truth… no? I don’t know if I buy the correlating-ness of the memories – but I buy the gravitas of the memories and the more realness of them. If that makes sense.

    9. Not every teeny tiny detail probably fits. Although I think Nolan has worked very hard to make 99.9% of this fit, there are a few details that are poetic license or red herrings. There are inconsistencies that are very hard to explain including Lenny remembering that the license plate is Fact 6. He might remember a sort of major rule–take pictures, trust no one, write down what you want to remember–but he would be remembering much further back than his short-term memory would allow to remember that this was Fact 6. And, again, I don’t believe he was faking. I think this is an example of poetic license. It just makes for a more dramatic scene.

    Yes, totally. I think that the motif, or the method of the movie makes it difficult physically to just tell a story this way… and in so doing we have natural flaws that can’t really be coordinated or summed up inside this system. Some segments of the movie go on too long. Some things are memorized for too long. Sometimes the rules are bent for the larger goal of story telling. But knowing which are which in a movie like this makes it all the more difficult to understand. Especially when it could all be false…

    Thanks for codifying the nine. great job. Wonderfully insightful. So yeah, I think Lenny killed his wife. I think Sammy used Lenny to kill whomever. Two attackers. One on the loose. And Sammy used this to his own benefit. Who knows… maybe Sammy was involved in the initial attack… but that has almost become immaterial at the end. My thoughts anyway. Thanks again Jayne!

  135. Adhityaa says:

    If he had encountered Sammy before the attack, he would remember him. Then why would he have to write about Sammy on his hand to remind himself. So Sammy is a made-up thought.

  136. JBlue says:

    Oh man, just saw the movie for the first time, kind of knew that it was a movie that went “backwards”, but still Christopher Nolan got me, but thanks to this site that was the first I went to after googling “Memento Explained”, I had a better time figuring it out than I did with Inception. Still I’m probably coming up with different ways with “that” movie, but was this one great. Maybe it will help me dissecting “Flight” after I see it tomorrow (or very later today) since it kind seems like it has the same premise thought wise where a guy doesn’t know what really happens about something and is trying to piece everything back together.

  137. Dianæ says:

    Hey, I’ve just seen the film for the first time and loved it!

    Here my thoughts after reading all the theories you guys have posted so far.

    1. Lenny and his wife were in a loving marriage.
    2. Lenny led an investigation on Sammy, a guy who faked the anterograde condition in order to claim the money from his insurance.
    3. 2 guys broke into Leonard’s house, raped his wife and knocked him down. Leonard killed one, the other managed to scape.
    4. As a result, his wife got diabetes (some researches say that even an strong impression can cause diabetes 1 or 2) and Lenny got anterograde amnesia. That would explain why he doesn’t have memories of her being ill, since it happened after the assault.
    5. Teddy pops up and tries to help Lenny get and kill the real attacker.
    6. The scene with the ‘Ive done it tatto’ is real. It stands for Lenny killing the rapist. Lenny and his wife are happy together.
    7. Lenny is in therapy to recover from the amnesia.
    8. Lenny injecting his wife scene is real. But he alters this memory (after 11. in this list).
    9. Teddy sees a potential killer in Lenny, so he introduces him to Jimmy by stating drugs can help him get rid of his condition, but tell Jimmy the name of Lenny is Sammy. (That’s why he calls him Sammy while choking).
    10. His wife doubts therapy is doing any good to Lenny, and testes him ignoring she will get killed by the insulin overdose.
    11. Wife dies.
    12.Lenny is taken to a mental institution after being in shock for his wife’s death.
    13.He then recovers, but conditions himself to have the symptoms (his condition is psychic now), so he then starts mingling his life with Sammy’s, so that he can deal with pain (the pain of killing his wife). Thus changing his memories about Sammy’s wife being killed by an overdose, and his own wife being killed in the attack/rape.
    14.Teddy helps him get out of hospital.
    15.He gets the ‘I’ve done it’ tattoo removed, so that he’s got something to live for (i. e. killing his wife killer). And makes the ‘remember Sammy Jankins’ tattoo so that he can have a scapegoat for his faults.
    16.Teddy goes on using Lenny for his own purposes. And provides evidence for Lenny to believe Jimmy is the man. Just like he’s been doing God knows how long ago…
    17.Natalie knows Jimmy is being chased by Teddy, so when Lenny shows up in his car and whit his clothes she’s not surprised at all. But seeks revenge on Dodd, being Jimmy’s boss. So that she can get hands on the money.
    18.Teddy breaks the bare truth about Lenny trying to make sense of his life and building up his own realit each time.
    19.Lenny decides it’s fair to kill Teddy, who’s the only one who knows the rapist was dead long ago. (So that, there’s no way Lenny can’t start all over again). Besides, he’s conscious Teddy has been using him to pull the trigger before.
    20.Natalie then plots Dodd’s death at Lenny’s hands.
    We all know how it ends…

    I know I’m late to this topic. But I really would appreciate your views on this.


  138. Cvetko says:

    Totally agree with you!
    Have you watched Shutter Island? The main characters in these two movies are so similar :)
    Anyway, why did Teddy say ‘No’ and make a sudden movement at the end of the story and get himself killed? I think Lenny was willing to go down and see what’s in the basement… :/

  139. Dianæ says:

    Hi Cvetko.

    Thanks for your reply =)

    I’ve seen Shutter Island before watching Memento and yes, I did think of DiCaprio’s Teddy while getting to know more about Leonard (Pierce). The way both of them manage to keep an altered state of mind to deal with the painful truth of hurting what they most value in life. Quite interesting!

    Just like some shout and shut their eyes when they know they’re going to be hit.Teddy said ‘No’ and turned around as a reflex when he realised there was no way out for him. He learnt from Lenny’s eyes he was to die. I think is the most common reaction to an attack, people beg for their lives: ‘no. Please don’t kill me…’

    What do you think about it?


  140. Clark says:

    Great, neat analysis this website presents. Everything that happened or might have happened step-by-step. Thanks man. As for Dianæ’s conclusion, its really good and interesting.

  141. Chimein says:

    On another website there is an issue with Lenny being Sammy because of the age difference. By the way, I love your clips you posted of both of them at the mental institution because a lot of people seemed to have miss that. It is too coincidental. Nolan took his viewers into account that most of us don’t know anyone with this condition. Like an earlier poster mentioned, what are the chances of two people having this condition that know one another when most of us don’t even know one person with it? Even then people still want to believe that there is a real Sammy. Under that premise, what was the purpose of the scene at the mental institution that shows Sammy and then Lenny? Then people want to still hold on to this “real Sammy” belief in part which I can’t see why somebody would take a real person and make up only parts about him? It makes more sense that he would have made up the whole person.

    The reason why I believe that there is such an age difference between Lenny and Sammy is the passage of time which he is also lying to himself about. He actually physically looks like Sammy at this point but sees himself in appearance as a young looking Sammy. Also, I believe that several years could have passed and he was actually Sammy’s age when he killed his wife like he described it. Also, the simple explanation for Jimmy calling him Sammy is well, he knew he was Sammy because he knew Lenny/Sammy.

    In his mind theory: He may have never escaped the mental institution and all of this is taking place in his mind. I mean, all of the events after he killed his wife and was institutionalized as a result. I feel that if he indeed escaped the mental institution, the escape scene would be in the movie. Some posters are just mentioning that he escaped like it is an easy thing to do as easy as just walking out. The only way I see that as being feasible is that Teddy helped him escape and if Teddy helped, I can see why he is telling him how dangerous it is that he is hanging around. It is the risk of the authorities recognizing him and throwing him back in the mental institution.

    Attack in his mind theory: He also my have made up the whole attack and rape scene. He could have had a mental condition all along and that is why he was not component enough to dose his wife correctly. His condition was not necessarily a result of “the attack”.

  142. Hello says:

    well, in case sammy is lenny, and lenny invented sammy as a scapegoat, then the so called incident musnt have happened while his wife died, maybe due to lenny giving her too much insulin. the incident that let to his condition could have occured later on. so it is possible. also when teddy tells lenny in the end, that his wife has diabetes, and lenny denies that, this could related to the fact, that sammy maybe faked his condition, or put himself in a mental state to not build long term memory.

  143. Ric says:

    I think I understand the movie ok but there are couple of things that puzzle me still. Why did Lenny have the tattoo “John G raped and murdered my wife” in the flashbacks when he was with his wife. One example is when his mind flashes back just before the end of the movie. Also not sure where Dodd fits in – he seems to be a loose end.

    I have no doubt that Natalie plotted for Lenny to kill Teddy to avenge the murder of Jimmy which Teddy had plotted.

  144. Derek says:


    I’m the same as you. I’ve read alot of background on the movie and the discusiion on this board has helped me close all the loose ends except for the “John G raped and killed murdered my wife” tattoo that Lenny has throughout the movie.

  145. Derek says:

    Sorry, top post got cut off…

    What I was saying is that me and a few buddies have all seen the movie multiple times and we all kinda agreed that it served as his “motivation” after the accident. Lenny says a few times that he’s not a murderer and I think he’s actually a pretty good guy (for example, he says sorry for accidentally kicking the wrong hotel room door in, he chases Dodd out of town rather than kill him,he jokes with the hotel clerk Burt even after he finds out he’s been hustling him and charging him for multiple rooms, he gives Mrs.Jankins his honest opinion on Sammy to help her get closure). Teddy even acknowledges that the only way Lenny will kill a person is if he is convinced they are the John G. he’s looking for.

    With Lenny’s memory constantly resetting after the accident, he would keep losing his motivation to find/kill John G because discovering that his wife was in fact still alive would continually divert his attention. However, his wife, also wanting John G dead because he’s responsible for taking the REAL Lenny from her and thinking the closure from killing him might cure Lenny’s illness, would go along with the plan of him getting an untrue tattoo (well,half untrue) that she was raped and murdered because the false belief that her death needs to be avenged is the only way for Lenny to stay focused on finding John G due to his condition. This is the first tattoo Lenny ever gets.

    This is when Lenny and Teddy would leave together on their mission to kill the real John G,leaving Lenny’s still very much alive wife at home. Without his wife constantly by his side to remind him that she’s alive, Lenny would falsely believe this untrue tattoo everytime his memory reset and would stay dricen to kill John G while with Teddy. They kill the real John G and Teddy takes the polaroid of Lenny happily pointing to his blank chest with the “John G murdered” tattoo right above it. After Lenny kills John G and returns home to his still breathing/newly diabetic wife he gets the “I did it” tattoo to celebrate his accomplishment. This would explain the scene of them together happily in bed with both the “John G murdered” tattoo and the “I did it tattoo” on his chest. If by any chance Lenny looked down and saw the untrue John G tattoo he would also see the “I did it” one as well, and his wife would still be alive to explain them both to him.

    With his mission accomplished and no other motivation in life Lenny than began to waste away in front of the TV stupidly watching shows he would forget a moment later. His wife is devastated even though they have their revenge because the tattoo plan didn’t cure Lenny as she planned. She decides to hide food from Lenny and even goes to the extreme of testing Lenny with her insulin as she further attempts to cure him. Her death sends him into a guilt/depression/suicidal tail spin and he winds up in the mental institution. Either he or Teddy then came up with the idea to have the “I did it” tattoo removed so that his life would have purpose again and he wouldn’t just waste away in the institution. Teddy kept the smiling picture after they killed John G because he knew he would have to constantly convince Lenny that it actually happened as they moved on to there new corrupt cop/hitman lifestyle together.

    The “John G raped and murdered my wife” tattoo is untrue and always has been. But as Nolan reinforces by constantly showing Lenny reveal it in scenes, it is ultimately the only real purpose Lenny has in life since the accident and serves as the driving force in Lenny’s life. Without the false tattoo Lenny would just waste away in front of a TV all day stupidly rewatching shows and commercials until he died in an institution. And as Teddy says, what does it matter if the tattoo’s a lie, we all lie to ourselves anyway

  146. Esmoralda says:

    Theory #3 is correct : Lenny has once recognized he has killed his wife himself, thats why he had “I did it” tattooed, but since his short term memory fades away he needs to go through trial and error each time he forgets the real story, and thats what makes all those adventures in the movie !

  147. rick says:

    Why did Lenny steal and change into Jimmy’s clothes after he killed him?

  148. Keemy says:

    I feel like the Lenny’s mind was preventing him from seeing the i’ve done it on his chest much like a hypnotist can make you perceive objects disappearing

  149. Josh says:

    what i don’t understand, regardless of which theory is chosen, is why the “raped and murdered my wife” tattoo is in the same scene as the “I did it” tattoo which depicted his wife very much alive and with him during that flashback scene as he went to the tattoo parlor at the end…if she was alive, why did he tattoo that on himself and why did his wife let him do so if she wasn’t dead at that time?

  150. Burt says:

    Great site! Upon my review, Lenny’s wife survives the rape. Lenny’s head is slammed in the attack and his memory disorder begins (most likely anterograde amnesia). Lenny later kills his wife via insulin overdose. Unable to care for himself, he is institutionalized. As a coping mechanism, Lenny modifies his memory of Sammy (an insurance con-man he investigated in his previous career) to assign the overdosing trauma to Sammy (note that his wrist-tattoo is in cursive (like his note on Natalie’s photo—a signal to himself that the reference is unreliable)). See also Wikipedia on Henry Molaison (a similar case):

    “Near the end of his life, Molaison regularly filled in crossword puzzles. He was able to fill in answers to clues that referred to pre-1953 knowledge. For post-1953 information he was able to modify old memories with new information. For instance, he could add a memory about Jonas Salk by modifying his memory of polio.”

    This memory modification theory also works to explain Lenny’s detailed knowledge of the psychological testing “Sammy” went through (an insurance investigator would most likely not delve into that level of detail).

    Teddy, the police investigator, rescues Lenny from the institution and uses him for his own dirty-work after he helps Lenny kill the real “John G” (most likely for initial altruistic purposes). See photo of Lenny after killing first John G. Later, Natalie learns about how Teddy uses Lenny and uses him herself to get rid of Dodd. She also manipulated Lenny to turn the tables on Teddy by telling Lenny that he was involved with her husband/friends murder and ultimately that Teddy is “John G”. She may have also been motivated by the $200k from, and vengeance for, Jimmy.

    The “I did it” scene/tattoo can only be a fantasy constructed by Lenny representing what he thinks he will feel once he avenges his wife’s death (otherwise, how could she still be alive when he has the “John G raped and murdered my wife tattoo). I have concerns re the timing and or trigger of Lenny’s memory lapses—the timing feels inconsistent.

    Yet, there are not enough facts to explain Jimmy’s involvement and how he knows Lenny, Sammy, or Teddy, or why Nolan jumps to several scenes of Lenny’s wife as Jimmy is entering the building of his demise. Moreover, I feel there is a whole sub-story that was not adequately explained (e.g., why Lenny took Jimmy’s car and clothes; how Natalie knew Lenny when he entered the bar). In closing, this is a great film. I would very much enjoy your comments on this analysis.

  151. Michael says:

    ^^ @Burt, Natalie knows Lenny when he walks into the bar because he is wearing Jimmy’s clothes. The whole reason he is there is because he found the coaster with Natalie’s name on it in Jimmy’s coat pocket.

  152. Jtleroy says:

    First of all I’m really enjoying reading all these theories, some of them are so crazy but in some way each one makes sense.

    I read half of the comment so I don’t know if someone has already said what I’m about to say.

    The ‘I have done it’ scene. In my opinion in that scene he is dead. He finally killed the man who killed his wife: himself.
    Finally he committed suicide and found peace, rejoined with his wife, in their own bed, not afraid of finding her side cold.


  153. Jtleroy says:

    Ok, I read all the comments now and I still have two questions.

    1) why on hell Lenny wears Jimmy’s clothes? Because they’re expensive? It doesn’t seem a thing that Lenny would do. Even Teddy tries to see if Jimmy’s shoe fit him. But he’s greedy. He wants the money, that’s his purpose. But why Lenny?!

    2) If Lenny knows Teddy from a long time how come he doesn’t already have a polaroid of him?

    I really loved when somebody said that maybe Teddy isn’t totally real. In fact I am always surprised how Teddy is almost always present and we have the impression the run into each other by chance. But instead he waits for Lenny in the car, he jumps out when Lenny gets in the car after he spent the night at Natalie’s. And so on. He’s always present.

    And he’s a little bit Sammy too. I think it was GENIUS who wrote that he wanted to be called Leonard because Lenny “remembers” him of his real name and how is wife used to call him (Sammy).

    So, unifying all this I would say that at end of the storyline (begin of the movie) he has a blast. This Teddy (that maybe is a part of himself) keeps telling him the truth about he killing his wife and how he doesn’t want to remember (the Sammy part in Lenny).

    So he kills him. But he’s really killing himself. And then we have the ‘I have Done It’ scene. Lenny and his wife are both dead (in this way the tattoo that says that his wife was killed can be consistent with her being next to him) and the real killer of his wife is dead too: this being Lenny.

    Then these are my 2 cents. I would like too know your thoughts about it and about my 2 question.

    Great blog!

  154. Memory Man says:

    • When Lenny decides to make Teddy his “John G”, he writes down his licence plate incorrectly!

    In chronological order of the timeline Lenny does this early on. He notes down Teddy’s licence number as being “SG1371U” yet we clearly see that it is “SG137IU”. He then has this false information Tattooed on his left leg at the Tattoo parlor. He also sees in the report about Teddy that the information regarding his licence plate differs from what he has tattooed, yet he doesn’t pay attention. Finally Nolan gives us a very subtle but clear indication of Teddy’s licence number later on in the movie chronologically (when they put Dodd in the car and Teddy follows), but this time it has changed to what Lenny had initially written down as the false licence number.

    This to me is simply an indication that Leonard can manipulate his mind and memory to see things the way he wants them to be, not necessarily the way the facts actually are. During that scene he can even visualize Teddy’s car with the wrong license plate, and horrifyingly enough we the viewer’s vividly do as well and accept it subconsciously. Learning through repetition. Conditioning ourselves to forget the truth, who cares if the “1” is actually and “I”. See it a few times as “1” and it doesn’t even matter to us anymore.

  155. Memory Man says:

    By the way Dear Mr. Taylor Holmes, I hope that maybe at some stage you might come cross my recent post. I saw that the last one came in on January and I’m afraid of the hopes of breaking down Memento fading, so I just wanted to throw out one little hint out there that might interest someone to share some of their ideas.

    I really think that we can nail the bottom end of the truth, and would gladly share more of my personal views on the topic if it would bring people back into the discussion of Analyzing Memento once more.

    I wish you all the best, take care.

    Memory Man

  156. Memory Man says:

    In the hopes of trying to revive the discussion on the Memento topic I thought that I might throw in another clue that baffles me a little as well and I still don’t have a full grasp on it, but hopefully with a little help from everyone some light might be shed.

    • The tattoos that Lenny has on his body, written through a Professional Tattooist, signify facts that he himself has gathered and has gone to the Tattoo parlor with. Meanwhile, every single Tattoo that is done in his scribbly handwriting contains information given to him through an anonymous phone caller (supposedly Teddy, perhaps a 2nd person as well)!

    Tattoos done by Leonard himself are as follows (Probably a few more as well, this is not a complete list): “Drug Dealer”, “John G. Raped and murdered my wife”, “James”, “Remember Sammy Jenkis”.

    Now the one thing that I may conclude in regards to this information is that both sets of Tattoo styles are unreliable in terms of FACT, one way or another. However, the ones that were done by Lenny himself, seem to be working more in favor of the anonymous caller (i.e. Teddy).

    Drug Dealer: Information that Lenny concluded to, only after being on the phone with the anonymous caller. Prior to this he had written down Access to Drugs (perhaps from a previous conversation on the phone).

    John G. Raped and murdered my wife: This I don’t think we can be certain of as we don’t know exactly when Lenny made this Tattoo, but we could make an assumption that it was information he got only after speaking with someone.

    James: This is a intriguingly interesting one for me as it particularly makes Jimmy a good target for murder. I’m willing to lay my 1 cent’s worth here that Lenny might have gotten this second name over the phone, and in order not to forget it quickly, did the Tattooing himself. It seems that someone knows Lenny’s conditioning well (Teddy?) and is using it to puppeteer and steer Leonard into a direction that suits the anonymous caller, and do his dirty work.

    Remember Sammy Jenkis: Now this Tattoo I think could have been done by Lenny himself just so that he can quickly condition himself to overlap his wife’s unfortunate insulin overdose onto Sammy’s character quickly, every 15 minute period if necessary. It is after all working to Lenny’s benefit, so I don’t think it due to an anonymous caller’s advice.

    Lenny had obviously found something or saw something that made him not trust talking over the phone. So he had the tattoo “NEVER ANSWER THE PHONE” professionally and vividly marked on him. However, he didn’t immediately notice it as it still had dressing wraps around it. The caller must sense after Lenny hangs up (upon seeing his tattoo), that he can’t spoon feed Leonard anymore information through a phone, and will have to do it in person.

    Makes me wonder how close this anonymous caller (i.e. Teddy?) is? He manages to slip a letter under the door quickly enough, and also arrives to meet Lenny down in the lobby pretty much right after Leonard has hung up the phone. Begs the question of is he calling from a nearby payphone on the street, or does he actually have another room booked in right within the Discount Inn.?

    I’m starting to tread far off the point (if I have made any) here, but I’m writing as it comes to me. So hopefully I have said something useful. Looking forward to any new opinions, views and most of all help.

    Memento Man

  157. taylor says:

    memory man – still reading. but i loved the flip flopping of the license plate detail. i have got to go back and see that for myself. screen scrapes of that detail would be brilliant. hrmmm. do you have scrapes? that would be brilliant to post those.

    BECAUSE, if true, it shows exactly what you stated. Not only is his memory flawed. But so are his powers of perception. Which basically means we should pack the blog up and go home. HAHAH. If everything is unclear… then we can’t really know anything.

    And if the license plates are true – like @memoryman said, then it would INSTANTANEOUSLY explain the ‘I Did It’ tattoo. Makes perfect sense. His memory is just as flawed as his reality at the moment of perception. Not only that, but his powers of optimism are the only thing that truly define what it is that he experiences.

    Nicely done Memory…

  158. Memory Man says:

    Dear Taylor Holmes,

    As you have asked, I have found as many pictures as I could find, in order to help illustrate this important scene for anyone that might have missed it. I will work all of these events in a chronological order of the film, (Black & White scenes to the color scenes, which end the film with Lenny shooting Teddy) in order to make it easier for the reader to grasp the message here.

    1. Here we see Lenny visualizing Teddy’s licence number for the first time. This is right after Lenny had thrown Teddy’s keys in the bushes.

    2. While Teddy is still searching for his keys, we clearly see Lenny jotting down Teddy’s licence plate number one letter/digit at a time. If we look closely however, he makes one crucial mistake! He misplaces the “I”, for a “1″ in his note. So far I guess we’re all thinking this is a factual error. However…

    3. Now here we see that he has gotten the wrong license number tattoed on him in the Tattoo Parlor. The tattoo on his left leg still misplaces the “I” for a “1″, and not only that, but it is written off as Fact 6. There is one further part to this,( which I could not find an image for Sorry!), where right after Lenny reveals this Fact 6 tattoo, he checks his folder for the document which reveals a copy of Teddy’s driver’s licence document. In it it once more states the original number “SG137IU”, but Lenny once more brushes over this fact (even though he can see it right in front of him” and reads it as “SG1371U”.

    4. This is the fourth image that I have and it is the most vital one. It is seen right before Lenny and Teddy, march Dodd out of town. When Teddy reverses his car out of the park, we the audience now clearly see that the licence plate number has changed to an “1″ at the end. Just as Lenny had wrongfully written it down. The original licence number that we all could see was “SG137IU”, but now it reads “SG1371U”.

    Now if anyone out there still might believe that this has no relevance that Lenny is actually altering relating, and changing it mentally to the way he sees fit, I’ll share this next image with you.

    This is a direct copy of Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan’s final draft script. It clearly indicates that Nolan’s intentions are to have very close attention paid to the switching of the “I” to a “1″.

    I hope you may find some of this information useful. I also have two other pieces of evidence that Lenny carries with him in, but they also have been manipulated to look different in later shots of the film. The “Come by after Natalie” coaster.

    First seen at 1:23:42 of the film (Original version, not Chronological!)

    Then it changes to this at 1:32:43 of the film.

    Once again we see objects clearly held by Lenny that have been manipulated and changed.
    By the way pay close attention to the writing on the first Coaster, it is two different handwriting styles. i.e. could it be forged by Teddy?

    The 2nd instance of manipulating hard evidence is seen in these next two shots where Lenny sees a photo of Natalie, and Jimmy. The first shot presented below is seen at 35:43 of the film.

    The 2nd shot below, is seen at 38:19 of the film.

    Once again manipulated in Lenny’s mind. We see that Jimmy does not have a goatie in the later one (first chronologically), and also Natalie has her hand around him.

    I think that is about it from me for now. I hope that this information might be useful, and could provide way for further evidence to be shed by anyone.

    Memori Man

  159. Memory Man says:

    Dear Taylor Holmes Blog,

    In regards to the sometimes highly controversial question of whether Lenny might actually be portraying his life’s events upon the con man Sammy Jankins, I have decided to list a couple of hints left in I think by Christopher Nolan in order for the viewers to solidify this notion.

    1. Undoubtedly the most obvious, yet subtle hint given to us in the split second, superimposed shot of Lenny sitting down in the mental institution, rather than Sammy.

    2. This next one is quite subtle, but I think just as important as the previous, if not more. If we forward the movie to the scene where Sammy’s wife gives him his final exam (overdosing her on Insulin), we see Sammy’s wife asking him for her 1st daily shot. She then rewinds her wristwatch from 3:15 p.m. back to 3:00 p.m. exactly. This is exactly a quarter of an hour, and she does this 2-3 times equivalent to the number of times Sammy gives her an Insulin shot. Why does she do this? Why is it important? First of all it is stated by Lenny that Sammy’s condition is that “he can’t remember anything for more than a couple of minute” (2 mins), hence why he only likes commercials: “anything more gets too confusing”. Yet Lenny’s condition we know is that, he can’t remember anything over a 15 mins period (sometimes slightly less by a minute or two if he’s under pressure). So why would Sammy’s wife wind her watch back 15 mins, when she could have set it back only 2 mins, before getting Sammy to administer her next Insulin shot!!! (3:02 back to 3:00) The answer lies to me clearly in the fact that Nolan’s portraying Lenny’s life and wife, not Sammy’s to the audience.

    3. Now this third hint is almost an opposite take on the last one. When Lenny is welcomed in to Natalie’s house for the first time, they talk a little and then she leaves him for a while. We see Lenny turning on her T.V., noticing his “Remember Sammy Jankins” tattoo, and then with the remote control he switches the channel from a film playing to a short T.V. commercial. Here again we know that Lenny’s memory can last up to 15 mins, why does he prefer to switch to the commercial. Once more, is the great and highly talented Mr. Nolan implying that Sammy’s story is actually Lenny’s and Leonard just keeps trying to suppress this Fact.

    4. The “Remember Sammy Jankis” tattoo is one great clue to the way that Leonard handles his situation. The Tattoo is part of Lenny’s conditioning process. That way he immediately is able to remind himself (during his memory’s every 15 mins reset) of the mental construct that he has created about Sammy, in order to take the guilt of himself. Since we know that Sammy was a real person (through Teddy’s story), Lenny has then pushed his experiences onto Sammy’s character. The tattoo is Leonard Shelby’s “Memento”.

    5. This 5th and final instance that I have come across might be pushing certain limits however, I believe that it is another instance where Nolan very intelligently integrates Sammy’s story with Leaonard’s actual past. The clue to me comes in when Leonard is unable to remember to pull the door in (as the sign says) at the Discount Inn., rather than push it. After all Lenny has been staying at this hotel for well over a week, not only that but they have ripped him off and double charged him for an extra room. Now within this period of time (1 week, even more maybe) Lenny should have been able to condition himself through repetition, to remember to PULL THE DOOR, yet he doesn’t. I then begin to wonder could this be a further parallel in between his character and Sammy’s? It is in the same way that Sammy couldn’t condition himself at a primal level to avoid the electric shocks from the various objects. As Lenny himself stated in Sammy’s case that, that means the disability is psychological/primal/mental, and not physical.

    That is about the all the few little hints that have crossed my mind regarding the matter and I thought I would lay them out on the table for future reference. All the best.

    Memor1 Man

  160. Memory Man says:

    Dear Taylor Holmes,

    I sincerely hope that the information that I’ve posted could be of use to you, and any other viewers that stumble upon here. I would be highly interested and grateful if, once you’ve managed to find the time to look into the film perhaps once more (to see for yourself if all is correct that I have laid out), and the few things that I have listed in your blog; could you then please give me your new detailed outlook on how the films story turns out for you (if any of your original outlook has changed at all).

    There is no right and wrong answer here. I just feel that with your viewing and knowledge of the film, the entire entity of the film’s jig-saw puzzle could be assembled (slowly but surely). After all Nolan does state vividly that there is one definite right answer to this film, that it could be found upon analyzing the one character that gives us only the truth, this of course could only be unraveled by us as viewers through the gathering of only the facts! Perhaps it’s just me, but I’d like to believe him.

    There has to be only one right way to assemble all of the events that unfolded, or have been narrated to us is in the movie Memento. That way we could justify with fact, every single part of the story, rather than making assumptions on various segments (which in the end leave us even more baffled as to what actually happened).

    I hope that I may be able to hear from you sometime soon, or anyone else that could pitch something else in for us, regarding this great 21st Century masterpiece. I wish you all the best. Take care.

    Memor! Man

  161. taylor says:

    Calm down. heheh. Take a deep breath. You are spraying shrapnel at a prodigious rate. Let me put this blog post into perspective for you. This post and all the comments are something like 40k words. You alone have written 3k words – something like 8 pages – as you grapple with the movie. Yes? Moses. And this is just ONE crazy out of control blog that I have to try and keep up with! Have you seen my Prestige Explained blog? Or my Inception blogs? They get even more convoluted than this one… if that is even possible.

    But kudos to you for your tenacity. You got me to read every single word. Look at every single photo. And I even reread your stuff again after looking at the details just to make sure I get it all.

    So with that, I say TRIPE. heheh. I did say anyway. As I was reading the license plate details over and over again, I was like, I write my 1′s like that. They look like I’s. So what?! I don’t have any trouble with them. Maybe Leonard doesn’t either. And then the license plate changed. I mean you showed clearly the license plate as changing in the film. And that for me is a very very significant detail. Leonard is doing two different acts of sabotage to himself. The first one is willfully changing the evidence to use himself as a guided missile on some goal and trajectory that only he knows in that particular moment… and then never again. The second act of sabotage is that his mind is adopting the lies as facts… and over writing reality for his own purposes. The fact that Nolan went out of his way to change the license plate is brilliant. Jacked up – but brilliant.

    And it basically means we are all screwed. Mainly because we can’t know what is real anymore. Details in the movie have been show as true – we the omniscient viewer – are not omniscient anymore. We are just as hobbled as Leonard is. We can’t know what is true, and we can’t know what is false. It’s impossible now. Which makes the movie even better in my opinion. If you read my Prestige blog you will see that Nolan did something similar there with the diaries. He based the movie on the details in the diaries, which are in fact lies. Nolan loves utilizing untrustworthy narrators in all his works and then setting them as fact, when in fact they are clearly drivel. Brilliance.

    Memory Guy – you said that there is one interpretation of the movie and that Nolan had one idea that was right. I have never ever agreed with that theorem when it comes to Nolan. He just does not work that way. I actually think the man takes two truths, and balances them on a razor’s edge throughout the course of his entire movie creation journey. Its easier to see in The Prestige, but he does it everywhere. Here he uses Sammy and balances this detail on a knife’s edge. Either Sammy is a fiction, or he is a fact. Both could be true. Both could be false. One interpretation of Sammy is that he is a coping mechanism for Lenny after having killed his wife. Or another is that he really is real, and there is a real truth here that corresponds to Lenny’s own mental condition. Either could be true. Enough of that, I think I have made my point.

    As to your details about the tattoo techniques. I liked it, you just didn’t drive the point home to a larger insight. I love the thought that the caller is the cause of all the hand done tattoos. And the rest are probably manipulated by Lenny between the hotel and the parlor. That would tell us something. Like what?! Oh I don’t know, that ALL the tattoos are completely and totally unreliable maybe?! hahah. Some for one reason. And the rest for another reason.

    I think I originally posted this back in 2010? But I originally wrote it within a few months of the moving coming out. I don’t think this version of the blog mentions this anymore, but I posted it out on Epinions. So this is an old old post. I used to be the number one hit when you typed in “Memento Explained” but my hosting provider crashed my server for a week and with that went my rankings. Regardless… it has been a fun discussion out here. Tons of cool ideas and interesting insights. Some people just lob a grenade and go. But most people stick around and check in occasionally.

    There are a ton of people that get emailed every single time a post is made. And I can see them circling through and checking in. So there is this like alumni of participation that has sort of grown up over the past few years. Pretty awesome.

    Thanks for writing Memory Dude. And thanks for sticking with it and pulling me out of the shadows. hehehe.

  162. ns says:

    I think the most important clue about this movie is the brain injury. The specific scene where Lenny falls to the bathroom floor and starts bleeding simultaneously face to face with his wife who seemingly takes her last breath under a shower curtain. It seems to me there are two separate injuries and injury related complications going on. First, we have the allowed physical cessation of short-term memory in the brain, which the film exploits. Second, we have a damaged area that seemingly relates to what our minds understand as anger, purpose and control. It seems the second runs undiagnosed in the film. Watching his wife ‘die’ while suffering a brain injury apparently engulfed Lenny physically as well as psychologically.
    It is clear that Lenny was not Sammy. Sammy did exist, and was a fraud. However, the two identities have overlapped in Lenny’s mind, due to their similar situation and Lenny’s research on the subject; and Lenny thinks Sammy killed his wife, when it was in fact Lenny himself who killed his wife. This moment is metaphorically captured in the manufactured “I DID IT” tattoo scene at the end of the film. Lenny does not remember his wife was a diabetic because of this delusional, brain-injury-induced identity cloning.
    Teddy uses Lenny to kill people for money or drugs. Teddy grasped at straws to understand Lenny’s condition, just as Sammy’s ‘wife’ did, and sets Lenny on new missions to satisfy his anger, purpose, control addled brain. Teddy is a bad cop. When Lenny realizes this he sets himself upon killing Teddy and writing his license plate number down for future fact-tattoos.
    Lenny knows he is out of control and he purposefully makes the call to kill Teddy, signing his death-warrant in tattoo ink.
    Teddy is blackmailing Jimmy, Jimmy works for Dodd. Teddy seems to be tracking and involving “John G’s” who are up to no good, to fulfill his need for money and Lenny’s need for revenge. He is using Lenny as an idiot assassin.
    Natalie catches on to this and uses Lenny to throw suspicion onto Teddy, out of revenge for the death of Jimmy. However, it is actually Lenny who listens to Teddy’s big speech and purposefully sets himself up to kill Teddy. Perhaps highlighting the theme of repetition and conditioning, Lenny now has to kill.
    Lenny says something about not being able to heal because he doesn’t have time. It is key moments like this that show the brain injury has compounded and fractured his mind as well. Both physically and psychologically damaged he searches for meaning and truth endlessly. Rather poetic?
    Lenny is of course the “everyman” in his long quest through a life of frivolous encounters, unreliable memories and a rising, vast futility.
    A tale told by an idiot signifying nothing.

  163. theauthor says:

    This is Memento (Read Momento Mori first)

    Leonard is actually looking for John Gammell.
    John Gammell protectsdhimself by staying close to Leonard and pretending to be his friend.
    He tries to get ‘Lenny’ (another attempt to pretend to be his friend) to kill someone he declares is the real John G.
    This doesn’t work. But he can use Leonard to make money. (“I’m a snitch”)
    Leonard (ironically) gets mad at ‘Teddy’ and kills him by setting him up as the real John G.
    The irony is, this actually is the real John G. in his tattoo.
    The problem is that Leonard’s first tattoo could be a lie.
    He may have been mad at ‘Teddy’ for any reason and decided to hunt him.
    Teddy never acts like a real cop (with Dodd and when he considers taking Dead Jimmy’s shoes)
    There is a lot more.

  164. aaaaaaaa says:

    My Theory of Memento

    The reason why I believe that Teddy was telling the truth on how Leonard was Sammy Jankis all along came from one particular scene earlier in the movie. I believe many people might have simply over-looked this scene, but if you don’t believe me re-watch the first 30 minutes of the movie. I am talking about the scene where Leonard loses the key to his motel room and asks Burt for help. Burt takes him to his presumed room. When he opens the door, some of Leonard’s notes where scattered around. Then Burt closes door and tells Leonard that this was his old room and his new room is somewhere else. I picked up that Burt scratches his face area and avoids eye contact for a little bit. Those were signs of lying Leonard told us in his flashback when he was an insurance investigator. At first Leonard doesn’t trust him, but eventually shrugs it off after Burt explained he was checked into 2 rooms.

    Now to the study of Sammy Jankis. Leonard believed that he was there when doctors studied Sammy on how short term memory loss patients can’t pick up instincts. In Sammy’s case, they would have him pick up shaped objects, half of them being electrified. They kept on repeating it and Sammy would keep hurting himself by picking up the electrified objects due to his constant memory loss. He had lost his instincts.

    Now compare that to the scene with Leonard and Burt with the hotel room switch up; Leonard knew all about the telltale signs and expressions people make when lying, sort of like how Sammy knew how picking up something electrified would hurt him. Both of these beliefs were facts they knew clearly knew in their head even with short term memory loss and brain damage. Because Sammy lacked learning to condition his instinct by avoiding the objects, it makes me believe the same thing about Leonard, who I believe to be Sammy.

    To sum this up about the wrong motel room scene; Burt somehow lied to Leonard because of the reason thought to be Burt taking advantage and ripping Leonard due to his short term memory. He showed the tell-tale expressions people usually make while lying (scratching his face and avoiding eye-contact). Leonard says a couple of times the he likes to look people in the eye when they are talking to him, as he did with Burt in that scene. Leonard suspects something fishy about this but I perceived that was only because all his notes where in the room. As soon as Burt tells him that he has a new room along with the one he already has, Leonard seems to shake it off.

    And most importantly Leonard looks directly at Burt and says “At least you’re being completely honest about ripping me off” (Keep in mind he didn’t fade out of memory during this moment.) The fact of the scene was that Leonard described himself as an expert in identifying lies, but his instincts didn’t pick up on the lying Burt displayed through his nervous tics. Leonard lost his instincts just he told how Sammy did from the test. Sammy’s story is Leonard’s.
    Watch these clips:

  165. ModestMonk says:

    I know I’m a little behind, but I just watched the movie Memento and the ending got me thinking a lot. And when I think a lot I usually turn toward the internet to find the vast majority of solutions available and find the right answer. To my concern I feel that there isn’t one out there for this movie that fits what I saw of it. I might be missing something, but please fill me in if you have seen the movie several times and want to correct me on how it actually ends.

    The movie ends with what seems to be an open-ended question on who killed his wife, hinting that he in fact killed her. But I feel that the movie in it’s entirety holds the solution. Throughout the movie Leonard explains the story of Sammie Jenkins and how his illness is prone to conditional therapy.

    I don’t know any other way to explain it so I’ll just say my theory and explain it after. Leonard is the story of Sammy Jenkins, he got into a car accident, his wife couldn’t believe that he was faking it or couldn’t live with the fact that he wasn’t so she devised the test of insulin. There was no murder, there was no rape.

    Q:WHAT? How do you explain him knowing about the incident at his house, his last memory?

    That was all conditioned. By people like Teddy taking advantage of his condition. By seeing tattoos that his wife was murdered etc, every time he wakes up. By the reports he dismembered to cause him to want to catch someone. All these things conditioned him to believe that that is why his wife isn’t with him anymore. He can’t form new memories, but he can condition himself into thinking a certain way. He doesn’t even have to think about it when someone asks, he just knows in his memory that she was murdered. Slightly more conclusive proof of him being Sammy that Nolan adds (mentioned above) is when he is explaining the story of Sammy in the mental hospital, after the nurse passes by, it quickly changes to Leonard for a split second sitting in the chair instead of Sammy. Sort of like for a split second he remembered that he was actually Sammy.

    Q:But if that is true, why doesn’t he remember that his wife has Diabetes? That would have happened before the ‘car accident’ or ‘murder/rape’.

    That got me for a little bit. The reason he doesn’t remember it is because he’s trying to piece two puzzles pieces that belong to two different puzzles. The image in his mind of his wife is convoluted with conditioned images of her being raped/murdered. All things that never actually happened. That version never had diabetes. His actual wife did and that version of his memory is stored as Sammy Jenkins wife.

    So all this time, Teddy was the one assigned to the case that investigated the murder/suicide of his wife. The pieces left out were the pieces Leonard crossed out because he didn’t want to know the truth. He lies to himself to make himself feel better. What’s left in the report makes it appear that his wife was murdered. Teddy takes advantage of this and gets him to do things for him for personal reasons.

    That’s how I interpreted the ending. Did the rape/murder actually happen or was it a car accident? Is there any proof in the movie? Please fill me in where I might be wrong because no conclusion I’ve read is close to mine (other than he was Sammy but she lived after the rape) and I feel there is pretty good evidence to say that it was all conditioned into his mind.

  166. flavio says:

    i got it. sammy jenkins was the 2nd guy at the attack. sammy did that in revenge because lenny had unmasked him. so lenny tattoed ‘remember sammy jenkins’ to remember to kill him. teddy came up and messed it all.

  167. gnikee says:

    Wow there are a lot of comments here. Makes me appreciate this movie that much more.

    Apologies if someone has said this already but to me it is an integral detail of the story:
    Of all the tattoos he has, the most visible is ‘remember sammy jenkins’. It’s intentionally on the back of his hand so that he sees it constantly. You see him rubbing it to test to see if it was just drawn on, and it is always the first tattoo he notices. After he notices it, he is then shown investigating the rest of them. Why specifically put THAT tattoo on the back of your hand? It’s so that he can repeat the story of Sammy Jenkins to himself and anyone who’ll listen. Teddy said it best with “And it gets better every time you tell it”. Leonard is able to condition himself and his memories by repetition. By continually telling the story he is able to remove the awful fact that he himself killed his wife so that he can continue on in his vengeful life and ignore the fact that she survived the attack. Leonard also further solidifies this with his discussion with Teddy that memories are unreliable and can be altered. It also makes Leonard an unreliable source of what the truth/facts are.

    With that being said, here’s my take/interpretation on the ‘facts’ of the movie:

    Leonard’s name really is Leonard Shelby and he was married.
    Leonard was an insurance investigator and investigated Sammy Jenkins, who was single and a fraud.
    Leonard lost his ability to retain long term memories in the attack.
    Leonard’s wife did survive the attack.
    Leonard is then constantly on the hunt for John G even though his wife is still alive and this most likely drives her nuts.
    Leonard accidentally, or at her direction, kills his wife with insulin and then ends up in an institution. (See black and white scene in the institution where Sammy is shown to actually be Leonard for a split second. Hint, it’s when the orderly walks by)
    Leonard escapes from the institution, read the short story by Jonathan Nolan, and then somehow teams up with Teddy.
    Leonard and Teddy kill off the original John G and then Teddy uses Leonard to kill Jimmy.
    Natalie uses Leonard to get rid of Teddy, as revenge, and Dodd since Jimmy is no longer around.
    Teddy is telling the truth about Leonard’s past.
    In my opinion, Leonard essentially turns himself into a serial killer by the end of the movie. (And I think he enjoys this new life. Little details like him noticing that his knuckles hurt after Natalie tells him that Dodd beat her up but he intentionally dismisses it. And the not so subtle details like intentionally putting himself on the hunt to kill Teddy.)

    You can’t trust Leonard’s memories.
    The ‘I Did It’ scene seems problematic, but only if you believe that really happened. Is it plausible that his wife would stand by and watch her husband tattoo himself to that extent and then do a celebration cuddle with him after his murderous victory. Or is it more probable that the celebration cuddle is actually Leonard’s fantasy and that he manipulates his world to meet his agenda.

  168. Óscar Gómez says:

    Have anyone noticed that the name “Natalie” can also be read as “Nat-a-lie”? That might explain it.

  169. Jen says:

    Hey everyone great comments here!

    My thoughts of the movie are this the whole movie is about karma. Lenny’s wife was killed as karma for Lenny not allowing the insurance to go through and causing the death of Sammy’s wife.

    The reason Lenny has the tattoo of remember Sammy is so he thinks back to the case and then remembers that he has essentially done this to himself. This gives him the anger and motivation to try and avenge his wife’s murder.

    The scene where Lenny pinches his wife to me looks like a playful pinch. If it was an injection who says ”ouch’ you would say ‘that one really hurt’ because you would be expecting it!

    Okay so what about Teddy’s ‘revelation’ to Lenny about his wife? I think that Teddy makes this up to hurt Lenny and to throw his long term memories off balance. So many characters show impatience of repititon throughout the movie. Natalie mocks Lenny about his condition brutally, Sammy’s wife clearly gets angry at Sammy. But the way this really comes together for me is when we get a sense that Lenny is annoyed at his wife reading the same book over and over.

    This for me leads me onto why Teddy tells Lenny that Sammy didn’t have a wife and so on. I think Teddy is so angry here that he wants to really hurt Lenny and he knows that this will. Come on it makes Lenny question everything, he hits him where it hurts.

    In turn, Lenny shows him that he is not to be messed with which is why he makes Teddy his John G. Lenny at this point is tired of getting trodden down. Remember when Natalie mocks him he cannot find a pen, we don’t know what he would have wrote down if he could, I believe he would have made a note to either kill her or hurt her.

    The scene where Sammy changes to Lenny in the mental home I believe this is just showing us Lenny’s conscience he thinks a) he did this to Sammy and b) he should be with him in there.

    When Lenny kills Jimmy he says Sammy I think that Jimmy knows Lenny’s back story (maybe from Teddy) and knows he is going to die. By saying Sammy it is a quick way to piss Lenny off before he dies getting the last word. He’s reminded Lenny that Sammy will never go away that he is the reason this happened to him and that his wife is dead.

    The scene of Lenny and his wide in bed is Lenny’s imagination. It’s the two things that he wants more than anything – to kill his wife’s attacker and to be reunited with his wife.

    I believe that Lenny is trying to kill his wife’s attacker and the facts he has in tattoos and photographs are his daily findings. That’s why he cannot talk on the phone because it goes against his code he cannot take a picture and doesn’t know who he’s talking to. He cannot trust anyone.

    Teddy is corrupt and is using Lenny for his personal gain and so is Natalie. They are both ignorant to his condition and therefore have no sumapthy for him – the same way that Lenny had no sympathy for Sammy – if he did he would have helped him with the insurance etc. Karma.

    This is the fort time I have watched the movie so I will watch again soon! Let me know your thoughts! And sorry if I rambled on!!

  170. brad says:

    Here’s my take on the story:
    Leonard was not really unable to make new memories – it was all psychological. All the pieces about Sammy being investigated and found to have a psychological rather than physical issue really happened to Leonard, not Sammy. (Remember when Leonard doesn’t know to push the door open at the motel – this is the proof that he can’t form new memories by repetition). When the clerk takes him to his room he says “thanks for being honest about how you’re ripping me off Burt” or something to that effect. Burt has not told him his name in the last 15 minutes, so he shouldn’t have remembered his name. Likewise, he shouldn’t have remembered telling Teddy not to call him Lenny (“You know I’ve told you I don’t like to be called that”). And he shouldn’t remember that Natalie has also lost someone, which he writes on the photo after looking at the picture of her with Jimmy. Leonard thinks he can’t form new memories but he can – his amnesia is just his way of dealing with his wife’s attack and death (which he caused by giving her the insulin injections). Before killing her he was led to believe by Teddy that he had found the rapist and killed him, then had her write the line about having killed him on his chest each day so that he would know what he did. Once she died the ink washed away, and he started using tattoos as a permanent solution to keeping notes (hence why it is no longer on his chest for the rest of the movie).

  171. Edward Hamilton says:

    Okay, what explains everything is at the end of the movie, and then the “I Did it” scene. The I did it scene occurs at the point in the movie shortly after you discover that Lenny agrees in his mind to lie to himself with a note about Teddy being the killer (which he makes a note to not trust, and a note to tattoo his liscence number on his arm). He did this to make sure he doesn’t kill anyone else but the one who made him kill Jimmy which he feels terrible about and also feels terrible about being manipulated.

    The second time he agrees to lie to himself (and a time in which he shows a smile that is extremely rare), he closes his eyes which could not be a memory because he didn’t not have the “i did it” tatoo yet. And its at this point that he ponders that its good to lie to himself in order to feel better. After deliberatly placing the image of his wife actually being alive, he says “yes I can”. Meaning I can lie to myself to feel better by picturing his wife as alive.

    Therefore, his wife is dead and he knows he really did kill the killer. But last in the order of business is to take care of the character that is manipulating him whom Lenny knows will continue to manipulate him. And I think he knows he must kill in order to feel better and possibly get his amnesia reversed.

  172. Michael Butler says:

    Lot of good stuff here. I’m late to this conversation but recently re-watched Memento and so went looking for theories on what “actually happened”.
    I think Leonard suffered more damage to his brain and his memory than is stated in the movie and that he basically assumed the identity of Sammy Jankis, who was the real insurance investigator, probably by reading Sammy’s report or testimony on Leonard’s claim and his life after the injury. This is the purpose of the tattoo “remember Sammy Jankis” – it’s part of Leonard’s process for internalizing Sammy’s story as his own. How specifically he was able to do this with anterograde memory loss is a bit of a puzzle but the insurance investigator’s statements indicate that it should be possible for a person to form certain kinds of memory in a different part of the brain by repetition. So possibly by telling and re-telling the Sammy Jankis story from his copy of whatever report he had (a story which Teddy says evolved over time), Leonard was able to commit it to memory, albeit drastically distorted, and as his own first-person narrative, rather than Sammy’s.
    So if Leonard wasn’t an insurance investigator, who was he? I think he’s a former police detective. That’s how he got a copy of the police report from the attack. That’s why he has the evidence board/map on his motel room wall, carries his camera like it’s a shoulder holster, flashes Dodd’s picture like it’s a badge, knows how to jimmy-open Dodd’s motel room door (not to mention the peep hole trick) and is able to fight his way out of the bathroom completely naked. Leonard no longer remembers his past (he’s replaced it with Sammy’s story) but he does these things instinctively – which is less like a former insurance investigator and more like a former cop.
    And how does Leonard link up with Teddy? I think Teddy actually is the 2nd attacker Leonard has been looking for and every time he gets close to identifying his John G., Teddy manages to misdirect him and put Leonard on the scent of someone else, usually by manipulating him over the phone.
    The delicious irony of this theory is that Leonard does finally get the real John G., even though he ends up manipulating his own memory to do it.

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