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Real Dreams are Weirder

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"Urn yanked at the lever that lowered the screw into the water. His eyes glowed almost as brightly as the lightning.
'Now there's a power', he said. 'Harnessing the lightning! The dream of mankind!'...
'Is it? It's not my dream', said Didactylos. 'I always dream of a giant carrot chasing me through a field of lobsters.'"

It can often be useful — or at least funny — to contrast the coherence of metaphorical or plot-driven dreams with "realistic" dreams that are far more bizarre.

When people actually dream, it usually doesn't make sense.note  Things happen in random orders, for no good reason. Reality routinely shifts, unnoticed by the dreamer.note  Nevertheless, "dream" is an incredibly potent metaphor. We use "dream" to mean "aspiration", and "nightmare" to mean "fear". Fictional characters are also likely to have meaningful dreams of some variety — either because they may have a supernatural ability that gives them these dreams, or just because, due to the Law of Conservation of Detail, only their meaningful dreams are reported in the story.

All this means that most of the time, when fictional dreams are described, they're considerably more coherent than real dreams ever are. A savvy author may point this out by throwing in some dream elements that are just as weird as non-fictional dreams, either to contrast with the plot-relevant stuff or to disguise that it's there at all. Alternately, characters may be able to tell the difference between prophetic and regular dreams precisely because the prophetic kind are coherent.

In one common version of this, a character is put in a position where "their dreams will come true". Unfortunately, it's meant literally. So it means their life becomes strange and non-linear, not that all their deepest desires are suddenly satisfied. Similarly, some people may use this for Literalist Snarking when someone else says, "I'm Your Worst Nightmare."

This often involves Word-Salad Humor or, if it's a Nightmare Sequence, Word-Salad Horror. May also overlap with Surreal Humor or Surreal Horror. Other characters may dismiss a particularly trippy dream as an Acid Reflux Nightmare. May be the cause of a Waking Non Sequitur.

Absolutely Truth in Television, so No Real Life Examples, Please!.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Played with in Azumanga Daioh. Each character's hatsuyume — the first dream of the New Year, which is normally supposed to be meaningful — is instead a series of non-sequiturs that veer into Surreal Humor. Osaka dreams that Chiyo uses her pigtails to fly, Tomo dreams she's comically superior to everyone else, and Sakaki dreams that a weird orange cat is Chiyo's dad. The last of these is meaningful in a roundabout way, as Chiyo's dad ends up giving Sakaki cryptic hints about her goal to find a "real cat". Other dreams the characters have are just as strange, such as when Osaka dreams that Chiyo's pigtails are detachable and sentient.
  • Kaiju Girl Caramelise: Kuroe wakes up one morning and talks to herself about a "crazy dream" where, after her date with Arata, she suddenly turned into a Kaiju and walked down the Harumi River before swimming away in a panic upon realizing he and everyone else was staring at her now ugly visage. Then she turns on the news and realizes it actually happened.
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Episode 17 takes place almost entirely in a dream Hikaru's having while in a coma after being shot down. While there is something of a narrative to it (Minmay getting captured and Hikaru's repeated attempts to save her), as the dream goes on things start making less sense, such as Hikaru attempting to bicycle to the Moon, the Zentraedi holding Minmay captive turning out to be her cousin Kaifun, and Misa Hayase just randomly appearing and disappearing from scenes with no continuity and no acknowledgement.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • One early Big Nate strip sees Nate describe a recurring dream he has; in the first part, he's walking through a supermarket in a girl's bathing suit when someone mistakes him for a box of waffles and tries to pour syrup on his head, and in the second part he's in a football field being forced to shave rats by a woman playing a banjo.
  • Cul-de-sac: Alice complains about cartoon animals telling her to follow her dreams, because her dreams involve giant dogs and tiny clowns, and who wants to follow that?

    Fan Works 
  • And Shine Heaven Now: Alucard taps into a young Sir Integra's dreams to try to see what's bothering her, and the first thing he sees is... singing hills, a blue sky, and a talking llama.
    Alucard: What are you supposed to represent?
    Llama: Do you expect everything in a dream to have some kind of deep meaning? This is the fritterings of a real subconscious, not some overused plot device.
  • In The Apprentice, the Student, and the Charlatan, Nova gets both a strange, random dream, followed immediately by a plot-relevant vision in Chapter 5. The strange dream is full of Shout Outs, such as a guard's armor being painted with hot rod flames and bunnies, and is purportedly serenaded with Luna and Celestia playing a set of bagpipes and a vuvuzela respectively.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In "The Murder Mystery", the story is revealed to be Penny’s jalapeno and pepperoni pizza-fueled nightmare. The dream is far more cohesive than real-life examples, though some surreal touches occur, such as Penny’s classic private eye props containing unusual properties (the calabash pipe she "smokes" emits soap bubbles, and her deerstalker-style hat sports antlers).
  • In Digimon Adventure 02: The Story We Never Told, this is how the Emperor makes his debut to Davis in chapter 2.
    Davis: Who the hell are you?
    Emperor: I'm your worst nightmare come to life.
    Davis: Bullshit! You ain't a ten-foot-tall hydra with my sister's face on all of yer seven heads!
    Emperor: I concede; I'm not THAT nightmare.
  • Invoked in For Love, where a time-shifted Hinata attempts to convince the 3rd Hokage that she's Dreaming of Things to Come as a way of influencing future events. Aware of this trope (if her supposed dreams were too literal they'd arouse the Hokage's suspicion), she ensures that the dreams she describes are always a weird and surreal and convey their supposed "message" about future events through metaphor (which also gives her some leeway for things she's not entirely sure she remembers correctly). For example, she describes a version of the Uchiha Massacre where a man in a one-eyed fox mask is puppeteering Itachi, who's crying Tears of Blood, from the rooftops with chains attached to his hands and feet, who then releases Itachi and dissolves into a red mist, leaving Itachi to tear Sasuke's heart out of his chest without killing him and likewise vanish into red mist.note 
  • Interestingly played with in The Infinite Loops. Twilight Sparkle complains about a surreal dream to her friends, while equally surreal events occur around her; the distinction, of course, is that the latter are things she's gotten used to.
  • When Arturia is knocked out in Light the Blue Touch Paper and Run Like Hell, she dreams about being in the car while Irisviel is very much enjoying driving. They brake because Loki pops in the road to sell them t-shirts, then Medea comes and asks Iri her driving license. Arturia is understandably confused.
  • A Man of Iron:
    • At one point in the second book, Pepper has a stress-induced nightmare where she's in the Red Keep, and she blurts out Iron Man's identity to Tywin and Joffrey. Then Jon, who's dressed as a Kingsguard and speaking with Tyrion's voice, points out that she's naked, and asks if she's prepared for the test her septa is giving.
    • During an argument with Jojen in the third book over the latter's dream visions, Jaime mentions once having a dream about his father wearing dresses and singing to badgers.
  • My Dream Is Yours:
    • The dreams of most of those affected by Dream-Transfer-itis are pretty mundane. Orchid's, however, is the most bizarre dream of them all, consisting of things like giant twirling lollipops, samba-dancing bunnies, and of course, singing and dancing toy dinosaurs. Otis is affected by this dream, and it's such a nightmare to him that he attempts to purge it from his brain for days after he first has it.
    • To say nothing of baby agent Orson's dream, which involves him riding a giant radioactive komodo dragon through a post-apocalyptic wasteland while killing zombies. Unlike with Otis having Orchid's dream, however, Orchid doesn't think of Orson's dream as a nightmare, and for good reason.
  • In My Life Is A Goddamn Mess, Minato wishes he had the kind of "normal" dreams that don't make sense, instead of the plot-relevant ones he tends to actually have.
  • National Anthem : In Chapter 7, Link describes for the readers a highly lucid "sensitive" dream that he is having and proceeds to describe the difference between his important dreams and his regular, weird ones:
    "Most of my dreams are the standard weird stuff without any clear meaning, rhyme or reason. I had one about having conversations with telepathic meat, once. Then there was the one I had not long ago in which I had to barbeque a case of tube socks or dinosaurs would eat me."
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines has a massive example of this trope in Chapter 24. It covers both in story stress and the author mocking Betrayal Fics, begining with a mocking parody of betrayal fic cliches which quickly goes crazy to include rocks with top hats, Ash taking the role of Clovis La Britannia, Gary acting like Gollum, and then the local MissingNo shows up...just as the dream ends.
    • Red has a similarly odd dream later. Less nuts, but when one has a dream where Ash Ketchum is acting like the the Red/Blue Rival as champion one can't say many things are more odd in-series.
  • A Shadow of the Titans: Tarakudo uses this trope to keep Jade from realizing she's stumbled onto him messing around with her subconscious — he conjures multicolored mushrooms and ducks in top hats, then turns himself into a basketball with a mustache.
  • Played With in Total Drama Comeback Series. Ezekiel has a dream that's highly symbolic of his ongoing romance arc with Heather... and also there's a bear in a tutu dancing to "It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time".
    • One chapter is devoted to the characters' dreams after drinking a special tea that invokes Flashbacks. Most are meaningful and begin with a note about when they take place, but Owen, Izzy and Chef are having weird dreamsnote  with the time stamp listed as "???".

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 
  • Ballistic Kiss: The protagonist mentions that he constantly have dreams about being stalked by Santa Claus with a shotgun.
  • Blade Runner: While napping in his apartment, Deckard has a dream about a unicorn in a forest. This appears at first to be a random non-sequitur that has nothing to do with anything, and Deckard never tells anyone about it. However, in the final scene as Deckard flees his apartment he finds an origami unicorn left there by an agent who specializes in hunting replicants, implying Deckard is a replicant and his memories and dreams are pre-programmed.
  • In Canadian Bacon, when John Candy's character is threatening a mountie played by Stephen Wright (long story), one of Candy's friends says "We're your worst nightmare." The mountie then proceeds to ramble his actual worst nightmare, a dream where he was lost in the Yukon being chased by wolves, and there were these tall skinny rabbits...
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: After finding out that dreams are a look into what happens in alternate universes, Wong asks about a recurring dream he has in which he's running naked from a clown. According to America Chavez, there really is an alternate dimension out there where this occurs.
  • The Golden Child. The Big Bad communicates with Eddie Murphy's character in a dream, lampshaded by him because of all the weird stuff happening such as the live Studio Audience, a unicorn trotting around inside the house, and the scantily-clad heroine being tied up with toilet paper.
  • Downplayed in Inception. The Villain Protagonists are industrial spies who can enter the target's dreams and convince them to reveal their secrets. In order for this to work the target can't know he is dreaming, so a convincing 'dream architecture' designed and controlled by the Caper Crew is created that appears just like the real world. When things do get weird, it's a sign that something has gone badly wrong. The trick is then to adapt this weirdness to your own advantage before the target wakes up.
  • From Loaded Weapon 1:
    Mr. Jigsaw: I'm Your Worst Nightmare.
    Jack Colt: No, waking up without my penis is my worst nightmare.
    Mr. Jigsaw: Okay, alright, so I'm not actually your worst nightmare. But I am right up there.
  • Peewees Big Adventure - Waitress Simone confides her wishes to break free:
    Simone: Do you have a dream?
    Pee-wee: Yeah. I'm all alone. I'm rolling a big doughnut, and this snake with a vest...

  • Discussed in Animorphs, when Cassie and Tobias start having supernatural dreams.
    Marco: No, I haven't had any weird dreams about the sea. I've had weird dreams about my sheets trying to strangle me. I've had weird dreams about falling from way up high and when I finally land I'm in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood talking to King Friday. I've had weird dreams about that woman from Baywatch...hmm, well, that does kind of involve the ocean, I guess.
    • Book #22 opens with Rachel having a dream where she's shopping for clothes, except that she's in elephant morph, and accidentally crushes Kenny from South Park.
  • In Aunt Dimity Goes West, Lori goes from the recurring nightmare of being shot and menaced by Abaddon (back home in Finch) to dreaming of blue-eyed cocker spaniels, who remind her of the Colorado cabin's young caretaker Toby.
  • G. K. Chesterton remarked in one of his essays that this is the reason many literary dream sequences just don't ring true. Real dreams aren't allegorical or artistic; they're weird. [1]
    When the hero tells us that “last night he dreamed a dream,” we are quite certain from the perfect and decorative character of the dream that he made it up at breakfast. The dream is so reasonable that it is quite impossible. [...] When the aged priest in a story narrates his dream, in which the imagery is dignified and the message plain, we are free to yield finally to a conviction that must have long been growing on us, and conclude that he is a somewhat distinguished liar.
  • The current page image comes from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book Double Down wherein Greg has a dream where he kicks a field goal with his own head on a distant planet while asking for extra mustard on his turnips. Greg himself calls the dream "completely bonkers".
  • This is a common joke in Discworld novels:
    • Pyramids parodies Pharaoh's dream from the biblical story of Joseph (mentioned below) when the protagonist, Pteppic, has reluctantly been made pharaoh of Djelibeybi. "He saw seven fat cows and seven thin cows. They were playing trombones." Pteppic also dreams that Dios has found an obscure law requiring him to marry a cat.
    • In Eric, the description of the demon guarding the gates of Hell says "it would be a lazy use of language to say that the thing that answered the door was a nightmare. Nightmares are usually rather daft things and it's very hard to explain to a listener what was so dreadful about your socks coming alive or giant carrots jumping out of hedgerows. This thing was the kind of terrifying thing that could only be created by someone sitting down and thinking horrible thoughts very clearly."
    • Played subtly for horror in Witches Abroad:
      Genua was a place where all dreams came true. Remember some of yours?
    • In Small Gods, Urn says that harnessing the lightning is the dream of mankind, and Didactylos replies "Is it? I always dream of a giant carrot chasing me through a field of lobsters."
    • In Hogfather, Teatime announces, "I'm Your Worst Nightmare!" When he's taken too literally, he then has to clarify that he doesn't mean "the one with the giant cabbage and the sort of whirring knife thing" or a bunch of equally improbable things, but rather "the one where this man comes out of nowhere and kills you stone dead." "Hey, that one isn't all that scary compared to the oth—"
    • The Wee Free Men has a bit where Rob Anybody describes "normal things gone wrong" as one of the nightmarish threats in Elfland, and Tiffany recalls having surreal nightmares about being threatened by a sugar bowl, or a pair of her late grandmother's boots.
    • In Thud!, Brick the troll regards being the center of attention in a room full of watchmen to be his worst nightmare. Then he remembers a number of even worse nightmares he had after particularly bad drug trips, and is distracted mentally sorting them out, getting up to his nineteenth-worst nightmare before Carrot snaps him back to the present.
  • In Ender's Shadow, Bean has a dream where thousands of people are fighting, only for a giant shoe to stomp them all. Wearing the shoe is a laughing Bugger/Formic. The dream clearly seems to deliver An Aesop about "despite all the squabbles on Earth, we must remember that we face a greater enemy or we'll all die." However, Bean dismisses this, thinking dreams don't have morals, they're just random firings of our brain that we assume is a narrative. The only thing it can tell me is what I feel. He then decides the REAL moral of the dream is "Don't be one of the scurrying ants. Be the shoe."
  • In Harry Potter, Harry has a variety of weird dreams throughout the series, bordering on a Running Gag; examples include showing up at a Quidditch match only to find that the other team was riding dragons, or watching Neville and Professor Sprout waltz in the Room of Requirement while Professor McGonagall plays the bagpipes. He has magically significant dreams, too, but even then some of them are kind of trippy and only make sense in retrospect.
    • Used for Mood Whiplash in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Harry is having a "normal" dream, full of weird symbolism about his day, which abruptly shifts to a vision of Nagini attacking Mr. Weasley. When Professor McGonagall tries to convince him that it was just a dream, Harry explains that no, he was having a dream before this interrupted it.
  • In the Ogden Nash poem "I Can Hardly Wait for the Sandman" he complains that people won't listen to him describing his really interesting dreams ... which are all just rambling weirdness that doesn't go anywhere.
    Another time I dreamt that I was climbing this mountain, although actually it was more like a beach.
    And all of a sudden this sort of a merry-go-round that I forgot to tell you about turned into a shack with a sign saying leda's place, swanburgers 10¢ each.
  • In The Jennifer Morgue, Bob can tell his dream is really weird as it follows a linear structure (seeing through the eyes of Ramona Random via "destiny entanglement") instead of featuring camel-headed spider gods trying to get him to sign a Microsoft User Agreement.
  • In The Name of the Rose, Adso has a very bizarre dream mixing recollections from one of his past readings (the Coena Cypriani) along with the people and dramatic events currently taking place in the abbey. This leads afterwards to an "Eureka!" Moment .
  • Our Dumb Century features an article on Martin Luther King Jr. about his speech "I Had a Really Weird Dream Last Night", in which he describes seeing Yankee Stadium full of wild animals, meets Jackie Gleason, and gets threatened by a giant roll of paper towels.
  • Normally, demigods from Percy Jackson and the Olympians have meaningful dreams (which is lampshaded to Hades and back), but Percy mentions a recurring dream he has where he's taking a standardized test while wearing a straitjacket (though the time he dreams it in the series, it's meaningful because Thalia was taking the test with him).
  • In The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, Richard Cook has several dreams he claims to be prophetic visions, but rather ruins the effect by concluding his description of one with "and then after a short further dream about getting into a bath full of Smarties wearing a Batman costume, I woke up".
  • George Santayana, who was a philosopher, poet, and novelist, gives the example of white-capped waves turning into white horses galloping down the beach. This actually makes sense—whitecaps are called white horses in British English.
  • In Chris van Allsburg's The Sweetest Fig, a mean and miserly dentist named Monsieur Bibot gets a pair of magic figs that the giver says will make all his dreams come true. Unfortunately, that apparently includes dreams about him walking his dog in his underpants and the Eiffel Tower sagging over like a deflated balloon.
  • In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the "island where dreams come true" is a horrifying place where nothing makes any sense.
    "This is the land where dreams — dreams, do you understand — come to life, come real. Not daydreams: dreams." There was about half a minute’s silence and then, with a great clatter of armor, the whole crew were tumbling down the main hatch as quick as they could and flinging themselves on the oars to row as they had never rowed before... For it had taken everyone just that half-minute to remember certain dreams they had had -- dreams that make you afraid of going to sleep again -- and to realize what it would mean to land on a country where dreams come true.
  • Watership Down. The rabbit seer Fiver annoys his brother Hazel by describing a dream of events that happen later in the novel. However they're all jumbled together in a confusing hodgepodge, plus he's also describing things that he's never seen before, such as a "tunnel of water" (e.g. a culvert).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, Harry was concerned about Fantastic Racism against aliens:
    Tommy: You're gonna be like some sort of alien Martin Luther King?
    Harry: Exactly. Because I, too, have a dream. And in that dream, I'm naked on a ferris wheel.
  • Angel. In "Soul Purpose", Angel has a number of Anxiety Dreams reflecting his current fears, but is rather puzzled by the presence in one dream of a man in a bear suit.
  • In Austin & Ally, a prospecting manager ask Austin what his wildest dream his. He takes it rather literally before Ally clarifies the woman meant his career goals.
    Austin:That's easy. I being chased through a candy cane forest by a Viking, my grandma, and a peanut vendor. They're throwing cantaloupes at me. Then, it gets weird.
  • In the Blackadder episode "Potato", Walter Raleigh says he's brought Queen Elizabeth lands beyond her wildest dreams...her response is to ask if he's sure because she's had some pretty wild dreams, like the one where she was a sausage roll, or the one where there was this enormous tree and she was sitting right on top of it.
    • In "Ink and Incapability", Blackadder is relieved that Dr Johnson isn't angry at him for destroying the world's first Dictionary. Then he sees Baldrick with a dog's head. "Oh God, this is a dream, isn't it..."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In season 2, Buffy has a dream about opening an office-supply warehouse in Las Vegas, mixed in with her more prophetic dreams about Drusilla and Angel.
    • In "Restless", the First Slayer comes into each of the main character's dreams to kill them. The dreams have lots symbols for the characters' histories, mindsets, and even some foreshadowing...but each of them also includes a guy offering slices of cheese and Meaningless Meaningful Words. Despite fan theories, Word of God conforms that he was meant to be meaningless humor.
  • Cheers: One episode begins with the bar gang talking about typical anxiety dreams, until Woody mentions a dream he had about going to a classy restaurant where you had to check your legs in at the door, and then spending the entire meal worrying if someone would accidentally take his legs.
  • The Comic Strip Presents: Didn't You Kill My Brother?
    I had a dream, my friends, oh yes, I had a dream — then suddenly my dream changed, and I was standing in a swimming pool full of small brown puppies — and each of the puppies had the face of a 19th-century politician — and then one of the puppies, that had the face of Lord Palmerston, suddenly started screaming at me, "Where's the spoons, where's the spoons, where's the bloody spoons?"
    ...Any questions?
  • Obviously, given that the main character is a psychiatrist and a lot of episodes focus on psychological issues, dream sequences in Frasier usually are symbolic and meaningful. However, some dreams are totally nonsensical, like Daphne dreaming about Queen Elizabeth drinking cocktails with Martin on the latter's balcony. Also, in one episode Frasier has a recurring dream about being in bed with Gil, which he thinks means something and which he tries to analyze, but upon pondering the details, winds up realizing that the dream actually makes no sense and has nothing to do with anything in his life.
  • Friends: In one episode Phoebe reveals an elaborate dream she had where she and Ross were playing chess on a frozen lake, he called her "boring" and then removed his "energy mask" to reveal that he was actually Cameron Diaz. Phoebe initially only remembers the "boring" comment and spends the episode mad at Ross until she remembers the rest of it.
  • On Joan of Arcadia, while God does occasionally talk to Joan through dreams, her normal dreams also include Adam as a dog and evil koala bears in hats.
  • Charlie mentions having one in an early episode of Lost:
    I have this dream. I'm driving a bus, and my teeth start falling out. My mum is in the back, eating biscuits. Everything smells of bacon. It's weird.
  • Lovecraft Country opens with Atticus—a Korean War veteran and science fiction fan—having a dream that looks like a monochrome 1950's war movie that somehow becomes an Alien Invasion movie In Color! involving flying saucers, a Green-Skinned Space Babe in a metal bikini, and tentacled horrors that can be destroyed with a baseball bat.
  • In the Stargate Atlantis episode "Doppelganger", the problem of the week is an alien entity making everyone have nightmares in which Sheppard is trying to kill them. The team meets for lunch, everyone compares their Sheppard-dreams... and then McKay, who hasn't been affected yet, talks about his nightmare about Carter inviting him to dinner, serving him lemon chicken (given his strong citrus allergy) and telling him she's promoting Zelenka over him, after which he gets eaten by a whale.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Phantasms", Data's new dreaming program gives him his first nightmares, including workmen breaking apart the ship, himself being unable to speak without making a high-pitched squealing noise, mouths appearing on strange parts of people's bodies, an old-fashioned telephone inside his own chest cavity and Troi turning into a "cellular peptide cake with mint frosting" which he cuts up, causing her to scream. The crew eventually hook Data up to the holodeck to experience these dreams in person. It turns out that his dream program is trying to warn him that interphasic organisms (the workmen) have infected both the ship and the crew and are feeding on their cellular peptides and he can destroy them by emitting an interphasic pulse (the squeal he makes). A highly surreal and disturbing episode.

  • One-Hit Wonder 2Nu's only hit, "This Is Ponderous," is about a guy recalling a bizarre dream he had, beginning with taking the day off from work when nobody there remembers him before he suddenly winds up on the beach (with a billboard telling him he should be at work, no less). From there, he appears near a lake and receives a phone call from the operator, who proceeds to sing a gibberish war chant, before the narrator tap dances in golf shoes. Then, just before waking up, it rains in southern California. Throughout his recollection, the narrator knows that he's in a dream, even acknowledging things he's seen in other dreams (such as a water polo game and a girl who "talks with her eyes").
  • In the Flight of the Conchords song "Like In My Dreams" in which Mel wishes the world would be more like what she dreams it to be— including singing cookies, randomly getting pregnant, going to school naked, and having all her teeth fall out.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Stuck in a Closet with Vanna White" has the singer describing his extremely bizarre dreams to his doctor, asking what they could mean and what's wrong with him. All of the dreams inevitably end with him stuck in a closet with Vanna White.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • Dreams in The Bible - even the prophetic ones - are occasionally straightforward, but are just as often realistically bizarre and symbolic. A recurring plot point is where a dreamer has a premonition that their dream meant something, but requires a person with divine inspiration to figure out what it meant. For example, the Pharaoh has a dream (nightmare?) of seven fat cows and seven skinny cows emerging from the Nile River, then the skinny cows eating the fat cows while remaining just as skinny as before, followed by a similar dream except the cows are replaced with wheat - including the part where the skinny wheat eats the fat wheat. Joseph interprets the dream to be a premonition of seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine.
    • The Talmud specifically says (Nedarim 8a-b) that just as you can't grow wheat without getting straw, any prophetic dream is going to have parts that shouldn't be taken seriously.

  • The Book of Mormon has the Spooky Mormon Hell Dream, which involves (among other things) giant dancing Starbucks cups, as well as Elder Price being lumped in with the likes of Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and other horrible historical figures. Played with, in that the bizarre impossibility of it is what convinces Elder Price to shape up. To make things better, apparently every single Mormon has the same dream whenever they sin, no matter how minor the infraction.
    Elder McKinley: Look, we've all had the Spooky Hell Dream, people. I have it nightly.
  • Iolanthe has the Lord Chancellor and his Nightmare Song, which describes a dream in which he is travelling on a Channel steamer which is also a train, a coach and a fleet of bicycles, while an eleven year old lawyer sells the crew shares in a company which plants shopkeepers to grow the things they sell.
    The shares are a penny
    And ever so many
    Are taken by Rothschild and Baring
    And just as a few
    Are allotted to you
    You awake with a shudder despairing
  • The Pajama Party Murders has Myrtle's recounting of the dream which inspired her to become a Canadian missionary.
    Myrtle: Uncle Cosmo, you did enjoy this story, didn't you? May he rest in peace. Yes, it was a dream. I was at Niagara Falls. And I was naked, except for about six floppy disks. The five and a quarter size. And I had on stereo headphones. And I kept running into little souvenir shops, looking for my cookie sheets. And all of a sudden, there was Elvis and Boutrous Boutrous-Gali and Geraldo, or maybe it was Tony Orlando. And they put me on this giant cupcake and my feet kept sinking into the icing and then through the headphones I heard a voice that sounded an awful lot like Leonard Nimoy, saying, "Go to the Horseshoe Falls, Go to the Horseshoe Falls." And then there was Charlton Heston, riding down the Niagara River on my missing cookie sheet, like it was a surf board, laughin' and goin' over the Falls. And I knew it was true. The best view of the Falls IS from the Canadian side. And that's what decided me - I'd become a Canadian missionary.

    Video Games 
  • One of Max's election speeches in Sam and Max Save the World: Abe Lincoln Must Die! plays on this.
    Max: I have a dream, America! It starts out where I'm in an all-nude production of Death of a Salesman on ice, but I haven't studied and I can't remember my lines. Suddenly, it begins to rain marshmallows, but that's okay, because trees are made of graham crackers, and chocolate bars are the official currency. I believe that by working together, we can make that dream a reality!
  • At one point in Gravity Falls: Legend of the Gnome Gemulets, if you talk to Candy she'll remark "They always say to follow your dreams, but one time I had a dream that I ate the Earth."
  • The third story in Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star takes place in a dream the heroine is sharing with Nageki. They take a train across the stars, hop off to explore one called the Holiday Star, explore a fairy tale-esque world resembling a watercolor painting, meet an odd King who's very timid, narrates his own behavior, and gives them RPG quests and sometimes just appears... they find their other friends in various odd (yet vaguely fitting) roles in the dream, like Okosan as the Divine Messenger of Pudding and Shuu as a chef who wishes to cut up and cook people. Then it turns out that this is a shared dream that does not have origins with any of the dreamers - it's an element of the afterlife, which they wound up in by accident, and the King will not let them leave now that they have visited.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, one of the messages randomly generated by a disco horoscope is "Your dreams will come true this week! Specifically, the dream in which twinkling lights surround you like fireflies while you're disemboweled by a rabid shark."
  • LSD: Dream Emulator is based entirely around this, and specifically some details of the creator's dreams. As such, nothing therein really makes sense, textures keep changing, and (aside from in Flashbacks) no two days are exactly alike.
  • Isabelle's sidequest in Lunarosse were based on actual dreams the game's creator had. So yes, he really had dreams involving moose pie and monkeys playing with uranium.
  • The shot game Psychosomnium is set inside a dream, and it mimics the characteristics of actual dreams. The narrative is vague and disjointed, the player frequently experiences switches from one protagonist to another, and the entire thing ends with a somewhat creepy Gainax Ending (which may represent a dream suddenly turning scary moments before the sleeper wakes up.)
  • In Super Mario RPG, you can sleep in a special dream bed in one of the hotels. If you do, you have dreams you can actually watch, such as Mario being surrounded by chefs, or having Toad reveal that he's secretly a monster.
  • Also based entirely around the exploration of bizarre dreamscapes is Yume Nikki ("Dream Diary"), where you wander blithely around surreal, nonsensical landscapes, meet bizarre creatures, and acquire the ability to use a number of strange powers. The game is generally about as aimless and random as real dreams are.

  • Alienby Comics: Riri has experinced dreams that are this crossed with Dreaming of Things to Come before big milestones in their transition:
    • In this unnamed comic, Riri recounts a vision they had shortly before questioning their gender identity of a "cold, masculine, rigid" stone statue entombing an ethereal dragon spirit trying to break free as cracks appear in the statue.
    • In "Not Human", Riri dreams in freshman year that they are a member of a flying alien race left behind on Earth. They note that at the time they felt like they didn't belong in this world but in their dream they fit right in with the other aliens.
    • In "Refusal of the Call", Riri meets a future version of themself with a more feminine body encouraging them to start HRT. Riri refuses and tells their future self that they are not ready, future Riri tells them to take their time and that there is no wrong path to take.
  • In Bob and George, Shadow Man (hidden from Mega Man's view) introduces himself to Mega Man as "the one who haunts your dreams". Mega Man takes several guesses at who this person is, which start reasonable (Dr. Wily) before getting more and more bizarre (such as "the milkman").
    Shadow Man: No! I'm Shadow Man!
    Mega Man: What? You're not in my dreams.
    Shadow Man: And now I'm very thankful for that.
  • This CollegeHumor comic compares Dreams in Movies (which are always fairly coherent and obvious) vs. Dreams in Real Life (which range from mundane to completely nonsensical).
  • Cyanide and Happiness references Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech:
    Martin Luther King: I had a dream.
    MLK: I was freaking flying!
  • Combined with "Not Wearing Pants" Dream in this Giselle strip about a wishing well. A character wishes for all her dreams to come true; when she complains about losing her pants, the well tells her "if you want the one about Legolas then you better pay more than 20 cents... cheapskate!"
  • This Hark! A Vagrant strip about the Ides of March:
    Calpurnia: Caesar, you mustn't go today! I had a dream that you died.
    Caesar: Why, that's amazing, Calpurnia. I had a dream! I was wearing a robe made entirely out of hot dogs.
  • In Our Little Adventure, when Jordie was Talking in Your Dreams, Emily is jealous: she dreamed of being naked in an aquarium with people staring.
  • In this Skin Horse strip, Unity responds to the Abbess's description of her prophetic dream with an inverted Marshmallow Dream ("I dreamed I ate all the pillows in the house, and when I woke up the marshmallows were gone!")
  • Most of the dreams in Slightly Damned are very relevant to the plot, detailing characters' emotional struggles or serving as flashbacks. And then, Rhea dreams up this.
  • Will Save World For Gold: Ell's dream about Lord Skullocaust looking for "birds" which are clearly imps, while Odivallus is back to his old appearance and acting completely out of character. Mora thinks it's nonsensical even by dream standards.

    Web Original 
  • Das Sporking: Mervin lampoons the lack of dream-weirdness in Twilight in her own sporking of the series.
    Bella has just basically dreamed of a glowing, sparkling Edward. She doesn’t know he’s a sparklepire, so why is she dreaming about it? Not to mention that that is one specific dream she’s having. Man, last dream that I had that I can remember that could be construed as symbolic in any capacity was the one I had the night my period came to visit. I dreamed I was having a baby. And it was Kurt Russell’s. So, my body was craving babies, and since I find Kurt Russell hot (and because I’d caught the last twenty or so minutes of Overboard that day), it wanted me to go out and have Kurt Russell’s babies. So I dreamed it. But where are the weird parts that usually go with the dream? You know—like the fact that I was having the baby out in the middle of a hospital lobby? Dreams are usually very surreal and weird and just… Not Right. Not so with Bella, apparently.

    Of course, the majority of dreams aren’t even LIKE that. They are more like what I dreamed once while in college—I opened the door to Hyde’s and my dorm to discover the entire floor was covered in perfectly aligned, neatly stacked individually-wrapped blueberry muffins from Otis Spunkmeyer. And Hyde was at her desk, sitting like nothing was wrong, and had no feet—her ankle stumps were just sitting on the floor, surrounded by muffins. Sure, that’s disturbing. But the muffins, man…THE MUFFINS. DOZENS OF MUFFINS, JUST SITTING THERE. For some reason, that freaked me out in the dream, so I was spazzing seriously when I woke up.
  • In Final Fantasy VII: Machinabridged Cid asks Cloud if he had a dream (in the ambition sense of the term) and Cloud shares his own strange dreams that are suspiciously close to his Crossover appearances.
    Cloud: Well, there was this one time... (shows Cloud in his KH attire) I LOOK SO COOL!! (flashback to real world) ...And then I fought a gorilla with a tie! I don't think anyone saw that coming.
    Cid: I ain't talkin' bout sleepin' dreams that can never, ever happen, ya idjit!
  • In the Homestar Runner cartoon "Donut Unto Others", Homestar claims that his idea to open his own donut stand came to him in a dream... a dream in which he was "a French long-jump champion with eight wooden legs". Even sillier, the ensuing Imagine Spot shows Homestar as a one-legged, Mexican champion at the high-jump.
    Marzipan: (deadpan) And... that made you want to start a donut shop?
    Homestar: Yes sir! Like I said, it's a boyhood dream of mine.
  • From The Onion:
    • Our Dumb Century has the headline: "MLK: 'I had a really weird dream last night.'" The article has King describing a really weird dream he had the other night, concluding that he has no idea what on Earth it meant.
    • Their horoscope section once had the prediction "You will soon meet the woman of your dreams, the one where every tooth in her mouth has its own screaming face."
  • In The Secret Life of Dolls, the Littlest Bella tends to talk incoherently in her sleep about possums and pineapple cake. This makes it rather hilariously obvious that she's faking when she wants the Littlest Edward to sit with her while she sleeps and just happens to talk in her sleep about being afraid and alone and wanting a strong vampire to protect her.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: When Carl is having recurring nightmares, Jimmy offers to enter his dreams to help sort them out, assuring him it will be easy to find and apply a logical solution, since that's how Jimmy's dreams work. Carl is skeptical, since in his last dream, he married a turkey. When Jimmy enters the dream, he finds oddities like Libby rowing her desk to school with a mannequin's leg (since her paddle was broken), Carl's pen turning into a worm, and Carl still married to the turkey (who eats the worm pen). Jimmy finds the whole experience unsettling, but Carl and their dreamed-up classmates find nothing unusual.
    Carl: Besides, if this was only a dream, could I do this? *pulls his brain out of his head*
    Jimmy: That's the only time you can do that.
  • In The Adventures of Puss in Boots, Puss's dreams generally involve sideways gravity and Babieca being a unicorn. Who can talk. And fly.
  • Adventure Time:
    • The season 4 episode "King Worm" is this trope; Finn has been trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine by the titular psychic worm which is feeding off his dreams, and these dreams are every bit as surreal and horrifying as real dreams are capable of being. As bizarre as the world of Ooo is already, everything is just disconcertingly off even by the show's weird standards; highlights include Princess Bubblegum having coffee with The Lich while telling Finn he wouldn't understand because he's "too young", the Ice King being chased by a giant golem made of hundreds of Gunters clustered together while it rains a storm of tiny Lumpy Space Princesses that splatter on the ground, and Jake melting into a puddle while assuring Finn that "Everything's normal". Even more disturbingly, as weird as the episode is, quite a lot of what we see ends up being foreshadowing of future events in the series.
    • In the season 4 finale "The Lich", Finn is worried because he just had a troubling prophetic dream involving Billy, the Lich, and the Cosmic Owl. Jake tries to reassure his brother by telling him about his own weird dreams, which are a lot less meaningful.
      Jake: I dreamed I was in kindergarten again, but I had really big feet, and was also the teacher.
    • Pretty much every dream in the series is like this, from Lemonhope's surreal nightmares inspired by his fear of Lemongrab in "Lemonhope" part 1 and 2, Finn's dreams about Flame Princess and Ice King blasting his crotch with their respective elements in "Frost and Fire", or his dream about his hat floating off and being stolen by a whale in "Billy's Bucket List". Dreams are often relevant, if not pivotal, to the plot of the episode, but they're never mundane or linear.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • "The Dream" opens with Gumball dreaming that he's at his school, which features anomalies such as Ocho being giant, Hector being small, Mr. Small putting his head on the base of a payphone when hanging up and then moonwalking away, Richard being a centaur who speaks in gibberish and glides around by shooting rainbows out of his butt (and is also the President), and Gumball opening his locker to have it pour water out and give him a pineapple. It's then interrupted by Darwin suddenly appearing to steal Penny from Gumball, kicking off the episode's actual plot.
    • "The Advice" has Darwin taking Mr. Small's suggestion to follow his dreams literally, so he has Gumball recreate a dream he had where he was wearing cake for shoes, there was a leprechaun who spoke backwards, and there was Abraham Lincoln as a goat.
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Nightmares and Daydreams", Aang's nightmares and hallucinations are quite strange. Ozai as a giant who taunts Aang about Aang not wearing pants, Aang with Anime Hair, Aang falling into a giant abacus because he forgot about his math test, and Appa and Momo having a swordfight while koala-sheep cheer them on and a six-armed version of Guru Pathik floats by on a cloud singing a nonsensical song about chakras. After all this silliness, the final nightmare comes as a real shock: it's as weird and free-associating as the rest, but much darker and based on reality, in the way of really bad dreams everywhere.
  • In the Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot TV series, all the Care Bears share a dreamspace where they tend to have rather mundane dreams (where they do the same things they tend to do in their waking lives), so it was rather refreshing to see the bears having more dream-like dreams in the Share Bear Shines movie.
    "We just met a lamppost, and it's our best friend!"
  • In The Dragon Prince, Ezran wakes up and starts talking about a crazy dream he just had. Callum assumes that Ezran mistook recent events for a dream, but it turns out that he was talking about an actual dream:
    Ezran: (yawns) I had a weird dream.
    Callum: It wasn't a dream, Ez. All of that was real.
    Ezran: Are you sure? There was this giant pink hippopotamus and I pulled its ear off? Because it was made of taffy.
    Callum: Uh, no. That- that was a dream. I thought you meant the elves, the smoke wolves, the dragon egg. That was all real.
    Ezran: Then I tried to thank the hippo for the taffy, but he couldn't hear me, because I was eating his ears!
  • DuckTales (2017):
    • In the episode "A Nightmare on Killmotor Hill!", the characters explore a shared dreamscape. While the part composed of Lena's dreams is plot-relevant, the rest is just random dreams about things such as Louie being a cat and Huey having absurdly long legs.
    • In "Let's Get Dangerous!", Launchpad comments that "This is like every dream I've ever had! Only my hands aren't made of waffles. ...Right?" He then licks his hands to make sure that they aren't made of waffles, and is disappointed to find that they are not.
  • Home Movies - the guys are confronted by the angry goalie Brendon got a goal off of (by the ball bouncing off his face):
    Cho: I'm Your Worst Nightmare!
    Jason: (snorts) That is so old! Huh? Let me wipe the cobwebs off that line! ...but technically my worst nightmare to date is: I'm sitting in a high chair, and I'm breast-feeding my own mother, and she suddenly opens her mouth and I see my father's head...
    Cho: Yeah yeah yeah, all right, I get it, shut up! You're giving me the creeps.
  • Justice League:
    • In contrast to the dreams of the rest of "Only a Dream", the Flash's dream (before Dr. Destiny turned it into an inescapable nightmare) was a surreal romp that included giant frogs in the fridge, cannibal children, and watching cartoons of himself while a small boy picked at the plot holes.
    • In another episode, Supergirl had a dream where she went out, chased, and murdered a guy. She went to Martian Manhunter, who wasn't sure what to make of it, since it was far more linear and logical than normal dreams. It wasn't a dream, it was a shared memory between Supergirl and her clone.
  • King of the Hill: In "Hank's Unmentionable Problem", Peggy's nightmare about Hank dying (yes, from constipation) is realistically and hilariously weird. Hank's corpse is caked in clown makeup, former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop officiates the burial and asks everyone to pass in their algebra homework, and the grave turns into a giant toilet, with Cotton "flushing" Hank's casket.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack makes note of this:
    Skymaid: Never stop wishing, Flapjack, and all your dreams will come true!
    Flapjack: Even the scary ones?
    Skymaid: Ahahahahahahahahahahaha!... (Nightmare Face) YES.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb special "Summer Belongs to You," Candace calls her Love Interest Jeremy while he's in Paris (where it's the middle of the night):
    Jeremy: Actually, it's funny you called, 'cause you were in my dream just now.
    Candace: (smitten) Really?
    Jeremy: Yeah, it was weird, you and I were in this Dixieland band, and there was an iguana playing the oboe...
  • Rugrats: "In The Dreamtime" involves Chuckie having a series of very surreal dreams/nightmares, featuring such things as the backyard, Spike's doghouse, and Tommy's house turning into warped dreamscapes filled with all sorts of absurd creatures and objects, Spike talking in a posh British accent, doorways to space, hallways lined with distorted pictures of Tommy, and friends spontaneously turning into clowns. The ending suggests that he gets it from his father.
  • Steven Universe:
    • In "Chille Tid", Steven quickly realizes there might be something to his reoccurring dreams about Lapis Lazuli because they're relatively more coherent than his other dreams (which include imagining himself and the Crystal Gems as the stars of a cheesy sitcom, and flying with Dogcopter). This is also in contrast with Pearl's dream, in which she is on a surfboard with what appears to be Rose Quartz, up until "Rose" turns around and is revealed to have Greg's face with a pizza slice for a tongue, and thanks Pearl for fixing his van.
    • In the Steven Universe: Future episode "In Dreams", Steven discovers he can broadcast his dreams onto his television set. Peridot gets the idea to use this ability to create their own version of the Camp Pining Hearts reboot, which he tries to dream while Peridot records it. Unfortunately, their attempts keep getting interrupted by various strange things happening in Steven's dream, some of which are related to Steven's personal issues (like weird versions of the Diamonds showing up, or the bio-injector from Steven Universe: The Movie appearing in the background) while others are just plain nonsensical (like Steven turning into a baby, or Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl suddenly appearing, turning out to be part helicopter, and flying away).
  • Ugly Americans had a twist on the phrase "a dream come true", with Callie bringing Mark's dreams into reality... including such sights as Doug (the Koala-man) riding a saddle on Frank's back, and Callie looking like his naked mother.