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Vanilla Sky Ending: Every Frame Explained

Unraveling the final moments of Cameron Crowe's twisty thriller.

Paramount Pictures

Vanilla Sky is one of the most fascinating movies of the last 20 years - flawed and divisive for sure, but also an endlessly intriguing mystery box of a film which absolutely rewards those who return for repeat viewings.

Cameron Crowe's mystery-thriller wraps up with beleaguered protagonist David Aames (Tom Cruise) learning the supposedly true nature of his reality, that he's been in a "life suspension" program for the last 150 years while waiting for technology to advance sufficiently to fix his damaged face.

In the final scene he's given an option - return to his "lucid dream" state or wake up in the real future by taking a leap of faith from the roof.

David opts for the latter, and as he plunges to the ground, he sees his life flash before his eyes, resulting in a rapid-fire montage of almost 100 images being shot at viewers.

Given the supersonic speed with which the images pass, fans will absolutely want to freeze-frame through the montage to examine every single picture, but extrapolating meaning from them still proves challenging without sufficient research.

And so, we've taken a deep dive into the included images to try and shine some added light on exactly what they mean. But for some useful added context, here's what Crowe himself said about the montage on the film's DVD commentary:

"These images are kind of our own Sgt. Pepper cover. Each one of them matters, and I invite you to pause and think about who they are and what they mean. Some of them are bands, some of them are outtakes, some of them are musicians, albums that matter a lot, home movies from Tom [Cruise]'s archives. What it does is give you a collage of feelings and impressions."
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Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.