Here’s why “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is the ultimate holiday movie

With Halloween behind us, Thanksgiving just around the corner, and Christmas on the horizon, the Holiday Season is officially in full swing. And while we all love the food, family, and shopping that comes with the holidays, let’s be honest: sometimes the best part of winter is snuggling up on the couch to watch holiday movies.

But what if I told you that there was a holiday movie you can watch from October 1st to the end of December? A movie that fulfills both your macabre Halloween tastes and your anticipation for all things Christmas? You know what movie I mean. In fact, you might have even watched it in celebration of this past Halloween! (I sure as heck did). Yes, I absolutely present Tim Burton’s beloved cult classic The Nightmare Before Christmas as the perfect holiday movie. Here’s why:

1. Yes, it is totally about Halloween.

As the brainchild of Tim Burton, Nightmare of course brings it in the Halloween department. There are ghosts, ghouls, and swamp-creatures a-plenty. There are child-eating toys. There’s Halloween Town, in all its greyscale glory: crooked towers, black cats, creepy dead-eyed kids, and the actual Boogie Man. The crowning glory is the King of Halloween himself: Jack Skellington (who I shamelessly confess to be my first celebrity crush!). Jack’s spidery movements and natural gusto for the grim make him the perfect Halloween hero. Plus, how perfect is it to duo with your boyfriend as Jack & Sally for the costume party? Perfectly perfect, that’s how.

2. But it’s ALSO totally about Christmas! The brilliant thing about Nightmare is the clash of the “holiday worlds” – that Jack is able to find a magic portal and literally bring Christmas to Halloween Town! Once Jack steps into Christmas Town, we’re bombarded by visual displays of snow, penguins, adorable elves, and of course red and green lights. We anticipate Christmas Day right along with Jack, cheer Zero when he pulls a Rudolph and saves the day with his glowing nose, and hope against hope that Santa can still save the day in the end. And just think about what truly makes a great Christmas movie. The lovers reunited! The family learning to get along! The hero learning a crucial lesson about the meaning of life! Right? That’s the core of Jack’s adventures with Sally and the other inhabitants of Halloween Town. They’re all pretty much a dysfunctional family that needs to make it through the other side of a crisis – just like the rest of our favorite Christmas classics.

3. The music is so fantastic. Good music is crucial for any holiday flick, and Nightmare has it down. Brilliant composer (and musician and vocalist) Danny Elfman brings a playful, quirky, score with numbers like “What’s This?” and “Poor Jack.” These songs not only capture the drama of Jack’s journey, but they 100% get stuck in our heads. And that’s in addition to Jack’s delightful voice (sung by, surprise, Danny Elfman himself). We are content to be serenaded by Jack any time of year, thanks very much, but especially nestled by the Christmas fireplace.

4. Gorgeous, vintage animation? Yes please.

There must be something about our collective psyche that loves to pair Christmas with stop-motion animation. You guys remember those great claymation classics like Rudolph and Jack Frost, right? Well, the world of Nightmare was created in the same way: filmmakers taking tens of thousands of photographs of incredible dolls on tiny sets. This kind of movie-making is super labor-intensive, so stop-motion films only come out once in a blue moon. And there’s something really awesome about watching Nightmare’s slight visual graininess and jerkiness when compared to uber-smooth computer-influenced modern animated flicks. After all, hailing from 1993, it’s a legit piece of movie history.

5. Everyone can enjoy it. Really, EVERYONE.

At the end of the day, sometimes what we need in a holiday movie is just to hear it playing cheerfully in the background while multiple generations run amok in the house, playing scrabble, eating turkey, and opening presents. Nightmare, while containing a few isolated images that might be a teensy bit scary for the tiniest cousins, is a feel-good family romp in the purest sense. The “scary” characters are totally goofy, the color palette is unique and beautiful, and the themes are timeless. The kids love how Jack heroically triumphs in the end, while the grown-ups can totally relate to his perpetual existential crises. Plus we all get the warm fuzzies in the end when “Sandy Claws” brings snow to Halloween Town.

So, still wondering which holiday movie to watch next? Yeah, I didn’t think so. The Nightmare Before Christmas is almost too perfect – done deal!

(Image via Disney)

Debbie Holloway
Debbie Holloway lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works closely with Narrative Muse, a fast-growing source for movies, TV, and books created by and about women and gender diverse folks. Read more
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