Tim Burton’s wealth of work is impressive. Many of his movies feature actors across multiple movies of his, but that just seems to be how he goes about casting. Johnny Depp, Michael Keaton, and Helena Bonham-Carter are all faces you see cropping up again in incredibly diverse Tim Burton roles. With so many films to choose from, it may be hard to narrow it down to the best ones.
But we’re going to give it a shot! These are Tim Burton’s best movies from his awesomely wacky oeuvre.
10. Alice in Wonderland
Our fascination with Alice in Wonderland knows no bounds. There have been many adaptations of this classic story, and it’s a pretty strange one, so it’s no surprise that Burton took it on in 2010.
This adaptation is a continuation of the original story because we come in after Alice’s initial trip to Wonderland. We catch up with a 19-year-old Alice as she runs away from her engagement party and enters back into Wonderland. She learns she has a greater destiny and must fight to stop the Red Queen, who is a combination of the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen from Through the Looking Glass.
9. Corpse Bride
In his second stop-motion movie, Burton took on this intriguing story about a woman rising from the grave. The puppets are well done, and the animation is spectacular. The story will have you pulled in in no time.
The plot revolves around a nervous groom who goes into the woods to practice his vows when he accidentally marries a corpse named Emily who was killed by her fiancé. He is pulled into the land of the dead, and needs to fight his way even though his empathy (and maybe more) for Emily begins to grow.
8. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
There’s an interesting contrast that happens when such a dark story is also a musical. Music can make you feel so many things, and even though the main topic here is murder and revenge, there’s still a beauty and sadness portrayed in many of the songs here.
In this revenge story, we follow Benjamin as he goes after the man who hurt his wife and took over custody of his child after a judge sent him to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Benjamin, played by Johnny Depp, opens up a barbershop where he murders and disposes of people who wronged him in the past. His rampage is covered by the widow under the barbershop who turns his victims into meat pies.
7. Edward Scissorhands
Even though Burton doesn’t think this is his best film, it is his favorite. He actually sketched the original character when he was a teenager, and it stayed with him. This film was also important because it was the first time Burton worked with Johnny Depp, which would be the start of a fruitful relationship. This was also one of the last few movies of Vincent Price’s career.
This film focuses on the creation of an inventor, played by Price, of a man with scissors for hands, played by Depp. Unfortunately, the inventor dies before he can attach his hands, so he lives a solitary life until a woman selling Avon door-to-door takes pity on him and brings him into her home. While the community does its best to accept him, things do take a turn when he is framed for a crime he didn’t commit.
6. Big Fish
This Tim Burton fantasy adventure from 2003 is one of the director’s best. Albert Finney was cast as the older Edward Bloom before Ewan McGregor was cast as the younger Edward Bloom.
The story revolves around an old man who is dying, and his son trying to figure out whether the stories he told him about his life are real or fiction. It makes for some fantastical flashback scenes and is a joy to watch.
5. Sleepy Hollow
Here we have Burton’s golden boy again, Johnny Depp, this time cast as Ichabod Crane in this classic story. While Ichabod is described as unattractive in the story, Depp is clearly far too pretty for that description. Even he thought so as he offered to add prosthetics to make himself ugly, but Burton wanted to instead use Ichabod’s unattractive personality and so they left his face alone.
We follow Ichabod to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the murder of three people. The townspeople believe it to be the work of the headless horseman, but Ichabod insists that there must be a reasonable explanation and he sets out to find it; the secrets end up running deeper than he ever thought possible…
4. Ed Wood
In one of his few biographies, Burton took on the life of director Edward D. Wood Jr. in this film. A funny fact about this is that this film actually cost more to produce than all of Ed Wood’s actual films combined. One story claims that the reason this movie was shot in black-and-white was because they were having trouble depicting classic Hollywood actor Bela Lugosi in color.
The plot follows Ed Wood’s fight to become a great movie director, but he was plagued with many issues. First of all, he didn’t have talent, and was actually an outcast of Hollywood. He is often considered the worst director of all time, so this film is an intriguing look at someone who failed to achieve his dreams.
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Even though Burton didn’t direct The Nightmare Before Christmas, he did produce it and came up with the idea, so it definitely deserves to be on this list. This film doubles as both a Halloween and a Christmas movie, although it does lean more toward the spooky. Burton’s concept came from an original poem that discussed Halloween merchandise being replaced by Christmas stuff.
This classic stop-motion animation follows Jack Skellington, the king of Halloween Town, who is bored of doing the same thing repeatedly. He soon discovers Christmas Town and decides that he’s going to bring the idea to his home, but it doesn’t go over as well as he hopes.
There have been many retellings of Batman over the years, but Burton’s film from 1989 is one of the best. Michael Keaton in the titular role also affected other portrayals of Batman after his. He was concerned that it would be too easy for others to uncover Batman’s secret identity and talked with Burton on how to better disguise himself. In the end, using a lower register in his voice is what won out, and other actors emulated that later on.
This film gives us some origin story and throws us into the world of Batman, at the time when he encounters the Joker, played by Jack Nicholson, for the first time. This film is a much darker look at the character than we saw in Adam West, but it acts to deepen the character also.
Want to get our take on the best Batman actors? Here you have it!
There is no doubt that Beetlejuice is a classic and one of those films that’s great for repeat watching. Even more so than Batman, this is Keaton’s favorite movie of his and he even ad-libbed most of his lines. Despite the fact that so many love the scene, Burton didn’t think the legendary “Day-O” sequence was all that funny to begin with.
This film has us follow Adam and Barbara, who are forced to live in their house as ghosts after their deaths. The new owners are hard to get along with, so they decide to hire Beetlejuice, a self-proclaimed bioexorcist to help get rid of them. Despite the dealings with death, this film is a comedy, while also providing a unique look into what the afterlife might look like.
If you enjoy Alice in Wonderland, check out this article on the movie adaptation from the 1980s. If ghost movies are your thing, our take on Blithe Spirit and its remake can be found here and supernatural podcasts here.