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8 Great Robert Englund Performances Including Freddy Krueger

Robert Englund in The Mangler
(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

There are some names that, just by hearing them spoken aloud, are enough to send a chill down your spine. One might assume that I am referring to a horror movie villain such as Freddy Krueger, but I am actually referring to the actor who plays him in 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street cast: Robert Englund. The undisputed horror icon and new Stranger Things cast member has, himself, become synonymous with the genre for a spooky (and very lengthy) filmography that rivals countless other actors in the same league.

Now, admittedly, there are a good number of classic horror movies on the following list of some of our favorite performances by Robert Englund, but it also includes a few considerably lighter roles worth mentioning. However, the actor’s most terrifying and most famous character is where we shall start, if you dare

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare On Elm Street)

Getting a good night’s sleep is not easy (if you even want to bother trying) after watching Wes Craven’s terrifying ‘80s slasher, A Nightmare on Elm Street, due to Robert Englund’s relentlessly creepy performance as Freddy Krueger. The badly burned boogeyman with the ability stalk and slay teens like Nancy Thompson (Scream Queen Heather Langenkamp) in their dreams with his razor-clawed glove would grow campier and punnier as the Nightmare movies (one of the most popular and craziest horror franchises) went on, leading to some undisputedly inventive kills. 

However, many still prefer Englund’s more earnest and cold-hearted original portrayal - which he would, sort of, revive when playing a demon taking the character’s form in the meta 1994 sequel New Nightmare, in which he also plays himself.

Robert Englund in V

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Willie (V)

Before scaring his way into people’s nightmares, Robert Englund charmed his way into people’s hearts on the otherwise chilling sci-fi miniseries, V, as Willie - who is, just about, the actor’s most iconic role other than Freddy Krueger. He is one of the few members of a reptilian alien race known as the The Vistors who actually sides with the humans and joins their rebellion once his kind’s true, nefarious intentions for Earth for Earth are revealed. 

Englund’s endearing character became a mainstay of the 1984 limited series sequel, V: The Final Battle, and the short-lived V: The Series, allowing audiences to see a side of that the actor they didn’t need to watch through their fingers.

Robert Englund in Stay Hungry

(Image credit: United Artists)

Franklin (Stay Hungry)

Before playing otherworldly creatures of a friendly or malevolent variety, one of Robert Englund earliest and biggest film roles was as a human named Franklin in 1976’s Stay Hungry. Donning a Southern accent in this dramedy set in the world bodybuilding, he steals a few scenes and many laughs from his co-stars: future Oscar winners Jeff Bridges and Sally Field, as well with a young Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Golden Globe-winning performance as Joe. 

Franklin works for Joe as his grease man, who “oils him up” before exhibitions at the Mr. Universe competition, which the Austrian actor had actually won a number of times by then.

Robert Englund in The Phantom Of The Opera

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Erik Destler/The Phantom (The Phantom Of The Opera)

While originating one of horror’s most famous characters is a magnificent achievement, it is just as humbling to join a long line of actors who have portrayed a role of equal or greater iconography, and Robert Englund can claim both honors. 

In 1989, he dazzled in the title role of one of the truly scariest and (and goriest) cinematic adaptations of Gaston Leroux’s seminal novel, The Phantom of the Opera, let alone one of the more underrated. The film’s obscurity could be due to The Phantom’s scarred face resembling Freddy Krueger’s burned flesh, which very likely could have been by design. 

Robert Englund in Urban Legend

(Image credit: TriStar Pictures)

Professor William Wexler (Urban Legend)

Another role that Robert Englund’s prestige in the horror genre likely helped him secure was in Urban Legend - a favorite of the post-Scream slasher trend of the ‘90s. He plays a college professor whose students (including Dawson’s Creek cast member Joshua Jackson and future Oscar winner Jared Leto) begin to suspect that his lessons in contemporary folklore could be based in fact, following a series of recent murders. 

Englund plays William Wexler with such a perfect balance of grounded humanity and his signature creepiness in his few scenes that it's a shame the character did not survive long enough to show up in any of the sequels, which may have actually secured a theatrical release with his participation.

Robert Englund in Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon

(Image credit: Anchor Bay)

Doc Halloran (Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon) 

A more recent film that has since become a cult-favorite horror-comedy movie is 2006’s Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon - a refreshingly clever mockumentary style send-up of slasher movie tropes. Part of its popularity can be credited Robert Englund chewing the scenery as, instead of a villain, a psychiatrist hunting the titular aspiring killer (Nathan Baesel), a la Donald Pleasance’s Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween

Actually, speaking of, Michael Myers is one of a few famous villains who exist in the world of the film, including Freddy Krueger, which makes the casting of Englund - who also worked behind-the-scenes on the original Halloween - even more deliciously meta.

Robert Englund as The Riddler on The Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Riddler (The Batman)

One of Robert Englund’s more criminally underrated performance as a villain is also one of his more unfairly overlooked voice acting performances. In fact, before Paul Dano’s sadistic take on the role emerged in 2022’s The Batman, I would have easily considered Englund’s Riddler from the hit animated series (coincidentally also called) The Batman to be the scariest depiction of the DC villain we have ever seen. Picture rock star Marilyn Manson if a wrongful betrayal turned him into Jigsaw from the Saw movies and you have this unique version of Edward Nygma, essentially. 

Robert Englund on Stranger Things

(Image credit: Netflix)

Victor Creel (Stranger Things)

A character that many were quick to assume would be the villain of Stranger Things Season 4 after Robert Englund’s casting is Victor Creel. However, without giving too much away, we learn that this elderly asylum patient with missing eyes he gouged out himself was tragically framed for the true villain’s first crime: the murder of his wife and children. Despite only appearing in one episode (that we have seen so far of the two-volume season, at least), Englund makes a lasting impression with a memorably haunting and devastatingly sympathetic performance that is easily one of the best of his decades-long career.

While it is likely that we have seen the last of Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, we have certainly not seen the last of his days as a horror icon, having recently appeared as himself in Netflix’s Choose or Die, and lent his voice to an upcoming animated triller called Abuptio. Perhaps we will see if we have really seen the last of Victor Creel, too, when Vol. 2 of Stranger Things Season 4 premieres on Friday, July 1.

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.