A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) ending explained with full plot of the movie
Updated: Oct 26, 2021
It’s the month of October and just like every year, Halloween will arrive at the end of the month which makes October the perfect month to start the horror movies streak. This year, I went back to a much beloved cult classic movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street and let me say I’m not disappointed. The movie didn’t give the scare I needed but still it was pretty enjoyable.
Suggested reading - Is A nightmare on Elm Street worth watching? Movie Review (No-Spoilers)
A Nightmare of Elm Street is a perfect blend of supernatural/horror and slasher genre which definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. The movie was entertaining and tense from start to finish but its ending was rather ambiguous. The movie's ending still makes fans scratch their head and is matter of interest even till now. So, we've come up with 3 theories that might help you to clear your confusion regarding the ending.
Click the texts below to go to their respective sections:
What Happened in A nightmare on Elm Street?
So, in A nightmare on Elm Street, we are first introduced to Tina (Amanda Wyss) as she faces the killer Freddy. He attacks her but then she wakes up with some slashes on her shirt. She meets with her friends in the morning and we get to know that all of them had similar nightmares. Tina’s mother goes out of the town and to help Tina with her nightmares, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp) accompany her throughout the night. Then, out of nowhere, Tina’s boyfriend, Rod, interrupts their sleepover. The two head to the bedroom and when Tina falls asleep, she again dreams of Freddy but this time he manages to kill her which wakes up Rod and he sees Tina’s body getting slashed by an invincible force.
At this point, the focus of the movie shifts from Tina to Nancy. The police arrests Rod in suspicion of murdering Tina but then one night when Nancy falls asleep with Glen in the room, she sees Freddy trying to kill Rod. She wakes up, goes to the police station and pleads her father to go and have a check on Rod. Nancy’s dream once again came true and Freddy indeed killed Rod in prison and made it look like a suicide.
Her mother becomes worried about her and takes her to a sleep disorder clinic where, whilst dreaming, Nancy grabs Freddy’s hat and wakes up, pulling it into the real world. At this point in the movie, we get to know about our antagonist. Nancy’s mother, Marge, explains that Freddy Kruger was a filthy child murderer who killed at least 20 kids in the neighbourhood. He was then released on a technicality which wasn’t going well with the parents. So, they burnt him and his house alive.
Now, we come to know that Freddy is just a vengeful ghost who is taking his revenge and completing his psychopathic tendencies of killing children. After this, Glen falls asleep and is killed in some very gruesome way which even made the coroner and the officers puke. After this point, the movie’s final act (ending) starts to take place which is discussed in our next section.
What Happened at the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street?
During the climax, we see Nancy setting up some booby traps in hope of catching Freddy. She tells her father to break the door down and come near her in exactly 20 minutes. She sleeps and successfully brings Freddy Kruger in the real world, the same way she brought his hat in the sleep-disorder clinic. All the booby traps work on Freddy and give Nancy enough time to light him up and lock him in the basement. Nancy rushes to the door and asks for the help of her father. The police arrive and find the basement empty which made Nancy realize that Freddy is going to attack her mother, Marge. But now, it has been too late as Kruger has already attacked her. Don extinguishes the fire but Kruger and Marge sink into the bed in front of their eyes. After this moment, things really start to get complicated. Surprisingly, Nancy’s dad is not very amused and the moment he leaves the room, Freddy emerges from the bed and tries to attack Nancy.
Nancy realizes that Freddy is powered by his victim's fear and that she has to stay strong. She remembers what Glen had told her the other day about turning her back to Freddy and take away all his energy. She does the exact same things and Freddy finally disappears. Nancy then steps out the house to witness a very bright and foggy morning where her mother and friends are still alive. She gets into Glen’s car but then the top suddenly comes down and the car becomes uncontrollable.
Now, according to me there are 3 possible interpretations of this ending, one which the director intended, one which I theorized and one which makes the most sense and many fans believe on.
Ending Interpretation – 1 (Director’s version)
Similar to many films, A Nightmare on Elm Street’s ambiguous ending was a result of Director-Producer conflict. Wes Craven, the director, wanted the movie to end on a happy note but to keep the money coming to the pocket, producer Robert Shaye leaned towards keeping the ending scary and ambiguous in order for sequels to be made.
In Wes Craven’s original “happy note” ending, Nancy wakes up after defeating Freddy and goes through the exact same door and witnesses a bright sunny day, just as depicted in the movie. But here, she then realizes that the whole Freddy case, the whole movie, was just a horrible nightmare of her and actually a dream. She dreamed about the whole damn movie and in real life, everybody was actually alive. This explains the whole bright day scene. Her friends come to pick her up, she is relieved to see them and they all live happily ever after.
The actual ending of the movie was the culmination of both the director and producer vision. But honestly, it was a good thing. I don’t think this Wes Craven’s version would have been a good idea. It would've made the movie go into the common territory of resolving problems through dreams and the movie as a whole would've made less sense.
Ending Interpretation – 2 (MovBeans theory): Freddy killed Nancy
Look, this is what makes such types of movies great, one could have his or her theory about the ending. If they believe in one ending, they can make it canon in their heads and live happily. Now, for my interpretation, you need to keep aside the third part of the franchise. I’m considering just this part and looking at it as a completely individual movie.
Now, do you remember the scene I discussed earlier about Freddy emerging from the bed and trying to kill Nancy from behind. So, what I think is, Freddy was indeed successful in killing Nancy. Nancy died and the door to the bright foggy morning was the door to the afterlife. She never wanted her mother and friends to die, so when she died, she saw them in her afterlife which finally made her soul rest in peace.
Most of the movie was shot by keeping Nancy as the main focus and all the events after Tina’s death were being shown to us from Nancy’s point of view. So, it makes sense for the same thing to happen during the ending. Moreover, in many movies the afterlife is depicted in the same bright way.
Still, my version has some loopholes in it. To make it canon, we have to neglect the whole car’s top locking scene. But this was the first thing, which popped in my head when I was analyzing the ending, so, I thought it would be a good thing to share. Still, there is one theory which I like even more than my theory and that is discussed in the next section.
Ending Interpretation 3 (Nancy never brings Freddy into the real world)
Just like me and you, many viewers were confused with the movie ending and they have made this theory which does make sense but like every other theory has its own loopholes.
When Nancy decides to sleep and bring Freddy into the real world, she sets her alarm clock, recites her prayer and goes to sleep. But according to this theory, she never wakes up and the rest of the movie (bringing Freddy into real world, setting him on fire) is just set in the dream world. When Nancy grabs Freddy and tries to pull him into the real world, she is still dreaming and these all are just part of Freddy’s illusion. Freddy sets up this so that Nancy believes she was actually successful in bringing him into the real world which is what happens.
That explains why Nancy’s father wasn’t surprised after seeing Marge sink into the bed. The ambiguous ending where Nancy witnesses a bright morning is still part of her dream which explains why the top of that convertible car closed automatically. These were Freddy’s illusion to trap Nancy and finally kill her. You got to salute this man’s dedication and effort he puts into killing his victim.
But the problem with this theory is why would Freddy go into this length just to kill Nancy? Why would he put himself to go through all that booby traps, letting Nancy set him on fire, just to make her believe that she pulls him into real world? One could say, Freddy didn’t really go through such pains, it was just another Mysterio type illusion but still my question hold, why would he do so much hard work and moreover how does he know about Nancy setting up booby traps in real world?
There might be many more theories and interpretation out there but these were some which I loved. The ending is ambiguous but it doesn’t make the movie less interesting, it’s still a great watch. You can believe any ending you want as long as you are satisfied with it.
So, this is the end of this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it. If you have your own theory, please let us know in the comments below, we might also add it in this article. Thank you for reading and have a lovely spooky horror night.