Movies & TV / Columns

Ranking The Nightmare On Elm Street Franchise

October 31, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Freddy Krueger - A Nightmare on Elm Street Image Credit: New Line

Happy Halloween!

It’s wild that it took me so long to get here, but Nightmare On Elm Street is not like Halloween or Friday the 13th as far as rewatching over the course of my life. There are several Nightmare movies I have only ever seen twice… and the second watch was just within the last year!

For whatever reason, I have never held this franchise in as high of regard as the other two! Your mileage may vary, of course, but for me? Michael and Jason rule the roost; Freddy just isn’t quite the cock of the walk like they are.

That said, let’s get into ranking the franchise!

9. Nightmare On Elm St Part 5

Oh, The Dream Child. The first two entries on this list have something very particular in common: they could not figure out the line between “Scary Freddy” and “Goofy Freddy” as well as some other movies. You’re working with A Krueger here who is trying to pose a threat, but at the same time, is playing off as Super Freddy and delivering one-liners. It just doesn’t work.

No interesting kills. No particularly stand-out moments. Acting that is amateurish even on this franchise’s level. And a resolution that sees Freddy getting defeated by… being un-born, back into his mother? What?

This one sucks.

8. Nightmare On Elm St Part 4

Hey, it’s the Sunglasses Freddy meme movie! More TERRIBLE acting as Patricia Arquette wisely tapped out after her one entry and was replaced by the almost-adequate Lisa Wilcox. The whole pizza scene, blech.

What lifts this above Part 5 are the return of the surviving Dream Warriors kids, the insanely creative and disturbing Roach Motel death scene, and the inventive and very dream-like time loop sequence.

Nothing else here is worth your time.

7. Nightmare On Elm St Part 2

Here we have the first substantial step up the franchise takes (still not to a “Good” rating or anything, but we are out of the basement of star levels, anyway). Freddy’s Revenge is one of those movies that was lowly regarded for decades, and then it got a cultural revisitation with documentaries with “Scream, Queen”.

For me, this is most notably the Nightmare that Will Smith sang about. But it’s also easily the best Freddy looks across the whole series. Nightmare 2 Freddy is disgusting and shadowy and truly sinister! Two movies from here, they had turned him into a rubber-faced Munster, but here? Terrifying.

The story just doesn’t fit with the rest of the franchise. The others tell a sequential story, but this one gets ignored basically immediately by Part 3 because the idea of Real World Freddy trying to possess his victims doesn’t make sense with the story part one told.

Still! Way better than parts 4 or 5.

6. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

A lot of people will put this one last, and I get it; I do. But there’s one thing to me that pulls this up, and it’s what I mentioned earlier: The Goofy vs Scary scale.

While parts 4 and 5 couldn’t figure out who Freddy was, this one unabashedly went pure goofy, and there’s something to be said for that. Freddy is like a zany, murderous uncle here. Hell, he has a Looney Tunes skit where he pushes a bed of nails under a victim who is already falling from the sky.

This one isn’t for everyone. Hell, it isn’t even for me! But I do dig just a bit that it threw balance out the window and let Englund just have fun.

5. Nightmare On Elm St (2010)

A remake that had a very interesting concept to work with (“What if Freddy was innocent when the Springdale parents killed him?”) that blinks hard in the third act when faced with what to do if they follow through on it (“Nevermind! No he wasn’t after all!”), that ultimate reveal is what sinks this movie. If you don’t have the bravery to go through with it, why introduce it at all?

Taking that away, you’ve got a movie that goes through the original Nightmare On Elm Street beats, but tries to add a bit of its own flavor, as well. It has some aspects that work, but ultimately, it’s not different enough to justify its own existence. And the cowardly ending stinks.

4. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

With this second jump, a much bigger quality leap than the last one, we are out of the Below Average territory and into Very Good. You could reorder those first few movies listed here, but to me, it’s inarguable that those are the Bad Five, and starting with New Nightmare, we are onto the Good Four.

New Nightmare is Craven’s proto-Scream. It’s a horror movie about horror movies. Not in that it deals with tropes or stereotypes about the genre, but in that the movie is about itself as a movie, with the actual Rob Shaye and Wes Craven playing themselves. Heather Langencamp, John Saxon, and Robert Englund all play themselves, as well, as they are tied up in Craven’s new vision.

If only Wes were a better actor and could have been in it more to explain his end of the plot better. But aside from that, you’ve still got something a lot more daring that any Nightmare since part 2.

3. Freddy Vs Jason

Look, what do you want? This movie promised Freddy fighting Jason, and it delivered in spades. It’s an entirely fun romp with the two characters hacking away at each other over the run time, and the story of how the two get together actually makes a sort of sense. Even if the geography is a bit wonky (it’s only a short drive from Elm Street to Camp Crystal Lake!).

This is clearly more of a Nightmare film than a Jason one, but that’s fine. Freddy is the antagonist while Jason gets kind of ordained as a reluctant protagonist by the third act (though he never stops killing kids, he’s also their only chance to down Freddy).

It’s a blast seeing the two worlds come together, and this was Avengers Infinity War for a generation of horror fans, man.

2. Nightmare On Elm St Part 3

I ALMOST did it. I almost put this at #1. But ultimately, I just couldn’t pull that trigger. That said, I have Dream Warriors and the original Nightmare scored very closely. Dream Warriors is just such a phenomenally fun concept that really adds to the mythos of what the dreams in the Freddy universe could be used to achieve.

We get Nancy back. We get kids finding out they could use their dreams almost as well as Freddy. And we get a Freddy that is horrifying… but with the personality that the next two entries wouldn’t be able to figure out what to do with.

It’s close to being the best! But it’s just a hair short.

1. Nightmare On Elm St (1984)

Yeah, I couldn’t deny this. A Nightmare On Elm Street is just too classic and too good to not put at #1 on this list. Where do you start?

The practical effects? Amazing and brilliant for their time. The idea behind it all? Revolutionary and a big change from other slashers and horror movies of the era. The acting? Well… that’s fine! It’s fine! It’s got highs and lows. The final girl? Top tier, as Nancy’s final confrontation with Freddy really props her up as ingenuitive and powerful; she is far more than a screaming, running victim.Oh, and the killer? The killer? He instantly became one of the most iconic ever.

For all those reasons and more, you just can’t beat the originator.

As always, that’s just my list. WHAT ARE YOUR RANKINGS? Let us know in the comments!

Until next time… take care!