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Worst to First: Ranking the Nightmare on Elm Street Movies

In the 1980’s, horror movies were dominated by the slasher genre.  Michael Myers started a trend in the late 70’s and Jason Vorheese took it to the next level.  For the most part, the killers in these movies were big, silent killing machines who walked slowly from the shadows.  But Freddy Kruger was different.  He was talkative.  Funny even.  And he didn’t have to sneak up on you.  He was already in your dreams waiting for his next victim to fall asleep.  Freddy gets you when you are completely defenseless.

Over the course of the decade, the lunatic with a scarred visage and knives for fingers became a pop culture icon.  But as audiences moved away from the slasher genre, Freddy struggled to remain relevant.  The last few Nightmare on Elm Street movies have relied on stunts to try to win back Freddy’s fans.  Some have worked out better than others.  So let’s rank the Nightmare on Elm Street movies from worst to first.

Nightmare on Elm Street 2010

9. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Summary: As the series progressed, Freddy Kruger became more comedic than truly scary.  After he went toe to toe with his arch rival, Jason, there just wasn’t a lot to do with the character.  The series sat dormant for seven years.  But by 2010, there was a wave of horror reboots and Freddy was next in line.  The reboot retells the story from the original movie but with a greater emphasis on the idea that Freddy was a sexual deviant.

What’s Good: An effort is made to make Freddy scary again.  Jackie Earle Haley’s Freddy doesn’t pop off quips and one-liners.  And while we’re on the subject of Haley, the remake has a pretty terrific cast that includes Rooney Mara, Clancy Brown and Connie Britton.

What’s Bad: Returning Freddy to his roots is a good idea.  But the remake overshoots its goal.  The first Nightmare on Elm Street wasn’t full of laughs.  But it was hyperkinetic fun for fans of the genre.  Everything about the 2010 remake is dark and dour to the point where it becomes something to endure.  The first movie was a creepy fun house.  The remake was just uncomfortable.  And while Haley does his best, neither his make-up nor the script do him any favors when it comes to filling Robert Englund’s rather large shoes.

Verdict: No fun Freddy is no good.

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Posted on October 9, 2015, in Movies, Worst to First and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. jeffthewildman

    I’d flip 2 and 3. Otherwise I’m in 100% agreement with your ranking.

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    • I can definitely see swapping them out. It’s a matter of personal preference. Dream Warriors is cheesier and more of an action/horror hybrid. New Nightmare is more meta commentary. If New Nightmare had been a bit scarier, I would have given it the nod.

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  2. jeffthewildman

    The more I think about it, what would’ve worked better than Freddy Vs Jason would’ve been Michael Myers vs Jason.

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    • For sure.

      I saw Robert Englund saying he wanted to do Freddy vs. Michael Myers. What would be the point of that? Michael Myers and Jason are the same guy wearing different masks.

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  3. Well, I’ve been practicing rating these films for most of my life, so this was pretty easy for me. Until “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” came along, I really only focused on the first four films, because after that I gave up, as I just don’t care much at all for parts five & six (although I’ve always thought Erika Anderson, who played Greta in part 5, is awfully attractive). I see “Freddy vs. Jason” as a different thing entirely, maybe more of a “Friday the 13th” with a little Freddy added, but I still rated it accordingly.
    The remake? Well, I think it’s okay, even though I have it ranked second to last (part five brings up my rear. Giddyup!).
    My top 3 will always be the original, part 3, and the new nightmare one, although I’m fond of both parts 4 & 2. In matter of fact, I still have the VHS tapes of the original (store bought: recorded over), part 2 ( homebrew: tape unplayable), and parts 3/4 (homebrew: that old Memorex tape still works). I have the original, part 3, new nightmare, and Freddy/Jason (via Columbia House subscription) on DVD. That’s probably how it’s going to stay for awhile, But I’ll eventually pick up part 2, then after that part 4.

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  4. A Nightmare On Elm Street Movies: Ranked From Worst To Best:
    http://whatculture.com/film/a-nightmare-on-elm-street-movies-ranked-from-worst-to-best.php

    A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

    There was never any other real contender for the lowest spot on this list – the A Nightmare On Elm Street remake is the sort of tired, cash-hungry kick in the nuts that makes people protest the idea of remakes in the first place. Although we must come to terms now with the fact that all the greatest horror movies will be subjected to remakes or reboots at some stage or another, at least we can hope that those behind them will do the original some justice.

    There was some hope for the Nightmare remake, considering that production company Platinum Dunes made a good stab at the Friday The 13th remake a year before, but any hopes were dashed pretty quickly with this uninspired flick. There are a lot of problems with the film, and not least is the lack of Robert Englund to fill Freddy Krueger’s boots – Jackie Earle Haley doesn’t make a half-bad Freddy, but when Englund is the only other man to have ever played him, it just seems wrong to see anyone else in that striped jumper.

    It doesn’t help that the material he’s given is lame; the film doesn’t stick exactly to the same plot as the original, but it’s pretty damn close, and it doesn’t do anything new at all. The only differences really are that the new helpless teens are more annoying, it’s flashy rather than atmospheric and the special effects take away more than they really add. Totally unoriginal and wickedly disappointing.

    A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

    The Dream Child might just be the least cohesive, least scary and least entertaining of all the sequels. The previous two films went down reasonably well with the fans, but it is the fifth entry that saw Freddy at his lowest point.

    What makes The Dream Child so disappointing is the indecisiveness of the tone in the film. It tries to be scary on occasion but fails miserably. It tries to be funny at other moments, and is moderately successful, but more in a ‘laughing at’ than ‘laughing with’ kind of way.

    The tone isn’t the only thing all over the place either – the plot is convoluted and downright nonsensical at times, finding Freddy attempting to posses the unborn child of a young girl (or something along those lines anyway). The young girl in question isn’t bad actually, as far as ‘final girl’ candidates go, but she can’t do much to save the messy script.
    The same goes for Englund, who’s always great, but even this one is lacking in creative kills, and the one-liners aren’t up to scratch with the likes of Dream Warriors.

    A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

    The Dream Master is similar to The Dream Child in many ways, but it’s definitely the superior film. One of the better characters from the third entry – Kristen – is recast in this one, a real shame because Dream Warriors’ Kristen, Patricia Arquette, is infinitely more memorable than The Dream Master’s Tuesday Knight.

    But once you’ve got over that one, The Dream Master can actually be a lot of fun. The kills in the fourth Elm Street are definitely up there with the more creative kills in the series and the special effects are wonderfully entertaining in a ‘so bad they’re good’ kind of way.

    Debbie’s transformation into a cockroach and the finale in which souls tear Krueger apart are awesome, and Freddy is as charismatic and as cool as ever. The now well-known sunglasses Freddy (as seen above) may be seen as something of a joke for the character who was once genuinely feared, but at least if he’s going to be silly, they might as well acknowledge it and have a bit of fun with it.

    A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 – Freddy’s Revenge

    Although Freddy’s Revenge is considered by many to be the weakest entry in the series, it is in reality one of the more enjoyable and bold Freddy flicks, and what is admirable about Freddy’s Revenge is the attempt to do something a bit new. Slasher films were a dime a dozen in the 80s and it was far too enticing for studios to throw out the same formulaic films every year and cash in, but as flawed as it is, at least the first Nightmare sequel made an attempt to differentiate itself a bit from the original.

    In it, protagonist Jesse essentially becomes a vessel for Freddy to embody and do his dirty work with. It’s an idea that probably needed some more thought behind it, but it’s definitely an interesting concept to play with.

    The film is notorious for its homosexual subtexts, and intentional or not, they sort of work – Jesse struggles with letting Freddy take him over and perhaps it’s a similar struggle to him showing his true colors (if, in fact, he really is gay). The film also nabs some marks for trying to be scary, which lots of the later entries pretty much throw out the window.

    Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

    By this stage in the Nightmare series, Freddy had become more of a comedian than a monster, and Freddy’s Dead works this fact to its advantage. It all but gives up even trying to be scary and instead for the most part takes a tongue-in-cheek approach, almost self-referential in the same way that Wes Craven would go on to do so well in New Nightmare.

    Freddy’s Dead, plot-wise, is a mess of a film, there’s no real denying that – there are ridiculous story-lines and plot holes, not least the inclusion of Freddy’s daughter, who pretty much appears out of nowhere. Delving into Freddy’s past might not be the most thought-out idea in this, but it’s interesting nonetheless, while the whole film very much seems like they are throwing the kitchen sink at us for the sake of yet another sequel.

    Yet, somehow, it proves to be one of the more entertaining flicks. Gimmicky special effects and cameos from the likes of Roseanne, Tom Arnold, Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper are random as hell, but in the midst of the giant mess, everybody’s welcome and it adds some definite 90s charm. A montage of Freddy’s kills during the closing credits is enough to see just how serious this film takes itself.

    Freddy Vs. Jason

    For years, surely horror fans dreamed of a face-off film of this caliber – the two greatest slasher icons the genre has ever seen facing off against each other is the stuff of fan fiction dreams. When New Line Cinema took over the Friday The 13th series, the crossover became inevitable, and perhaps no one expected such a film to come out in the early 2000s, but it did, and it’s suitably ridiculous.

    Freddy Vs. Jason is a film that doesn’t really require much of a plot. The two franchises were well past their primes at this stage and generally crossovers in general don’t make a lot of sense. The fans just want to see two worlds colliding, and in a case like this, they wanted to see blood spilled.

    The film definitely delivers on the blood and guts factor, with plenty of really fun, gory kills to introduce our two slashers to the 21st century. Yes, as many will argue, the film is a better Jason film than a Freddy one, but putting that aside, it’s just a solid slasher flick. The showdown itself might be a tad disappointing, but there’s a lot of fun to be had on the way there, and although it goes against what a lot of classic horror films are about, the stylish shooting of the film actually makes it a joy to watch.

    Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

    Wes Craven returned to the beloved Freddy franchise he created in the 90s with the excellently original New Nightmare, a film that would almost act as a prelude to the Scream series that he would make a couple years later. What is refreshing about New Nightmare is, after so many ridiculous, tired sequels, it sort of flips the whole horror genre on its head.

    People often credit Scream as the first great self-referential horror flick and they’re probably right, but New Nightmare is up the same alley and has a lot of clever ideas of its own. The film stars Heather Langenkamp as herself, as well as other people involved with the Nightmare films, including Wes Craven himself and Robert Englund (who plays himself and Freddy).

    Wes and Langenkamp are trying to work up an idea for a new Freddy film, while Freddy is at large trying to kill her. If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is – it is a meta horror film which also has a stab at some social commentary, dealing with the notions of why we are attracted to horror films and whether these films are suitable for children. Although the final act is a bit messy, New Nightmare is definitely one of the strongest Freddy movies, and was badly needed at the time.

    A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

    Dream Warriors is hands-down the most fun of all the Freddy movies and a prime example of a horror sequel done right. After Freddy’s Revenge failed to live up to the hype, something new was needed to inject some life into the franchise, and with Wes Craven back on the writing team and star of the original and fan-favorite Heather Langenkamp reprising her role as Nancy, Dream Warriors was already shaping up to be a more enticing Freddy film.

    One of the most refreshing things about Dream Warriors is the eclectic cast of characters; a bunch of teenagers in a hospital, each with their own unique problems (be it anger issues, self-esteem, self-harming) who are for the most part cliches, but the kind of cheesy 80s cliches that are fun to watch. Englund is on great form as Freddy, too and this entry is the first to really veer into comedy-horror territory.

    Freddy is no longer the quiet, mysterious killer, but instead more like a charismatic one, and in this, he’s chock to the brim with terrific so-bad-they’re-good one-liners. Unlike the later films in the series, Dream Warriors doesn’t go full-on ridiculous and Freddy is still rather menacing and someone to fear. Thank goodness for that.

    A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

    No other film in the Nightmare series comes close to the same level of terror, atmosphere or importance that the original possesses. In 1984, Wes Craven created horror’s most iconic monster in Freddy Krueger and we never could sleep quite as well after that.

    Freddy is as close to the perfect horror movie villain – he’s horrific to look at, spine-tingling to listen to and, well, he’s pretty much invincible. The idea of a serial killer who kills you in your own dreams – often the only place where you can hide from such terrors – is absolutely genius.

    In the original film, we are introduced to the mysterious Freddy, and unlike the sequels that followed, there isn’t really an ounce of humor to be found with his character, which works to the film’s advantage in creating tension. It’s an all-out horror film and not many others in the list take themselves as serious as this and succeed so well.

    It helps that Nancy is a terrific final girl, likable for her brave but still vulnerable personality. Johnny Depp shows up too in his first feature film appearance and lands himself one of the scariest and most memorable deaths in horror history (bloody bed fountain, anyone?). The first Nightmare is the most well-rounded of the bunch and by far the scariest, and there’s no real chance of any other Freddy films beating it for the number one spot.

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    • Die Hard Rebooted: 10 Other Franchise Reboots That Failed to Launch

      http://www.flickeringmyth.com/2015/10/die-hard-rebooted-10-other-franchise-reboots-that-failed-to-launch.html/2

      A Nightmare on Elm Street

      One, two, Freddy’s not getting another franchise. Wait, was that how the rhyme went? Wes Craven’s 1984 horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street can really be accredited to saving New Line Cinemas. Prior to the film’s release, the studio was out of money and A Nightmare on Elm Street was their final gamble. However it was a gamble that paid off in spades and the movie’s burnt-faced monster Freddy Kruger quickly found himself a pop culture icon. He would star in another five outings ending with 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, which was intended to set up Freddy vs. Jason, a movie that would have seen the dream demon take on the hockey mask-wearing psycho from the Friday the 13th series. But with that movie struggling to get out of the gates (it would be in development for around 14 years), Wes Craven reinvented the character with his divisive Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Following the eventual release of Freddy vs. Jason in 2004, Kruger would find himself being rebooted in 2010’s poorly received A Nightmare on Elm Street. While a moderate success at the box office ($115 million worldwide), a sequel was never put into production most likely due to the overwhelming negative feedback from fans, movie goers and critics. It was announced a couple of months ago that Freddy would be getting another reboot, and will have no connections to the Jackie Earl Hayley-starring remake. And speaking of horror reboots…

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  5. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984):
    http://cinemassacre.com/2011/10/16/a-nightmare-on-elm-street-3/

    Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, A (1985):
    http://cinemassacre.com/2011/10/17/17-a-nightmare-on-elm-street-2/

    Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, A (1987):
    http://cinemassacre.com/2011/10/18/18-a-nightmare-on-elm-street-3/

    Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, A (1988):
    http://cinemassacre.com/2011/10/19/19-a-nightmare-on-elm-street-4/

    Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child, A (1989):
    http://cinemassacre.com/2011/10/20/20-a-nightmare-on-elm-street-5/

    Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991):
    http://cinemassacre.com/2011/10/21/21-freddys-dead/

    New Nightmare (1994):
    http://cinemassacre.com/2011/10/22/22-new-nightmare/

    Freddy Vs Jason & Remake 2010:
    http://cinemassacre.com/2011/10/23/23-freddy-vs-jason-remake-2010/

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  6. Unpopular opinion but I thought Katie Cassidy easily stole the show from Rooney Mara in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)’. Mara is the more lauded actress of course but she was visibly sleepwalking through the role (er… so to speak.) Cassidy on the other hand, while perhaps less technically adept, put some genuine energy into her perfomance.

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    • I agree 100%; Katie Cassidy should’ve been the lead, especially since Rooney Mara didn’t want to be in the film anyway. I’ve found that many people share your opinion, so it isn’t as unpopular as you would think.

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  7. Retrospective / Review: New Nightmare (1994):

    To gain access to reviews and commentaries early you can donate through Patreon! http://www.patreon.com/oliverharper

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  8. The 15 Worst Remakes Of Classic 80s Movies

    http://screenrant.com/worst-remakes-80s-movies/?view=all

    Nightmare on Elm Street

    Another classic franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street is director Wes Craven’s hypnotic slasher that takes place within dreams. The original 1984 horror introduced the world to Freddy Krueger, a serial killer that is somehow able to attack children where they least expect it: their dreams. Sporting a hideous stripped shirt and fedora, and armed with his razor-sharp fingertips, Freddy was a horror icon in the making. The first film proved so popular that it spawned several sequels over the years, including one where Craven returned to direct.

    It also spawned a remake in 2010, which is just a boring shell of a film compared to Craven’s original vision. The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street suffers from a dizzying amount of problems, but most of the fingers should be pointed at screenwriters Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer. The two manage to erase all the fun dark humor that Freddy had in the previous entries, and instead made him a generic serial killer that blends in with all the others that plague forgettable horror films. Like Freddy’s victims, this Nightmare on Elm Street remake should only be remembered as a bad dream.

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    • Not only that, it’s my second-least favorite entry in the entire series, just above the previous film, The Dream Child. I really didn’t view “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” until I caught it on HBO some 9 or 10 years ago.

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    • This actual episode was a bit too jokey for for me (okay, I did like the Laurence Fishburne/”Cowboy Curtis” reference, thought I think Laurence Fishburne rules in 1992’s “Deep Cover”. Wow, good stuff to me right there!), so I grew tired of it. That’s one of the many things I like about this blog/site here, is that I feel the jokes are well placed.
      I think I need to re-watch this film though; I have it on both VHS & DVD; so, should I go young me with Dad recording for me when I had to go to bed back in 1988 (For a spell, I put my father through a lot when it came to late night recording:-), or the disc from Wal-Mart? Well, VHS Dad wins here (doesn’t sound as exciting as voting for the d’Abo cousins, but I love it:-).

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  9. Your articles are always so well researched: until now I had no idea Nightmare On Elm Street had such interesting origins. The idea that a group of refugees were all having horrendous repeated nightmares with several of them dying in their sleep is incredibly creepy. Wes Craven turned that kernel of an idea into solid gold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with what Terrence found as well; I thought thought the 3rd film in this series was very good. As a kid, the Nancy character dying made me sad, since I thought she was awesome, but the rest? Looking back, I think having the teenagers in group therapy and banding together works for me, and there were some cool effects (loved the mirror moment scene with the Joey character). It was my second favorite film in the series, and maybe the best well done in the franchise overall, I think!

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    • Yeah, a 1988 film called “Bad Dreams” tried to capitalize on the nightmare 3 success, but I think it was just too gross. Sure, there was Jennifer Rubin (who I loved in the Chris Isaak’s ‘Somebody’s Crying” music video, and I liked her in “The Crush” as well), but no, I thought it went too far.

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  10. I think I figured out the appeal for me when it comes to the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” films: strong woman. I mean, Heather Langencamp was my first film crush, just because she was inventive and cool. But the other ladies, like Lisa Myers Kim character, or Lisa Wilcox’s Alice; I think they were fine final girls as well for the series!

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