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Dying Dream

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Doubtless, despite his suffering, [Peyton Farquhar] had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene — perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forwards with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon — then all is dark-ness and silence!

Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.

The trope that launched a thousand Wild Mass Guesses and Delusion Conclusions, the Dying Dream is easily the most fashionable form of "Shaggy Dog" Story. The beginnings may be different — although these days they usually seem to start with a car crash — but each one ends in the same way, with the reveal that The Protagonist has been dead or dying all along, and that everything that has happened has been some kind of dream, or else a purgatorial cleansing of sins. The absolute end of the story may involve the protagonist dying, which can result in them entering Heaven, Hell, The Nothing After Death or just winking out of existence altogether if the writer doesn't believe in an afterlife (or just wants to leave the question open).

Typically, the stories have a protagonist going about what they believe to be their normal lives, but finding "reality" becoming increasingly unhinged, with demons, surreal elements and other oddities making them increasingly baffled and afraid.

Note that stories don't count if we know all along that the character is dead/dying, or if the dying dream bit only comes in at the end.

Compare Dead All Along and Dead to Begin With. May overlap with Schrödinger's Butterfly. Contrast Your Mind Makes It Real for the belief that dying in a dream kills you off for real. If the character finally manages to reject this fake reality and awaken (in a hospital, morgue, crypt or whatever floats your boat), it is Adventures in Comaland. Not to be confused with Death Seeker, in which one has a desire to die. See also My Life Flashed Before My Eyes, when a character dreams about their life on their deathbed in a twist-free and often humorous fashion.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 18if: Episode 3 is this for Kayo Sugisaki, a girl who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease. In her dream, she meets the protagonist Haruto, who decides to make her last moments as happy as possible. Before dying, she admits her love for him.
  • At the end of the Hentai Manga Alice In Sexland, it is revealed that Alice broke her neck while fleeing from her oppressors at the very start - the entire realm of Sexland is her afterlife. And it's explicitly single-occupant - she's the only "real" person there besides the Queen of Hearts, and one of them needs to be reincarnated. The other people aren't mirages or illusions or anything like that - they're described as being as much a part of the world as the flora. The point of Sexland and the other worlds like it is to help a soul figure out just what or why it lived; Sexland in particular holds souls who suffered from sexual abuse. (Alice was a Sex Slave, and the Queen of Hearts was a prostitute who was killed by a customer.) It's a happy ending even with the twist.
  • A short one in the manga of Battle Royale. Hirono Shimizu is delirious from an infected bullet wound and stops to drink at a well. She gets tipped in by Toshinori Oda, but rain begins to fall and raises the water allowing her to climb out and find her friends came back to her and there is a way to escape the island. Uh-uh, panel of Hirono's smiling face is followed by a panel of her deranged grin as she drowns in the blackness of the well.
  • A Discussed Trope in Cowboy Bebop, where main character Spike 'lives' under the philosophy that he may not be alive at all and died during his backstory. Julia's death seems to end the uncertainty, as Spike's reaction to her death is to undertake a Suicide Mission to clean up his past.
    Spike: I'm just watching a bad dream I never wake up from.
  • In the last episode of Fate/Zero, Kariya Matou staggers into the bug room, close to dying, and rescues Sakura, reuniting her with her sister Rin and mother, and both Rin and Sakura call him 'Daddy'... then cut to Sakura watching his dead body being eaten by the bugs.
  • Near the end of GUN×SWORD, Ray is mortally wounded when the Claw's men gun him down. He wakes up in a rocking chair, on the porch of a house by the sea. His wife - long since killed by the Claw - asks him what he was dreaming about. They talk for a while before he joins her, and "Calling You" starts playing... There's no shame in crying. Subverted in that this isn't how the show ends - It's All Just a Dream Ray has as he dies.
  • In the third season of Hell Girl, Yuzuki has actually been dead the whole time and the past few years have been an illusion, which she only discovers when evidence of her "life" starts disappearing.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Diamond is Unbreakable: In the climax, Yoshikage Kira seems to activate Bites the Dust after getting utterly decimated by Josuke to get away from the protagonists and rewind himself back in time before the whole event, fully convinced that he has beaten them. And then Reimi shows up to reveal that it was all in his head as he laid dying and was shown that he had actually got ran over by an ambulance.
    • Golden Wind: After getting killed by Diavolo, Abbacchio finds himself eating a meal before having a conversation with an officer about his past before realizing the man he's speaking to was his former partner and he is now leaving for the afterlife.
    • Steel Ball Run: Before his defeat, Ringo Roadagain briefly envisions a path made of light that he believes hold the true road to victory before getting finished off by Gyro.
    • JoJolion: In his last moments, Toru sees a hornet flying away, the closest beings to family and food he ever had. He realizes that it was just a memory as he crumbles away.
  • The infamous hentai manga, Metamorphosis (also known as Emergence), when the main character Saki has been brutally assaulted by a group of delinquents just as she was about to get her life in order. In addition to stealing her money, they also forced a miscarriage by kicking her pregnant belly. With her last bit of strength, she overdoses on heroin, and drifts away as her body bleeds out, dreaming of a happy future with the daughter she would've had.
  • Pacific Rim: The Black: After Brina is mortally wounded helping to save the Boy from the Sisters, Loa and Hayley place her in a Drift-created simulation of them all reaching Sydney and being reunited with the siblings' father. She passes away shortly after this moment occurs in the simulation.
  • An alternate ending to the manga Pretty Face has the entire story be just a dream before Rando dies in a coma. Thankfully it wasn't chosen as the true ending. And in the last panel, Rando beats the mangaka into a pulp for being so dark.
  • A variation in the Zone of the Enders anime: In Idolo, Radium starts to see the world around him as the chapel he planned to marry his just-killed fiancee Dolores (a.k.a. Dolly) in shortly before he dies. In Dolores, i, a not-so dead Radium begins to hallucinate again, imagining the Humongous Mecha battle between Hathor and Dolores (named after Dolly) as a fight between himself and James, who is piloting Dolores, in the same chapel. Dolores' AI appears in the chapel as a child-like version of Dolly, while his own frame's AI appears as an evil version of her. When he is mortally wounded, the real Dolores suddenly appears and embraces him, and when he finally passes on, he sees both Dolores and his friend Viola (who died in the first game) waiting for him.

    Asian Animation 
  • Kafei from Happy Heroes at the near end of season 14, in the final confrontation against Dark Demon, before dying, she have a dream where she reunited with her former boyfriend.

    Comic Books 
  • During the Batman: Contagion storyline, Tim Drake has vivid hallucinations of his family while lying dying from the Clench.
  • In The Boys, Garth Ennis' sendup of traditional caped heroes, Tek-Knight dies in a Heroic Sacrifice that results in him hallucinating how he saves the day. After pushing a woman and her child out of the way of a falling meteorite (one that heralds an Armageddon-style meteor shower) the mortal hero makes an unlikely flight into orbit to personally destroy an enormous asteroid about to smash the Earth. Turns out the initial "meteorite" that he saved the family from was actually a wheelbarrow load of bricks spilled from above by a construction worker and the hero suffered fatal head trauma from said bricks.
  • Flashpoint (1999) has Barry dream of the regular DC universe and its heroes welcoming him as he expends himself saving the world.
  • Gen¹³: The second-to-last arc of Adam Warren's run appears to be a Breather Episode after the Cliffhanger ending of their last storyline (which was resolved off-screen). However, as more and more examples of "dream logic" appear, heroine Caitlin Fairchild eventually realizes that she's retreated to a fantasy version of her life in the last few microseconds before the Earth-Shattering Kaboom from the aforementioned cliffhanger vaporizes her and her friends, making way for Chris Claremont's short-lived revamp of the series.
  • Green Lantern: The third Green Lantern Corps Annual had a story titled "Guardian Angel", where a Green Lantern named Shingo-Wol believed that he had overcome his power ring's weakness towards the color yellow to defeat a whole battalion colored yellow, but the last page reveals that he was actually killed and hallucinated his victory during his final moments.
  • The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael: One possible interpretation of the ending, as Ichabod lays dying when reality ceases to exist all around him, he finds himself back with Zoe and their child in the cabin.
  • The Invisibles has an issue called "Best Man Fall," which tells a man's life story in a fragmented, stream-of-consciousness structure. Only at the end of the story does the reader discover that the protagonist is an enemy soldier who is shot in the face by the hero in the first issue, and that everything we have seen is him having a flashback in the seconds before he dies.
  • Kinetic: This was the original ending for DC Comic's short-lived series, where a hemophiliac gains superpowers after being hit by a truck. The original ending was, described by the writer in a Wizard Magazine article later as, a Downer Ending because the original idea was the boy was killed by being hit by the truck and the whole series was his Dying Dream.
  • Mazeworld: Subverted when Adam wakes up after his adventure in Mazeworld as he's still being executed by hanging, his experience apparently having been an oxygen-deprived hallucination. He's somehow still in possession of an artifact that he acquired in the Mazeworld, however.
  • The Punisher: Born has this happen for Steve Goodwin, as he's carried off the battlefield in a plane crewed by beautiful stewardesses back to the "real America" he's been dreaming about his whole deployment. Back in the real world, we see a panel of his corpse, having been stabbed to death with a bayonette.
  • Spider-Girl: Issue #63 features dying dreams of both Normie Osborne (Harry's son) and The Kingpin, the former being haunted by his grandfather Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, while the latter is tormented by his son Richard Fisk. One survives, but you don't find out which until the next issue. It's Normie.
  • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise: Optimus Prime issue #9 has Sideswipe appear to recover and reconcile with his brother Sunstreaker while learning about what has transpired since he was put out of commission. The end of the comic reveals this to only be a simulation constructed for him by Jetfire, Arcee and Sunstreaker to give him closure during his final moments when it became clear that he couldn't recover and was on borrowed time.
  • Neil Gaiman's Whatever Happened to The Caped Crusader? is partly this as it is Batman's last dream as he dies from Darkseid's Omega Sanction attack in Final Crisis, and part sendoff to every version of the Bruce Wayne Batman in similar vein of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? of Superman lore.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield: A famous Halloween story from 1989 has caused a prominent fan theory that the rest of the series is a hallucination experienced by the title character as he starved to death in an empty house. Word of God says otherwise, though.

    Fan Works 
  • Davion & Davion (Deceased) has Hanse Davion dreaming of his distant ancestor from the twilight years of the Star League, John Davion. But John is oddly insistent that he's the one having the dream. When the dream ends, John is indeed the one who wakes up, only now he's haunted by the ghost of a man who hasn't even been born yet.
  • Destiny (Afterandalasia) is a fanfic trilogy where all Disney animated films are the dying dreams of various people. Just before they pass, they're allowed to dream of the perfect life they couldn't have. Considering the prompt, their dreams might also count as an afterlife.
  • Discussed in Dirty Sympathy, after Edgeworth offers Klavier and Apollo a second chance as his apprentices instead of turning them into the police, Apollo openly wonders if he's imagining everything and is actually dying of his head injury when Kristoph smashed a cup of tea at his head in the beginning of the story or whether Klavier actually exists. Klavier, horrified by such morbid thinking, is quick to reassure him.
  • One Ecco the Dolphin fanfic portrayed Ecco as immortal, living for billions of years and seeing the Earth change and the sun swell over time, until finally he dives down to the bottom of the ocean and sees his old friends from long ago before dying. At the very end it's revealed that he did live a very long time for a dolphin - about three times longer than normal, as opposed to billions of years. He just went very senile in his old age and his dying dream was actually closer to reality than the hallucination he'd been living in.
  • Discussed in YuyaVision. Kiryu wakes up in the arms of his boyfriends Yusei and Placido and assumes that everything he's witnessed — escaping the Facility, getting recovered, falling in love — is all a horrible dream in his head and he's about to be executed. Yusei and Placido reassure him that it's not and he's safe now.

    Films — Animated 
  • The French short Above Then Beyond is about an old woman converting her house into a hot air balloon after getting an eviction notice. Although she seems to succeed at taking off at the end, the eviction men walk into the house and find her dead or asleep in her chair.
  • Implied to be the case in the film Waking Life, which is rather ironic considering the title. Although there are some digressions to other random figures, much of the film follows the main character (credited only as The Dreamer) who appears to be having a lucid dream, which he spends interacting with people, exploring ideas and philosophies, and occasionally exploiting the power of lucid dreaming. However as time goes by, The Dreamer finds himself apparently unable to wake up, as every time he thinks that he does wake up it just leads him into another level of dreaming, and furthermore, the figures he meets and the scenery of the dream become more foreboding; some speak about themselves as if they are dead and use the past tense when speaking of their lives, others say cryptic and vaguely threatening things about death or dying, and The Dreamer starts to worry that he's dead and not aware of it. The ending can be taken as more evidence that this trope is in play, but ultimately leaves the question unanswered.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • All That Jazz is all about the idea that death and show business go together like peanut butter and jelly, so it's no surprise when it whips one of these out for the final number. Alternatively, like many movies on this list, the entire thing might count.
  • Armistice features a lone Royal Marine who awakens in a house from which he cannot escape and in which he must fight daily for his life against a terrifying monster that repeatedly appears in the house. He finally tunnels out of the house, symbolically forcing himself out of the dream by sheer effort, to find that he is lying in the grass on a sunny battlefield, legless and disemboweled.
  • Beyond is about a couple hiding from aliens after an invasion, with flashbacks to their life before: meeting, falling in love, arguing, pregnancy, wondering what will happen if the looming asteroid hits Earth. The ending implies that everything in the story present is the man's dying dream after he was shot trying to get to the hospital for the birth.
  • The ending of Brazil plays out this way, only instead of dying the main character suffers a hallucination before being lobotomized.
  • The events of Carlito's Way are all a flashback after Carlito has been shot just as he's about to escape from the Mob. By another crook in retaliation for an unrelated incident.
  • Carnival of Souls predates Jacob's Ladder, however, as does the Oscar-winning French short An Occurrence at Owl Creek, based on the short story by Ambrose Bierce.
  • Christmas Evil ends with Harry driving his car off a bridge. We than see him in his car flying away. The writers confirmed that the final shot of him flying away in his car was all in his head because he believed he could make his car fly, and he really just drove off the bridge and killed himself, making this his dying dream.
  • David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. and Lost Highway are open to numerous interpretations, including that their stories are dying dreams.
  • Dead End (2003) reveals that the family all died in a car accident.
  • Deathwatch is about a British team of soldiers who, a day after a heavy fight, found themselves in a foggy German trench system. They did not find it odd that the German soldiers are happy to see them. They kill all the Germans for fun, except one that a young private saves. They cannot get out of the trenches any way they try, and it becomes alive and takes them one by one. At the end of the film, it turns out they all were dead all along, and the trench was a last chance for them to save their souls.
  • The Escapist: Although it's debatable. Frank clearly dies, but it's implied that the escape was real and at the very least Lacey escaped.
  • Flatliners is about a group of medical students attempting to invoke this via an experiment in which they manually slow their heart rates until they're legally dead for a few seconds, all to learn about the afterlife. Their experiment ends up trapping each of them in their own personal Ironic Hell, where they're forced to face the demons of their greatest mistakes.
  • One interpretation of the last 15 minutes of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, because it has no dialogue, is that Hedwig died in the crash and the rest is a dying dream.
  • Hellraiser: Inferno and Hellraiser: Hellseeker, with the latter being the more straightforward use of the trope.
  • Maconel, in He Was a Quiet Man, was imagining the events of the movie while dying in two of the three endings.
  • Rob Zombie's commentary for House of 1000 Corpses suggests that the Hope Spot finale when the heroine escapes from Doctor Satan's lair by killing his axe-wielding minion and makes it to a road, only to be recaptured by Spaulding and Otis was really just a dying dream.
  • Hypocrites is all about a pastor, sick of his congregation for being a bunch of hypocrites, having a dream in which he reveals all of their hypocrisies. The ending reveals that he died in the church after giving the sermon on the hypocrisy that they all disliked.
  • Jacob's Ladder is probably the best-known example of this trope, and stars Tim Robbins as a Vietnam vet who eventually discovers that he never made it out of 'Nam and that the demons he keeps seeing are just stripping him of his worldly cares.
  • Let There Be Light (2017): The scientific explanation Sol gets of his Near-Death Experience is that it's only a hallucination caused by his brain in stress. Sol's wife dismisses this out of hand, and he soon follows.
  • The Life Before Her Eyes (well what did you expect with that title?)
  • Menace II Society. At the end of the film, Caine is thinking about his life as he lies there dying, and it's at this point that we realize (if you consider this interpretation of the film) that the ENTIRE film we've just seen has been Caine's life passing before his eyes, as he lies dying.
  • November has Courtney Cox's character reliving the same things over and over in order to get her to give up her worldly cares.
  • In Passion Play, Nate (Mickey Rourke) is seen flying into the sky with Lily (Megan Fox). They fly over the site where Nate was taken to be killed (he was saved by a band of Native Americans) at the beginning of the movie. Nate looks down and sees himself in the valley on the ground, dead, while his assassin leaves in his car. It leaves us with the feeling that the whole movie was a dying man's dream and now he's being taken to heaven by Lily.
  • John Boorman has confirmed that this is the correct interpretation of Point Blank (1967).
  • Likewise, in Repo Men, something like this happens to Remy himself about halfway through the story.
  • The entire ending of Scenic Route is revealed to be one. It's ambiguous whether both lead characters are sharing the same dying dream or if one of them is already dead.
  • Secretly, Greatly: After Hae-rang is killed by a grenade and Ryu-hwan jumps off a roof with Hae-jin's bullet-ridden body, we get a flashback of the three spies cleaning anchovies back in the village. They discuss their wants and dreams in life.
  • Someone's Knocking at the Door (2009). All but one of the protagonist's friends have fatally overdosed on the drugs he shared with them when they snuck into a file storage room in their med school, the serial killing couple who've been murdering his friends are old psych patients from a file he was reading, and the cops who questioned him after the first murder are actually doctors who are in the process of failing to resuscitate him.
  • Stay: the entire film is Henry's dream as he bleeds out following a car accident which killed his girlfriend and parents.
  • The movie Sublime plays with this and combines it with Your Mind Makes It Real, as it turns out everything was a dream he had during a coma. When he finally realises this he jumps out of the window and turns it into his dying dream.
  • Tales from the Hood: Crazy K is shot by three rival gangsters and arrested by the cops. In prison, he agrees to be put through an experimental therapy where he's shown pictures comparing black gang violence to KKK violence against blacks. Then the people he knows he's murdered show up to ask him why they deserved to die. Either it's a dying dream, or he's already in Hell.
  • A popular interpretation for the ending of Taxi Driver. Roger Ebert noted that it was too good of an ending to be true.
  • The original Total Recall (1990) already has enough of the it was all a dream theories going around, but some go as far as to say that the entire film was part of a dying brain embolism Arnold is having while in the "Rekall" machine.

  • Older Than Television: Ambrose Bierce's short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (1890) has a man who has been sentenced to death by hanging escaping his execution and running back to his family - only for his neck to break at the very end, revealing that it was in his head all along. The story was later made into a short film, which won the 1962 Palme d'Or for Best Short Subject and became an episode of The Twilight Zone (1959).
  • An Elegy for the Still-living explodes into full dream state by the end of the first chapter, but it isn't until later on that the second half of the trope gets fulfilled.
  • A variation appears in the short story The Black Coat by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. A girl wakes up in the wilderness, not knowing who she is. A scary trucker gives her a lift to a dank apartment where a woman drops ominous hints about where they are. She eventually pieces together that it's an in-between state caused by her committing suicide. As it happens she's still in the process, and manages to save herself.
  • All of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant may or may not be this - the First Chronicle involves three separate serious accidents for Covenant, each of which he survives; the second, he dies, and in the Last Chronicle, it appears that Linden has been shot and killed on Earth.
  • In the Doctor Who novel "Engines of War", as Cinder dies, her last visions are of the family, in perfect bliss, when she was just aged six.
  • Invoked in the Dreamblood Duology by the city-state of Gujaareh: the priesthood consists of four orders of Dream Weavers, of whom the Gatherers are tasked with creating peaceful Dying Dreams to usher people into the Dream Land afterlife of Ina-Karekh. The process also produces Dreamblood, a unique form of Mana that's hugely useful in Psychic Surgery.
  • Going Bovine is this, maybe. The book starts as main character Cameron contracts Mad Cow Disease, which slowly causes bacteria to eat holes in his brain, eventually. It's ultimately left ambiguous, given that the book doesn't end upon Cameron's death in the hospital, but it would explain the slowly encroaching mind screw surrounding the journey.
  • Lucille Fletcher's short story, "The Hitch-Hiker". Adapted into three different radio plays for three different shows, each written and starring Orson Welles. The The Twilight Zone (1959) adaptation changed the protagonist's gender to a woman.
  • At the end of I'm Thinking of Ending Things, it's revealed that all the events of the book happened inside Jake's head. He's actually the janitor. A depressed, middle-aged man whose lack of social skills have lead him to a life of depression and loneliness, he commits suicide in a school closet and imagines that he has a girlfriend and is young again as he dies. As the story increases in dread and horror, he gets closer to death before finally expiring at the end.
  • The narrator of Lord Dunsany's short story "In the Twilight" capsizes with a boat and bumps his head on a boat's keel. As he desperately tries swimming upwards, he hears the people in the boats above him say that they "must leave him now", to be followed by the river, the river banks, and the sky all taking their leave from him and disappearing. Subsequently he has several visions of places where he spent his childhood and youth, such as the valley of his childhood and his old school, where he he sees old friends and classmates and also the heroes of the Iliad and the Ten Thousand (implied to be his boyhood heroes), all of which tell him "Goodbye". His last vision is of himself standing with a crowd of people at the near end of a "white highway with darkness and stars below it that led into darkness and stars". A lone man is walking down the highway away from the crowd towards the darkness, despite the people calling the man by his name, "and it was a very strange name". The narrator gets angry because the man won't react to the people calling him and tries with "great effort" to call the man's name—only to wake up and find himself lying on the river bank and a crowd of people resuscitating him, "and the name that the people called was my own name".
  • The entirety of Katherine Anne Porter's short story "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall". An old woman, on her deathbed, dreams of when she was young and her groom did not show up for their wedding.
  • The Last Temptation of Christ: As Jesus is dying on the cross, an angel appears to him and informs him that he's dreaming. He proceeds to wake up in Lazarus's house and discovers that he had dreamt the march into Jerusalem, his trial and crucifixion. All of his disciples had fled during the night, fearing the wrath of the Temple Elder who Jesus had confronted the day before. The angel then begins corrupting him with worldly advice. Jesus heeds Pontius Pilate's advice and returns to Nazareth, knowing that the Temple Elders will lose interest and leave him alone. He weds Mary Magdalene, who is promptly murdered by Saul of Tarsus. He then enters into a group marriage with Lazarus's two sisters and has a score of children. 40 years later he is confronted by his disciples on the day the Second Temple is destroyed. They tell Jesus that he betrayed his mission and them. The angel appears to him again, and reveals himself as the devil: he had been tormenting Jesus with the life he could never have, in revenge for refusing his offer in the dessert. Jesus then wakes up and realizes that it all happened in an instant, and he never left the cross. He then proceeds to die, knowing he accomplished his mission. note 
  • Laura and the Silver Wolf has this as alternate interpretation. (And canonically, it is also this, though not only this as the heroine lives on in Ice-Land.)
  • Some interpreted The Little Match Girl's vision of her Grandmother as this instead of a Ghostly Visitor.
  • In Connie Willis's Passage large portions consist of a Dying Dream.
  • Jasper Fforde's "One of our Thursdays is missing" brings an unusual aversion: the fictional Thursday Next spends most of the story looking for the real Thursday, who has gone missing, and finally wanders into the part of the Book World occupied by the disreputable "Psychological Thriller" genre. The inhabitants try to unsettle her with all the usual tricks (suggesting that she actually is the real Thursday with memory loss, etc.), but she will have none of it, saying "Don't even think of trying to Owlcreek me!"
  • John Ringo said that at one point he was tempted to make the entirety of the Paladin of Shadows series be the dying dream of the protagonist as he died of hypothermia and anoxia while hidden in the nose wheel well of the airplane he snuck aboard in Ghost. He joked that what made him not take that route was that many of his readers (especially of this series) tend to be well armed.
  • What the eponymous The Snows of Kilimanjaro were in Ernest Hemingway's short story.
  • Star Wars Adventure Journal 11note  featured a short story called "The Longest Fall" that imitated "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge" in a Broad Strokes fashion. It opens with an Imperial captain who expects to be on the receiving end of a You Have Failed Me by High Inquisitor Tremayne. At first it looks like Tremayne had Force-choked him nonfatally, then let him go. He makes it all the way back to the bridge of his Star Destroyer ... before collapsing on the floor of Tremayne's office with his neck broken.
  • Directly inspired by (and referencing) "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", the story "Strength in Numbers" features a character undergoing a similar dying dream, only for the dream version of himself to recognize what it is and then turn around to try to enter the real world to save the dreamer/itself.
  • Thebe and the Angry Red Eye, the tale of an ill-fated space voyage, includes a variation. The Character Narrator is Thomas, the Sole Survivor of a space tragedy, who realizes that soon he will join his shipmates in death no matter what he does. The night after he decides that Living Is More than Surviving and he must keep exploring until the end, he has a vivid dream about how the astronauts' journey should have ended, with himself and his friends returning to Earth safely and receiving a heroes' welcome. And then, just as Thomas is about to embrace his beloved wife Katie, he wakes up...
  • The Third Policeman is another oldish example - it was written by Flann O'Brien in 1940 (but not published until 1967), and its protagonist is forced to walk through the same nightmarish dreamscape over and over as punishment for killing a man for his money. On literally the penultimate page, his accomplice joins him.
  • An unusual version of this is found in Greg Egan's "Transition Dream". A man's brain is scanned and transferred to a computer. The end result is an exact copy, as though the man's mind had been instantaneously transferred from brain to computer. But the mind is conscious of the transfer, and realizes that all its dreamlike experiences of the process must be annihilated before it can be identical to the original brain scan. The real twist, though, is that the end of the story calls into question whether he even really is being transferred to a computer, or if he's just plain dying and the whole brain-scan thing is a hallucination born of denial, or if transition dreams are a normal part of everyday thought.
  • Philip K. Dick's Ubik is all about this (twice, with the second one showing up at the very end — compare the screenplay if you get the chance), while The Divine Invasion averts (or perhaps inverts) it very effectively.
  • This trope's lightly touched on in the last chapter of The War of the Worlds, as the narrator finds himself haunted by the idea that the Martian defeat and humanity's recovery is his own hallucination, and that the city around him is really still in ruins. That most of the happy ending only started after the narrator had gone temporarily insane makes this Downer Ending interpretation eerily plausible.
  • Essentially the entire plot of James Patterson's novel You've Been Warned, crossed with Near-Death Clairvoyance and heavy doses of How We Got Here and Mind Screw.
  • The last paragraphs of Nineteen Eighty-Four is about Winston meeting Julia again but losing her in a crowd. The next paragraphs then says It was All Just a Dream. Everything the reader has read is his last thoughts just before he is executed. The poor man is so broken that he cannot even win in his dreams anymore.

    Live-Action TV 
  • What the entire episode "The 12 Days of Christine" from Inside No. 9 turns out to be. Christine meets a man, they move in, get married and have a son together. Among these seemingly normal events, bizarre things keep happening. Christine receives a Valentine's card from her first boyfriend (whom she had when she was twelve and who is actually dead in the present day), eggs get thrown and smashed in her apartment out of nowhere and a strange man in a raincoat keeps appearing to her saying that he's sorry about something. Also, she sees her father after he has died from Alzheimer's. Throughout all of these events, she seemingly lapses in and out of timeframes. In her final holiday, joined by her ex-husband, her long-gone flatmate Fung, her mum and her now healthy and alive dad, she realises that this is her life flashing before her eyes. We suddenly are at a car crash with Christine slumped over her wheel fading out of consciousness. She has crashed because the man with the raincoat stepped out onto the road without looking. Her smashed shopping, including a carton of eggs, lies in her passenger seat. Back at the dinner table, after receiving a hug from her son (who survived the crash and is actually dressed as a nativity play angel) and saying goodbye to her family and friends, the episode ends.
  • Londo gets one in the Babylon 5 episode "The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari" while he's in a coma, trying to recover from a heart attack. He must soothe his own guilty conscience in a Battle in the Center of the Mind to regain his will to live.
  • In the Black Mirror episode "Playtest", everything from the Whack-A-Mole game to Cooper going home and meeting his mom is one long dying dream as Cooper died not even a second in due to his cell phone interfering with the gaming device and his brain being partially uploaded.
  • Blindspot offers up a deliberately ambiguous series finale, of which a dying dream is one possible interpretation. Central character Jane has been exposed to a deadly drug that is also a hallucinogen, and she defers treatment because she is certain the hallucinations can help her locate a bomb that will expose most of Manhattan to the same substance. And she is right about that; she locates and defuses the bomb. Then she receives the needed treatment, the entire now-decommissioned FBI team moves on, and about a year later they gather with friends and family for a lovely dinner party. But when Jane's husband Kurt mentions how close they came to failure, the viewer sees Jane collapse, dead, immediately after defusing the bomb, having gone untreated for too long. At the dinner party, Jane is seemingly aware of this. So the dinner party could be a dying dream, or her death could be a vision of mortality; if it's a dying dream, it also means that all the characters' storylines and relationships were left unresolved, since those scenes occurred after Jane would have died. Characters in the hallucinations also suggested that they represented events in alternate realities, opening a third possibility, that both events occurred in different realities.
  • Boardwalk Empire: The last scene of Season 4 finale "Farewell Daddy Blues", played as a Shout-Out to Trope Maker "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge." Richard Harrow, after a botched hit on Dr. Narcisse leaves him mortally wounded, escapes the city and travels to the country to reunite with all his loved ones. Then his disfigured face suddenly looks normal again and we see his corpse beneath the Atlantic City boardwalk.
  • The Comic Strip Presents episode "Les Dogs" has a man crashing his car at the very start of the episode; he then goes to a surreal wedding where he seduces the bride. Just as they are about to have sex, her eyes turn into headlights - there is a screeching sound and the film cuts to black.
  • Max's happy ending in the first season finale of Dark Angel turned out to be a Dying Dream as a result of her being shot in the heart by her clone. Don't worry, she got better.
  • The 2014 Doctor Who Christmas Episode "Last Christmas" is this trope crossed with Dream Within a Dream for most of its runtime, save for the final few minutes. Clara, four innocent strangers, and the Doctor himself have all become victims of Dream Crabs who have put them to sleep and are slowly consuming their brains, using shared dreams of alternative, happier realities to distract them from their impending demises. Santa Claus — a mental construct of the victims, representing their will to escape — helps them work their way back up through the multiple layers of the dreamworld to reality and life with multiple false climaxes on the way, though one of the strangers does not make it.
  • The Freddy's Nightmares episode "It's a Miserable Life". Half the episode is from one character's point of view, the other half from another's.
  • In the short-lived 1997 TV series Gun, the first episode had one of these on the part of the main character.
  • The Heroes episode "Cold Snap": Matt uses his telepathy to give Daphne a "storybook ending" in Paris as she lay dying in a hospital bed. Episode writer Bryan Fuller said this was an homage to the episode of The Twilight Zone (1959) based on An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.
  • The All Just a Dream episode of House is along the lines of this trope, except for the actual dying — he was shot inside a hospital, and thus saved with swift medical attention.
  • The horror anthology The Hunger (1997) opened its second season with one in "Sanctuary". Eddie Falco is on the run for the murder of Mad Artist Julian Priest's agent and asks the reclusive Julian (David Bowie) for help; Priest decides to make him the subject of an especially grisly piece of performance art. The Reveal is that this is Julian's deathdream. Eddie is actually a manifestation of Julian's regret over living long enough to have lost his touch as an artist, modeled on a rival who committed suicide back in The '70s and thus cemented his reputation without risking the career downturn Julian did. In truth, Julian — driven 'round the bend by outrage and shunning for his increasingly grotesque work — killed his agent and then turned himself into his last work of art, resulting in a slow death, to achieve the immortality he wanted. It works too well, though — rather than passing on into an afterlife, he becomes a ghost who dwells in the abandoned prison that became his home in life, and the narrator who introduces and closes each subsequent episode.
  • Used for this delightful exchange in I, Claudius:
    The Sybil: Why are you laughing?
    Claudius: I've cheated them again. They think I'm dead.
    The Sybil: But you are dead, you fool. You're as dead as anyone can be.
  • Life on Mars was revealed in the end to be the dream of Sam Tyler as he lies in a coma. In the final episode he finally wakes up, but realises that he preferred his imaginary world to the real one and jumps off a building. He falls, re-enters the dream world, where he apparently remains. Time Dilation Note:
  • Lost's Series Finale 'reveals that the season 6 "flashsideways timeline" is actually an afterlife created when all of the survivors died; they subsequently proceed to remember everything that happened to them while alive and then move on together. However, everything that happened during the course of the show happened, avoiding this trope.
  • Promoted to Glory was a British TV movie about a recovering alcoholic who goes to work at a Salvation Army and falls in love with a woman he meets there. At the end, he is revealed to be a homeless man who has been knocked down by a bus.
  • In the final season of Six Feet Under Nathaniel Fisher Jr. dreamt he was driving to the beach with his brother and father, before finally submerging in the ocean, never resurfacing.
  • A somewhat complicated one in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Barge of the Dead". It initially seems that B'elana Torres brings a cursed Klingon artifact in the wake of her shuttle after passing through a nebula. The episode progresses in this way for about twenty minutes until things turn really weird and B'elanna wakes up on the Barge of the Dead - a mythological ship which ferries the dishonored dead to the Klingon version of hell, and is told that she in fact died in the nebula and she had witnessed only "the dream before dying." Except she eventually wakes up on Voyager to find that, although her shuttle was damaged, she had survived and both dreams were just hallucinations brought on by oxygen deprivation. Except, she becomes convinced that she really was on the barge of the dead, and that she needs to go back to rescue her mother (which she does by inducing yet another Dying Dream).
    • Most of "Coda" is an alien-induced Dying Dream of Janeway's, in which she's trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop that inevitably ends in her death. It's eventually explained that she was teetering on the edge between life and death, and the alien needed her to die so he could consume her energy, so he created scenarios designed to make her think she was dead so she would die for real. When she realizes what's really going on, it gives her the power to fight off the alien.
  • Yellowjackets:
    • The Season 1 finale: After a bitter confrontation with her BFF Shauna, Jackie stomps out of the cabin and struggles to stay warm. A smiling Shauna comes out and invites her back in. Everything seems fine—the group tells her they love her, and she's offered hot chocolate and a blanket. Then Laura Lee and an unknown man (assumed to be the previous cabin occupant) reassure her that "it isn't so bad." Since those two are deceased, this is her clue that this is not real. Next morning, Shauna finds her buried in the snow.
    • In the Season 2 finale the adult Natalie finds herself alone aboard a plane, with Javi (who died trying to save her from being hunted down) telling her it is not bad, and her younger self showing up. Teen Lottie also appears:
      Lottie: Natalie, it's not evil, just hungry. Like us. Just let it in.

  • In the early episodes of How Did This Get Made?, Jason Mantzoukas would often theorize that the movie being discussed is actually an example of this trope, so as to justify some of the frequently outlandish events. He specifically refers to it as a "Jacob's Ladder-type scenario". More recently, if he doesn't theorize this, someone in the audience will do it for him.
  • This became a Running Gag in Mom Can't Cook!, when Andy and Luke at one point guessed the wackiness and plot holes of a film to be a result of a character dying and their neurons firing. Since then, it's become a gag almost once an episode.

  • iamamiwhoami's video for "20101104" depicts a double suicide, who some believe to be the "real world" bodies of the mandragora and the "bearded" man from the previous videos. Another theory is that they represent Jonna Lee and Claes Björklund, the artists behind the Anonymous Band, "killing" or leaving behind their past careers to become fully immersed in only their iamamiwhoami project.
  • My Chemical Romance's Concept Album, The Black Parade is about an unnamed man dying from Cancer. Particularly the song Welcome To The Black Parade shows him dying and his final dream of the titular parade.
  • The music video for Grouplove's "Colours" (which was inspired by "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge")
  • The narrator of Procol Harum's "The Dead Man's Dream" has a macabre dream while he's dying... and then dies. (The song was supposedly so dark and creepy that veteran DJ John Peel refused to play it.)
  • The video for Cage the Elephant's "Shake Me Down" features a man living through memories of his childhood. The end reveals that the man has died in his sleep, and his memories were his final dream.
  • The country and western song "Green Green Grass of Home". The protagonist is wakened up to be taken to be executed.
  • The music video for the Imagine Dragons song "I Bet My Life" has two men having a fist fight before one of them flees into the water and goes on an incredible and improbable adventure. Cut to the end of the song and the other man is fishing him out of the water where the man has nearly drowned and clearly would have without the help of the man trying to beat his face in thirty seconds beforehand.
  • The Moby song "When It's Cold I'd Like To Die" all but states that it's about this. The particular way the vocals fade out at the end implies that the narrator has died.
  • Lady Gaga's "911" has a woman waking up sprawled over in a desert next to a broken bicycle before venturing into a small town full of bizarre inhabitants, including a woman cradling a mummy, a man repeatedly pressing his face into a pillow and raising it again and eventually a handsome man and a black woman in a strange white dress descending from the sky. The man walks around touching people and putting a mask on a man on a throne before throwing a rope to catch the woman by the leg and pull her off as she begins drifting into the air before putting a lock on the leg. Meanwhile, the black woman continuously tilts a mirror to reflect sunlight. Not only are these the thoughts racing through brain of an at best semiconscious dying woman trying to piece together what's going onnote , the entire incident apparently happened as a result of not taking her pain medication and causing a terrible accident. After all, the song is a whole is about Lady Gaga's relationship with the anti psychosis medication she has to take to function properly.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Lost features a "horoscope" of dreams drafted up by a member of the Autumn Court, with each type of dream associated with a planet. The Pluto Dreams are the last dream a person has as they lay dying and their brain shuts down; they're usually filled with revelation, which makes catching one extremely difficult but rather worth while. Of course, some particularly foolhardy Autumn courtiers will attempt to ride a Pluto Dream the "easy" way...

  • Ebenezer has Jacob Marley hallucinate before and during his death, ending with everyone he spurned chaining him up and dragging him to Hell.
  • The Baron's Death Song, "Roses at the Station" in Grand Hotel has him seeing his life flash before his eyes, and frantically looking for Elizaveta at the Berlin main train station. Most productions of the musical put her in the scene, searching for him.
  • In some versions of Swan Lake, Siegfried dreams of Odette and her transformation before meeting her. In one variation, this turns out to be foreshadowing a Dying Dream that he has in the finale, helplessly watching Rothbart take Odette as he did in the prologue.

    Video Games 
  • The flash game Alight (in dreams) is this, potentially. Depending on the ending, of course; it actually takes effort to reach the Downer Ending, but it's also the way to the happiest—but still a little sad—ending.
  • This was one popular theory about what the surreal, highly symbolic The Binding of Isaac is. Eventually the Mind Screwdriver of Afterbirth+ confirmed this was indeed the case, with the caveat that it begins with most of the intro; Isaac's mom never tried to kill him. Everything from that point onwards was part of the dream, complete with it breaking down by the time you fight the True Final Boss of them all. Repentance either denies this completely, or simply extends the dream far enough that Isaac can at least forgive himself and move on to the afterlife properly.
  • According to a Freeze-Frame Bonus at the beginning of the first mission, all of Call of Duty: Black Ops III apart from the first and (probably) second missions is this.
  • Counter Side: The "Bottom of the Shade" sidestory has a Framing Device of its protagonist recounting her adventures at a bar. In the end it is shown to be a virtual environment to give her soul some solace long after she was transformed into an undead monster and given a Mercy Kill.
  • Of all things, Drawn to Life, though Mike eventually wakes back up to see his sister, the only family he has left after the car accident that killed his parents and put him in a coma when the Raposa willingly sacrifice themselves and their world to save his real self. The revised ending in the series' Compilation Re-release changes it to a more standard version of Adventures in Comaland, as he fell out of a tree instead.
  • The entirety of the game Eternal Sonata is Frederick Chopin's dying dream. The final boss fight is against him as he refuses to accept he'll die when the dream is over. In the Playstation 3 version, if you lose this fight, you get a Nonstandard Game Over where he wakes up, muses about how odd his dream was, and then falls back asleep, presumably dying.
  • Saber's (a.k.a. King Arthur's) story in Fate/stay night. While dying after the Battle of Camlann, she makes a pact with the world to allow her to atone for her perceived failure as a king if she wins the Holy Grail. As a Heroic Spirit, she gets to participate in at least two Holy Grail Wars, returning to her moment of death whenever she fails to win a Holy Grail War. Of course, the events of this "dying dream" really did happen in the distant future, but during her time, it appeared to be nothing more than a dream. In the ending to her route, she and Shirou win the Holy Grail War, but her Character Development and the circumstances cause her to realize she can live with her mistakes, so she decides to return to Camlann for her final death. As she succumbs to her wounds, she tells Bedivere she had a "pleasant dream" for the first time in a long time and asks him if it's possible to continue dreaming where you left off if you fell asleep again (i.e. her time with Shirou made her feel free and she wanted to feel that way again, she won't be able to see Shirou again but she can in her dreams, her last moment with Shirou made her feel at peace, etc.). Bedivere answers yes and she passes away as she makes her Big Sleep, with Bedivere asking her posthumously if she's having the continuation of her dream.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • One Final Fantasy VIII fan theory to explain the second half of the game and the ending is called "Squall's Dead". It postulates that Squall was killed by the ice spear through the chest at the end of disk 1, and the rest of the game is his mind trying to come to terms with it and piece together what was really going on as his body falls to the ground. Word of God says that was never his intention, but he likes the idea and might even use it if they ever do a remake.
    • Revealed in Final Fantasy XI, Wings of the Goddess : The Vana'diel you know? Turns out to be a lie: the good guys never actually win the Crystal War, and the war is still ongoing. Oh, and this reality is trying to consume the dream you live in, because if it doesn't, it will disappear.
  • In the finale of Glittermitten Grove, the narration, which has been cheekily (and, obviously, fictitiously) making references to the band Korn, reveals that it was all just the dying dream of the last mammal on Earth, After the End. Whether this is actually the case or not, we leave as an exercise to the reader.
  • Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is the dying dream of a child with cancer, centering around the illness and how it affects the members of his family.
  • In Little Busters!, it's revealed that the entire world the story takes place in is a dream world constructed by Kyosuke. The Little Busters were all victims of a bus accident, and while most of them are dying, Kyosuke created the dream world for Riki and Rin, the only ones who will survive, as a way for them to become stronger and deal with everyone else's deaths. The dream world itself stems from a ripple effect based on the other Little Busters' desires for Riki and Rin to live.
  • Played with in Mass Effect. If you leave rescuing Liara until last, she will be so delirious that she will observe the unlikelihood of a human Spectre, of all things, coming across the galaxy for her personally and believe your entire rescue mission is one of these, until you can get her medical treatment.
  • The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories: The events were all based on a dream J.J. was having, while she was in a coma-like condition from her suicide attempt. She manages to wake up, with renewed desire to continue living.
  • Pathologic 2: In The Marble Nest DLC, you play as Bachelor Daniil Dankovsky, who's an unplayable character in the main game (not counting the game's predecessor where he is playable). The DLC is a stand-alone story that takes place on the 10th day of the sand plague outbreak. You, as Daniil Dankovsky try to protect the last uninfected area of the town. At the same time death, quite literally, has an appointment with you in the evening. Talking with some of the children in town reveals that you are in actuality lying in bed, feverish and delirious after having contracted the sand plague yourself. In real life these children, Sticky, Sleepyhead and Shrew are taking care of you. Most dialogue options have you either ignore their claims or you can tell them that you're fine and that they're the delirious ones, not you. There are still a few options to ask for water or thank them for taking such good care of you. As the evening approaches so does your appointment with the personification of death.
  • Primal: The heroine is the spirit of a girl lying critically injured in a hospital ICU. Averted in that her injuries were caused by an obviously demonic form in the real world. While it still all may be a dying dream, there's some evidence for a supernatural explanation.
  • Serves as the final twist in the text-based adventure game Shade. No, you're not about to leave your apartment for a trip to a rave in the desert; you've already wandered away from the rave in a drug-induced haze, and are dying of heatstroke and dehydration.
  • Silent Hill:
    • The bad ending of Silent Hill - a game that is truly as open to multiple interpretations as any novel or film - has a clip after the credits showing the protagonist in his crashed car, apparently dead - suggesting that the whole thing was all a dying dream.
    • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories seems to follow the same ending. Albeit, with an unforeseen twist. In every ending, Harry is having a dying dream... 18 years after he actually died. And despite it being a dying dream, he's apparently really able to interact with real, living people. And it was all in Cheryl's mind.
  • The helicopter scene (where Walker realizes that he has "done this before") hints that Spec Ops: The Line is either this, or an Ironic Hell.
  • Spiritfarer is about a young woman named Stella and her cat acting as a Psychopomp for her passed relatives and some other wandering souls. Towards the end, it becomes apparent that Stella has been Dead All Along, and her ferrying the souls is the last part of her conscious reconciling her experiences in life before passing on fully.
  • In The Stanley Parable, one of the endings has The Narrator retcon the entire story of the game (including the alternate routes) as the dying fantasy of an office worker with a disappointingly mundane life.
    "This is a very sad story about the death of a man named Stanley."
  • Tech Romancer has a particularly dirty example: in the "Wise Duck" storyline (about The Squad in a Humongous Mecha), the New Meat Arvin discovers that his unit has been given orders to destroy a nearby village, and is not happy about it. The player is given the choice to have Arvin follow his commander's orders, or continue to to protest. If he protests, the entire unit finds itself in a bizarre Planet Of The Apes-type world where they have to save the remnants of Humanity from rampaging Super Robots. In the end, however, you find out that it's all Arvin's Dying Dream: He was shot by his commanding officer for disobeying orders. Ironically, had you had gone along, the unit would have deserted, eventually turning on their commanders, and taking on the monster responsible for the whole war. Apparently, the choice is a Secret Test of Character, to see if Arvin can be trusted.
  • Terranigma plays the credits over the final dream that the protagonist is having, dreaming of being a bird that flies across the world and witnessing its technological progress.
  • To the Moon has the main characters work for a company that creates a Dying Dream for clients on their deathbed that never fulfilled a last wish of life. However, it is not much a dream, but a literal rewriting of the client's memories to give them their contractually-established happy ending they requested.
  • Tsukihime:
    • Shiki experiences a long Dying Dream in Ciel's True Ending, which serves as a foreshadowing of the Far Side of the Moon routes. Fortunately, he survives, in no small degree thanks to his actions within said dream.
    • Also all of the 'sequel' Kagetsu Tohya. This time around, it's not Shiki's Dying Dream, but Len's.
  • The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a story written by the titular Ethan Carter, a young boy whose hobby is writing stories, as he dies trapped in a room of a burning house. He essentially "hires" the Occult Detective from one of his other stories (the Player Character) to solve the mystery of his own death.
  • The entire game of Velvet Assassin is the Dying Dream of Violette Summers, a young British secret agent during WWII who is dying in a hospital. The surreal, disjointed game missions are actually her memories, and there's even a disturbing "morphine mode" where, if Violette becomes too agitated remembering her missions, a nurse will inject her with morphine and time will slow down in the game world, allowing Violette to escape or come to terms with whatever is frightening her.
  • Subverted in The Walking Dead (Telltale) Season Two, where Clementine is shot in the chest by Arvo and has a dream about the already deceased Lee, her caretaker and the protagonist from Season One. She doesn't die, though.
  • The scenario of the PC game Weird Dreams. Work your way through various fantastic scenarios trying to prevent them from just being part of a Dying Dream.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3: D tells the party in his final battle that the dreams they have of themselves dying violently are actually the last moments of their previous incarnations that still linger even after revival.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In the Creepypasta-inspired tale Ash's Coma, Ash is believed to be having one after being shocked by Pikachu.
  • The Cracked article Insane Fan Theories That Make Great Movies Better. When discussing the theory that the endings to some movies take place in the main character's imagination, they say they like to think most of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is hallucinated by Indy while slowly dying from radiation poisoning in a lead-lined fridge.
  • In one episode of The Nostalgia Critic, the Critic jokingly claims that Santa Claus: The Movie ends with this revelation, even going as far as to edit the film's Dance Party Ending so that the scene fades to Santa shivering in the cold at the beginning of the film.
  • Phelous has the end of the Jacob's Ladder review declare everything to be Phelan's dream after dying from a heart attack reviewing Mac and Me, his very first episode. It's implied that almost all of Channel Awesome since November 2008 was part of the dream. Or, depending on how the line is taken, that WebVideo/{{Kickassia}} and WebVideo/SuburbanKnights were real things that happened. The next episode begins with him in the same "dead" position for a bit and then just getting up and introducing Aladdin and the Adventure of All Time like nothing had happened.
  • An early draft of the SCP Foundation article for SCP-4205 details the weeks after an agent saw it (it instantly killed everyone else who saw it). The end revealed the researcher died instantly while typing his report. What was presumably his Dying Dream was somehow put into his report.
  • Solid jj: "Breaking Down" is implied to be Walter White's. It starts with Walt telling Jesse that they need to cook meth as typical of him, only for Jesse to explain that they already did and Walt can rest now. After feeling a headache, Walt meets characters who are dead in Breaking Bad; Gus and Mike tells Walt to rest, while Hank offers him a drink.
  • raocow implies this in his "All the Sonics" series: After his playthrough of Rad Mobile ends due to colliding with another car, the description of the very next video has this hidden below the Read More:
    in 1991, local layabout samwell 'ronco' tarly had a horrible accident when he had a head-on collusion with another vehicle while driving in the mohave desert. after the impact, as he was dying, his eyes transfixed on a small blue mouse character hanging from his rear view mirror. his brain, panicking, set samwell in a strange dreamstate, fixated on the toy. as samwell's dying brain struggled to keep its consciousness alive, a strange world was created in his mind state. the further he drifted, the clearer things became, though at the same time things made progressively less and less sense.

    this is his recollection.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Æon Flux: One of the mooks Aeon kills in the pilot has a hallucination in the vein resembling Steamboat Willie. Upon realizing what he is actually seeing is a streak of blood on a wall, a gun floating in the literal lake of blood Aeon has created and an apparently dismembered arm, he sheds a tear of horror.
  • The penultimate episode of Bojack Horseman has BoJack attending a dinner and show at his mother's old house, and reuniting with his deceased family and friends (and Zach Braff). It soon becomes clear that this is a dream he's having while drowning in the pool of his old home, as everyone slowly succumbs to all-encompassing tar as they speak of their own lives and deaths. It's revealed in the final episode that Bojack did manage to survive.
  • The penultimate episode of Over the Garden Wall reveals Wirt and Greg "entered" the Unknown when they fell into a lake and started to drown. Once they defeat the Big Bad and "exit" in the final episode, Wirt regains consciousness and he manages to pull Greg out before collapsing on the shore, where his friends find them in time to be rushed to the hospital and revived. Played with, as the presence of the glowing bell in Greg's frog suggests that they actually went to another world in that brief instant while hanging between life and death.

    Real Life 
  • Near Death Experiences have been reported by tens of thousands of people. NDEs usually have a journey through a tunnel into light, a life review, a meeting with dead family and friends, a glimpse of Heaven, and then a painful return to the physical body. The exact details of the experience and how it affects the rest of their lives varies from person to person. It's unclear whether they're a real metaphysical experience or some kind of hallucination brought on by lack of oxygen or a flood of neurotransmitters in the brain as it dies (or at least, the person believes that they're dying). This would, in the view of those who advocate the idea, explain the differences because each person is different (plus influences of their separate cultures would contribute too etc).
  • George Orwell, in a notebook kept during his final illness, wrote about "Death Dreams": "Sometimes of the sea or the sea shore but more often of enormous, splendid buildings or streets or ships, in which I often lose my way, but always with a peculiar feeling of happiness and of walking in sunlight. Unquestionably all these buildings, etc. mean death - I am almost aware of this even in the dream..." He did not believe in an afterlife, and wondered why death, which he wasn't afraid to think about while awake, had to be represented as something else in a dream.

    TV Tropes 
  • The "Show X is Character Y's Dying Dream" guess is surprisingly popular on Wild Mass Guessing pages, nearly as much so as "Everybody is a Time Lord".