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He’s known for his directing and producing both dark and somehow lighthearted motion pictures. Tim Burton’s cinematic genius has produced classic dramas, animated films and actioners and his over 20-year filmmaking relationship with actor Johnny Depp has created some of Hollywood’s most iconic films. He studied animation at the California Institute of the Arts after being awarded a fellowship from Disney. After being discovered by Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman, and directing the surprise 1985 hit Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Burton has never stopped! His films often feature the lead character as an outcast with a gothic vibe, but that element hasn’t prevented Burton from breaking cinematic boundaries in both production design and animation. His quirky, offbeat style is sure to keep moviegoers flocking to his films for many years to come. In honor of his 55th birthday today, here is my Top 10 list of Tim Burton movies.
10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: In 2005, this second film adaptation of 1964 British book of the same name by Roald Dahl starred Burton’s favorite leading man, Johnny Depp, in the title role. Burton avoided using many visual effects in the film, instead opting for the actors’ to be immersed in the physical world of the film, so many oversized props and scale models were brought in as scenery as a result. With Burton as the movie’s director, the film was a visual masterpiece and displayed Burton’s vision of the film in all its glory.
9. Corpse Bride: Burton directed this 2005 animated musical about a nervous groom (voiced by Johnny Depp), who practiced his wedding vows unknowingly in the presence of a deceased young woman, (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter) who then rose from the grave assuming he had married her. The movie was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award at the 78th Annual Academy Awards and was a commercial success. It was shot using the same stop-motion photography Burton utilized on 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, giving it a unique look that fascinated moviegoers.
8. Batman Returns: Burton returned to direct his 1992 action fantasy sequel to 1989’s Batman, which he also directed. Based on the DC Comics character, the sequel had a darker vibe than its predecessor and was a success at the box office. It was also nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup. Burton originally didn’t want to return to direct the sequel due to dissatisfaction with the first film, but the writers eventually gave him a script that met his approval. With Burton’s direction coupled with the introduction of Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, this movie has become a classic!
7. Sleepy Hollow: This 1999 mystery adventure had Burton in the director’s chair once again and Johnny Depp at the helm of the cast. A film adaptation loosely inspired by the 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving, Burton wanted to shoot the film in black and white but, when that proved unrealistic, he opted for a more monochromatic effect, which enhanced the fantasy element of the film. The visual effects used to create the “Headless Horseman” were stunning and wowed moviegoers, who flocked to see this motion picture about this well-known fable.
6. Alice in Wonderland: Burton directed this 2010 computer-animated and live-action fantasy film again featuring Johnny Depp. The film was inspired by English author Lewis Carroll's 1865 fantasy novel “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland” and its 1871 sequel ”Through the Looking-Glass.” At the 83rd Academy Awards, the film won for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design, and it’s the highest grossing film directed by Burton to date. The computer graphics mixed with the live action made this movie visually stunning as moviegoers followed Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska, navigate through Wonderland and encounter Depp’s “Mad Hatter” as well as Helena Bonham Carter’s “Red Queen” and Anne Hathaway’s “White Queen.” A sequel is said to be in the works with Burton most assuredly being back in the director’s chair!
5. Batman: The 1989 original had Burton directing but wasn’t given the greenlight until after Burton’s success with 1988’s Beetlejuice Michael Keaton played the title role and Jack Nicholson played Batman’s arch nemesis “The Joker.” At the time of the movie’s release, some critics said that Burton focused too much on the villain than the hero, but the movie was still a monster triumph. The casting of Keaton in the title role was initially criticized but the film’s producer liked Keaton, and Burton had worked with him on Beetlejuice and was comfortable with him. Through Burton’s superb direction and an edgy script, Keaton wowed moviegoers as the “Caped Crusader” putting all skeptics on notice.
4. Dark Shadows: This 2012 horror comedy drama had Burton as its director and Depp playing the lead role of the 200-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins. The film was based on the gothic soap opera of the same name that was on television between 1966 and 1971. Barnabas was played on the television show by Jonathan Frid, who made a cameo in the movie. The movie was a commercial disappointment despite its star power, as Depp's co-stars included Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter, though critics did praise Burton’s use of visual effects, and diehard fans of the show were undoubtedly drawn to the movie.
3. Beetlejuice: This 1988 comedy fantasy was one of Burton’s first directing gigs and starred Michael Keaton in the title role along with Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin and Winona Ryder. It won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and was a box office smash! Heralded as a comedic classic, Burton’s direction breathed life into Keaton’s portrayal of the foul, opportunistic bio-exorcist. Talks of a sequel are in the works, though neither Burton nor Keaton said they would sign on until a script comes to them of their liking. I, for one, am just delighted at the possibility of a sequel, as I know many other fans are of this iconic comedy!
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas: Burton wrote and produced this 1993 animated family film which told the story of Jack Skellington, king of “Halloweentown,” who opened a portal to “Christmastown” and decided to celebrate the holiday, though not really understanding it. Burton’s vision was a cinematic marvel at the time, as the stop-motion photography used to shoot the movie was an original concept. Critics and moviegoers loved the movie, which is still held up as a classic for kids and adults!
1. Edward Scissorhands: Burton produced, directed and wrote the story for this 1990 romantic drama. One of Johnny Depp’s earliest films, it launched his career on the silver screen and is touted as one of Burton’s finest creations. Depp played a timid boy born with scissors for hands, who falls in love with a young woman and learns about love. This was Burton’s first collaboration with Depp and together they succeeded in bringing a character to life that moviegoers fell in love with instantly!
image: Wikimedia Commons