The greatest Halloween movie of all time doesn’t even mention the holiday in the title. The Nightmare Before Christmas went from being a cult flick for weirdoes to a cultural touchstone that somehow connects two very different holidays (albeit the two that most kids love). The characters — especially Jack Skellington and Sally — are amazing, and very nuanced for a children’s film. The animation is incredibly detailed. And the story appeals to children and adults alike (take it from me, the film holds up to multiple viewings, I couldn’t count the amount of times I’ve seen it on all of Lock, Shock and Barrel’s fingers and toes).
But besides the visuals, here are a bunch of things to love about the film.
In Halloween Town, there isn’t just one type of ghoul. There’s a vampire vocal quartet, singing witches, a warewolf, a sea creature, the one hiding under the stairs, the one hiding under your bed(!), a mad scientist, a two-faced political, and more. They all work together to make Halloween awesome.
But, as we learn at the beginning of the film, all holidays have their own town: Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc. We don’t see the other holiday realms (other than a cameo from the Easter bunny) but we do learn the lesson that it takes all kinds to make their multi-verse work. We saw that Jack wasn’t great at running Christmas, and one could assume that Sandy Claws wouldn’t be interested in running Halloween, and he wouldn’t be too good at it anyway.
It Encourages You To Travel And Experience Other Cultures
Jack has, presumably, spent his entire life in Halloween Town. As cool as that may sound, in our world, one of the cool things about Halloween is that it comes once a year (some might disagree, including certain rockers). Jack yearns to find something new and he does, when he accidentally ends up in Christmas Town. He’s exhilarated to experience a new culture, even if he doesn’t quite understand it.
Lesson: Just Because You Experienced Something Once Doesn’t Make You An Expert
Remember that episode of The Office when Michael came back from a trip to the Caribbean and acted like he was a cultural expert? Just because you go somewhere and experience the culture does not make you an expert on that culture. Nor does doing a bit of research online. Jack Skellington clearly loved the idea of Christmas. But when it came to actually “making Christmas,” he was a disaster.
It Recognized Depression Decades Before We Were Taking About It In Pop Culture
The Nightmare Before Christmas offers a nuanced take that explains depression in a way that even kids can understand. Jack is the greatest at what he does — but he’s looking for something else. As he sings, “I, JACK! The Pumpkin King, have grown so tired of the same old thing.” He’s looking for something else, even if it’s just for a little while.
Happily, he works his way through it by the end of the film, with some help from Sally, the film’s true hero.
Lesson: Halloween Doesn’t Have To Be Gory To Be Fun
Sure, we love A Nightmare On Elm Street too, but not everything has to be slashy, stabby and bloody. The Oogie Boogie Man was a great monster/bad guy.
It Reminds Us That Musicals Are Great
OK, the idea of people (or creatures) breaking into song spontaneously is kind of ridiculous. How does everyone know all the words? But most movies require us to suspend disbelief anyway. Musicals are fun, we need more of them.
Your Dog Will Always Love You
When Jack’s feeling down, he goes to the graveyard and wakes up his ghost dog Zero, who is — of course — overjoyed to see him.