Sweet dreams, enduring nightmares

Movie dreams (and nightmares) have long entranced, delighted, confused and scared us, the latest being Christopher Nolan's summer hit "Inception," which has baffled and mesmerized critics and audiences since its release earlier this month.

Leonardo DiCaprio heads the cast as Dom Cobb, a thief with a particular skill: He enters the dreams of others in order to obtain information. But for his latest caper, he must enter someone's subconscious and plant an idea instead of stealing one.

Over the years, dream films have come in as many shapes and sizes as dreams themselves — from musicals to thrillers to slasher flicks to psychological dramas to political conspiracies. Here's a look at some dreamy flicks:

"Sherlock Jr."

Pauline Kael described Buster Keaton's 1924 comedy masterpiece as a "piece of native American surrealism." Keaton had used a dream motif to experiment with outlandish, funny slapstick stunts in his 1921 short, "The Playhouse," and he upped the ante in this farce in which he plays a movie projectionist and janitor who wants to become a detective. Keaton falls asleep while a film is being projected and dreams he's a Sherlock Holmes detective in a movie revolving around the theft of a pearl necklace.

"The Wizard of Oz"

The beloved 1939 movie musical based on the L. Frank Baum children's novel is the ultimate dream film. Dorothy gets hit on the noggin during a twister and dreams she is sent to a Technicolor world filled with Munchkins, witches, flying monkeys, a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, a Cowardly Lion and a Wizard. It's a dream world that's both entrancing and frightening — real and surreal at the same time.

" Spellbound"

Alfred Hitchcock ventured into the mind of an amnesiac in his classic 1945 romantic thriller. Gregory Peck plays the young man; Ingrid Bergman is the psychiatrist who helps him solve a murder by going into his subconscious. Peck's surreal dream sequence was designed by Salvador Dali and influenced many directors over the years including Roman Polanski in his 1965 "Repulsion" and 1968's "Rosemary's Baby."

"A Nightmare on Elm Street"

Wes Craven directed this iconic 1984 slasher film starring Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, a wisecracking fiend with razor-sharp knives attached to his right hand, who enters the dreams of several teenagers (one of the teens is a very young Johnny Depp). When he viciously kills them in their dreams, it causes their deaths in reality.


Joseph Ruben directed this 1984 sci-fi thriller about a government-sponsored research experiment in which people can enter the dreams of others. Dennis Quaid plays a young man with amazing psychic powers who is asked by a parapsychologist (Max von Sydow), with whom he previously had worked on ESP experiments, to join the dreamscape program. Eddie Albert plays the president who has nightmares regarding World War III; Christopher Plummer is the head of covert intelligence who wants to use dreamscape to control the president.