The Nightmare Before Christmas

Movie review by
Liz Perle, Common Sense Media
The Nightmare Before Christmas Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Tim Burton magic with just a touch of scariness.
  • PG
  • 1993
  • 76 minutes

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 95 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 171 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids will learn about different holidays and respecting different cultures and customs. 

Positive Messages

Jack Skellington wants to take over Christmas, but he learns the lesson that the grass isn't always greener. The movie advocates thinking before you act and being grateful for what you have.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jack Skellington is a kind-hearted and likable character. He makes mistakes but ultimately learns from them and corrects them. He doesn't act out of malice, and he's enduringly innocent. Sally, Jack's love interest, is the only character to speak out against his plan to take over Christmas. She also helps Jack to correct his mistakes, at great risk to herself. Characters learn and demonstrate empathy.

Violence & Scariness

Characters take off their own heads and limbs.

Sexy Stuff

Lots of tie-in products available.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Nightmare Before Christmas is an offbeat, stop motion-animated movie that's one of the great family films for all ages. That said, it does have scary creatures in it -- characters take off their own heads and limbs, and there are skeletons, nasty toys, and a creepy villain named Oogie Boogie. A Christmas tree even burns up. Some little kids who aren't old enough to distinguish this fantasy from the goings on at Halloween (or those prone to nightmares) might steer clear, although you can always hit pause and talk about what's scaring them. The special 3D version is identical in content and storyline to the original, but the enhanced visuals may add marginal spookiness and could further blur the line between fantasy and reality for some younger kids.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 and 12-year-old Written byCometdogamundo February 20, 2014

A sophisticated and brilliant fable for teenagers and adults

We watched it based on the glowing review here but it was a mistake! Tim Burton is brilliant and the music and art direction are amazing, but this is a very so... Continue reading
Parent of a 5 and 8-year-old Written byTmax21 April 17, 2015

Good for teens. Not ok for younger kids.

I watched with my 5 and 8 year olds and really regretted it. It is very macabre, violent and dark. The main characters are dead and have eyes falling out with... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old October 18, 2010

Pretty cool movie!

I LOVED this movie! It had a nice storyline and I love Jack! He's a good role model and means no harm. There was a lot of singing, too. Overall, nice movie... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old August 11, 2010

Read 2 Find out

THIS IS THE BEST THING YOU COULD WATCH!!! All you people that say its scary or bad,you are crazy! I was Sally for halloween. unforgettable music, JACK IS ADORAB... Continue reading

What's the story?

Made in stop-motion animation, Tim Burton's holiday fantasy THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS centers around Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King (voiced by Chris Sarandon) -- a creature who is to Halloween what Santa is to Christmas. When Jack becomes bored with staging yet another frightnight for the sketchy members of Halloweentown, he wanders away from town one night and stumbles across Christmastown and becomes immediately entranced. Jack decides he needs to bring Christmas to Halloweentown and he is willing to do just about anything to make it happen -- even it if means kidnapping Santa himself. Unfortunately for Jack, his plans don't exactly come out right. The holidays just don't translate. Whether it's a coffin-shaped sled pulled by skeletal robo-reindeer to gifts that terrify their recipients or shrunken heads, or snakes that devour Christmas trees (all done in a way that isn't too scary for kids), the effects just don't come out the way Jack wishes. At one point, the military is called out to shoot down Jack's sled from the Christmas Eve skies.

Is it any good?

With a nod to Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Burton has fashioned a funny, darkish tale that pokes a bit of fun at kids' two favorite holidays (indeed, only the Easter Bunny is spared). The Nightmare Before Christmas is a magical marvel.

The movie is twisted in the way of Roald Dahl or even Maurice Sendak, are slightly off kilter. By changing the perspective on something we all take for granted, Burton makes us see these special holidays anew. And, of course, he does provide a happy ending. It's pure Tim Burton -- utterly weird and totally enchanting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the holidays are represented in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Why do we celebrate the holidays we do. What does your favorite holiday mean to you? Has anyone ever tried to ruin one of your holiday experiences, and how did you overcome that? When you get tired of something, what are some creative ways to bring excitement back into it?

  • Why did Jack's experiment fail? Is it fair to expect people who have done something the same way for a long time to change quickly? Could Jack have tried his ideas a different way?

  • How do the characters in The Nightmare Before Christmas demonstrate empathy? Why is this an important character strength?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love quirky and mysterious adventures

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate