Have you ever wondered which are the 10 strangest Tim Burton movies? I’ve often thought about the same thing, so I decided to bite the bullet and write up my own list. And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy to pick only ten. Burton is one of the kookiest filmmakers out there, thanks in large part to offbeat performances from regulars such as Johnny Depp and main squeeze Helena Bonham Carter, the manic Danny Elfman soundtrack, and bizarre sets that look as though they used up every bit of black paint from Home Depot. Luckily, he works at a pretty steady rate, and there’s a good chance you can find his latest gloomy masterpiece in the movies now playing at your local theatre.
- Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) – Burton made his feature film debut by directing this tale of bizarre man-child Pee-wee Herman and his quest to retrieve his beloved bike. In order to find it, he must search the basement of the Alamo, brave the wrath of a biker gang, and share a ride with the ghost of a long-dead trucker. A whimsical film that would perfectly set the tone for Tim Burton movies to follow.
- Corpse Bride (2005) – Set in a small town during the Victorian era, Corpse Bride is a stop-motion animated film featuring Johnny Depp in the role of Victor, a young man who’s a day away from being married to sweetheart Victoria (Emily Watson). While wandering through the woods and reciting his wedding vows, he runs across the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter), and she promptly declares him her new husband. Things get crazy from there, as Victor must try to win back Victoria while contending with his new bride and the legion of dead people who seem to follow him around. Meanwhile, Victoria’s scheming parents declare her fiancee dead and prepare to marry her off to Lord Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant), a sinister fellow hiding more than one skeleton in his closet. A touching tale of love lost, The Corpse Bride also features the voices of Christopher Lee, Albert Finney, Joanna Lumley, and Tracey Ullman.
- Ed Wood (1994) – Johnny Depp stars in this quirky and charming look at filmmaker (and transvestite) Ed Wood, often considered the worst director to have ever worked in the motion picture industry. As he struggles to see his visions brought to the big screen, he befriends a motley cast of characters including a massive professional wrestler (George Steele), a transsexual (Bill Murray), and a heroin-addicted Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau). Landau would go on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and Burton once again manages to deliver an oddball film that plucks at the ‘ol heartstrings.
- Beetlejuice (1988) – After dying in a freak accident, a young married couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) slowly comes to terms with the fact that they’re ghosts. But then a new family moves into their home, and the place gets transformed into a crass piece of post-modern nonsense. When trying to scare the new family away fails, they turn to Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a chaotic spirit who specializes in exorcising the living. But Beetlejuice has a few plans of his own, some of which involve the goth daughter (Wynona Ryder) of the current occupants. From giant sandworms to head-shrinking voodoo and Robert Goulet getting knocked through the ceiling, this one is packed with bizarre moments.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) – Young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) and several other children win a special tour through the factory of eccentric candy maker Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp). What they find inside is both magical and terrifying at the same time, especially when Burton gets hold of such already-weird characters as the Oompa-Loompas and worker squirrels. Co-starring Helena Bonham Carter, David Kelly, Missi Pyle, and Christopher Lee.
- Edward Scissorhands (1990) – Johnny Depp gives a touching performance in this fantasy-romance about Edward, an artificial being left all alone after his creator (Burton hero Vincent Price) dies. When an Avon saleswoman (Dianne Wiest) finds him, she brings him home to the suburbs. There, Edward tries to fit in and capture the heart of a beautiful local girl (Wynona Ryder), but his efforts are hampered by prejudice and jealousy. A tragic fairy-tale about romance and the difficulties of being the “weird kid” in town. Also starring Kathy Baker, Alan Arkin, and Anthony Michael Hall. By the way, Edward gets his last name from the fact that he has scissors for hands. Is that weird enough for you?
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – A stop-motion musical fantasy about Jack Skellington (voiced by Chris Sarandon), a talking skeleton who serves as the de facto leader of Halloween Town. Tired of the same old routine year after year, he sets out to take over Christmas by kidnapping Santa Clause from Christmas Town…with predictably disastrous results. There’s a sweet love story between Jack and a rag doll named Sally (Catherine O’Hara), but there’s also a murderous bogeyman, a dog with a glowing pumpkin for a nose, and three mischievous trick-or-treaters known as Lock, Shock, and Barrel. The best song on the soundtrack, “This Is Halloween,” would later be covered by Marilyn Manson on a reissue bonus disc. It should also be noted that Burton produced and co-wrote the script, but he did not serve as director. Still, it’s strange enough to qualify for the list.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) – This Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler was plenty weird before Burton ever signed on for the big-screen adaptation. It centers around Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), a London barber who’s framed and sentenced to life in prison by a judge (Alan Rickman) who lusts after his wife. But Barker returns for vengeance, changing his name to Sweeney Todd and setting up shop as a barber. As his sanity begins to falter, he soon takes to slitting the necks of his clients, then depositing them via trapdoor to be baked into meat pies by accomplice Nellie Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter). If you’ve ever wanted to see Johnny Depp sing, then this is the film for you.
- Mars Attacks! (1996) – Burton assembled an all-star cast for this darkly comedic alien invasion tale based on the trading cards from the early 1960s. Jack Nicholson takes on dual roles as the President of the United States and a shady Las Vegas real estate developer, while Pierce Brosnan, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Jim Brown, Natalie Portman, and Danny DeVito also get in on the action. The little green Martians are cute as can be…at least until they start atomizing people with their laser guns and grafting human heads onto dogs.
- Big Fish (2003) – As his dying father (Albert Finney) weaves tall tales from his youth, an estranged son (Billy Crudup) tries to make amends before it’s too late. Both of Burton’s parents had died in the years leading up to the film, so the themes of reconciliation and forgiveness took on special significance. Finney is wonderful as the dying former salesman, and flashbacks to the days of his youth feature Ewan McGregor in the same role. Helena Bonham Carter shows up as a witch, and there are also giants, werewolves, and conjoined twins. The supporting cast includes Jessica Lange, Miley Cyrus, Steve Buscemi, Danny DeVito, and Marion Cotillard.
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