The hand-painted posters for the first five films in the series are as iconic as the imagery in the films themselves, and we have artist Matthew Joseph Peak to thank for them.
Fresh out of art school, Peak was hired to design the original A Nightmare on Elm Street poster for New Line, and after knocking it out of the park he subsequently stayed on board to create the posters for the first four sequels.
What’s interesting about Peak’s Elm Street posters is that it’s not until Dream Warriors that Freddy is physically depicted on them. The more popular Freddy became, the more of him you saw on the posters; in the art for the original film and its sequel, Freddy is more of a rough concept. Like the films, the poster art was wildly creative, further setting the series apart from the pack.
Peak explained his process in the documentary Never Sleep Again:
“I had absolutely no direction from anyone. All of the Nightmare on Elm Street poster art was conceived from a pencil sketch idea, and then brought to a type of opaque watercolor. A lot of movie work is, ‘Oh, here’s a picture of a person. Here’s a picture of the scene.’ And I never approached artwork that way. It’s always been on a concept basis and getting to the core of what’s there. I’m pretty proud of having done the first five and helping launch it. Helping create it.”
Above you’ll find Peak’s original Elm Street 1-5 paintings without any text or credits. Peak did not design the poster for Freddy’s Dead, but he did do the art (last pic) for the soundtrack. Also take note that the Dream Child art was originally a bit different; the baby was eventually replaced by a carriage.