All of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, ranked worst to best

There are nine movies in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Just how do they rank? Here's our ranking from worst to best.
Photo: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.. Image Courtesy Shudder
Photo: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.. Image Courtesy Shudder /

Freddy Krueger is one of those villains who haunts our dreams. Fortunately, it’s not in the way he does in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. At least we don’t have to worry about not waking up after dying in our dreams.

Of course, once the first movie was made and became a success, there were more in the franchise. Some of them have been sequels that furthered the mystery behind who the burned-faced killer is, while others have been (unnecessary) reboots.

It’s time to delve into the franchise. Here is my ranking of the nine Nightmare on Elm Street movies from worst to best.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

I wanted the 2010 Nightmare on Elm Street reboot to be good as a fan of Katie Cassidy. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. This became an unnecessary movie that didn’t quite capture the same heart and fear as the original one.

It didn’t help that we didn’t have Robert Englund as the monster of dreams. Jackie Earle Harley tried, but he just wasn’t as good at capturing the nuances that made Freddy so terrifying even when he wasn’t killing.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

The 1994 movie Wes Craven’s New Nightmare brought us a story of Freddy Krueger again. This was after the initial six movies that was supposed to end the franchise. This one does offer something slightly different in that Freddy makes it out of the dream world and into the real one, but there are still some moments that make you wonder why it was needed.

This is one of those that you don’t need to watch for the main story of the franchise. In a way, that’s a good thing. It was able to bring new rules, but I’ve always thought Freddy was much scarier as a threat in the dreams because you didn’t know who he would go after next.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

The fourth movie in the franchise moved on from Nancy’s tale. In a way, that was a downside of the overall story. The trilogy focused on Nancy and her family worked well. However, we did pick up with characters we’d already come to know: Kristen, Ronald, and Joey from Dream Warriors. They’ve out of Westin Hills and ready to start life.

Only, Freddy doesn’t want them to enjoy life and they’re killed off a little too soon. Freddy started to become a bit of a joke in this fourth movie. It’s hard to keep the fear going when the graphics aren’t all that believable.

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

As the franchise went on, the movies started to become parodies of themselves. Freddy was no longer the big scary villain that he should have been. However, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare did help to further Freddy’s backstory to bring it all to a believable conclusion.

We get to meet Freddy’s long-lost daughter, Lisa Zane. She knows all about her father, and she wants to kill him once and for all. There’s even a cameo from Johnny Depp, who was in the original movie. It’s just a shame that the franchise found other ways to keep going instead of letting it die with this goofy masterpiece.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: Dream Child

Movie no. 5 in the franchise follows the protagonists from the fourth movie, Alice and Dan. They’re supposed to be safe, but we know from the first four movies that that is never the case. This one takes things a little too far with Freddy getting into the dreams of Alice’s unborn son.

There are some gory moments in this, though, showing how the world of horror started to grow. It does open the door for so many more gory and twisty horror movies, which is why it deserves to sit above The Final Nightmare and The Dream Master.

Freddy vs. Jason

I admit that I actually enjoyed the campiness of Freddy vs. Jason. I didn’t expect much from it as there were so many expectations putting these two horror movie powerhouses together, but it was a fun ride. One thing I adored was for Jason to realize that he wasn’t the all powerful when Freddy was in his dreams.

I did love Jason throwing a bit of a temper tantrum as Freddy tried to control him. Watching Jason go out and kill Freddy’s intended victims just so he got to them first made me chuckle. Jason was a child when he died even if he is an adult doing the killings, so it tracks.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

Out of the first three movies, the second one is the worst. It’s still better than the rest of the franchise. With the success of the first movie, it also wasn’t surprising that this sequel was created. The problem is that it’s clear Wes Craven didn’t return to direct, and that leads to a break in what made the first movie so great.

It is nice to see a guy be the lead, though, helping to break away from the “final girl” trope. There are some cringy scenes, but I think that’s expected from a 1980s horror movie, especially looking at them with a 21st view on the world. Overall, the costumes and production design are great, and it makes for a great follow-on from the original movie.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

I adore the third movie. It felt connected to the first one, and not just via Nancy. We got to learn way more about Freddy and his backstory, and we got to see how Nancy was dealing with the trauma she faced as a teen. Rather than give into the trauma, she wanted to help others.

Of course, Freddy wanted revenge. This brought extra tension as we wondered whether Nancy would make it out alive again, and whether she’s be able to save the teens who were too afraid to fall asleep but considered crazy for their reasons why.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

It seems fitting that this list ends with the movie that kicked off the franchise. After all, if it wasn’t for the success of this movie, Freddy wouldn’t have become the horror movie favorite that he is today. He’s the reason some of us fear going to sleep at times!

There are some creepy images that will make you rethinking children skipping and some graphics that certainly pushed the boundaries for the time. This is just one of those movies you can throw on again and you’ll notice something new in the cinematography and performances each time.

Next. 5 biggest mistakes of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. 5 biggest mistakes of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. dark