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!
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?
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, as in general it tends to completely undermine the story that's just been told; if none of it was real, then what was the point? As such, it tends to work best when done humorously (the more silly something is, the easier it can be to accept that it doesn't really matter), 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 (or worse, lead to Opening a Can of Clones). Even if it's done well, it may require a lot of Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
Variant form of the Reset Button. See also Crashing Dreams, Or Was It a Dream?, Fantasy Keepsake, Dream Intro, Dream Reality Check, Dying Dream, Catapult Nightmare, and Adventures in Comaland. 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. If the dream was a nightmare, this could be a Shock-and-Switch Ending. When a character insists this trope is in effect as a defense mechanism, they're In the Dreaming Stage of Grief. Contrast with Dream Episode, which doesn't hide the fact that the plot is indeed 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.
- 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.
- One early Apple Jacks commercial (back when Apple was a bad guy) shows Apple putting Cinna-Mon in a cage and happily giving a bowl of Apple Jacks apple flavor. Then it turns out he was just dreaming and completely missed the cue to go for the next bowl.
- Happy Heroes:
- In Season 8 Episode 34, Happy S. uses a magic "life correction paper" to go back in time and stop a lady and even Sweet S. (who is Big M./Black Magician in disguise) from getting the elemental wands. However, Huo Haha shows up and uses the magic paper against Happy S. by reverting the other Supermen back into their Mech Stone forms with no way to return them to normal. Then Happy S. wakes up and realizes the whole thing was a nightmare he was having.
- In Season 8 Episode 36, Big M. wakes up after having a dream where he meets the production crew of Happy Heroes and nearly erases the world from existence when he gets his hand on the episode script. In the end, Big M. is picked up from the wishing pool he fell into and talks about how they're created by "people from another world" to Little M. The person collecting the well's money says that drowning will cause someone to hallucinate, even though Big M.'s visit to the other world is implied to have been real.
- The Motu Patlu episode "Angry Clouds", where Motu is chased by the Rain God for insulting him, turns out to be a dream Motu was having.
- North Korea's educational anti-American propaganda animation Pencil Cannonball (Korean: 연필포탄) uses this trope in a weird way. It's about a boy who dislikes studying mathematics, and one day when he's doing homework, he falls asleep and dreams that the North American submarines are attacking. The boy dreams he is a general, leading a few Child Soldiers to use a pencil cannonball to blast those submarines off. Unfortunately, because he doesn't know how to use a protractor, he can't hit against an attacking submarine. You can see it yourself first.
- Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 1 ends with Mr. Slowy realizing that everyone's Rapid Aging caused by an alien's ship going out of control and causing planet Earth to spin much faster than usual was a dream. Then after the episode ends, we see Wolffy asking for help.
- Simple Samosa: The episode "Hakka", where Samosa is whisked away to a castle inhabited by Hakka, ends with Samosa being woken up by his friends. Subverted when Samosa finds a note from Hakka telling him "thank you".
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- Grant Morrison ends their run of Animal Man by retconning it into a dream as a favor to the title character.
- 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 actually not in itself a retcon, but was the framing device for a real Silver Age story; RIP just expanded it to cover others as well. 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.
- This is used in the opening of Batman: Last Knight on Earth, where Bruce Wayne seems to wake up in Arkham, where many of the people he'd considered his enemies are actually staff, he was never Batman, his Batsuit seemed to really be a shock therapy helmet and straitjacket, and he spent years locked up as he actually killed his parents. The keyword being "seems", as one: this Bruce is a clone, two: the world he woke up in is a Bad Future where the heroes failed (people decided on "Then Let Me Be Evil" after an admittedly half-assed speech from Lex Luthor, and many heroes are dead or trapped in a state of And I Must Scream), and three: the whole "being in Arkham since killing his parents thing" was a trick used by a now-elderly Alfred using Toyman's tech to deter the clone from taking up the mantle of Batman. Oh, and four: the Big Bad of the story, Omega is a Fallen Hero: the original Bruce Wayne, having been tortured after people turned on the heroes.
- Batman: Black and White:
- "The Hunt" ends with Bruce Wayne waking up from a dream. It's left ambiguous whether the whole story was a dream, or just the bit at the end where he flew off in a cloud of bats with a hoodlum under each arm.
- "Snow Job" is a wacky story about the adventures of Batman and his son, Batman Junior, which ends with Bruce Wayne waking up and discovering he'd dreamed the whole thing.
- A story told in Captain America: Red, White & Blue showed Cap and Bucky duking it out with the Red Skull seemingly during World War II. Bucky saves Cap from the Skull's trap, and we see what Cap looks like with his mask off: He's an old man. Bucky is still as young as ever. It then cuts to a shot of Cap frozen in ice. The story continues; We see Bucky saving Cap from falling off a ledge, encouraging him when he's on life support... and then four familiar silhouettes walk through the door. Bucky tells Cap that he's done all he could, that the rest is up to him now, and that no matter what, he'll always be his partner. Cap wakes up and hears Giant-Man explaining how they pulled him out of the ice, remarking that even with his advanced metabolism, the odds of surviving that experience for so long were pretty much impossible.
Giant-Man: Mister... you have one hell of a guardian angel watching over you.
[Cap says nothing, though he seems to agree. The End.]
- 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.
- The final arc of Daredevil (Charles Soule) has Matt hit by a car and driven to finally take down Mayor Wilson Fisk. Matt manages to beat Bullseye, reunite with estranged "Brother" Mike and get evidence that Fisk fixed the mayoral election, forcing him to resign. As he celebrates, Matt is attacked by Fisks's newest masked enforcer, beating him down, pulling off the mask...and seeing his own face. Cut to Matt on the operating table as the last four issues have all been a dream in his mind as he's near death from the accident.
- 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 scrappedhe 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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).
- In the 33rd issue of G.I. Joe (Devil's Due), Hawk is shown to have recovered from being shot by Cobra Commander in the previous issue and getting to enjoy retirement with his until-then-unseen wife after being informed that the threat of Cobra has come to a permanent end as a result of Cobra Commander being incarcerated and most of the surviving members of Cobra's top hierarchy being killed. This turns out to be a dream when Hawk pulls through for real and is told that Cobra is still active with very few casualties on their side. The reveal is especially made heartbreaking because the non-existence of Hawk's wife is confirmed by a Wham Shot showing a newspaper article confirming that the woman Hawk dreamed he was married to had died long ago.
- Heavy Metal had the story "Rahu's Reich", where a demon named Rahu is summoned by a foolish wizard, only to break free from the summoning circle and take over the world. The story ends with the reveal that everything that happened was a dream of Rahu's; in truth, the book with his summoning ritual was destroyed centuries ago, and all he can do as he sleeps, forgotten, is dream of glory.
- Bruce Jones' run on The Incredible Hulk was retconned in this manner, with Peter David's subsequent run explaining that it was all a hallucination brought on by Nightmare.
- 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".
- All the events of Issue 26 of Paperinik New Adventures "Time Escapes" are actually the demo of a TV show of the XIII century.
- There's a The 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.
- 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.
- Red Dwarf Smegazine: The comic "Fashion Victims" (which had an alien take The Cat's clothes to assist in the relief effort for his planet) is revealed at the end to be a nightmare that The Cat was viewing on the Dream Recorder.
- The Sandman (1989): 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.
- Scooby Apocalypse: Issue 10 is revealed at the end to primarily have been a fever dream.
- 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."
- The infamous Spider-Man storyline One More Day had Peter and Mary Jane's marriage retconned when Peter made a Deal with the Devil to save Aunt May. The newspaper comic didn't do the whole "deal with Mephisto" 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- An 2003 issue of an Malaysian monthly comic book magazine franchise Gemeilia (Kokko and May, or 哥妹俩), named "An Adventure In Room", Kokko and May meets an alien from an planet named Pala Planet. When the aliens have an fight over mouse, it comes with messy results and even turns Kokko into black-face "African". At the end, it was just a dream Kokko have, but when his mom came back from toy store and reward him and May for helping cleaning the room, she show the toy which is similar to the spaceship Pala Planet used, Kokko screams in horror.
- 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.
- Sensation Comics: Wonder Woman ends up in a very surreal town with two neglected children who have her bring their parents to them to teach their parents to appreciate them. The whole thing turns out to be a dream, but as it was a shared dream and the parents never realized it wasn't real it helps things anyway.
- In Wonder Woman (Rebirth), it's revealed that much of Wonder Woman (2011) was an elaborate illusion created by the Gods of Olympus to keep Diana away from Paradise Island.
- 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...
- Calvin and Hobbes:
"And then I awoke."
- The comic 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.
- 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."
- One arc began with Calvin about to hand in his completed math homework, when all the numbers suddenly spilled off the page, which then explodes into flame. His teacher turns into a tentacled alien and douses him with gasoline; Calvin leaps off his chair and is abruptly plummeting from the clouds. Calvin wakes up just as he was about to strike his house like a flaming meteor... only to remember he hadn't completed his math homework.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Jon got a date and asked Garfield to pinch him to be sure it wasn't a dream. It was.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 alignments turned Evil.
- The fanfiction story "The Reunion" considers the entire fourth season of the television version of Our Miss Brooks to be All Just A Dream.
- The Bridge to Terabithia LDD-fanfic, The Phone Call, uses this trope to retcon the original story, that Leslie's death from swinging on the rope was only Jess having a bad dream. Sure enough, the very next thing Jess does is to sever the rope swing to prevent his dream from happening, but this only leads to bigger problems when Leslie finds out about what he had done.
- There have been lots of fics inspired by Cupcakes (Sergeant Sprinkles) 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. Fan reaction was... less than positive, to the point where the author dropped the story in disgust shortly afterwards.
- 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 fan fiction about Dragon Ball GT, right after Goku's Heroic BSoD 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.
- In a similar fanfic Dead Man Switch, it turns out to be Kim's nightmare. She dreamt about how far Ron was willing to go to avenge Kim when she was taken to Lorwardia during "Graduation" to be beheaded and mounted as a trophy. Also the state Earth has become, since after they executed Kim, the Lorwardians forced the humans to tribute them by sending 15 teenage girls to be beheaded, have their heads mounted, and feasts on their headless bodies.
- 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.
- 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.
- Kai Abridged 2.9 was a dream Gohan had about the Garlic Jr. Saga, presumably because he was bored to sleep by his tutor whipping him.
- 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.
- This is how the "Amy Impressions" strips of Sonic the Comic Online! go. It starts with Amy at Johnny's grave when suddenly Johnny comes back as a zombie and attacks her. She wakes up at home, but then Johnny comes in... It turns out that even that is a dream (or a nightmare to be exact).
- The entirety of Faded Blue turns out to just be one of canon Steven's dreams. As the April Fools chapter would have you believe.
- In The Flash Sentry Chronicles (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and My Little Pony: Equestria Girls): Springer's Hedgehog Day experience is revealed to be an artificial dream he had while on a "Vision Quest" after some "Vision Quest Potion" spills on his head at Zecora's hut.
- Most of the first part of Ask King Sombra was his subconscious dreaming after he was blown to bits by the Crystal Heart, trapping his mind in his horn in the process. The only thing that's real is Coffee Talk, who he absorbed in his shadow form before it happened.
- The final scene of Below Average reveals the entire story was a nightmare sent by Princess Luna to make Starlight Glimmer give up her equality crusade.
- The problem in A Game of Castles is that Mario thinks that he's dreaming, but he's not. Mario came to the Mushroom Kingdom by a pipe. It's so weird and fantastical that he imagines it as a dream. He doesn't take anything seriously and just wants to be a hero, so he's very reckless. He ran off to "save" Peach from Bowser without asking whether she actually needed saving.
- In Chapter 14 of No Such Luck, No Such Love, Lana catches Lincoln leaving the house in the middle of the night due to all the mistreatment he receives. The readers are lead to believe that he is running away, similar to many fics showing Lincoln running away from home, but it turns out that it was just a nightmare that Lana was having.
- Subverted in Lonely Kagamin. There was an ending where Kagami wakes up alone, however it turned out to be an April Fool's prank. That comic was a dream, and Kagami wakes up to find Konata next to her in bed. She breaks down in tears, but fortunately has Konata there to comfort her.
- The Bolt Chronicles: The Murder Mystery is revealed at the end of the story to be Pennys jalapeno and pepperoni pizza-fueled nightmare.
- While this is not true for the narrative of the Steven Universe Deconstruction Fic Flawed Crystals, the story reveals in the final arc that the canon ending of the show was this: After being unable to cope with the knowledge that Rose Quartz really did shatter Pink Diamond, Steven had a Freak Out and created it as a wish-fulfillment fantasy.
- In What You Wish For, the whole thing turns out to be a coma dream Lori had while unconscious from breathing in fumes.
- In Chapter 2 of To What Subservience Leads, Megatron accidentally shoots Starscream during a battle, then spends the rest of the chapter and the first half of Chapter 3 deal with the ever-growing guilt and anger, only to learn of the Seeker's death when the Autobots (who had taken Starscream back to their base to fix him up) call him with the news. Just as he's about to succumb to Sanity Slippage, however, it's revealed that what he saw was actually a simulation Starscream was running during their merging to show Megatron the potential consequences of the raid scheduled for the next morning.
- The Nutdealer Expanded Universe: "Unaltered" reveals that "Unrelated" was just a fantasy of Nathan's after Tommy ruined his reputation.
- The bulk of Always You exists as an odd dream Strange Aeons is having, revealed only in the final chapter when she wakes up to her roommate Cindy writing the story. She then sees a message from Abby Classic on her computer... Only to wake up once again, this time with no roommate named Cindy and no message on her computer.
- "Nightmare Scenario", a chapter of Ma Fille, in which the long-deceased Heather comes to Joe's dream and shows him what would have happened had her entitled sister Laura taken custody of their daughter Katrina.
- 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.
- 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).
- Waking Life is basically a bunch of people talking about philosophy, all with trippy Rotoscoping and loosely connected by one main character. Occasionally he wakes up in bed, only to eventually realize that he's still dreaming. His quest to wake up forms a vague plot during the second half of the film.
- The Year Without a Santa Claus ends by revealing that the whole story was Santa Claus' dream. What's that? You watch it on TV every year and didn't know that? That's because its final scene is often left out in syndication. The use of this trope is actually rather odd, since Santa Claus already decided to uncancel Christmas and it's not like we need to justify the story's fantastical elements. Maybe the creators just wanted to reassure kids that Santa would never really consider sitting Christmas out?
- 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!
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Nelly's "Just a Dream".
- An early Beck song called "Blackfire Choked Our Death" recounts the travails of a family caught in Deadly Dust Storm, possibly during The Great Depression, as Beck discusses sand pouring through the walls of the house and grit in the food. Towards the end of the song, the imagery becomes more surreal and stream-of-consciousness, until the narrator wakes up in his bedroom with Black Sabbath playing on the radio.
- Britney Spears uses this in the videos for "Baby One More Time", "Born To Make You Happy", and "Everytime".
- 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 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.
- Céline 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 is explained to be Gammon Octo's (probably) prophetic dream about what will happen when the Clockworker's Doll achieves her utopia.
- 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 video for Moenia's "Ni tú ni Nadie" is all a daydream.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lampshaded in the episode "Push the Red Button" of Adventures in Odyssey. After a series of increasingly improbable events...
- The entire Secondary Phase of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (episodes 7-12) was written off as a psychotic episode suffered by Zaphod Beeblebrox.
- 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.
- The NoPixel 2020 Halloween and Christmas events each saw the citizens of Los Santos transported into the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse, and each situation ended up being a bizarre mass dream.
- There's a particularly nasty subversion in the "Here Be Dragons" haunt in Betrayal at House on the Hill. The traitor thinks they're dreaming, believes they can do whatever they want because it won't matter, and orders a dragon to kill all their friends, because why not? It's not like there are any consequences.
- The "Forced Dream" spell from Dungeons & Dragons retroactively turns unsatisfactory events into All Just A Dream.
- Fans have adapted it to create a save point system.
- 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 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.
- 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 N.E.R.D.S., 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.
- I and You: At the end of the play Anthony reveals that none of the play has physically happened. He was the boy discussed earlier who died while playing basketball, and his liver is a match for Caroline, who needed a transplant. She's been unconscious as it was transferred to her, and this was Anthony's final effort to both meet and say goodbye to her as he wasn't able to in life. The play ends with her waking up in the hospital.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the Appetizer Edition of Cooking Companions, the first time you start a New Game+, you wake up in one of the cabin's beds with Karin and are asked if you just had a nightmare. Runs after that, however, go into That Was Not a Dream territory with Karin now having a Nightmare Face.
- 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.
- The Twist Ending for The Cradle Of Ruin is that everything in the story was a dream made up by Hotarou while hes still in his mothers womb. This can only be acquired if the player has all the letters from the previous endings and has gone through Route C. Hotarou is given a choice by Megi to either stay in his dream, which would be him dying, or he can say goodbye to his world and be born. However, there is the implication that Hotarou will live through the events again and may not have any memory of what happened.
- In The Great Ace Attorney the events in one of the Randst magazine turns out to be this.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fate/hollow ataraxia ...Maybe. What's dream and what is real can be difficult to separate.
- 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.
- Most of Thousand Dollar Soul is revealed to be a virtual reality simulation created by Future Todd to satisfy his lust for Angela. Commentary for ending #16 mentions how this trope is often used as a Writer Cop Out, but defends this particular usage since the "dream" ends up having a significant effect on the real world, namely the simulated Angela's consciousness overwriting Future Todd's mind with her own.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dorkly Originals:
- "If Sega owned Mario" has Mario in a nightmare where he and Luigi are experiencing the formats that Sega has been doing Sonic; altered designs and a were-plumber form. Mario soon wakes up and is relived it was a dream... until a faceless Luigi explains they're now owned by Ubisoft.
- "If Nintendo owned Sonic" shows Sonic discovering he's now living a successful series (with his name replacing Mario's) and finds it's everything he wanted. Unfortunately, Sonic soon wakes up in his rundown room and realizes he was dreaming and now wants to be owned by Nintendo, then is left with Federation Force Samus besides him.
- FreedomToons: In "Amy Coney Barrett Goes To The Senate", when Barrett shows the court her blank notebook, all of America suddenly becomes devoutly Catholic... in the imagination of her detractors.
- 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":
Marzipan: You mean the whole last season was a dream?! Gimme a break! They shoulda just had babies, and then the babies shoulda gotten married.
- Let's Go! Tamagotchi: Mametchi's little sister Chamametchi turns into a superhero to fight off a giant monster attacking the town. This turns out to be nothing more than a dream she was having.
- 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.
- 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...
- 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.
- Sonic Zombie: The very end of the series reveals that it was actually all a strange dream had by regular Sonic, animated with an Art Shift in Source Filmmaker.
- 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.
- 8-Bit Theater had one of these as a fake final episode, since its author loves jokes that are on the reader. Except that what was intended to cause backlash instead resulted in numerous fans genuinely pleased with the horrible ending, as it fit the comic perfectly, and thanking the author for years of free entertainment.
- Batman: Wayne Family Adventures: In "Daydreaming" ninjas invade the cave and are eaten by the T-Rex robot as a stunned Duke runs to grab his costume, only for Duke to be woken by Bruce as he'd dosed off while reviewing boring contingency plans.
- In Bittersweet Candy Bowl:
- The chapter "Wonderland". Lucy "wakes up" at the beginning of the chapter and the chapter before it was an April Fool's comic, making it all just a dream as well.
- Commander Kitty starts off with CK apparently having become the galaxy's greatest hero and the emperor of the entire cat system. No surprise that it's all just a crazy daydream.
- Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures manages to make this actually downright chilling. The character dreaming is explicitly unable to dream.
- Educomix: The entire Garden of Edam storyline was dreamed by Jessica. Also, in this strip, Dave and Jessica's first kiss was actually dreamed by Jessica.
- Grace of El Goonish Shive, goes through her first day of highschool, then wakes up. She's disappointed that it was just a dream, but still hopeful the experience would be close.
- In Greg, Greg dreams he's a swashbuckling slayer of beasts and a suave ladies man, too bad the reality is so different.
- The first page of Held Within features a short dream sequence misdirect involving Susie asleep in class dreaming about her girlfriend and being caught. The author has admitted it was a way to not only quickly establish some info about Susie, but to also insert nudity early on while not holding up the start of the story.
- Homestuck: Here, Doc Scratch reveals that, from the coin flip onwards, he had actually been describing a doomed alternate timeline in which Terezi let Vriska carry out her plan, and that, in the alpha timeline, Terezi had foreseen that outcome and stabbed Vriska to avoid it. It's revealed eventually that that was a doomed alternate timeline (which was followed for the entire rest of the comic), and that actually, Vriska survives due to a literal in-universe Retcon.
- In Housepets!, the Celestial Nerds (Pete, Spirit Dragon, Great Kitsune; the ones using Babylon Gardens as pawns in their Cosmic D&D Game) end any dealings with mortal pets with the trick of making them wake up in their bed as if it was all just a dream. Tarot calls it "standard celestial policy". In most cases, it's a very thinly-veiled tactic, and those it happens to tend to return with relics, for instance a gold statuette of a derp-faced kitsune saying "Or was it"
- In L's Empire, the Zombie Apocalypse during the April Fools Day special was actually a movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
- This happens twice in My Milk Toof with the episode of "villainous ickle" who goes around breaking everything and when they go fishing they fall asleep and dream of catching a fish.
- Ozy and Millie does it twice, once when Ozy grows dragon wings and again when Millie's homework comes to life and rebels against her.
- In one strip of The Petri Dish, Dr. Thaddeus Euphemism discovers a secret organization of potatoes called the Tubernati, but they turn out to just be a dream of his.
- Puck has a dream sequence (ending at #381) involving Puck losing her freckles, becoming a blonde and abandoning her family to make a career in Hollywood. Subverted in that compared to some of the things that happen in canon, it all seems quite likely...
- Happens every year in Rhapsodies with Kevin getting shanghaied into helping with Santa's Christmas rush. This always ends with him waking up... Though occasionally there's a few details lying around to make the audience wonder.
- In the April Fools 2016 strip of Shortpacked!, it's revealed that the entire comic was all a dream of Historical Jesus, back in thirtysomething AD. This, of course, makes no sense on multiple levels but, hey, April Fools strip.
- Silent Hill: Promise uses this in the beginning, before getting to the real horror.
- In Soul Symphony the protagonist purposely makes another character believe that his experience of using magic to fight evil demons was this. It really wasn't.
- At the end of Chapter 1 of Tales from the Interface, we learn that what happened up to that point was all a virtual world.
- This Touhou Nekokayou comic turns Concealed the Conclusion's All Just a Dream into a Mind Screw, simply by switching the "all" and the "dream." A later one combines this, Acid Reflux Nightmare, and a Brick Joke about Meiling's accused Homosexual Reproduction. (Word of Muffin states that only this comic is All Just A Dream, not the entire Story Arc.)
- TRU-Life Adventures is suggesting everything that happened since the first time travel story has been Bob's dream.
- In Urban Underbrush, Caius dreams that Santa Claus rescues him, only to learn that the tenants of the building had, and a vet had patched him up.
- xkcd strip #806 "Tech Support" shows an amateur developer calling a tech-support hotline, and discovering a secret phrase that, when said, will automatically transfer him to someone who knows at least two programming languages; he then wakes up.
- YU+ME: dream has a Wham Episode (and Broken Base inducer) in the middle when this happens, leading to a Coming-Out Story having a Genre Shift; instead of the usual dream revelation being at the end and nothing in the real world having changed, the dream is the turning point of the story and the main character is greatly affected by what happened. The comic was conceived after its author experienced this trope for real: she met a girl and fell in love, only to wake up after what felt like months of being with her. Interestingly, the dreams are real, and what we think is the dream world is actually another dimension called "Nod", which means it's not just a dream.
- In Zebra Girl, apparently all this Zebra Girl stuff is just a dream, Sandra is perfectly normal girl and Sam is a cartoon character; and then Sam breaks the fourth wall. It's Incubus' attempt at a Lotus-Eater Machine, and Sandra wasn't fooled for a second.
- Discussed in the autobiographical comic Joe vs. Elan School when Joe describes dreaming about his sister; he explains that the constant emotional abuse at the titular school causes its inmates to have frighteningly realistic dreams about leaving. As he says, "The human brain craves the comfort of home and it will bring you home in your dreams and make it so damn real that you'll even have memories in your dream of leaving or escaping the hell you're suffering..." Double Subverted later on after Joe graduates from Elan School — he wakes up back in Elan and realizes his graduation was yet another dream — then he wakes up for real in a hotel room on his way home.
- Blood Reverie: Subverted. When Cassia falls asleep, she finds herself in the presence of a vampire lord. She thinks this is just a repeated erotic dream she's having at first, but he's quite real.
- The Cracked article "Why 'Saved by the Bell' is All a Dream: A Conspiracy Theory" explains why Saved by the Bell has to be an escapist dream of a character in Good Morning Miss Bliss, using clues from the Expository Theme Tune.
- According to this story at Not Always Right, "And it was all just a dream" is the most despised sentence in the literary world. It's kind of telling that it's not one of the five reasons that the person telling the story gives as to why the client's novel sucks.
- Zorak's Let's Play of Pokémon Quartz was eventually revealed to be a nightmare of Foxy's induced by Misty (protagonist of Chorocojo's Pokémon Emerald LP) trying to teach Sanchez the Ludicolo Dream Eater.
- Most of the second half of The Third Night takes places during Gaven's hallucinogen-fueled Mushroom Samba. It's an open question what events actually happen to him and what's all just in his head.
- Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG:
598. Any adventure that ends up with my character being worshiped as an orc god was just a dream. Retroactively if need be.
1007. That whole Expedition to the Barrier Peaks? Dream Sequence.
- 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.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
- Turns out episode 12 about the fake Namek was all just Krillin's dream, who feels okay, till Mr. Popo shows up leading to...
- The Misadventures of Skooks:
- Part 3 opens with Fred waking up from a dream involving Shaggy and Skooks having sex. About a minute later in real life, Shaggy requests Skooks for a hand job, shocking Fred.
- The Stinger to Part 5 has Fred waking up again in his bed. It's left unclear if all of Part 5 was a dream or if the whole series was one.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Yoshi's Story OF DEATH!!!!" turns out to be one of Bowser's nightmares from eating 1-UPs before bed.
- "Night Of The Living Goomba" turns out to be one of Mario's dreams inside of one of Luigi's dreams inside one of Bowser's nightmares from eating 1-UPs before bed (the reveal of which reuses footage from "Yoshi's Story OF DEATH!!!!").
- "Toadsworth's Funeral" turns out to be a dream Peach had after passing out from forgetting to take her medication. Apparently, she also said the things she said in her dream out loud in her sleep.
- 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.
- 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.
- Zsdav Adventures:
- Szent block 3 (Holy block 3) ends with Zsdav falling into a lava pit. Then he wakes up in his house.
- The Space Pig arc turns out to be Zsdav's dream in the Sötét tenger (Dark sea) arc.
- 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.
- 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.