Real Dreams Are Weirder

"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. Sometimes, the use of "normal" dreams is a stylistic choice along the lines of Painting the Medium, meant to convey the way dreams feel normal when you're having them.

Often involves Word Salad Humor or, if it's a Nightmare Sequence, Word Salad Horror. May also overlap with Surreal Humor or Surreal Horror. Other characters may dismiss a particularly trippy dream as an Acid Reflux Nightmare. May be the cause of a Waking Non Sequitur. Some people may use this for Literalist Snarking when someone says I'm Your Worst Nightmare.

Contrast Opinion-Changing Dream and Dreaming The Truth, which almost never take this into account.


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  • An ad for Progressive auto insurance has Flo 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 Bo-bobo has the power to bring people's nightmares to life. Jelly Jiggler nightmare involved being tortured by tofu-people, and Bo-bobo'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.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! - After Joey gets knocked out by the counterfeit Ra card, he compares the following cryptic dream involving his friends to one about a monkey and a bowl of vanilla pudding.
    Mai: And dreams don't have to make sense, so just be glad you're not skiing in your underwear.

  • 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 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 "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! This is the only dream sequence that is not instantly recognisable as such, since it keeps a coherent narrative, however short and nonsensical.
    • In "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 crystal ball 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 umbrellas with him, but has no idea where they came from. Calculus is angered by his answer and tells him: "Nonsense! 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 flowers 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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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 diner)'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. Then, after Jade starts eating soup, a bell rings, and Jade runs off, saying she needs to bring Jackie's homework to Captain Black, with Shendu chasing after her for not paying, pounding Tarakudo into the ground. After that, the dream apparently ends, and everything vanishes into a white void... except Valmont, who's still on fire. Needless to say, this whole thing is one of the funniest parts of the story.
  • A Shadow Of The Titans: A couple of the dreams Jade views during her Dream Walker escapades count as this — Gadjo fights a robot kangaroo in a boxing match, while Jinx's is a cartoon wonderland where she rides a giant cat and uses a unicorn launcher to blow up a math test. And then Tarakudo invokes this trope to keep Jade from realizing she's stumbled onto him messing around with her subconscious — he conjures multicolored mushrooms and ducks in top hats, then turns himself into a basketball with a mustache.
  • In Justice Society of Japan, an OC named Hope has a dream where Barneby Brooks Jr. is an evil robot pirate, and the king of "Batman City" gives her the world's largest marshmallow as a reward for saving the day.
  • National Anthem : In Chapter 7, Link describes for the readers a highly lucid "sensitive" dream that he is having and proceeds to describe the difference between his important dreams and his regular, weird ones:
"Most of my dreams are the standard weird stuff without any clear meaning, rhyme or reason. I had one about having conversations with telepathic meat, once. Then there was the one I had not long ago in which I had to barbeque a case of tube socks or dinosaurs would eat me."

    Film — Live Action 
  • This was one of the main knocks critics had against Inception—that the dreams as presented in the movie did not resemble actual dreams at all. Of course, the dreams in the movie were artificial constructs. The fact that the dreams mostly seem to resemble a series of stock locations in film - a glamourous hotel, an icy fortress, a Parisian cafe - feeds into the interpretation that the movie is actually a metaphor for the film-making process.
  • From Loaded Weapon 1:
    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.
  • Peewees Big Adventure - Waitress Simone confides her wishes to break free:
    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...
  • The Golden Child. The Big Bad communicates with Eddie Murphy's character in a dream, lampshaded by him because of all the weird stuff happening such as the live Studio Audience, a unicorn trotting around inside the house, and the scantily-clad heroine being tied up with toilet paper.
  • Bananas: Fielding Melish (Woody Allen's Character) tells his psychiatrist this dream he has of being crucified and carried down a New York street. And then running into another New Yorker on a crucifix as the monks carrying them fight over a parking spot. (Link)
  • From Real Genius:
    Mitch: You know, um, something strange happened to me this morning...
    Chris Knight: Was it a dream where you see yourself standing in sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you?
    Mitch: No...
    Chris Knight: Why am I the only one who has that dream?
  • In Canadian Bacon, when John Candy's character is threatening a mountie played by Stephen Wright (long story), one of Candy's friends says "We're your worst nightmare." The mountie then proceeds to ramble his actual worst nightmare, a dream where he was lost in the Yukon being chased by wolves, and there were these tall skinny rabbits...
  • For the most part, this is something David Lynch gets right in his movies - they're frightening like a nightmare but don't make a lot of sense when you think about them. Often, a mundane object will be made threatening through camerawork, music, or buzzing ambient noise. For instance:
    • Eraserhead has giant, mutated sperm-looking things, a screaming animal fetus, a woman with enormous cheekbones who lives in the protagonist's radiator, artificial chickens that kick their legs and poop black oil when you try to eat them, and other stuff in a similiar vein.
    • Lost Highway can be accurately described as a filmed bad dream (mixed with a sex dream at certain points). It almost makes sense, but just as you think it's about to evolve and develop into something at least resembling a coherent plot, suddenly it just gets stranger. A common interpretation is that it's the confused dream of a musician who murdered his wife and what we're watching is his subconscious trying to make sense of it, portraying him as mostly innocent, his wife as a lying tramp and the man she cheated with a dangerous gangster. The Mystery Man may very well be his super-ego trying to show him what really happened.
    • The movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me involves some sort of demonic creamed corn. Additionally, the ceiling fan in the Palmer house is the scariest ceiling fan of all time, for no clear reason. To an extent, the supernatural elements are a metaphor for the tormented psyche of Laura Palmer, who can no longer repress the knowledge that she is being serially raped by her own father, although they still seem to be real within the plot, in both the movie and the show. The supernatural is, by definition, beyond rational understanding, so Lynch renders it as bizarre, frightening nonsense.
    • Mulholland Dr. has a small blue box that - from the way it's filmed - must be pure evil, but we never know why. As far as most viewers can tell, it's just a box.
    • In Inland Empire, Laura Dern's character's nightmare involves people in rabbit masks and prostitutes dancing to "The Locomotion".
      • The rabbit-masks got their own spin-off in the short film series Rabbits, which features non-sequitur dialogue (some of which is clearly responses to lines said significantly earlier or later in the series), a confusing laugh track, distant whalesong, and what looks like the Eye of Sauron out their window. The whole thing is made bizarrely terrifying by the gloomy soundtrack and the constant sound of heavy rain.
  • Spoofed in Living in Oblivion when the director decides to film a dream sequence with a dwarf in it, only to be on the receiving end of a rant by Peter Dinklage. "When was the last time you had a dream with a dwarf in it? I don't have dreams with dwarves in them!"

  • In A Brother's Price, Ren has a dream in which the roses in the garden have her sister Halley's face, and bleed when her other sister, Trini, cuts them. And then her mothers won't come to see the body. While she is actually worried about Halley (who has vanished), and Trini does like to work in the garden, the dream is nonsensical enough to be realistic.
  • In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, the whole plot was structured around emulating the the feel of a "real" (weird) dream. Internal consistency is deliberately broken at every turn, things just randomly happen, and spacetime just generally seems to be warped in ways consistent with an actual dream.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • Harry Potter
    • Referenced in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. 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.
    • It mainly showed up in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Throughout the book, Harry would often have dreams that were related to recent events, such as Mrs. Weasley weeping over Kreacher's dead body (Kreacher had been introduced and we learn that what scares Mrs. Weasley the most is the death of her loved ones) or Harry hanging Dobby-shaped Christmas baubles, yet they would always turn into Harry going down a mysterious hallway with a door at the end. You learn that Voldemort is trying to make Harry curious about what is behind the door. It partially works. Harry DOES become curious about what is behind the door, but he doesn't understand what any of it means, which Voldemort didn't expect.
  • In Aunt Dimity Goes West, Lori goes from the recurring nightmare of being shot and menaced by Abaddon (back home in Finch) to dreaming of blue-eyed cocker spaniels, who remind her of the Colorado cabin's young caretaker Toby.
  • 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.
  • In Chris van Allsburg's The Sweetest Fig, the protagonist gets a pair of magic figs that the giver says will make all his dreams come true. Unfortunately, that apparently includes dreams about him walking his dog in his underpants and the Eiffel Tower sagging over like a deflated balloon.
  • Gustave Flaubert's The Temptation Of Saint Anthony: although hallucinations, not dreams. Flaubert attempt to capture the strangeness of Christian guilt by emobodying it in various biblical characters.
  • Tanya Huff's Blood Debt features a number of increasingly intense dreams, including one where Vicki's apartment is being invaded by random people, first a few and finally the entire audience of a hockey game.
  • In Ender's Shadow, Bean has a dream where thousands of people are fighting, only for a giant shoe to stomp them all. Wearing the shoe is a laughing Bugger/Formic. The dream clearly seems to deliver An Aesop about "despite all the squabbles on Earth, we must remember that we face a greater enemy or we'll all die." However, Bean dismisses this, thinking dreams don't have morals, they're just random firings of our brain that we assume is a narrative. The only thing it can tell me is what I feel. He then decides the REAL moral of the dream is "Don't be one of the scurrying ants. Be the shoe."
  • Somewhat inverted in The Jennifer Morgue, as Bob can tell his dream is really weird as it follows a linear structure (seeing through the eyes of Ramona Random via 'destiny entanglement") instead of featuring camel-headed spider gods trying to get him to sign a Microsoft User Agreement.
  • In The Summer Is Ended And We Are Not Yet Saved, Martin dreams of a row of bushes... except one is a kitten. And a bush at the same time.

    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.
      • Hell, "Restless" was made of this. Willow's dream turns from writing on Tara's back to arriving to an avant-garde play without knowing her role to having to give a book report she's not prepared for. Xander's dream involves running into the dead Principal Snyder while in Vietnam. Giles's dream goes from a carnival where Spike's hired himself out as a tourist attraction to singing at open mic night at a coffee house. And Buffy's dream involves learning Riley's sinister plan to take over the world - "coffee makers that think."
    • Apparently Spike once dreamed he was drowning in footwear, or so he said upon waking up.
    • The episode "Bad Eggs" was inspired by a dream writer Marti Noxon had, of a class being given eggs which turned out to be demon eggs.
  • Angel. In "Soul Purpose" Angel has a number of Anxiety Dreams reflecting his current fears, but is rather puzzled by the presence in one dream of a man in a bear suit.
  • 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?
  • LOST generally did a good job of keeping the dreams realistically weird - while no less plot-relevant. Usually things start pretty normal, but then the dreamers suddenly find themselves in unexpected locations, other people pop in and out spontaneously and then the really freaky stuff begins: butcher choping off doll heads, baby crib full of blood, people covered in blood and repeating Creepy Monotone Madness Mantra - examples can go on.
    • In a a rare verbal and non-visual example Charlie is describing 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 Queen Elizabeth 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 one where there was this enormous tree and she was sitting right on top of it.
  • 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.
  • Seinfeld: I had a dream that a hamburger was eating me.
  • As mentioned under Film, Twin Peaks' dream sequences juxtaposed the horrifying with the utterly mundane to create an uncanny atmosphere. The first such dream sequence involves a waiting room, a little person (before that became a cliche), coffee freezing instantly, out of nowhere comments about chewing gum coming back in style, and an apparently-demonic figure named Bob (or BOB), an old man wearing a lot of denim.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Phantasms", Data's new dreaming program gives him his first nightmares, including workmen breaking apart the ship, himself being unable to speak without making a high-pitched squealing noise, mouths appearing on strange parts of peoples' bodies, an old-fashioned telephone inside his own chest cavity and Troi turning into a "cellular peptide cake with mint frosting" which he cuts up, causing her to scream. The crew eventually hook Data up to the holodeck to experience these dreams in person. It turns out that his dream program is trying to warn him that interphasic organisms (the workmen) have infected both the ship and the crew and are feeding on their cellular peptides and he can destroy them by emmiting an interphasic pulse (the squeal he makes). A highly surreal and disturbing episode.
  • The Sopranos shows some characters' (fairly bizarre) dreams and analyses the symbolism and imagery. For example, after Dr Melfi gets raped, she has a dream of her hand getting stuck in a vending machine (comparing it to a story she heard about a man who got crushed when he tried to steal a free drink from a vending machine, and thinking that her subconscious is telling her it's her own fault for being careless,) then the rapist starts to lift up her skirt, but a rottweiler charges in and kills him (she says that the rottweiler's large head, massive shoulders and history of being used as a Roman dog of war is a manifestation of the Italian Mafia boss Tony Soprano, and that all she had to do was tell him what happened, and the Off on a Technicality rapist would die horribly).
  • On The Drew Carey Show, Drew told his not-quite girlfriend about a dream he had involving her:
    "You were on fire and I was squirting you with a giant hose. Then you turned into my mother and my pants fell off."


    Mythology and Religion 
  • Although the ones related in The Bible always turn out to have some sort of meaning relevant to the story being told, 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. When Joseph or Daniel are able to interpret these dreams, it genuinely is a big deal, because they're not at all obvious.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • This Garfield strip.
    Jon: (dressed like a cowboy) Here are your breakfast lawn gnomes, Garfield! And here's your breakfast guitar!

  • Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe has an entire song exemplifying this trope, and it's so much more entertaining than any sort of narrative or symbolic dream could ever be. Highlights include an eleven-year-old lawyer, a steamer suddenly becoming a carriage, biking en masse across Salisbury Plain wearing socks with clocksnote , and a plan to get cheap goods by planting tradesmen in the ground.

    Video Games 
  • One of Max's election speeches in Sam & 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.
  • Anders of Dragon Age II tells the player at one point that he dreamed of Grand Cleric Elthina naked except for her miter..."and then there was this giant glowing cheese wheel." Considering that she's an elderly priest whom he hates, this is probably not an Erotic Dream. Probably. May also be a reference to the Cheese Man from the dream-sequence episode of Buffy, mentioned above.
  • In Fable II, if you walk around town at night you can sometimes hear people talking in their sleep, mumbling about the dream they're having. These include "The dragons...they stole my marbles..." and "The badgers are eating the cheese!"
  • The third story in Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star takes place in a dream the heroine is sharing with Nageki. They take a train across the stars, hop off to explore one called the Holiday Star, meet an oddly animated forwards King who's very timid and has RPG quests and sometimes just appears... They find their other friends in various odd roles in the dream, like Okosan as the Divine Messenger of Pudding (of course) and Shuu as a chef who wishes to cut up and cook people. Then it turns out that this is a shared dream that does not have origins with any of the dreamers - it's an element of the afterlife, and the King will not let them leave now that they have visited.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, you can get weird messages when resting about the kinds of dreams you have. Some are stock dreams ("You dream that you're standing in front of the Council of Loathing dressed only in your underwear.") and some are pop culture references (you might encounter Freddy Krueger, and possibly Jason Voorhees). But the messages you get if you have an Unconscious Collective familiar in your terrarium definitely qualify for this trope.
    • One of the messages randomly generated by a disco horoscope is "Your dreams will come true this week! Specifically, the dream in which twinkling lights surround you like fireflies while you're disemboweled by a rabid shark."
  • In Saints Row IV, Pierce is trapped in a VR simulation where he's in his penthouse in Steelport, being viciously attacked by mascots in Saints' Flow costumes, including a giant one named Paul. When the Boss asks if this means Pierce has grown to hate the stuff, Pierce replies that it's more like a nightmare where something you love is trying to kill you and you can't stop it.
  • A number of extremely strange things can happen in a Mii's dream in Tomodachi Life, such as Miis randomly worshiping over-sized inanimate objects, the Mii being spied on by one of their neighbors (who is inexplicably dressed as a ninja), or the Mii's face flying off after being told a little known fact.
    • Even the ones you don't see, only hear them mumble, are equally if not more strange;
    "Does anyone need a weasel? I have a spare."
  • Referenced in a potential conversation in Poker Night 2:
    Claptrap: I had the weirdest dream last night!
    Brock Samson: Did it involve Charles Manson, Rita Moreno, and a duck?
    Claptrap: No, but...
    Brock: Then it wasn't the weirdest dream.
    • Brock will also mention that he's had a dream about kicking the sun in the crotch.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In the Strong Bad Email "weird dream" Strong Bad claims he once dreamed of "the United States in tight-white brand underdrawers" after eating nothing but pudding pops all day.
    • In "Donut Unto Others", Homestar was somehow inspired to open a doughnut stand after a dream in which he was "a French long-jump champion with eight wooden legs". That's his description, anyway - what's actually shown is Homestar with one leg (not wooden), in a Mexican flag costume, standing next to a high-jump pit.
  • Both DSBT InsaniT and Dreamscape have this as the real life inspirations for their content, the second utilizing it FAR more than the first, hence its name.


    Web Original 
  • 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 Nostalgia Chick's Fifty Shades of Green series of vlogs, she and Nella discuss how the Twilight books completely avert this trope, with Bella's completely literal dream sequences of Jacob turning into a wolf ("WHAT COULD IT MEAN?!") or Edward sprouting fangs ("WHAT COULD IT MEAN!?").
  • Mervin lampoons the Twilight for this in her own sporking of the series.
    Bella has just basically dreamed of a glowing, sparkling Edward. She doesn’t know he’s a sparklepire, so why is she dreaming about it? Not to mention that that is one specific dream she’s having. Man, last dream that I had that I can remember that could be construed as symbolic in any capacity was the one I had the night my period came to visit. I dreamed I was having a baby. And it was Kurt Russell’s. So, my body was craving babies, and since I find Kurt Russell hot (and because I’d caught the last twenty or so minutes of Overboard that day), it wanted me to go out and have Kurt Russell’s babies. So I dreamed it. But where are the weird parts that usually go with the dream? You know—like the fact that I was having the baby out in the middle of a hospital lobby? Dreams are usually very surreal and weird and just… Not Right. Not so with Bella, apparently.

    Of course, the majority of dreams aren’t even LIKE that. They are more like what I dreamed once while in college—I opened the door to Hyde’s and my dorm to discover the entire floor was covered in perfectly aligned, neatly stacked individually-wrapped blueberry muffins from Otis Spunkmeyer. And Hyde was at her desk, sitting like nothing was wrong, and had no feet—her ankle stumps were just sitting on the floor, surrounded by muffins. Sure, that’s disturbing. But the muffins, man…THE MUFFINS. DOZENS OF MUFFINS, JUST SITTING THERE. For some reason, that freaked me out in the dream, so I was spazzing seriously when I woke up.
    • Likewise, in their Fifty Shades of Grey sporking, Ket and Gehayi are extremely exasperated by Ana's apparently magical ability to fall asleep and dream her own wedding in perfect detail, complete with convenient scene changes.

    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!"
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack makes note of this:
    Skymaid: "Keep wishing, and all your dreams will come true!"
    Flapjack: "Even the scary ones?"
    Skymaid: "Ahahahahahahahahahahaha!... (Nightmare Face) 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):
    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 "Only a 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 another episode, Supergirl had a dream where she went out, chased, and murdered a guy. She went to Martian Manhunter, who wasn't sure what to make of it, since it was far more linear and logical than normal dreams. It wasn't a dream, it was a shared memory between Supergirl and her clone.
  • 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.
  • Adventure Time episode "Worm King" manages to be surprisingly realistic in its portrayal of dreams. Finn and Jake randomly change location without question or comment (mostly) while hugely strange things initially only make them suspicious as though they can't put their finger on what's wrong. Waking up into another dream makes them think they've woken up for real until they look in a mirror, a common way for people to notice they're dreaming in real life and become lucid because the brain doesn't know what it looks like in a mirror and presents a deformed image. Finn summons things by stating that they will occur. The random nature of the surrealistic events that occur and how they flow into one-another is very close to dreams in real life. And it is very, very weird.
    • In the season 4 finale "The Lich", after Finn awakens from a Catapult Nightmare about The Lich, Jake tries to reassure him by telling him "I dreamed I was in kindergarten again... but I had really big feet, and I was also the teacher."
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has Sokka's "Food eats people! Also, Momo could talk. [to Momo] You said some very unkind things."
    • Not to mention Aang's nightmares when he's got a severe case of sleep deprivation.
  • Ugly Americans had a twist on the phrase "a dream come true", with Callie bringing Mark's dreams into reality... including such sights as Doug (the Koala-man) riding a saddle on Frank's back, and Callie looking like his naked mother.
  • There's an episode of The Fairly OddParents where Timmy, out of guilt at framing his babysitter for a crime, begins wishing in his sleep. Of course, all the wishes he makes while he's asleep are completely bizarre, as they come from his bizarre dreams.
  • Ned's Newt: In the episode "Broken Record", Newton the newt has an inspiring dream about Ned beating a record... except the dream also includes nonsensical elements, such as cheering people turning into beavers and then, into pudding.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius features this in the episode "I Dream of Jimmy", where Jimmy tries to help his friend Carl overcome a recurring nightmare about a shadowy monster chasing him. When Jimmy goes into Carl's dream, he finds Carl dreaming about being the smartest kid in school instead of Jimmy, but said dream is full of weird details like Libby rowing a canoe into the classroom with a plastic leg ("My paddle broke!"), and the principal being a giant version of Sheen wearing an Ultra-Lord mask. Also, the monster in question is a giant anthropomorphic lima bean. Lampshaded earlier in the episode when Carl tells Jimmy "My dreams aren't as logical as yours, Jimmy... I once dreamed I married a turkey." Carl's turkey-wife even makes an appearance later in the episode.
  • Metalocalypse seems to play this both ways, since the dreams are batshit insane, but frequently link in some way to whatever issue the dreaming band member is having. For example, when Toki is taking guitar lessons early in season two, Skwisgaar has one of the strangest nightmares most tropers are likely to have seen on any program, with only some of the images actually tying into Skwisgaar's lack of self-confidence over his own guitar skills relative to Toki's possible improvement. (for the record, Toki's skills don't improve. He's a terrible student.)
  • On an episode of The Looney Tunes Show, Yosemite Sam starts talking about a dream he had. In it, he was in his old house, except all the rooms were mirrored, and the neighbor's dog was present except Sam's family was acting like it was their dog, a small bit of the type of senseless occurences that often happen in dreams.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball, "The Dream": Gumball dreams of his father being a centaur and the president, his guidance counselor finishing a phone call by detaching his own head and putting it on the hook with the phone, finding a pineapple in his locker, and then suddenly dancing in outer space.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Bloom and Gloom", Apple Bloom has a series of nightmares about getting stuck with an undesirable cutie mark that get progressively stranger throughout the episode, like a crowing rooster being replaced by Pinkie Pie in her chicken costume from "Luna Eclipsed" or Applejack and Big Macintosh briefly speaking in each other's voices.