The holiday spirit is alive and well in fun and festive Christmas movies, but sometimes we need some holiday spirits. And no, we don’t mean a vat of spiked eggnog. Holiday films like The Nightmare Before Christmas help satiate our need for Christmas movies with some darker undertones.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is streaming on Disney Plus.
Tim Burton first wrote the idea in the form of his 1982 poem by the same name. From there, Jack Skellington became a drawing and later got his own movie. Henry Selick directed the film, while Michael McDowell and Caroline Thompson turned Burton’s story into a feature. Danny Elfman handles Jack’s vocals along with a few supporting characters and Chris Sarandon helms the character’s speaking role.
While there’s no movie quite like this dark, twisted, yet uplifting movie-musical, plenty of other films will scratch that holiday horror itch. So, after you finish your rewatch, here are some other movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas to put in your queue.
Just three years prior to The Nightmare Before Christmas, Tim Burton launched his holiday horror streak with Edward Scissorhands. While some people may not categorize it as a Christmas movie, the bulk of the key events take place during the holiday season. The movie even kicks off with a story about the creation of snow. Between ice sculptures, a heart Christmas cookie that breathes life into a humanoid creation, and snow dancing, Edward Scissorhands has more than earned a Christmas movie status.
Johnny Depp plays Edward alongside Winona Ryder, who stars as his love interest. Like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands criticizes a cookie-cutter world. Of course, the main takeaway from the film revolves around the kind of deadly results that hypocrisy and gossip can spark. Burton directed the movie that he co-wrote with Caroline Thompson (the same writer he employed for The Nightmare Before Christmas).
Stream on Max
What’s the holiday season without a little satirical horror? Gremlins filled that void in 1984 when the world fell in love with the cutest little monster called Gizmo. Yet behind his cute and fluffy exterior, failing to follow the rules of his species leads to deadly consequences. If you get Mogwais wet, feed them after midnight, or leave them in bright lighting, they will respectively multiply, morphe into vicious and mischievous Gremlins, or die.
Obviously, the movie wouldn’t be very interesting without some chaos. Our protagonist Billy (Zach Galligan) quickly breaks those rules and he and his love interest Kate (Phoebe Cates) spend the movie cleaning up his mess over the holiday. Joe Dante directed the film written by Chris Columbus.
Stream on Max
Anna and the Apocalypse
Following in the footsteps of The Nightmare Before Christmas, the 2017 film Anna and the Apocalypse fills our void for movie-musical Christmas horror. Like a good chunk of holiday horror, the movie is satirical and doesn’t take itself all that seriously.
As the title suggests, Anna (Ella Hunt) wakes up on Christmas morning to find an apocalyptic world filled with zombies. You can’t slice and dice your way through zombies dressed as snowmen with candy cane weapons without a little song and dance to match the deadly levity. Alan McDonald co-wrote the film alongside Ryan McHenry, while John McPhail sat in the director’s chair.
Stream on AMC Plus (via Prime Video)
Evil Santa may sound like a comedic premise, but the 2015 movie Krampus isn’t playing around with evil St. Nick. Most Christmas-celebrating families can recall one Christmas, if not all of them, when the family does more fighting than bonding. Yet most of us aren’t hunted down by a demonic Santa. Krampus is hell-bent on punishing a family amidst a major family feud, and everyone pays the price.
The movie is as much of a cautionary tale as it is existential crisis-inducing — especially with it’s murky ending. If you’re looking for an on-the-reindeer nose kind of slasher film, this one isn’t for you.
Krampus stars actors like Adam Scott (Tom), Toni Collette (Sarah), Allison Tolman (Linda), and David Koechner (Howard). Michael Dougherty directed the film, which he co-wrote alongside Todd Casey and Zach Shields.
Stream on Peacock
Rise of the Guardians
The Peter Ramsey-directed film Rise of the Guardians isn’t the creepiest holiday movie out there, but there are certainly dark elements to the film. The Guardians have to protect kids everywhere from the boogeyman Pitch (Jude Law) — who’s determined to snuff out kids’ belief in the holiday Guardians like Santa and the Easter Bunny. Keep in mind that Pitch is a pretty creepy villain by animated film standards. Speaking of the Guardians, Chris Pine takes center stage as Jack Frost, while Hugh Jackman voices Bunny, and Alec Baldwin plays North.
David Lindsay-Abaire and William Joyce wrote the movie that has some serious The Nightmare Before Christmas vibes. Peter Ramsey directed the movie.
Stream on Paramount Plus
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Xandra is an entertainment journalist with clips in outlets like Salon, Insider, The Daily Dot, and Regal. In her 6+ years of writing, she's covered red carpets, premieres, and events like New York Comic Con. Xandra has conducted around 200 interviews with celebrities like Henry Cavill, Sylvester Stallone, and Adam Driver. She received her B.A. in English/Creative Writing from Randolph College, where she chilled with the campus ghosts and read Edgar Allan Poe at 3 am.