A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids might learn about different holidays: Halloween and Christmas are explored the most, but Easter and Thanksgiving themes also briefly appear.
The grass isn't always greener on the other side -- it's better to be grateful for what you already have. Think before you act, otherwise people could get hurt.
Positive Role Models
Jack Skellington is a kindhearted and innocent character. He makes mistakes that hurt people and scare kids, but he corrects them and learns to be grateful for what he already has. Sally, Jack's love interest, is the only character to speak out against his plan to take over Christmas. She also helps Jack correct his mistakes, at great risk to herself. But others, such as Dr. Finkelstein and the Oogie Boogie monster, stay two-dimensionally cruel.
Created and directed by male filmmakers, The Nightmare Before Christmas does have a female screenwriter (Caroline Thompson). But the only female character of note, Sally, falls into gender clichés: She's defined by her crush on Jack, sacrifices herself so that he can succeed, and becomes a damsel in distress who needs to be saved. Wheelchair user Dr. Finkelstein falls into the disabled villain stereotype, holding a woman captive in his lab. While it's positive that the movie has plenty of different body shapes and sizes, Sally -- the female love interest -- is the only character whose body conforms to Hollywood's narrow standards of beauty. The few humanoid characters, such as Santa and his elves, are mostly light-skinned, though a couple Black minor characters appear. Voice actors are almost entirely White, making it unfortunate that the film's cruelest and scariest villain, Oogie Boogie, is voiced by a Black actor (Ken Page).
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Violence & Scariness
The animation style is dark and grotesque, but the movie's whimsy and catchy musical numbers lower the scariness factor. Skeletons hang from trees, a minor character has an ax cleaved through his skull, a doctor keeps a woman captive in his lab (she poisons him with nightshade in return). Expect to see ghosts, demons, graveyards, zombies, worms, etc. The main villain, Oogie Boogie, is especially menacing and made up of bugs. A character jumps from a tall tower, and her body breaks apart, but because she's already undead, she stitches herself back together. Children sing about kidnapping Santa and "chopping him to bits." A child unwraps a present and pulls out a decapitated head as his parents scream. As Jack flies through the sky on his makeshift sleigh, cannons shoot him down.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters have crushes and kiss.
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Products & Purchases
Many tie-in products available.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A main character repeatedly poisons her captor with nightshade. (The captor appears briefly pained, but he's never seriously injured.)
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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 greatest family films for all ages. That said, it does have scares: Characters take off their own heads and limbs, and there are skeletons, demons, zombies, worms, etc., as well as a very creepy villain named Oogie Boogie (voiced by Ken Page). Younger kids who aren't old enough to distinguish fantasy from real life (or those prone to nightmares) might steer clear. Characters kiss, and a main character, Sally (Catherine O'Hara), pines after the charming Jack (Chris Sarandon). She's kind and helpful but falls into gender stereotypes, sacrificing herself to support the male lead and becoming a damsel in distress. The film also uses the "disabled villain" cliché, and the voice cast is almost entirely White. But stereotypes and creepiness aside, the film has positive messages about gratitude and valuing what you already have -- as well as catchy songs and extremely memorable visuals. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a funny, dark tale that pokes fun at two big holidays, Halloween and Christmas. The result is a magical marvel. With nods to Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas and twisted in the way of Roald Dahl or Maurice Sendak, The Nightmare Before Christmas is just as off-kilter as those classics. By changing the perspective on holiday icons, from Christmas trees to elves and flying reindeer, Selick makes us see these special traditions anew. And, of course, he does provide a happy ending. But the movie's personality comes from its producer, Burton -- utterly weird and totally enchanting.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.