In real life, our dreams can be enthralling, thrilling, frightening, and even comforting. Dreams are the mind's best tool because they transport us to an entirely different reality using an assortment of visions, senses, and memories, all mashed up into one entity. Dream sequences give predictions for a character's future, and they supply commentary on symbols or other thematic devices within the show's universe. Keeping all of this in mind, have a look at the 22 best TV dream sequences.
1. The Sopranos: “The Test Dream”
David Chase's crime drama features a number of dream sequences throughout its six seasons, pioneering the technique for future dramas that came after it. The dream sequence from the fifth season in which Tony dreams about a variety of people and urges from his life, such as sleeping with his best friend's wife and getting to ride his deceased horse again, perfectly exhibits the structure of a real-life dream in both feel and momentum.
2. The Leftovers: “International Assassin”
One of the most underrated shows to ever air, The Leftovers flirted with dream sequences due to its ambiguous science fiction formatting. The best one in the series appears in the third-to-last episode of the second season. Kevin Garvey dies of a drug overdose only to have to revive himself by fighting through a series of events in a hotel as an assassin. Brilliant use of callbacks and references to characters from the series' past highlight Kevin's dream.
3. Breaking Bad: “Felina”
A klan of Neo-Nazis enslave Jesse at the end of Breaking Bad, with his life truly hitting an even lower point than when he was under the thumb of Walter White. While chained up by his enemies, Jesse has a dream in which he reminisces about a time when he crafted the perfect piece of woodwork back in his high school years. The scene is haunting and poignant, a true testament to how some people can never truly get back what they've lost due to poor decisions.
4. Newhart: “The Last Newhart”
Newhart has one of the best finales in TV history. Before it became in vogue to make a character's entire story simply a dream, Bob Newhart's second sitcom was able to spring this epiphany on the audience by revealing everything in the series was a figment of Dr. Robert Hartley's imagination. Hartley was the protagonist of The Bob Newhart Show.
5. Frasier: “The Impossible Dream”
It's no shock that a show featuring a talk show psychiatrist would lean heavily on dream interpretation every once in a while. Frasier becomes consumed with a random homoerotic dream he keeps having where he has a partner sleeping next to him in a hotel room. The storyline humorously shows the lengths Frasier will go to in pursuit of the truth surrounding his dreams.
6. Futurama: “The Sting”
The cult classic Futurama uses dream sequences to examine the relationship between its main characters Fry and Leela. The experimental nature of the dreams allows viewers to wonder whether both characters are dead throughout the episode, only for the true nature of the events in the space bee hive to come to light at the end.
7. Friends: “The One With The Cop”
Joey was often the odd man out on Friends. He dated more than anyone but never found true love. Joey's fear of missing out on a long-lasting relationship manifested in a dream in which he takes an interest in Monica. The two obviously have platonic feelings, though, and the dream reinforces this reality for Joey.
8. Stranger Things: “Chapter 1: Madmax”
The second season premiere of Stranger Things comes out guns blazing, letting the audience know that the threats of the Upside Down are still very much alive and well. Through visions, hallucinations, and everything in between, Will Byers has a variety of visions of a new terror that is about to invade the citizens of the small town of Hawkins, Indiana once again.
9. The Simpsons: “Bart The General”
Even the earliest episodes of The Simpsons had an ingenious delivery. The fifth episode of the show sees Bart imagining how frightened he is by classmate Nelson Muntz during a daydream in class. Nelson can pick Bart up like a toy or figurine. It's a great look at the inner workings of Bart's mind.
10. Mad Men: “Waterloo”
Don Draper is one of the truly round characters on TV. We know everything about Don, from his train of thought to his personal troubles at home. A dream sequence during the middle of the final season shows Don imagining Sterling Cooper founder Bert Cooper performing an outlandish dance number to the song “The Best Things in Life Are Free”.
11. The Cosby Show: “The Day The Spores Landed”
Sitcoms like The Cosby Show liked to use dream sequences to break up the monotonous 22-minute routine of problem-solution-repeat that recycled itself every week. Cliff Huxtable has a dream about men such as himself enduring pregnancy. The dream offered a unique way to discuss a universal topic that men have often pondered for generations.
12. Adventure Time: “King Worm”
The famous Cartoon Network show never shied away from exploring the dream world, and the sequences in “King Worm” are some of the most memorable. Finn and Jake traverse some of the whackiest imagery in the show's run and, in the process, learn a lot more about Finn's worst subconscious memories and problems.
Cover Image Credit: Showtime.