EDWARD SCISSORHANDS—Christmas Movie or Not?

A close-up of Edward Scissorhands (played by Johnny Depp) outside at night in front of a building with Christmas lights, some of which spell out "HAPPY HOLIDAYS" (partially seen in the image) in Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Around the holidays we can expect to get a healthy dose of classic Christmas movies, from A Christmas Story (1983) to Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and many more that make the list. However, there has been much debate circling this list of holiday movies, and many have argued that it contains a few more out-of-the-ordinary titles. Some of these not-so-clear-cut titles include Gremlins (1984), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), the widely debated Die Hard (1988) and, of course, Edward Scissorhands (1990). Some of these movies may be set during the holiday season, or they may even hit upon some Christmas themes, but does that truly qualify them as a “Christmas movie?”

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To put some of these arguments to rest, we are putting these so-called Christmas movies on trial and laying out our evidence to prove once and for all if these titles have earned their place in the holiday movie canon. To start the month off, we would like to bring to the stand Tim Burton’s bizarre classic, Edward Scissorhands

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Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) in Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Evidence For

The biggest piece of evidence in support rests with the fact that the last half of the movie is centered around the Christmas season, not to mention that the entire narrative is framed around a grandmother telling her grandchild why it always snows on Christmas. After an annual Christmas party goes awry, we are surrounded by a festive neighborhood with plenty of Christmas lights and decorated trees—even the most melancholy flashback to the saddening death of the Inventor takes place around this same time of year. In perhaps the single most Christmas-y moment in the movie, Kim (played by Winona Ryder) finds Edward crafting an ice sculpture of an angel in the backyard, creating a beautiful “snowfall” that brings a bit of magic to the otherwise mundane backdrop of the surrounding town. 

The second biggest indicator is the setting in which the movie takes place. In the first half of the movie when the sun is shining and the grass is green, Edward seems to be pretty widely accepted by the community, being treated with kindness and affection. It isn’t until the Christmas season that he is persecuted and demonized by the neighborhood. The juxtaposition of these themes is a major driving point for the movie’s plot: that even in the season of goodwill we can forget to treat others, especially those less fortunate, with grace, understanding, and love.

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Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) and Stuart Lancaster in Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Evidence Against

On the other end of the scale, we are faced with the overly gothic themes of the movie that Tim Burton is best known for. Considering that this isn’t his only questionable “Christmas” movie (we’re looking at you, The Nightmare Before Christmas), we must look at all of the indicators hinting that this may not fall under the genre. As mentioned before, the setting plays a big role in the message of the story, yet we can’t ignore that the sun-shiny, manicured, Anywhere, USA vibes of the movie distract from any other holiday elements. Nevertheless, it is hard to argue that Burton would have randomly chosen a Christmas backdrop to set his movie in. 

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Though the movie doesn’t begin at Christmas time, it ends there, with Edward sentencing himself to isolation atop the macabre mountain where he found solace. This seemingly tragic ending for Edward certainly doesn’t reflect the traditional elements of a feel-good ending found in most Christmas movies, but in his isolation, Edward is able to find peace and even continues to create snow for the town and for the rest of Kim’s life—which is maybe a more beautiful end to the story in some light.

Edward Scissorhands-ice sculpture
Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) in Edward Scissorhands (1990)


For many, Christmas can be one of the most difficult times of the year, and joyful movies don’t always represent everyone, especially those who may be struggling around the holidays. Though in Edward Scissorhands, we receive a very important message of accepting people’s differences and celebrating our dysfunction even when surrounded by Christmas cheer. Through the moving story, brilliant score, and staggering visuals only Tim Burton could devise, Edward Scissorhands serves as a beacon of light to the outcasts around the holidays.

Final verdict: Edward Scissorhands is a Christmas movie!