Tim Burton is one of the most respected filmmakers in the industry. While he actually has a range of movies to his name, he is mostly known for delivering gothic style dark comedies, usually starring friend Johnny Depp and/or wife Helena Bonham Carter.
But while Burton might stick to a formula that works, fans of his films aren’t complaining.
If you have seen a few Burton films, but you are looking for more, check out our list of his ten best films. Yes, there are lots of gothic films, many that mix live-action with puppets or animation in classic Burton style. But there are also a few unexpected departures that may surprise you.
This is a uniquely Burton take on the haunted house movie. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play a dead couple who find themselves haunting their former home. But they aren’t alone, there is also an obnoxious poltergeist named Beetlejuice played by Michael Keaton.
They can’t decide whether to team up with Beetlejuice to scare the new inhabitants away, or whether to try and protect the new family, including daughter Winona Ryder, from the ghost.
It is easy to forget that it was Burton who made the very first of the Batman movies of the modern era, starring Michael Keaton as the caped crusader and Jack Nicholson as the Joker.
Keaton had been previously type-casted as a comedy actor, so Burton choosing to work with him again changed the trajectory of his career. Burton also went on to make the sequel Batman Returns with Keaton, and Michelle Pfieffer as Catwoman.
Edward ScissorHands (1990)
This is the first of many, many, many film collaborations between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, always casting Depp as a gothic character.
In this movie, Depp is an unfinished Frankenstein-like creation with scissors for hands that finds himself in suburbia. He tries to make himself useful in order to gain acceptance. But he also falls for the teenage daughter of the family that he is staying with, played by Winona Ryder.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Definitely one of the most beloved Burton movies of all time, in this stop-motion animation, Burton asks the question: what would happen if Christmas and Halloween collided?
Jack Skellington, the king of Halloween, discovers a portal from the Halloween world to the Christmas world. He becomes obsessed. He starts to introduce Christmas to the world of Halloween, where it is fundamentally misunderstood.
Mars Attacks (1996)
A distinctively hilarious take on the alien attack genre, Martians arrive on Earth to make peace. But within minutes a cultural misunderstanding has the Martians attacking, and determined to destroy the planet Earth.
While this sounds like the plot of a cheesy action flick, Burton delivers in comedic style. He also works with an impressive ensemble cast including Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Danny DeVito, Michael J. Fox, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Natalie Portman.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
In this film, Burton takes on Washington Irving’s 1820 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the headless horseman.
Johnny Depp plays Ichabod Crane, a man of reason and science sent to investigate the strange happenings in Sleepy Hollow. There he falls for Christina Ricci, a young woman intimately tied to the mystical happenings in the small town.
Big Fish (2003)
Ewan McGregor leads an ensemble in this uplifting fantasy drama. His character is on his deathbed, and for years has been telling his son incredible and unbelievable stories about his life.
His now-adult son, Billy Crudup, has always dismissed the stories as fantasy. But as he listens to his father one last time, he begins to discover that there may be more to his father’s stories than he imagined.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Arguably, we didn’t need a new version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The original starring Gene Wilder is so perfect and hasn’t lost much with age.
Nevertheless, Burton brought us an interesting remake, casting – you guessed it – Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. The movie is fun and introduces the Roald Dahl story to a new generation. But for anyone who watched the original as a kid, it will always be second best.
Corpse Bride (2005)
In this gothic stop animation movie, a young merchant’s son and an aristocrat’s daughter are preparing for their arranged marriage. But boy soon discovers that girl died several years ago and is actually a reanimated corpse.
This doesn’t stand in the way of them building a relationship, and they both help one another come to terms with things that they have been struggling with. A true story of love beyond the grave.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
In this movie, Burton adapted the popular stage musical by Sondheim and Wheeler for the big screen. And yes, Johnny Depp stars as the titular character.
A barber, after spending 15 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of a crime, comes back to London looking for vengeance. He lures his enemies into his barbershop, where he kills them. But what happens to the bodies? During a meat shortage, his neighbor Mrs Lovett’s meat pie business is suddenly thriving.
What To Watch Next
If, when you are done with these, you are interested in a bit more dark and gothic humor, why not check out our list of the best movies about witches, or dip into some classic scary movies, some of which are also unintentionally funny.