The Movies of Tim Burton

"I`ve always been misrepresented. You know, I could dress in a clown costume and laugh with the happy people but they`d still say I`m a dark personality. " -- Tim Burton

Promotional images were released today of Tim Burton's upcoming adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. As always, they capture Burton's unique style, a blend of gothic quirkiness. People say his movies are "dark," but there's a light-hearted zaniness in all his films. As I mentioned in my blog entry listing my favorite living directors, Burton's motion pictures have a distinct visual tone that makes them instantly recognizable as part of the movie makers filmography. You definitely know a Tim Burton movie when you see one.

He makes movies that I like, modern day fairytales with twisted sensibilities, vulnerable and relatable characters, and creative designs from an off-the-charts imagination.

Here's how I rate his films. I didn't include any of his television pilots or movies that he produced but didn't direct, such as Nightmare Before Christmas or James and the Giant Peach.

Pee-wee's Big Adventure -- Tim Burton's first big picture, it's an hilarious romp with a heart of gold and an edginess that made Paul Reuben's Pee-wee Hermann character accessible for all ages. It's also a darn good story, with an epic hero's journey told through a simple tale of an over-grown boy searching for his missing bike.

Beetle Juice -- Burton's wackiness goes off the scale. I confess this isn't one of my favorites, but the movie still has a faithful cult following.

Batman -- Burton hit box-office gold with this big-screen telling of the Dark Knight story. Although it clearly has Tim's visual sense, he didn't invent the more serious version of the Caped Crusader. Nevertheless, many people only knew Batman as the campy Adam West version from the 1960s. Burton bravely cast Michael Keaton as the lead and created a pop culture phenomenon that arguably brought comic book movies into the mainstream, a feat that hadn't been accomplished since Superman: The Movie. Jack Nicholson's Joker steals the show, and repeat viewings reveal the film's many flaws, but it's still a solid piece of entertainment.

Edward Scissorhands -- A modern fable with a kooky premise, this became an instant classic thanks to a brilliant performance by Johnny Depp, an awesome supporting role by Vincent Price, great character design and direction by Tim Burton, and a heartwarming story that hits all the right notes.

Batman Returns -- While the first Batman movie might get weaker with each viewing, the sequel gets better and better. Catwoman and the Penquin still overshadow the hero, but almost everything about this follow-up is bigger and better than the first film. The story still has its holes, but it also has many perfect moments that continue to hold up. It's a shame Burton never got the chance to direct a third film. It would have been interesting to see what he had in mind for Two-Face (Billy Dee Williams!), Robin (one of the Wayans brothers?) and who knows what else.

Ed Wood -- Arguably Tim Burton's masterpiece. The Bela Lugosi subplot is actually much more interesting than the true-life tale of the low-budget director, but Johnny Depp turns in another wonderful performance.

Mars Attacks! -- Great eye candy and some fun slapstick humor, but this is one of Burton's lesser films, in my opinion. Jack Nicholson hams it up and when all is said and done it's a nice little diversion but nothing truly memorable.

Sleepy Hollow -- I love this movie, as Burton re-invents Washington Irving's legend of the Headless Horseman.

Planet of the Apes -- Not as bad as the critics say! Except for the weak ending, I thought this was a fun remake of the Apes saga. I would have liked Burton to stick to the continuity of the previous Planet of the Apes films, but as a standalone version, it has its moments.

Big Fish -- It took me a while to see this film, but when I did I was blown away. Great storytelling, great characters, wonderful film.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -- Another nice remake, although I wish Burton had opted to do a sequel to the classic Gene Wilder version rather than a reboot.

Corpse Bride -- Not as great as Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, which he produced, but it's still a great stop-motion animated marvel.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street -- A musical like only Tim Burton can do.

I look forward to what Burton has in store for us in Wonderland.


Peter said…
I got my first dose of Burton in Nightmare Before Christmas. left me with a surreal feeling after watching. Loved what he did in Batman and Batman Returns. Corpse Bride wasn't bad, but didn't quite leave the same impact as Nightmare did.
Nick said…
There probably isn't a single Tim Burton film that I hated. I feel bad I never got the chance to see his Lost in Oz television idea come to life. Maybe someday.
caroline_hagood said…
I absolutely love Burton and I enjoyed your summary.
Nick said…
Thanks, Caroline. He's one of my favorites. I'm really looking forward to the MoMA exhibition and to Burton's upcoming new Alice in Wonderland film.