A Nightmare on Elm Street



First feature for knife-handed horror idol Freddy.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: September 9, 2006
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 1984
  • Running Time: 91 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

While heroine Nancy is smart and resourceful in fighting against the evil Freddy, her friends are a little less so, and the neighborhood grownups and authority figures are secretly vigilante murderers who cause more harm than good.


Much gore -- with the qualifier that it's often "nightmare," surreal violence, like Freddy's face getting torn off to reveal a staring skull, an endless fountain of blood pouring out of a victim's bed, and so on. Freddy's fingers are sliced off, and he's set on fire.


Teen lovers in bed together (exerting themselves loudly, though nothing is seen). Brief female nudity (a profile in heavy shadow).


R-worthy profanity including "f--k" a few times and "s--t" uttered by a few police officers.


None, although a Freddy Krueger industry of toys, models, books, and even software ensued.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The heroine's mother is a heavy-drinking alcoholic.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this slasher flick has a lot of over-the-top gore and violence, with the qualifier that it's often "nightmare," surreal violence. Nightmare visions include a face being torn off to reveal a staring skull, a geyser of blood pouring out of a victim's bed and pooling in defiance of gravity on the ceiling, and so forth. It's dream-like, but fatalities still result. The young people at the center of the film, though very highly evolved for horror-movie teens circa 1984, are still sexually active and at odds with their parents.

What's the story?

High school football player Glen (Johnny Depp, in his movie debut), his girlfriend Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and two schoolmates have been having disturbing dreams about a badly scarred man in a hat and garish striped sweater who's stalking, taunting, and trying to kill them with a custom-made glove that has knives in the fingers. After a ghastly murder, Nancy manages to pry the truth from her mother (Ronee Blakely). Years ago a child-killer named Freddy Krueger prowled their neighborhood and was released from jail on a legal technicality. The grown ups set his dwelling on fire, burning Krueger alive, and concealed their act of vigilantism. Of course, those same grown ups now have no clue that the renewed "nightmare" on Elm Street is the vengeful ghost of Freddy (Robert Englund) hunting and tormenting their sleeping offspring.

Is it any good?


Part of the success of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET was that writer-director Wes Craven made it at a time when banal, bloody copies of Friday the 13th (starring hockey-masked Jason) commonly filled theaters. Any teen-themed horror film that was even halfway original and imaginative would have stood out refreshingly, and this one did. Elm Street's cast of teenage characters was a shade more sympathetic and well-drawn than Jason's victims.

The dream-attack gimmick (which is never really explained as clearly as it should be) makes for lots of shock scenes and visual surprises, teasing viewers about what is or isn't really happening, and filmmaker Craven also plants more sophisticated seeds of unease. Parenting and family life -- touchstones of reassurance and protection in horror movies like Poltergeist -- aren't sources of comfort here. Mothers and fathers killed Krueger and covered it up, and now the villain is punishing their children for it rather than them -- the old sins-of-the-fathers biblical warning (in slasher-movie clothing).

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the secret guilt that the parents share: that they killed Krueger and covered it up, and now the evil child-murderer is attacking their children rather than them. Considering the old sins-of-the-fathers biblical warning (in slasher-movie clothing), does that change what you think of Freddy and what punishment he deserves? Parents may also be able to make English class seem more interesting to horror-minded kids by mentioning that writer-director Wes Craven was once an English teacher.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 9, 1984
DVD release date:August 11, 2001
Cast:John Saxon, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund
Director:Wes Craven
Studio:New Line
Run time:91 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:gore, profanity, sexual innuendo, alcohol use

This review of A Nightmare on Elm Street was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written byjrcalhoun759 March 6, 2010
What can I say? This is a classic. When people that havent seen the movie think of A Nightmare on Elm Street, they think sex, killing, and language. That's wrong. There is no sex in this film, only moaning, and that is used for comical intentions. There is a lot of blood, but its totally fake and very unrealistic. There were only 4 f bombs and a handfull of other mild explitives. A must see for tweens.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written bySeminolefreak March 30, 2011

Good Halloween scare, in today's standards, a PG-13 flick

My MPAA Rating, PG-13: Brutal horror violence and gore, strong language, terror, sexual situations, and use of alcohol
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old December 15, 2013


I ittery craped myself when i wached it this is so scary you need meds and pull up and a nightlight0.0
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex


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