AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Director: Wes Craven (Dir)
Release Date:   1984
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 9 Nov 1984
Production Date:   began Mar 1984
Duration (in mins):   91
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast: Starring John Saxon (Lt. Thompson)  
  Starring Ronee Blakley (Marge Thompson)  
  Starring Heather Langenkamp (Nancy Thompson)  
  Starring Amanda Wyss (Tina Gray)  
  Starring Nick Corri (Rod Lane)  
  Introducing Johnny Depp (Glen Lantz)  
  With Charles Fleischer (Dr. King)  
  With Joseph Whipp (Sgt. Parker)  
  With Lin Shaye (Teacher)  
  And Robert Englund (Fred ["Freddy"] Krueger) as Fred Krueger
    Joe Unger (Sgt. Garcia)  
    Mimi Meyer-Craven (Nurse)  
    Jack Shea (Minister)  
    Ed Call (Mr. Lantz)  
    Sandy Lipton (Mrs. Lantz)  
    David Andrews (Foreman)  
    Jeffrey Levine (Coroner)  
    Donna Woodrum (Tina's mom)  
    Shashawnee Hall (Cop #1)  
    Carol Pritikin (Cop #2)  
    Brian Reise (Cop #3)  
    Jason Adams (Surfer #1)  
    Don Hannah (Surfer #2)  
    Leslie Hoffman (Hallguard)  
    Paul Grenier (Tina's mom's boyfriend)  

Summary: A mysterious man makes a glove with knives for fingers. In an eerie, nightmarish setting, Tina Gray is chased into a boiler room and attacked by the man wearing the glove. Tina screams herself awake and finds her nightgown slashed. At school, Tina tells her boyfriend, Rod Lane, her friend, Nancy Thompson, and Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen Lantz, about the nightmare and Nancy also admits to having a bad dream. That night, Tina’s mother is away so Nancy and Glen stay over, and Rod arrives unexpectedly. After Rod and Tina make love, Rod admits he has nightmares too. A noise awakens Tina and she checks outside. A disfigured man wearing a hat, a red and green striped sweater and the finger-knives chases her. When he catches her, Tina is suddenly in the bedroom. Rod awakens to find her screaming but he cannot see anyone else. Tina’s chest is ripped open and blood flies as she swings around the room. Rod escapes as Nancy and Glen rush in and find Tina’s body. Lieutenant Thompson, Nancy’s father, is certain Rod is the killer and angry that his ex-wife let Nancy stay at Tina’s. As Nancy walks to school the next morning, Rod grabs her and says he did not kill Tina. Following his daughter, Thompson arrests Rod. In English class, Nancy falls asleep but wakes up to see Tina in a body bag being dragged off by an unseen person. It is dark as Nancy follows the blood trail and finds herself in a boiler room. Suddenly, the disfigured man, identifying himself as “Freddy,” chases her. Nancy screams that it is only a dream, burns her arm on a steam pipe and wakes up in class screaming, with a burn on her arm. She visits Rod in jail and he insists someone else killed Tina. At first, Rod had thought it was one of his nightmares because all he saw were the knife wounds appearing on Tina’s body. At home in her bathtub, Nancy falls asleep and finger-knives pull her under water into an abyss. She escapes back up in to the bathtub and takes pills to stay awake. After Glen, who lives across the street, climbs in her window to check on her, Nancy asks him to stand guard while she searches for Freddy in her sleep. In her dream, Nancy finds herself at the police station and sees Freddy enter Rod’s jail cell. She calls for Glen to wake her, but instead Freddy chases her back to her house where Glen is asleep. Freddy attacks Nancy but her alarm clock rings, waking Nancy and Glen. They rush to the police station and Nancy begs her father to check on Rod. In the cell, Rod’s sheet wraps around his neck in a noose, then drags him around the cell and hangs him. At Rod’s funeral, Nancy tries to describe Freddy to her parents but they insist on getting her help. At a sleep disorder institute, Nancy dreams, the monitors go crazy and she screams hysterically. They wake her to find Nancy has a grey streak in her hair, her arms are slashed and she has brought Freddy’s hat out from her dream. Later, Nancy’s mother hides the hat with her vodka bottle, but Nancy finds it and points to the name inside – Fred Krueger. Her mother insists Krueger is dead. The next day, Glen and Nancy discuss their nightmares, and Glen mentions he read about the Balinese dream skill of turning your back on a monster to take its power away. Nancy shows him a book on booby traps and survival skills. Nancy returns home to find her mother has installed security bars. Nancy’s mother leads her to the basement and tells her about Fred Krueger, a child murderer. After he was freed on a technicality, a group of neighborhood parents found Krueger in his boiler room and set it on fire. Nancy’s mother took his finger-knives glove and assures Nancy it is safe to sleep because Krueger is dead. But Nancy knows she is not safe and calls Glen. She plans to bring Freddy back from her dream and wants Glen to catch him. They agree to stay awake and meet at midnight but when Nancy starts to leave, she finds her mother drinking in the hallway. She calls Glen but his parents answer, insist it is too late and hang up. Nancy’s phone rings and when she hears knives screeching, she yanks it from the wall. The unplugged phone rings and Freddy announces he is her boyfriend now. A large tongue extends from the phone and licks Nancy. She runs to save Glen but the front door is locked and her drunken mother will not give Nancy the key. Glen is asleep when Freddy pulls him into a hole in the middle of the bed and a torrent of blood explodes. Paramedics, police and Nancy’s father arrive. She calls Glen’s house and tells her father that she is going after Freddy in her dreams and wants him to catch Freddy when she brings him out at 12:30. Her father tells her to get some sleep and orders an officer to watch Nancy’s house. Nancy booby traps the house, sets her alarm clock and goes to sleep. In her dream, she searches boiler rooms until she finds Freddy. He chases her when she jumps from the boiler room into her front yard. As Nancy’s alarm rings, she leaps on Freddy, pulling him out of the dream and into her bedroom. Nancy runs from the room and screams out the window for help. Freddy opens the bedroom door and is hit by a sledgehammer. He follows Nancy downstairs and trips a wire that explodes a lamp. He chases Nancy to the basement where she douses Freddy with gasoline and sets him on fire. Her father rushes into the house and Nancy leads him toward the basement but flaming footsteps lead to her mother’s bedroom. They arrive as the burning Freddy attacks her mother. As they smother the fire, Freddy vanishes and her mother’s corpse disappears into the mattress. After Nancy sends her father downstairs, Freddy rises from the bed. Nancy faces Freddy and takes back the energy she gave him. It is just a dream and she wants her mother and friends back. As Nancy turns her back on Freddy, he reaches to attack but disappears. Nancy opens the bedroom door and finds herself outside on a sunny yet slightly foggy day. Her mother joins her and promises to stop drinking. Glen, Tina and Rod arrive in a red convertible and Nancy happily gets in. A red and green striped convertible top suddenly locks into place and the windows shut, trapping the teens as the car drives off. Nancy’s mother waves until Freddy’s arm smashes through the front door window and pulls her inside. Children on the lawn play jump rope and sing, “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you.”  

Production Company: New Line Cinema  
  Media Home Entertainment, Inc.  
  Smart Egg Pictures  
Production Text: New Line Cinema, Media Home Entertainment, Inc. & Smart Egg Pictures present
a Robert Shaye production
a Wes Craven film
Distribution Company: New Line Cinema  
Director: Wes Craven (Dir)
  John Burrows (Prod mgr)
  Nick Batchelor (1st asst dir)
  Peter C. Graupner (2d asst dir)
Producer: Robert Shaye (Prod)
  Stanley Dudelson (Exec prod)
  Joseph Wolf (Exec prod)
  John Burrows (Assoc prod)
  Sara Risher (Co-prod)
Writer: Wes Craven (Wrt)
Photography: Jacques Haitkin (Dir of photog)
  Anne Coffey (1st asst cam)
  Tom Vanghele (2d asst cam)
  Joyce Rudolph (Still photog)
  Scott Buttfield (Gaffer)
  Zen Electric (Elec)
  Rowdy Herrington (Best boy elec, Zen Electric)
  Steve Crawford (2d unit gaffer, Zen Electric)
  Toni Semple (Elec, Zen Electric)
  Key Grip Associates (Grip prod services)
  Joseph Adolph (Best boy grip)
  Warren Kroeger (Grip)
  Nelson Elwell (Grip)
  Cindy Lagerstrom (2d unit key grip)
  Henning Schellerup (2d unit cam)
  Leonetti Cine Rentals (Grip and elec equip)
Art Direction: Greg Fonseca (Prod des)
  Barbara Metzenbaum (Art dept asst)
  Don Diers (Art dept asst)
  Bill Kroyer (Storyboard artist)
Film Editor: Rick Shaine (Film ed)
  Pat McMahon (Co-ed)
  Valerie Schwartz (Asst ed)
  Alison Paul (Apprentice ed)
  James Flatto (Apprentice ed)
  Kevin Krasny (Ed asst, L.A.)
Set Decoration: Anne Huntley (Set dec)
  Dorree Cooper (Set dresser)
  Gavin McCune (Swing gang)
  Michael E. Listorti (Swing gang)
  John Reinhart (Const coord)
  Mix (Set carpenter)
  John Stadelman (Prop master)
  Kara Lindstrom (Asst props)
  Timaree McCormick (Asst props)
Costumes: Dana Lyman (Cost des)
  Lisa Jensen (Cost supv)
  Terence McCorry (Cost)
Music: Charles Bernstein (Mus)
Sound: James LaRue (Sd mixer)
  Greg Nave (Boom op)
  Jess Soraci Magnofex (Supv sd ed)
  Albert Nahmias (Sd ed)
  Abe Nejad (Asst sd ed)
  Karen I. Stern (Looping ed)
  Jack Cooley (Re-rec mixer)
  Magno Sound (Re-rec at)
  Glen Glenn Sound (Prod sd)
  Gomillion Sound, Inc. (Looping - ADR)
Special Effects: Jim Doyle Theatrical Engines (Mechanical spec eff des by)
  Cinema Research (Opticals)
  Cinopticals (Opticals)
  The Optical House, N.Y. (Opticals)
  Dan Perri (Titles des)
  Lou Carlucci (Spec eff asst)
  Larry LaPointe (Spec eff asst)
  Charles Belardinelli (Spec eff asst)
  Tassilo Baur (Spec eff asst)
  Peter Kelly (Spec eff asst)
  Christina Rideout (Spec eff asst)
  James Upham (Spec eff asst)
  Jim Rynning (Spec eff asst)
Make Up: David Miller (Spec makeup eff)
  Kathy Logan (Makeup)
  Ramona (Hairstylist)
  Mark Wilson (Makeup eff asst)
Production Misc: Annette Benson (Casting)
  Amy Rabins (Prod supv)
  Rachel Talalay (Asst prod mgr)
  Stephen Abramson (Prod exec)
  Benjamin Zinkin (Legal consultant)
  Kathy Weygand (Scr supv)
  Lisa C. Cook (Prod coord)
  Craig Pointes (Loc mgr)
  Sheridan Liu (Asst accountant)
  Chuck Clarke (Transportation coord)
  Brian Delahanty (Transportation capt)
  David Householter (Set prod asst)
  Steve McAfee (Prod asst)
  Steve Cassling (Prod asst)
  Steve Harris (Prod asst)
  Wally Uchida (Prod asst)
  Anita Luccioni (Asst to prod)
  Lillian Fuentes (Craft service)
  Jim Picciolo (Animal wrangler)
  Lauren Roman (Casting asst)
  The Animal Consultants (Animals provided by)
Stand In: Tony Cecere (Stunt coord/Stunt person)
  Jeff Habberstad (Stunt person)
  Leslie Hoffman (Stunt person)
  Paul Shaver (Stunt person)
  Kerrie Cullen (Stunt person)
  Maggie Koehnen (Stunt person)
  Bruce Carson (Stunt person)
  Sandy Wilson (Stunt person)
  Cynthia Brannon (Stunt person)
  Cindy Wills (Stunt person)
  Jim Stearns (Stunt person)
  Don Pike (Stunt person)
  Tanya Lee Russel (Stunt person)
  Larry Phillips (Stunt person)
  Christina Johnson (Stunt person)
  Christina Rideout (Stunt person)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English
Series: Nightmare on Elm Street

Songs: "Nightmare" performed by 213, written and produced by Martin Kent, Steve Karshner and Michael Schurig.
Composer: Steve Karshner
  Martin Kent
  Michael Schurig
Source Text:

Physical Properties: Sd: Glen Glenn Sound
  col: Color by Deluxe
  Prints: Precision

Genre: Horror
Subjects (Major): Blood
  High school students
Subjects (Minor): Bathtubs
  Beds and bedsteads
  Fathers and daughters
  Mothers and daughters
  Stalkers and stalking

Note:        The film is sometimes referred to as Nightmare on Elm Street, although the correct title is A Nightmare on Elm Street.
       End credits include a “Special Thanks” to Sean Cunningham, Sam Raimi and Jack Sholder.
       A Nightmare on Elm Street was writer-director Wes Craven’s first “spec” script and, as reported in the 28 Dec 1981 HR, the story was inspired by news reports of Laotians in various places across the United States who died after each had the same nightmare. The Nov 1984 issue of Heavy Metal reported that Craven was dining with a friend when he was struck by the concept of a dead man getting to you in your dreams and the only way to escape him was to stay awake. The 17 May 1984 DV added that, during the four years it took to get the film made, Craven researched his story at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Dream Clinic.
       According to the 11 Feb 1984 Screen International, New Line Productions secured foreign film financing in a co-production deal with London, England’s VTC Productions. The 28 Feb 1984 DV and the 7 Mar 1984 Var reported that New Line also forged a co-production deal with Sweden’s Smart Egg Pictures. Although items reported the film was budgeted at $2.5 million, the 21 Mar 1985 DV, the 10 Aug 1992 Var and the 16 Jun 2004 DV noted that the budget was $1.7 million. Principal photography was scheduled to start in mid-Mar 1984 and the thirty day shoot was filmed at various Los Angeles, CA locations and at TVC Studios.
       An advertisement in the 23 Jan 1985 Var noted that in its first three days on 377 screens, A Nightmare on Elm Street took in $1,769,638. An article in the 10 Dec 1984 HR reported that, during its first week, it had the highest grossing per-screen average of any film in theaters that week. A chart in the 15 Aug 1989 HR noted the film’s domestic gross-to-date was $26 million with a foreign gross-to-date of $11 million while a 10 Aug 1992 Var article noted the film’s gross had reached $57 million.
       The 21 Mar 1985 DV reported A Nightmare on Elm Street won the critics’ choice award at the Avoriaz science-fiction and horror film festival in France and was nominated for best horror film by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror. According to the 28 Dec 1991 LAT, the series of A Nightmare on Elm Street films shot on location in Los Angeles, influencing Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley to sign a proclamation declaring 12 Sep 1991 “Freddy Krueger Day” despite some protests against honoring the film’s serial killer.
       Merchandising for the films included a “Freddy Krueger” talking doll. An item in the 7 Sep 1989 DV noted the doll would be released by Matchbox Toys (USA) in time for Halloween. The 26 May 1989 DV reported that New Line teamed with ShareData Inc. for a series of A Nightmare on Elm Street computer games. The initial game, to be developed by Westwood Associates for ShareDate Inc., was scheduled to be released on 11 Aug 1989 when the fifth movie in the A Nightmare on Elm Street film series was to be released. According to DV, the game would be compatible with IBM Personal Computers and Commodore computers.
       A 20 Nov 1987 LAT brief reported that a five year old boy in Boston, MA might have been partially influenced by the character “Freddy Krueger” when he stabbed a two-year-old girl seventeen times, causing multiple wounds. Similarly, the 5 Mar 1988 LAHExam, the 27 Jan 1989 HR and the 14 Apr 1989 HR tracked the story of Angelo Regino who claimed to be “Freddy Krueger” during the commission of a murder, two attempted murders and multiple robberies over a six week period. Regino was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Fred Wayne Ashley of Naples, FL, also claimed to be “Freddy Krueger,” as reported by the 19 Sep 1991 HR and the 19 Sep 1991 LAT. Ashley pleaded no contest to sexual battery on a fifteen year old girl and was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison.
       An item in the 15 Dec 1988 DV noted that Smart Egg Pictures petitioned the Los Angeles Superior Court for access to the bookkeeping accounts at New Line and Heron Communications for the A Nightmare on Elm Street sequels. Subsequently, items in the 15 Nov 1989 DV, the 15 Nov 1989 LAT, the 17 Nov 1989 HR reported that Smart Egg filed suit against New Line and Heron for breach of contract, claiming Smart Egg was underpaid by $5 million and accurate accounting records were not made available. The 10 May 1990 LAT reported the suit was dismissed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Miriam Vogel who ruled the suit should have been filed in New York.
       A Nightmare on Elm Street was Johnny Depp’s feature film debut.
       The success of the first A Nightmare on Elm Street launched a series of films including A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 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 and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) (see entries). Wes Craven revisited the series with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) (see entry). In 2003, the film Freddy vs. Jason (see entry) placed “Freddy Krueger” opposite the character of “Jason Voorhees” from the Friday the 13th film franchise (see entries). In 1988, New Line produced the television anthology series Freddy’s Nightmares and an article in the 16 Jun 2004 DV reported the television reality series A Nightmare on Elm Street: Real Nightmares would air on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). In 2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street (see entry) was remade with Jackie Earle Haley playing “Freddy Krueger.”

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   28 Feb 1984   p. 4.
Daily Variety   17 May 1984.   
Daily Variety   21 Mar 1985   p. 1, 20.
Daily Variety   25 Aug 1988   p. 1, 16.
Daily Variety   15 Dec 1988.   
Daily Variety   26 May 1989.   
Daily Variety   7 Sep 1989.   
Daily Variety   15 Nov 1989.   
Daily Variety   15 May 1991   p. 3, 23.
Daily Variety   16 Jun 2004   p. 7, 44.
Heavy Metal   Nov 1984.   
Hollywood Reporter   28 Dec 1981   p. 1, 3.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jun 1984   p. 31.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Nov 1984   p. 3, 6.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Dec 1984.   
Hollywood Reporter   20 Feb 1985.   
Hollywood Reporter   26 Aug 1988.   
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jan 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   14 Apr 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   15 Aug 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   17 Nov 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   15 May 1991   p. 3, 21.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Sep 1991.   
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jun 2006.   
LAHExam   5 Mar 1988.   
LAHExam   23 Aug 1988.   
Los Angeles Times   10 Nov 1984   p. 4.
Los Angeles Times   20 Nov 1987.   
Los Angeles Times   7 Aug 1988.   
Los Angeles Times   15 Nov 1989.   
Los Angeles Times   10 May 1990.   
Los Angeles Times   19 Sep 1991.   
Los Angeles Times   1 Nov 1991.   
Los Angeles Times   28 Dec 1991.   
Los Angeles Times   3 Aug 2006.   
Newsweek   12 Sep 1988.   
New York Times   9 Nov 1984   p. 10.
Screen International   11 Feb 1984.   
UCLA Daily Bruin   24 Oct 1984.   
Variety   8 Feb 1983.   
Variety   7 Mar 1984.   
Variety   7 Nov 1984   p. 18.
Variety   23 Jan 1985.   
Variety   24 Aug 1988.   
Variety   10 Aug 1992.   

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.