The first of two David Lynch films on this list, the director’s debut feature Eraserhead sets the stage for an entire career full of dream sequences and nightmarish visuals. The dream sequence here is one for the ages, truly.
Charlie Kaufman’s films are always pretty heady, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is definitely one of the greatest instances of this. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet play a couple trying to erase each other from one another’s minds, resulting in a whole slew of dream sequences that reinvent the way dream sequences can be used.
Christopher Nolan’s films are never without massive amounts of love, but let’s throw some more at Inception just for the heck of it. Another instance of a movie that proves to be full of dream sequences, Inception has some of the best uses of this movie trope imaginable. That spinning hallway scene has to be one of the best uses of practical effects in the past decade, at least.
La La Land’s dream sequences is so great, it makes you wish the entire film was as stylized as those few minutes. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s relationship epitomizes the American dream, so it only makes sense for there to be such a compelling dream sequence in Damien Chazelle’s Oscar darling.
David Lynch and dreams go together like white picket fences and 1950s suburban neighborhoods. His 2001 masterpiece Mulholland Drive features some truly mind-bending ones, blurring the line between dream-like and nightmarish in the blink of an eye.
Robert De Niro was Martin Scorsese’s go-to guy for quite a while, but Leonardo DiCaprio has seemingly taken on that role for the past couple decades or so. Shutter Island sees Leo as a man investigating some strange goings-on at a mental institution in 1950s Boston. Naturally, this setting paves the way for some really haunting dream sequences.
The filmography of the Coen Brothers is incomparable. No one does it like they do. The same can be said for their dream sequence in their cult comedy The Big Lebowski, which harkens back to the dance sequences of Old Hollywood musicals while adding in some of their own little quirk.
You know your dream sequence is good when it becomes an iconic piece of film history. The river of blood flowing from the inside of the Overlook Hotel’s elevators couldn’t be more terrifying, and Stanley Kubrick knows it.
Like Mulholland Drive, The Wizard of Oz blurs the line between fantasy and reality—that’s probably why it’s such a big influence on so many of Lynch’s films. Still, The Wizard of Oz is responsible for some of the most gripping dream sequences in film history.
Ingmar Bergman films are always going to be about faith, death, family, or all three. 1957’s Wild Strawberries leans heavily into the terrifying prospect of death, featuring the lead character Isak Bord coming to terms with the events of his life. This paves the way for some truly memorable dreams.