Known for his gothic aesthetic sensibilities and dark humor, Tim Burton has delivered many memorable – and nightmarish – films to audiences across nearly four decades of filmmaking.
Whether it’s bringing the demonic barber of Fleet Street to life in Sweeney Todd, making us believe an elephant can fly in his live-action adaptation of Dumbo, or turning Paul Giamatti into an orangutan in a lamentable remake of Planet of the Apes, one can never accuse its efforts of being boring.
As he makes the leap to TV series with The Addams Family inspired by Wednesday (surely a perfect marriage of subject and director), Things to watch reviewed his career and picked our seven favorite Burton tales (and where you can watch them right now).
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Batman Returns (1992, neon)
Like The Empire Strikes Back and Spider-Man 2, Burton’s second stab at the Dark Knight is one of the biggest hit sequels of all time.
This time around, Michael Keaton’s complicated caped crusader faces the alter egos of Danny DeVito’s Christmas Day born Oswald Cobblepot and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle, and doesn’t fight the soundtrack of Prince for the highest grade.
Beetlejuice (1988, Neon)
Michael Keaton’s “ghost with the most” helps make Burton’s dark comedy a riot from start to finish. He plays the eponymous bio-exorcist who is called for help when a seance goes wrong for ghostly couple Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara Maitland (Geena Davis). Winona Ryder also stars.
“The story is almost off the rails, but Beetlejuice’s charm is more in the execution. The film is packed with visual invention and eye-catching comedy,” wrote The gardians Steve Rose.
Edward Scissorhands (1990, Disney+)
A blonde-haired Winona Ryder plays the object of the affections of Johnny Depp’s disfigured scientific creation in Burton’s seductively whimsical tale. As he struggles to find his place in society, he discovers a talent for topiary and ice sculpture.
The impressive cast also includes Vincent Price, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall and Alan Arkin.
Ed Wood (1994, Disney+)
Johnny Depp leads the formidable ensemble assembled for this evocative and hugely entertaining black-and-white biopic of colorful, but rather unsuccessful mid-20th-century director Edward D. Wood Jr. Along with terrific twists from Patricia Arquette, Sarah Jessica Park, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeffrey Jones, Martin Landau won an Oscar for his performance as former horror star Bela Lugosi.
“A comedy of ridicule in which the ridiculous becomes unexpectedly sublime,” wrote Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly.
Martian attacks! (1996, Netflix)
As Roland Emmerich’s alien forces blew up the White House in independence dayBurton’s Martian invaders were busy causing mass mayhem with gleeful abandon in this hilarious dark comedy.
Best seen as a sort of low-brow Gen Xer Dr. Strangelove, it’s the only film to feature Tom Jones playing himself and Jack Nicholson as the US President.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, Disney+)
Yes, I know Henry Selick was the director of this macabre masterpiece, but Burton was the man who crafted the dark musical fantasy (his name is even part of the title in some places).
Danny Elfman’s rowdy songs, memorable characters, wacky sense of humor and stop-motion animation at its finest help bring Jack Skellington’s story to life, while positing the theory that Halloween is better than December 25.
Big Eyes (2014, AroVision, Academy OnDemand, RoxyOnDemand)
Eleven years in the making, this entertaining and excellent dramatization of the life of American artist Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams) focuses on how she was swept away by the charismatic Walter Keane (a hammy, but compelling and frightening Christoph Waltz) . Although he helps to bring his works to the public, all is not as it seems.
It’s easy to see what attracted Burton. Keane’s wide-eyed portraits fit comfortably into his unique aesthetic, while the real-life tale (a sort of cross between Catch Me If You Can and A tram called Désir) becomes increasingly macabre and Hitchcockian, as Walter tries desperately to cover his tracks.