Ranking the original Elm Street Movies

Its that time of year again and this year we will be ranking my favourite Horror franchise of all time a Nightmare on Elm Street, a series of films based around a serial killer called Freddy Krueger who hunts his victims in their dreams, the idea came from Wes Craven and at the time it was very unique and made Freddy one of the most threatening villains where he could attack people from behind the grave when they are asleep. This helped to give him very creative kills but also made him stand out compared to the competition with Jason, Chuckie, Leather Face and others.

Needless to say I am very excited to revisit this franchise, it’s what got me into the horror genre and is still my favourite to this day so without any more delay lets get ranking from worst to best

This is only my opinion and is in no way fact and may not follow the traditional opinion of this franchises qualities.

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

This movie was the biggest Fuck You to the studio, the fans and original creator Wes Craven so lets talk about it.

After Nightmare 5 released to the lowest financial gross of the series the decision was made to finally kill off Freddy Krueger and end the series.

In the film we are given a new protagonist Doctor Lisa Zane who is helping children in a foster home in Springfield Ohio, it is later revealed that this woman is Krueger’s daughter a revelation that didn’t need to exist but at least it kind of gives Freddy a reason for going after the teenagers under her care.

There is no explanation as to where Alice from Nightmare 4 and 5 had gone, we never find out why Krueger stopped hunting her but this wouldn’t be the first unexplained moment from the series.

The reason this film is so insulting to Freddy Fans is because not only do we get silly Freddy but it is turned up so high that this may as well be a parody, Freddy isn’t just goofy in this he goes completely looney Tunes!

We get fourth wall breaks, Freddy directly interacts with the audience on multiple occasions even doing the whole “shhh” thing while sneaking on one of his victims.

The one liners are awful too especially during the video game dream, this dream especially is a great example to see how much they did not care about this series anymore, Freddy can get away with being a little silly at times, but playing video games is ridiculous if you showed clips from this scene without any concept it would be more convincing as a commercial for the NES game than actually part of what should have been an epic final showdown for this character.

Overall the performances in this are pretty mediocre from everyone but unfortunately this time Robert Englund is just bad as the character, this movie sucks and never should have been approved, famously Wes Craven couldn’t finish watching this one and that should tell you everything you need to know!

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

The Dream Master was in my opinion the first movie where this franchise went off the rails, choices were made to keep the funny Freddy from Nightmare 3 but turn up the silliness and focus less on scares with more creative kills that don’t really follow any of the logic we had seen before this one.

After the events of Nightmare 3 we first see the surviving Dream Warriors who are still working together to protect the Dream Realm from the return of Freddy.

Some events later and Freddy is brought back by a dog who pees fire and our Dream Warriors are all dead leaving the new protagonist Alice a master of dreams to defeat Freddy and save her friends.

So I want to point out that at this point in the franchise there wasn’t any reason for Freddy to kill his victims because with the Dream warriors out of the picture there are no living relatives of the people who killed him while he was alive.

I don’t particularly think it matters that much but the three previous movies definitely felt more like a compelling trilogy due to Freddy having a particular need for revenge with his kills.

Chose this photo I found over an image from the movie as this is such a cool cast photo shoot!

The Acting in this is so bad from almost everyone in the new cast (Not the Dream Warriors), I don’t know why but almost all the line delivery in this comes across as monotone and not with much effort, of course Robert Englund is fantastic and I will give props to Toy Newkirk who played Sheila as she was the only supporting cast member that I thought did a good job with her acting, it was nothing special but it was one of the only performances that I can say I liked.

The kills and dream sequences in this are really good and some of the best in the franchise, stand out kills definitely go to Joey who gets trapped under his water bed and drowns and by far the best kill up to this point in the franchise goes to Debbie who slowly becomes a giant cockroach bursting from her skin before being stuck in a bug trapping fluid and crushed to death! It is flipping awesome

There are actually some really great effects in this movie and with the dream world having less rules we do get some more memorable Freddy moments, one liners and very creative dreams but I do feel that at times this movie went a little too silly like when Freddy orders Pizza and its meatballs are the heads of his victims or the stupid karate fight where Freddy is invisible because they ran out of money and had to quickly make a kill scene out of bed sheets and cheap decorations

Minus that awful scene I think the biggest problem with this movie is that Freddy is not scary at all, he is comic relief in this and has completely lost his scare factor, I like fun Freddy and I think that’s how he should be but he still needs to be scary otherwise the franchise just becomes a comedy in a similar manner to Bride of Chucky but where it works well for Chucky, for Freddy it is just really disappointing and has a big impact on what could have a great film.

Bad Acting, boring characters and a non-scary Freddy definitely affects my ranking with this one but it had some great kills and some really good effects, this is actually a fan favourite and is the highest grossing movie in the Elm Street Franchise so maybe its just me but I’m not too keen on this one.

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

Probably the most controversial movie in the original series this second film sees Freddy leaving the Dream World and possessing High Schooler Jesse Walsh and killing victims in the real world instead.

So with this having much less Dreaming than the others films the kills here are pretty lame and in a sense a lot less scary, I couldn’t take Freddy seriously in this especially during the pool party scene where he massacres plenty of victims twice his size.

One great kill though is definitely the gym teacher, they did still let Freddy keep his dream like powers so he can use telekinesis to control inanimate objects, he uses this to his full potential during this kill and its very memorable with a lot of balls flying everywhere and towel whipping.

The film is known to be a homage to gay culture and I’m all for this with the gay body language and mannerisms of the protagonist and plenty of other homoerotic hints and directorial choices, its great to see something celebrate this at a time when it wasn’t fully accepted in society.

The cast are pretty great in this from Male Scream Queen Jesse and his perfect chemistry with on screen girlfriend Lisa and no one is really that annoying in this one, the first movie Nancy was way too whiny but this was an issue clearly picked up before casting was made here.

The effects are really good considering how quickly they had to make this movie, two in particular stand out being the bird puppet that attacks the Walsh family in a homage to Alfred Hitchcocks the Birds and Freddy bursting out of Jesse’s Skin is just fantastic although the cheap rubber skin costume he leaves behind always gives me a chuckle.

Nightmare 2 is really not a bad a movie at all its a lot of fun but its really hard to look past this being anything more than a standard slasher film without the full creativity of the Dream Kills, not being in the real world is what made Freddy stand out among his competition and its just a shame they lost that vision a little bit here.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Dream Child was the least successful film in the franchise resulting in only one final movie being made in the original Freddy Series after this one. The film was a critical and financial failure but over the years has garnered a bit more love from fans.

In the film a now pregnant Alice from Nightmare 4 has just graduated from High School and is looking forward to her future with her boyfriend Dan. Unfortunately Krueger has taken over the dreams of her unborn child and Alice’s last remaining friends hoping to be reborn into the real world.

The casting performances here are so much better that in the fourth movie although that isn’t exactly a hard sell. Here the actors portrayals are again nothing too special or particularly memorable but a little more effort and love was put in by the actors and actresses giving us a little more fun and a realism which made the movie more entertaining and easier to watch.

I really like that this film had a higher focus on Amanda Kruger (Freddy’s Mother) and made her an important ally to his defeat this time around.

This was an extension to a back story we had seen in Nightmare 3 and gave us some more insight on why Freddy was so evil.

While this film only has a small handful of death scenes they are all excellent and have some pretty good effects, all of them push the dream limits to the max and are extremely memorable, my favourite involved Freddy quite literally forcing someone to eat themselves to death in a scene which was pretty gross but had all of the Freddy Comedy, creativity and horror that this franchise offers.

The Dream sequences also have some really good sets, by far the best and most creative sequence was the Comic Book, here we get a black and white set with some really cheesy costumes and one liners similar to Superhero comic books of another time, the Kill here is also really creative and one of Freddy’s best.

My only real complaints with this movie is the very low body count and some of the inconsistencies with the lore such as baby Freddy being born disfigured when we all know that he was burned alive by the original Elm Street parents hence why his face is burned and scarred (I know this is a dream but its never questioned not even by his mother Amanda)

I don’t understand why this film gets so much hate because I really don’t think its that bad, at this point the franchise was definitely hanging on by a thread from a story perspective and you could tell the studio was running out of ideas, but this is still a good watch for entertainment and you wont be bored by the casting or the kills, this film had some of Freddy’s most memorable moments but was far from being the franchises peak.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The one that started it all and what a great start to this franchise, the movie actually opens with a brief shot of Freddy building his knife glove before he was killed by the Elm street parents a fiery death which is explained to the main character Nancy later on in the film.

With this being the first movie in the franchise the plot is fairly bare bones, Freddy is hunting down the children of the parents who murdered him as revenge, the main characters in this movie are Nancy, Glen, Tina and Rod

The performances are not too memorable especially from the main characters, Nancy played by Heather Langenkamp is really quite annoying and whiny in her portrayal, the other three do ok jobs but no one really stands out, this was Johnny Depp’s first role on screen and he hadn’t quite discovered his full acting talents at this point but with it being his first role it is definitely one of his most important.

Robert Englund plays Freddy and he’s just great in this, the first movie has a more serious Freddy with genuine disturbing imagery and scary moments. There are a lot of gross out moments with his humour in this with special effects involving bugs, maggots and plenty of green blood so it does have silly moments but nothing compared to how off the rails the franchise went later on down the line.

Freddy is creepy in this especially when you cant see him on screen, the dream sequences are all made to scare with none of them being out of wack.

The kills are all memorable but some of the most basic in the franchise compared to what would come next, Tina being dragged across the ceiling was always a great effect and of course Glen being dragged into his mattress with litres of blood being sprayed all across his bedroom is fairly iconic these days and remembered fondly by horror fans.

Nancy’s parents play a pretty important role in this movie trying to get Nancy help through sleep therapy’s and eventually with her father almost capturing Freddy near the end of the film.

Unfortunately I think both of these characters could have been written a little bit better, both are very stubborn and don’t believe Nancy when she tells them that Freddy Krueger is the killer, they don’t even believe her when she pulls his hat out of a dream in the clinic, a hat she never walked in with and that has his name written inside of it. Maybe they just didn’t want to believe in Freddy especially since they played such a big role in his original murder and are just scared to hear his name again? What do you guys think? this part of the movie has just always bugged me!

A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most iconic horror movies of all time, it started Johnny Depps career, he next when onto Edward Scissorhands which helped to Sky Rocket the actor to fame, this was the introduction to Freddy and the movie is now protected in the American Film Institute.

A great start for this franchise and one of the better Elm Street movies, I watch this every Halloween and will continue to do so but even though this is the one I choose to re-watch the most I wouldn’t say it’s my absolute favorite in the franchise.

Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1987)

And here we are at nightmare 3 a fan favourite of the series and honestly it is my favourite too.

The film follows new lead Kristen a teenage girl who has the ability to bring people into her dreams, this is the sister power to Nancy Thompson who was able to bring people and items from her dreams into the real world.

After a Freddy Nightmare that ends with a false suicide attempt she is sent to a psychiatric hospital for suicidal children. The New Psychiatrist is none other than Nancy Thompson who knows the truth of who haunts their dreams and wants to train them to find their Dream Powers and kick Freddy’s Ass!

I think this is a good point to say that this is where the franchise really began to find its feet and become less serious and more fun while still remaining generally creepy and unnerving, the franchise would later go off the rails but this for me was its sweet spot.

The Dreams in this one really start to get creative with how they were portrayed, in previous films the dreams would mostly take place in Elm Street but here we get to see punk inspired alleyways and a Hellscape inspired take on the classic boiler room set, Dreams that can add more creativity and have a lot more lee way allowing the franchise its creative freedoms.

Other creative choices such as stop motion, puppets and clay animation was used numerous times to help really expand Freddy’s capabilities, the snake was my favourite effect but Puppet Freddy was definitely another highlight.

The kills in this one are some of the most memorable and best in the franchise, “Welcome to Prime Time Bitch” a line improvised by Freddy actor Robert Englund before he smashes Jennifer’s head into the tv screen is easily Freddy’s best known one liner and of course the gruesome death of Philip who is quite literally controlled and forced to fall from an abandoned tower block.

A hilarious moment I have to mention is the wizard master, the costume is just so awful and cringe worthy, the line he says “In the name of Lowrek, Prince of Elves, demon, begone!” doesnt help but it is hilariously goofy and I love it

Some more Freddy Lore was added into this movie thanks to the ghost of his mother Amanda Krueger explaining to secondary protagonist Dr Neil Gordon that Freddy is the bastard child of 100 psychopaths after she was accidently locked in with inmates and got raped repeatably and left bearing a child.

We also find out that Freddy absorbs the powers of his victims as there souls become trapped within his flesh.

It is really hard to see this as nothing more than a perfect Freddy movie because of what it brings to franchise but takes it down a less serious route without completely losing those scares. I love the return of Nancy Thomson and her father and of course the outlandish sets, new lore, amazing lovable characters and just brilliant effects really help this one to not only be the best in the series but also the movie that I feel really made Freddy Krueger find his place as a horror icon.

I am ashamed to say that while this is my favourite horror franchise it got painful to get through near the end, Freddy is such an iconic character and will always be my favourite but compared to other franchises this one was the shortest for films and how long he remained relevant, which a shame because it never had to be that way but too many changes and a lack of direction very quickly killed off this horror icon.

My final opinion of the 6 Elm Street movies is that you should only really go out of your way to watch the original film and Dream Warriors, both of these films tell Nancy’s story and overall would have been great finale for Freddy before his franchise lost its way.

Wes Craven would later go onto make his New Nightmare, a great spin off film where he finally got to create the Freddy Character he originally envisioned and as dark as he originally intended

October 31st we will finally be talking about that one so please look forward to that!

In the meantime check out my official Friday the 13th Rankings and my official Child’s Play Rankings

Oh and BTW the official Freddy vs Jason crossover will be added into both the Elm Street List and the Friday the 13th List but in due time as I need to re-watch the entire Jason franchise to figure out exactly where it will fit in.
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