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Dream Tells You to Wake Up

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Coulson: I thought I'd lost you.
Rosalind: Nope. I'm still right here.
Coulson: I don't remember...
Rosalind: We overslept, which is nice. But now you need to get up.

Our hero is not in the real world. He's inside a Lotus-Eater Machine, or just sleeping, unconscious or in a coma, and having a dream, while he should be awake and dealing with the things going on. Sometimes his friends will mount a Rescue from the Underworld and get inside the dream to make him aware of it, and then escape. But sometimes not. Sometimes it is a character from within the dream itself who tells the hero that everything is a dream, and that he has to leave. May involve a Dream Within a Dream, Crashing Dreams (when you're physically woken up) and result in a Catapult Nightmare. May have An Aesop about letting the past go, and not be trapped in nostalgia of the old days.

Contrast Dream Apocalypse, where the characters in the dream do not want the dreamer to wake up. If nobody openly tells the hero that he's dreaming, but he notices it anyway because some things do not make sense, then there's A Glitch in the Matrix. This trope does not necessarily take place in Soviet Russia.


It is not always revealed before that point that the dream is a dream, so this trope may include spoilers. Contrast Dream Deception for when the assertion that it's a dream is a lie.


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    Comic Books 
  • Heroes for Hire 2011. Misty Knight is in a coma, and the Puppet Master manipulates her by controlling her dreams, focusing on those that stimulate the primal reactions. In one of those recurring dreams she sees a familiar boy in the street, tries to catch him, and when he turns she discovers that he's a walking corpse (this kid would be the son that she lost in a miscarriage). Eventually Misty started to realize that there is A Glitch in the Matrix, and struggles to wake up. To prevent that, the Puppet Master tried to induce fear by starting a dream where she is attacked by all her friends, to no avail. This dream gets mixed with the one of the boy, but now he turns, shows to be a normal looking boy, and tells her to wake up. And so she does, and the Puppet Master must now rely on Plan B...
  • In House of M the Scarlet Witch rearranged all reality into a world where mutants rule and everyone was living his ideal life. Wolverine realized that it was false, and started to gather heroes to stand against Wanda. They got the help of Layla Miller, who could make heroes remember their old life. She was a new character, and Dr. Strange even suspected that she was created by Wanda herself. Ultimately subverted, as Layla did exist before the whole House of M thing.
  • The Vision and the Scarlet Witch: Badly hurt by Nuklo, Vision is about to die, and has a dream with Orton, Ultron, the Human Torch and Wonder Man. The real Wonder Man is in the hospital, fighting against the Grim Reaper. At one point, both Wonder Men (the one in the dream and the real one) grab Vision and tells him to wake up, in unison.
  • X-Men: Blue: Returning home from their space mission, and with Jean killed by the Poisons, The 4 remaining X-Men suddenly find themselves outside the mansion, with their original uniforms, and Jean is there. The best realizes what happens: the ship (a sentient version of the Danger Room) thinks that they are going to die, because it had been badly attacked by meteors, and tries to comfort them with a pleasant reality. Hank wants to turn down the program, to make repairs, but Scott does not want to. Then Jean (who is just an holographic representation) intervenes and tells them not to fight over something, herself, that isn't even real.
  • In Superman stories:
    • Superboy (1994): Dubbilex wakes up Superboy by having the cruel dream version of himself that was already in Superboy's dream stop his actions and instead tell him that he needs to wake up and help stop an invasion.
    • Supergirl (2005): In issue #22, Supergirl is dreaming that she has been reunited with the Legion of Super-Heroes after being knocked out and buried under a railway car by a super-villain. Her happiness is cut short when Lightning Lad tells her she is dreaming, and she really should wake up before her friends get killed by the guy who dropped a train on her.
  • In one issue of the Eclipse Comics series of Jonny Quest, Jonny spends his whole life hunting and being hunted by the masked assassin X-7, who kills his victims by strangling them. Finally, as an old man, he faces X-7 one last time while a recording of his father repeats that he must "wake up" to the dangers of X-7. It turns out that "X-7" is actually an experimental pesticide, a cannister of which broke open during a test and began filling the room with toxic fumes; Jonny manages to break a window and throw it outside before activating the lab's ventilation system.

    Comic Strips 
  • El Negro Blanco: Marcucci is dreaming that he is an Arabian sheik with a populated harem, and waged war to recover two wives that were stolen. As Negro saved him with a brave movement, Marcucci decided to let him get one of those wives for himself. He asked them to reveal their faces: they are Flopi and Chispa, his two love interests in the real world. There's no more time for Ending Fatigue: decide, right here and now, which one do you like best! In a moment, lord Marcucci, but shouldn't you answer the phone first? Hm, the phone? Yes: the phone started to ring in the real world, and Marcucci had to wake up before Negro decides anything.
  • For a period in time in the Little Nemo comic strips, Flip was jealous that Princess Camille of Slumberland has chosen Nemo to be her playmate over him, and would regularly sabotage it by telling Nemo to wake up, which he inevitably would. He soon got over this though and he and Nemo eventually became friends.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Code Lyoko fan fiction "Comatose", it is revealed that Jeremie fell into a coma and the voices he thought he heard when Aelita was in a coma (Mind Screw alert), was Aelita's telling him to wake up.
  • In a previous draft of Code Lyoko-Maximum Ride crossover Code Wings 3.0, Cassidy dreams of being on Planet Drool, where Shark Boy yells at her to wake up in Jeremie's voice.
  • In Discordant, Discord wakes Scootaloo up while talking to her in her dreams.
    "You're about to miss the song." Time to wake up...

    Films — Animation 
  • At the end of the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, Alice is being chased by everyone in Wonderland, and she begs the doorknob to let her outside. The doorknob then informs her "But you are outside!" and shows her fast asleep though the keyhole. Alice then tells her self to wake up, which then fades into her sister telling her to wake up.
  • A mild case in The Simpsons Movie. Marge says to Homer "I know it's easy for your mind to wander...", and yes, Homer was thinking of a dancing monkey while Marge was talking. She added "...but I want you to really concentrate on me": the monkey stopped his dance, saw Homer with disdain and pointed to Marge. Pay attention to what she says!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Mulholland Dr., when Betty opens the blue box, the Cowboy appears, telling her "it's time to wake up."
  • The Cell. Happens in universe when the detective enters the VR device after Catherine becomes trapped there. At one stage he's literally having his guts pulled out while screaming at her to wake up.

  • The War Against the Chtorr. A guilt-ridden and suicidal Jim McCarthy gets high, stumbles into a Chtorran nest and falls asleep. Before he can be eaten alive by Chtorran worms, his gay lover Ted appears in a dream and talks him into going back to his helicopter. The next day Jim rewinds the cameras and sees himself doing a Silly Walk back to the helicopter, and concludes that he must have been really high last night. As Ted is a telepath however, the implication is that it wasn't a dream but actually Ted remote-controlling his body.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • "Farewell, Cruel World!" The team is trapped in the Framework, a virtual reality created by the android AIDA. After a number of adventures inside it, they manage to find the portal that will allow them to wake up in the real world. But Fitz has no interest in doing that, as he was turned into the Number Two of HYDRA, and in fact wants to kill the agents, specially Jemma. Dr. Radcliffe (who was killed by AIDA in the real world, and now only exists as a NPC within the framework) was the one who took Fitz there, but not to betray the others: he attacked Fitz from behind, and tossed him into the portal.
    • "Maveth". Seeking revenge for the death of Rosalind, Phil Coulson followed Grant Ward across a portal to an alien world. He fell unconscious with the fall, but fortunately Ward did not realize that he was followed. He had a dream where he was sleeping next to Rosalind.
      Coulson: I thought I'd lost you.
      Rosalind: Nope. I'm still right here.
      Coulson: I don't remember...
      Rosalind: We overslept, which is nice. But now you need to get up.
  • Arrow. After the Ninth Circle collapses a building on top of Oliver Queen, he spends the next episode having a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane conversation with Tommy Merlyn who died at the end of season one (also when a building collapsed on him). At the end Tommy tells Oliver that it's time to wake up and snaps his fingers, and just then Oliver's friends turn up to dig him out of the rubble.
  • Doctor Who: In "Last Christmas", Santa Claus repeatedly appears to tell the characters that they're still trapped in the Dream Crabs' power.
  • Supernatural:
    • In Season 3, Dean and Sam enter Bobby's dream to find out why he can't wake up, and Dean ends up convincing Bobby to wake up.
    • When the angel Gadreel is possessing Sam, Crowley enters the dream world Gadreel has created for Sam and gives him a code word that tells him to fight for control of his mind.

  • The first song in Eugenius! ends with Tough Man telling Eugene to wake up and stop dreaming about him. Cue Eugene waking up in bed.

    Video Games 
  • Throughout the first three Books of Dreamfall Chapters, Zoë is repeatedly told, in various wordings, that she needs to "wake up" (including, particularly sneakily, the phrase popping up all over the screens on Europolis streets... in Arabic). That despite the fact that she woke up from her coma midway through Book One. Then Book Four reveals that she actually didn't: in Book One, she merely used her Reality Warper powers to create a secondary body for herself—a kind of physical Astral Projection—while her real body is still in coma in a lab somewhere.
  • At the end of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, the Windfish tells Link to use the Magic Music to wake them both up.
  • At the end of the last episode of Criminal Case: Pacific Bay, Tesla, an evil A.I., is plotting to install everyone's mind inside a virtual reality and destroy all Pacific Bay in the real world. Frank has been the last victim, and Karen died in an earlier episode, but their minds (and their late children) had been uploaded to the virtual reality. The Agent and Amy have the means to destroy Tesla and his virtual world, but that would mean "killing" Frank a second time. What does Frank say? Do it. Kill Tesla, end all this. The Knight family accepts that they are all dead and that their existence within a virtual reality is meaningless.

    Visual Novels 
  • In one of the protagonist's dreams about the title character in Melody, Melody tells him that it’s time to wake up.


    Web Original 
  • One creepypasta posits that this is a common occurrence with people experiencing a traumatic event implying reading the creepypasta is one such dream.
    It has been reported that some victims of torture, during the act, would retreat into a fantasy world from which they could not wake up. In this catatonic state, the victim lived in a world just like their normal one, except they weren’t being tortured. The only way that they realized they needed to wake up was a note they found in their fantasy world. It would tell them about their condition, and tell them to wake up. Even then, it would often take months until they were ready to discard their fantasy world and please wake up.

    Western Animation 
  • Avengers Assemble: In the "Saving Captain Rogers" episode, an aged Baron Zemo hypnotized Captain America into believing that he was still fighting WWII, alongside Bucky, and against the first Baron Zemo (father of the modern one). The important part of that fantasy is when WWII Zemo captures Bucky and takes him to his lab, forcing Captain America to find the way to Zemo's secret lab. Outside the fantasy, the old Zemo had retrieved his father's castle but ignored how to access into the hidden lab, so the Captain did so for him. Once it is done, Zemo got the super soldier serum of his father that renewed his youth and gave him strength to stand to Iron Man and Black Widow, while leaving Captain America perpetually in that dream. As they fight, Captain America is worried that something is happening that is destroying the castle, and Bucky got trapped under one of the rocks. Bucky then told him: everything is a dream, he has to let it go, and return to the real world.
  • "The Sting" episode of Futurama. Fry died to save Leela from a giant killing bee from space. Leela constantly blames herself, and keeps dreaming with Fry, who always ends the dream suddenly telling her to wake up. In the end, she does wake up... from a coma, and the nested Dream Within a Dream. Fry was fine, next to her bed, and repeating all the time "you have to wake up".
  • "The Girl Who Slept Too Little", episode of The Simpsons. Lisa is afraid of the graveyard, fell unconscious, and dreamed with evil monsters that scare her. Eventually, the monsters stop trying to scare her, and gave her An Aesop about being OK to be scared from time to time. So now, it's time to wake up.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): The episode "In Dreams" has an attempt at doing this. When the Turtles are trapped in unending nightmares by the Dream Beavers, April tries to use her psychic powers to enter them (either as herself or talking through one of the dreams' inhabitants) and tell the Turtles to wake up, but this has no effect.


Video Example(s):


Wake up, Alice!

Alice discovers that she's been dreaming this whole time and frantically tries to wake herself up to escape execution.

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