Skip to main content

Main Area


Movies where it was all a dream (or was it?)

  • Movies where it was all a dream (or was it?)

    Was it a dream? Was it a hallucination? Is anything in the world actually real? These are the fundamental questions that many filmmakers have tackled from the beginning of cinema to regale audiences with mind-bending twists and confounding tales.

    The concept of “was it all a dream” is a common trope in films that can help characters learn crucial lessons, find hidden truths, unveil dark secrets, or simply find the meaning of life. Movies like “The Wizard of Oz,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and “Inception” take audiences on wild rides in which guessing what is real is part of the fun and the mystery of the film.

    While some movie critics deride the dream concept as a cop-out that allows a movie to get away with certain plot holes, audiences can never seem to get enough of them as everything from “The Matrix” to “La La Land” allows viewers to lose themselves in other worlds for a couple of hours.

    To find a comprehensive list of movies that tackle the question of reality, Slumber Yard compiled IMDb data from June 30 on movies with dream twists or reality-altering endings and organized them chronologically.

    The movies on the list are filled with all-time classics, littered with A-list actors, and filled with the best directors in movie history. Some of these movies have won major awards, such as “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie,” which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

    If you’re into movies that delve into the subconscious and keep you guessing all the way until the end, you’re going to love this list. But be warned: This list is filled with spoilers and reveals all the secrets and twist endings. So, if you haven’t seen these movies, get streaming, and come back to see if your favorites make the list.

  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)

    - Directors: Victor Fleming (credited); George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog, Richard Thorpe, King Vidor (uncredited)
    - IMDb user rating: 8
    - Metascore: 100
    - Runtime: 102 minutes

    Based on the L. Frank Baum book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the movie adaptation is widely considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time. The story falls on Dorothy, played by Judy Garland, who is knocked unconscious during a tornado after running away from home. While knocked out, Dorothy dreams up the colorful world of Oz and ultimately learns the most valuable lesson of all: “There’s no place like home.”

  • Invaders From Mars (1953)

    - Director: William Cameron Menzies
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3
    - Metascore: Data not available
    - Runtime: 78 minutes

    According to Paul Meehan, author of the book “Saucer Movies,” “Invaders From Mars” was the first film to show aliens in color. As for the plot, a young kid named David is awakened by a large UFO disappearing into a sandpit behind his house. When the military gets involved, it winds up blowing up the alien ship, which wakes David up from what was seemingly a dream. Feeling reassured, David attempts to go back to sleep, when he suddenly hears another noise and sees another UFO—for real this time?—disappearing into his sandpit once again.

  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

    - Director: Luis Buñuel
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Metascore: 93
    - Runtime: 102 minutes

    “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1973 and has been confounding audiences with its interwoven dream sequences ever since. This French film focuses on a group of uppity friends who attempt to dine together but seemingly can never figure it out. Part of the film is about their outward outrage, but ultimately, it delves into the group’s inner insecurities through dream sequences that meld into one another in the most unexpected ways.

  • The Mirror (1975)

    - Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
    - IMDb user rating: 8.1
    - Metascore: Data not available
    - Runtime: 107 minutes

    Some say it’s incomprehensible, while others call it a masterpiece. One thing’s for sure when it comes to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Russian film “The Mirror”—you can’t walk away without a strong opinion. The movie is a semi-biographical tale of Tarkovsky’s life that covers a time period before, during, and after World War II. The film has no chronology, though, and is unveiled through dream sequences, voice-overs, memories, and other unreliable narratives.

  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

    - Director: Wes Craven
    - IMDb user rating: 7.5
    - Metascore: 76
    - Runtime: 91 minutes

    Wes Craven’s masterpiece “A Nightmare on Elm Street” frightened moviegoers to the core when it came out in 1984, and spawned eight additional films within the horror franchise. The movie is about a killer named Freddy Krueger who murders his victims within their dreams while they sleep. Ultimately, the film is about confronting fear as Freddy preys on the secret fears of his victims.

  • Wisdom (1986)

    - Director: Emilio Estevez
    - IMDb user rating: 5.8
    - Metascore: 37
    - Runtime: 109 minutes

    Emilio Estevez was already becoming a movie star when he decided to try his hand at writing and directing a film, while also acting as the lead. In “Wisdom,” Estevez teams up with Demi Moore, and the two portray sort of modern-day Robin Hoods mixed with Bonnie and Clyde. As the cops begin to chase the duo down, Moore’s character is shot, and Estevez is surrounded. When he reaches for his gun, the cops shoot him, and it’s at that moment he wakes up and realizes it was all a dream.

  • Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

    - Director: Adrian Lyne
    - IMDb user rating: 7.5
    - Metascore: 62
    - Runtime: 113 minutes

    In the Old Testament book of “Genesis,” Jacob’s Ladder is a stairway to heaven. In the movie “Jacob’s Ladder” starring Tim Robbins, the title is used as a metaphor for Robbins’ character letting go of his own demons. The movie is a brain-bending tale of a Vietnam War vet who was given an experimental drug and who can’t distinguish reality from his hallucinations and dreams. In the end, Jacob is able to die peacefully once he discovers the truth about the drug and what really happened to him in Vietnam.

  • Total Recall (1990)

    - Director: Paul Verhoeven
    - IMDb user rating: 7.5
    - Metascore: 57
    - Runtime: 113 minutes

    The Arnold Schwarzenegger thriller “Total Recall” takes place in the not-too-distant future where humans have colonized Mars and fake memories can be implanted into their brains. When Douglas Quaid, played by Schwarzenegger, wants a trip to Mars implanted in his mind, it triggers a series of memories that reveal him to be an unwitting participant in a scheme to take over the red planet and kill the leader of a rebel group. Quaid ends up thwarting the bad guys, unleashing an endless supply of oxygen on Mars, and of course, getting the girl.

  • North (1994)

    - Director: Rob Reiner
    - IMDb user rating: 4.5
    - Metascore: Data not available
    - Runtime: 87 minutes

    Not exactly well-received by critics, or by moviegoers—it was a box office bomb—“North” is about a kid who thinks his parents don’t appreciate him, so he sets off around the world to find new ones who will. North, played by Elijah Wood, emancipates himself with the help of a scheming lawyer who tries to kill North in the end for ruining his practice. Just as he’s about to be shot, North wakes up and realizes his adventure was all a dream; or was it? When North awakens and goes back to his parents, he finds a silver dollar in his pocket with a bullet hole in it. It’s the same silver dollar that he got while on his trip to Texas earlier in the movie.

  • Perfect Blue (1997)

    - Director: Satoshi Kon
    - IMDb user rating: 8
    - Metascore: Data not available
    - Runtime: 81 minutes

    “Perfect Blue” is a beautifully animated psychological thriller that follows the main character Mima as she goes from innocent pop star to serious actress. With legions of fans, including stalkers who know way too much about her personal life, Mima begins to struggle with distinguishing real life from her on-set life as the two worlds intertwine and nearly get her killed. It’s revealed in the end that her manager Rumi was her real stalker and imitating her through an online diary. Rumi tries to kill Mima and ends up in a mental institution.

2018 All rights reserved.