Is ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ a Halloween or Christmas movie?

Students weigh in on the 1993 Tim Burton movie


Halloween is a time for traditions –– trick or treating, costume parties and most importantly, the decades-old argument if “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is a Halloween or Christmas movie.

Since its 1993 release, the holiday-bending movie has sparked the question of which holiday the movie truly belongs to.

Directed by Henry Selick and produced by Tim Burton, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” tells the story of Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of “Halloween Town,” who becomes bored of his typical Halloween routine. He comes across a portal to “Christmas Town” and is inspired to celebrate the holiday. 

Because of its dual Halloween and Christmas themes, fans are divided on the film’s place in the holiday lineup. 

After polling 155 UB community members on Twitter and in person, 65% of them feel the movie is a Halloween film, 30% think “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is a Christmas movie and 5% believe the film applies to both holidays. 

Laila Muriesh, a senior communication major, believes fans should watch the film during Halloween because of its inclusion of skeletons and other monsters. 

“When I was a kid, I was scared of the movie because it’s so creepy.” Muriesh said. “I don’t think of it as a family-friendly Christmas movie.”

Other students agree with Muriesh’s statement, claiming that since the movie’s focus is on Halloween characters, it belongs in the Halloween genre.

The movie focuses on creepy yet colorful characters, like Skellington, Sally and arguably one of the scariest villains of all time, the soulful, gambling Oogie Boogie. The majority of the songs in the movie also feature Halloween themes, with titles like “This is Halloween” and “Kidnap the Sandy Claws.” 

Gabrielle Bayconich, an undecided freshman, believes including Christmas shows Skellington’s attempts to expand Halloween’s message to be “a joyous celebration.”

Muriesh and Bayconich have the movie’s director on their side. In a 2015 interview at The Telluride Horror Show, Selick claimed the film is a Halloween movie. Selick said despite the film's many Christmas themes, the movie is ultimately about Halloween characters reacting to the concept of Christmas.

But this hasn’t stopped students from supporting the film’s Christmas potential.

Kristen Bartolomeo, a junior music theatre student, believes the film falls within the Christmas genre due to Christmas Town’s existence and its “wholesome Christmas themes” of kindness and self-acceptance.

“I understand it is about skeletons and spooky times and all those fun things,” Bartolomeo said. “But Jack Skellington is so wanting to be Santa Claus and wants all things Christmas, so it has to be a Christmas movie.”

The movie features prominent Christmas traditions and figures, like carols, making presents and snowmen. Santa Claus also plays a main role in the film, being kidnapped by the citizens of Halloween Town in order to take over the holiday. Songs like “What’s This?” directly celebrate the joys and traditions of the winter holiday. 

A small, but passionate group of students feel the movie is meant for both holidays. Some even argue that because the movie features multiple holidays, it can be viewed any time of the year.

Daniel Pieffer, a junior music theatre major, watches the film on a “regular basis” and said he doesn’t limit himself to watching it for one specific holiday. 

“I believe it’s the greatest movie of all time. So I say it’s for all seasons. But it does feature both Halloween themes as well as Christmas, making it one of the most versatile films in history,” Pieffer said. “So I believe that not only would it be good for Halloween and Christmas, but a good summer flick, Easter time, I mean all of the holidays are referenced in some way.”

The debate about this over-25-year-old movie doesn’t seem to be dying down anytime soon. But, no matter where students’ opinions lie, viewers can take comfort in the fact that this film transcends any particular holiday and can be enjoyed year-round.

Julianna Tracey is the senior arts editor and can be reached at and on Twitter @JTraceySpec.


 Julianna Tracey is a freshman music theater and history double major. She’s excited to explore all that the Buffalo arts scene has to offer.