Ranking the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series


Did you guys hear the news? A Nightmare On Elm Street is being remade again! What's that? You're not excited about it? Yeah, it didn't work out so well the last time they tried it. Sure, the lack of Robert Englund makes a Nightmare film less appealing but there are some choices out there that could do the role justice (just look at Lilith Sinclair's article for more on that). As terrible as it may end up being, we can always take solace in knowing that the old films aren't going anywhere.

With that thought, what better way to look back on the series that inspired countless nightmares than to rank the Elm Street series.

Let's begin...

Dishonorable Mention:

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

This is not a film in the franchise. I'm sorry but it is not and will not be included on this list. Platinum Dunes created one of the worst horror remakes of all time with this abomination and there is no reason to include it. Sure, Jackie Earle Haley does an okay job as Krueger, but Freddy is overexposed and laughable. And don't even get me started on all of the ridiculous nods to the original that somehow look worse 26 years later.

Future Academy Award nominated actress Rooney Mara churns out one of the most bland and uninspired performances I've ever seen, and she was playing Nancy. You know, Nancy Thompson, a character who is famous for her strength and bravery is reduced to a monotone, blithering mess. It's hard to watch the film and see the Elm Street brand on it but see none of the charm of any of the other films. It was directed by a Music Video director and it felt like it was directed by a music video director. Bad. Just bad.

I'm also not including Freddy vs. Jason since it's less an Elm Street movie and more a horror fan's wet orgasm [Editor's Note: can confirm]. Don't get me wrong though, that movie kicks all sorts of ass.

7. Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

There are a lot of people that hate this film. I am not one of them. Sure, when you compare it to the rest of the series, it sticks out like a sore thumb. But when you compare it to a Looney Tunes cartoon? That's when the enjoyment comes full fledged. Freddy flies on a broom like the Wicked Witch of the West and pushes spikes onto a road to stop a bus. He is a cartoon character and once you accept that, it's a pretty fun time.

With that said, it's still pretty horrible. The director has stated that she was heavily influenced by Twin Peaks and now that I've dived into that series, I can certainly see the similarities. The problem is that there needs to be a contrast between the nightmare world and the real world. In this movie, they're pretty much one in the same, being just as wacky during the real world segments as the dream sequences. This takes an element of terror out of the movie, and leaves the film as mostly just an over-the-top live-action cartoon.

And did you really think I would talk about Freddy's Dead and not mention the Nintendo Power Glove? To this day I can't believe that it even happens and with Breckin Meyer as the victim no less! Even funnier, I recently found out that they didn't even get Nintendo's permission to use it and just used it anyway and hoped they wouldn't get sued. They really just gave no fucks when this series was "wrapping up."

Fun Fact: Peter Jackson wrote an unused draft for this movie where Freddy is so weak and pathetic that kids dream just so they can go and pick on him and make fun of him. Can you imagine if we got that instead?

6. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)

It's not hard to see why this film is the "gay Elm Street." From extended dancing scenes with simulated masturbation, to S&M with the gym teacher, to Jesse climbing into his best friend's window in the middle of the night rather than hooking up with his super hot girlfriend, it's closer to a softcore gay porno than a Freddy movie. Does that make it terrible? Not exactly, but given that it's a Nightmare film, I'd say expectations were in a different direction.

I get that they were trying to do something different and make Freddy more of a physical threat but what they didn't realize is that Freddy has an advantage that no other has. Why would you take that away and just make him like anyone else? Plus, has it ever been explained why Freddy actually has some of his powers at the pool party? Usually when Freddy's brought into the world, he's just a man. Yet here, they just do whatever works for the moment.

The makeup on Freddy is dark and interesting and really one of the only highlights in what is an otherwise boring film. Jesse is pretty much written as a girly girl, even though he's a guy, and he never really has that moment of overcoming Freddy. Lisa is really the one that saves the day after Jesse succumbed to Freddy and allowed himself to be taken over. So who's really the hero(ine) of the film?

Fun fact: Kim Myers got the role of Lisa due to her uncanny resemblance to Meryl Streep. Seriously. That's what a producer said.

5. A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

The history of film has not been kind when babies get involved. Next to space, I'm not sure there's any gimmick more ridiculous. But you know what? It actually kind of works in Dream Child. Writers are always trying to add different layers to Freddy's terror and what better way than for him to attack our heroine through her unborn baby, who is in a constant dream state.

As much as I love Nancy, I think Alice may be my favorite lead in the series. This movie really proves just how strong Alice is as she becomes a single mom without ever giving birth and going on a journey fraught with life's big questions. The implications of how she was raised and what she had to overcome just makes her that much easier to root for. But it's the strength in the performance that shines through and puts her above the rest. So even when the movie takes its wrong turns, it still has Alice.

This film's production is the most rushed of the series, but you wouldn't be able to tell it from the impressive set pieces. While the film was butchered by the MPAA, there's still plenty of gags that leave a lasting effect. I always get a kick out of the motorcycle kill given just how much Dan goes through in his death scene. It's so grotesque and over-the-top, it works.

Fun Fact: The movie was shot and edited in just eight weeks.

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

There was no finished screenplay during filming. They often would just build set pieces and come up with scenes for them. Surprising, given how unique and layered many fans consider this film. It goes to show that if you have an understanding of the characters and where you want them to go, that can go a long way.

[Editor's note: I was not aware of this bit of trivia; I gotta say that it makes the movie even more commendable; it's actually my favorite Nightmare movie]

I'd say the biggest mistake the film makes, and one I have trouble with to this day, is how it treats the returning characters from Dream Warriors. Joey, Kincaid, and Kristen are relegated to bit roles where they're simply killed off to make room for lesser characters. They either should have left them out entirely, or given them more to do. It just feels like a slap in the face to everything that happened to them in Dream Warriors.

When Alice and Dan are put in a loop by Freddy in order to distract them, we are shown yet another way Freddy can do whatever he wants in the dream world. Time manipulation is something that worked out so well in this film.

Fun Fact: Patricia Arquette didn't reprise her role as Kristen due to the producer's not paying her what she thought she was worth. The franchise has a history with letting cast/crew go if they cost too much money.

3. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1987)

Truthfully, this movie could have probably made it this far on the list just for giving us the line "Welcome to prime time, Bitch!" That line opened the world of Freddy up, for better and for worse, and is really the turning moment in Freddy becoming more of a jokester than he was previous. Still, he doesn't overdo it here as he does in the later films, so he's still able to have some terror to him at the right times.

This is the movie where Freddy's Dream World was starting to be established outside of just the boiler room. The foundation set here was followed for the rest of the franchise and is what gives Elm Street its unique visual template. This is really what separated the series from other slashers like Halloween and Friday the 13th.

The cast here is stellar with even the side characters showing more layers than most of the other films. This means that they can get away with a high volume of kills (an essential) but also have you feeling for the victims. And boy oh boy those kills. The marionette killing of Phillip is one of the series' most brutal moments and one that makes it really tough not to squirm, even to this day.

Fun Fact: Ken Sagoes (Kincaid) won his role when he cursed out director Chuck Russell, after a lengthy wait during the audition.

2. Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

A completely meta version of A Nightmare On Elm Street where all the movies are movies and Freddy is an ancient demon? Sounds material that could have put it at the other end of the list but it breaks through and provides for the most unique Elm Street since the original. Which makes sense, given that it's Craven's return to the series.

I recall watching this on Starz during my middle school days and couldn't believe how terrifying it was. The prank phone calls to Nancy's house, Dylan crossing the highway, Robert's paintings. Preys on more than just fantastical fears. And when Freddy shows up, watch out. His appearance at the funeral and in the closet are two of the biggest jump scares I've ever experienced. They have such an intense lead up that when he finally shows his face, it's terror incarnate.

Changing up Freddy's look was a risky move given how iconic he had become, but who better to bring out a new iteration than the creator, Wes Craven. Freddy's skin is more split, revealing the muscle underneath versus being burned all over. It still provides the same look, but makes it just different enough that he appears demonic. Add to that the claws (five, not four) that have an organic quality to them and you've got an ancient hellion that is not to be messed with.

Honestly, I'd say the only problem the movie has is that it feels like a TV movie throughout. This happened to a lot of films in the 90's and unfortunately New Nightmare fell victim. One can see it as simply making the film more meta but it can be distracting to those who notice.

Fun Fact: Originally Wes Craven's character in the film was going to cut off his eyelids, and live in a van like a crazy person, trying to escape the real Freddy.

1. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

It's really just impossible to beat the original when it comes to quality. 31 years after its release and it still sends shivers down my spine. The film is an involving journey through Nancy's worst nightmare. She is put through hell and is ultimately the strongest character, not just in the franchise, but in the entire horror genre. What makes her so great is the fact that when everyone else is running, she's facing her fears. She goes after Freddy and tries to stop him, not just trying to get away from him. That was never even an option. She was the perfect heroine.

Not only is this my favorite in the series, this could possibly be my favorite horror film of all time. It has had such a profound impact on me that I know I wouldn't be the person I am today had I not been privy to it at such a young age. I was impressionable and this movie made me fall in love with the horror genre in a lasting way.

It has its cheesy moments, but most of those translate into some creepy moments rather than just being laughable. Freddy's extended arms coupled with that goosebump-inducing laugh is a frightening sight to behold. Just look at the remake if you want to see the same ideas but with bad execution. It's only five years old and it's already dated worse than this 31-year-old masterpiece.

Fun Fact: Producer Bob Shaye and Director Wes Craven were at odds during filming. As a form of peacekeeping, Wes Craven allowed Shaye to direct a scene envision where Nancy ran up stairs and her feet sunk into them -- a recurring nightmare for Shaye. Craven admittedly says the effect is cheesy.
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About zombievictim

I'd like my writing to further represent me as a person by providing different insights into the things currently on my mind. Whether it's writing about a movie, TV show, album, book, wrestling event, experience, or life lesson. I don't plan on making this a personal blog where I treat it like a diary. This is just supposed to represent… Me.
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