If October rolls around and you don't feel compelled to re-watch Tim Burton and Henry Selick's masterpiece, The Nightmare Before Christmas, all I can do is stare blankly at you for a while. Jack Skellington and a visit to Halloween Town is as synonymous with the holiday now as trick or treat itself.
It's been 22 years since the film's initial release, and I've gotta say, this movie still holds up. Everything from Danny Elfman's gothic score and soundtrack to Selick's timeless stop-motion animation techniques married to Tim Burton's familiar aesthetic motifs make this one of the most original visual treatments of a holiday film.
But most importantly, the film has some of the most memorable original characters ever, brimming with a rogues' gallery of fantastic creatures that all pop off the screen with depth and humor, even if it's only for mere seconds.
To honor the cast and creatures of The Nightmare Before Christmas, I've come up with my ranking of the 13 best characters in the film to savor and celebrate anew.
13. Sandy Claws
In a Christmas film, the big guy in red would be the star of this list. But in The Nightmare Before Christmas, poor Santa is relegated to the punch line as he stuffed in a bag and almost sacrificed to big bad Oogie Boogie. He does get points for restoring the holiday order in the end.
Doctor Finklestein's toadie, Igor, is a clear homage to classic monster movie assistants of yore, but this version stands apart for his love of dog treats as a reward for a job well done from his master.
11. Vampire Brothers
While technically minor players in Halloween Town, the four undead brothers of various size and shapes never fail to charm with their style and dark sense of humor. They travel under the protection of umbrellas during the day and in the final act are seen playing hockey with a jack-o-lantern puck. We want in on that pickup game!
Another colorful character, the Cyclops is a nervous resident of Halloween Town who is clearly aghast at Jack's suggestions to transform their Halloween plans. His bug-eyed response always earns a laugh with every viewing.
9. Zombie Band
Cool before zombies were "in" again, this ghastly little trio of well-dressed undead play some tunes in town on their weird steam punk style instruments. Blink and you miss them, but take a closer look at the macabre humor of the band.
8. Clown With The Tear-Away Face
I'm never ok with clowns, especially evil clowns. But I give it to Burton and Selick for creating this unexpected riff on the trope who speaks in a high-pitched voice while riding a unicycle. I still can't look at him and not wince.
7. Lock, Shock and Barrel
Oogie Boogie's little henchman, Lock, Shock and Barrel are those rotten kids in all our neighborhoods who like to make trouble. However, we still love-to-hate these little toadies because they aren't evil; they just love the spirit of the holiday. There's something great about only seeing this trio in costume. It adds to their menace and mystery.
6. Mayor of Halloween Town
The Mayor is that anxious entity inside all of us. With his swappable faces of glee and anger that appear at the appropriate moment, this guy is all about getting the Halloween job done. Watching him spiral as Jack's ennui threatens their whole reason to exist as a community is both heartbreaking and hilarious. Plus, I want his angry face to wear at meetings. I'd get a lot more done.
5. Oogie Boogie
The weirdest bad guy in just about any Halloween themed film, he's technically a burlap sack filled with bugs. Let that unsettle you for a few moments. However, that sack sure has some musical chops (as sung by Ken Page) as evidenced in his Cab Calloway-inspired showstopper, "Oogie Boogie's Song." In general, Oogie's arc is a little muddled in the movie but he totally wins on the visual threat front.
4. Doctor Finklestein
The quintessential mad scientist, Doctor Finklestein is the mad scientist to beat forever more. Wheelchair-bound and featuring the brilliant voice work of William Hickey, Finklestein is a great foil to clever Sally. Grotesque to look at, completely overbearing and a total grump in personality, he still wins because he gets to scratch his brain when befuddled. Plus, he goes under like a champ.
A heroine ahead of her time, Sally is clever, goal-oriented and the most supportive partner a Pumpkin King could ever hope for. Patched up and not perfect on the outside, Sally has always spoken to those of us who don't feel gorgeous and as put together as the popular dolls.
2. Jack Skellington
Charming, dapper yet attractively burdened with his own demons, Jack Skellington is the vulnerable hero that is brave enough to try something new (like overthrowing another holiday) to find his bliss. There's a lot of joy watching a character sort out his loss of purpose and then find it again with such passion and Danny Elfman captures that perfectly in song and voice. Can you imagine a world without Jack's expressive head leading the way to ghosts and ghouls? We think not!
Jack may be on a lot of other people's lists, but Skellington's loyal ghost pooch has had our hearts since the first time we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas. With his ethereal body and glowing pumpkin nose, Zero look alone makes him number one. But when you add his puppy-like smile and unfailing love for Jack, we melt like warm caramel.
So, there's my Top 13 crazy, creepy, charismatic characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Who did I omit that deserves a special spot on your favorites list?