Want all this in your inbox?
Get the Refinery29 Newsletter
You're in for a treat...
Thanks for signing up!
Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.
Frankenweenie — The Revitalization
A list of Burton greats really starts and ends with one film: Frankenweenie. Dubbed a raison d'être by the man himself, this tale of a misunderstood boy who brings his dead pet dog back to life was once a humble short that signified Burton’s directorial debut. But Burton, a man not without significant ties to his roots, decided to hook the film up to the Frankenstein machine and re-animate it as a feature in 2012.
The result was a roaring success in an altogether deadly year (marked by the twin failures of Dark Shadows and Burton’s producer role on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) which reminded audiences why they fell in love with the man to begin with.
Mars Attacks! — Glenn Close’s Death By Chandelier
Conceptualized as a drippy love letter to the B-movie Mars Attacks! seems a less appealing re-watch than a classicly crappy sci-fi picture in its own right. However, a clear passion project of Burton’s, one can’t help but feel that the zany film has to make it on any celebratory list.
Though mired in subplots that don’t go far and a cast so star-studded I get dizzy, I can’t help but watch with glee as the deliciously unlikable Glenn Close get smushed unceremoniously with a chandelier.
Beetlejuice — Harry Belefonte’s Jump in the Line
Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice: the career-launching 1988 smash hit about a married couple’s untimely death is an unforgettable part of the Tim Burton catalog. Part Jean-Paul Sartre and part Halloween, Beetlejuice was Burton’s first experiment in just how mainstream he could take his unique vision and voice.
Nothing showcases this better than the film’s finale: After a cheery reconciliation of families dead and alive, Winona Ryder dances elevated above a staircase to this rad song. It’s a moment of unabashed delight that shows off what it really means to live in Burton’s world.
Related: 5 Netflix Movies For Your First Week Back At School
The Corpse Bride — Ring Mix-Up
Like The Nightmare Before Christmas before it and Coraline after it (two projects that, despite his lack of directorial credit, are also synonymous with Burton), Corpse Bride shows the spectacular intersection of Burton’s artistic hand and animated space. The script, also penned by Burton, is overflowing with moments that show both his fascination with death and uncanny ability to study it with nuanced tenderness.
Never is this clearer than when the film’s protagonist, in a moment of frustration, puts a ring on an outgrowing tree branch that turns out to be an un-dead lady’s finger, becoming her un-witting groom. A beautiful, tragic, unwieldy moment that sets up the overarching question of the film: To whom does one belong to, love or death?
Sweeney Todd — Pretty Women
Sweeney Todd is Burton at a pinnacle: the height of his movie-making prowess before his Alice In Wonderland sparked decline. In dosing the lethal combination of gorgeously dark material by Stephen Sondheim, the best of his screen frequenters — from longtime paramour Helena Bonham Carter to the unexpectedly mesmerizing Sacha Baron-Cohen — and cannibalistic overtones, Burton spins gold into gold.
This comes to full realization as Alan Rickman and Johnny Depp sing Pretty Women in duet: with Rickman’s Judge Turpin exalting in his triumphs and Depp’s Sweeney Todd swinging his straight razor and dangling on the very precipice of murder.