Squidward: Uh... "dream"?
Mr. Krabs: Sure. I'm still in the hospital sleeping like a baby!
SpongeBob: Umm, you checked out of the hospital this morning.
Squidward: Here's the bill.
Mr. Krabs: You mean... I'm awake? [screams]
In the middle of a wacky plot, Bob gets knocked out. When he awakens, he tells Alice that he dreamed the wacky plot that just happened. He will then be in for a nasty shock when he discovers that it wasn't a dream and typically respond in a comedically over-the-top fashion.
Will generally be Played for Laughs, but serious examples aren't uncommon. Equally, the realization that it wasnt a dream could be negative or positive.
As a reveal trope, there will be unmarked spoilers!
In a certain context, it sometimes overlaps with Bedmate Reveal, regardless of the nature of the situation.
Not to be confused with Or Was It a Dream?, which is when it's left ambiguous whether it was a dream, or In the Dreaming Stage of Grief, which is when a character copes by pretending it was a dream. Compare Dream Reality Check.
- Arachnid: After Alice brings Oki home, she dreams about the roach girl sweating oil to bypass the sound detection of her thread and then shooting Yoriko to death. Alice wakes up to see that Oki really escaped from her with that bizarre method... but only to play with Alice's panties.
- Ayakashi Triangle: Upon ayakashi become visible to Yayo, she sees Suzu and Matsuri fighting one that attacked her in the middle of the night, and wonders if she's dreaming. Matsuri seems to consider pretending she was, but Suzu shoots him down, knowing it's a pointless endeavor when Yayo will still be able to see more (and possibly be attacked by them for it).
- During the Eclipse in Berserk, Corkus' sanity collapses as everything literally goes to Hell around him. He deliriously starts thinking that everything that had happened up to this point with the Band of the Hawk was all just a dream because it was too good to be true. When he sees a beautiful naked woman amidst the carnage, he takes this as proof that this really is just a dream and accepts her embrace. Unfortunately, it's not a dream and the woman is a demonic Apostle.
- Played for Drama in Bitter Virgin, as it is exactly this trope that allows Daisuke to confess his love to the female lead Hinako. Something he had been hesitant about due to the fact Hinako Does Not Like Men because of past trauma and she had been slowly healing that wound.
- Buso Renkin: After their first encounters with homunculi, both Kazuki and Mahiro both believe what they experienced was All Just a Dream until they are attacked a second time. Neither of them reacted too drastically to the revelation, however, with Mahiro even taking comfort from it as it meant that Kazuki had saved her and would do so again.
- In Date A Live, Shido at first thinks that his crazy experience in approaching the incredibly powerful and unstable Tohka to ask her on a date while under a hail of gunfire was a dream. Then he finds the chalkboard where she wrote her name and then she shows up for their date.
- In Dragon Ball Z, after Kid Buu destroys the Earth and the survivors retreat to the Supreme Kai's planet, Mr. Satan/Hercule becomes convinced he's in a dream. He learns he isn't dreaming when he tries to fly and painfully crashes.
- In Great Transporter Ryuji, Ryuji wakes up from being drugged by Mimon Ishikawa, to find himself in a car that she drives off an unfinished bridge into Tokyo Bay. He has a Catapult Nightmare, waking up in his own bed, and Nagisa tells him that Mimon's butler had dropped him off last night. He laughs, thinking it was just a dream, but then sees the car's broken-off door handle on his bed. He confirms it was real when he sees news footage of the car being pulled out of the water.
- In one of the Haruhi Suzumiya books, after genuinely falling asleep, Kyon ends up in an alternate reality with Haruhi, who wakes him up as she subconsciously starts remaking the universe. Eventually, he gets her to stop, probably, before winding up back in his own bed, which he falls out of and tries to pretend it was a dream. The next day at school he sees her with a ponytail, which he had during the sequence mentioned being partial to. Confirming that yeah, it really happened. Of course, he's still going to pretend it didn't.
- In Hetalia Bloodbath 2010, after the Nations go insane trying to beat the clock to save an alternate dimension from exploding and ending up collapsed and exhausted after just making it in the nick of time, several of them wonder if the whole thing was just a dream. They actually wish it was a dream, but the fact that the alternate-dimension Nations left a farewell letter proves otherwise.
- In Kaiju Girl Caramelise, the first time Kuroe Akaishi fully transforms into Harugon, she assumes both throughout the experience and when she wakes up the next morning that she had a crazy dream. Her mother Rinko initially tries to reinforce this assumption by turning off the news and claiming that she washed her daughter's school uniform until it was like brand new (the uniform is brand new because Kuroe ripped out of the previous set). Unfortunately, Kuroe turns the TV on herself and finds out the truth.
- Played very tragically in a scene of the One Piece anime about Brook: after his whole crew is killed and Brook himself comes back as a skeleton. While spending an extremely long time stuck on their ship alone, he sees the whole crew alive and his body returned to normal and they say he was just having a bad dream. Brook smacks his face into the ground and says he can't be dreaming because it hurt. He looks up... and they're gone.
- In one episode of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Panty and Stocking become Transformers expies. In the middle of the episode, Brief wakes up from sleeping, wondering if that was just a dream. Then it zooms out to show he is surrounded by robots.
- Madoka wakes up in the second episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica thinking that her encounter with Mami, Homura, and the witch was just a weird dream. Then she spots Kyubey sitting among her stuffed animals. The dream in the very beginning of the series is also this, but the full explanation doesn't occur until much later.
- Sailor Moon: A lighthearted example comes after the first time Usagi fights crime as Sailor Moon. She wakes up the next day, notices a newspaper article about how Sailor Moon stopped a robbery, and pouts that it looks like the whole thing wasn't a dream after all.
- Taiga in Toradora! falls down a snowbank and when Ryuuji finds her, she makes some interesting confessions while he carries her back up the slope. Afterward, Taiga thinks it was just a dream, and Ryuuji tries to encourage that notion to save Taiga her embarrassment. Of course, the plan falls apart when Minorin objects to the lie.
- The premise of Welcome to Japan, Ms. Elf!, Kazuhiro discovered that the "dream" world that he has visited since a child isn't actually a dream at all, and that he actually teleports himself to the other world when he sleeps, when he discovers his ally in his bed with him after a near death experience.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, the Dark Magician Girl gives Sho a kiss right before returning to the spirit world. Sho thinks he imagined that, only for Judai to inform him that it actually happened.
- An Archie Comics story has Betty take a nap in a pickup truck after a day of chores. When she wakes up, she finds herself at the mall, still in her ragged work clothes. She feels embarrassed at her friends seeing her in this condition, but then she decides that she's probably dreaming. She proceeds to make herself look even more unsightly, and become a nuisance until security kicks her out. Betty then finds herself walking home and notices the truck absent from her family's driveway upon her return. She decides to pinch herself to see if she's really dreaming, but finds out otherwise.
- A story in a DC Comics mystery/suspense anthology had an accountant find a set of strange disks which gave him especially vivid daydreams where he would be transported to other worlds to commit acts of heroism and derring-do. The final disk sent him to his hometown where he foiled a bank robbery and captured the robbers. When he actually returned home after this 'daydream', he found himself hailed as a hero. Learning that he had actually foiled a bank robbery, he realized that by extension, all of his other adventures had really happened. He fainted.
- DuckTales: At the opening of one of the Scrooge's Quest comics, Scrooge wakes up from a nightmare of Webby being captured by Magica and begging him to save her. Upon waking up, he assumes that this means Webby isn't missing and furthermore, Magica didn't steal his Number One Dime, causing him to wake the triplets up to celebrate. Unfortunately, they have to tell him that while he was having a nightmare, Webby and the dime are still missing.
- During Infinite Crisis, Supergirl is struck by an altered zeta-beam which makes her re-appear in the 31st century. Upon her arrival, Kara is so confused that she concludes that her life since she left Krypton has all been a dream, and she continues believing it's all a dream for several weeks. In Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes issue #23 she wakes up, finds herself in a Kryptonian city and believes her dream is finally over... until she runs into her friends Legionnaires and remembers they knocked her out and took her to Kandor. The shock makes her snap out of her delusion.
Supergirl: All that stuff in my head about Krypton blowing up... mom and dad and... everything... gone... it really wasn't a dream.
- New Mutants: Early on, Dani dreams she's attacked by the Demon Bear that took her parents, and tries fighting it off with a knife, to no avail. She then wakes up, and Professor Xavier assures her it was just a dream... except when Dani checks her knife, it's still got blood on it.
- Sillage: In the first issue, Navis' jungle planet is invaded by aliens intent on Hostile Terraforming, and her companion, the talking tiger Houyo, is killed. Navis attempts to resist the invaders amidst the burning jungle, but is knocked out. She wakes up to find the jungle intact. At first, she thinks this means her adventure was a dream and that Houyo is alive, but she discovers she is on an alien ship in what is essentially a zoo exhibit, a glass dome with a jungle environment.
- Shazam!: The New Beginning: Billy after his first encounter with Shazam, when he was transformed back to his original self from being Captain Marvel, thought the whole meeting was just a dream when he was left standing at the entrance of the subway station... until he calls out Shazam's name again and realizes that it wasn't.
- Silverblade: After being rescued from Vermillion's Carnival of Killers by Jonathan as Silverblade, Milestone wakes up in his own bed and assumes it was all a dream. Then he opens his eyes and sees Silverblade and the giant falcon sitting on the end of his bed waiting to talk.
- In the Superman storyline Last Daughter of Krypton, the last thing Kara remembers before being put in stasis is her father driving her to his lab. So when she wakes up from her decades-long artificial slumber, stumbles out of a rocketship, crawls out of a crater and finds herself lost in an unfamiliar snowy landscape (and she is not freezing to death), she thinks she's still dreaming. When battle robots suddenly fly down from the sky and surround her, she merely thinks it's a very weird dream. Then the robots attempt to capture her, and the pain caused by her attacks makes Kara realize she isn't dreaming.
- A Sally Forth (Howard) strip has Hilary in class, and the teacher reminding them they were assigned homework during Christmas vacation which counts for 40% of their grade. Hil has no idea what she's talking about and freaks out. The last panel has her telling Faye that she kept screaming until she woke up, and Faye explaining that no, she kept screaming until she passed out.
- Advice and Trust: After their First Kiss and sleeping together for first time Shinji and Asuka wake up the next morning, and each one thinks: "Oh, gods, that wasn't a dream?"
- In After Ganon, Link starts the fic waking up at home at age ten. He wonders if his time-travelling adventure was all just a dream, until he finds the kokiri sword where it originally was.
- In A Badger's Love Harry faints after hearing that he and Hannah are betrothed.
Harry: I had the weirdest dream. And you were there. And you. And you.
Hannah's father: Harry, it wasn't a dream.
Harry: Of course it was. It had to be, because I remember you saying I was going to marry Hannah. And that's not possible because I really don't know her.
- In Bet Your Arse Draco wakes up after a drinking binge and finds Harry lying next to him in bed.
Draco: Wow, these dreams are getting more realistic every time.
- In Bye-Bye a drowsy Harry, thinking he's dreaming, insults McGonagall and Dumbledore and then snaps McGonagall's wand.
- In A Change in Perspective Ron is temporarily turned into a scarlet macaw by a prank potion gone wrong and a hospital wing mishap results in Harry being literally on fire for a week.
Draco: Had the weirdest dream. Purple flames, poor werewolves, stupid Weasley birds, flowers and rocks, and Longbottom trying to hold my hand.
- In Charly Harry faints after being told he's pregnant.
Harry: Andy, I just had a very weird dream. I dreamt that you told me I was pregnant. Weird isn't it.
Andromeda: It wasn't a dream, Harry dear. You're pregnant.
Harry: It w-wasn't a dream? [Harry faints again]
- The Child of Love: The morning after the festival Asuka opens her eyes, sees Shinji lying in on front of her in her bed and thinks it is a wet dream. She hugs him tightly and he complains he can not breathe. Then she realizes it is NOT a dream.
- A Crown of Stars: It happens several times throughout the story:
- In chapter 6 Asuka asks Shinji if this is a dream. Shinji replies that it is not.
- In chapter 24 Shinji wakes up, sees a smiling Asuka sleeping in his arms and deduces he must be dreaming. When she opens her eyes he greets her warmly, tells he is going to make her breakfast in bed and maybe he will wash her back when she is showering, kisses her and leaves with a wink. Shortly after he realizes it was NOT a dream. And he freaks out.
- In chapter 37 Shinji and Asuka are showering together and Shinji asks: Im not dreaming, am I?
- In chapter 44 Asuka wakes up and wonders why she has dreamed of an all-night sex-marathon with Shinji and then she realizes that was not a dream.
- Date A Live: Altered Timeline: After being enveloped by a white flash and falling unconscious after seeing a fight between Tohka and a series of lights, Shinji and Mana wake up in their respective school's shelters, with everyone acting like they had been there all along. It only takes a quick phone call to one another for them to confirm that they both remember what they saw and not something they dreamed up.
- In the lemon fic Dreamscape, when Pyrrha...approaches...Jaune in the middle of the night, he assumes that he's having an Erotic Dream. As he realizes some hours later — when he wakes up next to a very satisfied Pyrrha — it was not. Funnily enough, Pyrrha also thinks it was a dream at first when she wakes up.
- Evangelion 303: In chapter 14 Shinji wakes up in a hotel room and asks Asuka whether she really said yes when he proposed to her or it was all a dream. In answer she asks "What do you think?" and she kisses him.
- Facing the Future Series: In "A Family Thing", Sam wakes up from a Catapult Nightmare in which Danny had been captured by Vlad, and knew deep down, it wasn't a dream, but rather she was sensing it happening through the link she and Danny share.
- In Femina Mutatio Harry faints after realizing that a miscast hex turned him into a girl.
Harry: Hermione, I had the weirdest nightmare.
- In Hail to the King, the unnamed human protagonist trapped in King Sombra's body thinks this crazy land of talking ponies he's in is just a crazy dream or hallucination. He learns he isn't dreaming when he decides to "wake up" by stabbing himself in the leg.
- Harry Potter and the House of Pendragon:
Madame Bones: Oh...what a dream I had...Lord Pendragon along with Harry Potter and Susan are in my Office, and he mentioned that the Untouchables are here along with Strategic-Class magicians...dear Merlin...
- In the Inside Out fic Intercom, Riley thinks she's just dreaming when she hears five little voices from inside her head. Then the voices are still there the next morning...
- Lab Rat has Danny pass out in Chapter 2, then wake up in Chapter 3. He thinks what happened to him note was a nightmare, but then he sees the bandages around his chest and abdomen.
- Last Child of Krypton: In chapter 2 Asukas plane is crashing down and she believes she is going to die. Then she sees a blue-and-red-costumed person landing on the back of the plane, and pulling it upright. For a second she thinks she is having a nightmare right before the plane lurches again, confirming it is real.
- Maybe the Last Archie Story: Archie gathers his friends to inform them that their old enemy, Mad Doctor Doom has resurfaced and kidnapped Sabrina and her aunts. As attempting to rescue them, the gang discovers the Spellman are a family of witches, Sabrina's pet Salem is a talking cat, and Moose gets hurt while fighting Doom's minion. The next day, Reggie Mantle is wondering whether it was all just a dream, but Salem confirms it was real.
Reggie: "I'm talking to a cat. I'm having a conversation with a cat. This cannot be real. I'm still dreaming, right?"
Salem: "Nope, this is for real, kid. I'm not about to claw your ankle to prove you're not dreaming. You'll just have to take it on faith. Okay?"
- Lelouch of the Wings of Rebellion: Shirley faints when she's told Lelouch is a prince. When she comes to, he has to tell her again because she has convinced herself that she must have dreamed it.
- In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku blacks out after his Super-Hearing activates for the first time. When he comes to, he hopes that his brawl with Bakugou was just a bad dream, but it takes two seconds for his Super-Hearing to remind him that it wasn't.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide:
- In chapter 7, Rei has a very life-like nightmare about Gendo inserting the embryonic Adam into her body. Upon waking up, she is in doubt whether or not it was a dream. The fact that Gendo is described as having a heavily bandaged right hand later in the chapter confirms that it actually happened.
- In chapter 10, Shinji thinks hes dreaming that Asuka has come into his room in the middle of the night. When she touches his shoulder and he notices that she looks awkward and smells of sweat, he realizes that its real.
He thought he was dreaming. He had to be for Asuka to have come in his room in the middle of the night. He'd had dreams like this before. The next she would do was was put a hand down the front of his pants and start to followed by her mouth
But when he did feel her hand it was on his shoulder. "Hey, Shinji, are you awake?"
There was a part of him that wanted to ignore her, hoping she would do what she always did in his dream, but as he rolled the words in his head he picked up on something that was never in the dream before.
"Y-yes," he replied as he rolled over to Asuka, who indeed sat on the edge of his bed. He could barely see her in the darkness, but the tone of her voice was awkward. Also not like in his dream, her hair was tousled and he thought he could smell sweat.
And then, like a bucket of cold water, it hit himhe was an idiot and this was no dream.
- In New Beginnings (Smallville), Lois believes her future self's memories are a hallucination she had while she was in a coma until Clark confirms they are real and they have travelled back in time.
- The One I Love Is...: In chapter 9 Arael's Mind Rape leaves Asuka in a catatonic state. When Asuka wakes up she looks around confusedly and realizes it was not a dream.
Asuka: It wasn't a dream.
- One shots pt 8:
Harry: Sirius, I had the strangest dream.
Sirius: If it was seeing your parents, it wasn't a dream.
- In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Ash initially thinks his first encounter with MissingNo was just a nightmare once he wakes up the next day. But then, to his shock and horror, Pikachu starts talking about how he had a dream about the exact same event. Both realize that MissingNo is real, and that their friends are in legitimate danger.
- In Reign of Marco, Marco initially thinks losing his virginity to Star, who in this AU is his adopted sister, in a threesome with her and Brittney Wong is a dream, before realizing what Brittney's dad will do to him if he finds out.
- In Renaissance a near-death Draco thinks he's having an Erotic Dream when Harry fondles him.
- The Second Try: In chapter 10 Shinji and Asuka wake up to find they are fourteen and living in Misato's apartment again. Feeling utterly frightened and distraught, Asuka pleads Shinji telling her that it (surviving after Third Impact, falling in love, getting married and having and raising a child) was not just a dream. Shinji promptly reassures her that he also remembers.
- Survivor's Guilt:
Hermione: Oh Ron, I was having the most incredible dream. I dreamt that you had died and I had to go with Harry to rescue you and Ginny.
Ron: You didn't dream it Hermione. It really happened. Now, would you please open your eyes and give me a proper kiss?
- In Sword and Shield Ron faints after being informed that he's receiving a share of the money earned by selling the basilisk's remains.
Ron: I had a dream Harry that, a Goblin Master Accountant said that I needed an account manager.
- In The Sweetie Chronicles: Fragments, before she realizes that she's in an Alternate Universe, Sweetie Belle continually assumes each time she wakes up that the events of the prologue were All Just a Dream.
- In Taking the Dare Harry assumes that he's having a dream caused by a concussion and kisses Draco. Hermione screams when she sees it.
Harry: Mione? What are you in my dream for? Ron's the one who dreams about you...
Draco: A dream? You think this is a dream?
Harry: It has to be. I can't kiss you if it's not a dream.
Hermione: Harry, you're not dreaming.
- Played for Drama in the Undertale (Fan Novelization), Frisk has a daydream type vision of killing Toriel upon finding the Toy Knife. Frisk is able to end the actual encounter non-violently, partly due to remembering that vision. However, after doing so and leaving the Ruins, Frisk encounters Flowey who reveals that what Frisk experienced was no dream. Frisk actually did kill Toriel, but then used the ability to Save and Load to re-do it. Frisk is horrified at that idea, and confused at apparently possessing the power to re-do events.
- What Tomorrow Brings: Jake briefly wonders if the entire events of the Animorphs series were an anxiety-dream caused by his stress about basketball tryouts, until he realises that he remembers everything too clearly.
- You Are Not At Fault: After falling asleep on the beach after the Third Impact, Asuka feels someone has lifted her and is carrying her around. In her sleepy state, she believes it is her former guardian Kaji, and mumbles she has had a real strange dream where the world had been destroyed.
- Parodied in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series after Joey's infamous dog suit nightmare:
- Something like this happens in The Aristocats, in the beginning when Edgar kidnaps the cats while they're sleeping and leaves them in the countryside. Toulouse, one of the kittens, wakes up and says:
Toulouse: I was having a funny dream. Edgar was in it... (frog croaks) Frogs? Uh-oh. It wasn't a dream.
- In Epic (2013):
Mary Katherine: Dad? I had the most messed up dream! There were talking slugs and tiny little soldiers and—
(sees just what she described)
Mary Katherine: Aw, man!
- Played with in the end of Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie: The movie opens with a Daydream Surprise of Arnold going after his parents, then waking up in the boarding house. After Arnold really does reunite with his parents, there's a transition to him waking up in the same situation and panicking. Then it turns out, it wasn't only real, it happened months earlier—Arnold was reacting to a different, unseen dream where he woke up and it didn't happen.
- In Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf, the heroes get knocked out by sleep powder and taken to Dracula's castle. When they wake up in this castle full of bizarre monsters, they repeatedly try to wake themselves up, until Dracula gets fed up and says, "Never mind, this is not a dream!"
- 1408: Mike Enslin awakens in a hospital after the experience of near-drowning in the room segues into a surfing accident that occurred at the very beginning of the film. He writes off all of his supernatural experiences in the titular room as a dream brought about by being bopped on the head by a surfboard, but after a week or so "outside", this Hope Spot turns out to be part of the room's scheme, and it is revealed to him he had never left.
- 17 Again: In one of several blatant references to Back to the Future, the main character wakes up in a bed in a dark room, saying "I dreamed I was 17..." while being comforted by his daughter who doesn't know she's his daughter.
- Back to the Future:
- Back to the Future: After Marty is unconscious, he wakes up, saying "I dreamed that I went back in time." Repeated in the sequels.
- At the end of Back to the Future Part II and the beginning of Back to the Future Part III, Marty finds the 1955 Doc literally moments after he sent the Marty from the first film back to 1985. When Marty tries to explain that he's come back from the future, the 1955 Doc faints from shock. As seen in Part III, the next morning, the 1955 Doc thinks he hallucinated the whole thing till he finds Marty, who brought him home, with him in his house, scaring Doc as Marty tries to fill him in on everything that transpired in the previous movie.
- Downfall features a dramatic variation. When Eva Braun leads a large group of revelers up from the "Fuhrerbunker" to a party in the empty "Reichschancellery," Traudel Junge, Hitler's personal secretary, tries to enjoy herself but the sight of so many happy drunken people ignoring the raging battle for Berlin just a few blocks away is too much for her and she suffers a severe anxiety attack. As she retreats to the "Fuhrerbunker", a friend, and fellow secretary asks what's wrong and Traudel responds, "Oh god. It's all so surreal, like a dream, but I can't wake up."
- In Dragon Ball Evolution, Master Roshi claimed he had a dream that he was in the afterlife but then Grandpa Gohan kicked him out. This was because early on, Goku killed Roshi and made it up to him by bringing him to life with the Dragon Balls.
- The Golden Child has Chandler dream of taunting the Big Bad exactly like you'd expect Eddie Murphy to do, who burns a three-inch scar into the inside of his arm for his chutzpah. When he wakes up, the scar's still there. But the part where Kee Nang stripped and flirted with him, "That part was dream!"
- In Magic in the Water, Jack is briefly possessed by the lake monster Orky, who uses him to rescue his daughter Ashley from falling to her death from a treehouse. In the process, he falls and hits his head on a rock. He spends most of the movie adamant that his experience with Orky was a dream, although he eventually realizes that Orky is real.
- A Nightmare Fuel version in Rosemary's Baby. Rosemary thinks she is dreaming at the ceremony where she becomes pregnant, but for an instant realizes she is not. Much later, after she sees her child, she remembers that moment and knows it was all real.
- Jacob Marley gives the proclamation to Scrooge in Scrooge (1970).
- During the climax of Sheitan, Bart gets hit over the head and knocked out. He wakes up to find himself bcak outside Club Styxx where he got hit in the face with a bottle at the start of the film. His friends tell him he has been unconscious and insist on taking him to the hospital. Bart convinces himself that everything he experienced after being hit by the bottle was just a nightmare. However, the trip to hospital becomes increasingly surreal and nightmarish, and he realizes that this is actually the dream, just before he wakes up back in the country house.
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: "I dreamt that a madman had taken over the Enterprise!"
- In Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, after C-3PO wakes up in the Geonosis arena after having his head attached to a battle droid's body (and vice versa), he looks to R2-D2 and says 'I've had the most peculiar dream...'
- Trading Places:
Winthorpe: "Coleman, I had the most absurd nightmare. I was poor and no one liked me. I lost my job, I lost my house. Penelope hated me. And it was all because of this terrible, awful Negro." (Upon noticing Billy Ray, Winthorpe leaps out of bed, and starts strangling him)
- Weird Science has Gary and Wyatt awake the morning after creating Lisa, convinced that it was all a dream. They engage in some Lampshade Hanging about how unlikely it is for them to have had the exact same dream, and then Lisa calls them for breakfast.
- Oberon of Alterien wakes from what he believes to be a dream. With Sharon's help, he comes to realize it was not a dream. Despite established that he was awake, certain aspects of what Oberon witnessed leaves him wondering if he was under the influence of powerful drugs.
- Faris at the end of A College of Magics.
- The Ghost Next Door had this as its primary twist. Early in the book, before meeting the titular ghost, Hannah dreams that her house is burning. Late in the book, it's revealed that she failed to properly put out the campfire she'd had in the backyard, her house really did burn down and her carelessness accidentally killed her whole family, and that the neighbor she believed was a ghost was actually alive all along because she was the ghost.
- This was probably inevitable in The House Of Sleep, since one character is incapable of distinguishing her dreams from memories. The circumstances were less inevitable — she admits to her roommate that she "dreamt" about having sex with her.
- In H. P. Lovecraft's The Last Test, Georgina overhears a conversation late at night that leads her to believe that her brother is involved in carrying out brutal human experiments and savage sacrifices. The thought of this increasingly terrifies her until eventually she faints from the terror while lying in her own bed, and remains unconscious until the next morning. Since she just so happened to faint while in a sleeping position and she had no dreams or thoughts at all during her dead faint, after she awakens she mistakenly believes that she had slept normally and that what she overheard and subsequently thought late last night was her dream (as they were the last things she remembers before waking up). It's not until noon, when she personally witnesses a subject being captured in front of her, that she realizes that the conversation last night was real, upon which she instantly faints for the second time within the same twenty-four period, this time staying out cold until dusk.
- Possibly an instance of this trope: In The Last Unicorn, almost at the end of the film, Prince Lir is resurrected by the unicorn and says groggily, "Father? Father, I had this dream... I was dead." In the movie this is changed to "No, I was dead", indicating that he didn't dream he was dead, he simply had some other dream but actually was dead.
- Or he started to go with the "So, it was all a dream!" idea, but realized quickly that it wasn't and corrected himself.
- Implied in Life, the Universe and Everything: After getting stranded on prehistoric Earth at the end of the last book, Arthur Dent lets out "the regular early morning yell of horror" on waking up and being reminded that it really happened, and he's stuck living in a cave "in the middle of Islington, and there wasn't a bus due by for two million years."
- The Lord of the Rings does this after the climax. Sam wakes up in Ithilien, thinking he's dreamt about the nightmarish journey to Mount Doom. Then he looks over at Frodo...and sees that Frodo's finger is missing.
- In Pet Sematary, a possibly-sleepwalking Louis follows Victor Pascow to the edge of the deadfall, where the apparition warns him not to go any further. When he wakes up, his feet are dirty and there are pine needles in his bed.
- In Robert E. Howard's The Shadow Kingdom Kull, in the final scene, keeps sliding to Or Was It a Dream? and has to remind himself when he sees Brule.
No, that was no dream, that monstrous interlude.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun:
[Dick wakes up]
Dick: Oh, Mary, thank god! I had this horrible dream. Your father was there... and he was telling all these boring war stories and I—I couldn't keep my eyes open!
[Dick looks across the room and sees Mary's father sitting on the couch]
- In the short-lived Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers wakes up after her accident and freaks out on discovered her Mad Scientist fiancé has turned her into a bionic woman, whereupon she's stunned unconscious. She then wakes up with her body intact and apparently normal. She's relieved for a second... then her fiancé appears and tells her that what she saw earlier was indeed real.
- In one episode of the Britcom Colins Sandwich, wannabe comedy writer Colin is Best Man at a wedding. His speech falls completely flat and he ends up yelling abuse at the wedding guests as the scene melts into him waking up in an armchair in his lounge. He says "Phew, it was all a dream". His wife simply answers "No it wasn't".
- Frasier: In Frasier Crane's Day Off Daphne inverts, subverts and lampshades the Trope after Frasier raced to the studio in a fever and drug induced mania and made an utter fool of himself on the air (Roz: "Captain Kirk's got control of the bridge and he's gone insane.") When Frasier wakes up, Daphne - who has had to spend the last several days tending to a demanding, rude and ungrateful Frasier - reassures him it didn't happen and it was all a dream.
- In the Gotham episode "The Blade's Path", Ed Nygma, after stealing what he hopes are mind-enhancing drugs, but has been told are actually sugar pills, encounters Solomon Grundy/Butch, who knocks him out. Upon recovering consciousness, he mutters "Sugar pills, my foot! That dream was horrible!" before noticing Grundy is still there.
- In the "Cycling Tour" episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, Mr. Pither was thrown in a Russian prison to be executed, and wakes up from a dream. His mother tells him that this is the dream, and that he's back in the cell.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000:
- Pushing Daisies, after Chuck comes back from the dead.
Chuck: I had the strangest dream. I was being strangled to death with a plastic sack...
- Played for Drama in Rome. After Niobe commits suicide and Vorenus curses his own children, he staggers out into the narrow crowded streets which appear to have become a nightmare, with fleeing men and crippled beggars shouting that Caesar is dead. Vorenus grabs a priest and begs to be woken up. The priest agrees to do so then headbutts Vorenus unconscious and robs him.
- A variation and borderline subversion appears in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "The Last Sontaran, part 2". Chrissie, having been knocked out after finding out about Maria's adventures with Sarah Jane wakes up back at Bannerman Road. This has been arranged by Maria and Alan who tell her she blacked out after breaking her new shoe and falling over, and comments on having "The strangest dream". She later reveals to Sarah Jane she knows it wasn't a dream and is going with the bluff to keep Alan and Maria happy.
- The 300th episode of Supernatural has the Winchesters using an artifact to accidentally bring their father forward in time from 2003 (two years before the series begins). At first, they're happy to have him back only to discover that without John's presence in the past, the lives of the brothers (and thus the world) are turning out for the worse. John thus has to return, sharing an emotional farewell. Back in 2003, John is woken up in his car by a phone call and telling the other person about the "great dream" he just had of seeing his grown sons and back-from-the-dead wife.
- The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Once and Future King", Gary Pitkin initially believes that he is having a dream about meeting his idol Elvis Presley before he was famous in Memphis, Tennessee in 1954. He later realizes that he has been sent back in time.
- Played with in "Nightmare on My Street". The Fresh Prince encounters Freddy Krueger after watching A Nightmare on Elm Street. After an initial panic, he decides that he's just dreaming and starts sassing Freddy, which gets him a painful slash from Freddy's claws. He runs for it, wakes up, and makes a panicked call to DJ Jazzy Jeff warning him not to go to sleep. The warning gets blown off... and then he hears Freddy attacking DJ....
- Tears for Fears: When Brittany Murphy's character wakes up near the end of the "Closest Thing to Heaven" music video, she initially assumes that her fantastical adventure was just a dream. However, a goldfish escapes from her coat and then "swims" up towards the sky, indicating that her experience was indeed real.
- There's an interesting inversion in the Thunderbirds Clip Show episode "Security Hazard". A boy stows away aboard Thunderbird 2 and ends up on Tracy Island, and the Tracy brothers "accidentally" tell him about their missions. Eventually he gets tired out, so while he's asleep they take him back in Thunderbird 2 and smuggle him back into bed, so that when he wakes up he'll think it was All Just a Dream.
- Dead Ringers: In the 2021 Christmas special, Andrew Neil ("that plum you won't eat because it's stuck to the bowl.") believes his exit from the BBC and the disasters involved in forming GB News, which he then quit, were a dream, until DIANE ABBOTT tells him otherwise.
- All of the human characters at the end of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, notably Nick Bottom (who has spent the night making love to the fairy queen Titania): "I have had a most rare vision, a dream to pass the wit of man to say what dream it was..." Unusually for this trope, none of the characters is ever disabused of the notion.
- In fact, at the end Puck breaks the Fourth Wall to encourage the audience to consider the events of the play just a dream.
- There's a brief part where Hippolyta and Theseus debate whether or not the four lovers were just dreaming or not. Theseus believes they were, on the grounds that their story was too fantastical to be real. Hippolyta agrees that it sounds unrealistic, but points out that it's equally odd that four people just happened to have exactly the same dream.
- The Spongebob Musical: At the start of Act II, Spongebob wakes up in his home and briefly assumes that the imminent end of the world and his best friend Patrick abandoning him was all just a crazy dream. Then the news comes on, and Perch Perkins reminds Spongebob "The end is coming at sundown today, and friends are abandoning friends!"
- Gabriel Belmont of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has a nightmare about inexplicably shanking his new female companion Claudia in the night, something which she is oddly okay with. He snaps awake, and is advised by the mysterious Pan to take the Dark Gauntlet from Claudia's guardian golem. Gabriel refuses to harm either of his companions, citing the dream he just had. Pan points to the nearby Claudia, sporting a silver dagger from her heart, and the looming guardian near her. Oops.
- Deltarune: At the end of Chapter 2, Berdly and Noelle believe their adventures in the Dark World were just a dream. If you choose to take the Weird Route, Noelle can't shake the dread that something horrible really did happen. You can confront her in the hospital and tell her outright it wasn't actually a dream, but Susie interrupts before Noelle can reply and she runs away in fear. Alternatively, you can have Kris equip Noelle's watch in the Dark World, and she'll notice them still wearing it at the end in the Light World and realize the truth herself.
- In Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, when Gabriel awakes after the night at the swamps, he tells Grace about his dream only for her to remind him that it was all real.
- At the end of the Mass Effect 3 "Citadel" DLC, you can find a hungover Javik talking about this horrible dream he had of being in stasis for 50,000 years and finding primitives ruled the galaxy.
- Mogeko Castle: Yonaka asks if her time at the castle was a dream when she wakes up on her normal bus home. However, she realises that it most certainly wasn't when she sees Nega-Mogeko's blood on her hands.
- The Stanley Parable (specifically, the HD Remix) uses a variation on this trope during the Crazy/Mariella ending. Stanley deduces that the reason he seems to be walking in circles, the reason doors are closing behind him, and the reason he can hear a voice in his head narrating the entire sequence is because he's actually dreaming. After having a little fun with it, he closes his eyes and calmly urges himself to wake up. He opens his eyes... and finds that he's still in the same spot.
- One of the Pi'illos you rescue in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team says they had a horrible dream that Antasma had turned them all into stone pillows.
- When Haru from Cross Heart is is reunited with her long distance girlfriend she mistakes it for a reoccuring dream she's had for a while now. Thankfully for her it's not a dream.
- Dangerously Chloe in the second chapter had Teddy waking up with headache, discovering a half-disrobed succubus in his bed and quietly freaking out. The confusion as to whether he was shocked to find there a cute young lady or a cute young lady with horns and tail was cleared on the next page. In his case, headache and failure to remember how they got into the bed happened because absolutely adored Chloe may be a very strong flier... but not very cautious at landing. She apparently chose to also take his bewildered bleating as a compliment:
Teddy: You... you're not real... you were a dream!
- Henchgirl: After passing out from being rescued by her sister Paige, Mary finds herself in a hospital. When her roommates, Sue and Tina, come to visit her, she's ask if becoming evil via a serum and doing a lot of reckless actions was all a long and vivid dream. Sadly for her, it wasn't.
- Kevin & Kell: Rudy wakes up in bed wondering if he was dreaming something. How does he realize it wasnt? Fiona in bed next to him.
- Narbonic Dave wakes up exclaiming in relief that he wasn't really killed, zombified, decapitated, and left on a bus! And he doesn't work for a mad scientist, but has a boring IT job!
Helen: (picks up a mallet) "Let's put you back under..."
- Parodied in this Penny Arcade strip.
- Used in this strip of Men in Hats.
- Shortpacked! - It happens to Robin here.
- Early on in Urgent Transformation Crisis, when Cass and her younger brother Flint wake up as an anthropomorphic goat and flying squirrel respectively.
- In the second episode of Amphibia, Anne wakes up and starts to say that she dreamt she was in a world full of frog people, only to stop herself when she realizes she's talking to the frog people.
- Spoofed in the Beavis and Butt-Head music video commentary for the Violent Femmes song "Nightmares".
Beavis: Hey Butt-Head. I had this nightmare last night that like, everything sucked. It was really scary.
Butt-Head: But Beavis, everything does suck.
Dun dun duuuun
- At the end of the Cow and Chicken episode "Confused", after the title duo become too tough after going to military school, and then too soft after going to sensitivity school, Mom and Dad wake up, believing that the whole mess was All Just a Dream and their kids are back to normal... Except they aren't, because Cow and Chicken, stuck in sensitivity mode, are seen shaving in the bathroom.
- Subverted in The Dragon Prince:
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!
- Done in the first season finale of Gravity Falls. Dipper tries to convince himself that Li'l Gideon taking over the Mystery Shack was all just a dream, but nope, they really did have to move in with Soos's grandmother.
- In the first episode after Kim Possible was Un-Canceled, a very confused Ron calls Kim to confirm that their Relationship Upgrade was not a dream, and continues to ask about various other things (all of which, other than the Relationship Upgrade, actually were dreams.)
- Looney Tunes
- At the climax of "Scrap Happy Daffy", Daffy turns into a "Super American" and starts whaling on a German submarine. He awakens to find himself trying to beat up a piece of pipe, and assumes the whole thing was a dream. Then he hears the Germans from atop a pile of scrap saying "Next time you dream, include us out!"
- In "The Aristo-Cat", Hubie and Bertie play a series of pranks on a millionaire's spoiled cat who doesn't know how to take care of himself after he drives his mistress's butler to quit. After getting chased around by an angry dog, the cat ends up in his bed, where he's convinced the whole thing was a dream. Then it turns out the dog and the mice are in bed with him too.
- At the end of "Water, Water Every Hare", Bugs ends up back in his water-logged hole and wakes up with a start, telling himself "Must've been a nightmare." Then Gossamer (who had earlier been shrunk by Bugs) goes by in a tiny rowboat and quips "Oh yeah? That's what you think!"
- The Looney Tunes Show: Happens to Daffy at the end of "The Float".
Daffy (wakes up): It was a dream. It was all a dream. No wonder I was such a horrible person and did all those horrible things!
Bugs: Ehh, not a dream. You are a horrible person and you did do those horrible things.
- In the My Gym Partner's a Monkey episode "The Hyena and the Mighty", Adam had a dream that he came to school in his underpants. Jake informed him that it wasn't a dream.
- In the The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode "Rock-a-Bye Pooh Bear", Piglet keeps on having a recurring nightmare of he and his friends going out on a picnic, then a storm sweeping all of them away and leaving him all alone. He refuses to sleep because of this, and his friends decide that the only way to placate his fear is to reenact the dream in real life to show him that they're not going to disappear. However, the exact same thing happens in real life, only Piglet doesn't realize that it isn't a dream, so when he finds out that he can actually find all his friends again, he does so to change the dream, and has to be told by them at the end that it wasn't a dream this time.
- The Owl House: The second episode, "Witches Before Wizards", opens with Luz in bed, dreaming of her adventures in the previous episode "A Lying Witch and A Warden". She wakes up, sees she's in Eda's attic, and triumphantly shouts "It wasn't a dream!"
- In the middle of Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation!, Phineas tries to invoke All Just a Dream unsuccessfully. When he gets the news about Danville's naughty status, Phineas goes back to bed and tries to pretend that he dreamed the whole thing. It doesn't work.
Phineas: It was all a bad dream! Christmas wasn't cancelled!Isabella: Phineas! No matter how many times you try that, it's not going to work.
- At the end of The Powerpuff Girls episode "Cat Man Do", Professor Utonium has this reaction after the Girls snap him out of his trance. They don't disillusion him.
- In the Rugrats episode, "In The Dreamtime", Chuckie has several bizarre nightmares, causing him to believe that he's dreaming when he and the other babies are hanging out. It doesn't help that their conversation mirrors the one they had in one of his dreams. He decides to do something that he would normally be too scared to do in real life by going into the yard next door with the Angry Guard Dog. It's not until he trips on the dog's bone and hurts himself that he realizes he's not dreaming (his dad told him that dreams can't hurt you), and that he has to get out of the neighbor's yard and fast.
- In The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Rival", Lisa, competing with the new girl who's as smart (if not smarter) than she is as well as being younger than her, tries so hard to win first chair saxophone she passes out from lack of air. She wakes up to see the band teacher Mr. Largo leaning over her.
- Done three times in South Park's Imaginationland episodes — once with Kyle, and twice with Butters. The first one with Butters was an exceptionally ludicrous Second Episode Morning; he wakes up in bed at home and tells his parents what happened, only for his father to respond, "You are in Imaginationland. This is a dream." The Mayor of Imaginationland suddenly runs in, screaming, "Wake up, stupid!" Cue reality, in which imagination is running wild...
- SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Born Again Krabs", a hospitalized Mr. Krabs is visited by the Flying Dutchman, who warns him that he'll be sent to Davy Jones' Locker unless he changes his greedy ways. The reformed Krabs reopens the Krusty Krab and caters guests with things like free refills and toys, which end up taking its toll on its profits.
Squidward: Gee, Mr. Krabs, you sure are taking total bankruptcy well.
Mr. Krabs: Oh, it's only a bad dream. I'll wake up soon.
Squidward: Uh, dream?
Mr. Krabs: Sure! I'm still in the hospital, sleeping like a baby.
SpongeBob: Um, you checked out of the hospital this morning.
Squidward: Here's the bill.
Mr. Krabs: You mean...I'M AWAKE?!
- The second Teacher's Pet episode, "Pet Project", begins with Leonard Helperman waking up and assuming that he only dreamed that his dog Spot was able to talk and attended his school disguised as a human. Spot informs his owner that this actually happened. When Leonard then asks about the time he had no pants on and was chased by a man in a gorilla costume, Spot replies that that incident was a dream.
- An episode of The Venture Bros. had the Monarch's henchmen wake up after getting completely shitfaced the last night to celebrate Monarch's impending wedding. Then they see Brock Samson in a cage and 24 exclaims "Oh @#$%, I thought I dreamed that part!"
Billy: I want to go back in my bag!
- Another episode has Billy Quizboy get kidnapped, thrown in a bag, forced to do surgery on a pair of old supervillains, carried around in the bag for a while, and eventually knocked out. He wakes up in a bed and yells for his roommate to come listen about the crazy dream he just had, before realizing his roommate is not there, but a half-naked pedophile with a thing for Billy's childlike appearance sure is. (Fortunately, it turns out nothing happened besides cuddling. But it was nonconsensual cuddling, though.)
- Wander over Yonder: Lord Hater spends much of "The Fremergency Fronfract" loopy on anesthetic, and ends up doing things like hanging out with Wander, embarrassing himself in public, and even attacking his own minions when they try to invade a planet. When Hater gets knocked out and wakes up in the Skullship's infirmary, he assumes the whole thing was a crazy dream.
Commander Peepers: If only, sir, if only...
(Zoom out to show the infirmary filled with injured Watchdogs)
- Viktor Frankl, in his book Man's Search for Meaning describes how, while working in the infirmary of a concentration camp, he would not wake up his fellow prisoners when he saw them having nightmares. Because waking up might not be an improvement from even the worst nightmare.
- Omid Abtahi's agent told him very late one night that Jon Favreau offered him a role on The Mandalorian, necessitating the agent to let Abtahi — who at the time liked Star Wars much less than he loves Favreau's movies — get some sleep before deciding whether or not to accept. The next morning, he asked his agent if Favreau's offer was just a dream. After he assured Abtahi that it was a real offer, the actor promptly accepted it.