Tim Burton’s beloved stop-motion Halloween (or is it Christmas?) hit came out 25 years ago this weekend, and the whole month of October has never been the same since. In honor of Nightmare’s quarter-century in the zeitgeist (zeit-ghost?), we’ve revisited every one of the spooky songs on Danny Elfman’s legendary soundtrack and ranked them from naughty to nice. So take a seat by the fire, call your ghost-dog to your feet, and check out how the nightmarish tracks stack up, below.
12. “Town Meeting Song”
Can you Halloweeners please just shut up and stop trying to spookify everything Jack describes? Like, maybe be open your minds a little bit to the possibility of something that’s warm and cozy and cheery and loving and just not scary at all? …No?
11. “Jack’s Obsession”
We get it, something’s up with Jack. Once our skeleton hero has his eureka moment, though, the movie gets moving.
It gets a lot of points off for not technically being a song, but Santa’s classic holiday-poem of a coda is the perfect piece of Christmas candy, with a sour little kick in that mischievously naughty last line.
9. “Making Christmas”
Okay, so “Making Christmas” is totally essential. It provides critical exposition of how, exactly, the Hallo-townies intend to take over someone else’s holiday; it gives clever examples as to what sort of ghastly gifts they might leave under the tree. Here’s the thing, though: “Making Christmas” is a drag. We could spend forever acknowledging that it’s smart and necessary, but that won’t make it any fun at all. But is that the whole point? Is “Making Christmas” supposed to feel so wrong, so unpalatable, that we dread the creepified Yuletide all the more? What a notion! Brilliant move! Still staying at No. 9!
Yes, we’ve heard this song before, but the transposition of “This Is Halloween” into a joyous major key — mashed up with “What’s This” and a sweet new duet of “Sally’s Song” — succeeds where Jack failed, capturing the combined spirit of both holidays in the best possible way.
7. “Poor Jack”
Jack’s articulate solos always make his thoughts and feelings as readily apparent as his bone structure. And while this late-in-the-game reflection isn’t quite as affecting as his initial lament (read on!), it does very elegantly — and, of course, eloquently — dramatize his low-point realization of his personal truth.
6. “Oogie Boogie’s Song”
Well, well, well, what have we here? The sadistic Oogie Boogie has a different kind of darkness than the rest of Halloween Town; he’s a dirty kind of evil, who doesn’t play fair. This track doesn’t follow the rules set by the rest of the film, either, but is all the more disorienting — as if his lair weren’t enough to make one’s head spin — for all its bluesy pleasures.
5. “Kidnap the Sandy Claws”
Oh, these rascals! This mischief! We can’t resist it!
4. “Jack’s Lament”
“And since I am dead, I can take off my head, and recite Shakespearean quotations,” Jack boasts in his act-one lament, which is nigh-Shakespearean itself in its great lyricism and profound sense of longing.
3. “Sally’s Song”
Clocking in at a brisk 1:47, “Sally’s Song” is as slender as the Franken-waif who sings it — but packed with more pathos than most of the rest of the movie combined. Standing in opposition to the man she loves — and more concerned for his safety than for her own heart — our heroine’s high, sweet warble sounds like it might flutter away on the autumn wind at any moment but never wavers, demonstrating her great strength and wisdom on every note of the haunting ballad.
2. “This Is Halloween”
Now this is an opening number.
1. “What’s This?”
What’s that? You thought there was even the slightest chance that something other than “What’s This?” would snag the top spot? Get your head out of your jack-o’-lantern — the Pumpkin King’s discovery of a whole other holiday town is the sparkling star on top of the Nightmare Before Christmas tree. Following the dark thrills of “This Is Halloween” and the mournful reflection in “Jack’s Lament,” the third big musical number (and the first in a major key), delivered in such a bright and playful sequence, comes as a wonderful surprise that’s enough to make us feel like we’re discovering Christmas for the very first time, too.