Long a part of film and storytelling in general, the dream sequence serves as a way to dive into a character’s inner most thoughts, feelings and desires. In a dream, our main characters can become anyone they want to be, whether that be a hero, savant, or simply the cool kid in school.
In the case of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) in the 2013 adaptation of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (read our review), dreams are a door to a whole new world of self-discovery. Of course, while not all characters’ dreams are so profound or life-changing, Walter helped us conjure up other memorable scenes featuring dreamers from all walks of film.
So, without further ado, here are 7 Memorable Fantasy Dream Sequences in Film (in no particular order).
Jeff Lebowski, also known as “The Dude,” is certainly a bird of a different feather, so it comes as no surprise that his dreams venture into pretty bizarre territory. However, the strangest of all has to be the bowling-centered dream sequence following porn-king Jackie Treehorn’s (Ben Gazzara) party, a dream that’s peculiarity can largely be attributed to the fact that it was drug-induced.
Still, the scene certainly ranks as one of The Big Lebowski‘s most memorable. And if we can learn anything from a scene that features Saddam Hussein, dancers donning bowling pin headdresses, nihilists with oversized scissors and Julianne Moore in a viking costume, it’s that “The Dude” would always rather be bowling and that he is definitely taking Treehorn’s thug’s castration threat seriously.
In Dumb and Dumber, Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) suspects he might be out of Mary’s (Lauren Holly) league, but that won’t stop him from fantasizing about being with the girl of his dreams (literally) as he dangerously falls asleep at the wheel of “The Shaggin’ Wagon” on the way to Aspen.
Desperate to impress Mary on his unconscious’ version of a perfect date, Lloyd imagines himself as a hilarious hit with her family and as an overprotective karate master at dinner. Of course, what makes this sequence a memorable riot are Lloyd’s rather unorthodox moves in fighting off a gang of waiters and the head chef. Mary’s swoon after he violently rips out the chef’s heart also clues us in to just how delusional Lloyd might be.
Children are dreamers by nature, but while other kids might see their fantasies crushed by failure and disappointment, Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) from A Christmas Story never gave up hope that he would receive his Red Ryder B.B. gun for Christmas. Of course, after he finally did, he realized that his parents and teachers may have been right to point out that the toy is also very dangerous.
However, in his fantasies, Ralphie is the best sharpshooter in the West, or, at least the backyard. In the most memorable dream sequence of the film, Ralphie’s mind justifies wanting the gun, as he’s able to save his grateful family from Black Bart’s notorious gang of thieves using nothing but his trusty carbine-action model air rifle.
Many professional golf instructors will tell you that the perfect shot all starts with a positive mental approach. While the mental game was the titular character’s (Adam Sandler) biggest weakness in Happy Gilmore, he continually improved upon it by going to his “Happy Place” before each putt.
Prior to the idyllic scene, his head was invaded by his arch-nemesis Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), Happy was soothed by images of Virginia (Julie Bowen) in lingerie with pitchers of beer, his grandmother winning a slot machine jackpot and, curiously, a little person cowboy riding a tricycle. Considering Happy’s main motivations in the film are to get the girl and make grandma happy, the fantasy certainly informs the audience about his character, while making a lasting (and very funny) impression.
While the basic plot of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle revolves around satisfying the munchies with the perfect meal, Harold’s (John Cho) real motivation is to win over his hot neighbor, Maria (Paula Garces). However, Harold’s interactions with Maria only get steamy in his wildest dreams and the wildest of those is by far his trip to The Land of Burgers.
What’s memorable about this sequence – besides the hopping hamburgers, Harold’s golden gun and some Mask of Zorro role play – is the low-budget computer animation. Maybe Harold feels more like a hero in a video game, but whatever the case may be, he manages to build some confidence by saving his princess in the white castle.
With a passionless marriage and a loathsome job, American Beauty‘s central character, Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), enters a midlife crisis, which as unenviable as it is, causes him to look inward at who he is and how he really wants to live. However, it also causes him to look elsewhere sexually.
Lester’s fantasies involving his daughter’s friend Angela (Mena Suvari) and vibrant red rose petals are not only visually striking and memorable editions to the film, but they also help push Lester to living a freer, more youthful life. It’s just too bad that life ended as Lester began to discover life’s true beauties.
It’s not symbolic and it’s not poignant, but on the memorable scale, Brad’s (Judge Reinhold) dream sequence involving his crush Linda (Phoebe Cates) getting out of a pool in Fast Times at Ridgemont High has to rank near the top – and for pretty obvious reasons.
However, this self-indulgent dream is the only fantasy on this list that turns into a nightmare for both characters, as Linda inadvertently interrupts Brad’s bathroom break (ahem). Brad may have been peeved that Linda didn’t knock, but maybe locking the door next time would be a good idea?
Not everyone’s dreams take them on the fantastical and life-changing adventures that Walter Mitty’s do, but in their hearts, human beings often dare to dream and so do our favorite film characters – albeit some have less noble thoughts or aspirations than others. Still, we certainly hope they keep dreamin’ and keep testing our perceptions of reality versus fantasy.
Here’s where we turn the list creating over to you. What are your favorite fantasy dream sequences in film? And which do you think should have made our list? As always, let us know in the comments.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (read our review) is in theatres Christmas Day.