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Nightmare Sequence
aka: Nightmare Dreams

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"I get up put on the light, dreading the oncoming night
Scared to fall asleep and dream the dream again"
Iron Maiden, "Dream of Mirrors"

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Some dreams are heart-warming visions of hope, filled with cute and cuddly creatures, so delightful they make you want to fall asleep right away. Other dreams...aren't.

There are nightmares that chill your soul. They are a journey through a warped mirror of reality where Transformation Horrors abound and Primal Fears are on public parade. All our comforting certainties melt away, and chaos reigns supreme. Quite frankly, after a dream like that it would almost be a relief to encounter the Outer Gods dancing to the eldritch music of blasphemous flutes.

These nightmares can show off the emotional confusion and torment affecting a character. An effective way to show a character is having bad dreams is just to go into them and show the nightmarish sequence itself. Each bizarre image can dissect the issue facing them, showing the distortions the mind puts on them.

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These dreams are often, though not always, associated with Deranged Animation. Hallucinations and supposedly funny nightmares also fall under this trope.

It may overlap with Catapult Nightmare, if the character having the nightmare wakes up by flinging themselves up from the bed in fright. Flashback Nightmare is a subtrope of this (and Past Experience Nightmare) where the nightmare is shown as a flashback the character's Dark and Troubled Past. See also Irritation Nightmare and Guilt-Induced Nightmare.


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Examples:


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Tetsuo's series of nightmares and hallucinations in AKIRA. These dreams vary from giant stuffed animals attacking him, to visions of his horrifying future, to having his intestines burst out of him from simply falling. We don't even want to mention the further horrors that this poor kid goes through during the latter half of the story (even though to a degree, he does partially deserve it).
  • At the beginning of Attack on Titan, Eren experiences a very mysterious and disturbing nightmare complete with Titans eating people, a decapitated statue, a child's dolls spread out in the same positions as a group of dead soldiers, and a grainy shot of his mother being picked by a Titan. He wakes up in fright with Mikasa nearby and tells her that he felt as if he had an extremely long dream but couldn't remember any of it. Mikasa then notices Eren crying and asks him why, and Eren couldn't answer that either. This was a change from the original manga where Eren only saw a seemingly older Mikasa with shorter hair telling him that she'll see him later before waking up.
  • Downplayed in Azumanga Daioh, when Osaka dreamt of meeting Chiyo's dad. It was mostly super bizarre because of Chiyo's dad's presence, but at the short end of the dream, Chiyo's dad suddenly threatens to rip off Osaka's tongue for her saying that she got cat's tongue, unlike him. The effect is doubled in the original version, where Chiyo's dad is voiced by Norio Wakamoto, famed for his roles as many villains, and while he's using his more wacky normal voice throughout the dream, when he threatened, Wakamoto dipped into his villain-voice (albeit a Large Ham one), making it feel like he was serious in ripping Osaka's tongue.
  • Guts of Berserk has these quite often, both from his childhood trauma and from the monsters that constantly torment him post-Eclipse.
  • Happens several times in Chrono Crusade. Chrono has a nightmare where he's surrounded by dead bodies as Aion tempts him back to his side (hinting at his backstory). Rosette has a nightmare at the start of the Darkest Hour that serves to recap some of the trauma she's been through as well as gives a clear idea of her psychological state. And in an early episode of the anime, Rosette has a nightmare that's half a flashback, half a nightmare about her brother's kidnapping by the Big Bad.
  • Diamond Daydreams, in itself a rather subdued Slice of Life series, has Karin's often rather scary nightmares.
  • Digimon Tamers: During a Mind Rape-induced dream sequence (seen here, starting at 0:53), one protagonist experiences herself as a child running through a hospital and right into a razor-toothed, eyeless version of herself, with a snarling, drooling, oddly grinning version of her favorite sock puppet sewn onto her arm. The fact that this is how she equates her mother's death does NOT help matters in any way/shape/form. The true psychological impact can't be had without seeing her slow degeneration throughout the series from using the puppet as a cute way to talk to people into being actively controlled by the puppet, but the images are arguably worse for sheer Nightmare Fuel out of context.
  • The Stand Death 13 has this ability in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, killing people when they fall asleep. The worst part is that even if you wake up before it can get to you, you have no recollection of what happened in the dream...
  • The premise of Nightmare Inspector is Hiruko the Baku's entering into people's nightmares with them in order to figure out what they mean.
  • Himeno from Prétear has these in an episode of the anime. It's actually caused by Takako/Fenrir, who wants to communicate with her.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica's first sequence is this trope, complete with Deranged Animation, Alien Geometry, a wrecked landscape, and an Eldritch Abomination. Oddly enough, as horrific as it was, Madoka didn't wake up startled, just confused. As it turns out, it was a Flashback Nightmare from a previous timeline.
  • An episode of Yes! Pretty Cure 5 features nightmare sequences for four of the main characters, induced by The Dragon for a pretty good reason. The idea is to cause the girls to despair.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Near the end of Happy Diary episode 46, Wilie has a bad dream where he finds that his parents have returned to their castle, only to find out shortly after that they were taken away in chains by an invisible hand, leaving Wilie stranded in the black void.

    Comic Books 
  • The Adventures of Tintin: The dream sequences in "Tintin" will never be surpassed in terms of creepiness. Yet, for the sake of this article, let's just mention the nightmare scenes:
    • In "Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh" Tintin is locked inside an Egyptian tomb and put to sleep with sleeping gas. He then dreams several strange images combining recent people he met and Egyptian artwork.
    • In "Tintin: The Crab with the Golden Claws" Tintin dreams he is turned into a bottle, which Haddock is planning to uncork.
    • In "Tintin: The Shooting Star" Tintin dreams he is visited by Philippulus the prophet who then shows him a picture of a gigantic spider, claiming it is life size!
    • In "Tintin: The Seven Crystal Balls" Tintin and his companions all have the same nightmare: that they are visited by the Inca mummy Rascar Capac who enters their bedroom by night and then throws a poisonous crystal ball on the floor. This is even more terrifying in the animated series.
    • In Prisoners of the Sun, Tintin dreams that Calculus is admiring an "Inca Tree" whose flowers are skulls while a real Inca menaces him with a spear, next Tintin asks the Inca, who now has Haddock's face if he has a licence for the rifle over his shoulder, upon which the Inca turns into a mysterious Indian who has been following the heroes and blasts Tintin with fire for blasphemy. Tintin then wakes up with hot sunlight on his face.
  • Batman: Black and White: "In Dreams" opens with one-off character Karen having a nightmare in which she's menaced by the Batman.
  • Deep Sea: Patricia has a nightmare while sleeping under a bridge in which she relives The Eldritch Abomination Crudelis was being siphoned from attacking her ship and knocking her up.
  • The F1rst Hero: After getting knocked out by a rifle butt to the face, Jake Roth has a nightmare where he's back home with his family having dinner. Then he turns into a giant monster and starts attacking them.
  • One issue of Magic: The Gathering (IDW) starts out with Dack Fayden's nightmares, because Ashiok is causing nightmares all over the plane of Theros.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) Issue #5 starts with this, and mentions the mane 6 have all had nightmares for an entire week. It's during another one that the Nightmare Forces kidnap Rarity and take her to the moon. In the following issue they are confronted by the same nightmares, but overcome them thanks to each other (with the exception of Rarity, who's still kidnapped, of course).
  • Nero: Nightmare sequences occur quite frequently in the series, among others in “Moea Papoea”, “Beo De Verschrikkelijke”, “De Gouden Vrouw”, “De Ark Van Nero”, “De Paarse Futen”, “Zwoele Charlotte” and “De Draak van Halfzeven”.
  • Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel:
    • Guiv's nightmare is being attacked in the Tower of Silence by countless skeletons, and then being surrounded by doubles of himself, whose heads turn into skulls as he cuts them off.
    • Shirin's nightmare is a dust storm raising up giant boys made of dust, who carry off Ferdos, claiming him as "one of us."
  • Dream of The Sandman (1989) curses a man who kept him locked up for decades with the never-ending nightmare, where every time he thinks he's woken up, the nightmare continues. The few panels of this we see are horrifying.
  • Several of them in Supergirl storyline Bizarrogirl:
    • The story starts out with Kara reliving her final battle against Superwoman. As she is hitting the supervillain, accusing her of destroying her planet and causing a war, Superwoman retorts the Kryptonians were not blameless, Alura was far from innocent, and Supergirl killed her. Then her flesh melts off her face, and a legion of skeletons -including Supergirl's dead parents'- move in on Kara to drag her down with them.
    • During her trip to Bizarro World, Supergirl has another nightmare in where she finds herself in New Krypton again. She tries to warn people their planet is about to explode, but she has lost her voice. Then New Krypton explodes and Supergirl feels her flesh melting off.
  • Suske en Wiske: The album "De Bokkenrijders" starts off with Wiske telling a nightmare she just had and Tante Sidonia explaining its symbolic meanings. Of course, as the story progresses Wiske's nightmare turns out to she was Dreaming of Things to Come.
  • In Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem has one after he stuffs himself with drugs (again) when he realizes he has become a Japanese-like anime, a cheesy live-action TV series, and a porn movie. Sadly, he has a fairly good dream at the beginning.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1987): After Hippolyta's death, the reader is treated to a series of Diana's nightmares in which Hippolyta's burnt and dying form asks why Diana didn't save her. When Diana learns her sister is having the dreams as well she realizes they're being inflicted on them by Circe and hunts the witch down.
    • Wonder Woman (2006): After Diana is trapped in a dreamlike state by Stalker she has a nightmare within it in which she loses her compassion and soul and sees herself as a heartless Amazon queen with her old friends and mother forced to bow to her and her villains heads displayed on pikes before her throne.
  • Yorick in Y: The Last Man suffers from constant nightmares, usually involving his girlfriend Beth. So much so that when Yorick finally does meet her his first reaction is to storm off in the belief that he's just having another cruel dream.

    Films — Animation 
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven had a disturbingly vivid sequence that is mostly recalled for putting the fear of divine punishment and existential dread in its young audience. Our protagonist, Charlie is sucked into Hell, where he gets trapped on a ship slowly sinking into a lake of lava while being tormented by demon rats and a gigantic devil thing. Charlie screams for help covered in demons as the end of the ship he's on slowly descends into the lava... and then he wakes up.
  • Anya/Anastasia has a nightmare on a stormy night at sea. While things start off with her family swimming around happily in the water beckoning her to join them, they then suddenly turn into Rasputin's demon minions. It's made even more horrible by the fact that Anya is a sleepwalker, so when she watches her family's swimming from a cliff she's actually standing at the railing of the deck, and the demons are trying to make her fall into a certain death. Rasputin instigated the dream in the first place, and the sleepwalking, as well - he was trying to use his dark magic to make her commit suicide in her sleep. When Dimitri stops her from throwing herself into the water, the spell is broken and the dream becomes a nightmare.
  • The Brave Little Toaster features a nightmare sequence where the titular Toaster is menaced by a horrifying Monster Clown in a fireman outfit, then falls to his doom into a bathtub.
  • The "Pink Elephants On Parade" segment of Dumbo, a rare instance of hallucinations.
  • The dreams in Felidae are perhaps the most twisted animation ever created. Those dreams are just freaky, specifically the one involving Gregor Mendel giggling demonically "EXPERIMENTS WITH PLANT HYBRIDS!" while putting on some kind of twisted marionette show using the decomposing corpses of gutted cats, with their entrails as the marionette strings.
  • A Goofy Movie has a bit at the beginning where Max has a nightmare in which he's in an idyllic scene with the girl of his dreams, and suddenly turns into a giant lumbering copy of his dad.
    • An Extremely Goofy Movie features one in the middle of the film where Goofy falls asleep in the middle of taking a test. It starts of idyllic with him hanging out with Max, only for Max to turn into a hulking, brutish monster and dump Goofy into an abyss while Max yells at him to get his own life. The whole thing leaves Goofy shaken and causes him to fail the test, resulting in a Heroic BSoD for a while.
  • James and the Giant Peach has the eponymous character dream that he's a caterpillar eating the peach in the title. Suddenly, his wicked aunts appear and spray a pesticide cloud at him... which then morphs into James' greatest fear — a rhino that killed his parents — that proceeds to pursue him and shortly after corner him under a bridge. All the while, his aunts chant in mock singsong voices "The rhino will get you!" in the background. Not to mention that the dream itself is presented in unsettling cut-out animation that resembles a deranged, nightmarish Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch.
  • In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Simba has a nightmare where he tries and fails to save his father from falling to his death in the wildebeest stampede, and is then thrown into the gorge himself by Kovu. Made even worse by the fact that, in the dream, Scar first stops Simba from reaching Mufasa, and then morphs into Kovu.
  • Considering that Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland is All Just a Dream, the entire climactic scene with the villain could be considered a Nightmare Dream, but the sequence with a subtler horror is a Dream-Within-A-Dream where Nemo goes to the kitchen, to find his mother washing the dishes, except that a train's coming, barrelling ever closer and closer towards them while Nemo's mom does not budge, just says, "Don't be silly, Nemo," as the whistle screams and—
  • The "Heffalumps and Woozles" nightmare scene from Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. See it here. The insane laughter of the honey pot is probably one of the worst bits.
    "...they tie themselves in horrible knots, they come in stripes and polkadots!"
  • Moana has a nightmare in which she imagines her parents being buried by an erupting volcano.
  • Shrek the Third contains a sequence where Shrek is back home, safe and sound... until he's suddenly near-crushed by a literal flood of babies. Plus "Baby Donkey" and "Baby Puss n' Boots". "DADA!"
  • Toy Story 2 has a dream sequence where Woody is thrown in a garbage can, and when he tries to crawl out he is pulled back by a mass of discarded toy parts working together to form a giant AKIRA-style tentacle. They were originally going to use this in the first movie as well. There's also an episode of the Toy Story Shorts that is based around this entire trope.
  • In The Prince of Egypt, Moses has a hieroglyphic-depicted nightmare of himself being in the village where the Hebrews reside and he sees the Egyptian guards taking the newborn sons away from their mothers. He also sees his biological mother, Yocheved, and siblings (Aaron and Miriam) running to the Nile while hiding from the guards. He follows them and he sees his mother putting a baby in a basket. That baby is him, and he realizes the truth about his heritage. Then, he runs away from Egyptian guards who are chasing him and he falls down into the crocodile-infested river along with the infants.
  • In Twice Upon a Time (which is about a Dream Land), the fool heroes Ralph and Mum are briefly trapped in a waking nightmare in which they are attacked by sentient office supplies — making matters worse, the heroes are only inches tall...

    Literature 
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The original book is a single extended dream sequence, and the various film versions do not skimp on the horror.
    • The original might or might not count, but The Nursery Alice most assuredly does. The text is the classic Carroll story, but the illustrations were apparently created by a morbid impressionist while on a bad acid trip.
    • In the 1985 adaptation the White Queen, played by Carol Channing, turns into a sheep, just like in the book, but here the sheep's face is so ghostly and its bleating so unearthly that it's terrifying just to look at. Alice even has a terrified reaction towards it!
    • Similarly, the scene where the Duchess' baby transforms from a wailing human child to a writhing, screaming piglet.
    • And then there's the Jabberwock scene, which seems to be cruelly engineered to traumatize children. Watch if you dare. It looks as though Alice has made her way home, but she's actually still stuck in the world Through the Looking Glass. She can see her parents on the other side of the mirror and cries for their attention, but her mom and dad can't hear or see her and she's left to wander the limbo-like mirror room. She comes upon the Jabberwocky book and starts to read it — and then the monster (which could have been co-designed by H.R. Giger and Wayne D. Barlowe) comes charging into the room to eat her and then... that's the cliffhanger ending of the first episode of the two-part special!
      • In the original publishing, an illustration of the Jabberwock was intended to be the frontispiece, but was deemed too fearsome.
    • How can one babble about Alice in Wonderland being nightmare fuel without including the American McGee version? She is an asylum patient in the game After her parents burned alive in a house fire!
  • Battle Royale: Several characters have nightmares, usually in the form of dreaming about discovering their classmates mutilated corpses. In the manga version, Shogo Kawada says that a nightmare is the brain's way of working through the experienced horror.
  • The Berenstain Bears:
    • "The Bad Dream" focuses on Brother and Sister having nightmares about a cartoon villain.
    • In "Learn About Strangers", Papa's story where a goose gets eaten by a fox gives Sister nightmares.
  • The title character of The BFG is a giant who travels to Dream Land to catch dreams, and then blow the nice ones through the windows of sleeping humans. He generally makes it a policy to destroy the nightmares, but his human friend, Sophie, convinces him to make a specific nightmare to send to HM The Queen, warning her about the other giants and their people-eating ways. They feel very bad about it, but it's the only way they can prepare the Queen to believe them when they ask for her help in getting rid of the giants.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Death Star, a trooper transferred to the titled battle station starts having nightmares, some of them about his own death. They make it hard to sleep. Medical staff is short, so a surgeon reluctantly looks him over, takes his blood, and gives him medication. Then the Death Star fires on a prison planet, the trooper wakes up screaming, and his dreams get exponentially worse. The surgeon tells him that it turns out he's Force-Sensitive. His dreams come true.
  • From the Deryni books.
    • While being held captive by Caitrin and Loris in The Bishop's Heir, Dhugal has a vivid nightmare about facing divine judgement for failing to save Kelson, whose gory corpse rises up from its bier to point an accusing finger at him.
    • When Kelson reads Loris' mind during questioning late in The King's Justice, he learns that Camber appeared to Loris in a dream (later speculation attributes this to his possession of Duncan's episcopal ring, which was originally made for Henry Istelyn from an old piece of altar plate associated with Camber himself). Reliving the experience through Loris's eyes, Kelson knows that while Camber spoke of tolerance, Loris so demonized all things Deryni that for him it was a nightmare.
    • During his preparatory meditation for Conall's triggering ritual in The Quest for Saint Camber, Morgan gazes on the unconscious and frail Nigel, dressed in Haldane red court robes with one of the state crowns on a pillow above his head. Suddenly, Morgan vividly imagines himself standing in the Haldanes' royal crypt gazing down at Nigel's body on his funeral bier.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
    • In "Dog Days", Rowley has a nightmare where there is a chicken under his bed.
    • In "Double Down", Greg has several nightmares: in one he has a tail and is being mobbed, in another he has been kidnapped by zombie pirates, and in another, his teeth are falling out.
  • Dilly The Dinosaur: In one story, Dilly sneaks out of bed and watches a horror movie where humans are evil. He then has nightmares about humans attacking.
  • Dirty Bertie:
    • In "Mud!", Bertie has a nightmare about playing soccer with a team of Miss Boots.
    • In "Pants!", Bertie has a "Not Wearing Pants" Dream that counts as Anxiety Dreams because he's afraid due to having lost a bet that means he has to go to school in his underwear.
  • In Dragons of Winter Night, the protagonists suffer through a particularly horrific nightmare.
  • In A Game of Thrones, Eddard Stark has recurring dreams about the death of his sister Lyanna, including a particularly infamous flashback that still continues to inspire Epileptic Trees about the circumstances of her passing. Near the end of the book, while imprisoned, he sees a dream of his dead friend Robert mocking him, only for Robert's visage to crumble away, revealing Littlefinger's face beneath.
    • In A Storm of Swords Jaime dreams of a woman (implied to be his mother) who laments about how her family has fallen down. The dream turns quickly into the late Kingsguard and Prince Rhaegar blaming Jaime for the death of Rhaegar's family, something that has been haunting Jaime for years.
  • Constantly used in the Goosebumps books, I Live In Your Basement! having the most by far.
  • The nightmare in How to Eat Fried Worms.
  • Harriet the Spy: Harriet has a nightmare about Ole Golly the nursemaid disappearing.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss' dreams are usually a horrifying mishmash of bad memories and fear-gripped imagination, like everyone getting their tongues cut out or all her loved ones screaming in agony.
  • In Geoph Essex's Lovely Assistant, the first brief Time Skip starts off with a very weird (and, this being Geoph Essex, initially humorous) situation which rapidly degenerates into a Nightmare Sequence before Jenny wakes up. A lot of the bad dream is stuff she already knows (or thinks she knows), but there's enough Foreshadowing (some subtle, some not) to also qualify it as a bit of a Dream of Things to Come.
  • Manifestation: One of the main characters, Tock Zipporah, suffers from a vivid nightmare about a figure from her past.
  • Midway through Midnight’s Children, Saleem has a nightmare of his time in the Widows' Hostel, with the Widow depicted as a grotesque, green-and-black monster who tears children in half. The narration for the scene is suitably confusing and chaotic, just like a real dream.
  • Mog:
    • In "Mog the Forgetful Cat", Debbie has a nightmare where a tiger wants to eat her.
    • In "Mog and the V-E-T", the vet has a nightmare where his office is full of wild animals.
    • In "Mog on Fox Night", Mog has a "cross dream" where Mr Thomas her owner has thrown out all the eggs in the world.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, sometimes Jack Frost's mischief causes Rachel and Kirsty to have these.
  • The protagonist of E. F. Benson's "The Room in the Tower" has increasingly ominous dreams about paying a visit to... someone, who keeps sending him off to sleep in that room in the tower. Then, one day, he gets an invitation from a chum, and things go From Bad to Worse.
  • In The Silver Codex, Xarissa's dreams are these she has to dream about horrible things happening in town.Tevan has one where his mom blames him for being put in an asylum, and his abusive father say he will turn into him.
  • The Stories of Nypre series mixes this with Dream Within a Dream when Nypre gets trapped from the mind altering effects of the Night Land.
  • In Those That Wake, the main characters each have nightmares before their lives are altered.
    • In the sequel, Mal has recurring nightmares of Man In Suit.
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: The island where dreams come true. When the sailor joke about what they would find, the man who had been trapped there screams that it's not daydreams, it's dreams. Which inspires a proper panic in them. Even after their escape, the man they rescued is in a state of collapse from the horror.
    • Apparently, everyone saw different things, based on nightmares they'd had. Like a boggart from Harry Potter, except it's a whole island.
  • Neshi the Tech Detective in The Wandering has one in the beginning of the story, where he enters a city where people are feasting on one another, and on his exit from it, an army approaches and he gets stabbed by a spear, with a voice calling "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I weep for thee." The nightmare is later revealed to be shared by various members of the Jerusalemites, who believe that it is actually a prophecy.
  • The authors of Warrior Cats seem to like horrific blood filled nightmares considering how many there have been in the books. Some even feature the characters drowning in blood.
    • A notable example is in Yellowfang's Secret, in which Yellowfang is forced to watch kits inflict damage upon each other that is far beyond what even an adult cat could. Some kits are so young that they haven't even opened their eyes yet.
    • Also, Lionpaw frequently experiences nightmares where he unknowingly kills his friend Heatherpaw.
    • The trainees in the Dark Forest are subjected to brutal combat training in their dreams each night, and their injuries carry over into the waking world. And if you die in your dream, you die in real life.
  • In Wet Goddess:
    • After leaving to Evergreen State College, Zack has a nightmare of dolphins being confined in wooden boxes and rotting alive. It later turns out to be a message sent by Ruby.
    • Zack conjures one up himself to show Ruby the taboos of human sexuality.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Big Bad Beetleborgs had an episode centered around this trope, in the episode "Booger Man" there was a monster called Booger Man (also known as Booger) who was a boogeyman that came to Hillhurst and gave the house monsters nightmares. Flabber has a nightmare involving the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe. At the end they send him over to the Crustaceons lair to give Les Fortunes nightmares.
  • Played for laughs in the Blackadder The Third episode Ink and Incapability where Blackadder has a nightmare which starts off with Baldrick "waking" him up and ends up with Baldrick turned into an Alsatian. Then Baldrick wakes him up.
    "Hang on a second, if we go on like this you're going to turn into an Alsatian again."
  • One episode of Bones cold-opens with the titular character having a nightmare related to a recurring Big Bad. After a few very well-crafted snap-cuts and surreal rapid-fire imagery, however, the impact is somewhat reduced when the sequence cuts to a shot of hundreds of versions of the Big Bad, each holding random case-related objects.
  • The Brittas Empire: Gavin has one of these in "Gavin Featherly R.I.P", dreaming that the staff is finding him guilty for copying a cassette tape, leading to psychotherapy sessions with Helen.
  • Played with on The Daily Show for Hallowe'en 2001. Steve Carell, reporting on a haunted house, complains that it isn't scary enough. A dream sequence follows involving his high school gym coach, Stephen Colbert as the show's new host, and clips from Corky Romano. He wakes up screaming - next to Jon Stewart. They both scream. But only because they weren't expecting to see a camera in their bedroom.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show plays it for laughs with the episode "It May Look Like a Walnut", although the Assimilation Plot in Rob's dream actually is kind of unsettling.
  • Most of the Dollhouse episode "The Attic" is a parallel nightmare world in which inmates' fears can kill them not only in the dream sphere, but also in real life.
  • In the Drake & Josh episode "Mindy's Back", Josh has a nightmare in which he tells Drake that he and Mindy are dating, and then Drake's head explodes.
  • In the Frasier episode "Freudian Sleep":
    • Niles has a nightmare about being a terrible father. He finds himself in a Caligari-esque bedroom, and has all kinds of accidents in raising his baby, including his dropping it and the baby shattering like a plaster vase. Thankfully, the creepiness is mitigated by the funny exchange that occurs when Niles wakes up:
      Niles (terrified): I can't do it!
      Daphne (groggily): Just as well; I'm too tired anyway.
    • In addition, during Daphne's nightmare, she dreams that Niles is sleeping with a sexy female version of Martin.
    • Frasier has two nightmares: a creepy one where he dreams that he killed Niles and married Daphne, while keeping Niles's ashes in a tin next to the coffee; and a panic-stricken one where his radio booth fills up with dozens of telephones, only one of which is ringing, which he frantically tries to find and answer while Roz's booth morphs into a car dashboard and she yells that if he doesn't find the right telephone in five seconds, she's going to drive them off a cliff.
  • Full House:
    • In "The Test", D.J. has a nightmare the night before her SAT test, where everything goes wrong for her test, heavily foreshadowed by the events leading up to it.
    • In "My Left and Right Foot", Michelle has a nightmare within a nightmare where her feet become enormous after her sisters teased her about her foot size.
  • This happens in the The Green Green Grass episode "Bothered and Bewildered", when Boycie has a nightmare after thinking that Mrs. Cakeworthy cursed him.
  • One episode of Jessie opened with a nightmare where Jessie was eaten by a giant version of Mr. Kipling.
  • Legion: In "Chapter 26", while asleep on the plane ride to Morocco, Charles Xavier has a nightmare where he's watching a play where a matador kills a bull. When the matador removes the mask of the dead actor in the bull costume, it's revealed to be Charles who's lying in pools of his own blood onstage. The grotesque Devil with the Yellow Eyes suddenly appears next to him and growls, "You should never have come." Charles then abruptly wakes up out of fright.
  • Lost uses this in many an episode.
  • The Man in the High Castle:
    • In season 2, Frank Fink dreams about visiting his sister and her children and joining them in a Judaic prayer before gas starts pouring down from the ceiling, killing them all.
    • In season 3, John Smith has a dream about spending the day fishing with his dead son Thomas, before Thomas vanishes and the lake turns out to be filled with dead, bloated corpses.
  • The "Dreams" episode of M*A*S*H uses this as its premise.
  • In an episode of Seinfeld, after Jerry gets his Uncle Leo arrested for shoplifting, he has a nightmare about Leo working out in prison, clearly planning to get revenge on him once he gets out, the whole sequence being a Shout-Out to Cape Fear.
  • Sesame Street:
    • In one episode, Cookie Monster has a nightmare where there are cookies floating around and he can't catch them.
    • One episode focuses on Oscar having nightmares about happy people (seeing as he's a Grouch.)
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • The episode "Night Terrors" focuses on everyone except Data and Deanna Troi being unable to reach R.E.M. sleep. All of Troi's dreams are nightmares that turn out to be an alien communicating telepathically.
    • The episode "Phantasms" focuses on Data (he's an android) trying out a program that enables him to dream. He has several nightmares that turn out to be aliens warning him about some parasites infecting the crew.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: The episode "Waking Moments" involves aliens who live in their dreams manipulating the Voyager crew's dreams and putting them in a Deep Sleep. They all have nightmares (Tom dreams he's crashing a shuttle, Harry dreams that an alien is watching him kiss Seven of Nine, Tuvok dreams he's forgotten to put on his uniform, Janeway dreams that her crew have died, Chakotay dreams that his father turns into an alien, and Neelix dreams that he's being Stewed Alive).
  • The Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad episode "To Sleep, Perchance to Scream" is centered around nightmares.
  • Played for laughs in the 3rd Rock from the Sun episode "A Nightmare on Dick Street", since the aliens never had dreams before.
  • Much of the plot of Twin Peaks centered around Agent Cooper's dream in the second episode.
  • V: The Final Battle opens with a claustrophobic sequence in which Mike Donovan is trying to escape a Visitor mothership with his son Sean, being pursued through the corridors by their soldiers. He breaks down when Sean is blasted to death, upon which Julie wakes him up at resistance headquarters.

    Music Videos 
  • The video for "Easy" by Barenaked Ladies has little to do with the song itself, and a lot more to do with bloodstained warped-fairytale imagery. The crows don't help.
  • Iron Maiden has many (mostly by Steve Harris, who must sleep horribly), most notably "Infinite Dreams" and "Dream of Mirrors". Also, "The Number of the Beast" was based on both Damien: Omen II and a nightmare of Harris.
  • Pink Floyd, as seen here. Gerald Scarfe deserves a lot of credit for that. Hard to believe he'd end up working on Disney's Hercules, isn't it?
  • All videos by tool.

    Radio 
  • Our Miss Brooks suffers through nightmare sequences on at least three different occasions:
    • In "Connie's New Job Offer," Miss Brooks dreams she leaves Madison and becomes the mayor of a city in New Jersey. However, the dreams ends with Councilman Conklin impeaching her for her tyrannical rule over the city.
    • In "Connie Tries To Forget Mr. Boynton," Miss Brooks' efforts to forget about Mr. Boynton leads her to see his face on everyone: the American ambassador to India, a society matron, a fourteen-year-old boy, even a baby. Fortunately, Its All Just A Dream.
    • In "Friendship," Miss Brooks suffers a recurring dream where a man chases her with a knife.

    Roleplay 

    Tabletop Games 
In Pathfinder, the Lovecraftian Strange Aeons Adventure Path opens with one, where the characters are hunted down and murdered by the first adventure's primary villain, before waking to find themselves locked in an asylum. the final adventure in the path brings the characters back to this moment, where they're responsible for waking their past selves from the nightmare in time to escape.

    Theater 
  • In The Book of Mormon, at the end of the first act, Kevin Price decides to screw Rule #72 and leave Africa for Orlando, where he always wanted to go instead. His first scene in the second act finds him not in Orlando but in Hell. Once this "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" ends, it's revealed that he passed out at the bus station.
  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: Mrs. Hawking has one in part VI: Fallen Women, as she slips into unconsciousness bleeding out from her fight with Jack the Ripper.

    Visual Novels 
  • While sleeping in the sauna of the ski lodge, the protagonist of Double Homework has one of these. He gets an unwanted food order via “Avalanche Delivery Service,” Dennis is an unnaturally tall sex god just referred to as “master” by all the girls, and Dr. Mosely is his executioner.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All starts with Phoenix having a dream of a dark giant judge about to hammer him to the ground. The dream returns for the final case, as Phoenix is in the depths of despair over Maya being kidnapped by the plans of his current client who is a sociopathic bastard and obviously guilty.
  • Jonathan has one of these in a Saturn-exclusive cutscene in Policenauts.

    Web Comics 
  • Charby the Vampirate: Zeno has a flashback nightmare of being vivisected alive his first night in the cabin and one of the individuals trying to manipulate him gives him further bad dreams in the attempt, some of which are shown in comic.
  • Dead of Summer has one, starting here and ending here. The latter part isn't just a dream.
  • In Dan The Snowman, the eponymous hero seemingly has a flashback nightmare that may or may not be his origin story.
  • Dear Children: Cail and Gabe have unsettling and distorted dreams at the end of the second chapter.
  • Devils Cake: Early in the story, Zoshi turns Tad's nice dream about his upcoming date with Kea into a nightmare. It is implied he's done this to everyone who has ever shown a romantic interest in her.
  • Forest Hill: The young rabbit Kaleb has one about a girl who he wants nothing to do with.
  • Imp: Several of Celina's imp's are shown. He tends to bite his hand and talk in his sleep as well.
  • Outsider:
    • Chapter 2 starts with a flashback to Jardin being interviewed by Capt. Hamilton prior to being assigned to Bellarmine, but it transitions into Ellen's corpse angrily chiding him for leaving everyone to die.
      "Ellen": Ghosts still have feelings, you know. Being dead hurts. A lot. Fine then. Wake up, if you can. Go on, wake up! Are you awake yet? How about now?
      *Jardin snaps awake, hearing Reed outside his cell asking if he's awake*
    • When Jardin and the Loroi are piled up with each other in the shuttle, after Jardin falls asleep, his normal nightmare transitions into him showing up on a devastated alien planet, encountering an adult and child Loroi with shaved heads and some kind of markings on their foreheads, and then being attacked and killed by two Umiak soldiers. He wakes up just after the killing stroke.
  • Slightly Damned: No one seems to sleep that well, as a significant portion of the characters get either nightmares or Recurring Dreams.

    Web Original 
  • These three panels of Chess Piece. Very freaky.
    Phantom: Papa's blood is delicious, Papa's blood is pure, it is essence and we are bathe[d] in bless. So drink... and be happy. After all. You killed him.
  • On the website Neopets, in the plot "Curse of Maraqua", we're introduced to two Maraquan Aisha sisters. One of them, Caylis, had nightmares of unavoidable disasters that come true. (Her sister, Isca, dreamed of good things to come)
  • On We're Alive: The first two minutes of "Desperate Times". Don't worry, Pegs, Latch is not coming back.
  • The Phase novels from the Whateley Universe. Phase has nasty nightmares really often, sometimes several in one night. and given that Phase has suffered Transformation Trauma for real, and has fought an unkillable Eldritch Abomination, and has been tortured by a Mad Scientist, he has horrific nightmares.

    Real Life 
  • Known to be truth in television. Casual nightmares can be horrifying to the extreme, overshadowing the goriest of gratuitous horror films. Reports of dreams such as watching a person being skinned alive, or worse doing the skinning in hyper-realistic detail. What is truly baffling about these dreams is that they can and do occur to people who are well adjusted, and don't reflect reality to a great extent. In other cases, intense horrifying imagery is one indicator of repressed emotions, trauma, and emotional baggage. Even then, the nightmares may seem disproportionately frightening. And God help you if you have nightmares 5 times per week. That'd ruin the relief of rest.

Alternative Title(s): Nightmare Dreams, Nightmare Dream Sequence

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RoA2 - The Burning Giraffe

While taking a nap, Atlas suddenly had a nightmare where a burning giraffe chases him through a sentient amalgamation of Salvador Dali's famous paintings.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

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Main / NightmareSequence

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