In anticipation for this Friday’s release of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, I thought I should look into my favorite works from Burton’s filmography.
Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors that are currently working today. Some people think that he has worn out his welcome because of his distinctive style, and he rarely changes it. However, that’s what I like about him. He knows what he likes and what he is good at, and he does it. He has become great at mixing the macabre with whimsy, even when he is not making a movie for kids. Also, his films are a perfect show case for the work of his crew, such as Colleen Atwood, his usual costume desginer. His collaborations with Danny Elfman have resulted in some of my favorite scores of all time. Then there is his work with Johnny Depp. Say what you want about their collaborations, but Burton always seems to bring out the best out of Depp, who in turn brings some rather interesting qualities to his roles (just look up his inspirations for his Mad Hatter). Plus let’s not forget his influences on one of the best animated movies of all time (which is on the list).
Before I go on with the list, I must mention that I have yet to see the movie that many consider to be his masterpiece: Ed Wood. I have wanted to watch it for a while, but I just never get around to it. One of this days I will watch it, and when I do, if I like it, I will update this list accordingly.
Now, on with the list!
Note: This list is not limited to feature-lenght films, or films directed by him.
10. Mars Attacks (1996)
Most hate it, but I think it is vastly underrated. While the story is indeed weak and there are too many characters to keep track of, Burton set out to make a movie similar to those cheesy 1950s invasion movies and he succeeded. The effects were cheesy, even by that times standards and the performances were hammy, but it is a ton of fun.
9. Batman Returns (1992)
Not quite as good as Burton’s first take on the Caped Cursader, but it is still a visual treat that offers plenty of fun. Plus, how can you not love a movie that has Michelle Pfeifer as Catwoman.
8. Batman (1989)
One of the first forays into comic book adaptation is still one of the best. Burton’s vision of Gotham City and it’s Dark Knight may be different from the modern one, but it is perfect. It is a city that you realize that a place like that could never exist, but still there are aspects of it that seem real. Only Burton could have made the comic books come to life this way.
7. Vincent (1982)
One of Burton’s first attempts at film making resulted in this short about a nice boy that is loved by his family, but in reality he wants to be like Vincent Price. The stop-motion animation, though dated, the black and white photography, and Vincent Price’s narration makes this quite lovely yet macabre. The ending may be one of the bleakest I’ve ever seen.
6. Frankenweenie (1984)
Another short, but this one is live action and it continued Burton’s journey to make movies about dark subject matters. This one is a take on “Frankenstein”, but about a dog, and not nearly as scary. It might be a tad too long, but it is very fun. I’m actually looking forward to the stop-motion, feature-length adaptation of this.
5. Beetlejuice (1988)
Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, and Catherine O’Hara are just part of the greatness that is Beetlejuice. The story is fun and original, it is visually outstanding, and it features one of my favorite possession scenes of all time. Plus, although it is aimed towards family audiences, it has some sick humor, which I love how it plays out in this. I can’t go without mentioning how great Michael Keation is as the title character. It might be his best performance.
4. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Directed by Henry Selick, 1993)
Although Burton only produced this, and came up with the story, you can still see the influence he had. First off, he designed all of the characters. Second off, Danny Elfman, his trusted composer, composed the music, the songs, and performed the ones sung by Jack Skellington. Finally, he brought in Henry Sellick, the stop-motion master, to direct this, as he saw that he was the only one that could do the story justice. This resulted in one of the most beloved Christmas (and Halloween) movies of all time.
3. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
This has always been one of my favorite stories, and even though I didn’t know who Tim Burton was when this first came out, I greatly anticipated it. It was not until about 2003 that I finally got to see it (by then I was familiar with Burton), and it was everything that I wanted it to be. It is dark and gory, but also funny and didn’t always take its self too seriously. Burton’s sigtaure look fits this story like a glove, something that would not happen with another story until 2007
2. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
I don’t know much about Broadway, but I was familiar with Sweeney Todd, and always thought that if a movie was to be made, that Tim Burton would be the perfect man for it. And so he was. He made the correct choice for everything, from what type of performer he wanted to cast (someone who was more of an actor than a singer), to what scenes were to be cut, and who would be his director of photography. Had The Diving Bell and the Butterfly not come out that year, this would have been my choice for the best movie of 2007. One of the most perfect marriages between director and story that I have ever seen.
1. Big Fish (2003)
Looking over Burton’s filmograpy, this and Ed Wood stick out like a sore thumb. While I’ve not seen Ed Wood, like I said, it is not your typical Burton movie. Neither is Big Fish, the story of man who says he has lived an extraordinary life, and his son who is trying to debunk those stories. Burton’s visuals are still there, and some of the scenes are dark, but this is such a heart-warming story and Burton pulls it off so well that I wondered why he doesn’t do more movies like this.
Now it’s your turn: What are your favorite Tim Burton films? Are you excited for Alice in Wonderland? Have your say in the comments section