Famous Ideas That Came From Dreams

Here are eight famous ideas and works of art that were created based on dreams.

John Lennon’s “#9 Dream”

john lennon imagine band on the run

Perhaps the most famous dreamer in recent history, John Lennon wrote a best-selling song — one of his most iconic solo works — based on a dream he had. The chorus of“#9 Dream” repeats a nonsensical phrase he heard in the dream, “Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé,” and the lyrics refer to the feeling of a dream being real: “So long ago/ Was it in a dream, was it just a dream?/Seemed so very real, it seemed so real to me.”

The song peaked (somewhat serendipitously) in the ninth spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in the UK.

Christopher Nolan’s Inception


Director Christopher Nolan took the inspiration for his 2010 psychological thrillerInception from his own lucid dreams. The psychological thriller follows a dream thief (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a corporate spy who steals dreams from the minds of CEOs and business tycoons.

“I wrote the first draft of this script seven or eight years ago, but it goes back much further, this idea of approaching dream and the dream life as another state of reality,” Nolan told the Los Angeles Times. “I tried to work that idea of manipulation and management of a conscious dream being a skill that these people have… the only outlandish idea that the film presents, really, is the existence of a technology that allows you to enter and share the same dream as someone else.”

Salvador Dalí’s Persistence of Memory

persistence of memory

“One day it will have to be officially admitted that what we have christened reality is an even greater illusion than the world of dreams,” Dali once said.

Surrealist painter Salvador Dali has called many of his works “hand-painted dream photographs,” and one of his most famous renderings was inspired by an actual dream. With the imagery of melting clocks in “Persistence of Memory,” Dali plays with the idea that our concept of time becomes arbitrary when we’re in a dream state. The iconic dream landscape helped to introduce the public to surrealism in the early 1930s, and put Dali on the map as a game-changing artist, according to MOMA.

The Beatles’ “Yesterday”

the beatles

Beatles legend has it that Paul McCartney composed the melody for “Yesterday” — themost-covered song in music history — in a dream one night in 1964. McCartney described the process of composing the song in The Beatles Anthology:

I was living in a little flat at the top of a house and I had a piano by my bed. I woke up one morning with a tune in my head and I thought, ‘Hey, I don’t know this tune — or do I?’ It was like a jazz melody…. I went to the piano and found the chords to it, made sure I remembered it and then hawked it round to all my friends, asking what it was: ‘Do you know this? It’s a good little tune, but I couldn’t have written it because I dreamt it.’

Edgar Allan Poe’s Poetry

edgar allan poe

Edgar Allan Poe suffered from nightmares throughout his life, and they were said to sometimes inspire his poems and short stories. He also wrote several poems about the phenomenon of dreaming (“Dream-Land” and “A Dream Within A Dream,” notably).

As Poe wrote in his 1839 essay “An Opinion On Dreams,” dreams are a powerful form of consciousness:

That dreams, or, as they were then generally called, visions, were a means of supernatural instruction, if we believe the bible at all, is proved by Jacob’s dream, the several visions of Ezekiel and other prophets, as also of later date, the Revelations to Saint John; and there appears no reason why this mode of divine communication should be discontinued in the present day.

Stephen King’s “Dreamcatcher”

steven king

Stephen King was hit by a minivan in 1999, while he was walking down a country road in Maine. While recovering from the collapsed lung and a shattered leg, the prolific horror writer began having vivid dreams.

“The first really strong idea that occurred to me after the accident was: four guys in a cabin in the woods,” King told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2003. “Then you introduce this one guy who staggers into camp saying, ‘I don’t feel well,’ and he brings this awful hitchhiker with him. I dreamed a lot about that cabin and those guys in it.”

Those dreams formed the basis of the 2001 novel turned film Dreamcatcher. But it wasn’t the only work of King’s to be inspired by a dream: King has said that his dreams help him to portray events symbolically in his writing.

Carl Jung’s “The Red Book”

carl jung

Always a believer in the power of inner wisdom and the unconscious mind, psychoanalyst Carl Jung studied dream interpretation extensively and also recorded his own dreams. “The Red Book,” as NPR describes it, is “Jung’s voyage of discovery into his deepest self.” The book is a massive collection of years of Jung’s dreams, fantasies, surrealist dialogues and psychedelic drawings.

“So, I have come to absolutely the right place,” Jung wrote in one fictional dialogue. “I have wandered a long time through the world, seeking those like you who sit upon a high tower on the lookout for things unseen.”

Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life”

waking life

Like Nolan, director Richard Linklater used his dreams as inspiration for some of his greatest films, including the animated film “Waking Life,” which explores existentialist themes and our experience of dreaming (IGN calls it a “philosophical fever dream”).

“I always did it just kind of naturally a little bit,” Linklater told IGN of his lucid dreaming habit. “I never really thought about it much, but these dreams would happen and I would be aware I was in a dream. As I started to make this movie, I started doing all the research, I knew it to be a phenomenon, and it confirmed a lot of my own experience.”