'Nightmare on Elm Street' — How Many Movies Are There?

The Big Picture

  • The original
    A Nightmare On Elm Street
    is hailed as one of the greatest horror films ever made, introducing the iconic character Freddy Krueger and a horrifying backstory.
  • While some sequels in the series may be weaker, even the weaker films have elements of interest, making the franchise worth exploring.
  • The series experienced a decline with
    A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
    returned to the grounded tone of the original film and inspired the

There aren’t many slashers in film history that are quite as iconic as Freddy Krueger. While Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, and Ghostface all have their legions of fans, Robert Englund’s terrifying performance in the original 1984 A Nightmare on Elm Street has occupied a huge space in popular culture. Although Englund’s performance became more comical in the subsequent sequels, the original imagery remains as stark and haunting as ever. Wes Craven’s genius mind imagined a killer who could invade our dreams. Like many horror franchises, A Nightmare on Elm Street has a rich mythology that has been revised, expanded, and rebooted over the course of nine theatrical films. While franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th have a few installments worth skipping altogether, even the weaker films in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise are at least interesting in some capacity. However, it can be confusing for first-time viewers trying to get into the series who don’t know where to start. Here is a guide to the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, and its potential future.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Film Poster

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Teenager Nancy Thompson must uncover the dark truth concealed by her parents after she and her friends become targets of the spirit of a serial killer with a bladed glove in their dreams, in which if they die, it kills them in real life.

Release Date
November 16, 1984

91 minutes

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984)

Freddy Krueger's claws about to attack Heather Langenkamp's character in the bath in 'Nightmare on Elm Street'
Image via New Line Cinema

The original A Nightmare on Elm Street has been heralded as one of the greatest horror films ever made, launching Craven into the horror filmmakers’ Hall of Fame. The first installment in the series introduces the series protagonist Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), a teenage girl who is haunted by visions of Freddy. As her friends are slowly picked off one by one, Nancy discovers the horrible secret behind Freddy’s origins and the events that drove him to madness.

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge’ (1985)

Jesse, played by Mark Patton, screaming as he looks at Freddy's glove he's wearing on his own hand in Freddy's Revenge
Image via New Line Cinema

The first sequel A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge ditches both the grim atmosphere and the characters from the first film; instead, it follows the anxiety-ridden teenage boy Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton), whose family lives in the same home that the Thompsons once occupied. Freddy attempts to return by possessing Jesse’s body, forcing him to contemplate with the thought that he could become a killer. Krueger is less grounded, and begins to start making villainous quips as he gleefully torments his victims. Despite initially lackluster reviews, Freddy’s Revenge has been reappraised for its homoerotic undertones and remains one of the more underrated installments in the series.

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’ (1987)

Robert Englund's Freddy holding Heather Langenkamp's Nancy Thompson in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Image via New Line Cinema.

The best of the initial batch of sequels, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors saw the return of Langenkamp and Craven as a writer, although he passed directorial duties over to Chuck Russell. An older Nancy has now become a therapist at the Westin Hill Mental Institution, which has been targeted by Freddy. Nancy helps the young patients Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette), Joey (Rodney Eastman), Taryn (Jennifer Rubin), Kinkaid (Ken Sagoes), and Will (Ira Heiden) learn to control their dreams in order to protect themselves from Freddy. The tone reverts to the more serious, grounded approach that Craven had introduced in the first film.

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master’ (1988)

Freddy, played by Robert Englund, holding Kristen, played by Tuesday Knight, in Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Image via New Line Cinema

While A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is a major departure in tone from its predecessors with its eccentric, often comedic style, the film is simply a blast that embraces the campy side of Freddy. Directed by action movie veteran Renny Harlin (whose filmography includes Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Cliffhanger, Deep Blue Sea, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and the infamous box office bomb Cutthroat Island), the film follows the teenage girl Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox), who inherits the spirit of Freddy from a school classmate. As Freddy uses Alice to search for new victims, she tries to become the “Dream Master” and release the souls that he has taken.


Samara Weaving Wants to Star in a New ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ Movie

There hasn’t been a new film in the franchise since 2010.

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child’ (1989)

Deformed baby Freddy in Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
Image via New Line Cinema

The franchise first started to show signs of waning interest with A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, which saw a decline in both box office and critical response. Picking up in the aftermath of Dream Master, Dream Child follows Alice’s unborn son Jacob (Whitby Hertford) as Freddy attempts to possess him and resurrect himself. The film explored more elements of Freddy’s backstory by introducing the spirit of his mother, Amanda Krueger (Beatrice Boepple). Fun fact: Stephen King almost directed this installment.

‘Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare’ (1991)

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
Image via New Line Cinema

The initial series came to a screeching halt with the critically reviled, absolutely bizarre sixth film Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. The film takes place two years after the end of Dream Child as a mysterious teenage drifter (Shon Greenblatt) searches for Freddy’s daughter Maggie (Lisa Zane). The film continues the exploration of Freddy’s backstory as he recreates traumatic moments from his past in order to create new “Elm Streets.”

‘Wes Craven’s New Nightmare’ (1994)

Image via New Line Cinema

Having criticized the sequels for their wild tonal shifts, Craven returned to the series for the seventh film Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. The self-aware film follows the cast and crew of the original film as Freddy escapes from fiction to haunt reality. Featuring Craven, Langenkamp, Englund, and many others as themselves, the film allowed the original filmmaker to satirize the nature of modern horror films and speak his mind about the way the franchise had evolved. Make no mistake, New Nightmare isn’t a tongue-in-cheek parody; it returns to the grounded tone of the first installment in the scariest sequel yet. While the initial reaction was received with apprehension, its self-awareness inspired Craven to launch the Scream series two years later.

‘Freddy vs. Jason’ (2003)

Speculation about a crossover with the Friday the 13th franchise had been fueled ever since Freddy’s cameo appearance in 1993’s Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday. The Ronny Yu-directed Freddy vs. Jason pits the two infamous slashers against each other as Freddy possesses Jason to get vengeance on Springwood. Jason soon turns against his master, initiating an epic battle of icons that had horror fans dying to know the results.

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (2010)

In an era where many horror franchises were rebooted, including Halloween, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, New Line Cinema and Platinum Dunes created a remake of the original classic that recast Rooney Mara and Jackie Earl Haley as Nancy and Freddy, respectively. The result is a tone-deaf, cheaply produced slasher film that contains no trace of the thrills or propulsive fun of the original series. Despite some promising performances, the film rubbed many fans the wrong way by officially confirming that Freddy was a child predator.

What Does the Future Hold for the Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise?

After the failure of the 2010 remake, New Line attempted to create another reboot that was stuck in development hell and later canceled. The rights reverted back to Craven’s estate in 2019. While the estate announced that it was taking new pitches for a project on HBO Max, there have been no updates since.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is available to stream on Netflix in the U.S.

Watch on Netflix


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