Welcome to Primetime: Ranking All of Freddy Krueger’s Kills in the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ Series
When it comes to the great horror movie slashers, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers of Friday the 13th and Halloween fame are the the undisputed kings of the body count. No one will top their workmanlike ability to rack up piles of corpses like nobody’s business. Mute and masked, they march through their movies with a blind and steadfast determination, chopping and hacking their way through anyone unfortunate enough to get in their way.
But the third member of the classic slasher horror triumvirate is its own special beast. Freddy Krueger gets lumped in with the more traditional killers of the horror genre, but he has a voice and a personality. His methods are varied and his goals not so singleminded. A child murderer who haunts the dreams of teenagers and kills them in their sleep, the villain (and eventual anti-hero) of the Nightmare on Elm Street series is singular. There has never been another villain quite like him, a slasher whose personality has been so clear. A lot of guys can put on hockey masks and swing machetes – it takes a proper actor to bring Freddy to life. We can say a lot of things about man of the Nightmare movies, but series star Robert Englund is never not giving it his all. (And for the record, the widely disliked remake also features a solid turn from Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy.)
Freddy’s body count isn’t as high as his colleagues, but that’s okay. Because while others just stab their victims and are done with it, Mr. Krueger transforms his kills into events. Each one is a spectacle worthy of examination. On a recent re-watch of the entire series (including the 2010 remake of the first film), we counted 34 kills across eight movies, not including flashbacks or deaths that were total figments of the imagination conjured up to unsettle victims.
And we ranked them all, from the lame and tame kills to the nasty, unforgettable violence that made Freddy a horror icon on the first place. Steel yourself – things are going to get a little icky.
Oh, and it goes without saying that any video embedded below should be instantly assumed as being NSFW.
34. Spencer Runs Out of Video Game Lives in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
By the time Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare came along, Freddy Krueger had finished his evolution from terrifying horror icon to New Line Cinema mascot. Now a cartoon character who was more interested in mugging for the kids than being a figure of menace, Freddy was free to engage in bloodless, boring, inane kills built around one-liners and puns. Freddy trapping Breckin Meyer in a video game and using an evil Nintendo Power Glove to kill him off is the nadir of the series. There are more boring kills than this, but this is the Worst with a capital “W” and an embarrassment to a series that, at one point, had a little dignity.
33. Random Partygoer Gets Stabbed in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge
32. Random Partygoer Gets Slashed in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge
The pool party massacre scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge shatters all of the rules established about Freddy and and his universe. In a bad way. Why is Freddy in the real world? How do his dream powers manage to work in reality? And most importantly, why are these two kills so very dull?
31. Kerry Gets Stabbed Through the Chest in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge
Freddy’s Revenge reeks of rushed desperation in every scene, right up to and including the epilogue. This pale imitation of the original’s surreal, cliffhanger ending adds one more body to the pile, but the execution is lacking. This series will see far superior chest impalements.
30. Mark Gets Shredded in a Comic Book in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
Arguably the worst film in the entire series, A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child feels tired even when it’s transporting a teenage victims to a black-and-white comic book world. Mark’s demise is bloodless both metaphorically and literally, with the weightless, cartoonish tone of the scene stripping away any and all potential terror. Here’s another painful example of a Nightmare film going for the laugh instead of the jugular.
29. Greta is What She Eats in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
The uncut version of Greta’s death is gnarly, upsetting stuff that would probably find a comfortable spot about 10 spots higher on this list. But alas, we are ranking the theatrical versions and Greta’s force-feeding death is really just a big shrug. With the really nasty stuff cut, all we have here is a hammy re-enactment of the Mr. Creosote scene from Monty Python and the Meaning of Life…just with worse prosthetics.
28. Rick Gets Invisible-Karate’d to Death in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
In the wonderful documentary Never Sleep Again, everyone involved in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master admits that this scene was the result of the production literally running out of money. Rick wasn’t supposed to battle an invisible Freddy Krueger, but that’s all everyone got when the budget ran dry. The results are unintentionally hilarious and ludicrous, a rare cheap moment in an entry that otherwise makes sure every penny is present on screen.
27. John is Impaled on a Bed of Nails in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
Cartoon Freddy strikes again! This time, he literally wheels a bed of nails into the street so a plummeting character can bloodlessly impale himself on it. Freddy’s Dead frequently plays like a children’s film and this shrug of a moment is poor, lazy stuff. It’s especially poor when you realize that it accounts for 33% of the kills in the entire movie. If you’re only going to off three people in your slasher movie, you have to do better than this.
26. Rod is Hung in His Jail Cell in A Nightmare on Elm Street
The death of Rod is one of the more low-key kills in the series and while it’s effective in context, it gets a little lost in the shuffle in the grand scheme. It’s simple enough: Freddy strings Rod up in his jail cell, faking his suicide to make him look totally guilty of offing his girlfriend earlier in the film. It’s totally fine. It’s acceptable within the narrative. It’s kind of boring.
25. Ron Gets Stabbed Against the Door in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge
The scenes leading up to this death is one of the most gruesome sequences in the entire Nightmare series. Freddy takes control of Jesse’s body, literally bursting out of his chest Alien-style while Ron, his best buddy, looks on in horror. He tries to escape, but the door is locked. He screams and his parents rush to his aid…but they can’t open the door, either. Freddy approaches, reborn and whole. Ron has nowhere to run … and Freddy just stabs him. Oh. Okay.
24. Sheila Gets Face-Sucked in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Not even director Renny Harlin knows why Sheila is accosted by a robot arm in this scene. It’s a baffling decision that comes out of nowhere and casts a coat of confusion on what is otherwise a pretty decent kill. Sheila is sympathetic enough in her limited screen time to engender some genuine remorse on the part of the audience and Freddy’s menace rings true even though he’s in full wisecrack-mode by this time. This one’s pretty, pretty, pretty good.
23. Kris Gets Flung Around Her Room in A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Over the course of eight movies, this kill occurs three times with slight variations. We’ll cover the other two versions soon enough, but the CGI-enhanced, strangely brief riff in the 2010 remake is the weakest of the bunch. It’s not terrible by any means, but it’s just a decent cover band covering a song that you like. Not bad. It plays the notes, but not the terror.
22. Donald Thompson Gets Impaled On Junk in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors
Look, a lot of guys can get shoved into a sharp piece of metal by a junkyard-dwelling stop-motion skeleton, but only a veteran actor like John Saxon can sell it this well. It may be one of the least theatrical deaths in the series, but this is a death soaked in pathos and regret. In a series where most characters rarely survive a single entry, Donald Thompson almost made if through two and his demise actually feels like it means something.
21. Debbie Has a Very Bad Work-Out Session in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Nothing about Debbie’s death in The Dream Master makes much sense, but that may be part of its appeal. Freddy snaps her arms off during a work-out session and she starts growing bug legs out of her stumps and she turns into a cockroach and she gets squashed to death inside a giant (or is it tiny?) roach motel. It’s stream of consciousness nonsense that simultaneously feels like dream logic and a team of writers trying to awkwardly combine a few ideas into one kill. It ends up being nasty enough to have an impact (and it’s helped that’s intercut with the genuinely thrilling sequence of Kristen trying to come to her rescue while being stuck in a time loop), but it gets very, very close to the self-parody that would totally sink this series in later entries.
20. Kristen Meets a Fiery End in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Speaking of self-parody, here’s the kill where Freddy Krueger stopped being a nightmarish boogeyman and started being a goofy prankster who just-so-happened to murder teenagers. Thankfully, it’s one of the better kills in that mold. Sure, it begins Freddy with doing his best Jaws impression and mugging on the beach like a goofball, but it concludes with him burning Kristen to death, killing one of the previous film’s only survivors and upping the drama for everyone else involved. This scene has what so many of the other goofy kills in the series lack: genuine stakes. The joke reinforces the horror – it isn’t the centerpiece.
19. Carlos Gets a New Hearing Aid in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
The slapstick goofiness and comic tone that invades every frame of Freddy’s Dead is still present in Carlos’ death scene, but it may be the only scene where that tone actually works. Unlike the rest of the movie, which has been Nerfed beyond repair, this is one cruel, mean-spirited kill. It takes a looong time for Freddy to kill Carlos with an organic hearing aid that causes all sound to become head-splittingly loud (literally) and the Looney Tunes-esque presentation of the scene actually manages to ratchet up the horror instead of defanging it. It feels like a happy accident that the silly tone reads this mean.
18. Gwen Holbrook Gets Impaled Through the Face in the A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
The 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street is guilty of its fair share of sins, but wasting the great Connie Britton in a typical horror-movie-parent role may the most unforgivable of the bunch. However, the film does reach for redemption in its final scene, when the supposedly dead Freddy emerges from a mirror, stabs her straight through the skull, and pulls her corpse straight back into dreamland. If this kill was achieved practically and not through dodgy digital effects, it would be a top 10 contender. Alas.
17. Dan Feels the Need For Speed in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
Offensively bad one-liners (“Fuel injection!”) aside, Dan’s death in The Dream Child is an example of mainstream ’80s horror taking a page from the David Cronenberg book of body horror and running wild. What sounds silly on paper – he painfully merges with his motorcycle to form some kind of cyborg that crashes and burns – is actually a strong kill in a movie starved for good moments. While the other late-era Nightmare movies were content to bask in silliness and comedy, this one is unsparing and nasty. The final image of Dan, officially one with his vehicle, manages to be unsettling but oddly cool, the kind of freaky imagery you’d see on the best heavy metal album covers.
16. Will Isn’t Wizard Enough in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Everything leading up to Will’s slaying in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is great. No longer confined to a wheelchair in the dreamworld, he becomes the “Wizard Master,” utilizing his Dungeons & Dragons-fueled imagination to fight Freddy’s fire with some of his own. But this display is not enough. He fails. Freddy overpowers him…and he just stabs him. And then we cut away. Maybe it was wise of director Chuck Russell to spare Will a genuinely horrifying death right after sadistically deflating his big heroic moment, but it certainly feels like an anticlimax to an otherwise fantastic sequence.
15. Dean is Forced to Cut His Own Throat in the A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
It may be the most simplistic and straightforward kill on the entire list, but Dean being forced to slash his own throat in the opening scene of the 2010 remake is surprisingly strong stuff. It also sells what so many of the more elaborate kills in this series do not – that no one is going understand exactly what happened to you after Freddy is done with you. It could look like you died in your sleep or it could look like you killed yourself or it looks like … well, just about anything. Whatever it looks like, it certainly doesn’t look like a serial killer is inside your dreams, forcing you off your mortal coil. The directness of this scene makes for a standout moment in a movie that could have used a little more nerve.
14. Mark Becomes Freddy’s Messenger in Freddy vs. Jason
Believe it or not, Freddy Krueger only gets one kill in Freddy vs. Jason. While his hockey masked nemesis is racking up an enormous bodycount, Freddy is biding his time, graining strength, and slowly turning the wheels of the plot. So the film just goes all out with his only kill. Before he burns a message to future victims into Mark’s flesh, Freddy conjures visions of his dead brother, impales his feet to the floor with sentient blood, terrorizes him with snakes, throws him around the room and slashes him across the face. And then he goes ahead and lights him on fire. No one element of the scene is spectacular, but together, they make for an impressive circus of mayhem.
13. Marge Thompson Gets Skeletonized in A Nightmare on Elm Street
It’s not entirely clear exactly what happens when Freddy Krueger, engulfed in flames and newly trapped in the real world, leaps on Marge Thompson’s bed and begins strangling her. Once the scene is clear, her body is now a skeleton … which proceeds to sink into the bed … which has become a portal to Hell … or something. By this point, A Nightmare on Elm Street has descended into total surreality and the lines between reality and dream, between asleep and awake, have blurred together. All we know for sure is that Marge doesn’t stick around for the sequels and the last time we see her is one of the creepier deaths in the series, eschewing gore in favor of some rock solid WTF-ery.
12. Chase Gets Killed by His Own Living Prop in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare takes the franchise into strange, meta territory, with an evil presence taking on the form of Freddy Krueger and menacing the cast and crew of the actual Nightmare series. Chase is the (fictional) husband of series star Heather Lagenkamp and he’s the special effects guy building the new Freddy claw for a new Freddy movie. So it’s only appropriate that his own prop pays him a visit when he starts to doze off behind the wheel, emerging from between his legs and tearing his chest open. New Nightmare values dread over violence at every opportunity and Chase’s death is a genuinely startling moment in a movie that frequently (and wisely) leaves much to the imagination.
11. Kincaid Gets Stabbed in a Traffic Jam in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
The death of Kincaid is The Dream Master announcing that it’s not going to f–k around. After casually reintroducing the survivors of Dream Warriors, the film quickly gets to work, offing them to give the new cast of teenage victims something to fear. Kincaid’s actual demise is fairy standard stabbed-in-the-chest stuff, but everything surrounding it, from the way the junkyard comes to life and forms a deadly traffic jam maze to his final screams of warning to his friends, is terrific. Like the rest of The Dream Master, this scene plays with the bombast of a music video, but it manages to make Kincaid’s death a proper event.
10. Nancy is Stabbed by Her Fake Dad in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors
Speaking of death scenes in a Nightmare movie being treated like proper events, here’s Nancy Thompson’s demise at the hands of Freddy Krueger, which is notable for how extravagant it isn’t. The first heroine of the franchise goes out quickly and quietly, falling for a well-timed trick by Freddy, who poses as her recently-departed father. Her death lends the finale some (and this is the technical term) oomph, giving the teenager heroes she was protecting the necessary rage to finish the job and kill Freddy for good. Until the sequel. When he returned and killed all of them. Welp.
9. Jesse Gets Impaled Through the Chest in the A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t as bad as popular opinion seems to suggest, but it is lacking a a number of key areas. However one of those key areas is not kills, since most of them are pretty solid. Jesse’s brutal chest impaling is the best of ’em. The scene doubles as exposition, with Freddy taking a moment to pretty much explain everything that’s going on to him and the audience before ramming his claw straight through this poor kid’s sternum. You know, there are worse ways to deliver an info dump. Anyway, the series has seen its fair share of chest stabbing-related murders, but this one is, somehow, the best of the bunch. Don’t let your remake-phobia cloud the truth.
8. Coach Schneider Gets Bondaged in the A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge
There is no YouTube embed available for the scene, which is a shame because it may be one the craziest moments in the entire series and deserves to be revisited. By now, the gay subtext of Freddy’s Revenge is well known, but it’s never clearer than in the totally bonkers sequence where invisible forces torture Springwood High’s sadistic gym coach with towel whippings. It’s an insane sequence of S&M brutality that has to be seen to be believed. How anyone could have possible missed the subtext at any point in this film’s existence is baffling. Oh, well. This just means you have to rent A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge and suffer through the rest of it just to see this insane, legitimately insane kill.
7. Taryn Overdoses in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
There is something deeply sad about Taryn’s fateful final battle with Freddy in Dream Warriors. She isn’t defeated through strength or even proper guile – she’s taken out because Freddy knows that she’s an addict and he brings her one weakness to the battlefield. Watching Taryn’s track marks turn into hungry mouths is disturbing enough and Freddy’s claws into syringes is deeply upsetting stuff. A final gore gag where Taryn’s head explodes didn’t make the final cut, but that’s okay. What is here is sad and deeply disturbing in a way that most Nightmare kills from this era avoided.
6. Julie Gets the Original Freddy Treatment in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
Julie’s death in New Nightmare is an intentional mirroring of the Freddy’s first kill in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, but with one creepy twist. This time, as his victim is unnaturally dragged up a wall and along the ceiling, we can actually see Freddy doing the dirty work. Unlike the remake, which hit the same beats as the original while losing the intensity, this riff gives us a new and horrible angle to make it worth revisiting. Seeing Freddy oh-so-casually break the laws of physics in front of a young child is startling on its own, but it helps that Julie, one of the more innocent and good-natured characters in the entire franchise, really doesn’t deserve such a horrifying end.
5. Joey Gets Waterbedded to Death in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Joey is the second of the Dream Warriors survivors to get offed in The Dream Master and his death is the best in the film and one of the most memorable in in the entire series. In what may be a subtle riff on Johnny Depp’s death in the original film (we’ll get there momentarily), Joey never leaves his bed to meet his maker. He does spy a beautiful, naked woman somehow lurking inside of his waterbed, but that’s just a trap for Freddy to emerge and do his thing. It’s one of the more straightforward kills in a movie that otherwise goes always out of its way to top itself, but the simplicity is what makes it work. To die in a fantasy landscape is scary, but to die in your own bed – to be drowned and stabbed in the place you thought was safest – is the kind of thing that can really get under your skin.
4. Jennifer Gets Welcomed to Primetime in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
It may have set a terrible precedent for future Freddy dialogue (“Bitch” is not a catchphrase), but Jennifer getting her head shoved straight into a television is the kind of iconic, weird and blackly hilarious death that defines much of the Nightmare series. This is Freddy at a sweet spot – juuust fantastical enough to play up the sillier aspects of the character, but just bruuutal enough to maintain his image as proper horror icon. It’s a tricky tone, but like the movie surrounding it, this scene manages to walk that tightrope. Plus, those practical effects that showcase Freddy emerging from the television itself still look startling today.
3. Philip Becomes a Human Puppet in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors
As Freddy became funnier and his kills became more elaborate and gag-driven, the raw nerve of the character slowly started to diminish. The balance between outrageous imagery and terror was thrown out of whack. The only Nightmare kill to thread this tiny needle more effectively than Jennifer’s death-by-television is Philip’s big moment, which is, for our money, the single most painful-looking sequence in the whole series. You may know the one: Philip, the talented puppeteer, is transformed into puppet himself by Freddy, who tears his tendons out of his arms and legs, drags him up to the roof of the hospital by these bloody strips of flesh, and tosses him to his death. It’s grotesque stuff that never tries to hide just how horrible Philip’s last moments must be while trafficking in total fantasy. It sears itself upon the brain. None of the “fun” Nightmare movies managed to get this upsetting ever again.
2. Glen Gets Sucked Into His Bed in A Nightmare on Elm Street
It’s one of the great pieces of movie trivia: for his first big screen appearance, future superstar Johnny Depp was sucked into his bed by Freddy Krueger and transformed into a volcano of gore. It’s also one of those ingeniously simple practical effects that looks just plain unreal in execution – it’s the kind of horror movie moment that feels definitive, like it belongs in every montage representing the genre. And while the original A Nightmare on Elm Street has one kill that we consider superior, Glen’s death is rightfully the most famous and, strangely enough, one of the least imitated. It’s the king of horror movie kill that only Freddy, in his earliest, darkest days, could have pulled off.
1. Tina is Dragged Across the Ceiling in A Nightmare on Elm Street
Freddy Krueger peaks early. His first kill in the original 1984 A Nightmare on Elm Street, his grand introduction to audiences, is perfect. Nothing in seven additional movies tops this. While it’s certainly possible to enjoy Freddy’s goofier incarnations, the pure menace on display in Tina’s death makes much of the later movies in the series just feel wrong-headed. Here is the boogeyman of ‘80s horror, primal and cruel and fueled by rage and sick humor. This scene showcases Freddy at his purest and most vile – the only person who should find Freddy’s jokes funny is Freddy himself. The grand finale, filmed on a rotating set, is a marvel of special effects, but it’s never showy and it never treats Tina’s death as spectacle. It treats her death as a horror, something that should fill you with disgust and sick awe. It’s the kind of scene that makes you resent every single sequel, even if for just a moment.