Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street wasn’t intended to start a franchise, but Freddy Krueger was too memorable a character to dismiss like most other slasher villains not named Michael Myers, Leatherface, or Jason Voorhees.
However, Krueger’s popularity didn’t form overnight, as the A Nightmare on Elm Street series took a few installments to form its fanbase, even if their lucrative, rabid nature wouldn’t last forever. Furthermore, it hasn’t always been the best installments that make the most money, as at least one of the franchise’s better movies ended up being a box office turkey while the absolute worst was a success. The Nightmare movies can be a mixed bag in terms of critical response, and that carries over into their box office tallies. Thanks to Box Office Mojo and any given inflation calculator, fans can find out which would’ve made the most were it released today.
9 Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) — $18.1 Mil Unadjusted, $35.3 Mil Adjusted
Wes Craven advanced horror with A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984 and, 10 years later, he returned to give the franchise some fresh life. Unfortunately, it flopped at the box office. Surprising, considering it was not only the (perhaps too soon) revival of a big franchise, but also a pretty good one at that.
The return of Heather Langenkamp/Nancy Thompson should have been enough to make it one of the bigger moneymakers in the series, but Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was also very different from the remainder of the franchise, even if its meta nature would become all the rage two short years later with the release of Craven’s Scream.
8 A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) — $22.2 Mil Unadjusted, $51.7 Mil Adjusted
After the lucrative one-two punch of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, the Nightmare series plummeted with The Dream Child.
Freddymania was drawing to a close on its own; While The Dream Master performed even less like a horror movie than Dream Warriors, its increased tally wasn’t commensurate with the response from fans. So, by the time The Dream Child was born, fans were already convinced they had seen everything Freddy had to offer. Those who did see it opening weekend probably didn’t help, as the film’s word of mouth would only confirm skeptical fans’ assumptions.
7 A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) — $25.6 Mil Unadjusted, $71.2 Mil Adjusted
Just one of several movies that inspired Stranger Things 4, Wes Craven’s astounding A Nightmare on Elm Street wasn’t a franchise-making hit right off the bat. It earned enough for at least a sequel, but there’s little doubt Freddy had yet to become an icon, even if he’s never been as scary as he was the first time.
Regardless, the first film’s $25.6 million was nothing to scoff at, even if it didn’t match the tallies of Halloween‘s $47 million in 1978 or Friday the 13th‘s $39.8 million in 1980.
6 Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) — $34.9 Mil Unadjusted, $74.1 Mil Adjusted
While Freddy has spent most of his time in the iconic horror movie location of Springwood, Ohio. But, in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, the burned dream demon informs his daughter that his plans are actually far more substantial.
The film delivered on the first part of the title’s promise, even if the latter part wouldn’t hold true. However, the way the film delivered on the now-unrecognizable Freddy’s undoing was as hokey as the jokes he tells throughout the movie. While Freddy’s Dead made it clear the franchise had run out of steam, the finality of the title filled more seats than A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.
5 A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) — $30 Mil Unadjusted, $80.6 Adjusted
Freddy brandished his iconic knife glove once again in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, but he had a new motive. Instead of terrorizing the descendants of his murderers, Freddy plans to inhabit the young man who’s just moved into the house of one Nancy Thompson.
Freddy’s Revenge has always generated combative opinions, but its reputation has increased over the years. It was the series finding itself, which it would thankfully do in the next installment. However, the response to Freddy’s Revenge initially didn’t bode well for the franchise’s future. Even still, the reaction would have been even worse (and franchise fatal) had the filmmakers gone through with their intention of replacing the beloved Robert Englund as the title character.
4 A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010) — $63 Mil Unadjusted, $83.5 Mil Adjusted
Platinum Dunes’ A Nightmare on Elm Street remake didn’t quite match the heights of their Friday the 13th ($65 million) from the previous year, but it came very close. It also had a better multiple than that Jason Voorhees remake, which opened at $40 million before plummeting towards its final tally.
A Nightmare on Elm Street, however, opened at a still-impressive $33 million before adding another $30 million, nearly doubling its three-day debut. This is surprising, considering the film’s fan response just about matched the one from critics (15% on Rotten Tomatoes).
3 A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) — $44.8 Mil Unadjusted, $114 Mil Adjusted
Craven’s original and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge made a comparably modest yet impressive amount of money, but A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors announced the introduction of Freddymania.
With a slightly adjusted personality for Krueger and even more inventive kills, Dream Warriors impressed fans by being a well-written film with heartfelt performances and sharp direction from Chuck Russell. They responded to the tune of nearly $45 million, almost one and a half times as much as Freddy’s Revenge two short years before.
2 A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) — $49.4 Mil Unadjusted, $120.7 Mil Adjusted
After Dream Warriors made execs at New Line Cinema happy, they kept going after Freddy’s Revenge, and there was surprisingly even more money to be made with its immediate sequel, Renny Harlin’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
One of the biggest slasher films of the 1980s, The Dream Master was the pinnacle of Freddy fandom, and the movie held the top spot for a jaw-dropping three weekends back in August of 1988.
1 Freddy Vs. Jason (2003) — $82.6 Mil Unadjusted, $129.8 Mil Adjusted
Dream Warriors and The Dream Master were event films in their own right, but no one installment of either the Friday the 13th (save for the original) or A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises could stand a chance against the merging of the two.
Freddy vs. Jason was the final big movie of 2003’s Summer movie season and it held the top of the charts two weeks in a row, uncommon for a modern entry in an older slasher franchise, the most successful of which typically open bright and burn out fast.
NEXT: Every Friday The 13th Movie, Ranked By Scariness
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