Is The Nightmare Before Christmas…A Christmas Movie?


Story by Alex Paulino, Staff Writer

There is a cascade of cult classic christmas movies that are unforgettable even decades after their release: Elf, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Home Alone, and The Polar Express, amongst others define this season full of cheer and wonder. 

However, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas has always been a tricky subject in terms of what exactly it represents. It shares the spooky and nightmarish atmosphere of Halloween, and yet it also takes place and stars the Christmas season as it’s main point of conflict. This raises the question: Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween or Christmas movie? 

“If I had to pick one, like it was life or death, I think it’d be a Christmas film,” said junior Scott Silvera. 

This opinion is often contrasted by multiple people. 

“It has to be a Halloween movie because all the characters are based on Halloween,” said junior Sidney Lafleur. 

Overall, it feels as if this is a split issue. Some believe it is a Christmas movie, some believe it’s a Halloween movie. Even, some have the audacity to believe it’s both. 

It’d certainly make the most sense for The Nightmare Before Christmas to be a Christmas film. Right down to the film’s name, there are a slew of references and nods to Christmas and its culture. The movie takes place during Christmas, with the main character Jack Skelington discovering that his joy for Halloween has been diminishing since it is the only thing he can look forward to throughout the year. 

This depression of sorts is reversed when Jack discovers the wonders of a Christmas Town, in which afterwards Jack decides that he wants to take Christmas for himself and put his own spin on it. 

It doesn’t just stop there, the climax of the film is an extravagant Christmas heist where Jack rides his very own Santa-inspired sleigh. The film’s setting, tone, and atmosphere all point to being a Christmas film. 

However, these aren’t necessarily the deciding factors to determining a movie’s holiday-centered genre. Though The Nightmare Before Christmas takes place during the Christmas season, the film itself released on October 29th, 1993 which was obviously during the Halloween season. Determining whether this classic is a Halloween or Christmas movie requires the viewers to dive into the film’s themes and how they relate to the seasons the story represents. 

Jack Skellington discovering the magic of Christmas is a focal point in the film’s story. Everything revolves around Christmas for the film’s second and third act; however many misconstrue the main message behind Nightmare Before Christmas and how certain holidays play into that theme. 

Christmas is a tool in the narrative to represent change, and how some people force themselves to change for better or for worse. In Jack’s case, he obsesses over making his life center on Christmas to the point where he neglects his friends and town in order to achieve a selfish desire. By the end of the film, Jack discovers that everything he could ever want is there in Halloween Town. 

You could replace Christmas with any other holiday, and the message of the film would remain unchanged. This is a movie about Jack and his inner struggles with disconsolation, and how he tries to cope with that by flipping the switch and forcing himself to try something new. 

The film still shares a lot of it’s tone with the spirit of Halloween. There are plenty of songs and locations that share the freight and intensity that the Halloween season is known for. Look no further than classics like “This is Halloween.” 

The Nightmare Before Christmas was always meant to be a Halloween movie. Even the film’s story-writer Tim Burton settles the debate when he said “It’s obviously about Christmas, but for me, it’s a Halloween movie.”

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