Nightmare on Elm Street + 14 more surreal sci-fi dream sequences

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Oct 7, 2019, 4:51 PM EDT (Updated)

Sleep's important, as NBC Universal's Healthy Week is here to remind us—but some think it's really our dreams that keep us sane. And we've all been wondering what dreams mean for as long as we've been sleeping.

Our favorite sci-fi filmmakers might not know the answer, but they have managed to turn what goes on when their characters sleep into some really freaky filmmaking.

From Pee-Wee to Ripley, Nolan to Gilliam, here are 15 of the strangest dream sequences from our favorite sci-fi, fantasy and horror flicks.

Inception (2010)

No list of great dream sequences would be complete without Christopher Nolan's mind-bending modern classic Inception. Half the movie is a dream sequence, but among the more memorable moments from while the characters are sleeping involves a little lesson in how to build dreams.

Twin Peaks (1990)

OK, so this is a TV show, not a movie, but the pilot episode of this David Lynch-created series was practically a film in its own right, and we couldn't resist including a sequence from a filmmaker who might just be the Patron Saint of Dream Sequences.

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

If you grew up in the 1980s, and you've got a hefty fear of clowns buried deep in your psyche, you've probably got either Stephen King's IT or this Tim Burton dream sequence to thank for it.

Brazil (1985)

Terry Gilliam is another director who's mastered the dream sequence, and nowhere is that more evident than the film many consider to be his masterpiece. Gilliam's hero, Sam (Jonathan Pryce), is frequently visited by glorious dreams of a beautiful woman, and they remain among the most iconic images of Gilliam's career.

The Fly (1986)

Well...that's what happens when you hook up with a guy who's slowly turning into a giant fly (and volunteer to star in a David Cronenberg picture).

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Werewolf bites have all kinds of strange side effects. You can't go out when the moon is full, you get hairier, your canine teeth get really sharp, and perhaps worst of all, mutant Nazi monsters invade your dreams and machine-gun your whole family (and Kermit the Frog) to death. Bummer.

Watchmen (2009)

More proof that the heroes of Watchmen are seriously screwed-up people.

Dreamscape (1984)

Though it's overshadowed by things like Inception these days, Dreamscape takes on the whole "invading other people's dreams" thing more than two decades before Nolan did it.

The Science of Sleep (2006)

Many films have walked the line between dreams and reality, but have few have done it more elegantly than Michel Gondry's acclaimed comedic fantasy.

The Fall (2006)

There are many visual wonders in this Tarsem Singh film, but few are more potent than a little girl's dream of what surgery is like. It's equal parts beautiful and seriously creepy.

Blood and Roses (1960)

This French vampire classic is beautiful throughout, but nowhere moreso than this powerful sequence colored in black, white and red.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984)

What list of movie dreams would be complete without a visit from Freddy? Here he is in his first big-screen adventure tormenting poor Nancy with a mid-class visit to the boiler room.

Blade Runner (1982)

This now-legendary sequence from the Blade Runner director's cut has served as evidence for many fans that Deckard is more than he seems. But even if that's not true, it's a powerful moment from a classic film.

Jacob's Ladder (1990)

What's a dream? What's reality? This film makes it very, very hard to tell, and along the way becomes one of the most disturbing horror flicks of its age.

Aliens (1986)

Luckily for her, Sigourney Weaver's Ripley turned out not to be impregnated with alien spawn at the beginning of this flick, but it sure makes for a creepy nightmare.