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All 18 Tim Burton Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

28 June 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Matthew Benbenek

love-edward-scissorhands

No directors in recent memory have been as successful as Tim Burton in marrying their unique vision with universal popularity. Since his beginning, he has been able to captivate audiences with his arresting artistic design and keep them around with his goofy sense of humor and natural storytelling ability.

His filmography has one of the most distinct director’s footprint in mainstream Hollywood. Filled typically with quirky, supernatural settings and equally twisted visuals, a Burton picture is almost instantly recognizable to any movie fan.

Over the years, Burton has built his body of work on several key partnerships that are integral to his films’ creative power. The most prominent of these is his recurring star, Johnny Depp, whose film career started and rose to fame in Burton’s pictures. Another key addition to his films is the music, provided mainly by Oingo Boingo frontman Danny Elfman whose reputation as a composer has now eclipsed his fame as a rocker.

Like all filmmakers, Burton has his ups and downs, and as he has grown older his films seem to have become less daring, but his genius is still visible in every one of his works. Please enjoy the following list, ranking the films of his career and feel free to agree, or more likely, disagree with the placements.

 

18. Planet of the Apes (2001)

Planet of The Apes

Few remakes of classic films are well received, but even fewer have been as reviled as Burton’s revamping of the science fiction landmark of the same name. The basis of the plot is the same as the original.

A human spaceman, played by Mark Wahlberg, crash lands on a planet which he finds to be ruled by Apes. He is then taken prisoner and made a slave along with the rest of the humans on the planet. He escapes and attempts a revolt but clashes with the General of the apes. Some other time travel plot twists happen and the film muddles into the thoroughly miscalculated ending: a foul rehash of the originals legendary twist.

Much of the time, remakes are chided for being unnecessary money grabs. This cannot be said for Planet of the Apes, a reboot of a series that had been silent for decades, and the current series in the franchise proves it could have been done well. No, the main problem of the film was in the confusing and poorly paced script, which left viewers baffled after.

The acting was passable at best and Burton’s vision was similarly uninspired. It seems everyone involved was just in it for the money. The one bright spot in the film was the prosthetics, but those did not begin to make up for the film’s shortcomings and the infamous monkey-fied Lincoln Monument.

 

17. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

The most recent of Burton’s films as of the writing of this list, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children represents perfectly the faults in Burton’s recent pictures and his current slump.

Ever since Alice in Wonderland Burton has seemingly spent all of his efforts in crafted the most visually dazzling and crowded films with his newfound style of CGI effects. He has certainly shown that he is one of the masters of the craft, but the unique art that made his early works classics has been replaced by much less daring design. Much worse than this change is that the director has appeared to have lost his touch at creating emotionally connective characters.

Eva Green, Burton’s muse as of late, plays Miss Peregrine, the headmistress of a special group of super powered children. The group lives in a “time loop” set in World War II and fight off nasty monsters who wish to steal their eyes. The premise, based on the novel of the same name, is interesting enough, but it soon spirals out of Burton’s control with many time jumps and a rushed pace.

It is certainly an entertaining film, despite the plot’s weaknesses, but in the end there is nothing very memorable about the whole thing. The character’s are mostly hollow, due in no part to the acting, and the beautiful effects are not enough to hold it together. Hopefully Burton’s next big film, a live-action version of the classic Dumbo, will mark a return to form, but with Disney’s involvement, I doubt that he will be allowed the creative control he needs for another masterpiece.

 

16. Alice in Wonderland (2010)

alice-in-wonderland-2010

Based on the universe of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton’s overblown fantasy extravaganza takes place many years after the initial stories. Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska, is now of age and is to be married off to a snob and enter into the world of adulthood.

Before she goes through with it, however, she spots a white rabbit and, following, falls down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Picking up where “Through the Looking Glass” left off, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) are at war. It is up to Alice to save the day and defeat the wicked Red Queen and her lackeys.

Rejoining Alice in her new adventures are nearly all of the notable characters from before. There’s the Cheshire cat, the hookah-smoking caterpillar, and most notably The Mad Hatter, played vividly by Johnny Depp.

Unfortunately, despite the wholehearted performances by the impressive cast and the absolutely dazzling special effects, Alice in Wonderland has a weak , underdeveloped storyline and is one of Burton’s most poorly realized projects. Despite bad reviews, the film performed amazingly at the box office, especially overseas, spawning a sequel and a string of real-life remakes of Disney films, like The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast.

 

15. Mars Attacks (1996)

Mars Attacks! (1996)

Loosely based on a campy trading card game of the same name, this wacky cult film from Tim Burton satires both the science fiction B movies of the past and the big budget alien blockbusters of the present.

The plot is nothing special, simply focusing on several different characters as martians arrive on Earth and start terrorizing all humans. Some of the characters include boxing champions, news reporters, soldiers, the President of the United States and sleazy Las Vegas developers, the latter two being both played by Jack Nicholson.

As the human population is quickly being decimated by the martians, the heroes must act quickly to find a way to save their planet. Clearly not a perfect film, Mars Attacks still features a lot of funny gags and a lot of enjoyable plot points.

The over the top appearance of the aliens, taken from the trading cards, destroys any hope of scariness for the film but adds a lot to the wacky comic atmosphere. Burton more-or-less created what he set out to do, and and the ensemble cast similarly plays their parts to the fullest. Due to the perhaps too-goofy plot and design of the film, however, it never exceeds the potential of a campy diversion.

 

14. Dark Shadows (2012)

dark-shadows-2012

This film version of the gothic soap opera of the same name is a light but fun flick from Burton. Johnny Depp stars as Barnabas Collins, who in 1776 is cursed by the witch Angelique, played by Eva Green, because of her spurned advances and turns him into a vampire. After being finally dug from his coffin in 1972, Barnabas returns to his family’s manor. Now residing in the home is the current Collins matriarch Elizabeth, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, her children and her son’s psychologist, played by Helena Bonham Carter.

His reappearance is noted by Angelique who is immortal as well and who has taken over the fishing business of the town that once made the Collins family so wealthy. It is up to Barnabas to return the family to its past glory and unite them with pride, all the while defeating the evil magic of angelique and capturing the heart of the beautiful young Victoria.

The art direction of the gothic manors mixed with the 1970s culture is stunning and very lively. The performances throughout the main and supporting cast are well realized too. The plot, however, being adapted from a soap opera, lacks a strong narrative fitting for a feature film which is why Dark Shadows ranks so low on this list.

 

13. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory-2

Although the earlier Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder is generally more well regarded, Burton’s rendition of Roald Dahl’s seminal children’s book is still an ambitious and creative effort.

Freddie Highmore stars as Charlie Bucket, a young kid from a poor family who wins a tour of the famous chocolate factory run by Willy Wonka in a contest. He is accompanied on his tour by his Grandfather, as well as the other contest winners consisting a fat German, a TV addict, a rich daddy’s girl and a bubble gum chewing champion.

On a visual level, the film is certainly a triumph, if not a bit too quirky. Johnny Depp’s performance as Willy Wonka, maligned by some, is a highly unique portrayal and helps holds the bulk of the plot together. Unfortunately, Burton takes many liberties with the classic tale including adding many unnecessary plotlines. Not as classic or as magical as the original film, Charlie is nonetheless a highly enjoyable and unique family film of visual splendor.

 

 

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  • Zwei

    “Big Fish” is a movie that can make me physically sick. It was the first time he revealed himself as a trickster who had lost the touch: he had made a horrible movie just before, but at least he was honest in his mistakes. In “Big Fish” he wanted to convince you that you still loved the Burtonian, but he was aware that he was pretending.

    • shane scott-travis

      Yeah, Big Fish was where I official stopped enjoying Burton as a director.

  • Hal Jordan

    Tim Burton’s Charile and the Chocolate Factory is much more faithful than the overrated original movie.

    • shane scott-travis

      Just because it’s faithful doesn’t mean it’s any good. Burton’s is garbage.

    • Kosta Jovanovic

      That doesn’t help it at all

    • Matt H

      I don’t really mind Burton’s version but, faithful or not, it’s nowhere near as good as the original film. I love Johnny Depp (when he’s actually making good films), but he can’t compare with Gene Wilder.

  • bluesborn

    Ed Wood is my fav but I also really dig Sweeney Todd and it’s gorgeous sets and songs.

  • Beetlejuice is my favorite. It’s just fucking nuts as I just love it for its macabre sense of humor and of course, Michael Keaton.

  • Keith Casey Ahlas

    Good list. I think Batman Returns should be higher. Yes, the tone of the film is wrong, but I actually think it’s the best of the Batman films behind The Dark Knight. His first Batman film is good, but does not seem to hold up well with age. Sleepy Hollow is my personal favorite. I watch it every Halloween

    • bluesborn

      Sleepy Hollow is definitely up there for me as well.

    • Mortimer

      In my opinion Batman Returns although very good is all over the place. It has interesting, three-dimensional characters and good atmosphere but also some silness (you can recognize some of ‘Batman and Robin’ moments here, in smaller package).
      On the other hand, the only things that doesn’t hold up well in Batman (1989) are some of 1980s fashion and music by Prince. Everything else is great. Totalitarian vision of Gotham (with mix of 1940s and Blade Ruunner looks), Danny Elfman’s score, dark atmosphere and fine performances by Keaton and Nicholson. Not to mention Burton’s great homage to German Expressionism from 1920s in some scenes.
      Keaton is just cool as Batman. Can you imagine him screaming “RAACHELL” or speaking in raspy voice ?

  • sailor monsoon

    Planet of the apes’ makeup alone keeps it from being his worst film and ed wood is most definitely his best

  • Kosta Jovanovic

    Vincent is his best

  • colonelkurtz

    You forgot Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016), his most recent film. But I don’t blame you for forgetting it. It, and his other Alice film, don’t belong on anyone’s film radar.

    • Ravi S

      He didn’t direct the sequel, only produced it. I think that’s why it hasn’t been included

      • colonelkurtz

        Damn, the bugger dodged the bullet on that one.

  • colonelkurtz

    (Nitpicking, but David Wallace (David Foster Wallace) is known for Infinite Jest and other such works. Daniel Wallace, on the other hand, wrote Big Fish.)

  • Ted Wolf

    His adaptation of Sweeney Todd was masterful. As a theater-phile I loved the stage production and was wary of his ability to handle this material. However, Burton changed it from a filmed stage play into a real movie (partly by deleting the chorus, shame to lose the music, but kudos for a bold storytelling edit).

  • Ricardo Monteiro

    Ed Wood is the best for me. 2nd probably Big Fish and Beetlejuice. Batman attempts are really bad…I would push them to the bottom or even forget he made such movies…

    • Matt H

      XD Batman and Batman Returns are two of the best Batman films out there.

  • SupernaturalCat

    Ed Wood is without a doubt my fave Burton film (ha, hey, anyone recall the old Tim Burton Collective from back in the web’s earlier days?) Landau as Lugosi is absolutely spot on and entertaining.

    Edward Scissorhands… I haven’t seen it in many yrs. It’s a defining, bittersweet You Will Never Belong story (a recurring theme among Burton’s protagonists) replete with a guaranteed misty-eyed ending. Although some the story’s best parts are when Edward becomes angry upon realizing his fish out of water circumstance will never yield positive results within Stepford suburbia. Burton’s take on this is appropriately critical here, demonstrating how easily those who’d just previously accepted and embraced Edward could turn on a dime, casting him as pariah for their own selfish, petty reasons, rejecting him, and even seeking to lynch him.

    The short film, Vincent, is top notch. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure remains a favorite (“I’m a loner, Dottie…a rebel.”)

    Sleepy Hollow is ghoulish good fun. There are a lot of his more recent films that I haven’t seen …although I did see Dark Shadows, and while apparently fans nor critics cared for it, my wife and I found it to be a real hoot!…even scored the disc. Eva Green as the witch, with that big, dangerously crazy smile, and sinister-yet-comical way she can quickly size up a situation and turn a phrase is pitch perfect. Outstanding movie villain!

    Lastly, Mars Attacks! (another Burton film that receives high marks from me) makes for hysterically subversive fun…if you recall, it was released the same yr as Independence Day (which I didn’t care for) and while ID was typical Hollywood pro-military/pro-patriotism propaganda, Mars Attacks! skewers that formula endlessly while simultaneously paying homage to the classic 1950s atomic bomb era lo-fi science fiction movies.

    Mars Attacks! They Blew Up Congress

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl3a1hh1hHQ

  • Matt H

    Sweeney Todd was utter garbage. Batman Returns should have been way higher. I’ve never really got on with Edward Scissorhands but I’ll have to give it another chance and watch it again. As for Mars Attacks, I know it isn’t great, but I do love that movie.

  • Cassandra Drake

    Despite not having directed it, Nightmare Before Christmas is a Tim Burton movie he wrote and created the entire thing. Pretty much every moment in that movie that makes it a classic is because of Burton.

    Sellick may have directed it but it was Burton’s Vision that made it the classic that it is today, which makes it eligible for this list because nowhere does it state that the movie has to be directed by him.

    It’s a movie so synonymous with Tim Burton that most people don’t realize he never directed it

  • Billy Beefcaked

    Great list of a fantastic film maker.

    The world of Tim Burton has always been one of my absolute favorites.

    Batman Returns is one of my favorite movies and world that he ever created.

    I will say Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure should have been top 10.

  • So happy that Edward Scissorhands is number 1! I’ve loved that film since I was a kid, and it really captures the Burton vibe and style really well

  • Nemanja Bandini

    5) Batman Returns
    4) Sleepy Hollow
    3) Sweeney Todd
    2) Edward Scissorhands
    1) Big Fish

  • Jackson Forest

    I can agree with the top 3 here – just not their rankings. Ed Wood is easily the best film Burton has made. I’d rank Beetlejuice second. I find it more original than Scissorhand’s.