The Nightmare Before Christmas Movie Poster Image

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton magic with just a touch of scariness.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1993
  • Running Time: 76 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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
Not applicable
Not applicable

Lots of tie-in products available.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:October 29, 1993
DVD/Streaming release date:October 3, 2000
Cast:Catherine O'Hara, Danny Elfman, Paul Reubens
Director:Henry Selick
Studio:Touchstone Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Holidays, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Character strengths:Empathy
Run time:76 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some scariness

This review of The Nightmare Before Christmas was written by

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

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

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

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 to watch on Chrismas or Halloween!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 6 year old Written byTrebuchet May 26, 2011

An annual tradition in our house

This is one of my favorite movies. I don't love everything Tim Burton produces, but this one is charming and the music is great. In particular, I love that failure isn't the end of Jack. There is so much pressure to succeed, and so little about how to pick yourself up and find life after a setback. The religion and holiday topic was not an issue for me, but people who don't celebrate Christmas or who emphasize the religious nature of it might want to view it before sharing it with their kids. Also, it can be a little scary, so if your child frightens easily, wait another year or two.
Kid, 10 years old March 29, 2010

Might be O.K. for 5 year old's.

I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!!!!!!! I think it is violent but a mature 6 year old can take it. There is very creepy things when they (defeat) Oogie his cloth is torn off and his body is just a bundle of bugs that might be a bit scary for 6 year old's. Of course all in all it's a very good movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence