The Nightmare Before Christmas

Ranking ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Characters From Good to Evil

It’s been 30 years since The Nightmare Before Christmas premiered, but the Tim Burton film never fails to entertain. From its Christmas-loving  Jack Skellington and the sinister Oogie Boogie to the two-faced mayor, the stop-motion film teeters on stereotypical portrayals of good versus evil inherent to children’s films. It asks instead, is there any room for gray? 

The Nightmare Before Christmas follows Jack as he searches for a deeper meaning in life outside his status as the annual Pumpkin King, which is how he lands in Christmas Town. He discovers the joy of Christmas, but in doing so, he leaves Halloween Town behind, and chaos ensues throughout both worlds. So it’s up to Jack and Sally, his love interest and rebel in her own right, to save the day. Through all of this, some characters are much more complex than they appear to be. So, we’ve ranked all of them from good to evil.

Zero

In a world of skeletons and ghouls, Zero the ghost dog definitely counts as a character. But because Zero is a dog, he is 100% pure ( like all television and film dogs). Zero is steadfast to Jack, and supports him wherever he goes. He even shapeshifts into a tissue box when Jack cries to support his bestie. In fact, Tim Burton wrote an original poem upon which he based the film, in which Zero was one of only three characters. In the poem, Zero’s “great dream” was to be needed, so all he wanted to do was make Jack happy. 

Sally

Sally is almost pure good; however, she doses her creator with deadly nightshade multiple times (although we could say it’s warranted since he treats her like a prisoner). On the flip side, Sally’s courage definitely gives her some good points. She risks her life to save Christmas and Halloween by trying to save Santa Claus. Although an evil scientist stitched her together, immorally forcing her into the condition of being alive, she uses her life for good instead of evil. Plus, as a woman who values her independence, she’s obviously a feminist.

Santa Claus

Santa Claus is basically the damsel in distress of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Although Jack loves Christmas, kidnapping Santa Claus isn’t necessarily the best way to show his Christmas spirit. But in merry fashion, jolly Old St. Nick has no hard feelings. When Jack tells Santa what happened, he’s angry, but anyone would be. And with limited time, Santa still manages to save Christmas and even give Halloween Town the gift of snow. But unlike Sally, he doesn’t go above and beyond his responsibilities to help others.

Jack Skellington

Jack has good intentions, but he’s a little misguided. We’ve all been there—and we’d be the first to admit that we’re not all good either. Every year, he does his duty as the Pumpkin King, but he finally gets fed up and looks for another life. Instead of taking what he learns in Christmas Town and bringing it back to Halloween Town, he tries to intercept Christmas and become Santa Claus himself! This is definitely not a morally upstanding decision, especially because it’s self-serving.

However, Jack redeems himself when he realizes he messed up Christmas. As he tries to find Santa Claus to help fix his new favorite holiday, he also steps in to save Santa and Sally from the Oogie Boogie. Luckily, his intentions trumped his actions, and by the end, he’s able to celebrate both holidays!

Mayor of Halloween Town

The Mayor of Halloween Town is a politician, first and foremost, which is why he has two faces. One face is cheery, but the other is mean and sullen. His two-faced depiction is a commentary on real-life politicians, who many would argue are “evil.” But while the Mayor in The Nightmare Before Christmas revels in his position of high authority, he doesn’t do anything inherently good or evil. 

Lock, Shock, and Barrel

Lock, Shock, and Barrel are Oogie Boogie’s three “little henchmen,” who are only 6, 7, and 5 years old, respectively. That’s why they’re not fully evil… yet. But they are definitely on their way to full-fledged wickedness, working for Halloween Town’s villain and creating mischief all over the city. They’re excited to kidnap “Sandy Claws” and potentially ruin Christmas. But they’re still kids and maybe they’ll learn to be less malevolent!

Evil Scientist

The evil scientist’s evilness is literally in his name! That’s how he’s credited in the film, although Sally calls him Dr. Finkelstein. He bears a lot of similarities to Dr. Frankenstein, and creates Sally as his own “monster.” He even has his own servant named Igor. The similarities prove that he’s not a good guy (despite claiming to “protect Sally”) — the moral of Frankenstein is that the Doctor is the real monster. The same goes for the Evil Scientist in The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Oogie Boogie

Oogie Boogie, aka Mr. Oogie Boogie Man, is easily the most evil being in Halloween Town, even more evil than the Evil Scientist. As we learn in the film, Oogie Boogie is made of bugs (gross!), so he doesn’t even have a soul. He is supposed to embody thousands of your nightmares and your greatest worries as a kid-friendly version of fear incarnate.

In recent years, Oogie Boogie’s character has come under fire as “racist” by one of the film’s writers, Caroline Thompson. She explained to Insider, “First of all, he looks like a Klu Klux Klansman. Secondly, ‘Oogie Boogie’ is an old, southern, derogatory phrase for an African-American … I went to Tim. I went to [director] Henry [Selick] and I said we got to change this,” Thompson recalled to Insider. “Tim Burton said, ‘Oh, stop it, you’re being oversensitive.'” So if anything, Oogie Boogie is also proof of societal heinousness, which makes him the most evil character of them all.


About the author

Jamie Lerner

Jamie Lerner is a writer, comedian, and musician who’s been writing about television and movies since she reviewed Mean Girls for her fifth-grade school newspaper.