List-Mania: Tim Burton x 5
Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at 2:10PM
NATHANIEL R in Batman, Batman Returns, Beetlejuice, Dumbo, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, Eva Green, Johnny Depp, List-Mania, Oscar Trivia, Tim Burton, Tues Top Ten

by Nathaniel R

Since our Dumbo review didn't soar, or even materialize at all (oops), we should definitely turn some attention to Tim Burton today. Instead of a regular Tuesday Top Ten list... we're just going with LISTS plural. To make up for the lack of a proper Dumbo review, we're throwing FIVE of them at you today. While it's true that this decade of his work has left much to be desired, he's actually always been an uneven auteur. All throughout his filmography magic blooms in unexpectedly dire places OR weeds sprout up in otherwise magically lovely gardens if you catch our drift.

Burton is only 60 years old and since he's made films at a roughly one-every-other-year clip for his whole career, we hope he manages to rally his artistic instincts for one more classic before he retires in say, 2031 after another five pictures (spitballing!). He has directed 19 movies and we'd rank them like so...


  1. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  2. Ed Wood (1994) 
  3. Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
    Tier 1. Masterpieces of their genres really...  spectacularly niche genres but still! Few films have this kind of consistent magic and uniquely memorable visuals from first frame to last...

  4. Beetlejuice (1988)
  5. Batman Returns (1992)
  6. Corpse Bride (2005)
    Tier 2. Loveable. Weird. Creepy. Goofy.  Essential Burton

  7. Frankenweenie (2012)
  8. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
  9. Mars Attacks! (1996)
    Tier 3. Far from perfect but there's much to love within them.

  10. Batman (1989)
  11. Big Fish (2003)
  12. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) 
    Tier 4. Wildly uneven pictures and thus a bit aggravating despite the highs.

  13. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
  14. Dumbo (2019)  
  15. Dark Shadows (2012)
    Tier 5. The "meh" group. They're all missing some organic magic ingredient, feeling forced or earthbound despite their fantastical natures. And all of them are completely lacking in focus (if anything that's what's tripping Burton up these days). But thank God, by which we mean Vincent Prince in the context of Burton's presumed theology, for Eva Green. The raven-haired beauty of often otherwordly acting inspiration has more than earned a great Burton picture built around her. Where is her Ed Wood?  

  16. Big Eyes (2014)
  17. Planet of the Apes (2001)
  18. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
  19. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
    Tier 6. The Actively Bad pictures. They don't work. At times they're even unwatchable.  


Immediately after starting this it seemed like a terrible idea since its like comparing apples to oranges shrunken heads. He hasn't quite averaged 1 Oscar nomination per picture so Oscar has always been a bit resistant. They only started catching on to him with Sleepy Hollow, which he unfortunately followed up with a few of his worst movies.   

  1. Batman, Art Direction (1989) ... won!
  2. Ed Wood, Supporting Actor Martin Landau (1994)... won!
  3. Beetlejuice, Makeup (1988)... won!
  4. Sleepy Hollow, Costume Design (1999) ... lost to Topsy-Turvy
  5. Corpse Bride, Animated Feature (2005) .... lost to Curse of the Were-Rabbit
  6. Edward Scissorhands, Makeup (1990)... lost to Dick Tracy
  7. Sleepy Hollow, Art Direction (1999)... won!
  8. Ed Wood, Makeup (1994)... won!

  9. Sweeney Todd, Costume Design (2007)... lost to Elizabeth: The Golden Age
  10. Frankenweenie, Animated Feature (2012)... lost to Brave
  11. Sleepy Hollow, Cinematography (1999)... lost to American Beauty
  12. Sweeney Todd, Art Direction (2007)... won!
  13. Big Fish, Original Score (2003)... lost to LotR: Return of the King
  14. Alice in Wonderland, Costume Design (2010)... won!
  15. Sweeney Todd, Actor Johnny Depp (2007)... lost to Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood
  16. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Costume Design (2005)... lost to Memoirs of a Geisha
  17. Alice in Wonderland, Art Direction (2010)... won!
  18. Alice in Wonderland, Visual Effects (2010)...lost to Inception

Let's take these in chronological order to simplify...



Terrible shame that only two actors have ever been nominated from his filmography and Johnny Depp was much better, at least twice, within that same filmography than the time he was nominated (Sweeney Todd)! It's not a top 20 because I couldn't decide between about 4 people for the last slot. 


  1. Martin Landau, Ed Wood (1994) -the only Oscar winning performance from the Burton filmography and one of only two nominated
  2. Michelle Pfeiffer, Batman Returns (1992)
  3. Johnny Depp, Ed Wood (1994) - Golden Globe nominee
  4. Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands (1990) - Golden Globe nominee

  5. Eva Green, Dark Shadows (2012)
  6. Dianne Wiest, Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  7. Michael Keaton, Beetlejuice (1988)
  8. Albert Finney, Big Fish (2003) - Golden Globe nominee
  9. Sarah Jessica Parker, Mars Attacks! (1996)
  10. Winona Ryder, Beetlejuice (1988)
  11. Vincent Price, Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  12. Paul Reubens, Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
  13. Catherine O'Hara, Beetlejuice (1988)
  14. Danny DeVito, Batman Returns (1992)
  15. Lisa Marie, Mars Attacks! (1996)

  16. Kathy Baker, Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  17. Helena Bonham-Carter, Sweeney Todd (2007) if she'd been able to sing this might have been one of the very best performances in his filmography
  18. Sarah Jessica Parker, Ed Wood (1994)
  19. Bill Murray, Ed Wood (1994)
  20. Sylvia Sidney, Beetlejuice (1988)


We're trying to stay positive though it's #14 for us among his 19 pictures.

  1. Dumbo's first flying "performance"
  2. Dumbo is very cute (even though he becomes a supporting character in his own film - sigh)
  3. That the film sends a 'take smart girls seriously' message consistently throughout
  4. Eva Green as Colette. Eva Green has yet to not be a highlight in any film smart enough to include her.
  5. Rick Heinrichs' Production Design. Among Burton's regular department heads, we'd argue he's the one that Burton least needs a break from. Sometimes a new collaborator can shake you up creatively and Burton has been using many of the exact same people for decades now. A particularly strong performance by Heinrichs here in the juxtaposition of the small scale circus with the mega circus (especially when it comes to the living quarters/exhibits of Dumbo's mom. 
  6. "Pink Elephants on Parade"
  7. Any times Burton tells the story through Dumbo's POV (which should have been FAR more often). It's silent film magic if you ignore the dialogue and just see what Dumbo is seeing.

Care to make a list of your own in the comments. Any style of Tim Burton list is welcome.

Article originally appeared on The Film Experience (
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