The top 10 Tim Burton films. By Simon Miraudo.
Few filmmakers have developed as fervent a following as Tim Burton. There’s just something about the scraggly haired hit-maker that connects with outcasts and, erm, incasts alike. Maybe it’s because many still see him as the oddball kid hiding away from his parents and the outside world by doodling pictures of a Frankenweenie in his dimly-lit bedroom. Or maybe we’re all just jealous that he gets to date Helena Bonham Carter and hang out with Johnny Depp. Whether you love his unique vision or hate getting trapped in his snow-globe universe time and time again, it’s impossible to deny his massive influence. Ahead of next week’s release of Dark Shadows - his adaptation of the old supernatural soap opera, as well as his seventh collaboration with Johnny, and sixth with Helena (not including their kids) – we’re sharing our picks for his top ten films.
10. Corpse Bride
It’s a common misconception that Burton directed the beloved stop-motion animation The Nightmare Before Christmas (he was actually just a producer). His very first short film, 1982′s Vincent, toyed with the technique; 23 years later, he truly got to play around with it in feature-length form. Corpse Bride features the voice of Depp as a shy man who accidentally places an engagement ring on a dead woman in a wedding dress, bringing her back to life as an amorous zombie (Bonham Carter). Awkward.
It’s almost hard to imagine there were Batman movies before Christopher Nolan had a crack, but there was, and the two best ones were directed by Tim Burton. It’s true he didn’t have the best grasp of the character (Burton’s Batman uses a gun, and doesn’t seem to subscribe to the code that made the DC hero unique). Still, Batman Returns is truly chilling; full of death and darkness, long before the “gritty” comic-book boom of the late 2000s.
8. Big Fish
I didn’t love Big Fish on first watch, but, almost like the tall tales shared by protagonist/pathological exaggerator Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor), it’s only grown in my estimation. The most human of all of Burton’s works, it features a fine cast, and some truly astounding imagery.
7. Mars Attacks
Poor, unloved Mars Attacks has the honour of being the strangest all-star ensemble flick of all time. Jack Nicholson! Natalie Portman! Tom Jones! Screeching nude aliens! Don’t worry Mars Attacks; we still like you.
Burton’s take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is perhaps the most un-family friendly film in his oeuvre, which is saying something. Bloody, scary, and improbably funny, it stars Depp as Ichabod Crane, Christina Ricci as his teenage love interest, and, best of all, Christopher Walken as the Headless Horseman. Seriously effective horror.
We know and love it now, but consider how flabbergasted audiences must have been when they first saw Edward Scissorhands: a gothic, Mary Shelley inspired thriller fused with a satirical suburban soap opera. That Burton could craft a movie all about a sympathetic Frankenstein monster (Depp again, obviously) taken in by a kindly Avon lady (Dianne Wiest) and her family, and have it all make sense is impressive enough. That it’s rather beautiful is astounding.
It led to this, and that’s good enough for us.
Burton made his feature debut with the first big screen outing of Paul Reubens‘ nutball invention Pee-wee Herman. Here, embarking on a Bicycle Thief-esque adventure to recover his stolen velocipede, Pee-wee takes us on what would be our first tour of Burton’s imagination, complete with bizarre monsters and lovable weirdos. There’s a good chance his enduring popularity is the result of the propulsive joy and anarchic, adolescent humour displayed in this 1985 cult classic.
2. Ed Wood
Ed Wood is the best example of Burton’s ability to blend his stylistic, semi-comic sensibilities with a tragic tale; specifically, the life of the infamous eponymous filmmaker. Depp (remember him?) portrays the cross-dressing Plan 9 and Glen or Glenda director with wide-eyed naiveté and sympathy, and he’s joined by a cast of similarly impressive performers such as Oscar winner Martin Landau (as Bela Lugosi), Sarah Jessica Parker, and Bill Murray. This is how biopics should be made; shrewdly, sharply, but with respect for the subject, no matter how silly they may seem.
For all of Ed Wood’s sensitivity, it can’t top the chaotic, otherworldly mayhem of Beetlejuice. So much to love here; Michael Keaton‘s wild performance as the legendary “bio-exorcist” Betelgeuse; Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as the undead – yet rather nice! – Maitlands; Winona Ryder as the ghost-befriending teen; and Catherine O’Hara as her post-modern, yet oblivious-to-the-supernatural mother. We’ve also got Burton’s depiction of the afterlife as the waiting room from hell; Danny Elfman’s kooky score; the miniature model town where Betelgeuse resides; and, of course, prawn cocktails that get a bit handsy. Way-oh!