What is the earliest movie in which the status of the events as reality is doubted or denied at (or toward) the end?

I will limit the case to movies in which almost all of the movie events are subjected to such doubt or denial and exclude the ones that may start "in" some character's fantasy and then fairly soon step "out" to (the movie's) reality or go "in and out" through the movie.

A famous example is The Wizard of Oz (1939), in which the events of the movie turn out to have been a dream in the end.

I have a fairly early movie in mind and will give it as an answer if others don't.

Just to incorporate some comments:

  • The answer could be a movie of any length, short or feature.

  • When "it all turns out to have been" a dream etc., it should come as a surprise to the viewer. (The viewer may then want to have a second viewing in light of what he has learned to see the changes in his own responses.)

  • 1
    Can I also ask what is the "best" movie that does this or that? (I'm a new member.)
    – Catomic
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 0:32
  • 2
    "Can I also ask what is the "best" movie that does this or that?" - Not unless you can bring up a sufficiently objective measure of "best", which I would doubt. So in general, I'm afraid not, but who knows if you can maybe even come up with an objectively reasoned question for the "best".
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 0:35
  • @Catomic : Just some info since you are a new member - On this site, one may not ask a question related to movie recommendations or a question whose answer is opinion-based, because these kind of stuff happen on a forum kind of website like Quora and this site is not meant to be a forum. Hope that helped.
    – Ankit
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 5:11

1 Answer 1


The earliest one I could think of that answers all those criteria is A Florida Enchantment from 1914. The 63 minute silent film is about a woman taking a magical seed which transforms her into a man. (It's also one of the earliest examples of a plot with gay and bisexual themes). It ends with the heroine realizing that it was all a dream.

Another early example of this trope is Chaplin's Shoulder Arms from 1918, where the end revealed that all of Charlie's exploits in the war were a dream in boot camp. Chaplin was a fan of the plot device and used it in other films (like The Bank from 1915).

There were earlier films with dream sequences, like those mentioned in the answer to this question, some Melies films and some early adaptations of Alice in Wonderland, but I don't believe they answer all of your requirements.

  • 1
    Those are earlier than the ones I had in mind: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, 1920) and Warning Shadows (Schatten - Eine nächtliche Halluzination, 1923). Besides the title of the second gives it away.
    – Catomic
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 10:15
  • I was also going to ask a follow-up question by adding the conditions: (a) Not only the viewer, but also a character in the movie discovers that "it's all been" a dream etc. (b) The character's psychology explains the genesis (existence) of the unreal events. But A Florida Enchantment would seem to satisfy these as well.
    – Catomic
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 10:24
  • Sure, Caligari is another good example (and also an early example of an unreliable narrator).
    – Walt
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 10:27
  • Let me dream again (G.A. Smith, 1900) movies.stackexchange.com/questions/31639/…
    – Ignorante
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 0:19

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