In preparation for this year’s Halloween movie season, families all over the world are busy carving their pumpkins and preparing to scare their friends and neighbors. Halloween and Hollywood’s horror film industry have a symbiotic relationship, with Hollywood churning out horror pictures at an alarming rate, especially in the fall. As far as contemporary horror films go, few have had as big an impact on the genre as Tim Burton, even if he hasn’t actually made a legitimate horror film.
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In the mid- and late 1980s, Burton became well-known for his Halloween-themed flicks, which skewered the American middle class and the stifling conformity it demanded. Inspired by German expressionism and the history of haunted films, his eye-catching aesthetic provided a new visual setting for stories about people who felt marginalized by society.
As a filmmaker, Burton has tried his hand at superheroes, sci-fi classics, and most recently, Disney dreams. There is no doubt in my mind that the quality of his films has plateaued recently, and his refusal to embrace diversity isn’t helping matters.
A particular place in the hearts of goths and punks worldwide and in American movie history belongs to Tim Burton’s works, notwithstanding our increased political knowledge of certain issues. Here, we’re going over his filmography and determining which of his works are worth your time.
Even die-hard Burton fans attempted to avoid this soulless monster of a film because of the horrific clown makeup on CGI Dumbo’s face. Even the creativity of Burton couldn’t save this live-action remake from being a cash grab like all of Disney’s live-action reboots.
18. Miss Peregrine’s Home
You could compare this to Tim Burton’s X-Men: a tale about super-powered children who live in an eccentric mansion and must save the world. Critics were pleased with the film’s CGI use, although there was something about the film’s persistent use of CGI that was a little off-putting to Burton’s previous work.
17. Dark Shadows
It’s true that this movie is full of Johnny Depp’s awkwardly uttered lines, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable to watch. In spite of the oddities and monotonous performances, this vampiric fairy tale has an appealing appeal that recalls Scooby Doo. It’s not a great film, but a few design decisions keep it from being a complete waste of time. At the very least, it’s enjoyable.
16. Alice in Wonderland
Given the trippy and deceptively terrifying atmosphere of the original Alice in Wonderland, it seems like Tim Burton was meant to re-make the film. Unfortunately, Burton’s adaptation of Alice’s charming journeys into a fight between warring kingdoms that no one could possibly care about is clearly inspired by the runaway popularity of high fantasy series like the Lord of the Rings. As a music video or fashion show if you put the film on mute and play some interesting music, Alice is an excellent choice. While most of the CGI is grating, the costumes designed by Colleen Atwood (a regular Burton collaborator) are nothing short of beautiful.
When it comes to Burton’s main argument, Frankenweenie serves as a lovely little distillation of it: sometimes there is more heart in the ugly than there is in the “good.” This adorable stop-motion film doesn’t break any new ground, yet there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
14. Sweeney Todd
Musical theater fans still scream over the Burton’s decision to show Mrs. Lovett as sexy rather than monstrous — but Burton’s rendition of the classic musical mainly does get at the essence of the source material quite well. Strong performances and an on-brand (if not predictable) mise-en-scene make this a decent entry in Burton’s canon.
13. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Who could possibly live up to Gene Wilder? That’s for sure. Depp can’t do it. But even though it’s a fresh take on Willy Wonka, it’s not nearly as enjoyable. That said, Burton’s Charlie’s retro-expressionist universe is quite smart and frequently quite cool looking.
12. Planet of the Apes
Apes isn’t exactly a sci-fi classic, but it isn’t a horrible movie either! Critics lauded the film’s complex practical effects, makeup, and costume design, but they panned its time warp-y conclusion (which, to be fair, is actually fairly faithful to the book on which the movie is based). The music, composed by Danny Elfman, is superb, as it always is.
11. Big Eyes
Big Eyes, a BAFTA and Golden Globe-nominated melodrama, is also out of Burton’s comfort zone, despite receiving critical acclaim. Big Eyes, the story of real-life artist Margaret Keane, whose sad drawings of children were taken by her abusive husband, lacks the darkly whimsical aesthetic touches that have established Burton as an icon. As a movie, it was primarily just uninteresting, but as a metaphor for the ways in which women are denigrated in the art world.
10. Sleepy Hollow
For one thing, he changed the protagonist Ichabod Crane from an awkward high school teacher to a darkly gorgeous and desperately single forensic scientist in Burton’s adaptation of Washington Irving’s eerie short story. But that’s only part of what makes the film such a fun Halloween treat. It’s an entertaining, light-hearted adventure film with spectacular effects that swing from laughably dated to adorably charming in their range of dated-ness.
9. Corpse Bride
Many people, including both critics and moviegoers, rolled their eyes at Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, which was more of a satire of the director’s worst tropes than anything else. Even the most fervent detractors, however, could not deny the ridiculously intricate craftsmanship of this stop-motion animated film, which features beautifully created, handmade fantasy worlds.. In terms of content, it’s all a bit trite, but the truly breathtaking musical sections are both stunning and chilling.
8. Mars Attacks!
Mars Attacks! is a satirical parody of 1950s sci-fi movie about hostile alien invaders from another planet. Burton’s stunning and distinctive object style is at its most fully realized despite the film’s lack of emotional weight. The performances are all comically over the top. With her perfectly coiffed hair and infamous white-and-red spiral dress, the scene of a femoid extraterrestrial pretending to be human will go down in history as a seminal moment in interplanetary drag.
Burton, not Christopher Nolan, is the best director to capture the essence of the original comics, despite the fact that Nolan is now more generally recognized for his work on the Batman franchise (when will filmmakers become tired of grimdark pseudo-realism?!). The Joker, played by Jack Nicholson, is a cinematic classic. However, Michael Keaton’s performance as the title character is… forgettable.
6. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
Pee-wee Herman’s bizarre, innocent world had captivated children (and adults!) for years before he left to embark on his crazy journeys. Reubens’ frantic energy was nicely matched by Burton’s exaggerated depiction of reality. This film has a genuine sweetness to it that is missing from a lot of media aimed at children or adults. No matter how many times you see him break character, Reubens is always at his best.
5. Batman Returns
In one of the most stunning superhero films ever made, Burton brings Gotham to life in a way that Bob Kane and Bill Finger could never have dreamed. It was clear that Burton had deviated significantly from the source text when he reimagined Selina Kyla as a BDSM-inflected secretary who was resurrected by her dogs following a deadly fall. Remember Danny Devito and Michelle Pfeiffer as the greatest Batman rogues gallery members ever? Forget Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway. These two actors exude an air of rotten splendor in their roles.
4. Ed Wood
Because of Ed Wood’s infamous status as an outsider in the film industry and the tremendous and neglected body of work he left behind, it’s not unexpected that Burton felt a love for him. Having a penchant for the gloom and gloominess of the human experience might be isolating, but Ed Wood explores the sense of belonging and generosity among those who share this trait. All of the members of this ensemble cast give outstanding performances; Lisa Marie, who plays Malia Nurmi, better known as Vampira, is particularly stunning.
3. Big Fish
It was widely believed before the film’s release that Big Fish would be Burton’s final feature. This turned out not to be the case, but what a fitting send-off it would have been. Big Fish is a humorous coming-of-age tale based on Daniel Wallace’s novel of the same name. It concerns the tall tales that a young boy’s father tells about the past. It was a lovely visual poem of witches, giants, mermaids, and other circus beings that Burton created from the overblown experiences of the characters. “What if the literary fantasies our forefathers tell us are truly more real than reality?” is a question posed in this film by Burton, who has a love for magical realism.
2. Edward Scissorhands
This is a story about a boy growing up in the suburbs. This is a sci-fi version of Romeo and Juliet, rendered in soft pastels. When the titular mechanical hero wanders out of the haunting castle he came from, the pernicious homogeneity of the American middle class is called into question. As a deeply wounded and strangely endowed robot, Depp intrigues the community before they expel him owing to their anti-foreigner sentiment. For centuries, the United States has been defined by its refusal to accept anything that doesn’t fit the mold. Beautifully rendered, with just the right amount of grotesquery, Burton’s picture of Levittown is truly gorgeous.
Beetlejuice can be described as a horror-comedy, which is a fair description, but the film is so much more. As a philosophical pondering on the afterlife, an exhibition of Gothic fashions, an examination of social isolation, and an amusing spoof of horror clichés, Beetlejuice manages to juggle numerous genres and succeed in each one. When Michael Keaton plays “bio-exorcist” and Winona Ryder portrays “Lydia Deetz,” they become two of cinema’s most recognizable gothic figures. Catherine O’Hara’s possessed lip-sync of Day-O merits infinite acclaim. It’s impossible not to be awed by the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into each set, each costume, and each note of Danny Elfman’s score. In light of the film’s Halloween-themed attitude, it’s no surprise that the film has generated an entire community of goth enthusiasts.