Follow TV Tropes

Following

All Just a Dream

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/itwasonlyadream4_4785.png
Benny: It was all a dream.
Rafi: It was all a dream.
Benny: It was all probably a coke-induced dream.
Rafi: It was also a dream, but check this movie out anyways because it has a chick with three boobs in it!
Advertisement:

A twist where it is revealed previous events in the story were just part of a character's dream, hallucination or some other escape from reality, often put at the end to reveal the entirety of the story was some sort of dream.

Sometimes, the character awakes after the dream, realises it was all "just a dream" (often actually saying this to himself, which rarely happens in real life), sighs with relief, and then sees an artifact lying next to him that was in the dream. This usually will leave protagonist and audience wondering "Or Was It a Dream?", however it may also be an opening gambit in a Dream Within a Dream sequence. Sometimes the dream lasts longer than one episode — entire seasons, and even entire series, have been known to turn out to be dreams. Often, when the dreamer awakens, the really epic events (death of a major character, etc.) from the "dream season" will be reversed. Or maybe the "waking up" is the dream?

Advertisement:

If other characters start acting out of character or otherwise just don't seem to be quite themselves during the dream sequence, expect lots of finger-pointing and exclamations of "And You Were There!" when the dreaming character awakens.

Normally, this really grates on the audience, but it can be done humorously, and if it was just one episode of a larger whole, it can undo damage done by having a Writer on Board. An especially useful device in horror movies, where it can be used to subject the characters (and audience) to all manner of fit-inducing terrors without really affecting the narrative. However, if it's done badly, expect some audience members to be seriously annoyed, as it might feel like a Deus ex Machina. Even if it's done well, it may require a lot of Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

Advertisement:

One of the Stock Epileptic Trees. It's also a popular trope for music videos.

Variant form of the Reset Button. See also Crashing Dreams, Or Was It a Dream?, Fantasy Keepsake, Pinch Me, Dying Dream, and Catapult Nightmare. Compare with Nested Story Reveal, a similar trope that lacks the dream aspect. Often deconstructed with the Dream Apocalypse. If the dream is a quick-hit gag instead of a major element of the narrative, you have a Daydream Surprise. When the trope is inverted, it may turn out That Was Not a Dream. Not to be confused with Cuckoo Nest.

If someone points out the contrast between dreams that frame a story and the much more chaotic dreams that people actually have, that's Real Dreams Are Weirder.

As an Ending Trope, all spoilers on this page are unmarked.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • The delightful Kia Sorento commercial "Joyride Dream.''
  • The Pepsi Twist commercial when Ozzy Osbourne notices his kids drinking Pepsis, only for them to actually be Pepsi Twists, and that his kids are actually the Osmonds in full rubber bodysuits. Ozzy starts screaming, only to wake up and realize that it was just a nightmare, though the Pepsi Twists are still real...
  • RC Cola had an animated ad where Hank Hill is riding on his mower, drinking an RC, at peace with all things. Bobby runs up excitedly shouting "Hey dad, I made the football team!" Hank smiles - and wakes up in his hammock. Bobby runs up excitedly shouting "Hey dad, I made the football team brownies!" Hank wails in horror.
  • A not-so-PG advertisement — lingerie company Agent Provocateur had a handsome secret agent donning his L'Agent sunglasses and being able to see all the woman at a party wearing AP's 2013 Winter Catalogue. When one of the girls starts giving him a lapdance in Black Bra and Panties, our hero is woken up by his foreman on a construction site and told to get back to work.
  • This Fire Safety PIF from the UK has the father who is constantly tries to prevent fire hazards in the house as a evil-sounding witch voice continuously taunts him throughout, until the curtain catches fire from a heater. The ending of the PIF shows the father waking up from a nightmare and begins to rethink his decision of smoking a cigarette.

    Card Games 
  • Hecatomb had a literal "It Was Only A Dream" card which can eliminate practically any card your opponent has out, essentially making them have never happened.

    Comedy 
  • Comedian Emo Phillips inverts this trope when he talks about a dream he had. He describes a long series of really bizarre, Emo-Phillipian events that ends with him getting knocked unconscious. "And that's when I had my dream...."
  • In Robin Williams' comedy skit "Shakespeare (A Meltdowner's Nightmare)" from Reality, What A Concept, Robin plays a night watchman at a nuclear power plant, whose attempt to stop a meltdown by pulling the control rods of the reactor core results in a chain reaction, causing him to freak out until he hears this:

    Comic Books 
  • The last issue of Gen¹³, vol. 1 combined this with a Downer Ending: The team — along with various other gen-active teens they'd met along the course of the series — has one last hedonistic, live-like-there's-no-tomorrow-cuz-there-ain't good time before "The End". Turns out this was all in Caitlin Fairchild's head, an extended hallucination brought on by the effects of another gen-active's powers in the split-second before a Death Trap disintegrated them all (they got better).
  • This has happened innumerable times in superhero comics as an "out" for a wacky story that doesn't fit into canon. So much so that it was common to include the blurb "Not a dream! Not an imaginary story!" on covers to reassure readers that no such cop-out would be used. Since Covers Always Lie, they'd usually find some other cop-out that meant the events still weren't what they seemed.
  • Supergirl:
    • Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade: In the beginning of chapter 2, Supergirl flies over her school. All of sudden all begin calling her "Linda Lee". She freaks out and wonders why everybody knows her Secret Identity before waking up.
    • In Supergirl Vol. 5 issue #22 Kara gets hit by a train and all of sudden sees herself surrounded by her friends of the Legion of Super-Heroes. She's happy until Lightning Lad tells her that she is dreaming.
    • Bizarrogirl opens up with a battle between Supergirl and Superwoman. It looks like a flashback narrating the final fight between both super-beings until the legions of undead make clear Kara is having a nightmare.
  • Bruce Jones' run on Incredible Hulk was retconned in this manner, with Peter David's subsequent run explaining that it was all a hallucination brought on by Nightmare.
  • The high-profile Batman: RIP storyline is (among other things) an attempt to bring the wackier Silver Age adventures of the Dark Knight in-canon by explaining them as hallucinations caused by sensory deprivation experiments. An original quote from one of those Silver-Age tales is a prominent part of the storyline (and very typical of the trope): "It would be far easier to consider this a dream... but how can I? For in my hand, I hold the Bat-Radia!" The sensory deprivation experiment was not a retcon, but was itself a framing device in an actual Silver Age story. An alternative explanation provided for some of these episodes is the insinuation that they were hallucinations brought about by exposure to Joker toxin, Scarecrow's fear gas, etc.
  • Tom Strong issues 29 and 30 had the eponymous hero awaken from his superheroic life into a gray world with no wonder or adventure where he was just a factory worker with a case of bad self-esteem. Then the clues mount that he really is a superhero - only to discover that he was a failed military experiment and all of his memories of a heroic life were delusions. But at the last moment, he breaks out of the hallucination - back into the superheroic world where the Big Bad of the story had been forcing him to hallucinate. He said later that he knew the world he had been in wasn't real because it was all gray, with no sense of hope or wonder in it. (A cynical person might just say that he was unable to cope with the truth and retreated into his dream-world... à la that much-referenced episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)
  • The Sandman. Quite a bit of it really is just a dream, but that doesn't make it any less real. "I give you - eternal waking...". It's all about the importance of dreams and fiction. In the second story arc, the protagonist reflects on how cliche this trope is, but ultimately decides she can't find a better way to sum up her adventures. Fast-forward to the last story arc, where Dream's funeral concludes with every one of the guests waking up - even the reader.
  • Two Spawn issues written by Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison has Spawn dying accidentally after a fight with an angel warrior, and goes to a special level of Hell, where he finds all Marvel Comics and DC Comics superheroes imprisoned, and with help of Superman, who gave him his power, he sets them all free. Next issue happens back on Earth, with the narrator saying "Let's come back to reality. Spawn has a bad dream last days."
  • Sometimes used as The Teaser in Quantum and Woody. For example, issue #5 starts with Woody, Quantum, and Amy working together as a tightly-coordinated counter-terrorism team to stop a criminal called Othello. In reality, it's a dream induced after Quantum was accidentally blasted off of a building in the previous issue.
  • A story of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers from the early '70s has the trio staging a violent assault on a prison to free an incarcerated friend. Fat Freddy ends up cut off and bludgeoned to death by a horde of cops - but it's all just a dream, and Franklin is beating him with a rolled-up newspaper for eating a whole batch of hash cookies. Then, some seven years later, an extended story where they take a cross-country trip in a vintage RV ends in a full-scale riot at a Greenwich Village Halloween parade — but it's all just a dream, and Franklin is beating Freddy with a rolled-up newspaper...implying everything that happened between the two stories was Fat Freddy dreaming!
  • There's a Punisher story where Frank goes back in time to the 30s thanks to Reed Richards and Nick Fury. He quickly infiltrates Al Capone's gang and kills every last mobster in Chicago along with Al, the idea being that by breaking the mafia's hold early on, there'll be no gang shooting in Central Park in the late twentieth century, saving Frank's family and preventing his Start of Darkness. Then he wakes up.
  • The infamous Spider-Man storyline One More Day had Peter and Mary Jane's marriage retconned in a deal with the devil. The newspaper comic didn't do the whole "deal with the devil" storyline but it did suddenly change, making Peter single again to fit in with the comic book line. Fan uproar eventually convinced the writers of the newspaper comic to retcon that change, and they did that by saying it was all just a dream. Now if only they could do the same with the main comic...
  • Subverted in issue 5 of Fish Police. Inspector Gill wakes up, believing he just dreamed that he was a fish — only to find that yes, he really is one. He didn't dream up a single thing that happened so far in the plot; he was just drunk when a lot of it happened. Cue the "What Did I Do Last Night?" from Gill.
  • Scooby Apocalypse: Issue 10 is revealed at the end to primarily have been a fever dream.
  • Usagi Yojimbo: Usagi stays with a peasant family, and at night they are set upon by a demon which slays the mother and father, and eventually Usagi. The son wakes up and it's all revealed to have been a dream he had from eating too much candy. Usagi leaves and bids them goodbye. Then Jei, known for slaughtering people who give him hospitality, shows up at the house and asks if he can stay the night.
  • All the events of issue 26 of Paperinik New Adventures "Time Escapes" are actually the demo of a TV show of the XIII century.
  • Judge Dredd: Played for Black Comedy when a man is randomly gunned down in a drive-by shooting and a first-time criminal decides to steal the dead man's wallet. Judge Dredd pursues and corners him, but when the man pleads that he regrets what he did, Dredd gives him a break and tells him to go home. Then the perp wakes up in prison with Dredd quipping "Keep dreaming".
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • A dream ending was hastily written into the Barks story "The Firebug" where Donald becomes a Pyromaniac but is pardoned when he catches a more dangerous person who was starting similar fires. In the original ending, Donald sets the judge's waste basket on fire and is thrown in jail as well, but in the altered ending Donald is woken up by one of his nephews instead.
    • There's an Italian comic by Marco Rota where Donald takes a nap on a bed in Gyro Gearloose's workplace, but accidentally activates a dream device by releasing a nightmare potion. The rest of the comic features freaky scenes such as the Beagle Boys running the police force and pursuing Donald, Uncle Scrooge dying when he activates his Money Bin's self-destruct before turning into a giant coin-monster, and Little Helper becoming a robotic Mad Scientist by switching places with Gyro. At the end Donald wakes up back in Gyro's workplace and realizes it was all a dream.
    • This is the conclusion that Donald comes to at the end of The Duck Who Never Was, after wishing that he was never born and having a genie (Who happens to live in an urn instead of the typical vase) he met in the Duckburg Museum grant said wish. After Donald runs off and leaves the museum however the Genie's voice is seen emanating from the urn in which he lives, proving that it really did happen. This is partially revisited in the later story Treasury of Croesus. When Donald, along with his uncle and nephews, once again visits the museum he sees the same urn from the previous story and is then the only one to notice the lid of the urn being lifted up by a hand from inside the urn, which looks to be in greeting to Donald.
    • Also shown to be the case at the conclusion to Barks' The Money Stairs. Dealing with Donald and Scrooge competing to see whether there are some things that Scrooge's money can't accomplish, it ends with Donald waking up and telling his nephews that he realized it was a dream after Scrooge offered to buy him a soda. In retrospect, the events being a dream make sense, as the story features Scrooge being fairly carefree with spending his money to beat Donald. One panel survives from an aborted non-dream ending that Barks drew at first but scrapped—he went with the dream ending because the "money stairs" of the title, a mountain-size stairway built out of coins, seemed too impossible to be real.
    • In the story "Paperino e l'incubo dello zione" Uncle Scrooge is seemingly visited by characters from his recurring nightmares, then Donald discovers it's all a plot by the Beagle Boys to rob Scrooge. Scrooge then promises that he'll reward Donald with half of his entire riches. At this point it's revealed that the entire story was just Donald's happy dream.
  • Grant Morrison ends his run of Animal Man by retconning it into a dream as a favor to the title character.
  • Cavewoman: Some of the events of It's a Girl's Life (specifically the 'booty competition') according to Carrie's Oasis Diary. This would explain some Out Of Character Moments in It's a Girl's Life.

    Comic Strips 
  • Jon got a date and asked Garfield to pinch him to be sure it wasn't a dream. It was.
  • Little Nemo in Slumberland ends every strip with Nemo waking up in bed. There were continuous storylines despite this. And when Nemo gets into trouble it does not feel as safe as a dream. No no no.
    • Also Winsor McCay's Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend— though the title makes that obvious.
  • Drabble pulled this twice, then subverted it hilariously. The first time, Ralph dreams that his job as a mall cop is more like Batman. The second time, Norman goes to a piercing salon with Wendy and ends up with multiple ear, nose, and other rings. The third time, Norman and Wendy run off to Vegas and get married on a dare. Norman is about to invoke this trope when the next panel reveals the cartoonist has already used up his chances to use it. The plot gets resolved another way.
  • From Bloom County, after a long-awaited wedding, Opus is knocked out when his nose collided with Lola's when they kiss. While unconscious, Opus dreams about Lola leaving him twenty years later with twenty-three tube-grown kids.
    • At another point, Opus ends up wandering lost and semi-delirious in the desert. Suddenly, he's back home in Bloom County. He announces how happy he is it was all just a dream. Milo then says "No. This is the dream. You're still in the desert." And sure enough...
  • A two-week storyline in FoxTrot, parodying The Metamorphosis, has Jason waking up one morning to find he's turned into a miniature version of his sister, Paige. Midway through the story, he lampshades this trope by saying he's figured out that he's dreaming, because he thinks that if this were real, Mulder and Scully would've come to investigate. (Dream-Peter then points out that Mulder and Scully are TV characters — and therefore only investigate incidents appropriate for primetime shows. Turning into a teenage girl is too horrific.)
  • Calvin and Hobbes has the memorable "A Letter From Santa" Sunday strip, where Calvin gets a letter from Santa Claus encouraging him to be as bratty as he likes and that good kids actually nauseate Santa.
    "And then I awoke."
    • There was also the Sunday strip involving Calvin being unable to fall asleep, as late as 1:30 in the morning. He tosses and turns, and is really tired, but just can't get to sleep, until he hears his mom's voice, and wakes up from his insomnia dream. At breakfast, Calvin mutters to himself "This is going to be a bad day."
  • The Knights of the Dinner Table story "Heroes on the Town" has Bob, Dave, and Brian actually running their characters as lawful good heroes, treating NPCs with respect and roleplaying rather than mindlessly hacking. The story ends with B.A. waking up.
  • What's New? with Phil and Dixie. In this strip Phil and Dixie have a Catapult Nightmare to wake up from a dream (shown in previous strips) in which their Character Alignments were changed to Evil.

    Fan Works 
  • The fanfiction story "The Reunion" considers the entire fourth season of the television version of Our Miss Brooks to be All Just A Dream.
  • There have been lots of fics inspired by Cupcakes in which the original fic was either a nightmare or a recurring nightmare for one of the two characters. (Not all had a necessarily better ending for either.)
  • In Nobody Dies:
    • Much of chapter 66 is Shinji having a dream (really more of a nightmare) about Zeruel slaughtering everyone.
    • Season 4 is just a dream, made by Arael.
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: In chapter thirteenth's omake Asuka and Misato are fighting over Shinji. Since Asuka has the upper hand, Misato talks her into a threesome. Asuka demands getting Shinji's first kiss and she is about to kiss him... when Pen Pen woke Shinji up. Shinji's reaction to realize it was a dream and the penguin has woken him up from the best dream he has ever had was... not serene.
  • Inverted in Kyon: Big Damn Hero, where Kanae was having a recurrent dream with parts... off. It was until after she kissed Kyon that she realized she was awake.
  • Appears in the fic, Rainbow in the Dark, where Rainbow Dash has an erotic encounter, after which she wakes up, building up the UST to even higher levels.
  • In a parody fanfiction about Dragon Ball GT, right after Goku's Heroic B.S.O.D. and Big "NO!" when learning that after his 100 years with Shenron, his family and friends are dead., we return to Goku and Chichi's bedroom and he explains to her the entire events of GT as a nightmare. Then, it becomes a Dream Within a Dream as Goku has a run in with Dragonball Evolution's Goku. The short story is on deviantART.
  • In Heart and Eye Xander has a conversation with Willow that turns out to be result of heavy painkillers
  • The Star Trek: New Voyages episode "To Serve All My Days", involving a delayed effect of Rapid Aging that afflicts Chekov to the point where he may have died, in the final scene following the closing credits suggests that most of the whole episode was just a dream he had.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series fanfic Memories Born of Fire, Spock has a nightmare about what would have happened if Kirk had not survived the kal-i-fee.
  • Equestria is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan fiction that suggests that the eponymous world is actually the elaborate fantasy world that was to be the setting of a series of stories planned by a woman who was emotionally abused by her mother. She never got around to writing it and the emotional abuse that she suffered drove her into her dream world..
  • Chapter 7 of Dalton starts out like this.
  • One "episode" of Calvin At Camp features Calvin falling asleep and dreaming that he is in an Affectionate Parody of LOST. The readers are aware the entire time that it is a dream.
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The Series has the opening of "Camping Trip Part 2", a surreal Time Skip.
  • In The Detective and the Diplomat, Sherlock Holmes is trapped in Ankh-Morpork and would rather believe that everything he is experiencing there — from a demonstration of magic to a talking dog — is actually a fever-dream. He's wrong.
  • In chapter 8 of Weightless, Shepard dreamed of Garrus tied up and interrogated her to make her spill out her feelings (which she was trying to keep to herself due to several reasons). She was woken up by the real Garrus and suddenly hit him in the face. After that, things got worse.
  • Ed Abuse: And by the last person you would expect it to be.
  • In the stories Your Worst Nightmare, The Love Triangle and Dream Away of The Lion King Adventures, dreams are used by villains to try and defeat Simba.
  • Discussed in Dirty Sympathy when Apollo wonders whether the events of the story are actually happening, whether Klavier is actually real and if he is dreaming the whole thing to comfort himself. Klavier is all too quick to reassure him.
  • In Mega Man Recut, Future Shock may be this; it's ambiguous.
  • In The Dear Sweetie Belle Continuity, most of "The Sin of Envy, or a Mother's Love" is this, courtesy of a demon.
  • In Midnight Savior, it begins with Kim on Lorwardia in chains, being dragged to the gallows to be executed by beheading. The moment the blade falls, she wakes up screaming. While she was dreaming, she tried to wake herself up, convinced she's dreaming, but it seems it's actually happening. After waking up, she could almost feel the heat and dirt from the nightmare. But the worst thing for her was how it could have happened if Ron haven't saved her and killed the Lorwardians.
  • The first chapter of A New Way is a dream of Chrysalis's, viewed by Luna, though this is not immediately apparent.
  • In Vengeance from the Grave Harry, annoyed that his friends and colleagues are trying to play with his emotions, subjects them to an eight hour long forced dream about what the next eight years of their lives would be like if he got fed up and left.
  • Averted in Vapors. Aiko is rather traumatized when her painkillers wear off enough for her to realize that being kidnapped by Sasori is not a fever dream.
  • This happens a few times in the Meg's Family Series. Boyfriend had a chapter that turned out to be Zack's Adventures In Coma Land, and Family had The Obligatory Zombie Chapter, which was Maddie's nightmare (considering how it ended, it would be hard to continue the series otherwise). Returns' prologue was also this, detailing how much had changed for the family in between the stories and Brian wondering about the story possibilities. Then Meg wakes up and nothing has changed. Brian is not amused.
    Brian: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
  • In "Or Something" Series, the events of A Crossdresser are all just Yang's dream.
  • In Advice and Trust, Ritsuko does this in chapter 9. She's lying next to Maya after a fabulous and romantic date... and then she wakes up and realizes that she was dreaming.
  • A lot of the House fanfic "It's Time You Got A Life" is Chase's dream.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: Marik's "Evil Council" Video #4 turns out to be Bakura dreaming about them actually killing Yugi.
  • An episode of Ranma ½: The Abridged Chronicles features Akane sleepwalking and causing chaos as she goes through several dreams. After waking her up, they discuss how ridiculous the episode was, until it turns out to be Ranma's dream.
  • In Ultra Fast Pony, the episode "Random Eye Magic" begins with Twilight waking up from a Dream Within a Dream, then ends with Twilight waking up yet again, realizing the entire episode was a dream.
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, the entirety of Episode of Bardock was a story told by Goku to Gohan, which was dreamed up by the latter. This explains why Freeza's Death Ball sent Bardock back in time, what happened to his psychic powers, and why all the primitive Saiyans sound like Kermit the Frog.
  • Fantasy of Utter Ridiculousness's Alternate Ending, depicting Patchouli trapped in Jersey City after the Scarlet Devil Mansion's library is destroyed, turns out to be this.
  • The Phineas and Ferb Valentine's day fic Lovey-Dovey turns out to be Perry's dream, but whether or not the dream comes true after the story ends is up to interpretation.
  • Asylum opens up with Twilight Sparkle waking up in the titular asylum and being told that most of her life was just a dream, much to her horror. Also, in chapter eight Twilight wakes up in her old library and it seems the asylum was just a dream. But of course, this is not the case...
  • Invoked in the Land of Oz oneshot Patient. A now seventeen-year-old Dorothy wakes up in an asylum with no memories of the last eight years. At the asylum, she befriends a girl who thinks she is royalty. The reader is led to believe Oz was all a fantasy, until it's revealed that Dorothy is still in Oz. Her friends are trying to make her believe she's in Kansas while she's an amnesiac so that she doesn't become too stressed. The fic pokes fun at this trope and the MGM film.
  • Averted in the aptly named story A Dream. After waking up in Equestria, Valiant decides he must be dreaming. It takes a full season and several months living there before he realizes that this is all real.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku hoped that his traumatic fight with Bakugou was all just a dream when he woke up in his living room after blacking out at the hospital. It takes all of five seconds for his Super-Hearing to act up again and remind him that it wasn't.
  • Luna Game End's true ending, unlocked after replaying games 4 and 0, reveals that the experience was a "strange nightmare" Luna had after passing out while "helping Pinkie Pie collect some things". But then there's a Scare Chord as Pinkie turns into her straight-haired "Pinkamena" persona.
  • Parodied in a post from a Super Mario Bros. forum. The user pokes fun at the "Super Mario Bros is all just a drug-fueled hallucination" theories by inverting them. Mario's adventures aren't the hallucination, his supposed past on Earth is:
    a significant part of mario's life is a drug-induced hallucination that was caused by eating too many mushrooms
    his friends keep trying to convince him that there's not actually such a place as new york, but he insists he grew up there. he used to claim he was born there, but then princess peach pointed out to him that the village where his parents live doesn't look like how he described 'brooklyn' at all. since then he's started claiming that when he was a baby his parents shipped him to a parallel universe to protect him from kamek, and he only accidentally found his way back as an adult
    nobody understands why he's so insistent about all of this, since none of it really makes any sense. luigi has learned to just smile and nod whenever his brother starts telling people stories about their italian heritage
  • A piece of fan-art made by a detractor of Disney's take on the Star Wars universe has their entire canon be this of Luke, who laments to his wife, Mara, that all of his friends and family were gone. She jokingly suggests getting some mouse traps.

    Films — Animation 
  • Alice in Wonderland: Alice realizes she's dreaming and begs herself to wake up at the very end- and succeeds (thanks to her sister also calling her name in the real world).
  • An American Tail: Fievel Goes West is written off as a dream Fievel had in the third An American Tail movie, An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island. But there was a TV series with the Wild West theme that aired prior to the 3rd movie (Fridge Brilliance when you realized that it's possible to stay in what seems to be forever in the dream world and then wake up to discover that only one night has passed in reality).
  • The ending of Disney's Peter Pan strongly hints that the adventures in Neverland may have been just a dream of Wendy's – unlike in the original play, live action 2003 Warner Brothers film and book, where it's all explicitly real. Mr. and Mrs. Darling come home from their dinner party to find the children asleep in the nursery as if they had never left (even though the Neverland trip seemed longer than just one night), and while Wendy and her parents see what looks like the pirate ship's silhouette in the sky, it's not clear if it really is the ship or just a cloud formation. This is left ambiguous, though, for a few seconds until the 'ship' breaks up in the wind before "The End" appears.
  • In The Year Without a Santa Claus, the ending reveals the whole thing was just a dream that Santa Claus had. Maybe the creators felt weird about Santa even thinking about skipping a year in real life, but either way the ending is so rushed and unnecessary that many airings cut it for time.
  • Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland toys with this throughout; the whole thing is a dream of course, but at a couple points it seems like Nemo has awoken in his bed, only for something from his dream to appear in his bedroom, such as the scepter King Morpheus gave him, meaning that he's still dreaming. This trope was one of many reasons Hayao Miyazaki left the production of the film, as he didn't want the movie to be all just a dream (despite this being the entire premise of the Little Nemo comic strip in the first place).

    Music 
  • Aaron Carter's upbeat song "That's How I Beat Shaq" relates the singer's adventures as he beats Shaquille O'Neal in a one-on-one basketball match, and ends with him waking up in bed. ("But if it was a dream, and it wasn't real... how'd I get a jersey with the name O'Neal?")
  • The Presidents of the United States of America have "Basketball Dream", which appears as a Hidden Track on the album II. It features Chris Balleau's son talking about a dream he had where he met Magic Johnson.
  • Mesozoic Mind, by the Charmers.
    Last night I had a crazy dream, I fell out of my bed! I missed the floor entirely, I fell through time instead!
  • Britney Spears uses this in the videos for "Baby One More Time" and "Born To Make You Happy."
  • Josh Turner, "Loretta Lynn's Lincoln" begins with the singer buying Loretta Lynn's Lincoln, ends with the singer being woken up from a nap in his pickup truck.
    I heard a tappin' on the window as I woke up
  • R.E.M., "Losing My Religion":
    I thought that I heard you laughing
    I thought that I heard you sing
    I think I thought I saw you try
    But that was just a dream
    That was just a dream
  • Porter Wagoner/Tom Jones's song "Green Green Grass of Home" has the subject of the song seemingly returning home after being away for a long time, enjoying his return, only to wake up in prison awaiting his execution, only to return home dead and buried there.
  • Appears via Executive Meddling in the Billie Holiday cover of "Gloomy Sunday", the lyrics of which were used in most subsequent English-language covers. After the protagonist is Driven to Suicide, a third verse is tacked on to appease publishers, in which the suicide is revealed to have been a dream.
  • Metallica: "Enter Sandman" and "Ride the Lightning".
  • "One More Red Nightmare" by King Crimson, where a guy dreams he's on a plane that's about to crash. He wakes up to find that's he's on a road trip on a Greyhound Bus.
  • All of the video Michael Jackson's Thriller is this, or a subversion?
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Eat It" video, a parody of Michael Jackson's song/video "Beat It", ends with Al waking up with a bellyache and popping a couple of Alka-Seltzer.
  • The video to The Scorpions song "No One Like You".
  • The music video for Gorillaz's "Dare" is a Dream Within a Dream.
  • Converge's music video for "Eagles Become Vultures" probably applies, though it's more of a waking fantasy than a dream.
  • The video for Three Days Grace's "Animal I Have Become".
  • The music video for Evanescence's "Bring Me To Life" suggests this — the main action is interspersed with shots of Amy asleep and apparently dreaming, and the video ends with her asleep.
  • Katy Perry:
    • The music video for Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" ends with her on the bed next to someone whom we are to assume is her boyfriend.
    • The same thing happens in "Hot & Cold", though that was a daydream.
    • Subverted in the video for "Roar." The video starts with a plane crash before Katy's boyfriend is killed by a tiger and Katy becomes a badass Jungle Princess. At the end, we see Katy waking up next to an airplane window only to find out that the events of the video really did happen and the plane had been made into a part of her shelter.
  • Airbourne's "Blonde, Bad and Beautiful" turns out to be this, in a video that was filled with alcohol, stripping and a bit of pole-dancing.
  • The Barenaked Ladies' video for "Shoebox" is a dream of the girl who sneaks out on her date.
  • Dokken's video for "Dream Warriors" winds up being a nightmare that Freddy Krueger is having.
  • The video for Live's "Run To The Water" turns out to be Ed Kowalczyk's dream.
  • The video for Miley Cyrus' "Start All Over" is established as being a dream in the very beginning; it starts with her going to sleep and waking up in the dream world, and ends with her going to sleep in the dream world and waking up in the real world. Then pictures she took while in the dream world start coming out of the printer.
  • The video for Maroon5's "Makes Me Wonder" features this. With gratuitous fanservice.
  • In her song "Moon Trance", Lindsey Stirling shortcuts through a Creepy Cemetery with her friends. She encounters dancing zombies and performs with them, but when they vanish at the end her friends have noticed nothing and it's clear it wasn't real, at least in the normal sense of the word.
  • The Video for Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus turns out to be a dream when the prom discoball falls on the singer and his love interest.
  • The video for "California Love" by Tupac Shakur has this revelation as well.
  • The video for Chromeo's "When The Night Falls" has this revelation.
  • Celine Dion's first single, Ce ne'tait qu'un reve, actually translates into this (Nothing But a Dream).
  • The video for Billy Joel's Sometimes a Fantasy.
  • A few Fall Out Boy music videos end like this. Specifically, “The Takeover, The Break's Over”, “This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race”, and their cover of Michael Jackson's “Beat It”.
  • The obtuse song "Madame Merry-Go-Round" in the Evillious Chronicles by Vocaloid produce mothy is explained to be Gammon Octo's (probably) prophetic dream about what will happen when the Clockworker's Doll achieves her utopia.
  • Daniel Amos' album ¡Alarma! includes a short story in the liner notes, which is presented as a dream-vision akin to John's Revelation.
    Was it all a dream? It seems like it now. But then it also seems so real. More real than anything I've ever experienced when awake. But I was not awake. At least I don't think I was. I don't know—maybe I'm going crazy. But I must write it down before it all disappears, or I will go crazy.
  • Diamond Rio's song, "In a Week or Two" has the narrator kicking himself because he waited too long to make his move, and now the woman he loves is about to marry someone else. The video is this trope. He has fallen asleep in his tux, and all of that footage of her with that other man is only his bad dream. His Best Man, after looking for him everywhere, finds him and wakes him up. "Dude, what are you doing? You're going to miss your own wedding!"
  • The video for Unearth's "Zombie Autopilot" reveals that large chunks of it, most notably the Office Drone protagonist chucking a file folder at his boss and quitting, were just a dream he had after falling asleep on the subway early in the vid.
  • “The Sound of Silence”, by Simon & Garfunkel, when taken literally, consists of the singer narrating the events of a nightmare he had.
  • BIGMAMA's "(50) days of flower," a song about the singer's run in with an angel who'd lost her wings the last time they met, turns out to be:
    "One morning the angel left jp: 
    And never came back jp: 
    It was all just a dream jp: 
    But it wasn't so bad." jp: 
  • Kids Praise: In the fourth album, an ambitious gospel singer falls asleep while trying to write a song, and has a dream that a Con Man tricks her into signing a contract that quite literally traps her! She wakes up screaming her lungs out.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Certain branches of Hindu philosophy hold that because truth is unchanging, and the world is constantly changing, then the world is not real. Hence, Real Life is just a sort of dream state. Some forms of Buddhism do also, and Gnosticism.

    Podcasts 
  • In Critical Hit, a Dungeons and Dragons live play podcast, GM Rodrigo uses this to devastating effect when the characters are in deep in the mire of the Demonweb (compounded by the reaction of the players).
  • From Fat, French and Fabulous, Janel fears that her entire life since middle school has been a dream after the Columbia Marching Band starts chanting lines from the horrifying public access television show commonly inflicted upon Canadian children, Téléfrançais.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons has an episode where The Mysterons actually come to Cloudbase to attack it, leading to Captain Scarlet's death and the destruction of Cloudbase. We then find out this was all a dream one of the Angels was having after she'd been shot down over the desert earlier in the episode. When repackaged in a Compilation Movie for the American market, the episode ended up with the Reset Button treatment.
  • Gerry Anderson is all over this one (he was once quoted as saying "I wish somebody would make a film of my dreams"). There's one episode of Four Feather Falls, one of Supercar, three of Stingray (1964), two of Joe 90, one of Terrahawks, two of UFO as noted under Live-Action TV, and one of Space: 1999 where the events of the episode turn out to be dreams, hallucinations or implanted visions.
  • The Thunderbirds episode "Security Hazard" manages to invert this by having International Rescue convince a boy that his real-life trip to Tracy Island has only been a dream.

    Radio 
  • There's an episode of Adventures in Odyssey in which one of the children characters goes on an adventure in the Imagination Station (a virtual reality machine) that seems to be the same story over and over again, just set in different genres. At the end of the episode it's revealed the character is actually in a coma, reliving the events that put him in a coma, with the "bad guy" being Death coming for him and the friendly helper in his dream actually being a guardian angel trying to prevent an early death for him.
    • Lampshaded in the episode "Push the Red Button" of Adventures in Odyssey. After a series of increasingly improbable events...
      Wooton: And that was my dream!
      Connie: Really? You dreamt all that?
      Wooton: I sure did! Then I dreamt that it was all a dream and that we were talking about it like we are now! Isn't that weird?
      Penny: What's weird is to use such an obvious cliché to end a story.

    Roleplay 
  • More than once this has been used for Survival of the Fittest characters, usually in imagining a rescue. However, on one occasion it was used to make it appear as if a particular character had died, only for it to be revealed that it had been a dream.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theater 
  • Played with in Angels in America, with regards to Prior's visions and Harper's hallucinations. The work as a whole, for what it's worth, is not.
  • In Nerds, Steve Jobs hallucinates Oracle dancing with him and teaching him to 'Think Different' after he is infected with the Microsoft virus.
  • The famous ballet The Nutcracker usually ends with the curtain closing on Clara awakening in her home with the eponymous Nutcracker in her arms, and realizing that all of her adventures were a dream. Some productions stick a little closer to the source material and subvert this trope instead when the Prince turns out to be Drosselmeyer's nephew, whose uncle had orchestrated the entire series of events in order to break the curse on him.
  • Toyed with in the Red Shift: Interplanetry Do-Gooder radioplay episode "Havoc Over Holowood" (available here), where the entire episode turns out to have been a story Lumpy wrote about his friends and was reading to them.
  • Done well in Erich Wolfgang Korngold's opera Die tote Stadt ("The Dead City"). At the finale, it is revealed that much of the story is the dream of the protagonist Paul. However, this experience allows Paul to realize how destructive his obsession over his dead wife can be, thus compelling him to let go of his past, leaving the eponymous "Dead City" and starting anew.
  • In Avenue Q, Rod overhears Nicky talking in his sleep, but at the end of the song "Fantasies come true" we find out that Rod was talking in his sleep.
  • Shakespeare played with this. Most of the main characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream believe this to be the case (or they just decide to pretend it is). Then, in the final lines, Puck advises the audience to do the same if they disliked the play.
    ''If we shadows have offended,
    Think but this, and all is mended,
    That you have but slumber'd here
    While these visions did appear.
    And this weak and idle theme,
    No more yielding but a dream.
  • Alan Ayckbourn's 1985 play Woman in Mind. The entire play. From start to finish. Really.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Dice-Killing Chapter of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Rei.
  • In the fourth arc of Umineko: When They Cry, there is a very memorable scene in which Maria kills her mother Rosa repeatedly and grotesquely. From the context, it is to be inferred that the entire scene is a dream. However, it's never stated explicitly, just like a lot in this series.
  • Tomoya in CLANNAD has a dream that can only be described as trippy, to him it all seemed fairly natural. Makes one wonder what it was that Kotomi put in the pie he ate before he passed out.
  • Played with in 11eyes. The second-to-last episode of the anime shows everything going downright awful for the protagonists, with several characters dying, the hero and heroine having sex, and the Big Bad claiming a rather unsettling victory. It ends with a little foreshadowing that all is not as it seems. Start the next episode, and it turns out the whole thing was a vision of the future by the main character, who then averts it.
  • Tsukihime:
    • The whole point to Kagetsu Tohya. Shiki figures out more and more often than he's living in a dream right now where days repeat instantly. Yesterday is the same as today and today is the same as tomorrow. Everyone inside is actually apparently the same people he knows and have their own versions of a nightmare i.e. Dark Elesia for Ciel. Also, Len, who is making the dream. It's just a dream, but Shiki can't leave until Len dies (he doesn't want that) or he can make a contract with her so she doesn't feel the need to maintain the dream. In the original game, Shiki has dreams of himself killing people yet wakes up in the morning right where he was without having left his bed. Only the people he saw die are really dead. Even worse, the one time he doesn't remember his "dream" he wakes up with his hands and arms absolutely covered with blood, because he really did go out and kill people that night.
    • There's also the first eroge scene in the original game, which turns out to be All Just A Wet Dream.
  • The Forgotten Dream endings of Yo-Jin-Bo have Sayori waking up at home, alone, in her own bed, and barely able to remember the guy she fell in love with, assuming the entire adventure to have been a dream.
  • Fate/hollow ataraxia ...Maybe. What's dream and what is real can be difficult to separate.
  • Corpse Party has this as one of its Wrong Ends. It turns out to be a case of Or Was It a Dream? and "Groundhog Day" Loop.
  • Teased at in Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star.
    • Halfway through the second chapter something bizarre happens - for one, there's a Death Ray and the heroine rates it as about as powerful as one of her "Starlight Kicks" - and the exit of that scene leads directly to the heroine in a cafe saying "Crazy dream, huh?" to her best friend. He's flabbergasted and falls for it, and chides her when she says she was joking, this stuff really happened. This is Hatoful Boyfriend, after all - bizarre is everywhere.
    • Also poked at in the Shrine Visit with Yuuya. He starts trying to confess why he's never at school, then changes his mind, dissembles, and says he had a dream like that, anyway.
  • In Dai Gyakuten Saiban the events in one of the Randst magazine turns out to be this.
  • War: 13th Day has one of the most natural build-ups leading to the grand reveal that the main characters are trapped in a dream.
    Ambrosia: Please, Lady Wildfire, you need to open your eyes.
  • In ClockUp's Euphoria, this is the end of Rinne's route. After Keisuke wakes up in a bed in a room inside a house stated to both his and Rinne, where Rinne is watching over him, he says to her that he had a bad dream, she assures that she will always be by his side, and the route just ends after Keisuke assures himself he don't have to think about the dream after all. But don't worry, it's not the True Ending.

    Web Animation 
  • Parodied in the Homestar Runner short "HREMAIL 2000". Homestar puts on a regular puppet show for Marzipan using his shoes, which "gets cancelled after the third season":
    "You mean the whole last season was a dream?! Gimme a break! They shoulda just had babies, and then the babies shoulda gotten married."
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Episode 28.5, "The Last Episode Ever". In it, Simmons comes back as a ghost, but is really Old Man Caboose, Tucker and Doc are running away to get married and Lopez is speaking French. The end reveals the whole thing was a dream by Church...
      Church: Huh? Oh, thank God. It was all a dream. All a dream. All a dreamiemiemiemiemiemiemie...
      Lopez: Oui, c'était un rêve horrible... OU ÉTAIT-IL?!? [Yes, it was a horrible dream... OR WAS IT?!?]
    • This was also used for a non-canon alternate ending on the Season Five DVD, where Church had been knocked out instead of killed from Sheila's attack in episode eight and had dreamed up the other ninety-two episodes, except he forgot all about his green-armoured teammate, Jacobs.
    • Another of the alternate endings did something very similar except, instead of being a dream, the whole series was an Xbox Live game played by the characters.
  • At the end of some cutscenes in Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Special Edition, people are seen waking up. This has no bearing on gameplay whatsoever.
  • In Sonic for Hire, Sonic goes on an extreme acid trip and actually believes that he has a successful job with Toe Jam And Earl, but then Tails "wakes" him up, making him realize he was just on an acid trip.
  • The Team Service Announcement short Compression Blast is just a daydream by the Pyro, hence why his airblast was so powerful. Powerful is an understatement, really, as whoever got blasted by it was not only extinguished but becomes rich, a king, and gets tons of women and a dancing posse.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • 'The Nostalgia Critic'':
    • His review of Surf Ninjas, in which every stupid scene (but one) was greeted with increasingly fervent cries of "Genius!", was eventually revealed to be a dream.
    • The end of the review of Full House when the Olsen twins came to silence him was revealed to be a dream. Then they showed up again, which was revealed to be a dream. And so on.
    • This also appears to be a pet peeve of the Critic's, given his reaction to learning that North was entirely a dream.
  • Project Million is revealed to be a variant of this; the events that we watched were just a video made by the people starring in it.
  • The Onion episode "Today Now!: Save Money by Taking a Vacation Entirely in Your Mind" deals with using this trope to your advantage. Naturally, the whole thing was taking place in the mind of the interviewee; she wasn't actually invited to go on the show.
  • In The Most Stupid Deaths In Super Mario 64, Mario has multiple nightmares which turn out just to be dreams. One of them is of the game ending.
  • The ending of SUPERBOOBYGREASYWARRIORS. Slightly hints at Or Was It a Dream? as the reveal has the main character waking up in the same way he did at the start of the series. On-screen text explicitly states "It wuz All a DReam LOL" however.
  • Some Jerk with a Camera's Star Tours review was The Wire's dream within Jerk's dream within Spazz's dream within Heffer's dream within Lisa's dream within North's dream within Jerk's dream within Marty McFly's dream within Michael Jackson's mind.
  • SuperMarioLogan
    • In the episode, "Mario the Babysitter!", Mario babysits a kid named Jeffy who continuously frustrates him to the point of being Driven to Suicide. After a visit from a police cop telling him that he has to babysit Jeffy until they can find his parents, Mario tries to bump into his couch in an attempt to wake up from his dream. It works, but at the end, Mario sees Jeffy at his door, much like in the beginning of the episode, causing him to scream in horror.
    • The entire duration of "Jeffy's Mistake!" turns out to be just a dream of Mario's.
    • The entire duration of "Jeffy's Sister!" turns out to be just a dream of Jeffy's.
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared
    • The third video's new characters and creepy hijinks turn out to be a dream in the Yellow Guy's heads. The Red Guy and Duck Guy's subplot is real, though it is Out of Focus for most of the video.
    • The finale plays around with this concept, beginning with a dream in a dream caused by the episode's teacher, the Lamp.

    Real Life 
  • Some people believe that "real life" is really all just a simulation using technology that doesn't yet exist in real life/this simulation. This is based on the belief that technology is likely to get to the point of being able to perfectly simulate real life while making the subject forget real life while in the simulation and that since once this technology exists it will result in more virtual worlds than the one real one the odds are that this is a simulation and not real life. The Simulation Argument tells that: it is overwhelmingly likely that either 1) we are living in an "ancestor simulation" created by our descendants or 2) this is not. A counterpoint is the idea that "real life" is a meaningless term, since any reality must be absolute from the perspective of its inhabitants (if we are indeed simulated beings, this is still the highest level of nested realities we can exist in).
  • The trope may have arisen from a dream those grieving a deceased loved one often experience. In the dream, the griever learns that the loved one is not dead and that the "death" was nothing but a very bad dream. The griever then wakes up, only to realize that the death really took place and the "miraculous survival" was in fact the dream. Although not every griever experiences this dream, it's common enough to be considered a normal part of the grieving process. Children who experience the dream may not be able to differentiate the dream from reality and therefore may suspect that the deceased person didn't really die (a common fallacy among bereaved children). Books by reputable scientists have been written on this phenomenon. Interestingly, it's possible to have an inversion of that—someone dreams of losing a loved one (or ones), only to wake up. Heartwarming Moments may follow along with a LOT of relief.
  • Subversion: After Daniel Radcliffe learned that he had gotten the part of Harry Potter, he woke up in the middle of the following night. He woke up his parents to ask them if he'd really gotten the part or if it was a dream.
  • The philosophy of existentialism holds that how one views the world is subjective to one's experiences. Existentialists believe that truth is in the eye of the beholder, as is even the existence of the world around us. It's the basis for the scene in The Matrix in which the boy in the Oracle's apartment tells Neo, "There is no spoon."
  • Confabulation, or false memory syndrome, applies to this trope, as well. Also see this Cracked article: 5 Mind Blowing Ways Your Memory Plays Tricks On You.
  • How many times have you been sure what's happening be real, only to wake up? This can be a disappointment or a relief depending on the nature of the dream. In some cases, it is possible to realize when one's dreaming (lucid dream), and the person may even prefer make the dream last as long as possible.


I had the strangest dream! I was on this horrible website that listed different tropes of media and spent all day there.

Alternative Title(s): It Was All Just A Dream, Only A Dream, It Was All A Dream, All A Dream

Top