From Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Batman, to Big Fish and Mars Attacks!, director Tim Burton has been responsible for some weird and whacky movies, and a heck of a lot of colourful characters. But what are all of Tim Burton’s films and how are they ranked?
Today I’m taking a look at Tim Burton’s directorial filmography, highlighting and listing all of the movies directed by Burton, in release order by the decade. At the bottom of the list I will discuss the highest grossing Burton movie (i.e. the one that has been the most successful at the box office), before ranking the Top Ten Tim Burton films.
But before all that, let’s get started with a quick mention for Burton’s shorts…
OK, before I look at Burton’s movies, it’s important to note that during the 1970s & 1980s the director worked on a number of shorts, including the likes of Houdini: The Untold Story (1971) and Doctor of Doom (1979), Vincent (1982) and Frankenweenie (1984), amongst others. Vincent in particular is a great short – which can usually be found on YouTube – and is always worth a watch.
And now onto the films…
After overseeing a collection of shorts, Burton moved into films, first through television with Hansel and Gretel and then onto the big screen with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure – Burton’s feature-length debut. The film starred Paul Reubens, as Pee-wee Herman – a role the actor had previously played on television.
Following Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Burton took the helm on Beetlejuice, a movie which not only became a firm favourite with audiences, but is still fondly remembered today as one of the director’s best-loved films. It was also the first time Burton would work with actor Michael Keaton – a colleague he has teamed up with on a number of occasions.
Speaking of which, Burton’s final film of the 1980s is the film that cemented his career and saw him work with Keaton for a second time – that film was Batman! Not only was Batman a huge hit with comic book fans, it was also the movie which made Burton a household name and helped drive his career forward in the proceeding decades.
Here is Tim Burton’s directorial filmography for the 1980s:
- Hansel and Gretel (1983) – TV movie
- Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
- Beetlejuice (1988)
- Batman (1989)
Into the ‘90s now with a very strong collection of movies – arguably Burton’s best decade for films.
The decade kicked off with Edward Scissorhands (the director’s first collaboration with Johnny Depp), then moved onto the much anticipated, Batman Returns. Batman Returns was the second and final time Burton would serve as director on a film within the Batman Anthology, although he would remain a producer on the third entry, Batman Forever.
With no Batman movies to focus on, he then tackled Ed Wood (another Johnny Depp movie), followed by Mars Attacks! – a film based on a series of trading cards. To round out the decade, Burton teamed up with Johnny Depp once more for Sleepy Hollow.
Here is Tim Burton’s directorial filmography for the 1990s:
- Edward Scissorhands (1990)
- Batman Returns (1992)
- Ed Wood (1994)
- Mars Attacks! (1996)
- Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Now I know what you’re thinking – why doesn’t Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas appear on this list? That film came out in the ’90s, right?!
It did, but despite the rather deceiving name, Tim Burton did not direct Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The Nightmare Before Christmas was directed by Henry Selick. Burton’s name appeared on the poster/home video release/marketing information etc because he conceived and produced the movie – and his name helped to sell it to audiences.
The ‘00s brought an interesting mix of movies for Burton, with some of his projects working and some not. The first of the ‘nots’ was Planet of the Apes – a reimagining of the classic Apes movie from the 1960s.
In Planet of the Apes, 20th Century Fox was keen to rework the Apes property for a new audience, with Burton as the driving force. Unfortunately, critics disliked the film and the fan reception was lukewarm too.
Following on from Apes, Burton moved through the decade with Big Fish – an adaptation of Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions – as well as three Johnny Depp movies: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Here is Tim Burton’s directorial filmography for the 2000s:
- Planet of the Apes (2001)
- Big Fish (2003)
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
- Corpse Bride (2005)
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
The 2010s offered up another eclectic mix of movies, bookended by pictures for Disney: Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo. For Alice, Burton reteamed with Depp, while in Dumbo he worked with Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton – actors he’d also worked with previously.
Here are Tim Burton’s films for the 2010s:
- Alice in Wonderland (2010)
- Dark Shadows (2012)
- Big Eyes (2014)
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
- Dumbo (2019)
Outside of the above filmography (as well as the shorts mentioned at the top of this post), Burton has also directed an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (The Jar), as well as an episode of Faerie Tale Theatre (Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp). I’m mentioning them here as he has worked on a little bit of television, even though he is largely a film director.
So, what is Tim Burton’s best movie?
Good question – but before I get to that, let’s take a look at his highest grossing movie.
The highest grossing Tim Burton movie is…
…Alice in Wonderland which has a current worldwide box office take of $1,025,467,110*.
Yep, the movie was very successful.
Alice in Wonderland was a huge box office hit for Burton, as well as for Walt Disney Studios. It helped pave the way for Disney’s interest in remaking animated movies (Aladdin, The Lion King, etc).
*(Source: Box Office Mojo)
Tim Burton’s Top Ten movies ranked
So, we have a list of Tim Burton movies and we have the highest grossing Burton film, but what are the Top Ten Tim Burton movies? Let’s take a look.
10) Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
The film that kick-started Burton’s big screen career opens up this list, very much in the way it opened up his future success. The film offered a feature-length adventure for Paul Reubens’ Pee-wee Herman, via the unique lens of Burton.
9) Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Burton does a musical, via an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s hugely successful stage production of the same name. Burton regulars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are drafted in to take the lead, in a darkly entertaining picture.
8) Frankenweenie (2012)
In 1984, Burton directed the Frankenweenie short – a story about a boy who brought his dog back to life after he was hit by a car. This 2012 movie is a feature-length reworking of that very short, produced in glorious stop motion and on a much better budget.
7) Big Fish (2003)
Billy Crudup, Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney take the lead in this captivating tale about a travelling salesman and his extraordinary life. The movie boasts a fantastic cast, which includes Helena Bonham Carter, Danny DeVito, Marion Cotillard, Missi Pyle and Jessica Lange, and is guaranteed to produce a tear (or two) by its conclusion.
6) Beetlejuice (1988)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure may have kicked off Burton’s big screen journey, but it’s Beetlejuice that really opened doors. The movie – about a recently deceased couple getting to grips with the afterlife – is Burton at his best, and results in whacky characters, gruesome imagery, and the greatest use of Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song ever!
5) Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Burton takes on Hammer Horror in this macabre reimagining of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Burton’s version is deliciously dark and is filled with lashings of blood and guts at every turn.
4) Batman (1989)
Should Batman be higher on this list? That’s an argument that could go on and on, but putting it into fourth place by no means diminishes its status as a fantastic film. The movie defined the Dark Knight for an entire generation (and beyond) and proved that Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson were the perfect choices for Batman and the Joker, respectively.
3) Ed Wood (1994)
Superb! Simply superb. Burton tells the story of budget director, Edward Wood Jr. in this black and white biographical drama. Johnny Depp takes on the title role, alongside a cast that includes Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Bill Murray.
2) Edward Scissorhands (1990)
This was a close one and could have easily taken the top spot, because Edward Scissorhands is simply wonderful. The movie – about an artificial man created by a lonely scientist – is a beautiful fantasy film about love and life in suburbia.
If you’ve never seen Edward Scissorhands, then stop what you’re doing and watch it now! Not only does it present some wonderful imagery, but the soundtrack – from frequent Burton collaborator, Danny Elfman – is almost never bettered. Almost.
1) Batman Returns (1992)
Slipping into first place – and just beating Edward Scissorhands by a hair’s breadth – is Batman Returns – the most Burton-y Burton-film of them all. It features gruesome characters, a sumptuous soundtrack (Elfman outdoes his work on Edward Scissorhands) and a knock-out performance from Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman.
Batman Returns may have divided fans upon its initial release, but it’s unique charm and quirks ensure it stands out as Burton’s best work.
Better than Batman?!
Yes – Batman is great, but it is a Batman movie with a lot of studio influence. Batman Returns is Burton through and through and when ranking Tim Burton movies, it has to take the top spot.
Are you a fan of Tim Burton movies? What do you believe is his best (and worst)? Is there a film in his portfolio that is a hidden gem? Whatever your thoughts and feelings, sound off in the comments section below.
And thank you for stopping by I’ll Get Drive-Thru. If you found this information useful, be sure to check out one of the recommended posts below.