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Recurring Dreams

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"Do your dreams change, (name)? Mine do not. I have one dream..."
Arator the Redeemer, World of Warcraft

The more often you have a dream, the more important it is. If you're Dreaming of Things to Come, the upcoming event is even more plot-significant than you thought. If someone's Talking in Your Dreams, they want to make really sure you get the message. And if it's not psychic in origin, but a plain old Flashback Nightmare or indeed any form of Past Experience Nightmare, you know the event involved really bothered the dreamer. (That last is Truth in Television; the symptoms of PTSD can include recurring dreams of the traumatic experience.) As is having Anxiety Dreams when you are really worried about stuff.

Deep Sleep often can prevent it.

This gets subverted, usually for comedy, with a character having a persistent, bizarre dream that has nothing to do with anything. A recurring "Not Wearing Pants" Dream or Guilt-Induced Nightmare is a common example. Compare and contrast Plagued by Nightmares, where a character's consistent bad dreams are a sign of personal issues.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City:
    • Samaritan has recurring Dreams of Flying — he actually has the power of flight, but he never has the time to just fly around for fun rather than flying toward the latest emergency.
    • In one story, an ordinary man has a recurring dream of a beautiful woman he has never seen before. It turns out she was his wife but was erased from existence because of a time-travel battle between a superhero and supervillain.
  • Batman: Black and White:
    • The central character of "In Dreams" has a recurring nightmare due to buried childhood trauma.
    • In "Night After Night", one of the things the title refers to is Bruce's recurring nightmare about his parents' death.
  • In Superman storyline The Untold Story of Argo City, Supergirl having repeated dreams where her supposedly deceased biological parents shout that they are alive and trapped in a pocket dimension prompts her to investigate what happened to Zor-El and Allura In-Ze.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Little Nemo, originally a weekly Sunday comic strip, Nemo's dreams continued as an ongoing story arc, even though he woke up at the end of every strip.

    Fan Works 
  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kanae's favorite dream includes kissing Kyon at a beach and magically teleporting to a shadowy wooded glade surrounded by bunnies and flowers. After the fight with a robot at the beach Kanae, still somewhat dazed, believes she's dreaming when Kyon shows himself like in her dream, and decides to kiss him only to realize later everybody is watching them.
  • In Getting Back on Your Hooves, Twilight is awakened repeatedly by nightmares of her encounter with Discord. Spike is also implied to be having recurring nightmares of his greed induced rampage. Trixie had recurring nightmares involving an Ursa as a filly as well. Trixie teaches Twilight and Spike, who was listening, lucid dreaming, allowing them to successfully conquer them, which her grandmother taught her as a filly.
  • In Double Agent Vader, Leia has recurring dreams about the mother who died when she was born.
  • In Heretic Pride, the Jedi youngling Aloo has a recurring dream that's actually a memory of the family she was taken from when she was too young to still remember them consciously.
  • The Invader Zim fanfic Gaz's Nightmare is, as the title might suggest, about a nightmare Gaz has been having night after night about being rendered immobile and unable to speak, being Forced to Watch as Dib eats a whole pizza without her getting any.
  • In The Meaning of Harmony, Sunset's recurring nightmares kick off the plot of the story. Once she goes back to Equestria, she finds out that Twilight and the princesses have been having the same dreams as her.
  • My Dream Is Yours has an interesting and somewhat inverted take on the trope. Most agents have a specific dream that often recurs, but when they are affected with Dream-Transfer-itis, they begin having a recurring dream that isn't their own, which causes them to suffer from Sleep Deprivation. So essentially, it's more like the lack of usual recurring dreams that kicks off the plot and has most characters suffering from a case of O.O.C. Is Serious Business.
  • In Torque (Jak and Daxter), the Dark Warrior has been having dreams that he can’t understand not knowing that they are of his past life as Jak. They began after he caught sight of Keira.

    Film — Animated 
  • Child of Kamiari Month: Kanna has a recurring dream of running with her mother through a forest when she was a child, her mother slowly getting further and further away until she disappears into a bright light—symbolizing her death.
  • Aki Ross has dreams like this in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within which are very integral to the story.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • At the beginning of Captain Marvel, Vers wakes up from one of her recurring nightmares involving a fiery crash and a woman she doesn't recognize. She refuses to go back to sleep and instead convinces Yon-Rogg to spar with her. The dream is actually a recurring flashback, albeit with some details differing from the actual event, such as her bleeding blue instead of red.
  • In the TV Movie The Deadly Dream (1971) Lloyd Bridges dreams he's being chased by mysterious people. Every time he falls asleep the dream picks up at the same point. Then the dream begins to leak into his idyllic real life and he comes to realize the dream is real and his only temporary escape is in his dreams of a "real life"
  • The Fugitive: Richard Kimble has nightmare after nightmare of his wife's murder while he tries to solve the crime.
  • In the film adaptation of I, Robot, Sonny has a reoccurring dream in which a figure watches from the top of a cliff, as a group of robots are forced into storage. He believes that Spooner is the figure in the dream. The end of the movie has the dream play out in real life, only it's Sonny on the cliff. Given his creator's earlier comments about how robots will one day advance to having feelings and dreams like humans, it seems to hint that Sonny will lead the way to robots being treated as equals and not as convenient appliances.
  • Ethan dreams twice of (his ex-wife) Julia being threatened by Solomon Lane in Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Guess what happens in the last act of the film.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street centers around teenagers having recurring dreams about Freddy Krueger. Said dreams end very badly to say the least...
  • Prince of Darkness has everyone involved with the Brotherhood of Sleep having one. Except it's not actually a dream, but an attempt from future scientists to warn the past about the incoming apocalypse.
  • In The Young Poisoner's Handbook, Berridge has recurring nightmares related to his guilt over murdering his parents. The viewer learns what some of these dreams are when Graham writes them down and presents them to Dr. Zeigler as his own nightmares, and they are quite disturbing.

  • In Alterien, Oberon Navarro has recurring dreams of being experimented on by the often-silent Dr. Grey.
  • Animorphs:
    • When Crayak finally becomes a visible force in the plot, Jake reveals that he's been dreaming repeatedly of the first time he glimpsed him.
    • In an earlier book, he mentions a recurring dream where he's trying to convince Cassie to go into a dark cave, symbolic of his stress about always ordering her and the others into dangerous situations.
    • In The Capture, Jake has several dreams where he's a tiger hunting his brother, Tom. At first, it represents how he sees Tom (who's been taken over by a Puppeteer Parasite) as an enemy, but when that same Puppeteer Parasite gets into Jake later in the book, Jake sees himself as the prey.
  • In A Brother's Price, six years ago Princess Ren lost family in a theater explosion that happened while she was out on the steps at the exit. Finding burned bodies, or getting close enough to someone to fear losing them, or smelling burning things in her sleep, tends to make the dreams return.
  • There are a few subversions in Discworld of recurring dreams involving giant boots with teeth and such things as that. But played straight in Pyramids with the dream about the seven thin cows and seven fat cows, one of which is playing a trombone, which is a sign that someone is a member of the Djelibeybian royal family.
  • Dolphin Song: After Melody meets the dolphins Shara and Speckle, she starts to have a recurring dream about being a dolphin and frantically searching for something. When she wakes up, she can never remember what she was looking for. She's Dreaming of Things to Come about Shara searching for her dead son Speckle's spirit so she can guide it to the great ocean beyond the waves.
  • The titular character of Eva has recurring dreams about a vast jungle, which turn out to be the lingering instincts of the chimpanzee her memories were copied into.
  • In The Girl from the Miracles District, Robin keeps on having a dream involving a deer, a forest, a woman waiting for him and Nikita holding a bird in her hands, with someone claiming that she can fix Robin.
  • Harry starts having recurring dreams of a long hallway with a door the end in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and eventually starts getting tantalizing glimpses of what lies beyond the door before waking up. It turns out that Voldemort is using the mental link he and Harry share to show him the Hall of Prophecy in the Ministry of Magic's Department of Mysteries, as part of Voldemort's plan in this book: to get his hands on the complete prophecy regarding him and Harry, which only he or Harry can retrieve.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: In the Last Herald-Mage Trilogy, Herald Vanyel has two sets of these. One is a nightmare about him becoming encased in ice until he becomes ice himself (reflecting how unhealthy his Safety in Indifference strategy has become), and the other is a Dreaming of Things to Come sequence about his future death in defense of Valdemar.
  • Faramir in The Lord of the Rings has recurring dreams, both prophetic in nature ("Seek for the sword that was broken") and nightmares of the drowning of Numenor. The last one was based on the recurring dreams that both J. R. R. Tolkien and his son Michael had (see below).
  • Manifestation: One of the main characters, Tock Zipporah, has recurring dreams throughout most of the book, each one building off the previous ones.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Percy has a recurring dream where he's wearing a straitjacket while trying to take a test, symbolic of his academic anxiety. Funnily enough, this is practically the only dream he has that isn't psychic...though when we, the readers, get to see it, Thalia has found her way in.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire Jon Snow when he doesn't have dreams of magical nature) has recurring dreams about something calling for him from the crypts of Winterfell, then the Stark ancestors tell him that he doesn't belong there and he's not a Stark. This has to do with his underlying insecurity issues (he's a bastard who never felt to really belong) but also may be indicative that he's meant to be someone else, if you pay attention to many theories about his parentage.
  • Star Wars Legends: In Death Star, the Force-sensitive stormtrooper Nova Stihl dreams often of his own death. There are at least two different scenarios, one in which he's fighting other troopers as a Delaying Action, one in which he's chasing a Corellian smuggler. There are variations on the first one; sometimes he's fighting alone, sometimes with a companion, and the odds against him vary. When the second scenario happens he averts death by not following Han Solo too closely, but in the first he's as grimly willing as he is in each dream.
  • Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms: From The Fairy Godmother, when Elena's asking about Alexander's dreams:
    She was trying to think of something to say when he spoke. "Tell me about your dreams, will you?" he asked. "Do you have them every night? Are they always the same?"
    "I've been having them most nights, and they're never exactly the same," she said, staring into the fire, leaning back on her elbows. "They always start when I find myself in a-a very odd place. I'm on the shore of some large body of water, and it's night, but very bright, bright enough to see colors.
    "Apparently we're having the same dream."
    "Does that mean something?" he asked, and ran his fingers through his hair, nervously. "Is it significant?
  • Tempest (2011): At the beginning of Tempest Rising, the half-mermaid Tempest falls off her board while swimming and almost drowns before her legs briefly fuse into a tail, allowing her to swim to safety. Every night for the next week, she has nightmares about the ocean dragging her under.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
  • In Warrior Cats:
    • Occasionally cats will have recurring dreams that are an omen of some sort, and they must work out what it means.
    • In Mothwing's Secret, Mothwing's nightmare of Tadpole's death keeps coming back.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of Boy Meets World has Cory plagued by recurring nightmares of him murdering his best friend Shawn in a variety of ways (pushing him down an open elevator shaft, bludgeoning him with a baseball bat, etc.) When he finally makes himself follow the dream to its end, he realizes that killing Shawn (along with the rest of his friends and an earlier Romantic False Lead) is symbolic of how he'll naturally prioritize Topanga over everyone else when he marries her.
  • One episode of Empty Nest has Harry unable to sleep due to a recurring nightmare in which he's unable to escape from a tiger while wearing his wife's bathrobe. At the end of the episode, it's revealed that he's having the dream because he's due to appear at a medical conference at the hospital where she died.
  • In one episode of Flight of the Conchords, Mel keeps dreaming that Bret is doing awful, offensive things to her and she gets so angry she tells him to apologise in real life (which he does, although a little reluctantly). His dream-behaviour eventually gets so bad she physically attacks him and breaks his arm. There's no real point to the dreams themselves, it's just another demonstration of Mel's insanity.
  • Subversion: One episode of Frasier involves him obsessing over this recurring dream he's been having about waking up in a hotel room and one of his male coworkers coming out of the shower and climbing into bed with him. At the end of the episode, Sigmund Freud comes out of the shower instead. There's another couple of episodes where he counsels friends or callers through understanding their recurring dreams. He's a Freudian, so he obviously believes that recurring dreams are important, but Martin (his father) dismisses it all as 'dreams are weird'.
  • Game of Thrones: Bran Stark keeps dreaming about a crow with three eyes. In the books, the Three-Eyed Crow turns out to be part of the manifestation of Bran's powers as a greenseer, who are (at least semi) magical beings. They are long thought to be extinct with the power to see the future in their dreams, who had been leaders of the Children of the Forest, and were defeated by the First Men. The (tremendously ancient) Three-Eyed Crow himself is eventually encountered by Bran (who is training to become a greenseer) and company, and is known as the Last Greenseer, and who identifies himself as one Lord Brynden, the same name as an ancient Targaryen Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
  • A "What Do They Fear?" Episode of The Golden Girls reveals that Blanche has had a series of recurring dreams where she was trapped in a small room with a group of bald men. It later comes true when she boards a plane full of former Mr. Cleans on their way to a reunion.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "...The Ruthless Pursuit of Blood with All a Child's Demanding", Daniel Molloy mentions to Louis de Pointe du Lac that he had been dreaming about their first meeting in 1973 at Polynesian Mary's ever since Louis mailed to him the cassette tapes of their first interview. In "Like Angels Put in Hell by God", viewers finally get a glimpse of their shared past after Daniel falls asleep due to his medication.
  • Love and Destiny: Ling Xi frequently dreams about Jiu Chen defeating the demon king.
  • In "The House", a segment on Night Gallery, a woman has recurring dreams of walking around a house. She eventually finds the house she's been dreaming of, and the people who live there recognize her... because she's often been seen as a ghost haunting the place! The segment was based on a short story.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Is implied that Miriel has nightmares from time to time about Numenor being engulfed by a great wave. She is terrified by her nightmares as they are prophetic in nature, and doesn't know what could provoke such a disaster and if it can be avoided.
  • Power Rangers S.P.D. has Bridge have a recurring dream that they end up in a battle against some robots and the Megazord is defeated. It worries him.
  • On an episode of Scrubs, Carla dreams that her husband Turk and his Heterosexual Life Partner JD realize that they might not be so heterosexual after all, and team up to Murder the Hypotenuse (her) so that they can be together. She wakes up very distraught, and Turk assures her that such a thing will never happen. She tells him the dream isn't the problem, because she has that dream all the time. What freaked her out was that she dreamed in English instead of Spanish.
  • Star Trek: Picard: In "The Impossible Box", after Soji abruptly wakes up and startles Narek in bed, she apologizes to him and explains that she had a weird dream, and that she keeps having it.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "Twenty-Two", Liz Powell experiences a recurring dream in which she follows a strange nurse to the hospital morgue, Room 22. It turns out to be a prophetic dream warning her not to board Flight 22 to Miami Beach. She doesn't and the plane explodes immediately after take off.
    • In "Shadow Play", Adam Grant suffers a recurring nightmare in which he is convicted of murder and sent to the electric chair every night.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Nightcrawlers", The Vietnam Vet Price has a recurring nightmare about his unit, the Nightcrawlers, hunting him as he deserted them while they were under attack by the Viet Cong. Only Price survived. As he has the ability to manifest his thoughts, the Nightcrawlers appear in the real world and cause havoc whenever he falls asleep.

  • On the Threshold: Taken to the Logical Extreme and Played for Horror in that after making discovery of her forgotten PhD work, Dr. Applegate dreams of nothing else except a looped conversation with herself and empty hallways. It only gets worse when she breaks the cycle of recurring dreams through lucid dreaming and draws the attention of something that relentlessly pursues her in her dreams and leaves her debilitated with exhaustion and stress.

  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Friendship", Miss Brooks suffers from a recurring dream where she's being chased by a man with a knife. It turns out a broken bedspring poking through her mattress is the cause of her nightmares.

  • Miss Saigon: Implied by Ellen's lyrics in "I Still Believe", as she watches her husband Chris sleep, "Last night... once more the nightmare came...", moments before he awakens from yet another bad dream.

    Video Games 
  • Ashley in Another Code has a recurring Flashback Nightmare. Figuring it out is an important part of the game.
  • Each campaign in E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy starts with waking up in a strange dream landscape surrounded by enormous inscribed pillars, with a monolithic wall behind the exit portal. Dying with no available resurrectors causes you to wake up again in the landscape, with "Mysterious" telling you it was a vision of a possible future. The first time you start a campaign with a new character, you wake up with your Mentor's corpse slumped against the portal.
    It's true that I killed my Mentor... and yet, I am not his murderer.
  • Fallen London has several storylines that take the form of recurring dreams, surrounding a topic and starting to follow a whole theme once you start sorting them out. There are also certain individuals and entities that tend to cause recurring nightmares when contacted.
  • In Lost Smile and Strange Circus, Noah, the protagonist, has one where there is a woman with a baby. The woman is singing a lullaby, when suddenly a dark man comes and kidnaps her, leaving the baby all alone.
  • Shepard has a reoccurring dream of chasing the kid who he watched die on Earth through a dark forest in Mass Effect 3, always unable to catch him before the kid abruptly catches fire. It gets creepier with the addition of the whispering voices of the dead in later incarnations of the dream and in the final version, Shepard himself/herself being the one who catches fire.
  • Prayer of the Faithless: The first part of the game where the player has control, is with Aeyr in his recurring dream of the "haunted dream house" as he says in its opening cutscene.
  • Arator the Redeemer, an NPC in the World of Warcraft Hellfire Peninsula zone, claims to only ever have one dream. It involves his father trying and failing to tell him something, and is one of the reasons he thinks that father may be Not Quite Dead.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Curse of Kudan: Ever since she was a child, Sakuya has been plagued by a nightmare where she is trying to save a woman from falling off a cliff, only for the woman to attempt to drag her down to her death. It's revealed that these nightmares come from Sakuya's repressed memories of witnessing a similar murder attempt.
  • Comes up a few times in Little Busters!: Riki has recurring nightmares of the same scene of death and despair which turns out to be the present real world, the immediate aftermath of the bus crash he was in before he entered the world Kyousuke created, Komari has recurring dreams of an older brother she can't remember which turns out to be her repressed memories of the past and Kud has a vague recurring nightmare she can never remember in detail which turns out to be a vision of the future and her mother being executed.
  • Mizuchi: After becoming the shapeshifter Ai's companion, the protagonist Linh begins having dreams of being underwater and seeing a large hand reaching for her. It's revealed that these dreams are actually Ai's memories back when the shapeshifter was an ordinary carp.
  • Edgeworth in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney states in one case that he always has the same dream. (His dream being of the day his father was killed.) "For fifteen years... I have had a recurring dream. A nightmare... it’s only a nightmare. That’s what I told myself. But now I know, it wasn’t a dream." It scares him because it's a dream that he himself fired the gun that killed his father.


    Web Original 
  • Beatrice of The Dreamer has recurring dreams set in the American Revolution.
  • Equestria Chronicles has Dartbreak, who is traumatized over the death of his friends.
  • A major characteristic of Kate of KateModern was that she was troubled by recurring nightmares, which eventually turned out to be of some significance.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of King of the Hill, Hank is upset over recurring dreams about grilling naked with his attractive neighbor Nancy. However the dreams themselves are utterly chaste and not the least bit erotic, they're just speaking normally about the quality of the burgers and such. Peggy worries that this means that he's bored of her, but in the end Hank realizes that he wasn't bored with his wife but of propane and his grill and the dreams were a way to rejuvenate his love of grilling.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In the Order 66 arc, it is heavily implied by Tup's last words that the clone troopers' control chips give them recurring nightmares of carrying out Order 66, nightmares that they cannot fully remember upon waking.
  • Star Wars Resistance: As explained in "Bibo", this is how Eila's dreams of the future always come.
  • Dr Venture, of The Venture Brothers, has recurring dreams of being eaten by a twin in the womb all throughout Season 1, which become explained in the season finale.
  • In Winx Club, Bloom had these about a nymph named Daphne, who turned out to be her sister trying to tell Bloom about her origins.

    Real Life 
  • J. R. R. Tolkien conceived of the idea for the Downfall of Númenor because of a recurring dream he had about an enormous wave looming up over the land and crashing down on it.