Freddy is introduced in A Nightmare on Elm Street as a child killer who is set on fire by the parents of his victims. While his physical form dies, his spirit lives on in the minds of a group of teenagers living in his old neighborhood, who 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, Craven 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 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, Freddy is reimagined as a pedophile who had sexually abused the teenage protagonists of the film when they were children; when their parents found out, they set him on fire and killed him.
Robert Englund continued his role as Freddy Krueger on October 9, 1988 in the television anthology series entitled 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", Freddy's acquittal is based on the arresting officer, Lt. Tim Blocker, not reading him his Miranda rights, which is different from the original Nightmare that stated he was acquitted 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 Krueger's first video game appearance was in the Nintendo's 1989 game A Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddy Krueger later appeared as an extra playable character for Mortal Kombat (Komplete Edition) in 2011/2012, where he was voiced by Patrick Seitz. Freddy Krueger is an alternate costume in the slasher videogame Naughty Bear.
Freddy Krueger has appeared in several spinoff comic books, as well comic book adaptations of the films which adjusted various aspects of Freddy's backstory. The character has also hosted his own television show, Freddy's Nightmares, which was an anthology series similar to The Twilight Zone. Freddy also made several guest appearances on the syndicated puppet show DC Follies in 1988.
Wes Craven says 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 was conceived when his mother, Amanda Krueger, was gang-raped by a group of mental patients — thus making him "the son of 100 maniacs". Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare depicts Freddy's traumatic childhood; he is adopted as a child by an abusive alcoholic named Mr. Underwood, who teaches him how torture animals and inflict pain on himself; Freddy eventually murders him and becomes a serial killer. The film also reveals that Maggie Burroughs is Freddy's biological child.
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
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 (with solid red sleeves in the original film, and red-and-green striped sleeves from the second film onwards), a dark brown fedora, his bladed glove, loose black trousers (brown in the original film), and worn working boots, 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 was presumably all burned off; in the original film, only Freddy's face was burned, while they 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, skintight 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 (see above). Freddy also has fewer burns on his face, though these are more severe, with his muscle tissue exposed in numerous places.
In the remake, Freddy retains his iconic attire, but his burns are even more disfiguring than his 1984 counterpart, with misshappen facial feature and portions of his face missing, including a sizable portion of flesh on his left cheek. Compared to his other incarnations, this Freddy's injuries are more like those of an actual burn victim
Wes Craven claims 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, Wes 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 maintains its original look, but its metal brown and has four finger bars.
Freddy's glove has 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.