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Directors’ Weekend: The 10 Best Tim Burton Films

So here are the 10 Best Tim Burton films according to the collective bunch of you that voted. And a huge thank you very much indeed for taking the time to do so. In my humble opinion there are a few unexpected rankings making the cut, and a certain alien attack and tiny Alice nowhere to be seen. Here are the 10, counting down…

10 CB

10. Corpse Bride (2005)

Much more compassion and warmth than the title of the stop-motion animated feature Corpse Bride suggests, this is a Tim Burton tale if ever we saw one. Mike Johnson co-directs with Burton, a rich, poignant, albeit dark, gloomy affair, the film comes alive through its seamless, familiar production (a la the Henry Selick directed The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach). Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter  are at hand voicing the unforgettable leads – who else? — Robin Write

10 ST

9. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Tim Burton is forever pubescent. Not quite an adult, not quite a child, as evidenced in his movies that speaks to both. Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street stage musical debuted during Broadway’s pubescent phase, leaving behind the rigidly melodious Rogers & Hammerstein productions and riding the tidal wave of darker, more sexualized Broadway fare that embraced narrative over sing-alongs. Although the musical and film embrace melody, it is in a much more dire world, like Tim Burton’s mind. Burton’s faithful, gothic-inspired adaptation is summed up in two aesthetics: coal and blood. Despite its grim visuals a playful tone emerges until Burton does something out of his norm: he goes full melodrama. The last third of Sweeney Todd brims with death, heartbreak, and fleeting childhood innocence – perhaps his greatest fears. Burton’s unique sensibilities were practically destined for such a pairing. — Ian Nichols

10 SH

6. Sleepy Hollow (1999)

The first of three films that wound up with exactly the same amount of votes is unquestionably one of Burton’s finest. Sleepy Hollow is a tremendous whole of its bold, beautiful parts, story-telling so swift and sinister, an array of excellence via the production design, costumes, cinematography and of course yet another cracking Danny Elfman score. Burton is in complete control of his material and creativity here, casting Depp in a somewhat comedic role works well, a supporting cast including Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, and Christopher Walken swallow up scenery, and there is Christina Ricci, radiant and era-fitting as only she can be. — Robin Write

10 NB

6. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

What’s this? What’s this? There really is magic everywhere in the Burton-birthed Christmas-Halloween (out favorite holiday hybrid) tale, majestically directed by Henry Selick. The score and songs will linger in my head and heart for years, decades it seems, as we follow Jack Skellington and a whole host of monsters, ghouls, trouble-causers, inquisitive kids etc etc fathom the true meaning of both holiday seasons. The absurd, the outlandish, but also the essential message of morality, as well as the penetratingly accurate depiction of childhood, Burton has his glorious fingerprints all over this. — Robin Write

10 BR

6. Batman Returns (1992)

After establishing the modern playbook for studio superhero movies (distinct casting for the heroes, top shelf established award caliber stars for the villains, big budget marketable soundtrack, noted director, etc) with Batman in 1989, Tim Burton came back three years later with the sequel doing what the second chapter always does; bigger, broader and sexier. Moving from the singular villain of Jack Nicholson’s pop art version of The Joker, Burton ups the ante – and the dark goth aesthetic – with Danny DeVito’s schizophrenic Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer’s lusty Catwoman and Christopher Walken playing Christopher Walken by way of Conrad Veidt. With these dastardly devils and Michael Keaton returning as the titular crime fighter, Burton crafts a goofy memorable highwire affair that fits solidly into not only his canon, but that of the superhero as well. — Tobi Ogunyemi

10 BF

5. Big Fish (2003)

Personally, the inclusion of Big Fish so high in the list was a surprise, where I expected potentially all the films prior on this very run-down to out-shine it. Regardless, yet again, Burton excels in visual story-telling, rarely does his replace the shadows and the darkness with dreamy colorscapes. There are elements of myth and make-believe on display here that make Big Fish more memorable than your average life recollection picture, and it has obviously won over audiences in this very list. — Robin Write

10 EW

4. Ed Wood (1994)

So, Ed Wood is a film that for some strange reason, I never saw until just last week, even though I heard so many great things about it from various people, including praise from the guys over at the Flicksation Podcast. Eric Madsen especially loves it, and even said that Martin Landau is one of his favorite performances of all-time. So, what’s my opinion? I agree wholeheartedly on both Landau is fantastic, and the movie is too. I love that it was shown in beautiful black & white, and it features kooky performances that seem to match an Ed Wood directed film. If you don’t know who Ed Wood is, he was considered one of the worst film directors in Hollywood history, and his 1959 film Plan 9 From Outer Space is one of the reasons why. Ed Wood the film is the antithesis though of Ed Wood the director. Its confident, funny, and very entertaining. — Al Robinson

10 BM

3. Batman (1989)

When this movie came out I was 7 years old, so I’ve always known of this, and it’s hard to imagine the new legacy of Batman on film without this one first. Before Tim Burton came to create the new image, the one we all had before it was of Adam West from the 1960s, where he’s a joking one and wearing greyish-blue colors. Michael Keaton on the other hand made Batman the true Dark Knight he really is, and wearing all black and looking and acting much more mysterious and dangerous. It’s the kind I always think of. The movie is really fun and full of great characters, including Jack Nicholson’s Joker, and a great soundtrack from Prince. Maybe my favorite thing about it besides the fight scenes and explosions, is the Batmobile, which is still the coolest thing Batman has ever driven. Badass Batman, badass indeed! — Al Robinson

10 BJ

2. Beetlejuice (1988)

A film Burton at one time had a hard time getting made, but he eventually won the powers that be over – even getting an approval to go with the title “Scared Sheetless”. With his dynamic, gothic outlay, and unique energy of filmmaking, once upon a time Burton was a powerful director. Beetlejuice is a firm favorite of die-hard fans, a story and execution so surreal, we are almost made to feel at home in among the madness. Vibrant, spooky, and very funny (Keaton in career best form, Davis, Baldwin, and Ryder all shine), Beetlejuice has stood the test of time as cult, tongue-in-cheek, immersive cinema goes. — Robin Write

10 ES

1. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

A story about someone trying to fit in, Tim Burton took elements from other similar stories, mixing them with his imagination, and with the help of screenwriter Caroline Thompson, created Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) to represent all those souls that want to be accepted. Edward is in awe at the world he discovers, the simplest things are extraordinary, as he grows intellectually and emotionally helped by the interactions he makes with people, especially Peg (wonderfully played by Dianne Wiest), Kim (Winona Ryder), and Jim (Anthony Michael Hall). This modern fairytale couldn’t be complete without the magnificent score by Danny Elfman, the gorgeous palette by cinematographer Stefan Czapsky, and production designer Bo Welch. Without doubt this is one of his most “Burtonesque” films, we can see all of his trademarks – the colors, the fantastical elements that characterize him – making it an unique film that cannot be reproduced better in other hands than Burton’s. — Joel Melendez

Rank and rant about your favorite Tim Burton films in the comments below


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