Tim Burton is a difficult director to ignore. Renowned for his gothic atmospheres, his repeated collaborations with Johnny Depp and the mixture of children’s and horror films, the Californian has managed to win the hearts of adults and children thanks to cult works of contemporary cinema.
Heavily influenced by German Expressionism, the director got his start working for Disney as an animation apprentice . This aspect would later be seen in his career, not only in his first short films but in films that he would later develop such as Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie .
The mix between fantastic universes, stories suitable for all audiences and a dark universe made Burton an attractive artist for wide audiences, making it so that with just one scene we can know that the film belongs to him. One of the goals to achieve this indelible personal mark was to have a retinue of actors and actresses who repeat themselves in his tapes, more specifically his wife Helena Bonham Carter and his friend, the aforementioned Depp.
However, the characters “out of place”, the lumpen and the eccentric have populated Burton’s films, becoming lovable creatures for the public – possibly the best example of this is Young Scissorhands -. Below we review the director’s filmography, the one for which he obtained the important space he occupies in today’s cinema , from his best films to the least valued.
1. Young Scissorhands (1990)
This is possibly one of the most quoted movies when we think of Burton. This was his first collaboration with Johnny Depp in a feature film and it will mark the friendship and working relationship that will mark the careers of both. In this gothic love story, the director develops the idea of a young man who is a lumpen, who becomes a monster for society because he has scissors instead of hands . In this way, he also introduces his audience to something that he will repeat in many of his films: that which seems terrifying and underneath is defenseless.
2. Ed Wood (1994)
This is one of the most unique works of Burton’s career. In this film he takes the liberty of paying homage to one of his idols, the B-class film director, Ed Wood. To this end, it not only accurately delineates the personality and career of the eccentric entertainer but also fleshes out the landscape of 1950s Hollywood, featuring key figures like Bela Lugosi, Orson Welles and more. Johnny Depp puts himself in Wood’s shoes, offering one of the most interesting and least remembered roles in his filmography, especially since it addresses the director’s cross-dressing and almost delirious love for making movies.
3. The Big Fish (2003)
Many people’s favorite Burton film, the film that exalts fiction and homage to hyperbole. Far from containing the darkness that characterizes the director, this is a brilliant film, with a large share of fantasy and innocence that translates into the protagonist and his stories that are far from reality , played by the great Albert Finney in an unforgettable role. .
4. Batman Returns (1992)
In this film, the director builds a highly singular Gotham City, marked by his own style and very close to comics. Michael Keaton is in charge of personifying the bat and has two great villains: The Penguin, played by the incomparable Danny DeVito and Catwoman, with Michelle Pfeiffer in a role of absolute femme fatale. Action, comedy and thriller come together beautifully in Burton’s contribution to the superhero franchise.
5. Beetlejuice (1988)
This is a key film in the Burton universe. Michael Keaton stars as the hilarious striped-clad dead man who would go down as a staple of pop culture. In this film, the director works with Winona Ryder , with whom he would later collaborate again, and resorts to the structure of comic terror that will be a constant throughout his career. In addition, the film was the kickoff for a later television series.
6. Martians on the attack! (nineteen ninety six)
In this film, the Californian director has the thickest cast of Hollywood stars it has ever had: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Annette Bening, Danny DeVito, Sarah Jessica Parker, Martin Short, Natalie Portman, Rod Steiger, Michael J. Fox, Jim Brown, Jack Black , among others.
In an irony, since the film is a parody of B-movie sci-fi, it is studded with stars and at the same time it parodies it as a genre film . This is one of the most unique pieces of Burton’s career, not valued by the public but turned into a cult film.
7. The Legend of the Headless Horseman (1999)
This is one of the great successes of Burton’s career. A nocturnal movie par excellence, which managed to win the Oscar for Best Art Direction and received two more nominations. Johnny Depp once again teams up with the director to investigate the mysterious beheadings and learn the legend of the Headless Horseman.
8. Corpse Bride (2005)
This is the first animated film in which Burton is the director. Using the stop-motion resource, the filmmaker tells a love story in which the protagonist is a corpse . Far from the classic canons of beauty and female characters, Burton conquered with this narration as gloomy as it is charming, an amalgamation that is certainly part of his signature as an author.
9. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Also cataloged as a cult film, this is Burton’s debut feature. Without yet presenting what would be his distinctive aesthetic but playing with humor and the absurd from the beginning, this is his first feature film after having worked in shorts . It spawned two sequels and was a box-office success, for which Burton entered Hollywood through the front door.
10. Batman (1989)
This film has nothing more and nothing less than Jack Nicholson as the Joker, in a much less dark version than those of recent years and closely linked to the comic, since it was based on The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns .
11. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
The musical starring Johnny Depp takes up a character from English folklore and comprises one of the great collaborations between the director and the actor. The film contains thriller, gothic traits and also an engaging narrative. The fact of including the musical genre is also a sign of Burton’s great versatility.
12. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
This version of Roald Dahl’s novel became an absolute success. Johnny Depp unquestionably shone in his work as Willie Wonka and the film managed to achieve the character of a new family movie classic. One of the aspects that most fascinated the public was the great detail to create the chocolate factory, the world of illusion in which the eccentric Wonka lives with his Oompa Loompas, as well as an effective narration for mainstream cinema and to capture audiences. followers of the director’s work.
13. Frankenweenie (2012)
This animated film comes late in Burton’s filmography but actually has a lot to do with his origins as an artist. Not only is it a remake of a 1984 short of the same name, but it ‘s a parody of Mary Shelley ‘s classic Frankenstein . When developing the feature, Burton takes elements that pay homage to Universal’s 1931 adaptation and thus bets on its clear influences of primal terror. In this film we see again the Burton aesthetic in all its splendor.
14. Big Eyes (2014)
Among the films that Burton directed in the 2010s, this is one of the most striking and original. It is about the story of Margaret Keane, a painter who drew her characters with big eyes, but given the time (50s and 60s) her paintings were signed by her husband to obtain more sales. This is a biopic, something rare in Burton’s filmography, and also a film with a heavy feminist charge.
15. Dark Shadows (2012)
In this horror comedy, Burton brings together an impeccable cast headed by Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green and Chloë Moretz . The comedy works wonderfully in the crazy episodes that the characters live, while the director maintains his line of incorporating characters that act outside the norm, inserting them into society.
16. Planet of the Apes (2001)
This film belonging to the well-known franchise was one of the biggest successes of Burton’s career in terms of collection. With a powerful cast and an intense marketing strategy, it managed to take over the movie theaters and earn a great place in the box office rankings. However, it does not contain Burton’s signature characteristics but is clearly a commissioned work.
17. Miss Peregrine and Peculiar Children (2016)
Perhaps one of the titles that has gone unnoticed in Burton’s career, as well as a clear example of his turn to adventure and fantasy cinema, leaving behind the gloomy and the influences of class b cinema . There is something that remains and it is the idea of the peculiar, of those entourages where the different nests, but, again, it is a film aimed at an eminently children’s audience.
18. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
This was a film that was highly anticipated by the public, especially due to the great boost it had in its promotion. Thinking of Alice in Wonderland told by Burton seemed like a dream, but the result ended up disappointing a large part of the audience and critics. With a powerful production design, in this film we began to see the passage of the dark Burton to a plan linked to the children’s mainstream.
19. Dumbo (2019)
Together with Disney, Burton tackled the adaptation of the 1941 classic, although not with the expected success. Within the studio’s trend of bringing many of its classics to live action, Burton was chosen to direct the story of the flying elephant which, far from sustaining the darkness and sadness of the original, becomes entertainment clearly aimed at children and with little attraction for the adult public.