It seems hard to believe that New Line Cinema released the original Nightmare On Elm Street over 30 years ago. The film that first told the story of Frederick Charles Krueger, who moved from 1428 Elm Street, Springwood, Ohio, to your worst nightmares. Since 1984, there have been nine Freddy films to date (including Freddy vs. Jason).
When the Elm Street films first began in the ’80s, slashers were all of the rage, and the success of similar films like Friday The 13th ensured that the Nightmare films too would find an audience. They certainly did, and with so many fans wowed by the original, sequels were not only likely, but an absolute necessity for the powers that be.
With that, we’ve decided to take a stab (sorry) at ranking all of these films from worst to best. What’s so great about the NOES movies is that everyone has a different favorite. With 9 films, there are practically a kajillion different rankings that are possible, so it’s highly unlikely to find someone who will rank the films in the same order you do (or as we’re about to).
So, without further ado, let’s get this started.
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Director: Samuel Bayer
Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker
Picture the original horror classic A Nightmare On Elm Street. Now picture that film if it were produced by the always over-the-top Michael Bay, director of Pearl Harbor and Transformers: Age Of Extinction. Now picture all of the worst possible outcomes of that marriage. Well, you don’t have to do that. All you have to do is take an hour or two out of your day and watch this ultra lame remake/reboot.
On paper it doesn’t sound like a bad idea. The film brings the series back to its horror roots (leaving the horror/comedy at the door). And Freddy Krueger is played by Jackie Earle Haley, an Oscar-nominated actor who proved just how creepy he could be as Rorschach in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. How bad could it be? The answer to that question is really bad… extraordinarily bad.
8. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter, Whit Hertford, Erika Anderson
After having survived the previous film, Alice Johnson starts to have weird dreams again until she ultimately realizes that Freddy is attempting to be reborn through the dreams of her as-yet unborn baby. Now, this movie isn’t as terrible as a lot of people claim it to be. However, if you say it’s one of the better films of the series, shame on you.
The film does get points for its generally darker tone. The dream sequences are more gothic than the previous films of the series; with a blue filter lighting technique used in most of the scenes. The black and white sequence is also a highlight. The nightmares in general throw up random images and events, which certainly captures the surrealism of dream logic but doesn’t make for a coherent film. Most of the acting is poor, the effects are unconvincing and it is all, of course, familiar stuff.
7. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
Director: Rachel Talalay
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt, Lezlie Deane, Breckin Meyer
In part six of the Nightmare On Elm Street series, Freddy Krueger has finally killed all the children of his hometown, and seeks to escape its confines to hunt fresh prey. To this end, he recruits the aid of his (previously unmentioned) daughter. That’s right, Freddy has a daughter, apparently. Suddenly Freddy’s Dead turns into a tale about bad parenting.
If you look at nearly any list ranking the Elm Street films you will almost always find this entry listed as the worst. However, this just isn’t the case. It’s actually a lot of fun. It’s no longer trying to balance the line between comedy and horror and instead goes for pure entertainment. We have Freddy playing a NES, we have Johnny Depp making a cameo in a “This Is Your Brain on Drugs” commercial and the montage over the end credits is just kick-ass. If you can simply look at this film as a tribute to the franchise then you could find yourself enjoying it quite immensely.
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
Director: Jack Sholder
Cast: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Englund, Robert Rusler, Sydney Walsh
Freddy’s Revenge gets a lot of flack thrown its way that it doesn’t really deserve. Many fans look at this sequel as such a weird turn from the original NOES and ignoring a lot of the rules that were established previously. Oh, and that whole pesky homosexual subtext thing that the film has going on. If Sigmund Freud were alive today he would’ve had a field day trying to figure this one out.
And while many might not agree, this is a solid – indeed, far better than average – entry in the Freddy canon. However, we have to admit that the dance scene and the shower scene collectively still make up the two most cringeworthy moments of the entire NOES franchise.
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Brooke Theiss, Tuesday Knight
The Dream Master was the first Elm Street film where Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger got top billing. In other words, Freddy was no longer the man lurking in the shadows, he was front and center. This is also the film where the franchise shed almost any scariness it still had and focused more on gags and one-liners.
After Freddy is bought back to life (via a dog pissing fire in a salvage yard) he once again goes on his quest to kill the Elm Street children. After offing the last of the kids from the previous films he focuses his attention on Alice, a young, bright girl and a frequent daydreamer; Sheila Kopecky, a brainy, quiet girl with asthma; Debbie Stevens, a tough girl who hates bugs; and Rick, a martial arts enthusiast who is also Alice’s brother. The film features memorable characters, imaginative kills, and Englund, as usual, devours the scenery as Freddy.
4. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Director: Ronny Yu
Cast: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Katharine Isabelle, Chris Marquette, Lochlyn Munro, Kyle Labine, Odessa Munroe
It took over a decade (longer than that actually) for it to finally happen but in 2003 we finally got to see horror’s two biggest icons – Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees – duke it out on-screen. Prior to the film being released it felt like a Presidential campaign, who were you going to vote for.
In the film, Freddy has become unable to haunt people’s dreams as the citizens of Springwood have generally forgotten about Freddy with the passage of time. In order to regain his power, Freddy manipulates Jason into resurrecting himself and traveling to Springwood to cause panic and fear, leading to rumors that Freddy has returned. A murderous rivalry ensues.
With the amount of excitement leading up to this event it was next to impossible for the film to meet anyone’s expectations. However, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a strong entry for both of the respective franchises. Aside from the final battle you get the usual dose of sex, nudity, drugs, violence and rock & roll. The only letdown is the ending. SPOILER ALERT: Nobody really wins.
3. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Miko Hughes, John Saxon
Freddy Krueger began as a genuinely frightening character who scared the hell out of everyone. As the movies went on, Freddy lost his edge and looked liked a bad stand up comedian with horrible one liners. The character seemed dead in the water with the sixth film of the series, but the great Wes Craven brought him back from his rut and made him someone to fear again. This of course helps prove the theory that a truly great NOES movie cannot be made without Craven’s involvement.
When you really look at it, New Nightmare was way ahead of its time. Two years before Wes Craven gave the horror genre a facelift with 1996′s Scream the director released this gem of a movie. As far as the film’s plot goes, in a nutshell: Freddy Krueger is a fictional movie villain who invades the real world and haunts the cast and crew responsible for his films. Very meta, quite genius.
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Director: Chuck Russell
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Patricia Arquette, Craig Wasson, Jennifer Rubin, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Penelope Sudrow, Laurence Fishburne, John Saxon
Hands down the greatest Nightmare On Elm Street sequel, Dream Warriors was like a breath of fresh air after the relatively disappointing Freddy’s Revenge. Co-written by original NOES creator Wes Craven, the film follows our favorite dream-stalking psychopath Freddy as he takes his deadly crusade away from Elm Street to a psychiatric hospital for troubled teens.
This movie has so many wonderful qualities but let’s start with the kills. Dream Warriors offers some of the best death scenes of the franchise; from Freddy turning a kid into a human puppet using his own veins and tendons to Freddy posing as a topless nurse only to reveal his true self. Another thing to point out is the fact that none of the kid characters in the film are annoying. In a horror film such as this, that is a true rarity. When each one of the kids get killed you genuinely feel bad about it, you want them to succeed. It’s no wonder that this is the third entry of the series. In this instance, the third time was most definitely the charm.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Johnny Depp
As with most horror franchises, it never gets better than that first, classic installment, and A Nightmare On Elm Street is no different. Writer/director Wes Craven hit all the right notes on almost every beat of the movie, and the result is a classic horror film that stands the test of time and still works on audiences to this day.
We all know the story: Freddy Krueger was a child murderer, the parents of his victims burn him alive and about a decade later he comes back and starts killing the remaining children of those parents in their dreams. There are so many things that make this film great, it’s hard to pinpoint just one. The lead, Nancy Thompson, is still the quintessential horror movie heroine. She’s brave, clever and actually turns her back on Freddy and lives to speak about it. All these years later, there are horrific moments of helplessness that still resonate – a geyser of blood shooting out of the bed that sucked up poor Glen Lantz, Freddy’s glove emerging from the still waters of Nancy’s bath, Tina Gray writhing around on the ceiling, Nancy’s feet sucked into the stairs as she tries to run away. They’re all so simple, so primal, but so clever and impeccably executed. From the concept to the imagery to the characters, Craven crafted a horror film that attacked the visceral and the cerebral in equal measure, with a mythology that would spawn a cult of personality around it’s unkillable villain and an equally unkillable franchise.
Let us know your own personal ranking in the comment section below.