How can you escape death when all it does is wait for you to fall asleep? This question of human vulnerability led the late filmmaker Wes Craven on a journey that culminated in one of cinema’s most deleterious and recognizable horror film icons: Freddy Krueger. The man in the Christmas sweater and dirty brown hat is every bit as important to the horror genre as Darth Vader is to science fiction.
What ultimately separated the Elm Street ventures from other macabre movie franchises like Friday the 13th and Halloween was the creativity with which Krueger disposed of his victims, and the fantasy-based elements of the kids’ extravagant nightmares. The gimmick of dying in the dream world equating to death in reality spelled doom for those trying to outrun Krueger’s wrath.
After nine feature films and a calamitous television series that is best left buried in the past, the Elm Street series was more hit than miss.
With that in mind, here are the Fearsome Fates: Top 10 Deaths from the Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise.
10. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (Carlos)
“Nice hearing from you, Carlos” – Only Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) was worse in the Elm Street saga than Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991). However, the lackluster sixth installment of the franchise gives fans one very memorable, bone-chilling death sequence. Carlos (Ricky Dean Logan) is attacked by Freddy and the youth has his ears cleansed courtesy of a monstrous Q-tip. Carlos is deaf and loses his hearing aid in the scuffle. Carlos manages to retrieve it only to have the hearing aid meld with his head and ear.
Everything Carlos hears is amplified thanks to Freddy’s torturous hearing aid. Krueger pulls out a chalkboard and then scrapes his sharp claws across it to create an unbearably loud symphony of screeching, which results in Carlos’ head exploding. Freddy blows the kid’s mind, literally.
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Taryn)
“Let’s get high” – Director Chuck Russell and writer Frank Darabont’s much-needed assistance on the Elm Street series marked the beginnings of much more creative carnage, in terms of Freddy’s surreal means of disposing of his victims. While trying to join Kristen (Patricia Arquette) in the dream world, young Taryn (Jennifer Rubin) is separated from her fellow Dream Warriors. With her punk-rock hairdo and knives, the former junkie does battle with Krueger.
Just as Taryn thinks she has gained the upper hand, Freddy turns the tables on her. Krueger reveals that all of his fingers have been replaced with drug-filled syringes. Taryn gasps when she finds tiny little mouths have replaced her drug scars. Freddy injects all of the needles into her arm and pumps her full of the fatal cocktail. Taryn’s screams, as Freddy smirks, “What a rush.”
8. A Nightmare on Elm Street (Glen)
“I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy” – Johnny Depp made his acting debut in the original Nightmare (1984), but his character of Glen didn’t fair too well. Skeptical of the existence of child killer Fred Krueger, Glen comes to the same grisly fate as the other children of Elm Street even though his stalwart girlfriend Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) implores that he doesn’t go to sleep. Glen welcomes his nightly slumber anyway.
Freddy’s glove emerges from the youth’s mattress, latches onto Glen, and pulls him into the bed. Blood explodes from the hole and cascades like a violent waterfall. In uncut footage from the scene, the bed even spits Glen back up with his body slathered in blood.
Wes Craven felt the scene was scarier and more effective without knowing what Glen’s corpse looked like, and it certainly makes one of the following scenes, which occurs between Lt. Thompson (John Saxon) and his officer, much more eerie as they discuss the crime scene’s gruesome atmosphere.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (Greta)
“Bon appetit, bitch” – Greta (Erika Anderson) is an aspiring model who watches her weight. When Greta’s mom throws a dinner party the teenager has absolutely no appetite, because her friend Dan Jordan (Danny Hassel) has been killed in an accident. Greta falls asleep during the dinner and Freddy takes full advantage. Krueger shows up in a chef’s hat and proceeds to force feed Greta, in a monstrous-looking high chair.
Greta tries to spit out the pulsating food, but Freddy continues to shove it down her throat. With each passing bite, Greta’s jowls grow more grotesque. Engorged, Greta falls into Freddy’s arms and she eventually chokes to death. This could easily have been No. 1 on our list, if the scene had not been butchered by censors.
The horrifying truth revealed in Stephen Hopkins’ director’s cut: Freddy is feeding Greta to herself! Greta’s stomach has been cut open and Freddy is scooping up her insides and forcing them down the teen’s throat. It’s a chilling and nauseating death sequence, in what is sadly one of the weaker installments of the franchise.
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (Debbie)
“You can check in, but you can’t check out” – What happens when you team the winsome actress Brooke Theiss with special effects artist “Screaming Mad” George – aka Joji Tani? You get one of the most bizarre death sequences in Nightmare history. Poor Debbie (Theiss), a fitness guru, is really only afraid of one little thing – cockroaches. Naturally, Freddy turns Debbie’s worst fear against her.
While working out, Deb dozes off. She seems to still be in her home gym when Freddy suddenly appears. In a test of strength, Freddy grabs the bar, loaded with weight Deb is trying to bench press, and slowly forces it down toward her. Deb loses the fight and her elbows bend and crack open, under the immense pressure. Her arms are quickly replaced by the legs of a cockroach.
Deb slowly continues her bizarre metamorphosis, until she becomes an oversized bug. Trapped in a roach motel, Deb watches in horror, as Freddy smashes the trap in his hand. Deb’s bug-like guts, and the innards of the roach motel, spew out as Krueger cackles in triumph.
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (Dan)
“Better not dream and drive” – In the tradition of surviving Elm Street children making it to the sequel, Dread Central presents for your approval Dan Jordan (Danny Hassel). After the events of The Dream Master, Alice (Lisa Wilcox) and her boyfriend Dan are expecting a little bundle of joy. But before they can celebrate the baby’s birth, the couple must endure the wrath of Freddy Krueger once more. Surprisingly, Alice begins dreaming while she is awake. While working a shift at the Crave Inn, Alice comes face to face with both Freddy and his mother, Amanda Kruger (Beatrice Boepple).
Frightened, Alice calls Dan and begs him to join her immediately. Dan ditches his friends at a high school swim party, jumps in his truck and races to his love. Dan falls asleep on route and is confronted by Freddy. The two engage in a high speed race down a busy highway, while Krueger drives like a bat out of hell. Freddy violently shifts gears and Dan is thrown through the windshield.
Frantic to get to Alice, Dan absconds with a motorcycle parked out front of the school gym. But the teen is still asleep and now at the mercy of Freddy’s demonic cycle. The bike begins to merge with Dan and the two become a weird cyborg/motorcycle concoction. Sadly, the nightmare and reality ends when Dan crashes just yards shy of reaching Alice. Like so many other horror film sequences, this one was mercilessly chopped by the ratings board.
4. A Nightmare on Elm Street (Tina)
“Tina, watch this” – Filmmaker Wes Craven’s original Nightmare remains the seminal work that spewed into a cavalcade of money-making sequels, merchandise and a brief series on television. And while the first Elm Street venture is much darker than many of the other films in the series, its first death scene did not lack creativity. Tina (Amanda Wyss) is having bad dreams. After a particularly scary nightmare, Tina, not wanting to be alone while her mother is out of town, invites her best friend Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and her beau Glen (Johnny Depp) to spend the night.
Tina’s boyfriend Rod (Nick Corri, aka Jsu Garcia) shows up unannounced and takes her mind off those pesky dreams with a sexual romp. However, the hours following take a dark and ominous turn when the lovers fall asleep. Freddy returns to Tina’s nightmare but this time he does away with her. The sequence is one of pure fantasy and horrific brutality. Tina’s stomach is sliced opened. Blood spews and the teen screams for Rod’s help, as she is helplessly dragged up the walls and across the ceiling of her mother’s bedroom.
Rod is forced to watch, as his girlfriend is gutted like a fish and tossed around the room. Sadly, what is transpiring in Tina’s nightmare is happening in reality, too. Tina is slain and Rod is arrested, leaving it to Nancy to figure out how to stop Freddy before there’s no one left to sleep.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (Joey)
“How’s this for a wet dream?” – After defeating Freddy in Dream Warriors, the three remaining Elm Street children quickly succumb to Krueger’s revenge. After Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) puts up a valiant, but ultimately useless effort, Freddy moves onto Joey (Rodney Eastman). Joey’s weakness has always been women and while he watches MTV from his waterbed, Joey doses off.
He seems to wake up, as his bed begins to violently thrash about. Joey pulls back his comforter to see the sexy and quite naked Hope Marie Carlton. Enamored, Joey watches as Hope swims away into the unseen depths of the waterbed. Suddenly, Freddy comes exploding through the clear mattress.
He grabs Joey and cackles. The pair wrestle, but the best Joey can do is scream for fellow dream warrior Kristen (Tuesday Knight). Freddy slices and dices, as Joey vanishes and the water in his bed turns blood red. It’s one of the most creative deaths in the series and it comes with a great zinger.
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Jennifer)
“Welcome to prime time, bitch!” – Mental patient Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow) cons the orderly Max (Laurence Fishburne) into letting her watch a little T.V. after hours. Jennifer dreams of going to Hollywood and becoming an actress, but this time her nightmare man awaits.
The television screen is static, so Jennifer changes the channels. Without any success, she hits the T.V. A pair of mechanized Freddy arms bursts free from the side of the hanging television set and snatches up the frightened girl.
Krueger’s head then emerges from the top of T.V. He smiles and barks at her, “This is it, Jennifer – your big break in T.V.” After Jennifer screams some more, Mr. K utters that now most famous line, “Welcome to prime time, bitch,” as he slams her head into the television screen. Max returns to find Jennifer’s corpse hanging head-first from the T.V.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Phillip)
“He was wide awake, all the way down” – Phillip (Bradley Gregg) is just another of the tortured teens incarcerated in Nightmare 3. Sadly, audiences do not have the chance to discover Phillip’s dream power, because he is immediately snuffed out by the guy in the dirty red and green sweater.
Phillip does exhibit an artistic talent for carving puppets, not to mention a proclivity for sleepwalking. Freddy exploits both. In Phillip’s nightmare, Freddy comes to life in the vessel of one of his unfinished puppets. Phillip watches in horror, as Kruger grows to his natural life-size form. Freddy then slashes open Phillip’s arms and legs, pulls out his bloody veins and transforms the boy into one grotesquely deformed puppet.
Krueger directs Phillip, as a puppet master would guide his marionette, and sends the teen hurling off the top of the mental hospital. The other kids watch as their friend plummets to his death, and the method suggests not murder but suicide.
Which deaths were your favorites? Were there any that didn’t make our list you’d like to have seen included? Sound off on social media!