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Nightmare Sequence
aka: Nightmare Dreams

"I get up put on the light, dreading the oncoming night
Scared to fall asleep and dream the dream again"
Iron Maiden, "Dream of Mirrors"

Some dreams are heart-warming visions of hope, filled with cute and cuddly creatures, so delightful they make you want to fall asleep right away. Other dreams—aren't.

There are nightmares that chill your soul. They are a journey through a warped mirror of reality where Transformation Traumas abound and Primal Fears are on public parade. All our comforting certainties melt away, and chaos reigns supreme. Quite frankly, after a dream like that it would almost be a relief to encounter the Outer Gods dancing to the eldritch music of blasphemous flutes.

These nightmares can show off the emotional confusion and torment affecting a character. An effective way to show a character is having Bad Dreams is just to go into them and show the nightmarish sequence itself. Each bizarre image can dissect the issue facing them, showing the distortions the mind puts on them.

These dreams are often, though not always, associated with Deranged Animation. Hallucinations and supposedly funny nightmares also fall under this trope.

See also Bad Dreams.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Tetsuo's series of nightmares and hallucinations in AKIRA. These dreams vary from giant stuffed animals attacking him, to visions of his horrifying future, to having his intestines spill out of him from simply falling. I don't even want to mention the further horrors that this poor kid has to go through during the story (even though he does partially deserve it).
  • Digimon Tamers: During a Mind Rape-induced dream sequence (seen here, starting at 0:53), one protagonist experiences herself as a child running through a hospital and right into a razor-toothed, eyeless version of herself, with a snarling, drooling, oddly grinning version of her favorite sock puppet sewn onto her arm. The fact that this is how she equates her mother's death does NOT help matters in any way/shape/form. The true psychological impact can't be had without seeing her slow degeneration throughout the series from using the puppet as a cute way to talk to people into being actively controlled by the puppet, but the images are arguably worse for sheer Nightmare Fuel out of context.
  • An episode of Yes! Precure 5 features nightmare sequences for four of the main characters, induced by The Dragon for a pretty good reason. The idea is to cause the girls to despair.
  • The Stand Death 13 has this ability in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, killing people when they fall asleep. The worst part is that even if you wake up before it can get to you, you have no recollection of what happened in the dream...
  • Diamond Daydreams, in itself a rather subdued Slice of Life series, has Karin's often rather scary nightmares.
  • Himeno from Prétear has these in an episode of the anime. It's actually caused by Takako/Fenrir, who wants to communicate with her.
  • Guts of Berserk has these quite often, both from his childhood trauma and from the monsters that constantly torment him post-Eclipse.
  • The premise of Nightmare Inspector is Hiruko the Baku's entering into people's nightmares with them in order to figure out what they mean.
  • Happens several times in Chrono Crusade. Chrono has a nightmare where he's surrounded by dead bodies as Aion tempts him back to his side (hinting at his backstory). Rosette has a nightmare at the start of the Darkest Hour that serves to recap some of the trauma she's been through as well as gives a clear idea of her psychological state. And in an early episode of the anime, Rosette has a nightmare that's half flashback, half nightmare about her brother's kidnapping by the Big Bad.

    Comic Books 
  • The Adventures of Tintin: The dream sequences in "Tintin" will never be surpassed in terms of creepyness. Yet, for the sake of this article, let's just mention the nightmare scenes:
    • In "Tintin Cigars of the Pharaoh" 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 "Tintin The Crab With The Golden Claws" Tintin dreams he is turned into a bottle, which Haddock is planning to uncork.
    • In "Tintin The Shooting Star" Tintin dreams he is visited by Philippulus the prophet who then shows him a picture of a gigantic spider, claiming it is life size!
    • In "Tintin The Seven Crystal Balls" Tintin and his companions all have the same nightmare: that they are visited by the Inca mummy Rascar Capac who enters their bedroom by night and then throws a poisonous crystal ball on the floor.
      • This is even more terrifying in the animated series.
    • 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 up with hot sunlight on his face.
  • Yorick in Y: The Last Man suffers from constant nightmares, usually involving his girlfriend Beth. So much so that when Yorick finally does meet her his first reaction is to storm off in the belief that he's just having another cruel dream.
  • In Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem has one after he stuffs himself with drugs (again) when he realizes he has become a Japanese-like anime, a cheesy live action TV series and a porn movie. Sadly, he has a fairly good dream at the beginning.
  • Dream of The Sandman curses a man who has displeased him with the never-ending nightmare, where every time he thinks he's woken up, the nightmare continues. The few panels of this we see are horrifying.
  • Suske en Wiske: The album "De Bokkenrijders" starts off with Wiske telling a nightmare she just had and Tante Sidonia explaining its symbolic meanings. Of course, as the story progresses Wiske's nightmare turns out to she was Dreaming of Things to Come.
  • Nero: Nightmare sequences occur quite frequently in the series, among others in “Moea Papoea”, “Beo De Verschrikkelijke”, “De Gouden Vrouw”, “De Ark Van Nero”, “De Paarse Futen”, “Zwoele Charlotte” and “De Draak van Halfzeven”.
  • Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel:
    • Guiv's nightmare is being attacked in the Tower of Silence by countless skeletons, and then being surrounded by doubles of himself, whose heads turn into skulls as he cuts them off.
    • Shirin's nightmare is a dust storm raising up giant boys made of dust, who carry off Ferdos, claiming him as "one of us."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) Issue #5 starts with this, and mentions the mane 6 have all had nightmares for an entire week. It's during another one that the Nightmare Forces kidnap Rarity and take her to the moon. In the following issue they are confronted by the same nightmares, but overcome them thanks to each other (with the exception of Rarity, who's still kidnapped, of course).

     Fan works 
  • In Mutant ,Twilight has one that involves Yog-sooth in the third chapter.
  • Bait and Switch (STO): Eleya's recurring Flashback Nightmare of the time ten years ago she was stabbed while repelling a Boarding Party.
  • In the Lord of the Rings fanfic Left, Frodo has a nightmare about finding out that he murdered Sam when Sam offered to share the Ring.
  • In We Are All Pokémon Trainers:
    • Fool goes through a rather freaky one during the AU Arc in which she sees herself (The one she identifies as "Sol") using the corpses of Pokemon that she murdered as marionette puppets. A Shout-Out to a very similar scene in Felidae.
    • Happens to Sakura not too long after her debut, she mentions that it happens frequently, but they stopped once she found Lyuri.
    • Straw goes through these at least somewhat often, such as being stabbed by Jab and dreaming Crewe died and he was only finding this out when he was married to Elise.
    • Tagg has one following the Orre arc after drinking himself unconscious at Kat's wedding.

    Film 
  • In Bad Dreams, the protagonist Cynthia, who went into a coma after barely surviving a mass suicide, is tormented by images of the dead cult leader, Harris.
  • An American Werewolf in London:
    • There's one upsetting nightmare scene in which the protagonist sees his family shot in their home by what can only be described as Zombie Werewolf Nazi Goblins. The fact that The Muppets is playing on the television doesn't help. Quite possibly one of the most horrifying nightmares in all of film.
    • Then there's the one where he's seen biting a deer.
  • Pee-wee's Big Adventure,the evil clown dream sequence
  • In Herbie Rides Again, Corrupt Corporate Executive Alonzo Hawk is tormented in his dreams by evil Volkswagen Beetles after Herbie thwarts his evil schemes.
  • The dream sequence the main character in Son of the Mask has. His wife being pregnant and giving birth... only to reveal that she is pregnant with many, many, many babies, all squirming and crying with fanged mouths.
  • Considering that Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland is All Just a Dream, the entire climactic scene with the villain could be considered a Nightmare Dream, but the sequence with a subtler horror is a Dream-Within-A-Dream where Nemo goes to the kitchen, to find his mother washing the dishes, except that a train's coming, barrelling ever closer and closer towards them while Nemo's mom does not budge, just says, "Don't be silly, Nemo," as the whistle screams and—
  • Certain scenes of Videodrome. It's hard to say which.
  • Similarly enough, the '80s remake of The Fly has a nightmare dream sequence where Geena Davis gives birth to a squirming maggot-like creature. There's also the deleted Butterfly baby scene.
  • There's a good chance that Eraserhead is entirely made out of this trope.
  • The entire A Nightmare on Elm Street series is themed around this, as Freddy Krueger attacks his victims through nightmares. Even worse, considering how much power he has over the dreamscape, he is able to manipulate your dreams according to your fears, desires and insecurities. Makes the glove itself feel like being put to sleep in comparison, not to mention a more merciful death at that (let's just say the multitude of freakish nightmares some of the teenagers suffer increase in frequency the further the series progresses rather than describe them).
  • Another Wes Craven movie, The Serpent and the Rainbow, includes several zombie-themed nightmares suffered by the protagonist.
  • In the 1996 film The Cable Guy, the main character Steven has a nightmare in which Chip (Jim Carrey) pounds on the door a few times but there's no answer, but later he bursts through the door and snarls...."I JUST WANT TO HANG OUT....NO BIG DEAL!" and chases him. This nightmare is a parody of the chase scene from Wolf.
  • "Moloch" from the silent classic Metropolis.
  • The dreams in Felidae are perhaps the most twisted animation ever created. Those dreams are just damn freaky, specifically the one involving Gregor Mendel giggling demonically "EXPERIMENTS WITH PLANT HYBRIDS!" while putting on some kind of twisted marionette show using the decomposing corpses of gutted cats. Using their entrails as the marionette strings.
  • Michael and Laurie have these in Halloween II (2009).
  • Sarah Connor is plagued by this trope and its contents in the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
    • Likewise, Kyle's dreams/flashbacks in the original movie.
    • Given in Aliens Ripley has a nightmare about a Chest Burster, the director has a thing for this.
  • Monkeybone has many - a drug that could be described as "Nightmare Fuel" is even a plot point.
  • Vanilla Sky, the whole movie IS a nightmare, but there are many scenes picturing a dream/nightmare inside a nightmare/dream
  • The film The Ghost and the Darkness has a scene after the protagonist kills the first lion. The railroad construction is back on track and his wife is coming to visit with their new baby. And then the other lion comes running out of the grass.
  • In Hollow Man, Linda is fast asleep in bed with the windows wide open. Suddenly, the bed covers slip off of her and Caine crawls onto her bed, takes her underwear off, and begins to rape her. And then she wakes up with the bed covers still on her.
  • Star Trek: First Contact opens with Picard finding himself inside a Borg cube and part of the collective hive mind, before he's experimented on and his eyes are almost pierced by a needle. There's a fakeout where it seems like he's woken up, but then a Borg implant bursts out of his cheek before he wakes up for real.

    Literature 
  • Alice in Wonderland. The original book is a single extended dream sequence, and the various film versions do not skimp on the horror.
    • The original Alice in Wonderland might or might not count, but The Nursery Alice most assuredly does. The text is the classic Carroll story, but the illustrations were apparently created by a morbid impressionist while on a bad acid trip.
    • In the 1985 adaptation the White Queen, played by Carol Channing, turns into a sheep, just like in the book, but here the sheep's face is so ghostly and its bleating so unearthly that it's terrifying just to look at.
    • Similarly, the scene where the Duchess' baby transforms from a wailing human child to a writhing, screaming piglet.
    • And then there's the Jabberwock scene, which seems to be cruelly engineered to traumatize children. Watch if you dare. It looks as though Alice has made her way home, but she's actually still stuck in the world Through the Looking Glass. She can see her parents on the other side of the mirror and cries for their attention, but her mom and dad can't hear or see her and she's left to wander the limbo-like mirror room. She comes upon the Jabberwocky book and starts to read it — and then the monster (which could have been co-designed by H.R. Giger and Wayne D. Barlowe) comes charging into the room to eat her and then... that's the cliffhanger ending of the first episode of the two-part special!
      • In the original publishing, an illustration of the Jabberwock was intended to be the frontispiece, but was deemed too fearsome.
    • How can one babble about Alice in Wonderland being nightmare fuel without including the American McGee version? She is an asylum patient in the game After her parents burned alive in a house fire! and then there's the whole demon mode thing...*Shudders*
  • The nightmare in How to Eat Fried Worms.
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader The island where dreams come true. When the sailor joke about what they would find, the man who had been trapped there screams that it's not daydreams, it's dreams. Which inspires a proper panic in them. Even after their escape, the man they rescued is in a state of collapse from the horror.
    • Apparently, everyone saw different things, based on nightmares they'd had. Like a boggart from Harry Potter, except it's a whole island.
  • From the Deryni books.
    • While being held captive by Caitrin and Loris in The Bishop's Heir, Dhugal has a vivid nightmare about facing divine judgement for failing to save Kelson, whose gory corpse rises up from its bier to point an accusing finger at him.
    • When Kelson reads Loris' mind during questioning late in The King's Justice, he learns that Camber appeared to Loris in a dream (later speculation attributes this to his possession of Duncan's episcopal ring, which was originally made for Henry Istelyn from an old piece of altar plate associated with Camber himself). Reliving the experience through Loris's eyes, Kelson knows that while Camber spoke of tolerance, Loris so demonized all things Deryni that for him it was a nightmare.
    • During his preparatory meditation for Conall's triggering ritual in The Quest for Saint Camber, Morgan gazes on the unconscious and frail Nigel, dressed in Haldane red court robes with one of the state crowns on a pillow above his head. Suddenly, Morgan vividly imagines himself standing in the Haldanes' royal crypt gazing down at Nigel's body on his funeral bier.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Death Star, a trooper transferred to the titled battle station starts having nightmares, some of them about his own death. They make it hard to sleep. Medical staff is short, so a surgeon reluctantly looks him over, takes his blood, and gives him medication. Then the Death Star fires on a prison planet, the trooper wakes up screaming, and his dreams get exponentially worse. The surgeon tells him that it turns out he's Force-Sensitive. His dreams come true.
  • The protagonist of E. F. Benson's "The Room in the Tower" has increasingly ominous dreams about paying a visit to... someone, who keeps sending him off to sleep in that room in the tower. Then, one day, he gets an invitation from a chum, and things go From Bad to Worse.
  • In Dragons of Winter Night, the protagonists suffer through a particularly horrific nightmare.
  • The authors of Warrior Cats seem to like horrific blood filled nightmares considering how many there have been in the books. Some even feature the characters drowning in blood.
  • Constantly used in the Goosebumps books, I Live In Your Basement! having the most by far.
  • The BFG: The BFG and Sophie make a nightmare for the Queen about giants.
  • In A Game of Thrones, Eddard Stark has recurring dreams about the death of his sister Lyanna, including a particularly infamous flashback that still continues to inspire Epileptic Trees about the circumstances of her passing. Near the end of the book, while imprisoned, he sees a dream of his dead friend Robert mocking him, only for Robert's visage to crumble away, revealing Littlefinger's face beneath.
  • The Stories Of Nypre series mixes this with Dream Within a Dream when Nypre gets trapped from the mind altering effects of the Night Land.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, sometimes Jack Frost's mischief causes Rachel and Kirsty to have these.
  • In Those That Wake, the main characters each have nightmares before their lives are altered.
    • In the sequel, Mal has recurring nightmares of Man In Suit.
  • In Geoph Essex's Lovely Assistant, the first brief Time Skip starts off with a very weird (and, this being Geoph Essex, initially humorous) situation which rapidly degenerates into a Nightmare Sequence before Jenny wakes up. A lot of the Bad Dream is stuff she already knows (or thinks she knows), but there's enough Foreshadowing (some subtle, some not) to also qualify it as a bit of a Dream of Things to Come.
  • Neshi the Tech Detective in The Wandering has one in the beginning of the story, where he enters a city where people are feasting on one another, and on his exit from it, an army approaches and he gets stabbed by a spear, with a voice calling "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I weep for thee." The nightmare is later revealed to be shared by various members of the Jerusalemites, who believe that it is actually a prophecy.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad episode "To Sleep, Perchance to Scream" is centered around nightmares.
  • Most of the Dollhouse episode "The Attic" is not just a nightmare sequence, but a parallel nightmare world in which inmates' fears can kill them not only in the dream sphere, but also in real life.
  • This happens in the TheGreenGreenGrass episode "Bothered and Bewildered", when Boycie has a nightmare after thinking that Mrs. Cakeworthy cursed him.
  • In the Drake & Josh episode "Mindy's Back", Josh has a nightmare in which he tells Drake that he and Mindy are dating, and then Drake's head explodes.
  • In the Frasier episode "Freudian Sleep":
    • Niles has a nightmare about being a terrible father. He finds himself in a Caligari-esque bedroom, and has all kinds of accidents in raising his baby, including his dropping it and the baby shattering like a plaster vase. Thankfully, the creepiness is mitigated by the funny exchange that occurs when Niles wakes up:
      Niles (terrified): I can't do it!
      Daphne (groggily): Just as well; I'm too tired anyway.
    • In addition, during Daphne's nightmare, she dreams that Niles is sleeping with a sexy female version of Martin.
    • Frasier has two nightmares: a creepy one where he dreams that he killed Niles and married Daphne, while keeping Niles's ashes in a tin next to the coffee; and a panick-stricken one where his radio booth fills up with dozens of telephones, only one of which is ringing, which he frantically tries to find and answer while Roz's booth morphs into a car dashboard and she yells that if he doesn't find the right telephone in five seconds, she's going to drive them off a cliff.
  • Played with on The Daily Show for Hallowe'en 2001. Steve Carell, reporting on a haunted house, complains that it isn't scary enough. A dream sequence follows involving his high school gym coach, Stephen Colbert as the show's new host, and clips from Corky Romano. He wakes up screaming - next to Jon Stewart. They both scream. But only because they weren't expecting to see a camera in their bedroom.
  • The "Dreams" episode of Mash uses this as its premise.
  • Played for laughs in the Blackadder The Third episode Ink and Incapability where Blackadder has a nightmare which starts off with Baldrick "waking" him up and ends up with Baldrick turned into an Alsatian. Then Baldrick wakes him up.
    "Hang on a second, if we go on like this you're going to turn into an Alsatian again."
  • LOST uses this in many an episode.
  • Much of the plot of Twin Peaks centered around Agent Cooper's dream in the second episode.
  • Big Bad Beetleborgs had an episode centered around this trope, in the episode "Booger Man" there was a monster called Booger Man (also known as Booger) who was a boogeyman that came to Hillhurst and gave the house monsters nightmares. Flabber has a nightmare involving the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe. At the end they send him over to the Crustaceons lair to give Les Fortunes nightmares.
  • Played for laughs in the 3rd Rock from the Sun episode "A Nightmare on Dick Street", since the aliens never had dreams before.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show plays it for laughs with the episode "It May Look Like a Walnut", although the Assimilation Plot in Rob's dream actually is kind of unsettling.
  • One episode of Jessie opened with a nightmare where Jessie was eaten by a giant version of Mr. Kipling.
  • In an episode of Seinfeld, after Jerry gets his Uncle Leo arrested for shoplifting, he has a nightmare about Leo planning to do him in, the whole sequence being a Shout-Out to Cape Fear.
  • V: The Final Battle opens with a claustrophobic sequence in which Mike Donovan is trying to escape a Visitor mothership with his son Sean, being pursued through the corridors by their soldiers. He breaks down when Sean is blasted to death, upon which Julie wakes him up at resistance headquarters.

    Music 
  • Pink Floyd, as seen here. Gerald Scarfe deserves a lot of credit for that. Hard to believe he'd end up working on Disney's Hercules, isn't it?
  • The video for "Easy" by Barenaked Ladies has little to do with the song itself, and a lot more to do with bloodstained warped-fairytale imagery. The crows don't help.
  • All videos by Tool.
  • Iron Maiden has many (mostly by Steve Harris, who must sleep horribly), most notably "Infinite Dreams" and "Dream of Mirrors". Also, "The Number of the Beast" was based on both The Omen II and a nightmare of Harris.

    Video Games 
  • Quest for Glory IV:
    • The game has literal Nightmare Fuel in the form of a Cask of Amon Tillado, a wine that gives the drinker dark visions of the local Eldritch Abomination rising to destroy the world.
    • Also the nightmares you have when you sleep in Erana's garden or under her staff.
  • Sonic Riders is a game you'd think has absolutely no potential for nightmare fuel whatsoever... until you race in the Digital Dimension track, the first half of which is a hellish landscape with creepy gargoyle statues and skeleton hands that try to drag you into a pit. Its potential for inducing nightmares is lampshaded in mission briefings as Storm the Albatross says he's scared of the place. The second half of the track is Fluffy Cloud Heaven. Sounds like a relief, but it comes across more as unnerving.
  • Final Fantasy VI, the creepy music and imagery in Shadow's first dream.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All starts with Phoenix having a dream of a dark giant judge about to hammer him to the ground. The dream returns for the final case, as Phoenix is in the depths of despair over Maya being kidnapped.
  • In Nights: Journey of Dreams:
    • Helen feels guilty for constantly spending more time with her friends than with her mother. Shortly into her opening cutscene, she is walking down the street with two friends when she stops and sees something that reminds her of her mother in a store window. As she starts feeling guilty again, her mother's image appears faintly in the window. She gives Helen a sad gaze, but this abruptly turns into empty red eyes and a hideous snarl. The expression is just distorted enough to start heading into the Uncanny Valley, and the suddenness of it makes it as good as a screamer.
    • Technically, every boss battle in both games is one of these. Most of the really creepy, surreal ones are in Journey of Dreams, but Wizeman is horror in either.
  • Dark Messiah has a few nightmare cutscenes, which are made worse by the fact that they're in first person like the rest of the game. The worst part of those dreams was they turn out to be the truth, and the thing you thought was real was the ACTUAL dream.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • In Toy Story, the first Boss Battle happens when Woody has a nightmare of being attacked by a flying, real-laser-shooting Buzz Lightyear. If he dies in the nightmare, he dies for real. It's also a particularly hard boss fight.
  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri has the "Dream Twister" Secret Project, which gives the known and liked Mind Worms a 50% bonus to their psionic attack by (judging by the cinematic) allowing them to tap into their victims' specific fears.
  • Baldur's Gate has multiple dream sequences throughout. Most consist merely of Hannibal Lectures, although the one you get just after receiving the Slayer Form is kind of creepy...
  • Entering a little girl's dreams in Yume Nikki? That can't possibly be so-OHMYGODWHATWASTHAT!? Madotsuki, you have problems.
  • In a similar vein as the above, LSD Dream Emulator is just as disturbing.
  • Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete has a brief but remarkably puissant nightmare sequence. As Alex sleeps in the middle of the woods, we get treated to a cutscene of his nightmare. The kidnapped love interest, Luna, appears against a black background. Her singing can be heard in the background, along with her crying out Alex's name twice and a strange gurgling sound. The camera begins to zoom in on her and her shouts become more frantic. Suddenly, the singing stops and her voice warps into an unnatural low pitch (if there's such a thing as an Uncanny Valley for voices, this sequence nails it perfectly) and a bloody liquid suddenly floods the bottom of the screen.
  • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories has sequences where monsters chase you down, and all you can do is run and hide. They are referred to as "The Nightmare" by the game tutorial, but since Harry is the only speaking character to experience them, they barely get acknowledged, much less referred to by name.
    • In Silent Hill 3, the opening level is a nightmare, which is ended by Heather being killed and waking up in a diner. Turns out dreams come true in Silent Hill.
    • Silent Hill 2 seemingly shifts into this type of experience during and after exiting the hospital. This is the only time of the game where the town becomes dark, for one. The character is lead to a "Historical Society"; from there, James encounters features unlikely to exist, such as a very-very long stairway, and very deep man-made-looking holes that don't cause injury from jumping into them. Also, one room has a deep hole that is protected by a prison bar-gate, with doors and ceiling features on the walls making this a hallway that has been rotated down 90 degrees. Additionally, James encounters a labyrinthine area with dead-end halls occasionally found. The nightmare seems to end after James gains a significant insight, and this places James back into the foggy town from earlier.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has not only one, but TWO quests in which the PC actively participates in an NPC's nightmare. 1) In "Through a Nightmare, Darkly", the PC uses a magical amulet to enter the nightmare world of a mage in order to rescue him. In his or her skivvies, no less. 2) Vaermina's quest "Arkved's Tower" sends the PC into a nightmarish world of burning corpses, molten lava, zombie-o-rama, only to find that the entire quest is the never-ending nightmare of the titular wizard-in-question, the result of him having stolen an artifact from Vaermina.
  • Fable II has a sequence in which after you are shot by Lucien, you enter a dreamlike state where Rose and your parents are still alive, and live on a peaceful farm. At first, this is very pleasant, until nighttime. You wake up to the sound of a music box and leave the farm, but your sister follows. If you head down a path beyond a now-opened gate, your sister begs you not to leave and eventually vanishes with a desperate Big "NO!", and the area outside turns out to be full of fire and dead bodies, all while a music box is playing in the background.
  • This comprises the latter half of the Runescape quest Dream Mentor.
  • Vincent's nightmares in Catherine. He has to make his way up staircases made of blocks to reach the top. If he fails (falling off the stage, crushed by falling blocks, caught in traps or being killed by the weird creatures that pursue him), then he dies in real life.
  • Gabriel's recurrent nightmare is a very important plot point in the first game, Sins of the Fathers. It is actually tied to Gunter's last moments, and has been tormenting his descendants for 300 years.
  • In Ambridge Mansion, at the beginning of the games, you play through Silas' nightmares. You wander around a creepy monster-infested house until you die in your dream.
  • The battles with Scarecrow in Batman: Arkham Asylum are this, thanks to copious amounts of fear toxins.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon is chock full of these.
    • In the first generation, a lot of Foreshadowing is involved, such as hinting that the Point Man shares a bond with Alma, since, as Paxton Fettel says "She cannot see into your mind, but you can see into hers" or that lieutenant Chen will be killed by a monster in Perseus Mandate.
    • The second game uses these as a sign that Alma is trying to approach Becket sexually.
  • In the same vein of the series above, Nightmare House 2 has several of these. It's actually Romero trying to mess with your head by using his mind control Core.
  • In Bastion, The Kid walks right into one of these while exploring Jawson's Bog, thanks to the hallucinogenic properties of the place. In his dream, he has to fight his way through a series of unsettling landscapes... with the Narrator actively speaking against him.
  • Oni features one when Konoko visits her father's lab. It's a particularly tough level, featuring consecutive boss fights against the game's Big Bad Muro, Konoko's superior Griffin and finally Konoko herself, interspersed with trippy imagery.
  • Played with in Neverending Nightmares, in that the entire game is a nightmare sequence for the main character. The reality he wakes up to in the end is determined by Multiple Endings.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Classic Disney Shorts:
    • Der Fuehrers Face: In which Donald dreams he has to work slave labor in a Nazi factory.
    • Pluto's Judgement Day: Pluto is scolded by Mickey for his habit of chasing cats, which prompts the dog to have a nightmare where he is lured into a courtroom composed of a hellish cavern where everyone else in the court is a cat... a demonic black cat, at that. Poor Pluto doesn't even get a chance to defend himself, as the cats cruelly torment him throughout the brief trial before finding him guilty and sentencing him to be executed by being lowered into a bonfire. When he wakes up it all turns out to have been an Opinion Changing Dream, because now he'll be nice to kittens.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The episode "Bart The Murderer" features Skinner's corpse appearing in several places including rising from the grave, sinisterly droning, "You've killed me, Bart!"
    • Another one in the episode "New Kid On The Block", where Bart falls for Laura, the neighbour girl next door; upon finding out that she already has a boyfriend, he has a dream sequence where she says "I have something wonderful to tell you: I have a boyfriend!" then grabbing his still beating heart saying "You won't be needing this!" and throwing it against the wall.
    • The entire story arc of "Treehouse Of Horror II" is built around Bart, Lisa and Homer's nightmares from eating to much candy.
    • Bart dreams that the bus crashes at the start of the second act of "Treehouse Of Horror IV".
    • Again, in the second act of "Treehouse Of Horror VI", the children have nightmares in a parody of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
    • "The Girl Who Slept Too Little" has an unconscious Lisa experiencing a series of nightmares, ending with her being confronted by the creatures from an expy of Where the Wild Things Are, who turn out to be friendly and teach her that it's okay for so-called "smart" people to get scared.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender :
    • Comes with a severe case of Mood Whiplash in the episode "Nightmares and Daydreams". Aang is nervous about the invasion of the Fire Nation, and is having nightmares. The first two are funny, with Aang about to face a giant Fire Lord but missing his pants and forgetting to study for a math test. The third however, is an insane and freakish affair that looks like it came straight out of The Ring (sorta). It features Toph missing her eyes, Sokka, Katara, and Aang being engulfed in mud, fire, and ice while a giant fire takes the shape of Ozai with an evil laugh and attacks Aang, Momo eerily putting his finger to his mouth, and finally Aang suddenly in a field, watching as it is symbolically destroyed by Sozin's Comet. You can understand why he decides to stop sleeping. And then he starts having hallucinations of Momo and Appa arguing and getting into an epic sword fight.
    • Also, in Season 1 Aang had several nightmares about the day he ran away and was frozen in the iceberg. The last one we see starts off fine, with Aang flying with Appa while his friends ride on his glider and a giant Momo. Then he sees the storm, and when he warns his friends he notices that they are not there. Then Monk Gyatso shows up and asks him why he ran away before disintegrating.
    • At one point, Aang also dreams of losing control of the Avatar State, and is outside his body while it was killing people.
    • And Zuko's dream in "The Earth King", where he's being crowned Fire Lord with dragons representing Azula and Iroh at his side when the audience turns to dust, and we then see Zuko's mother sinking into the ground, while the Azula dragon tells him to "go to sleep, just like mother". This scene was originally supposed to show her being eaten by the Azula dragon, but they decided that was going too far. He then wakes up and walks around before noticing that he's bald with airbender tattoos, and then wakes up for real.
  • Ren and Stimpy began to take its decidedly surreal and insane turn near the end of its run. E.g, an episode called "Hermit Ren", which was deeply bizarre right from the beginning with Ren and Stimpy living in a decaying carcass, but didn't get truly horrifying until Ren, frustrated by Stimpy's stupidity and bad habits, decides to become a hermit. The head hermit assigns him a cave, in which he is sealed for eternity. Once inside the cave the real disturbing nature of the cartoon is shown, with Ren's slow descent into complete insanity rendered in disturbing detail and depth. At one point Ren takes an ancient, decayed scarecrow of a previous hermit and attempts to talk to it, only to have it verbally mock him in return, changing its position with each jump cut back to it. At one point, he starts suffering severe delusions where the flesh on his hands melts off (in graphic detail), and he runs gibbering and screaming throughout the cave. When he looks back to his scarecrow dummy companion, he finds that suddenly it's sporting a horrifying, watery eyed version of Ren's face. And that's only scratching the surface of the traumatizing imagery of that episode.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog's final episode was full of these, the worst being a horrifying CGI monstrosity quietly telling Courage, "You're not perfect." You can find a low-quality clip of that one scene here, if you dare.
  • The King of the Hill episode "The Man Who Shot Cane Skretteburg", wherein Hank experiences a disturbing hallucination of himself and his friends being (paintball) gunned down by the episode's antagonists. The sequence plays like a bad acid trip — probably a little too effectively. (Deranged Animation runs rampant.)
    • The episode "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret Hill" has a scene where Peggy dreams about dooming a convent to Hell for posing as a nun to get a full-time teaching job.
  • In Rugrats:
    • Tommy gets a minor cut from a thorn bush and has a disturbing dream in which his arm is torn open and stuffing comes out (inspired by a damaged teddy bear that appears in the same episode).
    • Undoubtedly the scariest dream sequence in Rugrats is the dream Angelica has in the episode where she finds out that she might have a baby brother/sister. It begins with Angelica hearing a baby crying and finds her parents fawning over the new baby, saying how "precious" and "adorable" it is while not knowing who Angelica is. After the mom and dad leave, Angelica talks to the baby, and, much in the same matter as Tommy and the gang, Angelica's new baby brother can talk. However, he's more like Family Guy's Stewie minus the evil humor and with horrifyingly deep and raspy voice (that is in fact, a dead-on impersonation of Edward G. Robinson), and tells Angelica that this house isn't big enough for the both of them, and says that Angelica (the "old baby") should be gone permanently. Angelica tries to flee from him, but the baby keeps finding her, and growing every time there's an encounter between them. The dream enters its horrifying climax as Angelica's now Godzilla-sized baby brother catches Angelica in her getaway car, wondering "what a toy car would taste like". It all ends with Angelica screaming, "No! You can't eat me, I'm your sister!" with the baby replying, "WELL NOW YOU'RE NUM-NUMS!"
    • A Halloween episode of the later series had Chuckie having a nightmare in which he turns into a Lon Chaney Jr style wolfman.
    • Then there's the Monster Clown one that Chuckie had in one episode.
      "I'm not Tommy!"
    • In the same episode, Chaz has a very similar one at the end...
      "I'm not Stu! HUHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
  • A Goofy Movie has a bit at the beginning where Max has a nightmare in which he's in an idyllic scene with the girl of his dreams, and suddenly turns into a giant lumbering copy of his dad.
  • Toy Story 2 had a dream sequence where Woody is thrown in a garbage can, and when he tries to crawl out he is pulled back by a mass of discarded toy parts working together to form a giant Akira-style tentacle. They were originally going to use in the first movie as well. There's also an episode of the Toy Story Shorts that is based around this entire trope.
  • The Brave Little Toaster featured a nightmare sequence where the titular Toaster is menaced by a horrifying Monster Clown in a fireman outfit, then falls to his doom into a bathtub.
  • In the animated film Anastasia, Anya/Anastasia the title heroine has a nightmare during the boat scenes at stormy night while things start off with her family swimming around happily in the water beckoning her to join them, they then suddenly turn into the bat-like demon minions of undead sorcerer Rasputin. It's made even more horrible by the fact that Anya is a sleepwalker, so when she watches her family's swimming from a cliff she's actually standing at the railing of the deck, and the demons are trying to make her fall into a certain death.
    • The dream was caused by Rasputin in the first place, and so was the sleepwalking - he was trying to use his dark magic to make her commit suicide in her sleep. When Dimitri stops her from throwing herself into the water, that's when the spell is broken and the dream becomes a nightmare.
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven had a disturbingly vivid sequence that is mostly recalled for putting the fear of divine punishment and existential dread in its young audience. Our protagonist, Charlie is sucked into Hell, where he gets trapped on a ship slowly sinking into a lake of lava while being tormented by demon rats and a gigantic devil thing. Charlie screams for help covered in demons as the end of the ship he's on slowly descends into the lava... and then he wakes up. Catch it here, starting at 2:18. May or may not be an edited version, but the point is certainly gotten across.
  • The "Heffalumps and Woozles" nightmare scene from Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. "Beware, beware, beware!" indeed. See it here. The insane laughter of the honey pot is probably one of the worst bits.
    "...they tie themselves in horrible knots, they come in stripes and polkadots!"
  • The "Pink Elephants On Parade" segment of Dumbo, a rare instance of hallucinations.
  • Shrek the Third contains a sequence where Shrek is back home, safe and sound... until he's suddenly near-crushed by a literal flood of babies. Plus "Baby Donkey" and Baby Puss n' Boots". "DADA!" *shudder*
  • In the Catscratch episode "Evil", Waffle wakes up to find out his fur is falling out- Mr Blik tells him that it's because he's cursed and evil. Waffle actually believes it. he has two nightmares in one he turns into a lizard-like beast and then some bug monster- then he eats Gordon and Human Kimberly, in another one he zaps Hovis the butler with a beam from his eyes and laughs manically. He is heard doing Evil Laughter in his sleep but then he covers up his mouth.
  • The Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Rock A Bye Ed" is centered around this trope.
  • The German film Felidae features quite a few of these, the most notable of which has Gregor Mendel ranting about hybrid plant experiments while menacing the main character with thousands of cat corpse marionettes. This actually happens.
  • An episode of The Powerpuff Girls featured the Sandman as a villain who puts everyone in the entire world to sleep. The girls defeat him in this crazy and disturbing dream sequence...thingy featuring chickens, a praying mantis, and trippy oil projector backgrounds.
  • Nightmare Ned. The entire show is a string of nightmare sequences inflicted upon poor Ned every time he slept, and every episode ends with him feeling terrified and paranoid. Oh, and it's a Disney show. No lie.
    • Nightmare Ned also had a PC game made by Disney Interactive. The entire game is one big nightmare sequence, and to get the good ending you have to solve puzzles and reveal the shadowy monsters that plague Ned's dreams.
  • An episode of Doug had Doug suffering from reoccurring nightmares when he couldn't bring himself to see The Reveal of the monster's true form in the horror movie The Abnormal. He is finally cured when he is dragged to the films final showing by his dog Porkchop, who holds his eyes open so he can see that the monsters costume is depressingly lame (one can even see the zipper up the back.
  • In Twice Upon a Time (which is about a Dream Land), the fool heroes Ralph and Mum are briefly trapped in a waking nightmare in which they are attacked by sentient office supplies — making matters worse, the heroes are only inches tall...
  • An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes has Lucius suffering from these after Jimmy casually says You Owe Me. Even though Jimmy would probably never collect, he has nightmare about having to do degrading things for him.
  • The opening scene of the Galaxy Rangers episode "Psychocrypt." Made worse when you realize that it isn't a nightmare, but a form of Mind Rape the Queen is using on Zachary and his wife...
    • There was also one of these in "Scarecrow." Niko has a nasty nightmare after the Scarecrow attacks her. She dreams of waking up in her own grave, and the Scarecrow jumping in to strangle her with his bare hands.
  • The Russian short His Wife Is A Hen has the main character go through one. It's telling about the rest of the short that the only real indication that it is a dream is the fact that the character awakens from it.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
  • ''Play Safe! Play Safe!'': Scariest trains ever!
  • The Famous Studios Little Lulu and Little Audrey cartoons have a few of these. In "Musica-Lulu", Lulu is knocked unconscious and in her ensuing dream, she is tried by a Kangaroo Court of musical instruments who then chase her.
  • Kim Possible begins the Post Script Season with a reprise of Kim and Ron dancing at the prom in So The Drama... until Kim shrivels up and melts into synthodrone goo. Ron then wakes up screaming.
  • In the Alvin and the Chipmunks episode "No Chipmunk is an Island", Alvin, Simon, and Theodore move into separate bedrooms after a fight, only to have nightmares about what would happen if they were left unchecked by each other's presence:
    • Alvin dreams of living in a ridiculously opulent house with an enormous artificial wave pool. However, it uses so much electricity that a torch-and-pitchfork mob, led by Dave, Simon, and Theodore, chops a tree down onto his power lines, causing the wave pool to malfunction and send him spiralling down a whirlpool.
    • Simon dreams of being a multi-Nobel Prize-winning scientist and inventor who is assisted in his discoveries by robotic versions of Alvin and Theodore. However, they quickly break their programming and destroy Simon's experiments, then pursue him around his lab before throwing him into a glass tube that shrinks him to a height of six inches.
    • Theodore dreams of life in an idyllic country cottage, where he is free to cook elaborate recipes with enormous portions. However, he eats so much that he and his teddy bear inflate like balloons and float away, attracting unwelcome attention from the US Air Force.

    Real Life 
  • Known to be truth in television. Casual nightmares can be horrifying to the extreme, overshadowing the goriest of gratuitous horror films. Reports of dreams such as watching a person being skinned alive, or worse doing the skinning in hyper-realistic detail. What is truly baffling about these dreams is that they can and do occur to people who are well adjusted, and don't reflect reality to a great extent. In other cases, intense horrifying imagery is one indicator of repressed emotions, trauma, and emotional baggage. Even then, the nightmares may seem disproportionately frightening. And God help you if you have nightmares 5 times per week. That'd ruin the relief of rest.


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alternative title(s): Nightmare Dreams; Nightmare Dream Sequence
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