How to Watch the Nightmare on Elm Street Movies in Chronological Order

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…

A whole generation of high schoolers found out the hard way that one dares not fall asleep in Springwood, Ohio unless they want to risk never waking.

Wes Craven’s 1984 supernatural slasher, A Nightmare on Elm Street, helped change the horror movie genre forever. It opened up the world of movie maniacs, using malicious imagination to portray a boogeyman who could kill you when you were at your most unaware and defenseless. Freddy Krueger, the “Springwood Slasher,” met his fiery end at the hands of vigilante justice, torched by parents who refused to see a child killer set free. From beyond the grave, however, in the realm of dreams, Krueger ushered in a new era of terror, killing off the teenage children of the men and women who took him down.

Krueger had an instantly iconic look, and arguably the best slasher weapon — the razor glove — in horror history. In the second half of the ’80s, Krueger became a pop-culture phenomenon with movies, TV shows, albums, endless merch, and even a 1-900 phone line. As the movies moved forward, Krueger became a quippy anti-hero of sorts, which is something that 2010’s remake tried to undo.

Speaking of that reboot, it’s crazy that we’re now going on 13 years of NO Freddy. As with 2009’s Friday the 13th reboot, the film didn’t light the spark for a new series of movies.

Anyhow, as we ponder whether or not the Freddy’s epic franchise will ever return, it’s the perfect time to check out all the movies. So head down into the boiler room and watch Freddy’s victims meet their violent ends in ways only Freddy himself could concoct as he transforms into a TV, a giant worm, a seductive nurse, a chef, a superhero, and the Wicked Witch of the West. There are no prequels here so the order of the films is fairly straight forward, though there’s some gentle separation here and there. So here’s the correct order for the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.

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How to watch in chronological orderHow to watch by release order

How Many Nightmare on Elm Street Movies Are There?

There are nine Nightmare on Elm Street/Freddy movies in all. That’s the six main films (with Nightmare 2 perhaps being a timeline outlier), Wes Craven’s meta New Nightmare in ’94, the Freddy/Jason monster mash from 2003, and then the Elm Street reboot in 2010, which was the first Elm Street flick to feature a different actor as Freddy.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Movies in (Chronological) Order

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Where to Watch: Buyable or rentable on most platforms.

Though future Nightmare on Elm Street films would dig into Freddy’s backstory with flashbacks, the franchise having no true prequel movie means it all starts here: with Wes Craven’s original masterpiece, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Watch Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy Thompson, a “final girl” capable of kicking Freddy’s ass a whole bunch (which would be a Craven tradition continued in the Scream movies), go toe-to-toe with a magical murderer thought to be long dead. Watching her friends (including Johnny Depp) get bumped off one by one while they sleep, through their actual dreams, an over-caffeinated Nancy decides enough is enough and sets a trap for the scarred, sweatered Freddy Krueger. For most fans, nothing tops the original.

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

Where to Watch: Buyable or rentable on most platforms.

A year later, Elm Street headliner Robert Englund returned to play Freddy once more in the story of a new family moving into the Thompson’s house and their teen son, Jesse, becoming possessed by Freddy through his dreams, using Jesse’s body itself as a portal to inflict homicidal damage in the real world. The “rules” of Freddy and his powers in this movie are shaky, at best, inventing all new things that he can do both in dreams and the real world that are never really revisited afterwards. Freddy’s Revenge isn’t most fans’ favorite though it has been reexamined in recent years for its homoerotic subtext and has become a cult film within the gay horror community.

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

Where to Watch: Buyable or rentable on most platforms.

For a good amount of Elm Street fans, it’s Dream Warriors that truly captures the best of Freddy Krueger. In this third movie, which brings back Langenkamp’s Nancy — though, how much older she’s supposed to be, and how much later this film takes place, is never addressed — Freddy is the perfect blend of scary and silly. It’s not the grass roots horror of the first movie nor does it possess the overboard corniness of the later sequels. Freddy squares off against a group of troubled youths who attempt to take the power back in their own dreams and the results deliver one of the best adventures of the franchise. With Freddy on the cusp of superstardom, there was even a hit MTV video for Dokken’s “Dream Warriors” song. Wes Craven would also return to co-write Dream Warriors, after passing on Freddy’s Revenge, and wouldn’t return to the series until New Nightmare in ’94.

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

Where to Watch: Buyable or rentable on most platforms.

The Dream Master, directed by Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight), is no slouch. It successfully clones the horror-comedy tone of Dream Warriors while introducing a whole new protagonist in Lisa Wilcox’s Alice, a young woman who could control the reality of the dream world just like Freddy. Some of the Dream Warriors return for this romp, though they’re killed off, as the final “Elm Street” kids, causing Freddy to search for a new crop of teens to torment. Dream Master uses a lot of the tricks, and imaginative deaths (roach motel, anyone?), that made Dream Warriors a success but there are certainly signs of Freddy leaning more and more into jokes and quips. The “Dream Trilogy,” within the full franchise, is often seen as a journey from balanced humor to lopsidedly silly.

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

Where to Watch: Buyable or rentable on most platforms.

How was Freddy able to return this time? After being ripped apart by trapped souls in Dream Master? Good question. Why, it’s through the unconscious mind of Alice’s unborn child, in utero. Using her son’s dreams, Freddy’s able to lash out and kill once more in this soft-baked sequel directed by Stephen Hopkins (Highlander, Judgment Night). The lighting was blue and odd, Freddy’s makeup was different, and overall the conclusion of Alice’s tale fell short of great. The lower box office returns for Dream Child (happening to all horror at the time, which was also being heavily censored for gore) led New Line to the decision of killing Freddy off in the sixth “final” movie.

6. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Where to Watch: Buyable or rentable on most platforms.

This was New Line’s first 3D release, intended, at the time, to be the final installment of the series. The Dream Child may have dabbled in flashbacks to Freddy’s conception in Westin Hills Asylum but it’s Freddy’s Dead that gave us a look at his childhood (with Alice Cooper as his abusive stepfather) and then his first murder, that of his wife, before he became the vile “Springwood Slasher.” Why the intense look back? Well, we discover it’s all because Freddy’s daughter (don’t worry, it’s a huge surprise for her as well), Maggie (Lisa Zane), enters her father’s mind and pokes around as part of a plan to lure him out into the real world. Freddy’s Dead wrapped things up in a cartoonish way, for an audience that had started to turn away, more and more, from slasher franchises. The film is set “ten years from now” and if we’re counting now as 1991, when the movie came out, then the year is 2001. Which might even place these events after the events in…

7. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

Where to Watch: Buyable or rentable on most platforms.

Way ahead of its time in terms of its full-tilt meta premise, Wes Craven returned to the franchise he created in order to totally upend it, going “behind the scenes” with the story of the actors, creators, and producers of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies being targeted by a demonic “entity” that’s taken the form of Freddy Krueger (and still played by Robert Englund). Englund, along Langenkamp, Craven. John Saxon, and producer Robert Shaye all play fictionalized versions of themselves, though it’s Langenkamp who gets to battle Freddy for a third time, though this time the “final girl” is herself. This is a different Freddy of course, inside a wildly winking movie filled with social commentary about horror movies, horror fans, and even the flaws of the Elm Street franchise itself. Craven’s meta aspirations were met with mostly cold shoulders in 1994 though he’d strike meta-horror gold a few years later with Scream.

As far as the placement of this move, time-wise, all you need to have seen to enjoy it is the first movie. Or maybe that and Dream Warriors. But it still works great to watch it after the entire first timeline, through Freddy’s Dead.

8. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Where to Watch: Buyable or rentable on most platforms.

A full nine years later, with both the Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises mostly dormant (though Jason DID go to space in 2001’s Jason X), Freddy vs. Jason was a bonafide hit. It’s just a shame that no one could springboard off this super-fun fight to the finish between two top movie maniacs and make more of these films. Right after Freddy vs. Jason landed, the “reboot” era would begin with famous ’80s horror movies getting the remake treatment for the rest of the decade. Including Elm Street and Friday the 13th. That being said, Freddy vs. Jason, from Hong Kong cinema’s Ronny Yu (who also directed Bride of Chucky), was everything fans could want. Freddy tricks Jason into killing teens in Springwood, Ohio in order to get his mystical mojo back, only to have everything backfire and set them at each others’ throats in a glorious third act slobberknocker.

9. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Where to Watch: Buyable or rentable on most platforms.

Music video veteran Samuel Bayer (Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Hole’s “Doll Parts”) directed his one and only feature film with the 2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street reboot, giving fans an entirely new Freddy Krueger, played by Watchman’s Jackie Earle Haley. That’s right, for the fist time in almost 30 years Robert Englund was not in the Freddy role and fans didn’t quite know what to think. Evoking the dark tone of the original movie, the 2010 version was practically joke-free. And while it made a decent amount at the box office, the film — which also starred Rooney Mara during a year she was introduced to audiences in a big way with The Social Network — was panned by critics. Haley and Mara had signed on for a sequel, but it never came about.

Check out IGN’s review of 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street here.

How to Watch the Nightmare on Elm Street Movies by Release Date

If you’re looking to watch all the movies in theatrical release order, the correct list is below:

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)Freddy vs. Jason (2003)A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Matt Fowler is a freelance entertainment writer/critic, covering TV news, reviews, interviews and features on IGN for 13+ years.

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