Arrow in the Head looks back over the Elm Street franchise with the list A Nightmare on Elm Street Movies Ranked
The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has been dormant for over a decade now, and despite the fact that people like Mike Flanagan and Elijah Wood are interested in making Elm Street movies, there are no new films on the horizon. Freddy Krueger’s extended vacation is going to continue a while longer. At least we have several films to revisit – and as part our of Halloween celebrations here at JoBlo and Arrow in the Head, we decided to put together a list ranking those films from worst to best. So keep scrolling down to see our take on Nightmare on Elm Street Movies Ranked.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)
The production company Platinum Dunes went on a reboot and remake spree for a while, and some worthwhile movies came out of that. Their version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre holds up. I like that movie’s prequel. I love the Friday the 13th movie they made in 2009. But they really dropped the ball with their A Nightmare on Elm Street remake. Jackie Earle Haley was a promising replacement for Robert Englund, but the Freddy Krueger scenes don’t come off well, and somehow no one realized that tossing Freddy’s traditional look aside for a more realistic burn victim makeup was the worst idea ever. The original story has been reworked into a dull mess that puts too much focus on this Freddy’s perverted past. There are some interesting elements (like the microsleeps) that could have worked in a good Elm Street movie… but director Samuel Bayer and collaborators did not deliver a good Elm Street movie. This is a CGI-enhanced dumpster fire.
FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991)
New Line Cinema had an interesting-sounding script for a sixth Nightmare that was written by Peter Jackson. Imagine how much cachet that sequel would have gained over the years if they had made it… Instead, they went with a script by in-house producers Michael De Luca and Rachel Talalay, and Talalay brought their idea – which was supposed to be the destruction of Freddy Krueger and the end of the franchise (as you can tell by the title) – to the screen as a goofball live-action cartoon. Freddy is in full-on clown mode in this movie, which takes the viewer on a 3-D journey of his history and reveals that he was once a family man with a daughter: Lisa Zane as new heroine Maggie. Having decimated Springwood, Freddy for some reason needs to infiltrate his daughter’s mind so he can get out of town and start terrorizing the rest of the world. Maggie doesn’t go along with his plan. The story is odd, the execution is odder, and the humor is way over-the-top.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: THE DREAM CHILD (1989)
Lisa Wilcox is back as The Dream Master heroine Alice Johnson and director Stephen Hopkins brings some impressive visuals to the screen, but that doesn’t stop A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child from being a bummer to sit through. Coming down from the fun of the previous two movies, we get a filthy, dreary movie about a teen’s unexpected pregnancy and Freddy merging with the fetus. It’s no wonder this one made less than half what its predecessor made at the box office. Alice remains a great heroine and there are some memorable dream sequences, but the story and structure just don’t work very well. Some things make no sense. How can the world believe someone committed suicide by hanging when no body was found? How can a teen in Springwood still think all this talk of a dream stalker is ridiculous? Like most of these sequels, The Dream Child was made in a mad rush – and this time it really shows.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985)
Sometimes a franchise experiences growing pains, and that’s how we got A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge. A film that went into production without Robert Englund, because the producers didn’t realize how important he was for the effectiveness of Freddy Krueger (thankfully, they realized before filming was over). A film that steps away from the brilliant “death in dreams” idea to tell a more familiar story of haunted house and possession – though it’s still packed with nightmares. Mark Patton does a fine job playing Jesse Walsh (now a shoe), a teen who finds himself being taken over by the spirit of Freddy after moving into the house where he was “defeated”. Director Jack Sholder brought the questionable story to the screen in the best way possible and there are some great sequences, with Clu Gulager providing some amusing moments as Jesse’s dad. It’s not quite right for Elm Street, they just didn’t know that at the time.
FREDDY VS. JASON (2003)
Freddy has been in Hell since the events of Freddy’s Dead. The town of Springwood has banned any mention of his name and a supply of the dream-eliminating drug Hypnocil from Dream Warriors is kept on hand at all times. The dream stalker really has been defeated… but he has found a loophole, thanks to the events of Jason Goes to Hell. Freddy sends his fellow Hellion, hockey masked slasher Jason Voorhees, to Springwood to stir up some fear – then when Jason starts killing too many of the local teens, it’s time for the battle of the title. After a decade of development hell, Freddy vs. Jason went into production with the best script that had ever been written for the concept. That script got weakened by over-expository revisions and director Ronny Yu brought many moments to the screen in a really cheesy way, but the film does have great-looking cinematography and the fights between Freddy and Friday the 13th icon Jason were worth the long wait.
WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994)
New Line Cinema killed Freddy off, then quickly decided they wanted to bring him back. So they turned to franchise creator Wes Craven for an idea – and rather than resurrect Freddy after Freddy’s Dead, Craven went meta. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is set in a reality like ours where the Elm Street movies were just movies… but according to this story, those films had captured an ancient evil entity. Now that the movies are over, this entity starts tormenting the people who were involved with the films. FX guys, Craven himself, Robert Englund, and of course original heroine Heather Langenkamp. It also starts messing with Heather’s young son Dylan (who doesn’t exist in our reality). Having battled Freddy on screen twice, Heather now has to take on a demon that has taken the form of Freddy. More or less. It’s another clever idea from Craven and he turned it into a great film that feels epic and prestigious. There are just a few “regular Freddy” movies I enjoy more.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988)
Dreams Warriors may be a better film, but Renny Harlin’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is actually my favorite of the sequels to watch because I find it to be the most purely entertaining of the bunch. Sure, the script was tossed together by multiple writers and the movie was made in such a rush that it was filming with FX units before a main unit director had even been hired… but the resulting film is a blast to watch. The ‘80s MTV style is at its peak, it’s packed with cool dream sequences, and we get to see a lot of Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger at his most powerful and maniacal. (The ending of Dream Warriors really didn’t do much to slow him down.) While Freddy wipes out the previous film’s survivors and a new batch of victims, we’re introduced to a great new heroine in Lisa Wilcox’s Alice Johnson, who absorbs elements of her dead friends while Freddy absorbs their souls. As the story plays out, she goes from mousy to badass.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)
Part 2 shied away from the “death in dreams” concept, but writer/director Chuck Russell and co-writer Frank Darabont (working from a story by Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner) leaned into it for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and did their best to use the higher budget ($4 million vs. the first movie’s $1 million) to pull the idea up to its highest potential. Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy Thompson returns, now a therapist working with a group of teens who are being tormented by Freddy and have been institutionalized by disbelieving parents. Freddy is stronger than before, thanks to a newly revealed ability to absorb the souls of his victims, and uses people’s worst fears against them in spectacular dream sequences. The victims find their own dream abilities, not all of which are useful. There’s also new back story about Freddy’s conception, which may not have been necessary, but is twisted. This is the best sequel Craven’s film ever could have asked for.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street truly has one of the most brilliant concepts a horror film has ever had: a supernatural slasher goes after teens in their dreams, and if he kills them in their dreams, they die in the real world as well. It’s the execution of that idea that makes the original Elm Street one of the all-time best horror films. Craven brought it to the screen with great visual style and was able to build an intensely creepy atmosphere. Heather Langenkamp is awesome as heroine Nancy Thompson, who has to figure out exactly who this dream stalker is and why he’s after her and her friends while she’s also being put through the wringer emotionally. Character actor Robert Englund instantly became a genre icon with his performance as the scarred and clawed Freddy Krueger. Craven drew on multiple sources of inspiration – his childhood, news reports, mythology, history – and was able to craft a masterpiece of fear.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/noes-ranked/