Stand By Me (1986)
The Dream Sequence: Gordie has a dream in which he 'remembers' his parents mourning the death of his football star brother and lamenting that it wasn't Gordie who died instead.
What It Probably Means: Gordie, already feeling disassociated from his parents is insecure about being overshadowed by his brother's legacy and living up to the same expectations. Plus, seeing as they are on their way to find a dead body, he just has death on the brain.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)
The Dream Sequence: Scott fades into a daydream where he finds himself alone in a vast desert and seems utterly hopeless. That is until Ramona skates by saying "You’re not alone. You’re just having some idiotic dream".
What It Probably Means: Scott is hung up on Ramona to such an extent that he feels abandoned without her. But he also knows that this is exactly the kind of mood that she wouldn’t stand for so he needs to pick himself up and do something about his situation.
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
The Dream Sequence: Jean-Luc Picard has a nightmare in which he relives his assimilation into the cybernetic Borg, which occurred many years before.
What It Probably Means: The filmmakers needed a way to get viewers who hadn’t seen those particular Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes up to speed. That is all
Take Shelter (2011)
The Dream Sequence: Michael Shannon’s troubled teacher dreams of pulling his daughter away from a strange face outside the house. As he grabs her and holds her close, all of the furniture in the room suddenly floats in the air.
What It Probably Means: There’s a storm a-coming, and he needs to protect his family...
Wayne's World 2 (1993)
The Dream Sequence: A “weird, naked Indian” leads Wayne out into the desert to meet Jim Morrison who tells him to put on a concert.
What It Probably Means: Is it a dream or a vision? Either way, it shows that Wayne is feeling directionless in life and needs guidance.
Raising Arizona (1987)
The Dream Sequence: Hi explains a dream in which he describes what happens to various people he has encountered in the film, and he sees himself and Ed as an old couple being visited by their children and grandchildren.
What It Probably Means: He is insecure about the future of his relationship with Ed and, as he says himself: “Was it wishful thinking? Was I just fleeing reality like I know I’m liable to do?”. Well, if it seemed real enough, maybe it’s just the beginning of a plan for the future.
The Dream Sequence: While in solitary imprisonment, Papillon hallucinates a scene in which he is enjoying being honoured at a big street parade, before he finds the road completely empty but for two fellow prisoners. He runs towards them in slow-motion as the whole scene turns upside down and, when he reaches them, he sees that they are both corpses.
What It Probably Means: Stuck in solitary confinement on a remote island, Papillon’s mind is playing tricks on him. The sequence starts out as a fantasy, but it quickly becomes a nightmare as he is faced with mortality, showing concerns about the end of his own life and how it is all out of his control.
Lost Highway (1997)
The Dream Sequence: Fred tells of a dream in which his girlfriend is in his house calling out to him but he can’t find her. When he eventually does, she is lying in bed, and, his from point of view, she is attacked. He then wakes up to find her lying next to him, her face replaced by that of a mysterious man.
What It Probably Means: Fred is afraid of intimacy. He is scared that he can’t live up to his responsibilities in the relationship and be there for his girlfriend when she needs him, and is also afraid that he isn’t quite in control of his actions. And the mysterious man?
That could mean that he is struggling to define his own sexuality. Or maybe he’s just a bit bleary-eyed.
The 'Burbs (1989)
The Dream Sequence: Disturbed by his mysterious neighbours, Ray has a nightmare which sees a chainsaw cut through his house, and then he is strapped down and cooked on a giant barbecue by a hooded cult.
What It Probably Means: He fears the worst about his new neighbours and worries about what will happen if he doesn’t take decisive action. Also, being cooked and presumably then eaten is his subconscious’s way of telling him that he wants a midnight snack.
The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)
The Dream Sequence: In the most controversial scene of the film, Jesus is saved from dying on the cross by a little girl and goes on to lead a fulfilled life, marrying (more than once) and having children before an elderly Jesus realises that it is better to have died on the cross and save mankind.
He then finds himself back on the cross, as the whole ending was just the last temptation, and the little girl was really Satan.
What It Probably Means: Jesus wanted nothing more to live a normal life and be happy.
Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (2004)
The Dream Sequence: Harold passes out and finds himself in an animation in the Land of Burgers, where he shoots a security guard to reach his dream girl Maria. They then make out while he is dressed as Zorro.
What It Probably Means: He wants to be able to make a grand gesture to win over the woman of his dreams. Also, he is very hungry.
Happy Gilmore (1996)
The Dream Sequence: To calm down, Happy goes to his Happy Place, where he sees love interest Virginia in scanty clothing carrying beer, his grandma winning on a slot machine and, for some reason, a cowboy dwarf riding a unicycle.
What It Probably Means: Sex, beer and his grandma having good fortune all make him happy. As do cowboys, dwarves and unicycles.
The Dream Sequence: Spencer has a vision in which his own head drops off, revealing a thin stump underneath that resembles his real-life snake-like child. The head falls from the sky and lands on the street, only for a boy to pick it up and take to a pencil factory to be turned into erasers.
What It Probably Means: Frankly, we don’t want to know. Though David Lynch has said the film was about his own fear of fatherhood, so there's probably some of that in there.
The Dream Sequence: Woody Allen’s Fielding Mellish recalls a recurring dream in which he is carried down the road on a crucifix by a group of robed people who then try to park him by the curb, only to find the space taken at the last second by a different group with a different crucifix. This leads to both groups breaking out into a huge fight.
What It Probably Means: Woody Allen’s Jewish roots causing a paranoia complex about being persecuted, not to mention feeling insecure enough to believe that a parking spot can take precedence over his own crucifixion.
The Dream Sequence: Opening the film, Ripley has a nightmare in which she has her very own chestburster poking through...
What It Probably Means: What do you think? The phallic shape of the l’il alien could be representative of Ripley’s own insecurities as a... oh, no wait she’s probably just scared of chestbursting killer creatures.
Waltz With Bashir (2008)
The Dream Sequence: Ari has a recurring nightmare in which he is being hounded by 26 vicious dogs who tear up the streets in their snarling pursuit of him.
What It Probably Means: It’s linked to the guilt he feels for his involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacre, in which he played a part as a member of the Israeli Defense Forces. He feels like he should be punished for what happened and that the reality of the situation will eventually catch up with him, just like the pack of dogs.
The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (2013)
The Dream Sequence: Walter zones out and imagines a lengthy fight with his boss involving a Stretch Armstrong toy, which sees them crash out of an elevator and spill out on to the street, surfing the tarmac in a high-speed chase sequence.
What It Probably Means: Walter is at odds with his boss, but this something else altogether. This emphasises the lack of excitement in Walter’s life and how he longs to be a man of action.
The Dream Sequence: George dreams of a scene in which a young boy chops the head off a rooster, having blood spurt in his eye as a result, all while a younger George looks on. While, the beheaded bird flails on the floor, the boy then approaches slowly with the axe in his hands.
What It Probably Means: This is a flashback to a childhood memory. George feels guilty about making his adopted brother decapitate the chicken in order to get his parents to return him to the orphanage, but he is also concerned that his life is in danger and he wants to have more control and keep things together. Essentially, he wants to make sure he doesn’t lose his own head.
The Cell (2000)
The Dream Sequence: Psychologist Jennifer Lopez literally enters the mind of serial killer Carl Stargher to see all kinds of messed up stuff. Some of the worst comes when she happens upon visual displays of his victims, who are now trussed up and sexualised, a mess of doll faces and steel wires. She then meets the great hulking man himself, who walks down the stairs trailing huge purple curtains behind him.
What It Probably Means: Stargher puts his victims on a pedestal and considers them to be beautiful works of art. Meanwhile, he has a hugely elevated self-opinion, projecting himself as a hulking, muscular figure with a regal quality. Basically, he’s a complete narcissist.
The Exorcist (1973)
The Dream Sequence: Father Karras dreams of a falling necklace and seeing his mother in the street, who turns her back on him as he silently shouts and waves at her. He also dreams a quick flash of Pazuzu.
What It Probably Means: Karras is feeling guilty over leaving his mother alone in hospital as she died. The dream shows that he has to face a lot of inner demons (and one very real one).
The Dream Sequence: Fletch dozes off in front of the LA Lakers and sees himself play in the game, scoring a winning basket while sporting the most ridiculous afro.
What It Probably Means: Fletch wishes he had more athletic prowess and dreams of one day being the man of the moment. He may also be thinking about an image change.
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
The Dream Sequence: We’re obviously on sketchy ground to list just one sequence from this film, but the horrific party scene stands out. As Jacob watches his girlfriend Jezzie dance with a stranger, a paranoid hallucination sets in as he sees a demon in the corner and flying monsters overhead. Soon enough, the stranger appears as a horrific creature, caressing Jezzie with tentacles, before killing her with his sharp claws.
What It Probably Means: On the face of it, Jacob is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Dare to read into it, though and maybe it’s not a dream after all...
Romy And Michele's High School Reunion (1997)
The Dream Sequence: Michele has a dream of being 70 years older who and calling to speak to estranged friend Romy who is on her deathbed. The conversation quickly descends into the same argument they have just been having in real life, and Romy goes to great effort in her bed-ridden state to flip her the middle finger.
What It Probably Means: Michele is scared of losing her friendship with Romy and for the argument to remain unresolved for the rest of their lives. There’s also a degree of wish fulfilment there as Michele looks to be a very feisty, sprightly 90-something year-old.
The Dream Sequence: During a stint of going cold turkey, junkie Renton has feverish nightmares which sees a baby crawl towards him on the ceiling before rotating its head all the way around to stare at him and then falling on his bed.
What It Probably Means: It’s guilt over his association with the death of friend Allison’s baby, who died through neglect by the heroin-addicted gang, It is also pure nightmare fuel.
The Dream Sequence: After flying around among the clouds in a shiny suit of armour, Sam Lowry finds himself grounded among dark city blocks and forced to fight a giant samurai warrior to help free a floating damsel in distress.
What It Probably Means: The frequent flyer dreams suggest a desire for escape, to be free of his daily grind, while his need to defeat a villain in battle in order to save a woman suggests a larger hero complex at play and a need to prove his own worth and stand out from the crowd.
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
The Dream Sequence: Rosemary eats some spiked chocolate mousse and passes out to dream about the Sistine Chapel, being on a cruise ship and then getting tied to a bed while a demonic creature brutally rapes her.
What It Probably Means: The first part of her dream suggests an aspiration for beauty and freedom. The second part of her dream... er... might not actually be a dream at all. It just means that terrible mojo is afoot.
Dumb & Dumber (1994)
The Dream Sequence: Lloyd fantasises about getting the girl of his literal dreams, winning her heart, being the hit of the Christmas party with his hilarious jokes and protecting her honour on a restaurant date. The latter sees some unusual martial arts moves culminating in him ripping the chef’s heart out of his chest and serving it back to him in a doggy bag.
What It Probably Means: He fears that Mary is out of his league so these dreams hint at him being the best possible version of himself he would like to be. No matter how delusional.
Vanilla Sky (2001)
The Dream Sequence: David Aames sees himself driving a Ferrari along the streets of New York, getting increasingly concerned that there are no other people in sight. Eventually he reaches the busy centre of Time Square, stops his car and run along the astonishingly empty road.
What It Probably Means: David is scared of being alone. He feels isolated and insecure about being left completely abandoned. Either that, or he hates the thought of there being no tourists in the world.
Shutter Island (2010)
The Dream Sequence: Teddy speaks to his dead wife Dolores in their old apartment. During their confrontation, they are surrounded by floating ash, Dolores shows her back has become caved-in embers and then eventually disintegrates in Teddy’s arms. The apartment then catches fire.
What It Probably Means: Teddy has a preoccupation with fire thanks to a past traumatic event, and these estranged memories are encroaching on his dreams, becoming a representation of his fears over a great loss in his life. Plus fire's always pretty cool.
A Christmas Story (1983)
The Dream Sequence: Ralphie uses his desired Red Ryder B. B. gun to prove his worth as an excellent sharpshooter, protecting his family from Black Bart’s gang of thieves.
What It Probably Means: It’s the perfect justification for owning the gun despite the many dangers that it represents. It’s a defiant show of proving everybody else wrong and becoming a hero in the process.
American Beauty (1999)
The Dream Sequence: Kevin Spacey's Lester Burnham daydreams about Mena Suvari awash in roses, with petals exploding from her chest.
What It Probably Means: He is idolising her in a sexual way. You can tell because the flowers are representative of nature and basic natural urges, the colour of them hints at romance and passion and SHE IS COMPLETELY NAKED.
19. Grease (1978)
The Dream Sequence: Frenchie imagines guardian angel Frankie Avalon giving her some hard-hitting life advice in the form of Beauty School Dropout.
What It Probably Means: Frenchie has concerns about her future and is insecure about her abilities to do well in school. She also REALLY likes shiny things.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
The Dream Sequence: Naomi Watts dreams up an entire alter-ego in Betty Elms, an aspiring young actress charming her way to success in Hollywood. OR IS SHE? Etc.
What It Probably Means: We bet David Lynch doesn’t even know. Seriously, we know he says he knows, but where’s the proof?
The Dream Sequence: Max Fischer dreams of being in class and solving a near impossible maths problem to win the congratulations and admiration of his teacher and fellow pupils.
What It Probably Means: It hints at Fischer’s inflated ego that he would so smugly win his classmates over in this way. It’s not so much an impossible dream, as something that Max really thinks could happen under the right circumstances.
The Dream Sequence: In one of the most nightmarish sequences on this list, a drunken Dumbo dreams of surreal pink elephants, who rapidly multiply and form a march band who stroll through Dumbo’s bizarre imagination. (*shudder*)
What It Probably Means: Dumbo should stay off the booze. These are clearly the inner workings from the mind of a borderline sociopath.
Blade Runner (1982)
The Dream Sequence: Replicant chaser Deckard dreams of a magical unicorn galloping through a mysterious forest.
What It Probably Means: He wants to be a free spirit. He is also probably a replicant himself. Or not. But is he? Maybe.
Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
The Dream Sequence: A teenage Johnny Depp gets violently dragged into his own bed by Freddy Kruger's knife-hands. A moment later, the bed erupts with a gush geyser of his blood.
What It Probably Means: There's that old suggestion that people who die in their sleep dream about their own death as it happens. Let's just say that things aren't looking too good for the Depp youngster.
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
The Dream Sequence: Pee-Wee has a nightmare about his lost bike, which sees evil clowns pick it up and perform blowtorch surgery on it before dipping it into a hellish cauldron surrounded by mischievous devils.
What It Probably Means: Pee-Wee has fears for the worst about his beloved bicycle, and the worst involves clowns. The worst ALWAYS involves clowns.
The Dream Sequence: Prom survivor Sue visits the burnt remains of Carrie’s home to place flowers on her makeshift grave, only for Carrie’s bloodied hand to shoot out of the ground and grab Sue’s arm.
What It Probably Means : It’s a manifestation of the guilt that Sue feels for her part in bullying Carrie, which led to the Prom massacre. She feels like she should be punished for her role in events and Carrie returning from the dead to enact revenge would certainly count as ‘punishment’.
The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
The Dream Sequence: Dorothy finds herself in a magical land where she befriends a talking scarecrow, tin man and lion on her way to fight witches and flying monkeys while trying to track down an all-powerful wizard.
What It Probably Means: Dorothy has been eating far too much cheese before bedtime.
The Dream Sequence: Refraining from listing the entire film, let’s concentrate instead on this training sequence, in which Cobb explains the process of constructing dreams to Ariadne. It leads to exploding scenery as her subconscious realises it has been duped, before the world folds in on itself and Ariadne uses mirrors to create a new path for them both.
What It Probably Means: If you know you’re in a dream, you can do what you like and have an awesome time.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1992)
The Dream Sequence: Sarah Connor has an apocalyptic vision in which a playground of children is overcome by some distant nuclear explosion that decimates everything around, reducing it all to fire and dust, and leaving Connor’s flayed skeleton clinging to the playground fence.
What It Probably Means: ‘Anxiety dream’ undersells it a bit, doesn’t it, but this is just a simple dream in which Sarah is concerned about the oncoming Armageddon that leads to futuristic killer robots destroying all of mankind. But it’s just a dream.
Wild Strawberries (1957)
The Dream Sequence: Aged Professor Isak dreams about blank clock face, empty streets and horse-drawn carriages crashing, spilling out coffins that contain his own dead body.
What It Probably Means: Isak is anxious about time running out on his life and his eventual death. He also can’t tell the time. Probably.
An American Werewolf In London (1981)
The Dream Sequence: A werewolf-bitten David dreams of a family watching The Muppet Show at home, who are then interrupted and slaughtered by demon Nazis. David wakes up and talks to sexy nurse Alex... who is then stabbed by a demon Nazi. It’s a nightmare within a nightmare!
What It Probably Means: The Muppet Show can seriously damage the human psyche.
The Science Of Sleep (2006)
The Dream Sequence: Stephane’s surreal dreams that blur the line between fantasy and reality sees him turn up to work with giant hands, where he proceeds to fight with a co-worker and then have sex on a photocopier.
What It Probably Means: Big hands? An obvious sign of overcompensation for shortcomings in other... uh... areas. Coupled with such a rigorous display of testosterone, Stephane is clearly trying to make up for something...
The Dream Sequence: Marcello Mastroianni’s Guido dreams of being stuck in a traffic jam, and then being actually trapped in his car while all the other drivers and passengers look on impassively. Ultimately, he breaks free and flies away, before finding himself floating above a beach, tethered to the sand like a kite. Then he falls into the sea.
What It Probably Means: Feelings of helplessness and a desire to break free from the shackles of a depressing routine. Or maybe he just really hates his Monday morning commute.
Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)
The Dream Sequence: Stoner Jeff Spicoli accepts a surfing trophy and is interviewed about his incredible achievement while two bikini babes hang off his arms.
What It Probably Means: Classic wish-fulfilment. Spicoli really wants to be good surfer. And to be surrounded by beautiful women. And to be interviewed by a crusty old reporter.
The Dream Sequence: Troubled amnesiac Gregory Peck has a fractured dream involving giant eyes being cut up with big scissors before a revealing a game of blackjack played with huge playing cards, some of them blank. And then a masked man appears beside the table, alluding to the film’s mysterious murderer.
What It Probably Means: The disturbing, fractured imagery highlights his fragile state of mind, but mostly the dream just means that he is a huge fan of the work of one Salvador Dali.
The Fly (1986)
The Dream Sequence: Upon finding out that she is pregnant with the child of a steadily mutating Seth Brundle, Veronica has a nightmare in which she dreams that she is giving birth to a giant, squirming maggot.
What It Probably Means: Anxiety dreams are common among pregnant ladies. Veronica is just concerned about the health of her baby and her ability to cope with impending motherhood. There's really nothing else for her to be worried about. Nope.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Dream Sequence: The Dude's gloriously epic bowling-themed musical number sees him get served shoes by Saddam Hussein before being bowled down the alley himself, giving him a sneak peek up the skirts of the accompanying dancing girls. Then things take a sour turn as he hits the pins and men with giant scissors start to chase him.
What It Probably Means: It's wish fulfilment that turns into an anxiety dream. He starts off at the top of his sporting game and the peak of his sexual prowess, but then getting chased with scissors alludes to a fear of having something chopped off. Whether it's his hair or the 'little' Dude, ultimately it means a fear of being emasculated. It also means that he smokes a hell of a lot of weed.