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The entire Nightmare on Elm Street story finally explained

Wes Craven had come off horror successes Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes when he took on the task of writing A Nightmare on Elm Street, but he was by no means in a position of wealth or influence. He'd spent three years without a single paycheck, lost his house and his wife, and had fallen into heavy drug use. When he cleaned up, he set out to write the film that would turn his career around and change Hollywood's perception of the boogeyman. 

A Nightmare on Elm Street is the story of a group of teens who face off against Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a child killer wielding a glove made of knives who terrorizes kids through their dreams. The idea came to Craven via a Los Angeles Times article about a boy who suffered from debilitating nightmares and wound up dying in the middle of one. The film was a hit, and Freddy Krueger became bona fide, real-life nightmare fuel for a generation of teens. Since 1984, there have been countless sequels, a crossover, and a reboot, all of which delve deeper into the Freddy mythos. But how did Freddy Krueger go from a child killer in a grimy Christmas sweater to Jason Voorhees' puppeteer? Here's the breakdown of the entire Nightmare on Elm Street story.

A killer in dreams (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

Our first real introduction to Freddy Krueger comes in the form of a dream that high schooler Tina (Amanda Wyss) has one terrible night. It's a dream that takes place in an old boiler room, and she wakes up to a slashed nightgown. She later shares the experience with her friends, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), Glen (Johnny Depp in his first big role), and Rod (Nick Corri). Strangely, they've all been having the same dreams about the same man.

The next night, Tina dreams about Freddy again, only this time she isn't so lucky. In her room, Rod wakes up in time to see Tina slashed to death by an invisible force. He runs, and the police — who are headed up by Nancy dad, Donald (John Saxon) — arrest him for Tina's murder. Nancy soon realizes that the man from their shared dreams is capable of killing, and after Rod and Glenn are also murdered, she sets out to take Freddy down. 

It's soon revealed that Freddy was once a child killer who became the target of the town's parents after the legal system failed to bring him to justice. But somehow, Krueger figured out how to live on in the dream world, and now he wants his revenge, murdering the children of the parents who killed him. However, Nancy eventually defeats him, first by dragging him into the real world and then by telling him he's powerless.

After their confrontation, Nancy walks outside her house, and all seems well. Her friends are alive, her recently murdered mom (Ronee Blakley) is okay, and everything is sunshine and roses ... until the car she gets into suddenly turns into a Freddy-mobile and traps everyone inside.

Freddy bursts into waking life (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge)

Five years later, Jesse (Mark Patton) and his family move into Nancy's old house on Elm Street, and an entirely new cast of characters begins to be tormented by Freddy Krueger, who spends the majority of his time trying to convince Jesse to become a live-action vessel for his killing sprees. Jesse's dreams of Freddy are a little different from Nancy's, in that Jesse never really finds himself in any danger of being killed. But when he and his friend, Lisa (Kim Myers), find Nancy's old diary, he realizes exactly who — or what — he's up against.

In order to stay awake, Jesse starts to wander around town at night. It's on one of these nights that he winds up in an S&M bar, where his leather-clad gym coach catches him drinking a beer and takes him back to the school to punish him. (There's a certain subtext throughout the entire film, which may or may not have been intentional.) It's at this point that Jesse experiences his first Freddy possession, and he (they?) slashes his teacher to death in the showers.

Things come to a head at Lisa's pool party, where Freddy actually bursts through Jesse's stomach, kills his friend (Robert Rusler), and then goes after everyone at the pool. Lisa tells Freddy that she loves Jesse and kisses him, which prompts Freddy to burst into flames and saves Jesse from certain death.

The mental hospital (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors)

Ignoring the events of the second film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors brings Nancy back to the franchise, only now she's an intern therapist at Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital, a place that seems to attract Freddy Krueger victims. The final girl in this one is Kristen (Patricia Arquette), a teenager who has the ability to bring other people into her own dreams. It's a trick she'll use further down the road to defeat Freddy, but before that happens, Krueger goes through the hospital and kills all of her friends in some of the most creative ways the franchise will ever see, including turning one teen into a tendon marionette.

Meanwhile, a nun named Sister Mary Helena (Nan Martin) appears at random moments to provide both guidance and backstory — including the tidbit that Freddy's birth was the result of a young nun named Amanda having been sexually assaulted by a bunch of deranged patients, and that the only way to defeat him is to find his remains and bury them in hallowed ground.

It eventually happens, but not before Nancy becomes his final victim. After all, there can be only one final girl in a horror movie, and this one has to be Kristen.

Freddy's soul collection (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master)

A year later, Dream Warriors' survivors have returned to normal teenage life, but Kristen (now played by Tuesday Knight) is convinced that Freddy Krueger is still somehow out there and looking to take down her and her friends. And you know what? He is. And after killing the other two Dream Warriors survivors, Freddy takes aim at Kristen's new friends, including a girl named Alice (Lisa Wilcox) who knows a rhyme called "The Dream Master" that will come in handy when it's time to battle Freddy.

Freddy finally kills Kristen by throwing her in a dream boiler, but before she dies, she's able to pass her dream power onto Alice. And yet, the weirdest part about the whole thing winds up being that at this point, Alice starts absorbing character traits from all of Freddy's victims, whose souls he keeps locked up in his stomach. Alice confronts him, and remembering "The Dream Master" rhyme, she shows Freddy his reflection, and he's torn apart by the souls inside him, releasing every trapped, murdered child.

Freddy's origin story (A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child)

A year later, Alice has a dream that takes us back to Freddy's backstory, à la Dream Warriors. Only now, Alice is Amanda Krueger, and she's overpowered by a swarm of deranged mental patients. Later, she has another dream that delves deeper into Freddy's past and potential future, one in which she witnesses Amanda give birth to a monster that resurrects itself as Freddy. Freddy then tells Alice he knows how to come back and gestures to her stomach.

In waking life, Alice discovers she's pregnant, but this isn't your average pregnancy. Freddy is somehow feeding her baby with the souls of his victims, who die in especially creative ways this go around. For example, Alice's boyfriend is turned into a human-motorcycle hybrid, while another new friend is force-fed her own flesh. Through all of this, Alice keeps seeing a young boy named Jacob (Whit Hertford), and he turns out to be an older version of her unborn child.

Alice discovers that Amanda's body is buried in the asylum, and the only way to defeat Freddy is to release Amanda's soul. In the dream world, Amanda comes to Alice's rescue, and she and Jacob — who fakes Freddy out by transforming himself into a mini Krueger — are able to trap Freddy's soul ... for now.

Freddy has a daughter (Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare)

A decade has passed, and in Springwood, Ohio, the entire population of minors has been wiped out due to "mysterious killings and suicides." Only one remains, John Doe (Shon Greenblatt), who Freddy sends out into the world in order to retrieve more souls for him. Outside of the city, John comes across a youth shelter, where he meets Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane) and a new group of future teen victims.

John and Maggie have dreams involving the same little girl, which drives them back to Springwood and a town filled with insane adults who are either way too excited to bring a few teens back home with them or completely terrified of what their appearance in town could mean. John, Maggie, and the other teens take refuge at the old Elm Street house, where Freddy attacks each one before revealing that he's Maggie's father. Because if there's one thing the Elm Street franchise really needs, it's Daddy Krueger.

With the help of another shelter employee named Doc (Yaphet Kotto of Alien fame), it's discovered that Freddy has been kept alive by dream demons, and the only way to kill him once and for all is to drag him into the real world. Maggie does and throws a bunch of random weapons at him in 3D, then stabs him with his own glove and blows him up. Did we mention there was 3D?

The big crossover (Freddy vs. Jason)

By this point, it's become clear to Freddy that the only way to make a real comeback is if the teenage residents of Springwood remember how terrifying he is. Never mind the fact that it's only been a few years since every teen was wiped from the town, and that something like that doesn't tend to slip the minds of residents very easily, but regardless, Freddy decides to resurrect Jason Voorhees so the mask-wearing murderer can kill a bunch of kids in Freddy's name.

Things go mostly as planned. Jason goes after local girl Lori (Monica Keena) and her friends, and the town's police force becomes convinced Freddy is behind it, but they choose to keep things under wraps until the kill count gets too high to ignore. 

At a party in a corn field, Jason goes all out, not only satiating his own relentless desire to kill, but taking all the fun out of it for Freddy, as well. While Lori and her friends try to figure out a way to kill both monsters, Freddy becomes increasingly more annoyed with Jason's inability to be controlled. He pulls him into the dream world and discovers Jason has a crippling fear of water, but Jason wakes up before Freddy can finish him off.

Good thing for Jason, Lori figures out how to pull Freddy into the real world, and Krueger and Voorhees face off in the horror fight of the century that ends with both dead ... but not ever really dead.

Freddy gets meta (Wes Craven's New Nightmare)

Wes Craven's New Nightmare isn't exactly part of the continuity, but there are enough nods to the original franchise that its presence in the timeline makes sense. Essentially, it takes place in the real world, and Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund play themselves, actors who've been offered roles in a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie. 

Thing is, the world of Nightmare stars creeping into Heather's real life. Her sleepwalking son, Dylan (Miko Hughes, who also played creepy kid Gage Creed in Pet Sematary) has dreams of Freddy, or at least a version of Freddy who's come to life because the original film series gave him power. After he kills Heather's husband, Demon Freddy goes after Dylan and, according to Wes Craven, the only person who can stop him is Heather ... but as Nancy.

Heather plays the part and goes to the Elm Street house, where Demon Freddy has Dylan held captive. With Dylan's help, Heather eventually manages to overpower Demon Freddy and locks him in a furnace, where he burns to death. 

Not quite a remake (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

In one of the most unfortunate turns in the Elm Street series (yes, it's even worse than The Dream Child), Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) gets a total makeover in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Not quite a remake, this Nightmare establishes early on that Nancy (Rooney Mara) and her friends have some strange connection to each other that involves repressed memories and early childhood Freddy experiences.

Kris (Katie Cassidy) is the first to remember Freddy in all his child molester glory (because in this version, it's made abundantly clear what Freddy was doing with those kids before the town's parents set him ablaze). Through a series of dreams, Kris is led by her younger self through her school but runs straight into Freddy, who kills her by dragging her across the ceiling before he slashes her across her chest.

The rest of the kills play out a lot like those we've already seen, but there's more backstory thrown in — namely, that Freddy was a gardener at Badham Preschool, where he tormented Nancy and her friends as kids. 

Eventually, Nancy and another survivor named Quentin (Kyle Gallner) return to the preschool, and they're able to pull Freddy into the real world, where an epic final battle ensues. Nancy slices Freddy's hand off before she decapitates him, and they set the school on fire. But in true Freddy fashion, he returns to kill Nancy's mom and pull her into the dream world. You just can't keep a slasher villain down.