Freddy Krueger was everywhere in the late 80s. It only made sense that he’d get his own show. But unlike Friday the 13th: The Series, Freddy’s Nightmares would put its headlining star front-and-center. Introducing every episode and frequently participating in the plots, Freddy hosted a show that would explore the lives (and deaths) of the citizens of Springwood.
Much sleazier than its namesake film series and produced on a miniscule budget, every episode of Freddy’s Nightmares offered something interesting. Especially given that each episode was made up of TWO stories; the first twenty-minutes following one character’s “nightmare” and the second usually following a character who was present in the first story in a supporting role.
The two-tier approach actually makes the series a bit tricky to rank. Some episodes are good, some are…less good. But a lot of episodes have one half that is significantly better than the other which makes the subjective ruling of each episode’s merit even more dependent on taste.
With Freddy’s Nightmares now streaming on the Bloody Disgusting-powered SCREAMBOX streaming service, let’s get to the ranking of all 44 episodes of the 1980s anthology series!
44. The Bride Wore Red (Season 1, Episode 10)
A man thinks about cheating on his bride-to-be at his bachelor party and not much happens with that. Then, the bride explores her trust issues with men (caused by her adulterous father), but not much happens with that either. There’s some good nightmare imagery (scary masks!), it’s all stylishly shot and thankfully the bride is played by Diane Franklin so we care a little bit about what happens, but at the end of the day… not much really happens.
43. Monkey Dreams (Season 2, Episode 9)
In an episode helmed by Robert Englund, two sets of scientists run into complications with their experiments; one has to deal with gangsters, the other with an animal rights activist. There are aliens and monkeys, but it just isn’t enough. Englund directs a much better episode in the first season.
42. Welcome To Springwood (Season 2, Episode 3)
We get two stories here that involve moving. The first sees a young couple realizing that their belongings have gotten mixed up with a serial killer’s. The second half is basically The Lake House (the Sandra Bullock movie) but not quite as entertaining. Everybody involved with this episode has done better work elsewhere.
41. Bloodlines (Season 2, Episode 8)
Freddy’s Nightmares remakes The Omen which is cute, but first we have to sit through a guy dealing with his escaped-convict dad which is less cute. Biggest takeaway is that the main character is named Jack Burton and they say his full name throughout the episode which is crazy distracting.
40. Interior Loft (Season 2, Episode 16)
A couple moves into the titular Loft. The wife Kim decides to make extra money by working on a 976 sex hotline, but a psycho begins killing women using her recordings as the modus operandi. This is fine, but the continuation where Kim becomes more and more like a character she’s writing loses steam fast.
39. Funhouse (Season 2, Episode 18)
More people go into the house from “Welcome to Springwood”. Is it haunted? No. But it IS filled with a bunch of weirdos. A bit slow moving, but half the characters end up getting thrown into a wall of spikes which earns the episode some points.
38. Mother’s Day (Season 1, Episode 8)
A boy throws a party at his new house, but its previous owner was one of Freddy Krueger’s last victims. Hijinks ensue, but unfortunately none of them have anything to do with Freddy. The second half follows a Radio Personality whose lackadaisical, mean-spirited advice comes back to bite her. Both segments are a bit too unfocused, forcing a Mother’s Day theme onto stories that don’t necessarily warrant them. Positives include a gnarly bit with a bear trap and the presence of the always charming Jill Whitlow.
37. Prime Cut (Season 2, Episode 15)
An outlier for the series in that it’s set in the wilderness and it features a prominent non-Freddy monster (most of the villains in Freddy’s Nightmares are regular people). We spend a little bit too much time waiting for the characters to figure out what we know right away. None of it matters though, since the first half of the episode is a dream being shared between two marooned lovers who have to eat their dead coworkers to survive while waiting to be rescued. The second half is better than the first, but it never quite reaches being “good”.
36. Do Dreams Bleed? (Season 1, Episode 11)
Springwood has another serial killer on its hands (hilariously dubbed “The Springwood Chopper”). What could’ve been a very fun slasher-y episode mostly consists of everybody wondering if one kid who found a body is the killer (he isn’t). Dwight Little’s direction helps things, but it’s mostly just fine.
35. Life Sentence (Season 2, Episode 22)
The series finale by default. Freddy’s Nightmares didn’t go out with a bang, but it doesn’t go out with a whimper either. The first half is the best as a woman enacts her years-planned revenge on the inmate who killed her father. The second half is the “just fine” story of a corrupt wannabe politician getting his comeuppance. Certainly not the best stuff, but engaging still.
34. Interior Loft- Later (Season 2, Episode 17)
Another couple moves into the loft, but they’re much more interesting than the last pair. An artist and his wife fake the artist’s death to make his work more valuable. Many twists follow, all of which work. In the second half, a fellow artist moves in with two girls and has trouble working his way out of his own web of lies. It plays out almost identically to the “Split Personality” Tales from the Crypt comic/episode. Huge improvement over the first “Loft”.
33. Black Tickets (Season 1, Episode 14)
It’s the Brad Pitt episode. It’s hard to really take in anything else other than the novelty of Brad Pitt getting a burnt up, shriveled little hand and then later singing badly. Judging the episode on its own merits, it’s a bit on the confusing side in a not-so-fun way. The first segment ends with Brad Pitt looping back to the past and hitting his earlier self with a car, but then the second segment follows Brad Pitt and his wife dealing with marriage and baby problems as if that loop didn’t just happen. There’s some fun gory bits though and it has a VERY funny ending.
32. Silence Is Golden (Season 2, Episode 7)
A radio personality is tormented by a mime with mime powers. And in the second story the mime is just a normal guy (albeit a burglar) dealing with his own problems? Another case of Freddy’s Nightmares not making much sense. Still fun though and the first half is certainly memorable.
31. It’s A Miserable Life (Season 1, Episode 2)
A pretty basic episode elevated by Tom McLoughlin’s direction and an extremely solid cast (John Cameron Mitchell and Friday the 13th alums Lar Park Lincoln and Nancy McLoughlin). A teen working a dead end job gets shot and has weird dreams as he dies, then his girlfriend has to deal with Springwood’s nightmarish hospital. It all ends on a cool beat where her long-dead parents arrive to check her out, but things never get crazy enough to become memorable.
30. Cabin Fever (Season 1, Episode 16)
There’s a creature on the wing of the plane! And it’s…My Dad? Robert Englund directs a solid episode about a man being haunted by the ghosts of passengers who died because of his father’s cheap planes. Then a stewardess goes out with a passenger which, given the show, doesn’t go well. Englund’s camera is energetic and the performances are all great. Notably, the stewardess is played by Lezlie Deane who features in both Freddy’s Dead and Robert Englund’s 976-Evil.
29. The Light At The End Of The Tunnel (Season 1, Episode 20)
A guy gets a job working in a sewer but he’s afraid of the dark. A video store owner shakes hands on a deal he doesn’t intend to keep and gets stuck in a never-ending cycle of nightmares. Both segments have some creepy imagery and the second has a chilling ending. Dick Miller is here too! Good episode.
28. Lucky Stiff (Season 2, Episode 6)
Every now and then an episode of Freddy’s Nightmares comes along that makes it abundantly clear that 80% of the crew would end up working on Tales from the Crypt. For a show about a spooky nightmare slasher, it more often plays like a Shock SuspenStories comic. In this episode, we get a Sardonicus-esque lottery ticket buried with a dead body and a duplicitous wife who digs up her husband to get it. That’s just the first half though and then the episode…keeps going. But when it’s on, it’s ON.
27. Easy Come, Easy Go (Season 2, Episode 14)
A sequel episode to “Lucky Stiff” that follows the same woman as more suitors present themselves and the bodies pile up. This episode lacks the first’s EC Comics graveyard atmosphere, but it’s more successful on the whole because both halves are good. Great ending too.
26. School Daze (Season 1, Episode 15)
We get to see Freddy’s Nightmares remake The Stepford Wives! This is very cool. We also get to see a kid do poorly on his SATs and deal with that… which is less cool.
25. Memory Overload (Season 2, Episode 5)
Here we have a slog of a segment paired with one of the most fun in the series. First we watch a young Kyle Chandler and a college professor cope with alcoholism, fathers, and their military futures/pasts. There’s neat stuff, but it takes too long to get to the predictable reveal. Then, we see a corrupt credit score manager (played with great enthusiasm by Karen Landry) get pulled into the world of her computer. It’s pretty wild; even more so because the computer provides the segment with a film noir voiceover narration. It’s crazy and fun and I really wish the first segment could’ve matched that energy.
24. Identity Crisis (Season 1, Episode 21)
A former hippie is saddened that the youth of the day only care about money and business. Then a girl realizes she might have been adopted and that her birth father might have been a bad man…who wore a brown hat and a striped sweater. The first segment is more pointed than usual, straight up comparing young Reaganites to Nazis. And the implication in the second that Freddy used to run around getting all sorts of women pregnant is a fun bit of world-building.
23. A Family Affair (Season 2, Episode 19)
This is an Afterschool Special by way of Freddy’s Nightmares and it’s surprisingly effective. A man has an affair and, in trying to cover it up, loses both his wife and lover. The second story sees him trying to reconcile with his son (a young and extremely sympathetic Morris Chestnut) whose mother’s death has turned him to drugs. Things end tragically and even Freddy seems somber in the end tag. It’s all a bit on the nose, but it’s still heartbreaking.
22. Deadline (Season 1, Episode 13)
Sometimes, if the style is strong enough, a memorable plot isn’t required to make something special. In “Deadline” we get a teen writing obituaries who ends up falling down some stairs and a girl dealing with survivor’s guilt after her friends die in a car accident. Those are fine stories. But what stands out more than anything is the stunning slow-motion sequence of Page Hannah (from Creepshow 2) running out of a burning car. It’s BEAUTIFUL. And it’ll stick with me long past some of the other episodes that technically had better ideas and better scares.
21. Missing Persons (Season 1, Episode 19)
Eva LaRue plays a babysitter whose insecurities about being (formerly) overweight manifest themselves into one of the few creature makeups of the series. It’s all for naught though, because this ends up being a little girl’s dream. Then that little girl’s father switches lives with a criminal when he wishes his life was more exciting. But as that criminal, he’s dating the grown-up version of his daughter? It’s incest-y, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it’s VERY Freddy’s Nightmares.
20. Photo Finish (Season 2, Episode 4)
We get one great Freddy story and one fine one. A photographer’s subjects are killed by Freddy during photo shoots, but the pictures are coming out great. That’s awesome! Freddy frames a guy for murder and then frames an FBI agent the same way. That’s not as awesome… but it’s set on Halloween, so that’s nice.
19. Saturday Night Special (Season 1, Episode 6)
Lisa Gottlieb (director of Just One of the Guys) gives us an episode that deals with a man lying to get the girl of his dreams and a woman who undergoes transformative surgery (via chisel) because she never gets the opportunities her beautiful roommate does. Both segments are pretty tight and both have fantastic climaxes. Death by Zamboni is one for the books.
18. Heartbreak Hotel (Season 2, Episode 2)
Endings matter! Two fine segments are boosted tremendously by their endings: one a punchline, the other a twist. We follow a reporter with bad grammar looking for a hot story in Springwood and an amnesiac who pieces his life together with the help of his family. William Malone’s signature direction peeks through in a strobe-y birthing sequence (that features the Baby Freddy prop from Dream Child which had just come out the Summer before).
17. Prisoner Of Love (Season 2, Episode 21)
This one takes a bit to get going. Slowly building up the love affair between a chaplain and a prisoner on death-row and then two escape attempts (one of which goes horribly wrong). It all pays off in the second half with some pretty great scares. There are some stellar performances here and a great downer ending.
16. Rebel Without A Car (Season 1, Episode 9)
The first segment here is interesting because it’s a complete retread of the first segment in “It’s a Miserable Life”. A teen boy working at Beefy Boy Burgers feels trapped there and ends up dead. They even mention the kid from the other episode. What’s interesting is that it’s done way better here. The second segment tops them both though with a sorority that accepts a pledge just so they can make her life hell. She kills them all and it’s great. John Lafia of Child’s Play 2 fame directs this one and he directs it well.
15. Dream Come True (Season 2, Episode 1)
Season 2 Freddy is noticeably different from Season 1’s more jovial “I just wanna have fun” Freddy. In Season 2, he’s more deliberate. While he enjoys having a reputation, he often targets anybody who tries to prove his existence. He’s also more omnipresent. Although the residents are unaware, Springwood is under his control. Here he hunts down a psychiatrist who’s trying to publicly cure one of Freddy’s targets on the “Springwood Confidential” show, then he comes after a cameraman who’s trying to capture footage of Freddy. Both stories work well.
14. What You Don’t Know Can Kill You (Season 2, Episode 13)
A hypno-therapist can hypnotize anybody to do anything and he goes to great lengths to cover up a horrific crime. This is a good plot. The survivor of the first story is blamed for the murders and his girlfriend gives him plastic surgery to look like someone else. Unfortunately, that someone is set to be assassinated by the mafia. This is also a good plot. Two good plots make for a very good episode.
13. The Art Of Death (Season 1, Episode 18)
A young man’s drawings come true! A fun stock premise aided tremendously by Judd Omen’s incredibly peculiar performance as “The Phantom”. Following the format of “It’s a Miserable Life” (which seems to be the blueprint for many episodes), the second segment follows the love interest dealing with her trauma. Like “Rebel Without a Car” though, they’ve improved on the original significantly, using the character’s claustrophobia to good effect.
12. Dreams That Kill (Season 2, Episode 11)
A direct follow up to “Dream Come True”, this episode plays out largely the same way with Freddy tormenting the new host of “Springwood Confidential”. This segment has a creepier ending though and the second half is more interesting with a young man inheriting the talk show host’s dreams after an experimental brain surgery. This episode features the most shocking bit of violence in the show when Freddy uses his glove to rip out a man’s tonsils and then shoves his arm up the man’s anus. Absolutely insane they filmed that.
11. Safe Sex (Season 1, Episode 22)
It turns out that being obsessed with Freddy Krueger doesn’t lead anywhere good. Who would’ve thought. One thing that’s blatantly obvious in the show that’s usually only subtext in the movies (outside of the remake) is that Freddy really was/is sexually attracted to some of these young girls. It’s a frightening (usually under-played) element so to show it so blatantly here is jarring. The ending, where we see Freddy make out with Caitlin at a Lover’s Lane-type location and then cut to her dead, mangled body back at home being zipped into a body bag is one of the most chilling moments in the entire franchise.
10. Killer Instinct (Season 1, Episode 3)
Two track rivals are faced with a pendant that makes their wishes come true in an episode that feels a lot more like an episode of Friday the 13th: The Series. Thankfully, Friday the 13th: The Series is very good and under Mick Garris’s direction we get an episode with a bit more scope than usual (Tracking Shots? Background Actors?!) And for a show with a lot of bonkers ideas and visuals, Lori Petty getting decapitated by a finish line ribbon is certainly one of the most bonkers.
9. Judy Miller, Come on Down (Season 1, Episode 5)
One of the cooler things about Freddy’s Nightmares is that the whole town exists in a sort-of nightmare world. Because of this, it can genuinely be hard to tell what’s real and what’s a dream (even more so than in the movies). The first half of “Judy Miller, Come on Down”, which features a horrifying gameshow, takes advantage of this and it makes for one of the very best segments of the show. The second half, where Judy’s future self warns her that she’s going to murder her husband, is perfectly fine but a bit of an afterthought.
8. Freddy’s Tricks And Treats (Season 1, Episode 4)
Season 1’s Halloween episode is awesome. Mariska Hargitay is a med school student who’s tormented by Freddy while everybody else is out partying. We get lots of Freddy, lots of Dream World shenanigans, the boiler room, Halloween flavor, and some kooky effects; the first episode penned by Gilbert Adler and A.L. Katz is very much an ideal episode of the show.
7. Love Stinks (Season 1, Episode 17)
The first segment is good. We get a funny reminder that you shouldn’t tell someone you love them when you don’t mean it. Second segment is GREAT. A guy has to work at a pizza parlor to raise money for a vacation with his friends, but he has to work with his cousin who may or may not be making the pizzas out of something…icky. Jeffrey Combs plays the cousin and he gives the role everything he’s got. Maybe the most re-watchable segment of Freddy’s Nightmares.
6. Dust To Dust (Season 2, Episode 20)
Far and away the funniest episode. The survivors of “Prime Cut” are now recovering cannibals. They even go to a group (apparently Springwood has dozens of recovering cannibals). They slip and eat a home intruder, but things go crazy when they realize he had been contaminated by an alien lifeform. Filled with great one-liners (“If God didn’t want us to eat people, he wouldn’t have made them out of meat”) and an insane second half that somehow contains a really solid Gloria Swanson impression, this is Freddy’s Nightmares taking a swing and knocking it out of the park.
5. The End Of The World (Season 1, Episode 12)
This episode is incredibly silly, incredibly clever, and justifies Freddy’s Nightmares’ format in spades. The first segment sees a teenage girl realizing that she can go into the past via her dreams and affect the present. Nice. That’s a good, solid idea. The kicker comes in the second segment when the U.S. Government sees the vast potential of this power and uses her to prevent nuclear war. What? That’s incredible. Freddy’s Nightmares often ran into trouble when one of its stories came to an end and the episode just…kept going. But this… THIS is why it’s a special show. Also, George Lazenby is here which is insane.
4. No More Mr. Nice Guy (Season 1, Episode 1)
Probably the only hot take of this ranking. Fans of the show might put the Tobe Hooper-helmed pilot at the #1 spot and there IS a lot of good in it. The first half gives us a semi-canon recounting of Freddy’s trial and death, complete with a great fire stunt. The second half then follows the police officer who lit Freddy on fire as he has strange dreams which culminate in a death by way of Freddy’s suped-up dentist glove. Hooper makes some neat directorial choices like always obscuring Freddy’s face while he’s alive and he successfully establishes the tone for the rest of the show. It’s genuinely great television. A couple of episodes just had a bit more going for them.
3. Do You Know Where Your Kids Are? (Season 2, Episode 10)
Freddy’s Nightmares does When a Stranger Calls! And it’s really good! The Omen-ripoff baby from “Bloodlines” has been adopted by a family that keeps her locked in the basement. We also find out that one of her birth parents is in a lunatic asylum and the other was a nun that killed herself (that sounds familiar). Lisa, the babysitter, doesn’t know any of this and becomes more and more uncomfortable as the night goes on. The second story builds on the first very well as we focus on Lisa’s mother. The best non-Freddy episode.
2. Sister’s Keeper (Season 1, Episode 7)
With a little finagling, this episode could’ve worked as a feature-length ANOES. The twin daughters of the man who killed Freddy are terrorized in their dreams. But when one of them gets hurt in their dreams, the other wakes up with the injuries. There’s A LOT to love here. Return of the Living Dead Part II’s Ken Wiederhorn brings a lot of style to the episode, Freddy hits Nightmare 3’s balance of silly/menacing, there’s a great take on the arm stretch gag from the first movie, and one of the girls’ friends is played by a future Pussycat Doll. It’s the series at its most iconic.
1. It’s My Party And You’ll Die if I Want You To
This episode is just pure fun. A woman pretends to be a medium for lost spirits but then Freddy possesses her so he can kill in the real world. Then in the second half, Freddy goes to his High School reunion to kill off the nineteen people who showed up (half of the 300+ person graduating class have died in mysterious accidents). There’s so much to love here. Gwen Banta’s performance as the woman who gets possessed is full-on dedicated camp and then there’s so much carnage: A throat is slit, arms are cut off, a still-beating heart is ripped out. The only survivor is a goofy nerd named Howard Nehamkin who was the only kid who hung out with Freddy in high school. The episode ends with Howard creating a successful movie series based on Freddy’s story.
This probably should have been the series finale. A fitting bookend to this wonderful and utterly bizarre series.