Several directors have left a very distinctive style in their movies, which make it very easy to identify as their work. Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson are among those who are widely recognized for their unique filmmaking. However, there is one such man who reinvented the art of quirky filmmaking and staying true to his style, no matter what. Tim Burton is easily one of the most controversial directors working in this industry. Critics seem to be confused whether to identify him as a genius at play or brand him as a B grade filmmaker. For me, Tim Burton’s brilliance is unparalleled and his imagination has a far wider horizon than many. Only a very creative mind can give birth to such unique, colorful and lovable characters. Burton’s ability to transform the seemingly placid fairytale into a morbid nightmare has drawn him both love and ire from the audience.
Along with Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton has a huge cabinet of astounding characters which can’t be found elsewhere. His creations might seem queer but a closer look would reveal the symbolism Burton was trying to make the audience understand. We, at the Cinemaholic, list out top Tim Burton characters in movies. This list contains the characters which have been written by him or appears in any of his films.
10. Penguin (‘Batman Returns’)
Oswald Cobblepot, in the comics, has been represented as an upper class criminal who is socially pleasing but performs heinous crimes. In fact he is the only villain who doesn’t have mental damage. Tim Burton, however, threw out that origin story out of the window, and decided upon a more morbid version of the Penguin. The monocle wearing criminal was given a severe deformity and a homicidal streak which forced his birth parents to abandon him and subsequently he was raised by a wild flock of penguins from a decrepit zoo. His circus freak career saw him as a grotesque bird man and his criminal nature soon became notorious. Penguin managed to disguise as a decent hero of Gotham and even manages to run for Mayor.
Tim Burton’s rendition was far away from the civil criminal who was decent to women, with his Penguin being weird, rude and possessed zero socialization skills. He was a classic Burton villain and his appearance made him all the way more fearsome. Penguin’s alternate character has led to whispers of being a weird amalgamation with Killer Croc, a relatively unknown Batman rogue back then. If true, it is Tim Burton at his finest.
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9. Vincent (‘Vincent’)
We have all played make-believe games in our childhood where we pretended to enact our favorite celebrity icon. But what if this seemingly innocent had turned into a weird obsession? Tim Burton answers this haunting question in his morbid manner through his very first film, ‘Vincent’. Seven year old Vincent Malloy is obsessed with his icon Vincent Price to the point where he considers himself to be a misunderstood artist, living in his own depressed, tortured world, where he has been deprived of the woman he loves and is living with a zombiefied dog. He experiences voices from beyond the grave calling him out and is haunted by strange visions and shadows. Even though his mother sternly tries to cajole him into the real world, Vincent Malloy seems hell-bent on remaining in the tower of doom. Quoting Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘Raven’, Vincent falls to his make-believe death, seemingly marking the end of his persona.
Vincent Malloy is the Burtonish epitome of obsession with another person and quietly serves a reminder of the dangers of this innocent game. His ill-fated story encourages children to go out in the sun more and play. Transition in the life of a person is important and nothing should be done before a certain stage. A six-minute depiction of Vince was sufficient for Burton to give his message, and Vincent Malloy was immortalized in the minds of the cine-lovers.
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8. Hatter (‘Alice in Wonderland’)
Apart from being a regular feature in the book series, The Hatter never had so much importance as in Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. The film was almost completely on Tarrant Hightopp, or the Mad Hatter. His first appearance suggests him to be a crazy person, truly living up to the proverb, ‘mad as a hatter’. But apart from sudden bouts of insanity, Tarrant is actually a very shrewd person, loyal to the White Queen and her reign, and even when the usurper Red Queen was on the throne, he had waited patiently for Alice to come by and fulfil the prophecy. He can think quickly and on more than one occasion rescues Alice from the minions of the Red Queen. He plays a principal role in the battle for the regaining of the White Queen’s crown. He is selfless and willingly gets captured so that the mission continues.
Tarrant is an excellent sword fighter as well and disarms the Knave of Hearts easily. His love for Alice is beautiful in a weird sort of way. Tim Burton’s picturing of the character is extraordinarily colorful with green eyes and orange hair. Johnny Depp, like always, did justice to his character and gave us another example of his versatility. The Futterwhacken dance isn’t something we are likely to forget in a hurry.
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7. Jack Skellington (‘The Nightmare before Christmas’)
It is really weird to imagine a sharply dressed skeleton in the role of a tragic hero with the heart of gold, but that is Tim Burton for you. ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’ wasn’t directed by Tim Burton, but the entire story and all its characters had been drawn by that man. Jack Skellington is the contemporary of Santa Claus in Halloween land, the face in the festival of ghosts.
Skellington is the lovable ghostly rendition of the common man who is frustrated with his monotonous lifestyle and goes out of his way to try something different and often ends up creating chaos from order. When he enters the town of Christmas, he finds himself in a place where he doesn’t belong. Quite naturally he misunderstands the entire concept of Christmas and almost ruins it when he invites his Halloween town residents to give the festival a macabre makeover. But like every mortal with a conscience, he understands his blunder and proceeds to correct it, earning the love of the audience. The wide smiled skeleton has become a cult favorite with time. He is one ghost buddy everyone will like to have.
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6. Corpse Bride (‘Corpse Bride’)
Tim Burton has the penchant of turning seemingly scary characters into lovable beings. A corpse is said to symbolize death and decay and is looked at with a cringe worthy repulsion by most. Burton’s Corpse Bride, Emily, however won hearts with her tragic love story and ability to sacrifice her love for the happiness of others. She is the woman, who throughout her lifetime never received love and was murdered on her wedding night by her husband who had sought her money only.
In the afterlife, when Victor unwittingly places a ring on her finger, she considers herself married to him and showers him with all kinds of love and affection. Her selfless nature and willingness to be in love gains the audience’s affection. Although she loses out on her chance of becoming a bride at last, she becomes a heroine as she brings the lovers Victor and Victoria together. If this isn’t the ultimate quote on feminism, I don’t know what is. Magnificently voiced by Helena Bonham Carter, Emily ‘The Corpse Bride’ is our favorite girl in Tim Burton’s universe.
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5. Batman (‘Batman’)
If the modern generation is in love with the Caped Crusader, it is largely due to the dark rendition of the character by Tim Burton in 1989. Batman till then was largely a comic character, with the readers and audience both failing to recognize the traumatic story of the hero behind the mask. Tim Burton’s Batman was dark and dangerous – a true vigilante to boot. The childhood trauma still existed within him and drove him to commit the deeds others won’t do. He was the Dark Knight, the silent guardian of the troubled Gotham City.
While Nolan’s Batman was more of a paragon of virtue, Tim Burton’s version never followed the rules and deliberately disposed of the criminals whenever needed. Bruce Wayne is a man trapped in an eternal struggle between his two selves and comes out as an anti-hero, which the comic-book had intended in the first place. He is awkward at parties and fearsome at combats – something which Nolan’s version failed to capture. Comic book fans still hold this version of Batman as the best characterization done on screen. Michael Keaton proved all his doubters wrong with some style in this movie.
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4. Ed Wood (‘Ed Wood’)
If anyone has turned infamy into cult following, it is that person who holds the dubious moniker of ‘The worst director ever’. Ed Wood, throughout his career, was riddled with commercial and critical flops, but never stopped directing. His films were far from normal, and were in fact so bad, that they became legendary. If anyone’s career can draw parallel to that of Ed Wood, it’s Tim Burton himself. A misunderstood genius who never strayed from his own morbid style despite several hits from the critics and having a cult following, Burton’s take on Ed Wood echoed the pains of his life as well.
Ed Wood was never directly shown to be the worst filmmaker, instead Burton left the interpretation of his genius or insanity to the audience. Ed Wood is shown to be the paragon of optimism. Despite several roadblocks and critical failures, he never gave up on his style and continued to direct films with a smile on his face. Eccentric and outlandish, Wood’s transvestite nature might have been another source of his ridicule in the hypocritical society. Burton’s film helped people recognize this man who was tethered dangerously on the fine line dividing sheer brilliance and extreme incapability. Johnny Depp, as with every Tim Burton film, delivered a top notch performance and brought about the pain in the life of the man perfectly.
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3. Betelgeuse/Beetlejuice (‘Beetlejuice’)
This self-proclaimed bio-exorcist has to be the craziest ghost that ever ‘lived’. Quirky and eccentric like most of Tim Burton’s characters, Betelgeuse personifies mischief to such an extent, that the ghosts who had summoned him from his grave in the first place, devises means to destroy him. He is crude and disgusting often engaging in revolting acts like spitting on his own coat. This psychotic ghost isn’t the one anyone would like to have around him/her.
Betelgeuse also has the annoying habit of invading into others personal space, quite often breaching the line of sexual harassment without regret. He is loud, brash and never seems to grow tired of pulling silly pranks on people even if it scares them to death. His actions seem to rise out of pure selfishness as he is willing to do anything to shrug off the curse bestowed upon him. His interest in Lydia reaches to the point of coercion where he forces her to almost marry him in exchange for saving the friendly ghosts, the Maitlands from an accidental exorcism. His mood remains upbeat even when he has his head shrunk by a witch doctor, proclaiming that the new look would suit him better. His antagonistic acts aside, Betelgeuse remains one of the most loved on-screen ghosts till date, and Michael Keaton’s larger than life portrayal of this dark comedic ghost propelled him to the status of an elite actor.
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2. Sweeney Todd (‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
Benjamin Barker is a barber, who was cruelly exiled by a lecherous Judge Turpin, in order to seduce his wife Lucy. Barker dons the name of Sweeney Todd and along with his admirer Mrs. Lovett, hatches a savage plan to kill customers and serve their meat in pies, whilst climbing up the ladder to reach the focal point of the revenge plot, Judge Turpin.
Standing on the themes of societal difference, man’s desire to take revenge and unrequited love, Sweeney Todd’s entire life unveils itself to be a horror comedy set in the Victorian age of London. He is the classic example of a man crazed with the notion of revenge and then gone completely bat-crazy. Todd’s personality traits are on the same lines as Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with both so consumed by their selfish motives, that they fail to differentiate the right and wrong. It is difficult to garner sympathy for the characters but yet on a certain level, they do have a heart somewhere beneath their monstrosity.
Johnny Depp excels again and narrowly misses out on the golden statuette at the Oscars. The pain, frustration and thirst for revenge as he went on a killing spree seemed terrifyingly real. The mad glint in his eyes was persistent, and although some critics might differ, this is his best performance on the silver screen. Sweeney Todd is not perfect but you can’t deny his logic – ‘Who are we to deny it in here?’
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1. Edward Scissorhands (‘Edward Scissorhands’)
Few titular characters are as weird and sad as the artificial man, Edward Scissorhands. The story of the man born out of an inventor’s fantasy is tragic enough to make anyone fall in love with him. An unfinished masterpiece, young Edward’s unnatural appearance strikes fear at the first sight. His scissor-like hands make him the subject of ridicule and prejudice throughout. In the present world where racism reigns strongly, the victims of this heinous crime can relate strongly with Edward Scissorhands. He is the epitome of innocence and good-heartedness.
Despite several provocations, Edward rarely loses his cool except in the end. His unfulfilled love for Kim Boggs gains him the undivided sympathy of the masses and his puppy eyes exude the charm. Edward Scissorhands remains misunderstood throughout his life due to his grotesqueness and he realizes that all his attempts at socializing were all in vain in the end. He makes the ultimate sacrifice to seclude himself form the cruel world. His parting from Kim is a moment of pure pathos and the audience grieves when the odd due part ways. Johnny Depp gave one of his finest performances on screen as the lovable Edward and set in motion one of the most profitable collaborations in Hollywood. The vision of Edward Scissorhands neatly chopping bushes into beautiful topiaries will remain immortal as the man himself.