How Five Nights at Freddy's Adapts a Beloved Horror Video Game

Welcome to Freddy Fazbear's Pizza, where fantasy and fun come to life. Or, something like that.

In Blumhouse's new horror film Five Nights at Freddy's, in theaters and streaming on Peacock Oct. 27, a newly-hired night security guard at abandoned theme restaurant Freddy Fazbear's Pizza discovers that something nefarious is happening at the old family entertainment center.

The movie has been in the works since 2015 and is based on the first entry in Scott Cawthon's beloved video game series of the same name—a franchise that has since expanded to include nine main games, five spin-off games, and a novel trilogy and anthology series. The original point-and-click survival game challenges players to work a night shift at Freddy's as watchman Mike Schmidt (played by Josh Hutcherson in the movie). The catch? Players must fend off the pizzeria's killer animatronic stage performers: Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie bunny, Chika chicken, and Foxy the Pirate.

Read more: The 14 Most Anticipated Horror Movies of Fall 2023

How Five Night's At Freddy's became a video game phenomenon

The Five Night's at Freddy's game—or FNAF, as it's referred to by fans—became an instant hit when it was released in 2014 thanks to its minimalist approach to recreating the rising terror of watching an effective horror movie.

FNAF also came on the scene just as Let's Play videos, in which gamers record themselves playing a video game while providing commentary on their experience, were gaining in popularity on YouTube. Cawthon's game both helped the format take off and benefitted from its success. Massively viral videos in which legendary gaming YouTubers like PewDiePie, Markiplier, and Jacksepticeye played through FNAF while reacting to its infamous jump scares and discussing its lore led to a huge surge in fans.

(L-R): Foxy, Chica, Freddy Fazbear, and Bonnie in <em>Five Nights at Freddy's</em><span class="copyright">Patti Perret—Universal Pictures</span>
(L-R): Foxy, Chica, Freddy Fazbear, and Bonnie in Five Nights at Freddy'sPatti Perret—Universal Pictures

The franchise now has a devout cult following known for intensely theorizing about and helping to expand on the mythos of the FNAF universe. Satisfying the fanbase was the "number one priority" for the team behind the movie, according to Cawthon, who co-produced and co-wrote the Emma Tammi-directed film.

“Yes, it’s important to make the movie enjoyable for people unfamiliar with the franchise," he said in the film's production notes. "But the reality is that this movie wouldn’t even be getting made if it weren’t for the people who have been there from the beginning. It’s thanks to the fans that I’m here doing this at all, and that the movie got made in the first place."

How the movie compares to the game

In the Five Nights at Freddy's movie, we learn about Mike' has a 's traumatic backstory. While on a camping trip with his family when he was 12 years old, his younger brother Garrett (Lucas Grant) was kidnapped by an unknown man while Mike was supposed to be watching him. After Mike's mom died, his dad couldn't handle the loss and eventually left Mike to take care of his younger sister Abby (Piper Rubio) on his own.

When the movie begins, Mike is in danger of losing custody of Abby after getting fired from his job as a mall security guard for beating up a father he thought was kidnapping a child. Desperate for work so he can prove he's a suitable guardian for Abby, Mike gets a job working the night shift at Freddy's with the help of suspicious career counselor Steve Raglan (Matthew Lillard).

Josh Hutcherson as Mike in <em>Five Nights at Freddy's</em><span class="copyright">Universal Pictures</span>
Josh Hutcherson as Mike in Five Nights at Freddy'sUniversal Pictures

“Mike’s a guy with the weight of the world on his shoulders,” Hutcherson said in the film's production notes. “He’s acting as this father figure, while at the same time dealing with his own deeply personal trauma.”

Every night, Mike takes sleeping pills to return to a recurring dream he has of Garrett being kidnapped. He tries to remember something new about that moment that will help him figure out who took his brother. When he starts working at Freddy's, five children suddenly begin appearing in the dream.

Mike learns from a police officer named Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail), who comes to see him at Freddy's, that the pizzeria was shuttered in the '80s after five kids disappeared inside and were never found. When Mike brings Abby to work one night, she ends up befriending Freddy's musical band of animatronics, who, as it turns out, are possessed by the ghosts of the five missing children—the same ones showing up in Mike's dreams.

It eventually becomes clear that the animatronics want to turn Abby into one of their own and Vanessa shares the full truth about Freddy's with Mike: It was her father, Freddy's owner William Afton (Steve Raglan's real name), who kidnapped and killed the five children and put their bodies inside the animatronics. William, who often dons his own Yellow Rabbit animatronic suit, now holds sway over the spirits of the children and uses them to do his dirty work. Oh, and he was also the man who kidnapped and killed Garrett.

(L-R): Mike (Josh Hutcherson) and Abby (Piper Rubio) in <em>Five Nights at Freddy's</em><span class="copyright">Patti Perret—Universal Pictures</span>
(L-R): Mike (Josh Hutcherson) and Abby (Piper Rubio) in Five Nights at Freddy'sPatti Perret—Universal Pictures

Mike and Vanessa, who finally decides to stand up to her father, are able to hold off William—although he stabs Vanessa in the process—while Abby convinces the animatronic children that they should actually be after William. The animatronics turn on their former master and drag him away, but keep him alive to torture him. The movie ends with Vanessa in a coma in the hospital and Mike and Abby in a more stable situation. But it also leaves the door open for a sequel, with William still alive and Abby hoping she can see her animatronic friends again.

While Abby is an original character and Mike's backstory is much more fleshed out in the movie, Five Nights at Freddy's otherwise follows the story of the first game somewhat closely. However, in the game, William is already dead and it’s his ghost that possesses the animatronic Yellow Rabbit. William's daughter's name in the game is also Elizabeth rather than Vanessa.

Write to Megan McCluskey at