Tim Burton's movies, from best to worst
1. Frankenweenie (short film) (1984)
From EW's review: "Frankenweenie is a hugely ambitious live-action fantasia about a kid named Victor Frankenstein who brings his beloved dog Sparky back to life: In setting and emotional resonance, it's a warm-up of sorts to [Edward] Scissorhands."
2. Ed Wood (1994)
From EW's review: "In a feat of creative alchemy, Burton has tapped something rich and poignant, a kind of tawdry pop essence, in Wood's story. Shot in a lustrous black and white that evokes the dilapidated glamour of '50s Los Angeles, Ed Wood is at once a celebration of all-American freakishness, an ironic tribute to the seedy glories of poverty-row moviemaking, and a surprisingly emotional buddy movie, with Ed winning the friendship of the aging, decrepit Lugosi. Johnny Depp, I'm pleased to report, has awoken from the prettified slumber of his last few films."
3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
From EW's review: "It's become an uncomfortable experience in movies to watch Burton, the prankish mod-goth fantasist, working to twist himself into "mainstream" shapes. His last two films, Big Fish and Planet of the Apes, lurched in and out of formula, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which has been faithfully adapted from Roald Dahl's great 1964 children's novel, is a delectably sustained flight of fancy. It's filled with puckish, deranged Burton touches, like the all-singing, all-melting puppets that herald Wonka's arrival, but it's also a grand and transporting celebration of the primal pleasures of childhood— namely, family and candy."
4. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
From EW's review: "In his first two films, Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) and Beetlejuice (1988), Tim Burton proved a brilliant prankster with a streak of pure, pop surrealism. But then, in Batman, he revealed something darker and more melodramatic. The film had such a majestic visual sweep that its story flaws seemed almost irrelevant; Burton's luscious comic-strip images were the story. Now, coming off Batman's incredible success, he has made his most heartfelt film yet."
5. Frankenweenie (feature) (2012)
From EW's review: "The movie is a romp of escalating "horror," as weird suburban neighbor kids (are there any other kind in Burtonburg?) goad the young inventor (and the unstable Sparky 2.0) into danger. And the ghoulishness is in the details, the most charming of which are the perfectly lugubrious line readings by Ed Wood's Martin Landau as a science teacher by way of every role Vincent Price ever played in every movie that inspired Tim Burton to become the wonderfully strange filmmaker he is."
6. Vincent (short film) (1982)
From EW's review: "Tim Burton started out as one of those spooky, quiet kids in the back of the classroom, a lonely teen who found solace in old Vincent Price movies and ghastly doodles ... The award-winning Vincent is a slight, Edward Gorey-esque animated tale about a young lad who wants to be Vincent Price (Price supplies rhyming narration)."
7. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
From EW's review: "Even if it slacks off toward the end, Burton's first feature is a bulging, candy-colored toy-box of a movie, as giddy as its star and even more inventive. High points are Danny Elfman's score, the appearance of Large Marge, and Pee-wee's bar-top dance to "Tequila," but if you have any doubt about who's the real genius here, look at Big Top Pee-wee, the awful sequel directed by Randal Kleiser.
8. Beetlejuice (1988)
From EW's review: "The plot-a deceased young couple hires a free-lance ghoul to rid their house of humans-clanks and bumps and barely makes sense, careening off on demented tangents. But Michael Keaton's title performance is so out there, and Burton's visual grab-bag of ideas so daft, that the movie stands as a loopy triumph. If only for the scene in which a dinner party gets possessed by Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat" song, it's essential '80s comedy."
9. Mars Attacks! (1996)
From EW's review: "Still, if Mars Attacks! is more depersonalized than Burton's other work (it takes a good 45 minutes to get going), that just means it generates a lighter form of laughing gas. Burton stages the destruction of the world as lyrically surreal spectacle. Even when the special effects are a parody of '50s cheesiness, they have a funky, ramshackle beauty — the wonder of a puppet show that almost looks real. Cackling away in their spaceship, the Martians graft the head of a dim blond talk-show host (Sarah Jessica Parker) onto her pet Chihuahua. By the time they've begun using the Easter Island statues as bowling pins, the film has escalated into full Burtonian madness."
10. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
From EW's review: "Burton's adaptation, starring Johnny Depp in the title role and Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, isn't the most enduringly classic Sweeney Todd (that would be the original Broadway production, with Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury) or the most brilliantly original (nothing beats the deconstructed 2005 stunner, with Michael Cerveris and Patti LuPone). Songs have been cut and characters reproportioned in importance (the utilitarian screenplay, respectful enough of Hugh Wheeler's original book, is by John Logan, who co-wrote Gladiator). But this opulent, attentive production is splashed with signature style and hell-bent on entertaining Sondheimites, Deppsters, ladies who heart Alan Rickman in the role of the judge, and even Borat/Ali G-loving strays who wander in to see an uncontainably antic Sacha Baron Cohen in the role of a blackmailing faux-Italian con man. It's an impossible assignment, really, carried off with more-than-respectable panache."
11. Dark Shadows (2012)
From EW's review: "Dark Shadows, entertaining as it is, is a milder echo of those earlier collaborations. Burton references cheeky time-capsule artifacts (lava lamps, Troll dolls, macramé plant holders, the board game Operation). He piles on period pop chestnuts like the Moody Blues’ ”Nights in White Satin” and the Carpenters’ ”Top of the World,” and he stages a trippy grand ball presided over by Alice Cooper. I found a great deal of this stuff irresistible, but Dark Shadows is likably skewed fun that, at times, is a little too knowing about being a piece of kitsch."
12. Big Eyes (2014)
From EW's review: "While I wish that Waltz would dial down his tendency to go cartoonishly broad, Adams is perfect. She makes her character’s awakening a quietly aching roar of empowerment. Despite its sharp feminist sting, Big Eyes never loses its light touch. Maybe the lesson here is that Burton should venture out of his dark, creepy comfort zone more often."
13. Corpse Bride (2005)
From EW's review: "Somehow, working with these elegant carved-in-silicone puppets turns Burton’s sense of drama to wood. As a piece of comic shock theater that flirts with being too goth for tots, Corpse Bride has much to recommend it, but I’m still waiting for the day when Burton, in an animated film, gets us to care about what’s making our own eyes pop out."
14. Big Fish (2003)
From EW's review: "There are long stretches of Burton’s Big Fish in which you can feel the loopiness of his spirit busting free. Based on a novel by Daniel Wallace, the movie is a gently overstuffed cinematic piñata, crammed with tall tales – with giants and circuses and fairy-tale woods, plus a huge squirmy catfish, all served up with a literal matter-of-fact fancy that is very pleasing. Big Fish, however, is also a father-son reconciliation movie that wants to give you a big cry. I’m generally a sucker for that sort of thing, but the movie ends up milking the audience when it should soar."
15. Batman (1989)
From EW's review: "Not so much directed as refereed, this megalithic hit is bigger but less manically energetic than Burton's previous two films. Nicholson's Joker and Anton Furst's production design are dazzlers, but for a movie directed by a former cartoonist, Batman is surprisingly unanimated. Still, Michael Keaton's mournful hero provided a surprising grace, and the video version is less murky-looking than what you saw in the theater."
16. Batman Returns (1992)
From EW's review: "Narrative has never been Burton's strong point, but even when his films weren't seamless they felt like coherent pop visions. This may be the first one that doesn't hold together. Batman Returns has too many competing characters, too many sets (every scene seems to unfold on a different surreal soundstage), too many "ideas" that don't go anywhere. The movie is a genuine spectacle, laced with Burton's pitch-black wit, yet in its eager-to-please mood it often recalls the jam-packed blockbuster overkill of Steven Spielberg's Hook."
17. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
From EW's review: "Burton achieves the stylized atmosphere of a black-and-white film with his muted, waxy colors, so that every drop of blood stands out in bold, gleaming relief. Too much of the story, though, hinges on familiar omens. This is a movie that thinks we’ll be creeped out by pentagrams. Before long, that fog begins to look rather trite; it’s store-bought mystery in place of the real thing."
18. Dumbo (2019)
From EW's review: "It’s a little strange now to see Burton, one of Hollywood’s most idiosyncratic directors, returning to the Disney fold for its latest reboot of a beloved property. Had Disney finally come around to Burton’s skewed way of seeing the world? Or would he be forced to sand off the more blackened edges of his style to finally fit in? Sadly, it looks like the latter. Burton’s Dumbo is hardly a bad film. But his fans will be disappointed by how little of the director’s dark DNA made it into the finished product — a slick, serviceable, safe-as-kittens entertainment that frankly could’ve been made by anyone."
19. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
From EW's review: "Miss Peregrine has all the visual hallmarks of your classic Burton — a child with teeth on the back of her head, a girl who wears lead shoes to keep from floating away (Ella Purnell, swapping powers with another character from the book). But the film chooses style over substance, emphasizing how cool the children’s powers are without fleshing them out as full characters. To compete with Burton’s best, his heroic weirdos need a little more heart — and the monsters need sharper teeth."
20. Planet of the Apes (2001)
From EW's review: "Are there surprises? A couple of big-money ones, notably the ludicrous would-be jaw-dropper of a finale. Yet Planet of the Apes, whose makers have claimed that it is less a remake than a reimagining, features backlot spectacle, a cast-of-hundreds battle, a weak whisper of gladiatorial vengeance — everything, in fact, but imagination. Following Sleepy Hollow, with its ye-olde slasher repetitiveness camouflaged by virtuoso displays of ground fog, the movie is all but destined to become Burton’s second hit in a row. Let’s hope that he uses his newly restored power in Hollywood to become an artist again."
21. Alice in Wonderland, (2010)
From EW's review: "Tim Burton, with his crazy love for rabbit-hole alternative worlds (Beetlejuice), baroque oddballs (Batman,Edward Scissorhands), and kiddie fables told with a cynical wink (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), would seem to be the perfect director to adapt Carroll’s legendary tale and make a memorable, zany-dark movie out of it. But Burton’s Disneyfied 3-D Alice in Wonderland, written by the girl-power specialist Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast), is a strange brew indeed: murky, diffuse, and meandering, set not in a Wonderland that pops with demented life but in a world called Underland that’s like a joyless, bombed-out version of Wonderland. It looks like a CGI head trip gone postapocalyptic. In the film’s rather humdrum 3-D, the place doesn’t dazzle — it droops."