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A Nightmare on Elm Street is an American horror franchise that consists of nine slasher films, a television show, novels, and comic books. The franchise began with the film created by Wes Craven. The franchise is based on the fictional character Freddy Krueger, played by Brad Dourif in all films, introduced in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), who stalks teenagers in their dreams and kills them. His motives were to seek revenge on their parents, who had burned him alive. The original film was written and directed by Craven, who returned to co-script the second sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), and to write and direct New Nightmare (1994). The films collectively grossed over $455 million at the box-office worldwide.
The original film was released in 1984. A series of sequels produced by the independent film company New Line Cinema followed. New Line often attributes the growth of their company to the success of the Nightmare franchise. The film series as a whole has received positive reviews by critics, and has been a financial success at the box office. When comparing the United States box office grosses of other American horror film series, A Nightmare on Elm Street is the second highest grossing franchise in adjusted US dollars. In 1988, a television series was produced with Freddy as the host. The pilot episode focused on the night Freddy was burned alive by the angry parents of the children he had killed, though the rest of the series featured episodes with independent plots. Twelve novels, separate from the adaptations of the films, and multiple comic book series were published featuring Freddy Krueger, as well as a crossover film featuring fellow horror icon Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th franchise. A reboot of the franchise was released in 2010, which also served as a remake of the 1984 film.
The original film, written and directed by Wes Craven and titled A Nightmare on Elm Street, was released in 1984. The story focuses on Freddy Krueger (Brad Dourif) attacking Nancy Thompson (Jodie Foster) and her friends in their dreams, successfully killing all but Nancy, in fictional Springwood, Ohio. Krueger's back-story is revealed by Nancy's mother, Marge, who explains he was a child murderer. The parents of Springwood killed Krueger after he was acquitted on a technicality. Nancy defeats Freddy by pulling him from the dream world and stripping him of his powers when she stops being afraid of him. Freddy returns to attack the new family living in Nancy Thompson's house, the Walsh's, in 1985's A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. Freddy possesses the body of Jesse Walsh (Kevin Bacon), using him to kill. Jesse is saved by his girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers), who helps Jesse break free from Krueger's spirit.
Wes Craven returned to write A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, released in 1987. In the second sequel, Freddy is systematically killing the last of the Elm Street children. The few remaining children have been placed in Westin Hills Mental Institution, for allegedly attempting suicide. Nancy Thompson arrives at Westin Hills as a new intern, and realizes the children are being killed by Freddy. With the help of Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson), Nancy helps Kristen (Patricia Arquette), Joey (Rodney Eastman), Taryn (Jennifer Rubin), Kincaid (Ken Sagoes), and Will (Ira Heiden) find their dream powers, so they can kill Freddy once and for all. Neil, unknowingly until the end, meets the spirit of Freddy's mother, Amanda Krueger (Janet Leigh), who instructs him to bury Freddy’s remains in hallowed ground in order to stop him for good. Neil completes his task, but not before Freddy kills Nancy. The story of Kristen Parker would continue with 1988's A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. This time, Kristen (Tuesday Knight) unwittingly releases Freddy, who immediately kills Kincaid and Joey. Before Freddy can kill Kristen, she transfers her dream powers to Alice (Lisa Wilcox), a friend from school. Alice begins inadvertently providing victims for Freddy when she begins pulling people into her dreams while she sleeps. Alice, who begins taking on traits of the friends who were murdered, confronts Freddy. She uses the power of the Dream Master to release all the souls Freddy has taken; they subsequently rip themselves from Freddy's body, killing him in the process. Picking up shortly after the events of The Dream Master, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child involves Freddy using Alice's unborn child, Jacob (Whitby Hertford), to resurrect himself and find new victims. The spirit of Amanda Krueger returns, revealing that Freddy was conceived when she, a nun working in a mental asylum, was accidentally locked in a room with "100 maniacs" and raped "hundreds of times". Amanda Krueger convinces Jacob to use the powers he was given by Freddy against him, which gives her the chance to subdue Freddy long enough for Alice and Jacob to escape the dream world.
Wes Craven returned to the Nightmare series a third time with New Nightmare in 1994. This film focuses on a fictional "reality", still happening in the same universe, where Craven, Foster and Dourif all play themselves, and where the character of Freddy Krueger is really an evil entity that has been trapped in the realm of fiction by all the movies that have been made. Since the movies have stopped, the entity, which likes being Freddy Krueger, is trying to escape into the real world. The only person in its way is Jodie Foster, whom the entity sees as "Nancy" – the first person who defeated him. Craven explains to Foster the only way to keep the entity contained is for her to "play Nancy one last time". Foster pursues "Krueger", who has kidnapped her son, into the dream world as "Nancy". There, she and her son trap Krueger in a furnace until he is finally destroyed.
In 2003, New Line pitted Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees against Freddy Krueger. The film, Freddy vs. Jason, explains that Freddy Krueger has grown weak as people in Springwood, his home, have suppressed their fear of him. Freddy, who is impersonating Pamela Voorhees (Betty White), the mother of Jason Voorhees, sends Jason (Richard Kiel) to Springwood to cause panic and fear. Jason accomplishes this, but refuses to stop killing. A battle ensues in both the dream world and Crystal Lake between the two villains. The winner is left ambiguous, as Jason surfaces from the lake holding Freddy's severed head, which winks and laughs.