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Tim Burton Films

Movies | By A.J. for The Top 13 on March 8, 2010

With the release of Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton's fourteenth feature film and his seventh starring Johnny Depp, the Top 13 takes a look at the career of this filmmaker that many already view as legendary. Burton struck success early on and was soon given the freedom to start making whatever films he wanted however he wanted to make them, something very few directors ever attain. Even fewer directors have made as many cult classics as Burton. Though this past decade has seen more mainstream fare from this auteur, his filmography has been extraordinarily consistent in his unique, gothic style. Burton's next project will be an animated remake of Frankenweenie, the short film responsible for launching his career.

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Edward Scissorhands


Edward Scissorhands


The first and most restrained character that Burton and Depp created together, the titular character from Edward Scissorhands is also the most charming. This film is a hilarious and clever take on suburbia, and proof that great suburban satire doesn't have to be set in the 1950s. The famous scene in which Winona Ryder dances beneath Edward's ice sculpture is as beautiful today as it was in 1990, and time has taken nothing away from the performances given by Dianne Wiest and Alan Arkin.

Ed Wood


Ed Wood


If a biopic about a director doesn't seem like a bankable premise, how about a biopic about the worst director of all time? It should have been box office poison, and it was. But it also turned out to be comedy gold. Ed Wood, director of the infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space, was completely insufferable and simply had no idea how clueless he was about filmmaking. His story gave Depp – in the title role - the chance to give one of his best performances, and Sarah Jessica Parker turned in what could be her absolute best. Meanwhile, the always fantastic Martin Landau won an Oscar for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi.





While arguing with Warner Bros. over the script for Batman, Burton made Beetlejuice, which remains perhaps his strangest film. Yet it became a hit with mainstream audiences and turned into something of a classic. The film is incredible if just for the fact that Michael Keaton completely transformed himself as Beetlejuice. The film also featured rising stars of the time Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, and Winona Ryder in only her third role, and it inspired an animated TV show that lasted four seasons.

Big Fish


Big Fish


As the title suggests, Big Fish is a tall tale about a man who may or may not have had an extraordinary life. John August, who later penned Corpse Bride and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Burton, adapted the Citizen Kane-esque story from a novel by Daniel Wallace. The film, which more than made up for Burton's forgettable remake of Planet of the Apes, features an incredible performance by Albert Finney, typically solid work from Ewan McGregor and Billy Crudup, and Marion Cotillard in her first role in an English-language film.

Corpse Bride


Corpse Bride


About two years after the release of The Nightmare Before Christmas, a stop-motion film that Burton produced but did not direct, he set out to work on Corpse Bride, his own stop-motion movie. But the production would be a ten-year process that allowed Burton to work on his live-action films at the same time. It helped that he had co-director Mike Johnson, who had made this famous Primus music video in 1996, to guide the actual puppetry for him. The film was the first to be shot with commercial still photography cameras, which resulted in shockingly high image quality and seamless animation.

Pee-wee's Big Adventure


Pee-wee's Big Adventure


After Disney executives fired Burton because they felt he had wasted their money making a short film called Frankenweenie, which Disney deemed much too dark for children, he got lucky when Paul Reubens saw the short and asked him to direct a Pee-wee Herman movie. Burton recruited Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo to create the score, beginning Elfman's long career as a film composer and Burton collaborator (he has composed scores for all but two of Burton's films). The fanciful and funny film and the Pee-Wee Herman character quickly became a sensation and Burton was tapped to direct Batman.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street


Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street


Though this adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical featured yet another fantastic performance (this one Oscar nominated) from Depp, it was Burton's fiancé at the time, Helena Bonham Carter, who stole the show. Despite not previously being known as a singer, Carter brilliantly portrayed the lovesick Mrs. Lovett and showed off her chops as a wonderful vocalist.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


A rarity in the world of remakes, Burton's take on Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was considered by many to be as good or even better than the original. Dozens of high-profile actors, such as Bill Murray and Brad Pitt, were considered for the role of Willa Wonka, while several directors, including Martin Scorsese, nearly signed on to helm the project. Ultimately, of course, it went to Burton, which meant that Depp inevitably would be getting, and therefore reinventing, the iconic role.

Batman Returns


Batman Returns


After the runaway success of Batman, Burton was initially hesitant to make the sequel. He told Warner Bros. that he would do so only if the studio granted him total creative control. Although the studio ultimately agreed, executives at Warner Bros. weren't thrilled about it. Nor were they thrilled with the final product, which they viewed as much too dark. Nevertheless, the Top 13 thinks, perhaps controversially, it was an improvement over the original. Villains can make or break a superhero movie, and Danny DeVito's turn as the Penguin is pitch perfect.

Alice in Wonderland


Alice in Wonderland


Burton's newest film is visually wonderful and fun, but perhaps somewhat disappointing when considered in the context of its iconic source material. The script misses much of Lewis Carroll's clever nonsense and, ironically, makes too much sense. The story is more about Alice and less about Wonderland than perhaps was expected, as Alice actually has a character arc, and an awesome one at that. Like several other Burton films from the past decade, the show-stealer is Helena Bonham Carter, this time as the Red Queen.





Jack Nicholson's Joker may have been surpassed by the late Heath Ledger, but the overall tones of Burton's and Chris Nolan's versions of the Batman story are vastly different, and Nicholson played the role exactly how it was conceived in Burton's rendition. Though Burton's Batman has not aged well, it did far precede the comic book movie craze and was a massive hit at the time, remaining one of the highest grossing films of all time when adjusted for inflation.

Sleepy Hollow


Sleepy Hollow


Burton's films are known for their imaginative art direction, and this film became his first to win an Oscar in that category (Sweeney Todd was his second). After a pair of box office duds, Sleepy Hollow brought Burton renewed financial success, in part due to a memorable marketing campaign featuring the slogan "Heads will roll." Depp co-stars as Ichabod Crane with a very blonde (like many of Burton's leading actresses) Christina Ricci, and a menacing Christopher Walken as the Headless Horseman.

Mars Attacks!


Mars Attacks!


Though Mars Attacks! definitely has its hilarious moments, the joke gets a bit stale by the film's end. Nevertheless, this black comedy and science fiction hybrid film based on a set of cult trading cards is worth watching for the star-studded cast, notably featuring Jack Nicholson, who plays two roles, Danny DeVito, Michael J. Fox, Jack Black, Pam Grier, and a young Natalie Portman.

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Comments Leave a comment


Batman should be much higher on the list. Granted I'm partial to it because I loved it as a kid, but I also think it is a great movie, and one I never get tired of watching. Batman Returns, in my opinion, pales in comparison. My Top 5: Scissorhands, Batman, Beetlejuice, Ed Wood, Sweeney.

8:16 AM   Mar 08, 2010

stillathreat ★★

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure should be second or third - it comes after scissorhands and is equal to beetlejuice.

8:28 AM   Mar 08, 2010

KungFuJay ★★

Ugh, this list is a huge fail. Pee-Wee should be in the top 3, and Sleepy Hollow is much much much better than #12. I'd actually put it in the top 5 or so. Sweeney Todd and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were in no way shape or form better than either of the Batman movies either.

9:25 AM   Mar 08, 2010


There is 0 chance Alice is better than Mars Attack-ack-ack-acks. I can only assume this list writer is under 25 after seeing the abortion that was Big Fish ranked over Pee-Wee, Batman, Sleepy Hollow and MA. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is God-awful. Ugh.

9:33 AM   Mar 08, 2010


Good list. The Top 4 are spot-on!

11:36 AM   Mar 08, 2010


oof worst list yet. for one not all of his movies are even good so not sure he is deserving of best 13 movies of all time. Batman Returns shouldn't even make the list, the WORST batman movie made. Batman, pee wee and sleepy hollow should be in the top 5

12:05 PM   Mar 08, 2010


I don't think you necessarily need 13 good things to make a top 13 - the stuff on the bottom isn't as good as the stuff on the top in that instance. Burton is important enough to warrant a list, though.

12:15 PM   Mar 08, 2010


Batman Returns is going to make the list when Planet of the Apes is in your filmography.

1:38 PM   Mar 08, 2010


speaking of which when are we going to get the top 13 "top 13" lists OF ALLL TIME??

i hope the mtv videos one makes the list

12:06 PM   Mar 08, 2010


Maybe the site's one-year anniversary. We'll see.

12:16 PM   Mar 08, 2010


I'm surprised to see a lot of Sleepy Hollow love in the comments. That ranks about Planet of the Apes level with me. Did not like it. I agree Mars Attacks should be higher. I really enjoyed its weird humor. As for whether Burton is list-worthy, I would say he is. I think his movies have had a huge impact on the visual styles of other filmmakers. And while true he's really only made 14 films, I would say 12 of those are Great/good/interesting. And since people have vastly different favorites, I think it makes a good subject for a list.

3:39 PM   Mar 08, 2010


Tim Burton movies are like a creepy uncle who touched you when you too little to know you were being touched the wrong way. I didn't know better when I was 8, now I watch Pee Wee's Big Adventure or his interpretation of Batman, and want to press charges.

12:17 PM   Mar 11, 2010

ajay ★★

Best Top 13 comment yet.

2:29 PM   Mar 12, 2010


what about The Nightmare Before Christmas? are these only movies he directed? he wrote and produced nightmare!

8:06 AM   Mar 24, 2010

ajay ★★

Yes, only films he directed. And though he did create the original story, he didn't write the screenplay. If Nightmare was included, it would probably have been 3 or 4.

Also, in retrospect, Mars Attacks! should have been higher.

1:39 PM   Mar 26, 2010


Todd probably oughtta be a bit higher, otherwise good list.

1:36 PM   Apr 15, 2010

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