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(Minor spoilers for each of the various Nightmare on Elm Street movies below).
The Nightmare on Elm Street series will go down as one of the all time great classic horror series’. With a more creative premise than Halloween and Friday the 13th, and an actual killer that could string sentences together, Freddy Krueger has become a legendary slasher. He incited fear amongst film going audiences when he first appeared in 1984. Since then the character’s become more comedic, but there were definitely some surprises thrown in the mix.
Eight movies followed the original Nightmare on Elm Street, included in those eight were a metafilm, a crossover, and a remake. Which one is the best? We’ve reviewed them all, and now we’re ranking them from worst to best.
(Don’t agree with our list? Vote for your favorite Nightmare on Elm Street movie with our poll at the bottom. Feel free to complete your own ranking in the comments).
Read our full review of A Nightmare on Elm Street 6: Freddy’s Dead
Now that I’ve mentioned the only good thing about this movie lets talk about all the bad things. This movie has the worst plot and worst acting of any of the Nightmare movies. The deaths are meant to be comedic, but they’re not very funny, and the film’s constant insulting of handicapped people makes you wonder whether or not you’re supposed to be laughing with them or at them. The film score is highly derivative. There are lots of counter-culture drug jokes, which are jokes that don’t belong in this franchise, and there are no genuinely scary moments. The 3D glasses needed at the end of movie were a cheap ploy to sell tickets. This is a movie that gives meaning to the words: “shit show.”
Read our full review of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
God! How quickly the mighty fell. To see A Nightmare on Elm Street immediately get turned into this giant turd is pretty disappointing. Most horror sequels usually degrade slowly, but this movie just jumps off a cliff. With the original cast out the door – except Robert Englund of course – audiences get Jesse Walsh. Jesse’s a poor man’s replacement for Nancy, and that’s saying something considering Nancy really isn’t all that special. When Jesse isn’t taking his time to have a “this is your moment” dance to some terrible 80’s pop music, or shrieking like an obnoxious prepubescent girl, he’s busy having homosexual dreams about his gym coach. This movie tries to delve into some serious issues, but it comes out looking so silly and ignorant that you can’t help but wonder where the movie producers got the coke that encouraged them to green-light this.
Read our full review of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
There’s not a lot of hope for your movie when it’s titled The Dream Child. Continuing with the characters that survived the fourth movie, this film looks to tackle Freddy along with the controversial subject of teen pregnancies. A serious subject thrown into an unintentionally comical horror movie … why? – Ticket sales? Probably. Freddy screaming generic baby lines like “it’s a boy,” and excessively using the word “bitch” sums up perfectly just how far the franchise had fallen by this point. There are attempts to take this movie seriously, and then there’s “Bon appétit bitch!”
Read our full review of Freddy vs Jason.
Lots of dumb teenagers and two of cinema’s most notorious killers. What did you think was going to happen? This movie is a gorefest … which is largely due to Jason being in it. Dead teenagers litter suburban homes, corn fields, mental institutions, lake camps, and Freddy’s dream world. The plot makes little sense and everything about it is predictable. The acting is atrociously bad, even by horror film standards. With a lame as hell ending, the best thing film audiences could hope for was a lot of deaths. The movie delivers there, but it fails everywhere else. This is the last movie for both the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises before they were rebooted. Killing two successful franchises in one movie is a pretty special accomplishment.
Read our full review of A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010).
The film score is handled better (even though it borrows its themes), and Rooney Mara turns out to be a better Nancy than Heather Langenkamp, otherwise it’s out done just about everywhere else by the original. This is the only film on the list not to star Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger. Jackie Earle Haley had some big shoes to fill, and while he’s not as good as Englund he still puts forth a decent effort … even if he sounds like Rorschach at times. This movie lacks the underlying social commentary and the memorable killing scenes that the original had, with the most memorable being recreations. Modern technology could have made for some really entertaining dream sequences, but this remake failed to capitalize on being creative.
Read our full review of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
This is where the franchise starts to decline in earnest. The opening sequence really hammers that point in, but it improves slightly from there. The Dream Master isn’t a truly terrible film, so much as it is a genuine mess of a film. There are plenty of entertaining moments, and one of the best kills in the whole franchise …. benchpress anyone? Then there are some terrible kills like Shark Freddy on the beach with sunglasses. By the time it’s all over you’ve watched a bad but entertaining horror flick.
Read our full review of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
After the debacle that was Freddy’s Revenge, Hollywood got a little smarter and managed to convince Wes Craven to come back. He only fulfills a writer’s capacity in this movie, but Craven easily proves his value to the franchise by putting out one of the best Freddy sequels. The return of John Saxon and Heather Langenkamp puts the series back on track, after it fell off the rails in Freddy’s Revenge. The ending was a surprise, something that doesn’t happen too often in horror, but it allowed the story to continue and it helped introduce some new characters.
Read our full review of A Nightmare on Elm Street 7: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
Bringing back Wes Craven allowed the Nightmare franchise to be brought to a much more respectable conclusion. I’ve a feeling Craven returned to this movie to set things straight after Freddy’s Dead, which occupies the last spot on this list. It’s the most experimental of the Nightmare movies with its being a metafilm. Having Freddy terrorize his creators and the original actors from the first movie in their “real lives,” worked surprisingly well. There were some enjoyable call backs to the original Nightmare, and the scares and tension are only surpassed by the movie at the top of this list.
Read our full review of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The best is the original. Cliche to say, but it’s right anyway. A Nightmare on Elm Street was never topped by any of its sequels. Wes Craven introduced audiences to a truly terrifying concept: what if you could be killed by your nightmares? He also introduced the world to Fred Krueger, and the clawed glove has become synonymous with terrifying dreams ever since. A Nightmare on Elm Street is the scariest film in the franchise, it has some of the best kills, and it was Johnny Depp’s first movie. There were critiques of 1980’s suburban America, the rapidly developing American pharmaceutical industry, and of course there are the terrible, terrible parents. When it was all said and done people in the 1980’s couldn’t have imagined that there would be eight more of these movies, but that’s what comes with changing the genre forever.