Frederick Charles "Freddy" Krueger is the main antagonist of the A Nightmare on Elm Street film series. He first appeared in Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) as a burnt serial killer who uses a glove armed with razors to kill his victims in their dreams, causing their deaths in the real world as well. In the dream world, he is a powerful force and almost completely invulnerable to damage. However, whenever Freddy is pulled into the real world, he has normal human vulnerabilities. Krueger was created by Wes Craven, and had been consistently portrayed by Robert Englund since his first appearance. In the 2010 franchise reboot, he was portrayed by Jackie Earle Haley. In 2011, Freddy appeared as a playable character in the video game Mortal Kombat. Over the course of the series, Freddy has battled numerous survivors including Nancy Thompson.
In the Nightmares on Elm Street comics, Freddy partners up with Devonne, also known as The Springwood Killer.
Freddy is a nightmare-demon who attacks his victims from within their dreams. He is commonly identified by his burned, disfigured face, red-and-green striped sweater, brown fedora, and trademark metal-clawed brown leather glove only on his right hand. This glove was the product of Krueger's own imagination, the blade having been welded by himself. Robert Englund has said many times that he feels the character represents neglect, particularly that suffered by children. The character also more broadly represents subconscious fears.
Wizard magazine rated Freddy the 14th greatest villain, the British television channel Sky2 listed him 8th, and the American Film Institute ranked him 40th on its "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains" list. In 2010, Freddy won an award for Best Villain (formerly Most Vile Villain) at the Scream Awards.
Freddy is introduced in A Nightmare on Elm Street as a child killer who is eventually discovered and captured by the law, but escapes due to a technicality (someone forgot to sign the search warrant in the right place). He is hunted down by a mob of angry parents, and cornered in a boiler room where he used to take his victims. The mob douses the building with gasoline and sets it on fire, burning Krueger alive. While his body dies, his spirit lives on in the dreams of a group of teenagers living in his old neighborhood, whom he preys on by entering their dreams and killing them. He is apparently destroyed at the end of the film by protagonist Nancy Thompson, but the last scene reveals that he had survived. He went on to antagonize the teenage protagonists of the next five films in the series. After a hiatus, Krueger was brought back in Wes Craven's New Nightmare by Wes Craven, who had not worked on the film series since the third film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
In Dream Warriors, more of Freddy's backstory is revealed by the mysterious nun who repeatedly appears to Dr. Gordon. Freddy's mother, Amanda Krueger, was a nurse at the asylum featured in the film. At the time she worked there, a largely abandoned, run-down wing of the asylum was used to lock up entire hordes of the most insane criminals all at once. When Amanda was young, she was accidentally locked into the room with the criminals over a holiday weekend. They managed to keep her hidden for days, raping her repeatedly. When she was finally discovered, she was barely alive and was pregnant with the future Freddy Krueger.
In 2003, Freddy battled fellow horror icon Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th film series in the theatrical release Freddy vs. Jason, a film which officially resurrected both characters from their respective deaths and subsequently sent them to Hell. The ending of the film is left ambiguous as to whether or not Freddy is actually dead; despite being decapitated, he winks at the viewers. A sequel featuring Ash Williams from The Evil Dead franchise was planned, but never materialized on-screen. It was later turned into Dynamite Entertainment's comic book series Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash.
In the 2010 remake of the original film, it is suggested that Freddy is a child molester who had sexually abused the teenage protagonists of the film when they were young children. When their parents found out, they trapped him in a building and set it on fire, killing him. He took his revenge on the teenagers for selling him out.
Robert Englund continued his role as Krueger on October 9, 1988, in the television anthology series, Freddy's Nightmares. The show was hosted by Freddy, who did not take direct part in most of the episodes, but he did show up occasionally to influence the plot of particular episodes. Further, a consistent theme in each episode was characters having disturbing dreams. The series ran for two seasons, 44 episodes, ending March 10, 1990. Although most of the episodes did not feature Freddy taking a major role in the plot, the pilot episode, "No More Mr. Nice Guy", depicts the events of his trial, and his subsequent death at the hands of the parents of Elm Street after his acquittal. In "No More Mr. Nice Guy", though Freddy's case seems open and shut, a mistrial is declared based on the arresting officer, Lt. Tim Blocker, not reading Krueger his Miranda rights, which is different from the original Nightmare that stated he was released because someone forgot to sign a search warrant in the right place. The episode also reveals that Krueger used an ice cream van to lure children close enough so that he could kidnap and kill them. After the town's parents burn Freddy to death he returns to haunt Blocker in his dreams. Freddy gets his revenge when Blocker is put to sleep at the dentist's office, and Freddy shows up and kills him. The episode "Sister's Keeper" was a "sequel" to this episode, even though it was the seventh episode of the series. The episode follows Krueger as he terrorizes the Blocker twins, the identical twin daughters of Lt. Tim Blocker, and frames one sister for the other's murder. Season two's "It's My Party And You'll Die If I Want You To" featured Freddy attacking a high school prom date who stood him up twenty years earlier. He got his revenge with his desire being fulfilled in the process.
Freddy's first video game appearance was in the Nintendo Entertainment System's 1989 game A Nightmare on Elm Street. The game was published by LJN Toys and developed by Rare.
A second game for the Commodore 64 and DOS-based computers was also released in 1989 released by Monarch Software and developed by Westwood Associates.
Freddy Krueger later appeared as an extra playable character for Mortal Kombat (2011). He has become the second non-Mortal Kombat character to appear in the game with the other being Kratos from the God of War series (who was an exclusive character for the PlayStation 3 version, while Freddy was available across all versions of the game). In the game, he was brought to the Mortal Kombat reality by Shao Kahn.
Freddy Krueger appeared alongside Jason Voorhees and Leatherface as minor icons during Halloween Horror Nights 17: "The Carnival of Carnage" and again with Jason during Halloween Horror Nights 25: The Carnival Returns at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood in 2007, 2008, and as the main marketing icon in 2010. In 2016, Freddy Krueger is back at Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood in the maze"Freddy vs. Jason".
Wes Craven said his inspiration for the basis of Freddy Krueger's power stemmed from several stories in the Los Angeles Times about a series of mysterious deaths: All the victims had reported recurring nightmares and died in their sleep. Additionally, Craven's original script characterized Freddy as a child molester, which Craven said was the "worst thing" he could think of. The decision was made to instead make him a child murderer in order to avoid being accused of exploiting the spate of highly publicized child molestation cases in California around the time A Nightmare on Elm Street went into production. Craven's inspirations for the character included a bully from his school during his youth, a disfigured homeless man who had frightened him when he was 11, and the 1970s pop song "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright. In an interview, he said, "When I looked down there was a man very much like Freddy walking along the sidewalk. He must have sensed that someone was looking at him and stopped and looked right into my face. He scared the living daylights out of me, so I jumped back into the shadows. I waited and waited to hear him walk away. Finally I thought he must have gone, so I stepped back to the window. The guy was not only still looking at me but he thrust his head forward as if to say, 'Yes, I'm still looking at you.' The man walked towards the apartment building's entrance. I ran through the apartment to our front door as he was walking into our building on the lower floor. I heard him starting up the stairs. My brother, who is ten years older than me, got a baseball bat and went out to the corridor but he was gone."
Freddy's back story is revealed gradually throughout the series. In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, the protagonists learn that Freddy's mother, Amanda Krueger, was a nun who worked in Westin Hills mental hospital caring for the inmates. Freddy was conceived when she was accidentally locked inside over the Christmas holiday and gang-raped by a group of the inmates, thus making him "the bastard son of 100 maniacs". Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare depicts Freddy's traumatic childhood; he displayed sociopathic behavior at a young age and was often teased by classmates. He was adopted as a child by an abusivealcoholic named Mr. Underwood, who teaches him how to torture animals and inflict pain on himself. Freddy eventually murders him, with no apparent consequences, and becomes a serial killer. The film also reveals that when Freddy reached adulthood, he married a woman named Loretta, with whom he fathered a daughter named Katherine. After the birth of his daughter, he tried to lead a normal life, but his murderous nature eventually overcame him, and he murdered 20 children on Elm Street between 1963 and 1966. He later murdered his wife after she discovered the evidence of his child killings, which Katherine witnessed. She told the authorities and Freddy was arrested for the murder of his wife and the Elm Street children. In 1968, he was put on trial, but released on a technicality, leading to his death at the hands of the parents of his victims. In his dying moments, the Dream Demons came to him to offer him immortality in exchange for being their agent, which Freddy accepted. His daughter, Katherine, was later moved out of Springwood, adopted, and renamed Maggie Burroughs.
In Wes Craven's New Nightmare, Freddy is characterized as a symbol of something powerful and ancient, and is given more stature and muscles. Unlike the six movies before it, New Nightmare shows Freddy as closer to what Wes Craven originally intended, toning down his comedic side while strengthening the more menacing aspects of his character.
Throughout the series, Freddy's potential victims often experience dreams of young children, jumping rope and chanting a rhyme to the tune of "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" with the lyrics changed to "One, Two, Freddy's coming for you", often as an omen to Freddy's presence or a precursor to his attacks.
In the 2010 remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street, Jackie Earle Haley portrayed Freddy Krueger. In the film, Krueger is depicted as a child abuser who worked as a gardener at a local preschool.
Freddy Krueger's physical appearance has remained largely consistent throughout the film series, although minor changes were made in subsequent films. He wears a striped red-and-green sweater (solid red sleeves in the original film), a dark brown fedora, his bladed glove, loose black trousers (brown in the original film), and worn working boots, in keeping with his blue collar background. His skin is scarred and burned as a result of being burned alive by the parents of Springwood, and he has no hair at all on his head as it presumably all burned off. In the original film, only Freddy's face was burned, while the scars have spread to the rest of his body from the second film onwards. His blood is occasionally a dark, oily color, or greenish in hue when he is in the Dreamworld. In the original film, Freddy remains in the shadows and under lower light much longer than he does in the later pictures. In the second film, there are some scenes where Freddy is shown without his glove, and instead with the blades protruding from the tips of his fingers. As the films began to emphasize the comedic, wise-cracking aspect of the character, he began to don various costumes and take on other forms, such as dressing as a waiter or wearing a Superman inspired version of his sweater with a cape (The Dream Child), appearing as a video game sprite (Freddy's Dead), a giant snake-like creature (Dream Warriors), and a Hookah smoking caterpillar (Freddy vs. Jason).
In New Nightmare, Freddy's appearance is updated considerably, giving him a green fedora that matched his sweater stripes, skin-tight leather pants, knee-high black boots, a turtleneck version of his trademark sweater, a dark blue trench coat, and a fifth claw on his glove, which also has a far more organic appearance, resembling the exposed muscle tissue of an actual hand. Freddy also has fewer burns on his face, though these are more severe, with his muscle tissue exposed in numerous places. Compared to his other incarnations, this Freddy's injuries are more like those of an actual burn victim. For the 2010 remake, Freddy is returned to his iconic attire, but the burns on his face are intensified with further bleaching of the skin and exposed facial tissue on the left cheek, reminiscent of actual third degree burns.
Wes Craven claimed that part of the inspiration for Freddy's infamous glove was from his cat, as he watched it claw the side of his couch one night.
In an interview he said, "Part of it was an objective goal to make the character memorable, since it seems that every character that has been successful has had some kind of unique weapon, whether it be a chain saw or a machete, etc. I was also looking for a primal fear which is embedded in the subconscious of people of all cultures. One of those is the fear of teeth being broken, which I used in my first film. Another is the claw of an animal, like a saber-toothed tiger reaching with its tremendous hooks. I transposed this into a human hand. The original script had the blades being fishing knives."
When Jim Doyle, the creator of Freddy's claw, asked Craven what he wanted, Craven responded, "It's kind of like really long fingernails, I want the glove to look like something that someone could make who has the skills of a boilermaker." Doyle explained, "Then we hunted around for knives. We picked out this bizarre-looking steak knife, we thought that this looked really cool, we thought it would look even cooler if we turned it over and used it upside down. We had to remove the back edge and put another edge on it, because we were actually using the knife upside down." Later Doyle had three duplicates of the glove made, two of which were used as stunt gloves in long shots.
For New Nightmare, Lou Carlucci, the effects coordinator, remodeled Freddy's glove for a more "organic look". He says, "I did the original glove on the first Nightmare and we deliberately made that rough and primitive looking, like something that would be constructed in somebody's home workshop. Since this is supposed to be a new look for Freddy, Craven and everybody involved decided that the glove should be different. This hand has more muscle and bone texture to it, the blades are shinier and in one case, are retractable. Everything about this glove has a much cleaner look to it, it's more a natural part of his hand than a glove." The new glove has five claws.
In the 2010 remake, the glove is redesigned as a metal gauntlet with four finger bars, but it is patterned after its original design.
Freddy's glove appeared in the 1987 horror-comedy Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn above the door on the inside of a toolshed. This was Sam Raimi's response to Wes Craven showing footage of The Evil Dead in A Nightmare on Elm Street, which in turn was a response to Sam Raimi putting a poster of Craven's 1977 film The Hills Have Eyes in The Evil Dead. The glove also appears in the 1998 horror-comedy Bride of Chucky in an evidence locker room that also contains the remains of the film's villain Chucky, the chainsaw of Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the masks of Michael Myers from Halloween and Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th.
At the end of the movie Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday, the mask of the title character, Jason Voorhees, played by Kane Hodder, is dragged under the earth by Freddy's gloved hand, thus setting up Freddy vs. Jason. Freddy's gloved hand, in the ending, was played by Kane Hodder.