Nancy Thompson is a fictional character in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise created by Wes Craven. She first appeared in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) as a teenager hunted in her dreams by enigmatic serial killer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), in which she was portrayed by Heather Langenkamp. In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors the character is depicted as a psychology intern, portrayed once again by Langenkamp. Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) takes a meta approach of the character, following a fictionalized version of Langenkamp in the process of becoming Nancy one last time. A reimagined version of Nancy is portrayed by Rooney Mara in the 2010 remake.
The character is a primary protagonist in the films, whether as a central character or a guide for other characters, which is the case in the latter films. The character also appears in spin-off works of the series. Appearing in the various novelizations and having a story arc in the canon comic book continuation Nightmares on Elm Street (Innovation Publishing) amongst supporting roles in other comics by different publishers.
The character made her cinematic debut in A Nightmare on Elm Street on November 9, 1984. In this film, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) is a middle-class teenage girl with divorced parents. Nancy and her friends begin having the same realistic nightmares of a severely burnt man with a bladed glove trying to kill them. The character takes active steps to trace down the cause of the phenomena and finds the enigmatic figure in her dreams to be the vengeful ghost Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a child killer that was burned alive by local parents when she was a child. The lone survivor, Nancy realizes she can pull things out of the nightmare and devises a plan to pull him into the real world, where he is vulnerable. Nancy booby traps her house and lures Freddy through the traps. After he kills her mother, in the final confrontation, Nancy realizes her fear gives him his power and takes it back, defeating him. Although Nancy does not appear in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, she maintains a presence when a new family moves into the house where she battled Freddy. Teenager Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton), who inhabits Nancy's old room and his girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers) discover Nancy's old diary, which chronicles the events of the first film.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) re-introduces Nancy to the franchise. In this film, the character is a young adult studying psychology. Nancy is hired as a student intern at Westin Hills Mental Institution due to her groundbreaking research on pattern nightmares (nightmare disorder). Nancy realizes the teenagers inhabiting the hospital are the surviving children of the parents who killed Freddy when one of the patients, Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette), pulls her into one of her nightmares. Nancy explains to them their pasts and begins to train them on how to use their "dream powers," superpowers that are unique to them in their dreams. In a last attempt effort to save one of the patients from Freddy, Nancy does a group hypnosis with them, and together they navigate the nightmare world. The film ends with Nancy dying while stabbing him with his glove.
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) takes a meta approach to the character. The film is set in the "real world," following a fictionalized version of Heather Langenkamp contemplating Wes Craven's offer of her reprising her role of Nancy in another A Nightmare on Elm Street film he is directing. Heather is hesitant as she has a stalker and is reluctant to do another horror film. After several nightmares of a disfigured man, Craven tells her she is the target of an ancient entity taking on a scarier form of Freddy. As Nancy is Freddy's original nemesis, this being must kill her to be set free. The film has Heather become one with Nancy when her son Dylan (Miko Hughes) is sedated, with her obtaining the white streak and wearing her pajamas inspired by the original film. Embodying Nancy, she enters the dream world and combats the entity, saving her son.
In the 2010 remake, Nancy's last name is "Holbrook," portrayed by Rooney Mara. When people in Nancy's high school begin dying in their sleep, she joins Quentin Smith (Kyle Gallner) in an investigation into their shared nightmares. Nancy's mother (Connie Britton) admits to them that all the kids in the preschool were molested by a man named Fred Krueger, the school gardener. She claims that Freddy fled the area before they could turn him in and that their dreams of Freddy are just repressed memories. After Nancy realizes she can pull things out of her dreams and hallucinations, they plan to pull him into the real world and kill him. After killing him, they burn down the preschool with Freddy's corpse inside, and they escape. The film ends ambiguously with Freddy killing her mother.
The character appears in the 1991 short story collection The Nightmares on Elm Street: Freddy Krueger's Seven Sweetest Dreams. In the story "Asleep at the Wheel," Freddy and Nancy are long dead, and they are considered urban legends or the result of mass hysteria due to Springwood's infamous history. The pretentious band Nancy Thompson Grave Watch, which includes songwriter and guitarist Ian, rents the dilapidated house at 1428 Elm Street for musical inspiration. Nancy's spirit appears in Ian's dreams to warn him that Freddy is real. Nancy and the events of Dream Warriors are mentioned in the story "Le Morte De Freddy". Nancy returned in Nightmares on Elm Street, a canonical six-issue comic book series published by Innovation Comics from 1991 to 1992. In the story, Nancy teams up with several other characters from the film series, including Neil Gordon, Jacob Johnson, and Alice Johnson, to fight Freddy in his nightmare world. The events of this series were meant to fill in the period between A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare films, written by Andy Mangels. The first two issues of the story explain to the readers about Nancy's life in between the first and third films. After the events of the first film, Nancy is institutionalized. In college, she studied psychology and sleep disorders and made two friends in her roommates Cybil Houch and Priscilla Martin. After Nancy dies in Dream Warriors, Kristen had dreamed her soul into the Beautiful Dream, the good side of the dream world, where Nancy now acts as its agent as Freddy acts as an agent for the nightmare realm. The next four issues, titled Loose Ends, deals with the characters from previous Nightmare movies teaming up to defeat Freddy again. Nancy defeats Freddy and manages to stop his plan of using Jacob Johnson to break into the real world with help from Neil Gordon and Devonne, a psychotic former accomplice of Freddy's. Nancy makes an appearance in the final issue of the crossover comic series Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors. In a battle against Freddy Krueger, Dream Master Jacob Johnson summons the spirits of Freddy's past victims, including Amanda Krueger and the Dream Warriors. Nancy also appears, reuniting with Dr. Neil Gordon to help him read the Necronomicons' passages needed to banish Freddy. With Freddy defeated, Nancy leaves Neil and returns to the afterlife with the other spirits.