1. Edward Scissorhands
This classic Tim Burton film is a must-see, especially for those who enjoy films featuring an outcast. Edward is the creation of a scientist. He is not an emotionless robot, however, but a child. Despite his mature image, he must learn everything a human child does: talking, reading etc. After his father dies, he is left alone for years until an Avon lady knocks on his door and takes him home with her. The film is very aesthetically ingenious. Shots of rows and rows of uniform pastel houses line the setting until the eye is forced to travel up and into a dark, decaying mansion. This cinematography choice sets up the tone of the movie; the monotonous life of a community broken by the introduction of something new and interesting! Ultimately, the core of the film deals with differences between people and how people's reactions to dissimilarity can be extremely different from acceptance, to tolerance, to rejection.
Beetlejuice is definitely one of Tim Burton's more wonky, creative films. At first glance, it can seem simply like a goofy yet unnervingly creepy horror-comedy. However, it is deeper than that. The fact that it is even a horror-comedy is a testament to Tim Burton's skill. Making audience members laugh in one scene, cringe in another, and even become misty-eyed throughout (or downright bawl) shows mastery of emotions. The core of the film is death. (I mean, the two main characters die right in the beginning of the movie!) Instead of how death is usually portrayed, however--a bright light and a guide of some sort leading you to the pearly gates--it begins with the discovery of a book, Handbook for the Recently Deceased. The movie then progresses into a bizarro world of ghosts trying to rid their houses of the living (the living can be such pests, can't they). One of the living befriends the ghost couple and with her help and the help of deceased conman Beetlejuice (whose name we have already mentioned twice, say it again and he will come so, shh!) they work to reclaim their home.
3. Big Fish
Big Fish is an interesting approach to a classic father-son movie. Their relationship is expressed through fantastical stories told by the father to his son throughout his son's life. The tension between them lies in the son's struggle to accept the unrealistic world his father has created. The film is told through the father's flashback memories of his life. Big Fish is an analysis of what is real vs. what is imaginary, and where the line between the two is drawn. Are the elements of fantasy in the father's life coping mechanisms, lies, just good fun, or truth?
Frankenweenie...What to say about Frankenweenie? Personally, when I heard Tim Burton was making a full length feature animated film about a kid with his Frankenstein-esque dog, I was ecstatic! I had watched his 1984 live action short film with the same title many times and was already in love with title character Sparky.
The feature film introduces many new supporting characters that the original short did not contain. Another unique take on a classic tale, Tim Burton channels Mary Shelley's Frankenstein through themes of life and death, particularly whether or not a person can control them or should accept them.
5. Nightmare Before Christmas
Possibly the most well known Tim Burton film, The Nightmare Before Christmas is nothing short of a masterpiece. While Tim Burton is not the accredited director, that role falling to Henry Selick, it is his name that is most closely associated with this film (as seen above "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas"). The world and characters of Halloweentown originated from Tim Burton's imagination. Jack Skellington has become dissatisfied with his Halloween-only lifestyle. After a long tumultuous ride trying to replace Santa Clause in Christmastown, Jack learns lessons about accepting life and discovering where you truly belong.
These 5 are classic examples of Tim Burton-esque films; fantastically imagined alternate realities that ultimately mirror our own world and are surprisingly relatable.