It seems fitting to make my next Top Ten about my favourite film Director, Tim Burton. Anyone who knows me, knows that Tim Burton is not only my favourite Director but also a massive influence on me as a screenwriter and film director. I am such a big fan of his work that I have a full tattoo sleeve of his characters.
I was first introduced to the world of Burton when I was just a child through his film stop motion animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas. For those who scream at me that Burton didn’t direct this film… I know; however I still feel it’s worthy enough for this list as it was his story and his characters and he did have a large influence on the final outcome of the film so that’s enough for me. The Nightmare Before Christmas was my first Burton obsession. As a child I would watch it over and over again, even though Oogie Boogie terrified me. There was something even back then that resonated for me. The magical qualities entwined with a darker creepy Halloween style element mixed with whimsy and addictive songs spoke so deeply to who I was inside. As I got older I delved deeper in the Burton world and I am yet to emerge.
Burton is known for making fantasy/horror films with gothic elements. Throughout his collection of work you can evidently see his unique styling, recurring themes and most notable, recurring actors. It is well known that Burton tends to use the same actors throughout his films, with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter being the most common. More recently however, his new female muse appears to be Eva Green who has been showcased in three of his most recent movies, The Dark Shadows, Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children and Disney’s Live Action remake of Dumbo. Along with his gothic styling and regular actors, Burton has several specific qualities about his work which make them stand out as being a Burton film. One of the bigger elements you can expect to find in Burtons work is a muted colour palette. A lot of his work tends to have its saturation turned down a notch, which in turn creates a very particular atmosphere and feeling for the viewer. Spirals, circus like attributes, and a dark seemingly monster like main character who has a much bigger story once you scratch the surface, these are all elements of Burtons work.
There are a few of his films that don’t feel so much like the Burton we have become used to seeing. These are some of his more recent forays to the big screen, Alice in Wonderland for example. Whereas there are certain Burton like qualities to the live action retelling of a classic novel, it just didn’t feel amped up enough. In fact, the sequel to this felt more Burton and he didn’t direct that one, but he did produce it. Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children being another. For anyone who has read the book and its follow ons, knows that Burton seemed like the perfect fit for this adaptation, however it just didn’t turn out quite as quirky and ‘Burton’ as expected. It didn’t help that they made a couple of big changes from the books and as much as I love Eva Green, her being cast as Miss Peregrine just wasn’t quite right. But that is one of the problems faced when a book gets adapted into reality, disappointment usually comes with. Beyond these few points I do love the films, because at the end of the day if Burton’s name is attached I just know it's my movie regardless of its misgivings.
So here it is, my Top Ten Burton films. These are listed in order starting from 10 and leading up to my personal favourite. Don’t forget to get in touch and let me know yours, I would love to hear from you.
10. Dark Shadows
A gothic family manor, vampires, Eva Green, supernatural goings on, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, this film has everything in it that I love about Burton movies. If you are after a bit of light Gothic entertainment then this is definitely the film for you.
Dumbo doesn’t quite have the gothic feel or styling we are used to seeing in a Burton film, but what it does well is play with spirals and accentuating lines, which is a quality of Burton’s that can often be seen throughout his films. Plus there’s a flying elephant and a trapeze spinning Eva Green, so what’s not to love.
8. Sleepy Hollow
The gothic styling, muted colour palette, elements of dark humour, strong musical score and heavy atmosphere make this a true gem of a Burton film. These qualities along with its time place and setting make it a winner in my book and very deserving of a place in my top ten.
7. Corpse Bride
A visual stop motion animated feast, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride takes the ghoulish, the whimsical, the romanticism and the musicality that we have come to love from Burton’s work.
Burton takes the subject of death and creates a fun, highly visual and overtly whimsical dark comedy with Beetlejuice. This creepy 80’s classic is a fun family film that manages to find the perfect balance of comedy and horror with Burtons uniqueness thrown in.
Another stop motion film, Frankenweenie takes everything I love about film and puts it all into one place. It’s black and white colouring, supernatural horror tied with a childlike innocence and all entwined with a fun retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the form of a dog. Don’t even get me started on the genius of a poodle being made into a version of the bride of Frankenstein otherwise I will be here for days.
4. Batman Returns
Burtons second outing into the superhero genre with Batman Returns is a cracking and quirky piece of cinema that plays brilliantly into the Batman universe as well as the Burton one. A winner primarily due to Danny DeVito’s portrayal of the penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of cat-woman.
3. Edwards Scissorhands
Where as I usually love the dark side of Burton films, the thing I love about this one is the romanticism and how it plays out. I am also a big fan of Frankenstein and this plays a lot to the themes of Frankenstein. The idea of how the perceived monster isn’t actually the monster, instead the true monster is society as a whole. There are certain elements Burton uses well to really create an almost magical feel to the romance between the ‘monster’ and the ‘girl’. The use of snow plays heavily to this and when placed alongside a light, beautifully composed orchestral piece by Danny Elfman, well, it brings goosebumps and that whole body tingly sensation. A truly stunning and powerful moment in cinema.
2. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Take Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Victorian London and Tim Burtons overly gothic styling and add a Stephen Sondheim score to them… well, then i’m like a kid in a candy store. Burton was able to take a popular piece of musical theatre and turn it into a cinematic masterpiece. If you don’t mind a bit of blood with your film then this one is for you.
1. The Nightmare Before Christmas
As you’ve probably already guessed, The Nightmare Before Christmas, or as it is also known Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas has ranked number 1 in my top ten. As I have already mentioned, this film wasn’t directed by Burton, but it is considered by most to be a Burton film. His story, his creation, his characters, his styling, so I think that is enough to take its place on this list.
Behind the gothic animated styling and songs that verge on spooky and christmassy, there is a bigger theme and that is the idea that ‘the grass isn’t always greener’. We are all guilty of wanting something more than what we have, of thinking that around the corner lies something better, that the grass will be greener on the other side of the fence, but in reality most of the time it isn’t. Jack himself thinks that there must be more to life than a great Halloween parade, but he soon comes to realise and appreciate what he has and finally see’s the one thing he needed to make his life more, Sally, who has been under his nose the entire time.