Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) Explained

An Average Movie-Goer’s Review

Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) No Spoiler Review poster

I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.

Today we’re looking at 1987’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Nancy Thompson and Freddy Krueger reignite their deadly feud when Nancy attempts to protect the last of the Elm Street teens.

Is A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors Scary?

Not really, there are some jump scares but nothing that will leave you scared. There are also a few pretty creepy scenes but they’re mostly in the beginning. The rest of the movie is filled with some gory kills but mostly entertaining segments focusing more on the story.

You won’t leave A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 scared or terrified but you’ll be entertained and know a lot more about Freddy Krueger.

Plot Synopsis:

The film opens with one of our main teen characters Kristen (played by Patricia Arquette) building a paper mache house instead of sleeping. As she starts to nod off, she turns up her music, drinks some diet coke, and eats a spoonful of coffee. I can tell you from experience; gross.

Her mother runs in and turns off her music, demanding she go to sleep. Kristen says she’s still having nightmares but her mother, who has a date downstairs, is trying to get laid so she ignores her. Kristen falls asleep and wakes up finding her bed outside a life-size version of the house she was building.

Seeing the life-size version, I’m pretty sure that’s Nancy Thompson’s house from the first Nightmare on Elm Street. This one comes with creepy children singing the Freddy rhyme. 

One, two Freddy’s coming for you

Three, four better lock your doors

Five, six grab a crucifix

Seven, eight better stay up late

Nine, ten never sleep again 

Patricia Arquette as Kristen dreams of being in front of Nancy's house in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
So, you know, fuck that.

Kristen walks up to the house and sees a little girl go into the house. She chases after her and follows her to the basement. The furnace turns on and the girl says “Freddy’s home” like it’s a totally chill thing. Kristen grabs the girl and runs down a hall as we see Freddy chasing after them.

Kristen and the girl end up in a room filled with hanging bodies. The little girl turns into a skeleton and Kristen wakes up screaming. Turns out she’s still sleeping as she enters her bathroom and the handle latches onto her hand. Freddy appears in the mirror laughing and the other handle turns into knives that cut her wrist.

Freddy attacks Kristen through a mirror in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Maybe someone should call a plumber… or exorcist?

Her mother runs in and we see that Kristen has cut her own wrist with a razor. We cut to a Psychiatric hospital and meet another of our main characters Dr. Neil Gordon (played by Craig Wasson). We also meet a bunch of other characters but they’re literally there for a second so I’ll skip the introductions for now.

While talking to his colleague Dr. Elizabeth Simms, we learn that a new staff member was just hired who is doing groundbreaking research on nightmares. It’s totally Nancy. The two get called into an examination room where Kristen is freaking out.

Neil tries to give her a sedative but she kicks him away, pushes an orderly off of her, and cuts another orderly, Max (played by Laurence Fishburne), with a scalpel. Kristen starts to recite the Freddy rhyme and Nancy (played by Heather Langenkamp) enters the room, finishing it for her. Kristen is shocked she knows it and hugs her.

Heather Langenkamp as Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
“Hey, I heard that creepy rhyme that reminded me of my dead friends so I thought I’d check it out.”

Later Neil is telling Nancy about the patients who all are having nightmares, have narcolepsy, and are experiencing a group delusion involving a boogeyman. As Nancy leaves she drops her bag and a pill bottle falls out which Neil sees. After she leaves Neil spots a nun in white staring at him from a distance but she disappears.

That night Neil does some research and discovers that the meds Nancy is taking, hypnocil, is an experimental drug that prevents dreams and night terrors. At the hospital, Kristen falls asleep and wakes up as a tricycle rolls into her room leaving behind a trail of blood.

Kristen backs out of the room but finds herself inside the house from the beginning. Inside one of the rooms, Freddy takes the form of a large worm and begins to eat Kristen whole. Kristen calls out to Nancy and in the real world Nancy wakes up hearing Kristen’s screams. 

Assuming she’s hearing things, Nancy sits down but falls through her chair and enters Kristen’s dream through a mirror. Nancy immediately sees worm-Freddy, grabs a mirror shard, and stabs him in the eye.

Nancy and Kristen run into a room and Kristen uses some Professor X powers to wake them both up. The following day Nancy meets with Kristen and confirms the house was her old house. Kristen then tells her that she has been able to pull people into her dreams since she was four but stopped doing it after he parent’s divorced. This is totally an X-men movie.

Later, in group, Nancy meets the rest of the patients so it’s introduction time. From the screenshots below we have: Kincaid (played by Ken Sagoes) who has a short temper, Will (played by Ira Heiden) who is in a wheelchair, Jennifer (played by Penelope Sudrow) who has dreams to be a television star, Joey (played by Rodney Eastman) who no longer talks and has a crush on one of the nurses, and Taryn (played by Jennifer Rubin) who used to shoot up drugs into her arms. 

There’s also Philip (played by Bradley Gregg) who sleepwalks and makes puppets, you’ll see him shortly and it’s not good news for Phillip.  That night, after group, Will, Taryn, and Joey are playing DnD but Max enters telling them it’s lights out.

Meanwhile, Nancy and Neil have dinner and Nancy asks him to prescribe all their patients hypnocil but he refuses. Back at the hospital, we see one of Phillip’s puppets grow into Freddy Krueger.

Freddy cuts open Phillip’s arms and legs and uses his veins to puppet him around. Kincaid sees Phillip sleepwalking and doesn’t think anything weird is going on. Freddy puppets Phillip past a nurse who doesn’t hear him and onto the roof of the building.

Joey spots Phillip on the roof and wakes Will up, carrying him over to the window to see Phillip. He then runs to the nurse’s station and tries to alert her but decides to just bang on everyone’s doors. The rest of the teens run to the window and try to call out to Phillip but it’s no use. Freddy cuts the vein strings and causes Phillip to fall from the roof to his death.

The following day at group, Dr. Elizabeth calls his death an accident but Will clarifies that Phillip was scared. The group and Nancy try to tell her it wasn’t an accident but Elizabeth decides to have everyone’s door locked and administer sedation at bedtime.

Kincaid flips out and is dragged away by orderlies. Neil decides to prescribe the teens hypnocil but gets pushback from Elizabeth. She concedes when he threatens to go above her and quit if he’s not approved. Unfortunately, he tells Nancy they might not be able to get it within the next few days. 

That night Jennifer is in the tv room and Max lets her stay in there alone past bedtime. As she starts to nod off, she lights a cigarette and burns her hand in order to stay awake. This doesn’t work and she sees Freddy on the tv. The tv switches to static and for some reason, she approaches the television like she didn’t just see a supernatural killer on the screen.

Mechanical arms protrude out of the sides and grab Jennifer lifting her up in the air. Freddy’s head pops out of the top and he says one of the series’ most iconic lines, “Welcome to prime time, bitch!” as he slams Jennifer into the tv, killing her.

At Jennifer’s funeral, the nun Neil saw earlier approaches him and asks what faith he follows. He says science and she responds with “sad choice.” The fuck kind of anti-science bullshit is this?

She tells him her name is Sister Mary Helena and that the only way to stop all the deaths is to lay the unquiet spirit to rest as it is an abomination to god and to man. So I guess her faith doesn’t teach how to NOT talk in fucking riddles.

Nancy approaches Neil and when Neil looks back at Sister Mary Helena, she’s gone. That night Neil is having dinner at Nancy’s and… hold up are they dating now?… anyway she decides to tell him the truth about Freddy.

The following day at an unofficial group session without Dr. Elizabeth, Nancy reveals to the teens that she knows they’re being targeted by Freddy Krueger. We learn that this film takes place 6 years after the first and that, despite that movie ending with Nancy saying it was all a dream, all her friends did actually die.

In another revelation, Nancy says all the teens there are the last of the Elm street children; the children of the people who burned Freddy alive. Nancy says the key to defeating Freddy is Kristen’s ability and she adds that they all have some special power in their dreams.

Nancy and Neil in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors
“I wanted to call us the X-Men but that was already taken so I’m settling for Dream Warriors.”

Under the direction of Nancy and Neil, the group tries group hypnosis, putting them all to sleep. A moment later the group wake up but nothing has happened. As they take a break, Joey spots the nurse he has a crush on in the hall and she beckons him over. 

They head into a room, she undresses and kisses him but she’s revealed to be Freddy. He shoots out tongues that tie Joey to each corner of the bedframe as the mattress drops into the floor revealing a fiery pit.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group discovers the hypnosis worked and each reveals their special abilities. Kincaid has super-strength like Luke Cage with more durable skin, Will can walk and is a wizard like Doctor Strange, Kristen has superior acrobatic abilities which is useless like Robin, and Taryn is a punk rocker with switchblades so just the worst special ability.

Will is a Wizard in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors
I think everyone’s just super high

The group realize Joey is missing and the room starts to change, turning red with the walls burning away like some Silent Hill bullshit. Dr. Elizabeth enters the room questioning what’s going on and everyone wakes up from the hypnosis except Joey who has fallen into a coma.

A short time later with Joey still in a coma and Dr. Elizabeth being a snitch, Neil and Nancy are fired. As Neil packs his car with his belongings, he spots Sister Mary Helena watching him from a tower in the hospital’s abandoned wing. Neil breaks in (because what are they going to do? Fire him again?) and he finds the nun at the top. 

Sister Mary Helena reveals that in the 1940s the hospital kept the worst of the criminally insane locked up in that wing. A young woman on the staff was accidentally locked in and the inmates kidnapped her, raping her hundreds of times over the course of several days.

When she was finally found, she was barely alive and pregnant. Her name was Amanda Krueger. We then get another of the series’ most famous lines, Freddy is “the bastard son of a hundred maniacs.”

Sister Mary Helena tells Neil the only way to kill Freddy is to bury his remains in hallowed grounds, unfortunately, no one knows where his body is.

Sister Mary Helena/Amanda Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors
“There are only thirty minutes left in this movie so no more riddles.”

After telling Nancy what the nun said, the two go to a bar and pay a visit to Nancy’s father Lt. Donald Thompson (played by John Saxon). Thompson refuses to help or believe that Freddy is back causing Nancy to angrily walk away. Neil then gets a notification on his beeper and calls the hospital finding out that Kristen is being sedated.

Nancy agrees to go back to the hospital to help as Neil stays to convince Thompson. After yelling at Thompson and mentioning Nancy might die, Thompson finally agrees. At the hospital, Max prevents Nancy from seeing Kristen but does allow her to say bye to the other teens. Instead of saying bye, she sneaks Kincaid, Taryn, and Will into another hypnosis session.

The group wake up with Kristen in the solitary confinement room but the room is immediately destroyed by Freddy’s claws. Kristen wakes up back at the start of the movie and she starts to think the whole thing was a dream. Her mother runs in and turns off her music, demanding she go to sleep.

Kristen hugs her mom and, like at the start of the movie, we hear her mother’s date asking where the bourbon is. Kristen’s mom is pulled away and we see her date is Freddy who decapitates her.

Freddy kills Kristen's mom in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors
Maybe Freddy is an alcoholic?

Freddy attacks Kristen but she narrowly avoids him by using her acrobatic abilities. She then jumps out of the window and lands in Nancy’s old house. Taryn, who is in a different part of the house, hears her calls and looks for her. Walking down one of the halls it converts into an alleyway where Freddy appears.

Taryn pulls out her switchblades and the two fight with Taryn gaining the upper hand. Freddy turns his fingers into syringes filled with drugs and injects Taryn, killing her.

In a tunnel, Will wakes up hearing Taryn’s screams and calls out to her but hears Freddy’s laughter instead. Freddy appears at one end of the tunnel and a wheelchair made of spikes appears on the other end. Using the wheelchair, Freddy attacks Will but Will turns into a wizard and destroys it.

Will shocks Freddy with magic but Freddy says he doesn’t believe in fairytales and grabs Will. Umm actually, magic isn’t necessarily only tied to fairytales so maybe Freddy should brush up on his literature and- oh Will is dead.

Freddy kills Wizard Will in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors
Man, these “Dream Warriors” feel more like a Suicide Squad

Kristen finds Nancy in one of the rooms and Kincaid breaks through one of the walls reuniting with them. Kincaid calls out to Freddy and a door appears behind him leading to a boiler room where Joey is being held. 

Meanwhile out in the real world, Neil stops by a church, grabs some holy water and a crucifix, and then, along with Lt. Thompson, heads to a scrapyard where Freddy’s body was stored. The two find Freddy’s bones and Neil instructs Lt. Thompson to dig a hole.

Back in the boiler room, the group find Joey but also Freddy. As Freddy releases Joey’s restraints Nancy runs over and grabs him before he falls into the fire. Kincaid helps lift them both up as Kristen fights Freddy which is as effective as Robin without Batman. 

Before Freddy can kill her, Kincaid hits him but he’s easily overpowered. Nancy grabs an iron rod and stabs Freddy in the stomach. Freddy laughs and pulls out the rod revealing that the souls of the kids he’s killed before have made him stronger. Ripping open his shirt he reveals their faces under his skin.

Sensing his bones are being moved, Freddy disappears. In the real world, Neil and Lt. Thompson finish digging a hole when they’re attacked by Freddy’s reanimated bones. Lt. Thompson is shocked and attacks but is easily overpowered. Freddy-Bones throws him against a car, impaling him through some metal and killing him.

Neil tries to fight with a shovel but Freddy-Bones slashes his chest, grabs the shovel, and knocks him into the hole, knocking him out. Freddy-Bones does a victory growl as his bones fall apart and de-animate(?)… is that a word?

In the dream world, Nancy, Kristen, Kincaid, and Joey enter a room full of mirrors as the door disappears and Freddy appears in a mirror. Multiple Freddys appear in the mirrors and everyone, except Joey, is grabbed and pulled into one. Joey screams and I guess his special ability is sonic screams because all the mirrors shatter as his friends are thrown back into the room.

Nancy yells out that Freddy is gone and it’s all over which she has no reason to believe at all. Where are her facts? What are her sources? Freddy only disappeared, how could she think he was dead?

Nancy spots her father’s spirit in another room and he tells her he’s dead. She hugs him and it’s revealed to be Freddy who stabs her in the stomach.

Freddy traps Kristen in the room with him and jumps on top of her. As he’s about to stab her, Nancy jumps on his back and twists his arm forcing him to stab himself. Meanwhile, in the real world, Nancy’s screams have woken up Neil who crawls out of the hole and throws Freddy’s bones in.

Using the holy water, Neil splashes it on Freddy’s bones while praying which kills Freddy in the dream world as he struggles with Nancy.

Freddy dies in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors
Well that’s the end of Freddy forever and- oh my god there are 5 more sequels

Nancy dies in Kristen’s arms and we cut to her funeral in the real world. Neil spots Sister Mary Helena and follows her to a headstone where she disappears. The headstone reveals the grave belongs to Sister Mary Helena whose original name was Amanda Krueger.

The film ends with Neil sleeping and we see the paper mache house that Kristen built. A light turns on in the house and we cut to black.


A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is good and as a sequel it’s great. This takes everything the first Nightmare on Elm Street did and expands on it including giving Freddy a bigger backstory.

The acting is better than the first, the dialogue is better, and the ending doesn’t tread the line of a cop-out “it was all a dream” ending like the first one. There is more CGI in this one which can be a bit jarring but it’s barely used so not a big deal.

The characterization of the characters in this movie is a huge step up from the original. Where we really didn’t know much about the characters in the first movie, you learn a fair amount about these characters. Each kill is also tailored to who they are which is always a plus.

One thing that wasn’t negative or positive was the change in Freddy’s rules as compared to the first movie. In the first movie, when Freddy killed, anyone who saw it in the real world witnessed a supernatural kill, like Rod witnessing Tina’s body dragged around the room. In this movie, it appears as if his victims are killed in apparent suicides. In the beginning, Freddy cuts Kristen’s wrist but in the real world, it looked like Kristen did it to herself with a razor.

There are a couple of other retcons this movie does, mainly to the ending of the first movie, but they make sense for this movie to happen and it actually retroactively clears up some confusion.

One slight negative I do have for the film is how Nancy died. She had no reason to believe Freddy was dead, this lowered her guard and allowed Freddy as her dad to kill her. Sure, this might have still happened anyway but the random announcement that Freddy is dead didn’t make a lot of sense.

Overall I recommend giving A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors a watch or rewatch for Halloween. It gives a lot more lore and establishes a backstory for Freddy Krueger that is used in future movies and is widely considered canon.


Stuff to Ignore

Rotten Tomatoes – 72%

Metacritic – 49

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