- For the novelization of this film, see A Nightmare on Elm Street (novelization of the 1984 film)
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A Nightmare on Elm Street (full title: Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street) is a 1984 horror-fantasy film, and the first film in the A Nightmare on Elm Street film series. The film stars Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon and Ronee Blakley, as well as Johnny Depp in his feature film debut.
Set in the fictional Midwestern town of Springwood, Ohio, the plot revolves around four teenagers who are stalked and killed in their dreams by dead child murderer Freddy Krueger. The teenagers don't know why Krueger is trying to kill them, but their parents hold a dark secret from long ago.
During the opening credits, a pre-death Freddy Krueger is shown making his glove on a worktable in the Boiler Room. It is clearly NOT his home workshop.
The film then skips to the present day.
Tina Gray is first shown against a bright white background. Then, she is running down a hallway with leaking water pipes along the ceiling. The bright background is revealed to be one end of the hallway. What it is isn't explained. Steam is spraying from the holes in the pipes. The floor of the hallway is covered with water leaking from the pipes. A sheep is in the hallway. She then enters the Boiler Room.
She is then stalked through the Boiler Room by a muted figure with a distinctive glove with razor-sharp knives.
Just as he catches her, however, she wakes up screaming. It was all a nightmare. Her mother comes to the door to check on her only to discover four razor cuts in her nightdress identical to the cuts in her dream. Then her mother's boyfriend comes to the door, and gets her mother to come back to bed.
The next day, three girls jump rope and one holds a ball and watches in what is clearly in the physical world on the front lawn of Springwood High School. The front of Springwood High School can be seen behind the the girl with the ball. The front lawn has a wall in front of it. The wall has a sidewalk in front of it. The sidewalk has a row of trees in front of it. The row of trees has a street in front of it.
Then Glen Lantz is shown driving Nancy Thompson and Tina Gray to school. They get out and as they walk down the sidewalk Tina tells Nancy and Glenn about the dream. Rod Lane then meets up with them briefly, speaks with them briefly, then goes his own way again.
Nancy mentions that the dream is very "One, two, Freddy's coming for you," referencing a jump rope song they knew as children.
After having a small argument with her boyfriend Rod Lane, Nancy tells Tina to forget about the dream. Glen makes a cryptic comment about bad dreams but ignores Tina's inquiry about his own dreams as he runs off to school.
That night, Tina, Nancy and Glen, who is Nancy's boyfriend, have a sleep-over to make the distraught Tina feel better, as she is still troubled by her nightmare. However, as Tina describes the man in his dream, Nancy realizes that they are dreaming about the same person. He is described as being horribly burned with large finger knives that he scratches over everything. Although he registers a look of recognition himself, Glen assures them that what they are talking about is impossible.
The three teenagers hear noises in the backyard of the house. They go outside to investigate with Glen leading the two girls. After taking a few yards away from the backdoor, Tina's rebellious boyfriend, Rod, crashes the party and scares all three of them.
After a short conversation between all of them, Rod takes Tina upstairs to have sex in her mother's bedroom while Nancy and Glen stay downstairs to talk for a while before going to their own rooms to sleep. After Rod and Tina have sex, Rod reveals to Tina that he too had recent nightmares, although he doesn't discuss the content. He then rolls over and they go to sleep.
Later, Tina wakes up and hears rocks being thrown at the window. She goes outside and into an alley to investigate and at this time the burned killer reveals himself. This is the first indication that she is dreaming. After chasing her down the alleyway and to the house, the killer catches up to her in her back yard. After scaring her by cutting off two of his own fingers, he finally gets a hold on her. As he brutally murders her, Rod wakes up to find Tina being cut open by invisible knives, then dragged up the wall and across the ceiling. Rod, being the only other person in the room at the time, screams at the murderer and then flees the house.
Nancy and Glenn enter the room to find Rod gone and Tina dead. Police Lt. Donald Thompson discusses the crime with a subordinate before revealing he is Nancy's father. Lt. Thompson speaks to Nancy and her mother, angry that Nancy was sleeping in the same house as Rod, who he refers to as a psychopath. Nancy insists that Rod and Tina's argument was not enough to warrant him murdering her.
The next morning, after not sleeping, Nancy heads off to school despite the objections from her mother. Noticing that her father has placed a police tail on her, Nancy cuts through a different street where she is grabbed by Rod and dragged into the bushes. Rod tries to explain what he saw and that it wasn't him that killed Tina. Although somewhat receptive to Rod's claims, Rod gets angry at Nancy and stupidly threatens her. Lt. Thompson appears in the bushes and pulls a gun on Rod forcing him to run into the street where he is arrested by other police men. Nancy, angry at her father for using her to capture Rod, angrily leaves for school.
In class, Nancy notices a figure in a body bag standing outside the classroom. Leaving class, she finds the body bag being dragged down the hall, leaving a trail of leaked blood. Turning the corner, Nancy knocks over a girl wearing a green and red striped sweater who demands Nancy to show her hall pass. After telling the girl off and running down the hall, the girls calls out for Nancy in a masculine voice. Looking back, Nancy sees her wearing the finger knives and instructing her not to run in the hallway. Nancy follows the trail of blood into the boiler room, where she is attacked by the killer, finally revealing his first name which is Freddy. Realizing that she is dreaming, Nancy burns her arm on the boiler pipes to wake up. She screams in the classroom, alarming the teacher and the class. Embarrassed and scared, Nancy elects to leave class and go home. Her arm is burned in the same spot as the dream.
These nightmares cause her to talk to Rod in jail, who finishes telling her what he saw in Tina's mother's bedroom. He tells Nancy that he never saw anyone and when he first saw Tina being murdered, he assumed he was having another nightmare. When Rod mentions that all four slashes in Tina's chest happened simultaneously, Nancy finally believes Rod is innocent.
Later at home, Nancy is taking a bath. Her mother warns her not to fall asleep and offers to make Nancy some warm milk. As Nancy drifts off in the tub, the razor glove comes out of the water a couple times and eventually pulls Nancy under the water. Nancy's screams bring her mother to the bathroom at the same time as Nancy finally wakes up and gets out of the tub.
That night, Glen climbs into Nancy's bedroom and Nancy reveals her thoughts about Tina's murder. She asks Glen to watch over her while she sleeps. Nancy goes to sleep and in her dream, she leaves the house. She asks Glen if he is still watching. What appears to be Glenn answers yes, but one has to wonder if this is really Glenn. If it was, it would pretty much have to mean that Glenn fell asleep.
She walks to the Springwood Police Station.
She looks in a window and sees the murderer go into Rod's cell.
She then sees Tina's corpse.
She asks Glenn if he's there.
Freddy Krueger answers instead of Glenn and appears.
Nancy runs back to her house and Freddy Krueger chases her.
Nancy goes inside her house and closes the front door.
Nancy goes up the stairs and the carpet on the stairs appears to turn into marshmallow.
Freddy Krueger breaks the window on the front door.
Marge calls to Nancy. Freddy completes Marge's sentence.
He is briefly shown to be wearing a mask over his face vaguely resembling the one Michael Myers wears. He then pulls it off. After an encounter with the killer, Nancy wakes to find Glen asleep. She chastises him (which is odd considering that she asked if he was still watching, while she was asleep and dreaming and didn't seem to be angry when he said yes) and tells him to hide as her mother comes to the door.
After convincing her mother that she is going back to bed, Nancy and Glen go to the police station to see Rod. Rod is killed in his sleep by a sheet forming a noose and hanging him from the cell ceiling, which is made of bars.
There is a funeral for Rod.
After Rod's funeral, Nancy tells her parents that Rod was not the killer. She describes the killer as a horribly burned man who wears a dirty red and green sweater, a weird hat and has razors on his finger. The color drains out of both of their faces, indicating recognition.
Nancy's mother takes her to the Katja Institute for the Study of Sleep Disorders to ensure she gets some sleep. Once again, she has a horrendous nightmare. This time, a white streak appears in her hair and her arm is badly cut. She finds that she has brought something out from her dream: the killer's battered hat. It arouses concern, but also other feelings in Marge, who is clearly hiding a secret.
Nancy confronts Marge about the hat and points out that the name Fred Krueger is written into the hat. Although Marge reveals almost nothing, she insists to Nancy that no one is trying to kill her and all Nancy needs is to get some sleep.
Glen and Nancy meet up, where Nancy reveals she hasn't slept in over seven days. Glen notices that Nancy is reading about booby traps, to which she informs him she is trying to survive. At this point, Glen tells Nancy about the Balinese way of sleeping. He informs her that when the Balinese see a monster in their dreams they turn their back on the monster, robbing it of all its power.
Upon returning home, Nancy sees that Marge has barred up all of the windows in the house. Upon entering the home, Marge finally reveals that Fred Krueger was a child murderer who killed at least twenty children over a decade earlier. Furious, vengeful parents burned him alive in his boiler room hideout after he was released from jail on a technicality due to an improperly signed warrant. She reassures Nancy that Krueger cannot hurt anyone, pulling Krueger's bladed glove from a hiding place in the furnace as proof.
Later that night, Nancy calls Glen and makes a deal with him. She tells him that he is going to go into her dreams and pull the killer out. She requests that Glen be there to knock him out when she does. When Glen insists that nothing will happen, Nancy assures him that he then has nothing to lose. Finally, before hanging up she directs him, "Whatever you do, don't fall asleep".
Glen's father tells his wife he doesn't want Glen hanging out with Nancy anymore. When Nancy calls, he reaches the end of his tether and refuses to let Nancy speak to Glen. He then takes the phone off the hook. Nancy tries unsuccessfully to call Glen before removing the phone cord from the wall. After the phone rings, she answers is to hear the killer tell her, "I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy." His mouth and tongue appears on the phone, licking her face. Nancy knows Glen is in trouble.
After a short visit from his mother, Glen falls asleep in bed with his television. Krueger's arm comes out of the bed and pulls Glen into it, killing him. A torrent of blood and gore shoots out of the bed and drenches the room. Glen's mom enters the room screaming.
An emotionally distraught and mentally drained Nancy decides to take Krueger on herself. She calls her father and asks him to be ready when she finds the killer. He tells her he will, clearly just humoring his overly tired daughter and tells his deputy to watch the house. Nancy then sets her watch, says a prayer and goes to sleep to find Krueger.
Nancy bravely pursues Krueger and eventually finds him and after they struggle her alarm goes off and she wakes up in her bed, seemingly alone. After assuming she is crazy, Krueger jumps on Nancy and tries to kill her. Having prepared beforehand, Nancy proves more than a match for Freddy, leading him through a barrage of booby traps. Nancy continuously calls out for her absent father until finally the officer he had watching her gets Lt. Thompson. Freddy then chases Nancy down to the basement where she sets him on fire.
Nancy locks him in the basement and finally gets her father and the rest of the police to help. After discovering that Krueger has escaped and that fiery footsteps lead upstairs, Nancy and her father witness Krueger smothering Marge with his flaming body, then disappearing to leave her corpse to sink into the bed. After sending her father away, Nancy faces Krueger on her own and succeeds in destroying him by turning her back on him and draining him of all energy.
She wishes for all of his victims, including her mother, to be back as she walks out of her mother's bedroom.
The scene changes to the next morning as Nancy gets in a car with Glen and the rest of her friends, on their way to school. Krueger possesses the car just as she gets in. The car drives away with Nancy screaming for her mother, and Marge being pulled through the door window by Krueger's bladed hand, while three little girls sing his song.
- John Saxon as Lt. Donald Thompson
- Ronee Blakley as Marge Thompson
- Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson
- Amanda Wyss as Tina Gray
- Jsu Garcia as Rod Lane
- Johnny Depp as Glen Lantz
- Robert Englund as Fred Krueger
Check it from End Title
- Charles Fleischer as Dr. King
- Joseph Whipp as Sgt. Parker
- Lin Shaye as Teacher
- Joe Unger as Sgt. Garcia
- Mimi Craven as Nurse
- Jack Shea as Minister
- Ed Call as Mr. Lantz
- Sandy Lipton as Mrs. Lantz
- David Andrews as Foreman
- Jeff Levine as Coroner
- Donna Woodrum as Tina's Mom
- Shashawnee Hall as Cop #1
- Carol Pritikin as Cop #2
- Brian Reise as Cop #3
- Ash Adams as Surfer #1
- Don Hannah as Surfer #2
- Leslie Hoffman as Hall Guard
- Paul Grenier as Tina's Mom's Boyfriend
- John Richard Petersen as John. Kid In Classroom
- Antonia Yannouli as Girl In Nancy's English Class
A Nightmare on Elm Street premiered in the United States on a limited theatrical release on November 9, 1984, opening in 165 cinemas across the country. The film performed moderately well commercially with little advertising — relying mostly on commercial advertisements and word-of-mouth. Grossing US$1,271,000 during its opening weekend, the film was considered an instant commercial success. The film eventually earned a total of $26.5 million at the American box office. Additionally, A Nightmare on Elm Street was released in Europe, India, Canada and Australia.
New Line Cinema is sometimes referred to as "the house that Freddy built," due to the success of the film and its sequels. New Line had previously gone through a serious financial slump and was in danger of going out of business.
Since its initial release, critics have praised the film's ability to rupture "the boundaries between the imaginary and real," toying with audience perceptions. Some film historians interpreted this overriding theme as a social subtext, "the struggles of adolescents in American society". Variety said the film was "A highly imaginative horror film that provides the requisite shocks to keep fans of the genre happy".
The film has a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1984. It ranked at #17 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004), a five-hour program that selected cinema's scariest moments. In 2003, Freddy Krueger was named the 40th greatest film villain on American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains. In 2008, Empire ranked A Nightmare on Elm Street 162nd on their list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. It also was selected by The New York Times as one of The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made.
The 1984 classic A Nightmare on Elm Street's huge success also brought up several high quality sequels, and some of them even received higher reception than the original. In 1985, one year after the first film's release, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge was released, grossed over $29.9 million domestically and received very negative reviews. Two years later, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was released and grossed more than $44.2 million in North America, and received mixed to positive reviews, some of the critics believe the third film saved the series.
After the success of Dream Warriors, the fourth film A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master was released in 1988, and grossed more than $49.9 million at domestic box office, becoming the highest grossing horror film of that year, and was well received with overall mixed to positive reviews from critics, and it is also one of the fan favorites. In 1989, New Line Cinema then released A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. It box office performance was mediocre, but still grossed $22.2 domestically. Its plot, more Gothic and darker than previous installments, was praised by critics for its film style, and the reception was generally mixed.
In 1991, New Line released Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, in a decision to end the franchise, with the ending in 3D. It grossed $34.5 million, but the reception was very negative. Three years later, Wes Craven's New Nightmare was released. Its story is set in the "real" world relative to the original six films. Though it didn't do well on box office, only grossing $18.3 million in North America, it received mixed to positive reviews, and became a reference of another hugely successful horror series: Scream.
New Line released Freddy vs. Jason, which is part of both the A Nightmare on Elm Street film series and the Friday the 13th film series, in 2003, crossing over Jason Voorhees (from the Friday the 13th film series) with Freddy Krueger.
It was a box office success of $82.3 million domestically, however, it received mixed reviews.
In 2010, a A Nightmare on Elm Street reboot was released. The North American box office performance of the film was $63.5 million, and it received very negative reviews. Most audiences believe it is one of the worst A Nightmare on Elm Street films, with many people believing it is the worst A Nightmare on Elm Street film.
The original cut was rated X, and the MPAA forced Wes Craven to remove 5 seconds from Tina's death and 8 seconds from Glen's death before giving the film an R rating. Glen's death was gradually restored to Craven's original version, with 6 seconds restored for the initial home video release and the remaining 2 seconds for the DVD release, but Tina's death remains censored to this day. The uncut X-rated version was only available outside of the United States, mostly on VHS, though a rare DVD of this cut was issued in Turkey.
- The scene where the blood shoots out of Glen's bed was actually filmed upside down.
- At the time it was the most fake blood ever used in one scene.
- When Glen's mother opened the door at the end of that scene you can actually see blood running horizontal and diagonal which was caused by them flipping the room back over. (Mentioned on directors commentary)
- The room was the same room as was used for Tina's death at the beginning of the film.
- The confusing ending of the movie was due to producer Robert Shaye wanting a scary ending. Wes Craven intended the movie to have a happy ending that when Nancy wakes up after defeating Freddy, she realizes the entire movie was just a dream. Shaye wanted the ending scene to actually be a nightmare. The ending the movie actually received was a compromise of the two endings.