Is ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ a Halloween or Christmas movie?


Helgi Halldórsson/Wikimedia Commons

The question of whether Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” should be considered a Christmas or Halloween movie is one of the greatest in the movie industry.

Avery Blackman, Entertainment Editor

Tim Burton’s stop-motion animated musical “The Nightmare Before Christmas” has been a beloved classic since it was released in 1993. Typically, the movie is aired on TV starting in October and lasting through December, therefore spreading across both the Halloween and Christmas seasons. This leaves many fans wondering: should it be considered a Halloween or a Christmas movie?

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” follows Jack Skellington, aka the Pumpkin King and leader of Halloweentown, where every day is Halloween, as he stumbles upon a door which transports him to Christmastown, where, you guessed it, every day is Christmas. After experiencing the joy that is Christmas, Skellington attempts to bring Christmas traditions back with him to Halloweentown, and take over the holiday. Seeing as though the setting of the movie is split fairly equally between Halloweentown and Christmastown (plus Halloweentown’s attempt at becoming the new Christmastown), it is very difficult to distinguish which of these two holidays the movie represents more. 

The claim that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is a Halloween movie begins with the identification of its dark thematic elements and frightening characters, which are both signatures of a Tim Burton movie. Walt Disney Studios ultimately decided to release the movie through their label Touchstone Pictures, whose films are targeted towards adult audiences, because the studio believed it would be too disturbing and scary for kids. Elements of terror are certainly traits of a Halloween movie. Furthermore, the movie ends with Skellington once again endorsing Halloween as being the best day of the year — not Christmas. Cinching out this argument in a USA Today interview in 2019, Danny Elfman, who is both the singing voice of Skellington and the composer/writer of the soundtrack for the movie, declared that he considers “The Nightmare Before Christmas” to be a Halloween movie. 

It simply cannot be ignored that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” has the word “Christmas” in its title, but not “Halloween.” This can be attributed to the plot centering around Skellington’s awe of the joy that is Christmas, thus demonstrating how infectious the Christmas spirit can be. In the climax of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” Skellington saves Santa Claus from being killed by the Halloween monster Oogie Boogie, which not only saves the day but saves Christmas. To show his thanks, Santa Claus gives the gift of snow to the residents of Halloweentown, snow being something they have never seen before, which very much exemplifies what Christmas is all about.

Personally, I think that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is more of a Halloween movie than a Christmas one. However, I propose a compromise to end this debate once and for all: what if “The Nightmare Before Christmas” was considered a Thanksgiving movie? I know this idea is a bit unorthodox, but hear me out. On account of the movie containing themes from both Halloween and Christmas, I think it is safe to say the most appropriate time to watch it is between the two holidays. What holiday falls between Halloween and Christmas? Thanksgiving. Watching “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in late November would allow one to reminisce on the “spooky season” of Halloween, while simultaneously getting excited for the “most wonderful time of the year” that is the Christmas season. Considering the severe lack of Thanksgiving movies out there (probably for good reason), I can think of no better movie for one to watch with their family over Thanksgiving break than “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”