Every Tim Burton Movie, Ranked
Blame Tim Burton for Batman and Johnny Depp. The macabre filmmaker turned The Dark Knight into a bonafide franchise and helped make Depp a star. Despite his hit-or-miss output lately, Burton is still noteworthy. Celebrate the 30th anniversary of "Beetlejuice" with a ranking of his best (and worst) films.
19. 'Dark Shadows' (2012)
These next three films are virtually tied for "Worst." By now, Burton's remakes of properties that didn't need to be remade are feeling rote and uninspired. So it is with this take on the 1960s-'70s horror-themed soap opera. Depp is all too lifeless as revived vampire Barnabas Collins. The only lively performance comes from Burton's future "Miss Peregrine" star Eva Green as Angelina, the dangerously volatile witch unhinged by her (inexplicable) love for Barnabas.
18. 'Planet of the Apes' (2001)
This is the most baffling of Burton's superfluous remakes. Not just because of a bananas ending that (unlike the Statue of Liberty reveal in the original 1968 film) makes no sense, but because why did he bother in the first place? Yeah, the monkey make-up looks much better than it did in Charlton Heston's day, and Burton's 13-year professional and personal relationship with Helena Bonham Carter began here, but there's no intelligent life on this "Planet."
17. 'Alice in Wonderland' (2010)
They say no one ever leaves a Broadway musical humming the sets, but this film, even more than other Burton spectacles, is entirely about the overwhelmingly lush production design. Johnny Depp gets top billing as the Mad Hatter, but even he is just another colorful decoration. At least this time, Burton's misunderstood dreamer caught between childhood and adulthood isn't a guy.
16. 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' (2005)
Johnny Depp plays Willy Wonka like a cross between Michael Jackson and Anna Wintour; not even a (totally unnecessary) backstory can make that portrayal any more sympathetic or less creepy. It's certainly not going to make you forget Gene Wilder's definitive Wonka. At least Freddie Highmore's Charlie displays the right amount of awe and delight.
14. 'Big Eyes' (2014)
Burton has long shown a fascination with misfit and outcast artists in his work, which made this biopic of painter Margaret Keane a natural choice. The end result is no "Ed Wood," but it is a fascinating glimpse at a woman fighting for the professional respect she deserves, and a film that goes against the familiar visual grain of most Burton movies.
14. 'Mars Attacks!' (1996)
Hitting theaters a few months after "Independence Day," this feels like a vicious parody. Strangely, Burton's sympathy seems to lie with the sadistic but playful invaders, not the foolish, vain humans they destroy. Jack Nicholson plays two parts, for no good reason. Eventually, a heroic band of Burton-esque misfits arises, but it's too late to care.
13. 'James and the Giant Peach' (1996)
While not as memorable or narratively successful as "Nightmare Before Christmas," this Burton-produced/Henry Selick-directed stop-motion pic perfectly captures the tone of Roald Dahl's source material. Though the film, with its live-action opening, is not for kids.
12. 'Big Fish' (2003)
Sure, Burton's a great cinematic storyteller, but imagine if he were your dad, and you had to live in his world of bizarre whimsy 24/7, and you'll begin to grasp the frustration and shot nerves that mark Billy Crudup's character here. Unfortunately, it's the bizarrely whimsical dad (Ewan McGregor as a young man, Albert Finney as an old man) that you're supposed to identify with in Burton's attempt at a male weepie.
8. 'Frankenweenie' (2012)
Even as Burton struggled to recapture that old magic in live-action form, this 2012 animated movie proved he still has the knack for crafting great animation. Far more than being yet another take on the story of Franksstein, this delightful, stylish animated movie is a testament to the unbreakable bond between a boy and his dog.
12. 'Tim Burton's Corpse Bride' (2005)
The world can always use more lavish stop-motion animated movies, and Burton is thankfully always happy to deliver. "Corpse Bride" doesn't just look great, it packs in a winning blend of macabre humor and a sweetly sentimental love story. Beneath the ghastly trappings, it's basically a classic Disney movie through and through.
9. 'Batman' (1989)
Everyone thought casting Beetlejuice as Bruce Wayne was a terrible idea, but Burton knew better. (Even so, having Jack Nicholson as the Joker is a pretty good insurance policy.) Turns out Michael Keaton had no trouble locating Batman's inner torment, especially in Burton's grim, "Metropolis"-like Gotham. Without trying, Burton invented the modern comic-book blockbuster.
8. 'Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street' (2007)
Once again, the "Sleepy Hollow" director finds a way to use extravagant gore as a critique of an unjust social order. Depp is scary-good as the vengeful barber, and Carter is devilishly whimsical as his partner in crime. Both prove surprisingly adept at singing Stephen Sondheim's tricky score.
7. 'Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas' (1993)
Two holiday classics in one, this Halloween musical (written and designed by Burton, but directed by Henry Selick) marks Burton's richest collaboration with Danny Elfman (who wrote all the songs and sings the lead). A playfully ghoulish stop-motion-animated gem, it also marks the purest distillation of Burton's consistent message: Be who you are, and embrace your freakishness.
6. 'Sleepy Hollow' (1999)
The extreme gore here is Burton's nod to Hammer films, but it's not all gruesome horror. With Depp as a nerdy but heroic Ichabod Crane, Burton fleshes out Washington Irving's slim ghost story into an epic parable of the battle between reason and superstition at the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment.
5. 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure' (1985)
In his debut feature, Burton proves an ideal match for Paul Reubens' resourceful, retro-kitsch-loving man-child. (Keeping the tone light is the famously antic score by Danny Elfman.) It's hard to remember now how wonderfully strange this cartoonish live-action film felt at the time; either you were on its wavelength and got it, or you found it unbearably irritating.
4. 'Batman Returns' (1992)
Arguably, the most Tim Burton-y of Burton's films, the only fingerprints on this sequel seem to be the director's. Danny DeVito (as the Penguin) and fellow villain Christopher Walken do their usual vaudeville, but this sequel digs much deeper than the original, exploring the psychosexual needs that drive a man to dress up in a skin-tight Batsuit. Even so, Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer (as Catwoman) are most effective when out of costume and still recognizing each other as damaged, kinky kindred spirits.
6. 'Beetlejuice' (1988)
Burton barely had two nickels to rub together making this kooky 1988 comedy, yet he still managed to craft one of the most visually unique comedies of the decade. Beetlejuice is a demented supernatural comedy unlike any other, and it's one that helped launch Michael Keaton into super-stardom.
2. 'Edward Scissorhands' (1990)
The Burton-Johnny Depp partnership starts here, with the role that made the actor both a movie star and the ideal vessel for Burton's misunderstood-artist/wounded man-child heroes ever after. It's also one of Burton's most haunting fables, thanks not just to its doe-eyed, nearly-silent star, but also to Danny Elfman's celestial score and a brief but majestic turn by horror icon Vincent Price, in his final role.
1. 'Ed Wood' (1994)
Burton's playful, hilarious black-and-white biopic of the notoriously inept director turns out to have a gooey heart. Depp's sweet transvestite is the band's charismatic leader, but its soul is Martin Landau's Oscar-winning turn as an aged Bela Lugosi, an elegant old monster raging at the dying of the light.