Tim Burton Movies: From Best to Worst

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When Tim Burton burst onto the Hollywood scene, he was heralded as a true original with a distinct style and compelling projects.  However, that unique style has become rather stale in Burton’s recent years, as the Tim Burton style repeated itself so much that every movie uses the same actors, sets, costumes, music and cinematography.  In addition, five of his last seven films have been remakes or adaptations of existing content.

Still, Burton remains one of Hollywood’s best directors.  To celebrate his creepiness, here’s a countdown of the films he directed, starting with the worst and building to his best.

14. Planet of the Apes (2001)

The costumes and make up are outstanding, but this may be the most over-acted movie of the last decade.  The apes snarled and growled with every move and Mark Wahlberg delivered every line as insincerely as possible (like he does in every movie).

13. Alice in Wonderland (2010)

This remake?/adaptation?/sequel? to the beloved Disney classic was doomed from the beginning, as Mia Wasikowska was painfully miscast in the titular role.  Her stiff, wooden performance robbed Alice of any empathy from the audience.

12.  Mars Attacks (1996)

It has more big-name stars than any other Burton film and some truly hilarious moments (i.e. killing the aliens with grandma’s country music), but overall the slapstick destruction comedy is inconsistent and stretches a tired premise for too long.

11.  Corpse Bride (2005)

It will always be compared to Burton’s other stop-motion film, The Nightmare Before Christmas (which Burton only produced, therefore not on this list), and it pales in comparison to the Jack Skellington-starring cult classic.  Also, it looks way too similar, like they just used the existing sets from Nightmare.

10. Sleepy Hollow (1999)

There’s nothing particularly bad about this adaptation of the headless horseman tale, but there isn’t anything necessarily good about it either.

9. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Many aren’t aware this madcap search for a missing bicycle was Burton’s first feature film.  It’s whimsical and is seeing a renaissance after Paul Reuben’s scandal in the 90’s, giving a whole new generation reason to say, “Just tell ’em Large Marge sent you.”

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

Turns out Johnny Depp isn’t a terrible singer.  He wasn’t great in this Broadway adaptation, but just good enough to keep up with Alan Rickman and prevent Sascha Baron Cohen from stealing the show.

7. Batman Returns (1992)

Watching this a ten-year-old, Danny DeVito biting that guy’s nose causing it to gush blood elicited an eye aversion.  While the special effects are laughable now, in this sequel, Batman took on his greatest foe of all.  Not Catwoman, not the Penguin, but Christopher Walken.

6.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

Remaking one of the most beloved children’s films of all-time is no easy task.  Though Burton’s chocolate-themed CGI creep-fest lacks the charm of the original, he wisely varies much of the minor plot details enough to help this version stand on its own.

5. Ed Wood (1995)

A loving tribute to terrible movies, this biopic features Sarah Jessica Parker saying her face doesn’t look like a horse.  So she’s heard the jokes?

4. Beetlejuice (1988)

Burton’s second feature film established his signature style and created an afterlife simultaneously hilarious and creepy.  Michael Keaton is a man unleashed as the titular haunter summoned by his name chanted thrice and a much slimmer Alec Balwin, Geena Davis and Winona Ryder give superb supporting performances.

3. Batman (1989)

Christopher Nolan has made the definitive Batman films, but his interpretation of the Dark Knight builds on Burton’s cinematic foundation.  Before Burton’s re-imagining, Batman was a campy non-threatening 60’s star.  Burton took the darker hero Frank Miller helped form in DC Comics and introduced moviegoers to the Batman we all know today.

2. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

If Beetlejuice established Burton’s signature style, Edward Scissorhands perfected it.  It is dark, moody, quirky, melodramatic and beautiful.  It is one of the few movies from the late 80’s – early 90’s that completely holds up in every aspect today and established Burton as an elite filmmaker.

1. Big Fish (2003)

Burton’s best film is also his most unrecognizable.  It bears none of his signature style, yet is the pinnacle of his ability.  It’s a fairy tale about the most essential aspect of film: storytelling.  It blurs the line between fantasy and reality and presents heart-warming (albeit sappy) romantic and familial relationships.  Edward Scissorhands may be always considered the essential Tim Burton film, but Big Fish is an often overlooked gem.