A Nightmare on Elm Street

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
A Nightmare on Elm Street Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
First feature for knife-handed horror idol Freddy.
  • R
  • 1984
  • 91 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 36 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 152 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The primary themes here are vengeance, denial, and fear. Rather than alerting the authorities of Krueger, the parents of his victims hunt him down and kill him. Returning through dreams and nightmares, Freddie then takes his revenge by hunting and killing the children, now teenagers.

Positive Role Models & Representations

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.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Nightmare on Elm Street is a slasher flick with 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAlice12 . February 28, 2019

Some are stupid , some are smart

Hello , after reading some of the 'parent reviews ' i would have to say i do not recommend showing this to a child that is 12 and under. Because the... Continue reading
Written byAnonymous March 7, 2016

A Horror Classic from the 1980s

In a time period where there was a lot of cheap, exploitation flicks, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET hit a very strong chord. The movie is expertly crafted by horror... Continue reading
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... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bysugar_b00ger March 21, 2021

Classic movie

I really enjoy watching horror movies and this is one of my favorites. There is not much gore and a few iffy stuff but not that bad. I recommend for a first hor... Continue reading

What's the story?

In A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, 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 this film's success 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. A Nightmare on 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).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the secret guilt that the parents share in A Nightmare on Elm Street: that they killed Krueger and covered it up, and now the evil child-murderer is attacking their children rather than them. Does knowing that Freddy is punishing the kids for what they did 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

  • In theaters: November 9, 1984
  • On DVD or streaming: August 11, 2001
  • Cast: John Saxon, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund
  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Studio: New Line
  • Genre: Horror
  • Run time: 91 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: gore, profanity, sexual innuendo, alcohol use
  • Last updated: January 13, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate