Scariest Nightmare on Elm Street Movie of Them All

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What is the Scariest Freddy Krueger Movie?

There are nine films featuring the finger-bladed Nightmare on Elm Street killer, Freddy Krueger.  Out of the nine films, some performed better at the box office than others, and some were ultimately scarier than others. And while Freddy Krueger may always draw a crowd…he was much more entertaining in some films.  Some of the special effects and changes in production throughout the Nightmare on Elm Street movies have contributed to varying levels of terror felt within the audience.  And they can be ranked!

Ranking the Nightmare on Elm Street Movies by Scariest Movie

Freddy Krueger always comes back, which is why there are so many Nightmare on Elm Street movies! So without further ado, Horror Enthusiast ranks the Nightmare on Elm Street movies in order of scariest to least scary.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

#1 Scariest Nightmare on Elm Street Movie

It is truly hard to beat an original.  The original Nightmare on Elm Street was revolutionary. Wes Craven (the director and writer) and Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger actor) made the horror slasher an instant icon. This movie offers the least effects of any of the movies…but Horror Enthusiast ranks this film, by far, the scariest of them all.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

2nd Scariest Nightmare on Elm Street Movie

Returning to write and direct A New Nightmare, Wes Craven built a brilliant, real-life Freddy Krueger.  In this movie, the real life actors from the original film experience the fictional character, Freddy Krueger, breaking into their real world.  This movie made Freddy Krueger more real than ever before and absolutely secured its place as the second scariest Nightmare on Elm Street film in the franchise.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

3rd Scariest Nightmare on Elm Street Movie

This D&D-like edition to the Nightmare series was absolutely entertaining. With characters that had special powers to keep the audience interested in between Freddy scenes, and extremely exciting death scenes, Nightmare 3 had it all!

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

4th Scariest Nightmare on Elm Street Movie

The Nightmare on Elm Street remake highlighted many aspects that made the original film so great.  Character development was perfectly deep, without wasting too much time on any one character. The audience feels immersed.  The chilling story line is thorough, from start of the film to finish. And Freddy Krueger (a new actor, Jackie Earle Haley) did a great job of bringing on the fear.  It was not the same as the traditional Freddy Krueger, but it was admittedly pretty good!

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

5th Scariest Nightmare on Elm Street Movie

The fourth movie in the franchise is decent. In “Dream Warrior” fashion, the idea of the characters having powers in their dreams is still an important part of the plot.  Freddy Krueger takes out nearly everyone in this movie in spectacular, terrifying fashion…hunting the heroine for last and solidly securing the 5th scariest Nightmare on Elm Street rank!

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

list of scary nightmare of elm street movies freddy kruegar knife hand near a child's face

6th Scariest Nightmare on Elm Street Movie

This movie simply wasn’t as scary as the better half of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.  It was meant to be scary, but seemed to drain an already dying story line.  The movie is a little weird, focusing on the fetus of pregnant fourth movie heroine, Alice. Weird is not exactly scary, maybe creepy, but not nearly as scary as the other movies.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

7th Scariest Nightmare on Elm Street Movie

This movie received mixed reviews. Some fans claimed it was attempting to push gay rights. Ultimately, however, it did not seem as scary as the other films.  The emphasis on the characters was too great and the audience mostly lost track of the horror slasher in between his appearances altogether.

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

8th Scariest Nightmare on Elm Street Movie

Literally, Freddy’s Dead was an attempt to ride the franchise into the grave: this film was meant to be the last Nightmare on Elm Street movie.  It was also one of the least scariest.  The production quality felt cheesy and rather crude.  The series seem to be relying more on Freddy’s humor than ever before. Freddy Krueger comedy is good, but Freddy Krueger scary is better!

Freddy vs Jason (2003)

Freddy vs Jason screenshot from the horror film of teens talking at a carnival

9th Scariest Nightmare on Elm Street Movie

Although Freddy vs Jason was a whole new level of excitement for the fans, it was ultimately much less scary than the other films.  The cinematic effects were focused on building the anticipation of the fight between the two horror slashers.  The story line may have provided a few victims, but ultimately, it was all centered on pitting the two horror movie killers against one another. Even with Jason Voorhees making appearances throughout the film, it is simply less scary than the true Nightmare on Elm Street films.

Freddy Krueger is Always Scary

Whether the movie is the scariest in the franchise or not, every Nightmare on Elm Street movie features a fantastic Freddy Krueger.  And even the weakest movies in the franchise offer a strongly entertaining death scenes and Freddy’s quirky sense of humor. As one of the smarter horror movie slashers, Freddy has held the limelight throughout all of his movies.  All of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies have a unique feel that cannot be ignored: they are simply some of the best horror movies to grace the industry!

Scary Documentaries: Paranormal and Urban Legends

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You’ve likely seen the Instagram memes about the millennials who go crazy any time a new serial killer documentary drops on Netflix. But have you met the eye-rolling horror fanatics who are eager to tell you that they loved horror documentaries way before they went mainstream? And not just about The Night Stalker or Zac Efron’s version of Ted Bundy, but also the demon house, killer clown, and paranormal investigation that didn’t make the news. These chilling tales happen every day, and many have been made into terrifying horror documentaries that indulge your passion for true crime while frightening you way more than Making a Murderer or any scary documentary ever has. Why? Because while many horror flicks claim to be “based on a true story” (don’t get us started,) the things that transpire in paranormal documentaries actually happened. Truth is stranger than fiction, and you’ll be kept up at night after you watch the most terrifying horror and paranormal documentaries below. 

Demon House

Demon House Paranormal Documentary

Released: 2018

If you thought the Amityville house was haunted and terrifying, just wait until you watch one of our favorite paranormal documentaries and true crime stories about the Ammon family. This tale of paranormal activity and demonic possession took place only a decade ago in Indiana, and while some had their doubts about the Ammon family’s claims of levitation, death threats, and ghostly shadow figures… you can’t ignore the facts of Demon House. Paranormal investigator Zak Bagans shot this documentary on the property, only to have it demolished just two years later due to the terrifying events. Dread Central’s Steve Barton calls Demon House “one of the single most compelling horror documentaries on the existence of the supernatural that I’ve ever witnessed,” and Puzzle Box Horror definitely agrees. 

Beware the Slenderman

Slender Man Scary Documentary

Released: 2016

Slenderman, the infamous creepypasta character with mile-long limbs and no face, stepped out of the shadow of internet forums and into the spotlight with this documentary – and the crime that inspired it. Remember the two 12-year old girls from Wisconsin who stabbed their friend 19 times in 2014, only to say that it was an order from the Slender Man? This documentary tells you all the details of that horrifying day – with interviews, creepy footage, and background on the Slenderman. How did he go from being a supernatural, suit-wearing stalker that only lived on internet forums, to one of the most terrifying fictional monsters of the 2010’s? They aren’t kidding when they say that the internet is a scary place!

Cropsey

Cropsey Terrifying Documentary

Released: 2009

Without giving too much away, anybody who has seen Cropsey knows that it’s not a supernatural tale in its entirety. It’s also a bit confusing – mixing true crime with the paranormal to leave you wondering who is the true villain in this tale. Is it Cropsey, the boogeyman-like urban legend of Staten Island that people used to scare their kids into being good? Or Andre Rand, the real-life version of the monster who began kidnapping kids and causing terror left and right? This is one of the best horror documentaries that was made before Netflix and Hulu started pumping them out on a regular basis, and you’ll want to watch it five more times just to get every last detail. 

Hostage to the Devil

Hostage To The Devil Horror Documentary

Released: 2016

Exorcism stories aren’t exactly new in the horror genre. There’s only about a million horror movies about possessed children and the priests who try to free them. But horror documentaries about real-life exorcisms in which the devil literally locks you in a room for days on end? That’s a little more rare, and exactly why you need to watch Hostage to the Devil on Netflix. Based on the book of the same name, this terrifying documentary shares the details of a battle between good (okay, this is debatable) and ancient evil as they fight for the soul of a possessed child. After you watch the documentary, be sure to start Googling all the extra details that didn’t make it on your screen. You’ll never be able to watch horror movies about exorcisms the same way again. 

My Amityville Horror

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Released: 2012

Amityville isn’t just your typical haunted house story, it’s the demon house story. Any real horror fan knows the tale of the original demon house – how Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his entire family in cold blood, one year before the Lutzes moved in and went running after experiencing insane amounts of paranormal activity and ghostly events. There has been an entire lineup of horror movies (and a lot of skepticism) in the decades since the Lutzes ran for their lives, but there’s something that sets My Amityville Horror apart. It features Daniel Lutz, the oldest member of the family who experienced these horrific events in the demon house firsthand. While he stayed silent for nearly 40 years, he doesn’t hold back in this documentary about America’s most famous haunted house, and you’ll have chills running down your spine with every word he speaks.

Killer Legends 

Killer Legends scary documentary poster

Released: 2014

If you loved reading the Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark book series as a child (and who didn’t?), then you’re going to love Killer Legends. Ghosts, demon houses, and serial killers all come together with this documentary that dives into the real-life origins behind the world’s most famous urban legends. You know – the murderous mental patient with a hook for a hand, the killer clown, the babysitter who gets a call coming from inside the house. Some are paranormal, and some aren’t… but each one will give you a glimpse of real-world terror that brings back major memories of telling these stories around the bonfire. This is the meta scary documentary if you are looking for variety.

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror 

Horror Noire- A History of Black Horror film

Released: 2019

“Delving into a century of genre films that by turns utilized, caricatured, exploited, sidelined, and finally embraced them, Horror Noire traces the untold history of Black Americans in Hollywood through their connection to the horror genre.” Perhaps one of the most modern horror documentaries on this list, Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror features a lineup of Black horror enthusiasts (including scholars like Tananarive Due and creators like Jordan Peele) to tell the story of Black Americans in a supernatural world. While it’s less scary and more informative, this eye-opening documentary will help you see films like Get Out and Blacula in a whole new way. Grab your popcorn and save up all your mental energy, because you’re going to need it for this mind-blowing horror documentary.

The Nightmare 

The Nightmare horror documentary poster

Released: 2015

Sleep is an escape from the horrors of everyday life, right? Not when you have sleep paralysis, a terrifying condition that makes you unable to speak, move, or have any control over their body while waking up or falling asleep. The lack of control is frightening enough, as it’s the foundation in which we live our lives – but what do you do when you start imagining ghosts, shadow figures, and supernatural beings in the corner of your bedroom when you can’t move a muscle? That’s exactly what you’ll discover with The Nightmare, a mix of real-world and supernatural horror that interviews those with sleep paralysis to discover the terrifying worlds they’ve created in their minds. You’ll never want to fall asleep again after watching this horrifying documentary, and we mean that literally. 

A Haunting in Connecticut

A Haunting in Connecticut 2002 documentary poster

Released: 2002

No, we’re not talking about the super underrated 2009 scary documentary The Haunting in Connecticut… as this 2002 documentary told the ghost story from your living room first. The Snedeker family moves to Connecticut and finds a beautiful house that they think is a major steal, only to discover that it used to be a funeral home as they experience terrifying visions and paranormal activity from every corner of the property. Awesome. Unlike the movie, this paranormal documentary details how the family called in expert ghost hunter Ed and Lorraine Warren (of The Conjuring fame) to rid the house of demons. Like most demon house stories, the Snedekers haven’t gone without a bit of skepticism… but this is a tried-and-true ghost story that any paranormal lover will love watching on a Friday night. 

The Enfield Poltergeist

The Enfield Poltergeist frightening documentary poster

Released: 2002

Even the Brits have their ghosts and supernatural fixtures, and The Enfield Poltergeist is definitely proof. Back in 1970’s London, two young sisters started acting strangely – and that was just the beginning of it. There was also moving furniture, levitation, shadow figures and disembodied voices that many came to believe was a poltergeist. Or in other words, a troublesome ghost that has nothing better to do with its time. As one of the original poltergeist tales, this scary documentary is a must-have for any ghost enthusiast. 

Subgenres of Horror from A to Z

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Are you a die-hard horror fan? Are you someone looking to expand your horizons, and find just the right kind of horror for you? Well, we’ve got just the thing. We’ve dissected the horror into the nine main subgenres of horror with our recommendations on where to start with each.

How many types of horror are there?

Categorizing the subgenres of horror genre is harder than you might think. We’re not talking about the periodic table of elements here. It gets murky. There’s a lot of overlap, a lot of genre-bending and crossover. If you asked ten popular horror writers to make a list of subgenres within the main genre, you’d get ten different lists.

But let’s tackle it anyway!

We’ve broken horror down into fourteen categories or subgenres. These subgenres of horror account for the majority of horror fiction available today, while also harkening back to the origin of the genre.

Apocalyptic | Avant Garde | Cosmic | Comedy | Dark Fantasy | Found Footage | Gore | Gothic | Lovecraftian | Paranormal | Post Apocalyptic | Psychological | Sci-Fi | Supernatural

What are Horror Genre Characteristics?

Horror can range from internal terror to jump scares. Each sub genre has different characteristics but they all have one thing in common. They are intended to scare you.

Without further fanfare, let’s explore the most popular subgenres of horror fiction, with some sterling examples and basic characteristics of each genre.

Apocalyptic

Apocalyptic horror centers around the collapse of civilization. The world you know it can no longer exist with a complete collapse of systems and order. In horror this subgenre is often closely tied to sci-fi creatures such as the classic alien invasion, mysterious demons like Aamon coming to enslave mankind, and of course major religious events coming to fruition.

Best Apocalyptic Horror Movies

Avant Garde

For this subgenre, we’re getting a little weird. Avant Garde is as social a movement as it is an artistic one, with artists standing at the forefront of our preconceived notions of acceptable art and ideas. In horror literature, this takes the shape of mind-bending twists and impossible odds. In comics, it is the same incredible evil with terrifying and spine-tingling art. Recommended reading: Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer. Uzumaki, by Junji Ito. Sleep of Reason, by Spike Trotman.

Best Avant Garde Horror Comics

Body Horror

This subgenre of horror intentionally focuses on grotesque or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body. From disease to dismemberment the core of it is what can happen to the human body. It is not unusual for this to also include sexual, alien infestation, strange movements, transformations, and utter destruction of the human body. We’re talking everything from Human Centipede (is this really even horror?) to John Carpenters “The Thing.”

Comedy Horror

Tucker and Dale vs Evil Movie Poster

When dark humor just isn’t enough we have comedy horror. Accidental gore films like Tucker and Dale vs Evil to subtle quips from Ash Williams in the Evil Dead. A common theme in Comedy Horror is the victim who stumbles through the film and somehow manages to survive.

Cosmic Horror

The cosmic horror genre is both personally existential, and darkly expansive. The darkest corners of space, the pitch-black pits of demons, the sense of no real control, the fear of the unknown, and dread that comes with the ineffable size of the universe. This genre is strongly tied to H.P. Lovecraft who brought it to life with novellas such as At the Mountains of Madness (1936), The Shadow over Innsmouth (1936), and The Shadow Out of Time (1936). “The Shape Of Water” by Guillermo Del Toro or “The Imago Sequence and Other Stories” 2009 by Laird Barron are other strong modern works of cosmic horror. Space itself and extraterrestrial adventures also play a preeminent role in the genre, with standout comics like Nameless, by Chris Burnham & Grant Morrison, and Southern Cross, by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belager.

Best Cosmic Horror Movies | Best Cosmic Horror books | Best Cosmic Horror Comics

Dark Fantasy

These novels give readers the best of both worlds. They contain fantasy elements like magic, strange creatures, etc. They also add a dark layer of terror and suspense, just to keep things interesting. Recommended reading: The Citadel of Fear, by Gertrude Barrows. The Girl From The Other Side , by Nagabe. Beautiful Darkness, by Fabien Vehlmann & Marrie Pommepuy.

Folk Horror

Folk horror is a subgenre of horror for film, books, comics or television which includes elements of folklore or urban legends as the inspiration of the main focus of horror for the story. Sometimes stated as “based on a true story” this subgenre loosely uses the phrase “true story” as many of these legends have little fact checking if any at all.

Found Footage

The Blair Witch Project movie poster

Although found footage films date as far back as the 1960’s the seminal work in horror is often considered to be The Blair Witch Project. Shakey cameras with low production quality are the foundation of the story. This genre has exploded with cell phone footage and continues to grow today. Possibly due to the ease in which someone can create a found footage horror film.

Gore

Also sometimes labeled as a splatter film the main focus of the film is well the blood, guts and dismembered body parts. Shock is a key element of this genre. Movies such as the SAW series are famous for the difficult to watch torture sequences. The main goal is for the audience to wince in disgust as the victims bodies are torn to bits. This genre crosses out of fiction with some popular series in the 80’s and 90’s with actual death in them but we only focus on fictional horror here so we will leave that for other sites and forums to discuss.

Gothic

Gothic horror goes way, way back. In fact, it’s the literary predecessor to the horror genre we know and love today. So in terms of cultural education, this subgenre warrants some attention. These dark, brooding stories often blend romance and horror, with a side dish of death. They’re usually atmospheric stories, where the setting itself becomes a kind of character. Recommended reading: Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Dracula (The Graphic Novel), by Bram Stoker and Jason Cobley. Gotham by Gaslight, by Brian Augustyn. The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill.

The Best Gothic Horror Comics

Lovecraftian

H.P. Lovecraft often described his own work as “weird tales.” But they contain horror elements as well. He created his own subgenre that many writers still emulate today. Lovecraftian fiction often focuses on cosmic elements that are beyond human understanding. Thus, it’s also referred to as “cosmic horror.” These stories can make us humans feel small and insignificant, in the grand scheme of things. Recommended reading: At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft. Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe, by Thomas Ligotti. The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle.

ghost or supernatural spirit

Paranormal

Merriam-Webster defines paranormal as something that is “not scientifically explainable.” That’s a broad definition. When it comes to horror fiction, the term “paranormal” usually refers to ghosts, hauntings, demons and possession. And there is some truly frightening fiction that falls into this subgenre. Recommended reading: The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty. The Shining, by Stephen King. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson (it fits here, as well).

Post-Apocalyptic

The world as we know it has ended, and something terrible has risen in its place. Post-apocalyptic fiction challenges us to envision a world beyond our own, a doomsday scenario that takes us into uncharted and often terrifying territory. Not all post-apocalyptic fiction uses horror elements. Some of it falls into the dystopian category. But there are plenty of good stories out there that paint the end of the world in horrifying hues. Recommended reading: Swan Song, by Robert McCammon. Monument 14, by Emmy Laybourne. Feed, by Mira Grant. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.

Psychological:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari poster

Put the ghosts, monsters and slashers aside for a moment. Let’s talk about the psychological effects of horror. The internal terror and the long lasting trauma that occurs under moments of major duress. Psychological horror fiction uses intense human emotions like fear and dread to grip the reader, with a healthy dose of anxiety and suspense on the side. Recommended reading: Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin. Come Closer, by Sara Gran. Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris.

Psychological horror also has a rich history in books and film that dates back to the late 1800s.

Scary Documentaries

Yep even documentaries can be a subgenre here and these have certainly become more popular. Unlike the found footage genre these have at least some reason to believe the experience were real. They are often paranormal experience but also look at things like serial killers. We’ve compiled a list of the most terrifying documentaries and it sure looks like horror to us.

Sci-Fi

Mad scientists, experiments that did not go as planned, alien invasions and creatures we never wanted to know coming into existence. This subgenre of horror crosses well into Cosmic Horror but maybe with a touch less existential dread. You know where the alien came from and you know the moment the scientist crossed the line. We’ve explored the history of sci-fi horror here.

Best Sci-Fi Horror Books | Best Sci-Fi Horror Comics

Supernatural

The supernatural subgenre of horror overlaps with the paranormal category. Again, we’re dealing with things that “appear to transcend the laws of nature,” according to Merriam-Webster. I’ve broken this out into a separate category to distinguish it from the ghostly and haunting world of the paranormal. Here, we’re talking about werewolves, witches, and other things that defy the laws of nature. Recommended reading: Wytches, by Scott Snyder. Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King. The Hunger, by Alma Katsu. B.P.R.D., by Mike Mignola.

Best Supernatural Horror Comics | Best Supernatural Horror Streaming Online

So there you have them, the popular subgenres of horror with some representative works to keep you up at night. For more literature, Puzzle Box has original literature as well as features on Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker.

Survival Horror

This subgenre of horror is typically found in video games. The point of tension, like much of horror, is surviving the environment. The main character is often put to the test to survive against all odds. It’s often considered “action horror” due to the physical activity often required to survive. Apocalyptic horror scenarios are often used for survival horror.

True Crime

Pretty straightforward as the title implies. The subgenre of horror is based on real life horrors that have happened. The most popular arena here is serial killers with movies and documentaries about people like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and more. The main focus is it must be from a real life crime. With that said, these are often dramatizations of the events not to be confused with the scary documentaries subgenre.