5. Batman / Batman Returns (1989/1992)
There is a big debate regarding which of the two Batman films directed by Burton is better. Some point to the first, due to Michael Keaton’s unexpected (and perfect) charisma as both Bruce Wayne and Batman, as well as Jack Nicholson’s powerful performance as The Joker.
Others prefer the second film, because of its dark overtones and twisted performances from Danny DeVito as The Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. As a matter of fact, Pfeiffer’s Catwoman is often chosen as the best adaptation of said character.
Whatever the case may be, both films are considered by many fans as some of the best adaptations of the famous superhero, and while it was considered too “dark” at the time of their releases, the films helped define Burton’s career.
Personally, I prefer “Batman Returns” over “Batman”. However, I left the decision to you about which of the two films is better.
4. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
This could be considered the most iconic Burton-Depp collaboration. It was one of the director’s first attempts… and what a attempt! With a bizarre plot, the film features several of Burton’s most notable trademarks (a gothic story, Johnny Depp, strange characters and a 1950s-like atmosphere) making it, without a doubt, an instant classic.
The film allowed Depp to explore his talents beyond his “21 Jump Street” experience and to create one of the most important characters of his career. It also features a lovely performance by Winona Ryder (who feels completely different from her Lydia Deetz in “Beetlejuice”) and the only collaboration between Burton and his personal hero, Vincent Price, who just fits perfectly as The Inventor.
3. Beetlejuice (1988)
Along with “Edward Scissorhands”, this is one of Burton’s most iconic works and it was the director’s first attempt to make a film as dark and strange as he wanted it to be. Of course, he had made “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” prior to this, but that one didn’t use any of Burton’s bizarre quirks. “Beetlejuice” features all the director’s strange trademarks, from a dark horror (but comedic) plot to quirky stop-motion art, which helped the film to become the success it was.
Michael Keaton’s portrayal of the bio-exorcist was simply excellent and made it the most charismatic Tim Burton character ever, and Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz creates the most Burtonian female character of his career, as well as one of the most important characters from the actress.
The film was so successful that it even got its own cartoon, though the story was changed a bit (with Beetlejuice being “good” and a friend of Lydia) and a sequel has been rumored. Sequel or not, the film is one of the biggest highlights from Burton, Keaton and Ryder. A special mention should be given to Catherine O’Hara’s dance during the dinner scene.
2. Ed Wood (1994)
Far from the weirdness and darkness of his previous films, Burton’s second collaboration with Depp is probably their best and explores the real life of “the worst director ever”, Ed Wood.
Filmed in black and white, the film is a perfect homage to the enthusiastic director, with a smart script from Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (two screenwriters who seem to understand to perfection the real life of every person they write about) and powerful performances from Depp as Wood (this could be easily his best performance to date) and Martin Landau as the legendary Bela Lugosi, which turned it into a cult movie.
While at its time it was highly overlooked by general audiences (being one of Burton’s worst box office films), through the years it has received more attention and became an essential part of Burton’s filmography.
1. Big Fish (2003)
Based on Daniel Wallace’s novel of the same name, “Big Fish” is one of Burton’s most emotional and personal films – and probably his most beautiful in every way.
With a cast that brought several new faces to his filmography, such as Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Steve Buscemi, Alison Lohman and even a young Marion Cotillard (but also with frequent collaborators Helena Bonham Carter and Danny DeVito), the film follows an incredibly magical journey, filled with all kind of strange (but likable) characters.
Every actor there seems to fit perfectly in their respective character, creating both humor and drama to a story that feels personal to Burton, and that uses a smart narrative and stunning set design to tell the strange but beautiful story of Edward Bloom. Johnny Depp and Jack Nicholson were considered for the two versions of Bloom, and while that would have been an interesting exercise to see, McGregor and Finney did excellent work, which helped to drive much of the film.
Thus, due to the acting, cinematography, set design, and especially a sweet story, this is considered by many critics and fans to be Burton’s masterpiece.
Honorable Mention: “Mars Attacks!” is an incredibly fun film that features an huge cast (from Natalie Portman to Jack Nicholson and even Tom Jones). While it may not be as dark as some of Burton’s other works, this one still brings his bizarre love to the 1950s B-movies horror genre.
What would be your favorite Tim Burton film?
Author Bio: Patryk Suchocki is a Mexican student on Cultural Management at the Universidad de Guadalajara and enthusiastic cinephile. He likes indie films, auteur cinema and writing short stories.