Over the last three decades, Tim Burton has established a curious career, which is fitting for a filmmaker so invested in the unusual. Once the preeminent auteur of gothic outsider angst, Burton’s signature stylistic indulgence became both the calling card for his “brand”, so to speak, and its greatest weakness. Burton has always functioned at a somewhat singular middle ground, right on the line of mainstream and niche (hence his Hot Topic popularity), and that unique sensibility has led to a one-of-a-kind career that has established him as a brilliant but inconsistent filmmaker.
The inconsistency can be infuriating and make easy to take the brilliance for granted, but Burton’s work is spellbinding as often as it’s grating, and there’s no way around the fact that he has a singular mind responsible for some of the most inspired, original cinematic landscapes of all time. How can you discount the man who gave us a world as schlock-soaked and unprecedented as Beetlejuice, a film as insanely inventive as Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, or a character as sweetly macabre as Edward Scissorhands? While it’s true that Burton has helmed some real duds in his time, he’s also crafted a handful of truly great films. When Burton is firing on all cylinders, he is a furious force of creativity and vision and there’s simply no one else out there that can do what he does as well as he does it. So let’s take a look back on that iconoclastic career through all the highs and lows with Burton’s films ranked worst to best below.