Top 5 Movie Guide: Tim Burton

For this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we turn our attentions to director Tim Burton. With "Frankenweenie" hitting theaters this weekend, we figured this would be a great time jump into some of our favorite films that he's had to offer over the years. Tim Burton spent his youth as you might expect - a recluse, spending most of his time watching old Vincent Price movies and drawing cartoons. He enjoyed drawing though, and after high school attended the California Institute of Arts, eventually graduating and going to work for Disney as an animator. He worked on various films with them (most notably "The Fox and the Hound"), but due to artistic differences, he ended his time as an animator. Disney saw promise though and offered him a chance to make some short films. His first: the live-action short, "Frankenweenie". But Disney deemed it inappropriate for children, and it was never released.

Luckily, Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman) did see the film, and thought Burton would be the perfect choice to direct the first Pee-Wee Herman feature film. The film was a surprise success, but Burton did not direct another film for three more years, waiting on the "perfect" script. And sure enough, after three years of waiting, along came "Beetlejuice", which provided enough artistic and quirky aspects to intrigue the director. This was another hit, and even better, Burton developed a great relationship with one of the film's stars, Michael Keaton. Warner Bros. trusted their relationship so much that they offered Burton the chance to direct their 1989 adaptation of Batman. He did, and it was the highest-grossing film of the year.

From there, Burton was a huge commodity and could work on just about any project he wanted. He followed those films up with the likes of "Edward Scissorhands" (the first film he wrote himself, and the first of eight films he's worked with Johnny Depp) and"Batman Returns", making him one of the most notable directors of the 20th century with only five feature films to his name.

His career might have stalled just a bit since his earliest days, but there's still no doubting that Burton has a unique style about his films, and continues to pull in large audiences with each venture.

As a preface before we begin our lists, however, we wanted to make note of the fact that this is the first list in which we had to omit a film that has previously inducted into the Slackers Shrine! "Batman Returns" once took the top spot all-around on our Danny DeVito List, and thus earned its place in immortality; a place though in which it could no longer be included in subsequent lists. So we won't include it in this post, and instead open it up a bit more for a few other selections.

But "Batman Returns" aside, hit the jump for all of our favorite Tim Burton films!

Alex Schopp -
This guy had a killer 80's & 90's, but I just haven't had much interest in his works since then. If we were keeping it at strictly a top 5 list though, he'd be right near the top as one of my all-time favorites; in this venue, he's amazing. It's the films outside of these five that don't do much for me though.

     1. Beetlejuice (1988)

This is an easy #1 selection for me. Even if "Batman Returns" were included, this would still be my top choice. I rewatched the film recently, and it still holds up great today. The pacing, art direction, musical score and acting performances are all top-notch!
     2. Big Fish (2003)
This is so unlike many of his other films, but when you know what you're looking for it's still so similar. This is probably the most emotional film of his in my opinion, and offers such a beautiful story about family and friends. A great watch.
     3. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
I haven't seen this for a few years now, but the art design of this film will never leave me. Such fantastic sets, and still an emotional story. A beautiful film, and a great job by Burton in his first gig as writer/director/producer.
     4. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
You want to think this is such a silly, light-hearted film, and while there are those elements, it's also still quite intense and unexpected at times. A perfect tone for a film like this though. I don't think a Pee-Wee Herman movie could have been even close to this good with any other director.
     5. Ed Wood (1994)
A favorite of mine for a long time. A great cast, and Johnny Depp headlining as Ed Wood, the Worst Director of All Time, is perfect. Mostly, it's just awesome to me that a movie about this guy exists - the movie might have given me more interest in the real Ed Wood than in this specific film. It's entertaining though and works as a quirky piece of film history.

Ben Foutch -
I really wish Burton could recapture his youthful imagination. It's not a good thing when seeing his name on an upcoming project removes any curiosity or desire to see the film.

     1. Beetlejuice (1988)

     2. Batman (1989)

     3. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

     4. Big Fish (2003)

     5. Ed Wood (1994)

Derek Clem -

     1. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

I was Pee-Wee for Halloween when I was a lil' tyke.
     2. Beetlejuice (1988)
I was Beetlejuice for Halloween when I was a lil' tyke. Really, Tim Burton just makes movies to ensure his stock in Halloween costumes continues to raise in value.
     3. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Such beautiful music! This movies has one of the worst director commentaries I've ever listened to though. Talk about booooring! We get it, you grew up unhappy in the suburbs.
     4. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane is just too cool with all his little gadgets.
     5. Big Fish (2003)
I love how little and how much this feels like a Tim Burton movie simultaneously.

Nathan Hinds -
Tim Burton is definitely one of my favorite directors, although he has been on a bit of a dry spell these last couple of years. Still, his early work includes quite a few of my all-time favorite films.

     1. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

As time goes on, I realize more and more how beautiful of a film this is. It's such an amazing story, and a film that continues to inch its way up my all time favorite list.
     2. Batman (1989)
Look, I'm completely biased towards Batman films here, and I will always think he is the greatest superhero ever. I can't see any superhero films ever topping what Nolan did, but for me this is still the next best thing.
     3. Big Fish (2004)
I only saw this for the first time a little over a year ago and it blew me away. It's such a heartfelt film that really left me feeling similar to how I feel when I watch "Edward Scissorhands"
     4. Mars Attacks! (1996)
Plain and simple, this is one of the best ensemble casts ever! This is one of the best spoof films ever.
     5. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
Is this one of the most ridiculous premises ever? Yup. Is this one of the most enjoyable movies ever? Yup!

Andy Schopp -

     1. Beetlejuice (1988)

Michael Keaton at his BEST!
     2. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Such a good staple to any household movie collection and/or childhood.
     3. Mars Attacks! (1996)
Amazing cast and I love the design for the whole environment here.
     4. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
Paul Reubens is my hero!
     5. Big Fish (2003)
If I could get through this movie without tearing up once then I'm doing it wrong.

Dan Foutch -
There is no denying that Tim Burton is truly gifted in his art. There is also no denying that he’s bats**t crazy. His movies are inspired and almost always have a perverse dark side (or are perversely dark in some cases). I’m not a fan of all of his work, but some of my all-time favorites were directed by him.

     1. Beetlejuice (1988)

One of my favorite movies growing up and still up there on my list of favorites. Michael Keaton’s acting makes the movie fantastic, even though he’s only on screen for less than 20 minutes of the 90 minute film.
     2. Batman (1989)
Burton and Keaton join forces to make another fantastic movie. Keaton makes (in my opinion) a great Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker was the perfect choice. Heath Ledger is an amazing Joker in The Dark Knight, but comparing the two are apples and oranges. Completely different characters. Burton’s depiction of Gotham City is spot on.
     3. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
I can’t pin down what exactly makes me love this movie so darn much, but I do, unashamedly at that. A surprisingly dark film considering the target audience, but that’s Tim Burton for you.
     4. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
I loved this movie. Burton did a fantastic job recreating the musical for the silver screen. Fantastic acting all around and the atmosphere of the movie was perfect.
     5. Mars Attacks! (1996)
There are other movies that deserve to be on this list but I love the sheer level of campiness in this movie. Many thought it was terrible but I loved how it didn't take itself seriously.

So there we have it, folks. Plenty of the usual suspects here, and without the ability to include his 1992 hit, "Batman Returns", the selection was even more narrowed. This may be as uninteresting and expected as you'd assume, but of the 30 films appearing in this post, 25 of them (83%) were pre-2000. That means over the past 12 years, Burton has barely produced any films that any of us find worthy of note. Again, with the titles available in the 80's and 90's though, maybe that's not much of a surprise; that's just tough competition!

Anyway, on to the selections. There were six lists this week so there was a lot of content. Four different films hit on five of the six lists: "Beetlejuice", "Edward Scissorhands", "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure", and "Big Fish". The first three are three of Burton's first four films, and the very films that launched him into stardom. "Big Fish", the lone 2000 and beyond film in this post to garner multiple selections, is one of his more critically acclaimed films to-date. These are easily some of the most notable staples from Burton's career, and while I should feel comfortable in assuming that everyone has already seen these, if by chance you have not, this needs to be rectified immediately.

Outside of those four, two films managed three selections: "Mars Attacks!" and "Batman"; while "Ed Wood" was the only other film with multiple selections, receiving two. Again, more very notable films from Burton's career, and great tier-two films worth exploring after that first batch is out of the way (yes, we can all make the case that "Batman" should be in tier one, but it is what it is).

As always, we hope that each of these film selections helps you to expand your knowledge of Tim Burton's filmography, and leads to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!