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- In one of the Haruhi Suzumiya books, after genuinely falling asleep, Kyon ends up in an alternate reality with Haruhi, who wakes him up as she subconsciously starts remaking the universe. Eventually, he gets her to stop, probably, before winding up back in his own bed, which he falls out of and tries to pretend it was a dream. The next day at school he sees her with a ponytail, which he had during the sequence mentioned being partial to. Confirming that yeah, it really happened. Of course, he's still going to pretend it didn't.
- Taiga in Toradora! falls down a snowbank and when Ryuuji finds her, she makes some interesting confessions while he carries her back up the slope. Afterward, Taiga thinks it was just a dream, and Ryuuji tries to encourage that notion to save Taiga her embarrassment. Of course, the plan falls apart when Minorin objects to the lie.
- Sailor Moon thinks she dreams her friends' deaths. It is unfortunately (and not amusingly) real, but they get better anyway.
- A more lighthearted example comes after the first time Usagi fights crime as Sailor Moon. She wakes up the next day, notices a newspaper article about how Sailor Moon stopped a robbery, and pouts that it looks like the whole thing wasn't a dream after all.
- In one episode of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Panty and Stocking become Transformers expies. In the middle of the episode, Brief wakes up from sleeping, wondering if that was just a dream. Then it zooms out to show he is surrounded by robots.
- Played for Drama in Bitter Virgin, as it is exactly this trope that allows Daisuke to confess his love to the female lead Hinako. Something he had been hesitant about due to the fact Hinako Does Not Like Men because of past trauma and she had been slowly healing that wound.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, the Dark Magician Girl gives Sho a kiss right before returning to the spirit world. Sho thinks he imagined that, only for Judai to inform him that it actually happened.
- Madoka wakes up in the second episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica thinking that her encounter with Mami, Homura, and the witch was just a weird dream. Then she spots Kyubey sitting among her stuffed animals. The dream in the very beginning of the series is also this, but the full explanation doesn't occur until much later.
- In Hetalia Bloodbath 2010, after the Nations go insane trying to beat the clock to save an alternate dimension from exploding and ending up collapsed and exhausted after just making it in the nick of time, several of them wonder if the whole thing was just a dream. They actually wish it was a dream, but the fact that the alternate-dimension Nations left a farewell letter proves otherwise.
- In Dragon Ball Z, after Kid Buu destroys the Earth and the survivors retreat to the Supreme Kai's planet, Mr. Satan/Hercule becomes convinced he's in a dream. He learns he isn't dreaming when he tries to fly and painfully crashes.
- Played very tragically in a scene of the One Piece anime about Brook: after his whole crew is killed and Brook himself comes back as a skeleton. While spending an extremely long time stuck on their ship alone, he sees the whole crew alive and his body returned to normal and they say he was just having a bad dream. Brook smacks his face into the ground and says he can't be dreaming because it hurt. He looks up... and they're gone.
- In Date A Live, Shido at first thinks that his crazy experience in approaching the incredibly powerful and unstable Tohka to ask her on a date while under a hail of gunfire was a dream. Then he finds the chalkboard where she wrote her name and then she shows up for their date.
- An Archie Comics story has Betty take a nap in a pickup truck after a day of chores. When she wakes up, she finds herself at the mall, still in her ragged work clothes. She feels embarrassed at her friends seeing her in this condition, but then she decides that she's probably dreaming. She proceeds to make herself look even more unsightly, and become a nuisance until security kicks her out. Betty then finds herself walking home in Real Time,note and notices the truck absent from her family's driveway upon her return. She decides to pinch herself to see if she's really dreaming, but finds out otherwise.
- A story in a DC Comics mystery/suspense anthology had an accountant find a set of strange disks which he thought gave him especially vivid daydreams where he would be transported to other worlds to commit acts of heroism and derring-do. The final disk sent him to his hometown where he foiled a bank robbery and captured the robbers. When he actually returned home after this 'daydream', he found himself hailed as hero. Learning that he had actually foiled a bank robbery, he realized that this and, by extension, all of his other adventures had really happened. He fainted.
- DuckTales: At the opening of one of the Scrooge's Quest comics, Scrooge wakes up from a nightmare of Webby being captured by Magica and begging him to save her. Upon waking up, he assumes that this means Webby isn't missing and furthermore, Magica didn't steal his Number One Dime, causing him to wake the triplets up to celebrate. Unfortunately, they have to tell him that while he was having a nightmare, Webby and the dime are still missing.
- A Crown of Stars: It happens several times throughout the story:
- In chapter 6 Asuka asks Shinji if this is a dream. Shinji replies that it is not.
- In chapter 24 Shinji wakes up, sees a smiling Asuka sleeping in his arms and deduces he must be dreaming. When she opens her eyes he greets her warmly, tells he is going to make her breakfast in bed and maybe he will wash her back when she is showering, kisses her and leaves with a wink. Shortly after he realizes it was NOT a dream. And he freaks out.
- In chapter 37 Shinji and Asuka are showering together and Shinji asks: “I’m not dreaming, am I?”
- In chapter 44 Asuka wakes up and wonders why she has dreamed of an all-night sex-marathon with Shinji… and then she realizes that was not a dream.
- Advice and Trust: After their First Kiss and sleeping together for first time Shinji and Asuka wake up the next morning, and each one thinks: "Oh, gods, that wasn't a dream?"
- The Child of Love: The morning after the festival Asuka opens her eyes, sees Shinji lying in on front of her in her bed and thinks it is a wet dream. She hugs him tightly… and he complains he can not breathe. Then she realizes it is NOT a dream.
- Evangelion 303: In chapter 14 Shinji wakes up in a hotel room and asks Asuka whether she really said yes when he proposed to her or it was all a dream. In answer she asks "What do you think?" and she kisses him.
- Last Child of Krypton: In chapter 2 Asuka’s plane is crashing down and she believes she is going to die. Then she sees a blue-and-red-costumed person landing on the back of the plane, and pulling it upright. For a second she thinks she is having a nightmare right before the plane lurches again, confirming it is real.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide:
- In chapter 7, Rei has a very life-like nightmare about Gendo inserting the embryonic Adam into her body. Upon waking up, she is in doubt whether or not it was a dream. The fact that Gendo is described as having a heavily bandaged right hand later in the chapter confirms that it actually happened.
- In chapter 10, Shinji thinks he’s dreaming that Asuka has come into his room in the middle of the night. When she touches his shoulder and he notices that she looks awkward and smells of sweat, he realizes that it’s real.
He thought he was dreaming. He had to be for Asuka to have come in his room in the middle of the night. He'd had dreams like this before. The next she would do was was put a hand down the front of his pants and start to… followed by her mouth…
But when he did feel her hand it was on his shoulder. "Hey, Shinji, are you awake?"
There was a part of him that wanted to ignore her, hoping she would do what she always did in his dream, but as he rolled the words in his head he picked up on something that was never in the dream before.
“Y-yes,” he replied as he rolled over to Asuka, who indeed sat on the edge of his bed. He could barely see her in the darkness, but the tone of her voice was awkward. Also not like in his dream, her hair was tousled and he thought he could smell sweat.
And then, like a bucket of cold water, it hit him—he was an idiot and this was no dream.
- The One I Love Is: In chapter 9 Arael's Mind Rape leaves Asuka in a catatonic state. When Asuka wakes up she looks around confusedly and realizes it was not a dream.
Asuka:"It wasn't a dream."
- The Second Try: In chapter 10 Shinji and Asuka wake up to find they are fourteen and living in Misato's apartment again. Feeling utterly frightened and distraught, Asuka pleads Shinji telling her that it (surviving after Third Impact, falling in love, getting married and having and raising a child) was not just a dream. Shinji promptly reassures her that he also remembers.
- In The Sweetie Chronicles: Fragments, before she realizes that she's in an Alternate Universe, Sweetie Belle continually assumes each time she wakes up that the events of the prologue were All Just a Dream.
- In the lemon fic Dreamscape, when Pyrrha...approaches...Jaune in the middle of the night, he assumes that he's having an Erotic Dream. As he realizes some hours later- when he wakes up next to a very satisfied Pyrrha- it was not.
- In Hail To The King, the unnamed human protagonist trapped in King Sombra's body thinks this crazy land of talking ponies he's in is just a crazy dream or hallucination. He learns he isn't dreaming when he decides to "wake up" by stabbing himself in the leg.
- In the Inside Out fic Intercom, Riley thinks she's just dreaming when she hears five little voices from inside her head. Then the voices are still there the next morning...
- Played for Drama in the Undertale (Fan Novelization), Frisk has a daydream type vision of killing Toriel upon finding the Toy Knife. Frisk is able to end the actual encounter non-violently, partly due to remembering that vision. However, after doing so and leaving the Ruins, Frisk encounters Flowey who reveals that what Frisk experienced was no dream. Frisk actually did kill Toriel, but then used the ability to Save and Load to re-do it. Frisk is horrified at that idea, and confused at apparently possessing the power to re-do events.
Films — Animated
- Something like this happens in The Aristocats, in the beginning when Edgar kidnaps the cats while they're sleeping and leaves them in the countryside. One of the kittens wakes up and says:
"I was having a funny dream. Edgar was in it... (frog croaks) Frogs? (realizes they're outside) Uh-oh. It wasn't a dream."
- In Epic:
Mary Katherine: Dad? I had the most messed up dream! There were talking slugs and tiny little soldiers and-(sees just what she described)Grub: Hello.Mary Katherine: Aw, man!
- In Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf, the heroes get knocked out by sleep powder and taken to Dracula's castle. When they wake up in this castle full of bizarre monsters, they repeatedly try to wake themselves up, until Dracula gets fed up and says, "Never mind, this is not a dream!"
Films — Live-Action
- 1408: Mike Enslin awakens in a hospital after the experience of near-drowning in the room segues into a surfing accident that occurred at the very beginning of the film. But it was not a dream brought about by being bopped on the head by a surfboard: the week or so he lives "outside" is all part of the room's scheme, and it is revealed to him he had never left.
- Back to the Future: "I dreamed that I went back in time." Repeated in the sequels.
- 17 Again: In one of several blatant references to Back to the Future, the main character wakes up in a bed in a dark room, saying "I dreamed I was 17..." while being comforted by his daughter who doesn't know she's his daughter.
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: "I dreamt that a madman had taken over the Enterprise!"
- In Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, after C-3PO wakes up in the Geonosis arena after having his head attached to a battle droid's body (and vice versa), he looks to R2-D2 and says 'I've had the most peculiar dream...'
- Trading Places:
Winthorpe: "Coleman, I had the most absurd nightmare. I was poor and no one liked me. I lost my job, I lost my house. Penelope hated me. And it was all because of this terrible, awful Negro." (Upon noticing Billy Ray, Winthorpe leaps out of bed, and starts strangling him)
- Jacob Marley gives the proclamation to Scrooge in Scrooge (1970).
- In Dragon Ball Evolution, Master Roshi claimed he had a dream that he was in the afterlife but then Grandpa Gohan kicked him out. This was because early on, Goku killed Roshi and made it up to him by bringing him to life with the Dragon Balls.
- Weird Science has Gary and Wyatt awake the morning after creating Lisa, convinced that it was all a dream. They engage in some Lampshade Hanging about how unlikely it is for them to have had the exact same dream, and then Lisa calls them for breakfast.
- The Golden Child has Chandler dream of taunting the Big Bad exactly like you'd expect Eddie Murphy to do, who burns a three-inch scar into the inside of his arm for his chutzpah. When he wakes up, the scar's still there. But the part where Kee Nang stripped and flirted with him, "That part was dream!"
- A Nightmare Fuel version in Rosemary's Baby. Rosemary thinks she is dreaming at the ceremony where she becomes pregnant, but for an instant realizes she is not. Much later, after she sees her child, she remembers that moment and knows it was all real.
- Oberon of Alterien wakes from what he believes to be a dream. With Sharon's help, he comes to realize it was not a dream. Despite established that he was awake, certain aspects of what Oberon witnessed leaves him wondering if he was under the influence of powerful drugs.
- Possibly an instance of this trope: In The Last Unicorn, almost at the end of the film, Prince Lir is resurrected by the unicorn and says groggily, "Father? Father, I had this dream... I was dead." In the movie this is changed to "No, I was dead", indicating that he didn't dream he was dead, he simply had some other dream but actually was dead.
- Or he started to go with the "So, it was all a dream!" idea, but realized quickly that it wasn't and corrected himself.
- In Robert E. Howard's The Shadow Kingdom Kull, in the final scene, keeps sliding to Or Was It a Dream? and has to remind himself when he sees Brule.
No, that was no dream, that monstrous interlude.
- This was probably inevitable in The House of Sleep, since one character is incapable of distinguishing her dreams from memories. The circumstances were less inevitable — she admits to her roommate that she "dreamt" about having sex with her.
- The Lord of the Rings does this after the climax. Sam wakes up in Ithilien, thinking he's dreamt about the nightmarish journey to Mount Doom. Then he looks over at Frodo...and sees that Frodo's finger is missing.
Live Action TV
- Frasier episode Frasier Crane's Day Off. Daphne inverts, subverts and lampshades the Trope after Frasier raced to the studio in a fever and drug induced mania and made an utter fool of himself on the air (Roz: "Captain Kirk's got control of the bridge and he's gone insane.") When Frasier wakes up, Daphne reassures him it didn't happen and it was all a dream.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000: Pod People: "Oh man, I dreamed I was a bad actress in a crappy horror movie... Oh."
- The Final Sacrifice
"Wow, I dreamt I was stuck with this chunky backwoods loser named Rowsdower... AHHHHH!"
- The Final Sacrifice
- 3rd Rock from the Sun:
(Dick wakes up)
Dick: Oh, Mary, thank god! I had this horrible dream. Your father was there... and he was telling all these boring war stories and I - I couldn't keep my eyes open!
(Dick looks across the room and sees Mary's father sitting on the couch)
- There's an interesting inversion in the Thunderbirds Clip Show episode "Security Hazard". A boy stows away aboard Thunderbird 2 and ends up on Tracy Island, and the Tracy brothers "accidentally" tell him about their missions. Eventually he gets tired out, so while he's asleep they take him back in Thunderbird 2 and smuggle him back into bed, so that when he wakes up he'll think it was All Just a Dream.
- A variation and borderline subversion appears in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "The Last Sontaran, part 2". Chrissie, having been knocked out after finding out about Maria's adventures with Sarah Jane wakes up back at Bannerman Road. This has been arranged by Maria and Alan who tell her she blacked out after breaking her new shoe and falling over, and comments on having "The strangest dream". She later reveals to Sarah Jane she knows it wasn't a dream and is going with the bluff to keep Alan and Maria happy.
- Pushing Daisies, after Chuck comes back from the dead.
Chuck: I had the strangest dream. I was being strangled to death with a plastic sack...
- In the "Cycling Tour" episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, Mr. Pither was thrown in a Russian prison to be executed, and wakes up from a dream. His mother tells him that this is the dream, and that he's back in the cell.
- In one episode of the Britcom Colin's Sandwich, wanna-be comedy writer Colin is Best Man at a wedding. His speech falls completely flat and he ends up yelling abuse at the wedding guests as the scene melts into him waking up in an armchair in his lounge. He says "Phew, it was all a dream". His wife simply answers "No it wasn't".
- Played for Drama in Rome. After Niobe commits suicide and Vorenus curses his own children, he staggers out into the narrow crowded streets which appear to have become a nightmare, with fleeing men and crippled beggars shouting that Caesar is dead. Vorenus grabs a priest and begs to be woken up. The priest agrees to do so then headbutts Vorenus unconscious and robs him.
- All of the human characters at the end of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, notably Nick Bottom (who has spent the night making love to the fairy queen Titania): "I have had a most rare vision, a dream to pass the wit of man to say what dream it was..." Unusually for this trope, none of the characters is ever disabused of the notion.
- In fact, at the end Puck breaks the Fourth Wall to encourage the audience to consider the events of the play just a dream.
- There's a brief part where Hippolyta and Theseus debate whether or not the four lovers were just dreaming or not. Theseus believes they were, on the grounds that their story was too fantastical to be real. Hippolyta agrees that it sounds unrealistic, but points out that it's equally odd that four people just happened to have exactly the same dream.
- Gabriel Belmont of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has a nightmare about inexplicably shanking his new female companion Claudia in the night, something which she is oddly okay with. He snaps awake, and is advised by the mysterious Pan to take the Dark Gauntlet from Claudia's guardian golem. Gabriel refuses to harm either of his companions, citing the dream he just had. Pan points to the nearby Claudia, sporting a silver dagger from her heart, and the looming guardian near her. Oops.
- At the end of the Mass Effect 3 "Citadel" DLC, you can find a hungover Javik talking about this horrible dream he had of being in stasis for 50,000 years and finding primitives ruled the galaxy.
- The Stanley Parable (specifically, the HD Remix) uses a variation on this trope during the Crazy/Mariella ending. Stanley deduces that the reason he seems to be walking in circles, the reason doors are closing behind him, and the reason he can hear a voice in his head narrating the entire sequence is because he's actually dreaming. After having a little fun with it, he closes his eyes and calmly urges himself to wake up. He opens his eyes... and finds that he's still in the same spot.
- Mogeko Castle: Yonaka asks if her time at the castle was a dream when she wakes up on her normal bus home. However, she realises that it most certainly wasn't when she sees Nega-Mogeko's blood on her hands.
- In Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, when Gabriel awakes after the night at the swamps, he tells Grace about his dream only for her to remind him that it was all real.
- In Steins;Gate, the first time Okabe time leaps, he convinces himself that everything that happened after the point in time he leapt to was a dream, only to watch in horror as everything unfolds in exactly the same way.
- Parodied in this Penny Arcade strip.
- Used in this strip of Men in Hats.
- Early on in Urgent Transformation Crisis.
- Dangerously Chloe in the second chapter had Teddy waking up with headache, discovering a half-disrobed succubus in his bed and quietly freaking out. The confusion as to whether he was shocked to find there a cute young lady or a cute young lady with horns and tail was cleared on the next page. In his case, headache and failure to remember how they got into the bed happened because absolutely adored Chloe may be a very strong flier... but not very cautious at landing. She apparently chose to also take his bewildered bleating as a compliment:
Teddy: You... you're not real... you were a dream!
- Shortpacked! - It happens to Robin here.
- Narbonic Dave wakes up exclaiming in relief that he wasn't really killed, zombified, decapitated, and left on a bus! And he doesn't work for a mad scientist, but has a boring IT job!
Helen: (picks up a mallet) "Let's put you back under..."
- When Haru from Cross Heart is is reunited with her long distance girlfriend she mistakes it for a reoccuring dream she's had for a while now. Thankfully for her it's not a dream.
- In the The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode "Rock-a-Bye Pooh Bear", Piglet keeps on having a recurring nightmare of he and his friends going out on a picnic, then a storm sweeping all of them away and leaving him all alone. He refuses to sleep because of this, and his friends decide that the only way to placate his fear is to reenact the dream in real life to show him that they're not going to disappear. However, the exact same thing happens in real life, only Piglet doesn't realize that it isn't a dream, so when he finds out that he can actually find all his friends again, he does so to change the dream, and has to be told by them at the end that it wasn't a dream this time.
- Played straight in an episode of The Simpsons. Lisa, competing with the new girl who's as smart (if not smarter) than she is as well as being younger than her, tries so hard to win first chair saxophone she passes out from lack of air. She wakes up to see the band teacher leaning over her.
- Done three times in South Park's Imaginationland episodes — once with Kyle, and twice with Butters. The first one with Butters was an exceptionally ludicrous Second Episode Morning; he wakes up in bed at home and tells his parents what happened, only for his father to respond, "You are in Imaginationland. This is a dream." The Mayor of Imaginationland suddenly runs in, screaming, "Wake up, stupid!" Cue reality, in which imagination is running wild...
- An episode of The Venture Bros. had the Monarch's henchmen wake up after getting completely shitfaced the last night to celebrate Monarch's impending wedding. Then they see Brock Samson in a cage and 24 exclaims "Oh @#$%, I thought I dreamed that part!"
- In the My Gym Partner's a Monkey episode "The Hyena and the Mighty", Adam had a dream that he came to school in his underpants. Jake informed him that it wasn't a dream.
- In the first episode after Kim Possible was Uncanceled, a very confused Ron calls Kim to confirm that their Relationship Upgrade was not a dream, and continues to ask about various other things (all of which, other than the Relationship Upgrade, actually were dreams.)
- At the end of The Powerpuff Girls episode "Cat Man Do", Professor Utonium has this reaction after the Girls snap him out of his trance. They don't disillusion him.
- In the middle of Phineas And Ferb Christmas Vacation, Phineas tries to invoke All Just a Dream unsuccessfully. When he gets the news about Danville's naughty status, Phineas goes back to bed and tries to pretend that he dreamed the whole thing. It doesn't work.
- At the end of the Cow and Chicken episode "Confused", after the title duo become too tough after going to military school, and then too soft after going to sensitivity school, Mom and Dad wake up, believing that the whole mess was All Just a Dream and their kids are back to normal... Except they aren't, because Cow and Chicken, stuck in sensitivity mode, are seen shaving in the bathroom.
- Done in the first season finale of Gravity Falls. Dipper tries to convince himself that Li'l Gideon taking over the Mystery Shack was all just a dream, but nope, they really did have to move in with Soos's grandmother.
- Looney Tunes
- At the climax of "Scrap Happy Daffy", Daffy turns into a "Super American" and starts whaling on a German submarine. He awakens to find himself trying to beat up a piece of pipe, and assumes the whole thing was a dream. Then he hears the Germans from atop a pile of scrap saying "Next time you dream, include us out!"
- In "The Aristo-Cat", Hubie and Bertie play a series of pranks on a millionaire's spoiled cat who doesn't know how to take care of himself after he drives his mistress's butler to quit. After getting chased around by an angry dog, the cat ends up in his bed, where he's convinced the whole thing was a dream. Then it turns out the dog and the mice are in bed with him too.
- At the end of "Water, Water Every Hare", Bugs ends up back in his water-logged hole and wakes up with a start, telling himself "Must've been a nightmare." Then Gossamer (who had earlier been shrunk by Bugs) goes by in a tiny rowboat and quips "Oh yeah? That's what you think!"
- Wander over Yonder: Lord Hater spends much of "The Fremergency Fronfract" loopy on anesthetic, and ends up doing things like hanging out with Wander, embarrassing himself in public, and even attacking his own minions when they try to invade a planet. When Hater gets knocked out and wakes up in the Skullship's infirmary, he assumes the whole thing was a crazy dream.
Commander Peepers: If only, sir, if only...
(Zoom out to show the infirmary filled with injured Watchdogs)
- Viktor Frankl, in his book Man's Search for Meaning describes how, while working in the infirmary of a concentration camp, he would not wake up his fellow prisoners when he saw them having nightmares. Because waking up might not be an improvement from even the worst nightmare.