With Halloween right around the corner, horror movies have taken over our lives here at Screen Rant. We’ve busted out our favorite horror film box sets and marathoned movie after gory horror movie until we got sick. Perhaps the most iconic of all of these flicks are the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, starring Robert Englund (or Jackie Earl Haley in one case) as the iconic sweater-wearing slasher, Freddy Krueger. While the entire series as a whole is all in good fun, the quality of the individual Nightmare entries varies from terrifying to laugh-out-loud funny.
In all honesty, it’s mostly because of how each film handles Freddy himself. At first he was pure evil with a hint of villainous snarkiness. As the series progressed, he got more and more jokey and less and less scary. This is probably a large reason that the series has been in stagnation since 2011, when the reboot flopped and Freddy received a poor reception as a DLC character in Mortal Kombat. Alas, we still love the franchise. In particular, we still love Freddy! The character has made countless appearances across different media throughout the years. Some were great, some were bad, and some were straight up bizarre.
Here is Every Freddy Krueger Appearance, Ranked from Worst to Best!
16 Honorable Mention - Scary Terry (Rick and Morty)
Okay, okay, we know this isn’t Freddy. Scary Terry is, as Rick points out, a “legally safe knockoff of an ‘80s horror character with miniature swords for fingers instead of knives.” But we can’t leave the extremely popular one-shot Rick and Morty character off of the list completely!
This slasher appears in the second episode of the show’s first season, The Lawnmower Dog. As the titular characters travel through layer after layer of the dream world (a la Inception) they encounter Scary Terry, a dream-hopping slasher who wears a fedora and striped sweater and has a knack for saying “bitch” at the end of every sentence. Although he appears terrifying at first, Rick and Morty discover that he’s really just an average family man who is completely insecure about his scariness. This is one of the greatest Freddy Krueger parodies ever made, and deserves to at least get an honorable mention on our list of appearances.
15 A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES Game)
Ah, the golden age of Nintendo... back when video games were much simpler, with horrible yet charming 8-bit graphics, little to no storylines, and platforming galore. Back then everyone wanted to capitalize on the new video game craze. This led to some strange sponsored tie-ins, like the Yo! Noid video game from Dominos or the Cool Spot game made by 7-Up. Even violent R-rated films got in on the action, with both Friday the 13th and Predator receiving NES adaptations.
Coming in dead last on our list is the 8-bit Freddy Krueger seen in the NES adaptation of A Nightmare on Elm Street. For starters, he’s been neutered beyond belief. Gone is the Freddy who rips off his own face and eviscerates teenagers. Instead, we get a Freddy who turns into a giant hand or head on a ball and can only walk back and forth across the screen. He’s also the only interpretation of the character to get his butt kicked by a dude wearing spandex.
14 Jason Goes to Hell
This one makes the grade for pure hype levels alone. Yes, Freddy is only in Jason Goes to Hell for about two seconds. But they were two seconds of pure awesomeness! The idea of a slasher movie crossover was something that most ‘80s and ‘90s moviegoers could only dream about. Those kids who secretly watched horror movies when their parents were asleep would debate on the playground about who would win a fight. Could Jason take on Michael Myers? Freddy would definitely beat Pinhead in a one-on-one fight. Leatherface would make quick work out of Chucky.
So with the ending of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, it seemed like one of these age-old questions would be answered. After Jason Voorhees is killed by some extremely lucky teenagers, his body is dragged down to hell by what are assumed to be demons. At the very end of the film, a dog digs up Jason’s iconic hockey mask. As the camera zooms in, the gloved hand of Freddy bursts through the ground. His sinister laughter is heard as he drags the mask down into the fiery depths. Although it would take ten years for Freddy vs. Jason to come to fruition, the ending of Jason Goes to Hell gave fans enough hype to last for decades.
13 Mortal Kombat 9
The inclusion of different horror characters in the last two Mortal Kombat games is a cool idea that gamers everywhere were excited about. In the newest installment, Mortal Kombat X, players can don the Jason Voorhees's hockey mask, Leatherface's chainsaw, the Predator's alien tefch, or the exoskeleton of Alien’s Xenomorph. It’s just as fun as it sounds! However, the idea got off to a rocky start in Mortal Kombat 9 with the inclusion of Freddy.
To start off, this wasn’t the same Freddy we all knew and loved. Most likely in an effort to avoid paying for Robert Englund’s likeness, the game designers based his look on the 2010 remake. That was their first big mistake; Englund’s version of Freddy is the one that has been around for over three decades and is synonymous with the character. To make matters worse, Freddy wasn’t that great a character to play as. His fighting style and moves were decent, but he had some of the tamest and lamest fatalities in the entire game. Seriously, this was a game with people getting ripped in half and having the flesh burned off of their skin while they hung by their neck… why did Freddy just drag people down into a burning pit or toss them in a furnace?! Toss in a highly implausible story, and MK9’s Freddy is at the bottom end of the totem pole.
12 Freddy's Nightmares: Season 2
“Drugs. Now THERE’S a real nightmare!”
The short-lived yet cult classic TV spin-off Freddy’s Nightmares was an anthology horror series that was produced at the height of the franchise’s popularity. Every week, it would follow a pair of different stories that took place in Springwood, Ohio (the location of the original film). Freddy Krueger himself acted as the host of the show, making sarcastic comments and jokes in between each segment and doing the intro and ending of the episode.
Sometimes, Freddy would be the star of one of the segments or make a guest cameo. Much like the first season, season two of Freddy’s Nightmares had some great episodes. However, the ones that focused on Freddy this time around just felt a little off. The character was really hammy, but not in the enduring way that he was in the later Elm Street films. At points, Freddy came off as straight-up cringe worthy. Not to mention that the stories didn’t even feel right; one of the episodes involved him haunting a girl simply because she had stood him up at the high school prom years ago. Yep.
11 Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
“Now I’m playin’ with power!”
Ugh, now we’re on to arguably the worst film in the entire franchise. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (spoiler, it wasn’t!) was the sixth film in the series and meant to serve as an end to the story. After a Springwood boy escapes the city limits, he is taken in by something of a foster home for troubled youth. He eventually joins an escape party, who break out of the home and take residence within an abandoned house. Freddy transforms the house into his old Elm Street home and begins to terrorize the children.
Where do we begin with this one? This movie was the one that many point to when asked where Freddy went from “scary” to “laughable.” There is an entire scene devoted to one of the teens getting trapped in a video game, where Freddy uses a controller to manipulate him on the screen. There is also a scene in which Freddy dresses up like the Wicked Witch of the West. At the end of the film, the main character uses a pair of 3-D glasses to enter Freddy’s mind. We also are introduced to Freddy’s daughter, who kisses him on the cheek and says “happy Father’s Day” before blowing him up with a pipe bomb. We swear we aren’t making this up!
10 A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
"Tell 'em Freddy sent ya."
The fourth installment in the franchise picks up not long after the third movie left off. A few of the minor characters from the last film take center stage in The Dream Master. After Freddy is inadvertently resurrected by a dog (yes, we’re serious), he goes on a killing spree, murdering two of the “Dream Warriors” before setting his sights on a young girl named Alice.
As each of her friends are killed off, Alice starts to gain elements of their personality; she gets her boyfriend’s martial arts skills, the strength from one of the Dream Warriors, etc. You can see where this is going. In the final act of the film, Alice engages Freddy in hand-to-hand combat. The climax is Alice kung-fu flipping through a church kicking the snot out of Freddy Krueger. He is then finally defeated when Alice shows him his own reflection in a mirror, causing the souls trapped within his body to revolt.
9 9. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
“Kill for me!”
Set five years after the first movie, Freddy’s Revenge follows a young boy named Jesse, whose family has moved into the famous Elm Street house. Naturally, weird occurrences begin to happen, including the spontaneous combustion of Jesse’s pet bird. Eventually, Freddy Krueger appears and informs the boy that he kill on Freddy's behalf.
This entry is so far down the list simply because the Freddy shown in Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is so weak. He has to physically possess Jesse in order to have any influence on or interaction with the real world, unlike in the rest of the movies, where he can jump through people’s dreams and kill them at will. Also, Freddy is defeated in this one by the ol’ “power of love” trope; a kiss from Jesse’s girlfriend is what finally lessens Krueger’s influence on the boy enough for him to be killed. Not to mention, this is the movie that has the really weird, BDSM-undertone murder of Jesse’s gym teacher in the shower. We’re not even gonna go there…
8 8. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child continues to follow Alice and her boyfriend Dan. After Alice has some nightmarish premonitions, Freddy returns in full force, killing Dan and all of her friends as a means of torment for the heroine. After the gruesome death of her boyfriend, Alice discovers that she is pregnant with his child. To make matters worse, Freddy is feeding her fetus evil souls in an effort to resurrect himself in the real world.
Although the Freddy seen in The Dream Child is definitely on the more laughable side, he still has a hint of sadism and menace that isn’t present in later films. Seriously, using Alice’s baby as a means to resurrect himself after killing the father? He also forces a girl to eat herself alive and kills Dan by stabbing fuel hoses into his face and injecting him with gasoline. All jokiness aside, this version of Freddy is pretty messed up.
7 Freddy's Nightmares: Season 1
As mentioned earlier, Freddy’s Nightmares was somewhat of a hit-or-miss show. While the second season wasn’t very good, the first season (in particular, the pilot) more than makes up for the horrible episodes. The horror anthology series seemed like it was going to be a hit when the first few episodes aired; at their best, the Freddy-centric stories added to the lore and at worst, they were fun one-shots.
The pilot, entitled “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, is the never-before-explored story of Freddy Krueger’s trial. After going on a killing spree, Krueger is caught by the police and is set to answer for his crimes. However, the cop never read him his Miranda Rights; the judge declares a mistrial and Freddy is set free. Of course, we all know what happens next…
The pilot was directed by Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame. Later on in the season Freddy torments the twin daughters of the cop who had him arrested. He then makes an appearance in the season finale, where he haunts a goth girl who claims that she is in love with him.
In the pilot, Freddy is just a normal man who has done horrible things. In a way, this adds an extra layer of creepiness to the character, as we get to see that it wasn’t the demons who turned him evil, but rather that Krueger has been a vile and horrifying person his entire life.
6 Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash
"[As he gets impaled by Jason’s machete] Oops. No pain, no gain!"
For years after Freddy vs. Jason, the idea was kicked around that a sequel would have the titular characters facing off against Ash Williams, of Evil Dead fame. Although a movie version never came to be for various reasons, the story that fans begged for years finally came to fruition in 2007 when Wildstorm and Dynamite Comics published Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash. The plot involves Freddy Krueger trying to steal the Necronomicon in order to gain power in the real world. Meanwhile, Jason Voorhees tries to get revenge for their previous encounter, and Ash Williams is transferred to the Crystal Lake S-Mart.
The three parties eventually cross paths, and all hell breaks loose. In this story, Freddy is back to the insidious and evil ways of his original appearance. He uses the Necronomicon to grant Jason ultra-intelligence to help him do his bidding. Not long after, he uses the book to resurrect every single Friday the 13th victim as Deadites to kill the hockey-masked slasher. Although Ash is victorious in the end, Freddy is at his most powerful and sinister in this short-lived miniseries.
5 A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
After the mixed reaction generated by Freddy’s Revenge, the studio decided to bring back Nancy Thompson (the series’ original star) and make it a direct continuation of the first movie. Nancy, now a therapist, takes the case of a girl who is seeing Freddy in her dreams. She eventually learns that the killer is hunting down the remaining children of the people who burned him alive back when he was human. Eventually the “Dream Warriors” learn to control their dream forms, granting them special powers that they use to fight Freddy.
Dream Warriors was the movie that started Krueger down the slippery slope of horror comedy. In the previous two films Freddy’s humor was more sadistic and horrifying; although he was gleeful as he killed people, the audience wasn’t supposed to be laughing with him. Starting here, he became more and more of a comedian; who doesn’t laugh when he kills a girl by slamming her head through a TV and saying “Welcome to prime time, bitch”? Although Freddy is funnier in Dream Warriors, he still errs more on the side of killer than comedian.
4 A Nightmare on Elm Street (Remake)
"Did you know that after the heart stops beating, the brain can function for well over seven minutes? We got six more minutes to play."
After a 9-year hiatus, New Line Cinema decided that it was time to reboot the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Instead of the funny and lighthearted Freddy Krueger we’d gotten since Dream Warriors, the new take on the character was going to go back to basics; played by Jackie Earl Haley, the character was going to be creepy, threatening, and downright evil. Upon release, however, the film flopped and any planned sequels were scrapped. Although people praised Haley for the role of Freddy, the rehashed plot felt empty this time around and some of the actors were downright bad.
As a die-hard Nightmare fan, the only saving grace of the 2010 remake was Freddy Krueger himself. He was legitimately terrifying! The more realistic look was met with some backlash and the whole mystery of “did he really do it?” was dumb, but Jackie Earl Haley put in a performance on par with Robert Englund’s. In some ways we’d argue he was better; the original Freddy was scary, but the one in the remake legitimately freaked us out. The creepy tone and more subdued glee in his voice made our skin crawl in all the right ways. Say what you will about the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, but don’t say anything bad about its Freddy!
3 3. Wes Craven's New Nightmare
"FREDDY'S COMIN' FOR YOU."
Now we’re delving into “meta” territory. Before you say anything, we know that the villain in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare isn’t technically Freddy. Rather, it is a demonic entity that is attracted to the Elm Street films and takes on the appearance and characteristics of the franchise’s slasher. In this movie we find out that Nightmare on Elm Street is just popular film series. Heather Langenkamp, who starred as Nancy in the franchise, begins to have weird nightmares with Freddy Krueger. Eventually this Freddy-impersonating spectre makes its way into the real world, where she must stop it before it kills her and her family. Both Wes Craven and Robert Englund make cameos as themselves.
The movie is directed by Wes Craven himself, and he was on record saying that he wanted to take Freddy back to the way he used to be, before he became a never-ending jokes machine. Boy, did he deliver. The Freddy in New Nightmare is not lighthearted in any way, shape, or form. He chases down his victims with an animalistic look in his eyes. He doesn’t try to get creative or be funny with his kills. Even his redesigned look makes him seem more terrifying. This new, no-nonsense Freddy takes the #3 spot on our list because he was an amazing return to a form that we hadn’t seen in almost a decade.
2 2. Freddy vs. Jason
After an 8-year-long wait, horror fans everywhere finally got to see two legends face off in 2001’s Freddy vs. Jason. The movie is extremely divisive. Some fans saw it as an amazingly fun horror gore-fest that brought their dreams to life right before their eyes. Others couldn’t look past the terrible dialogue and over-the-top fight scenes.
The story goes something like this: Freddy Krueger has been forgotten in Springwood, Ohio. He has become a sort of urban legend, with nobody even being able to recall his name. This makes Freddy extremely weak, as he feeds on fear. In order to bring himself back into the limelight, he reawakens Jason Voorhees and manipulates him into going on a killing spree. This makes people think Freddy is back, and in turn returns him to full power. He then tries to dispatch Jason, but the serial killer proves to be a little more than Freddy had bargained for…
“Now, hold on,” you might be saying, “didn't the last two entries on this list praise how dark and evil Freddy was? Why is this version ranked so higly?” Well, here’s the thing: the version of Freddy present in this crossover film is #2 on the list because he represents the perfect balance of both “scary Freddy” and “comedic Freddy.” In this movie he could have you busting a gut laughing one moment and then have you hiding behind your hands in fear the next. Freddy vs. Jason’s Krueger walked a fine line, but he walked it perfectly.
1 1. A Nightmare on Elm Street
"I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy."
We all knew this was going to be #1. The original Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. It spawned countless sequels and spin-offs while also introducing us to arguably the greatest slasher villain ever created. The film follows the exploits of Nancy Thompson and her friends as they are all terrorized by Freddy Krueger, a serial child killer who was set free after a mistrial. The parents of Springwood hunted Krueger down and set his house ablaze, letting him burn to death for the crimes he committed. As a spirit, Freddy returns for revenge against his killers’ children. He hops through their dreams and gruesomely kills them while they sleep.
The original Freddy will always be the best. Unlike most slasher villains, Freddy wasn’t just some big, lumbering death machine like Leatherface or Michael Myers. He was scrawny, scrappy, mystical, and had a huge personality to boot. He took pleasure in every single murder he committed, while being threatening and scary at the same time. Robert Englund’s portrayal of the character is the stuff of legends; what other horror actor has become so synonymous with the character they played? The first Nightmare on Elm Street is an incredible piece of horror cinema that still holds up well to this day.
So, what do you think? Did we get every appearance of Freddy Krueger? Agree? Disagree? Leave us a comment to let us know!