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"I'm sorry I made you wear a cheerleader's outfit and glue miniature horses to the couch!"

It can often be useful — or at least funny — to contrast the coherence of metaphorical or plot-driven dreams with "real" dreams that are far more bizarre.

When people actually dream, it doesn't make sense. Things happen in random orders, for no good reason. Nevertheless, "dream" is an incredibly potent metaphor. We use "dream" to mean "aspiration", and "nightmare" to mean "fear". Fictional characters are also likely to have meaningful dreams of some variety — either because they may have a supernatural ability that gives them these dreams, or just because, due to the Law of Conservation of Detail, only their meaningful dreams are reported in the story.

All this means that most of the time, when fictional dreams are described, they're considerably more coherent than real dreams ever are, a situation that's absolutely ripe for Lampshading.

Often involves Word Salad Humor. Other characters may dismiss a particularly trippy dream as an Acid Reflux Nightmare.

Examples of Real Dreams Are Weirder include:


  • An ad for Progressive auto insurance has a woman counting her discounts in her sleep, which turns into a crazy dream about a squirrel stealing nuts from a chipmunk family reunion and getting sent to "squirrel prison".

Anime & Manga

  • Azumanga Daioh has this in some of the girls' New Year's Eve dreams, which manage to be both plot-relevant (what plot there is, anyway) and weird as all get-out.
  • One enemy in BoBoBo-Bo BoBoBo had the power to bring people's nightmares to life. Jelly Jiggler nightmare involved being tortured by tofu-people, and Bo Bo Bo's nightmare involved kangaroos with his face playing basketball.
  • My Dear Marie had one OVA episode devoted to Hiroshi inventing a device to allow Marie to dream. It's every bit as random as a real dream.


  • Given the fact that The Sandman is entirely about dreams, naturally, most of the ones featured are plot relevant by default. That said, many are only tangential to the plot and can get very weird at times...
    • In the first issue, Dream raids the buffet of a dream where a man attends a fancy party full of celebrities whilst dressed as a clown. And it's a recurring dream.
  • Empire State:

 Jimmy: Even if I called in sick and went back to sleep, I'd probably have a completely different dream about my teeth falling out or a giant snake in a vest.

  • The dreams in Tintin are notoriously surreal and downright creepy...
    • In "The Cigars Of The Pharao" Tintin is locked inside an Egyptian tomb and put to sleep with sleeping gas. He then dreams several strange images combining recent people he met and Egyptian artwork.
    • In "The Crab With The Golden Claws" Tintin dreams he is turned into a bottle, which Haddock is planning to uncork.
    • In "The Shooting Star" Tintin dreams he is visited by Philippus the prophet who then shows him a picture of a gigantic spider, claiming it is life size!
    • In "The Seven Crystal Balls" Tintin and his companions all have the same nightmare: that they are visited by the Inca mummie Rascar Capac who enters their bedroom by night and then throws a crystal boll on the floor.
    • In "Tintin in Tibet" Haddock dreams he meets Professor Calculus, who claims he has lost his umbrella. Haddock then tells him he's got a lot of umbrella's with him, but has no idea where they came from. Calculus is angered by his answer and tells him: "Npnsense! this is a red pimento." Then Haddock suddenly wears Calculus' clothes, while Calculus wears those of a porter who can out-yell Haddock(!). Now grown to enormous size Calculus hits Haddock on the head with an umbrella, claiming it's "Checkmate!"
    • In "The Castafiore Emerald" Captain Haddock dreams he is listening to an opera singing parrot while he is seated completely nude in an audience consisting of nothing but parrots.
    • In Prisoners of the Sun, Tintin dreams that Calculus is admiring an "Inca Tree" whose flowes are skulls while a real Inca menaces him with a spear, next Tintin asks the Inca, who now has Haddock's face if he has a licence for the rifle over his shoulder, upon which the Inca turns into a mysterious Indian who has been following the heroes and blasts Tintin with fire for blasphemy. Tintin then wakes upo with hot sunlight on his face.

Fan Works

  • In Turnabout Storm, Pinkie Pie comments on a dream she had where she commanded an army of sweets in a war between sweets and nutrition; lots of chocolate chips lost their lives, but they triumphed in the end. This comes out as quite weird even by Pinkie's standards.

 Phoenix: (Freud would have a field day with Pinkie Pie.)

  • Queen of All Oni: Jade's Dream Sequence in the third Interlude chapter is a Big Lipped Alligator Moment precisely because it's such a weird dream. It starts out with Jade attacking Shendu's palace to challenge him for the position of Arch Enemy, only to realize she's not wearing pants. She and Shendu (who's now a short-order cook) then get into an argument over whether that violates the palace (now a dinner)'s "No Shirts, No Shoes, No Service" policy. They drag Daolon Wong (a waiter) and Valmont (a busboy) into the argument, but still can't reach a decision (Valmont merely states he hates them all; Shendu declares it not an answer and sets him on fire), so they call in the manager, who turns out to be Tarakudo... the real Tarakudo, who's making a futile effort to communicate with Jade in her sleep, and is just plain confused. Needless to say, this whole thing is one of the funniest parts of the story.

Film — Live Action


 Mr. Jigsaw: I'm Your Worst Nightmare.

Jack Colt: No, waking up without my penis is my worst nightmare.

Mr. Jigsaw: Okay, alright, so I'm not actually your worst nightmare. But I am right up there.


 Simone: Do you have a dream?

Pee-wee: Yeah. I'm all alone. I'm rolling a big doughnut, and this snake with a vest...



  • This is a common joke in Discworld novels:
    • In Hogfather, Teatime announces, "I'm Your Worst Nightmare!" When he's taken too literally, he then has to clarify that he doesn't mean "The One With... the giant cabbage and the sort of whirring knife thing" or a bunch of equally improbable things, but rather "the one where this man comes out of nowhere and kills you stone dead."
      • "Hey, that one isn't all that scary compared to the oth-"
    • In Small Gods, Urn says that harnessing the lightning is the dream of mankind, and Didactylos replies "Is it? I always dream of a giant carrot chasing me through a field of lobsters."
    • In Eric, the description of the demon guarding the gates of Hell says "it would be a lazy use of language to say that the thing that answered the door was a nightmare. Nightmares are usually rather daft things and it's very hard to explain to a listener what was so dreadful about your socks coming alive or giant carrots jumping out of hedgerows. This thing was the kind of terrifying thing that could only be created by someone sitting down and thinking horrible thoughts very clearly."
    • The Wee Free Men has a bit where Rob Anybody describes "normal things gone wrong" as one of the nightmarish threats in Elfland, and Tiffany recalls having surreal nightmares about being threatened by a sugar bowl, or a pair of her late grandmother's boots.
    • Played subtly for horror in Witches Abroad:

  Genua was a place where all dreams came true. Remember some of yours?

  • From The Onion:
    • Our Dumb Century has the headline: "MLK: 'I had a really weird dream last night.'" The article has King describing a really weird dream he had the other night, concluding that he has no idea what on Earth it meant.
    • Their horoscope section once had the prediction "You will soon meet the woman of your dreams, the one where every tooth in her mouth has its own screaming face."
  • In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the "island where dreams come true" is a horrifying place where nothing makes any sense.

 "This is the land where dreams — dreams, do you understand — come to life, come real. Not daydreams: dreams." There was about half a minute’s silence and then, with a great clatter of armor, the whole crew were tumbling down the main hatch as quick as they could and flinging themselves on the oars to row as they had never rowed before... For it had taken everyone just that half-minute to remember certain dreams they had had — dreams that make you afraid of going to sleep again — and to realize what it would mean to land on a country where dreams come true.

  • Referenced in Harry Potter. Their Divination teacher expects them to have significant dreams, so they lie about having these instead of the silly ones. Harry also has a number of rather bizarre and nonsensical dreams throughout the series as well as his more meaningful ones. It borders on a Running Gag at times.
  • In The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, Richard Cook has several dreams he claims to be prophetic visions, but rather ruins the effect by concluding his description of one with "and then after a short further dream about getting into a bath full of Smarties wearing a Batman costume, I woke up".
  • G. K. Chesterton remarked in one of his essays that this is the reason many literary dream sequences just don't ring true. Real dreams aren't allegorical or artistic; they're weird. [1]

 When the hero tells us that “last night he dreamed a dream,” we are quite certain from the perfect and decorative character of the dream that he made it up at breakfast. The dream is so reasonable that it is quite impossible. [...] When the aged priest in a story narrates his dream, in which the imagery is dignified and the message plain, we are free to yield finally to a conviction that must have long been growing on us, and conclude that he is a somewhat distinguished liar.


Live Action TV

  • In season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy has a dream about opening an office-supply warehouse in Las Vegas, mixed in with her more prophetic dreams about Drusilla and Angel.
    • Additionally and in reference to this, in the episode where the First Slayer was coming into everyone's dreams to kill them, there was also an appearance in everybody's dreams by a guy offering slices of cheese and Meaningless Meaningful Words-ridden advice.
  • The Comic Strip Presents: Didn't You Kill My Brother?

 I had a dream, my friends, oh yes, I had a dream — then suddenly my dream changed, and I was standing in a swimming-pool full of small brown puppies — and each of the puppies had the face of a 19th-century politician — and then one of the puppies, that had the face of Lord Palmerston, suddenly started screaming at me, "Where's the spoons, where's the spoons, where's the bloody spoons?"

...Any questions?

  • In one episode of Lost, Claire has had a highly spooky meaningful dream about a coffin full of blood. To make conversation, Charlie tells her about a dream he's had:

 Charlie: I have this dream... I'm driving a bus and my teeth start falling out. My mom's in the back eating biscuits. Everything smells of bacon. It's weird.

  • In Blackadder 2 Walter Raleigh says he's brought Queenie lands beyond her wildest dreams...her response is to ask if he's sure because she's had some pretty wild dreams, like the one where she was a sausage roll, or the great big tree.
  • Obviously, given that the main character is a psychiatrist and a lot of episodes focus on psychological issues, dream sequences in Frasier usually are symbolic and meaningful. However, some dreams are totally nonsensical, like Daphne dreaming about Queen Elizabeth drinking cocktails with Martin on the latter's balcony. Also, in one episode Frasier has a recurring dream about being in bed with Gil, which he thinks means something and which he tries to analyze, but upon pondering the details, winds up realizing that the dream actually makes no sense and has nothing to do with anything in his life.
  • In the Stargate Atlantis episode "Doppelganger", the problem of the week is an alien entity making everyone have nightmares in which Sheppard is trying to kill them. The team meets for lunch, everyone compares their Sheppard-dreams... and then McKay, who hasn't been affected yet, talks about his nightmare about Carter inviting him to dinner, serving him lemon chicken (given his strong citrus allergy) and telling him she's promoting Zelenka over him, after which he gets eaten by a whale.



  • Although the ones related in The Bible always turn out to have some sort of meaning, they're pretty much always weird. Like the one where emaciated cows come out of a river and eat fat cows, and show no sign of having eaten. Or the one where withered heads of grain do the same thing to good heads of grain.

Video Games

  • One of Max's election speeches in Sam and Max: Abe Lincoln Must Die! plays on this.

 Max: I have a dream, America! It starts out where I'm in an all-nude production of Death of a Salesman on ice, but I haven't studied and I can't remember my lines. Suddenly, it begins to rain marshmallows, but that's okay, because trees are made of graham crackers, and chocolate bars are the official currency. I believe that by working together, we can make that dream a reality!

  • The 2011 version of You Don't Know Jack featured a question category where the host would describe a bizarre dream he had (usually involving his mother and his cats Poopsie and Mayonnaise) which vaguely resembled the plot of a movie the player is meant to identify.



 Martin Luther King: I had a dream.

Beat Panel

MLK: I was freaking flying!

  • Most of the dreams in Slightly Damned are very relevant to the plot, detailing characters' emotional struggles or serving as flashbacks. And then, Rhea dreams up this.
    • It Makes Sense in Context (aside from the flying fish). Snowy the bunny is in bed on top of them, when the shock from her nightmare turns her human, so she suddenly feels heavy.
  • This Hark! A Vagrant strip about the Ides of March:

 Calpurnia: Caesar, you mustn't go today! I had a dream that you died.

Caesar: Why, that's amazing, Calpurnia. I had a dream! I was wearing a robe made entirely out of hot dogs.

  • In this Skin Horse strip, Unity responds to the Abbess's description of her prophetic dream with an inverted Marshmallow Dream ("I dreamed I ate all the pillows in the house, and when I woke up the marshmallows were gone!")

Western Animation

  • In the Adventures in Care-a-Lot TV series, all the Care Bears share a dreamspace where they tend to have rather mundane dreams (where they do the same things they tend to do in their waking lives), so it was rather refreshing to see the bears having more dream-like dreams in the Share Bear Shines movie.

 "We just met a lamppost, and it's our best friend!"


 Skymaid: "Keep wishing, and all your dreams will come true!"

Flapjack: "Even the scary ones?"

Skymaid: "Ahahahahahahahahahahaha!...YES."

  • In the Phineas and Ferb special "Summer Belongs to You," Candace calls her Love Interest Jeremy while he's in Paris (where it's the middle of the night):

 Jeremy: Actually, it's funny you called, 'cause you were in my dream just now.

Candace: (smitten) Really?

Jeremy: Yeah, it was weird, you and I were in this Dixieland band, and there was an iguana playing the oboe...

  • An episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot featured this when Jenny convinced her mother to install a "dream chip" in her. Her first dream is a surreal affair involving dancing on air with her crush in a distorted ballroom full of strange creatures. Then Jenny tries "daydreaming" — which she takes to mean "forcing the dream chip to activate while she's still awake" — and begins to see the world as a bizarre cross between Greek mythology and Dr. Seuss.
  • Home Movies - the guys are confronted by the angry goalie Brendon got a goal off of (by the ball bouncing off his face):

 Cho: I'm your worst nightmare!

Jason: (snorts) That is so old! Huh? Let me wipe the cobwebs off that line! ...but technically my worst nightmare to date is: I'm sitting in a high chair, and I'm breast-feeding my own mother, and she suddenly opens her mouth and I see my father's head...

Cho: Yeah yeah yeah, all right, I get it, shut up! You're giving me the creeps.

  • In contrast to the dreams of the rest of the Justice League in the episode "Perchance to Dream," the Flash's dream (before Dr. Destiny turned it into an inescapable nightmare) was a surreal romp that included giant frogs in the fridge, cannibal children, and watching cartoons of himself while a small boy picked at the plot holes.
  • In the Rugrats episode "In the Dreamtime", Chuckie has dreams that start out like ordinary everyday situations for him and his friends, but quickly turn surreal.