Tim Burton's Movies Ranked from Worst to Best

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Tim Burton’s Movies Ranked from Worst to Best Newsweek

2019 is a big year for live-action Disney remakes; trailers have already been released for The Lion King, Aladdin and Dumbo. The former two appear to closely shadow the source material— The Lion King even matched the original 1994 trailer shot-for-shot. Dumbo, however, stands out: It's dark, gothic, with animation that veers into the uncanny valley—not something you'd expect from Disney.

It is, however, something you would expect from Tim Burton, Dumbo's director. Ever since his first movie release in 1985 he's combined ghoulishness with sentimentality to pioneer a distinctive high-gothic style.

Burton's relationship with Disney dates back to the very start of his career, when he was hired straight out of CalArts off the strength of a short film, Stalk of the Celery Monster, in the early 1980s. But once he was there, he found Disney wasn't quite ready for his unique creative vision.

"I think once people got to Disney, it was kind of like a cold wake-up call, that maybe it wasn't everything it was cracked up to be," Burton told Vanity Fair. "The company wanted to stretch out and try different things and hire new people, but they were still kind of stuck in the past." He was fired in 1984 after Disney found his live-action short, Frankenweenie, too scary for kids.

Being fired turned out to be just what his career needed. The following year, he directed Pee-wee's Big Adventure, which began his decades-long collaboration with composer Danny Elfman. It also saw the beginnings of Burton's distinctive visual style. "Mattel Surrealism, a toy-store fantasia in primary colors and '50s decor," wrote David Ansen in Newsweek. "Whoever proposed teaming up Pee-wee with 26-year-old director Tim Burton knew what they were doing."

In 1988, Burton returned with his much-loved classic Beetlejuice, which combined gothic elements with Americana kitsch and a calypso soundtrack. The following year, he directed the mega-smash Batman, assuring studios that his filmmaking was commercially as well as artistically sound.

His 1990 film Edward Scissorhands explored his own alienation as a teenager in suburban California through the surreally malformed lead character, memorably played by Johnny Depp, who would become another long-term collaborator. The 90s would see a string of hits for Burton, including Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow.

Since the turn of the century, Burton's films have shifted further into fantasy, drawing less from American pop culture and more from a traditional Victorian gothic style. He returned to Disney to direct 2010's Alice In Wonderland, kickstarting the current trend of live-action remakes. His career came full circle in 2012 when he directed a remake of Frankenweenie, the film that had got him fired.

How will Dumbo stand in the director's long and varied career? Using review data from Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb users, we've ranked all of the feature films he has directed or written by how well-received they were by critics.

01 Planet of the Apes
Twentieth Century Fox

19. Planet of the Apes (2001). Total score: 54%. IMDb users: 5.7. Metacritic: 50. Rotten Tomatoes: 5.5.
Directed by: Tim Burton. Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti.
Plot summary: In 2029, an Air Force astronaut crash-lands on a mysterious planet where evolved, talking apes dominate a race of primitive humans.
What the critics said: "Ten years from now, it will be the 1968 version that people are still renting." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.

02 Dark Shadows
Warner Bros.

18. Dark Shadows (2012). Total score: 56.67%. IMDb users: 6.2. Metacritic: 55. Rotten Tomatoes: 5.3.
Directed by: Tim Burton. Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee.
Plot summary: An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.
What the critics said: "The only reason to see Dark Shadows is to discover how dire and pointless—how flat-out dreadful—a movie can be even when it has Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Helena Bonham Carter attached to its flimsy pretext." David Thomson, The New Republic.

03 Alice in Wonderland
Walt Disney

17. Alice in Wonderland (2010). Total score: 58.33%. IMDb users: 6.5. Metacritic: 53. Rotten Tomatoes: 5.7. 
Directed by: Tim Burton. Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen, Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Barbara Windsor, Paul Whitehouse, Timothy Spall. 
Plot summary: Nineteen-year-old Alice returns to the magical world from her childhood adventure, where she reunites with her old friends and learns of her true destiny: to end the Red Queen's reign of terror.
What the critics said: "In its big-budget extraordinariness, Alice is awfully...ordinary." Ty Burr, Boston Globe

04 Mars Attacks!
Warner Bros.

16. Mars Attacks! (1996). Total score: 58.33%. IMDb users: 6.3. Metacritic: 52. Rotten Tomatoes: 6. 
Directed by: Tim Burton. Starring: Jack Nicholson, Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Danny DeVito, Martin Short. 
Plot summary: Earth is invaded by Martians with unbeatable weapons and a cruel sense of humor.
What the critics said: "First he made Ed Wood, a tribute to the man fondly recalled as the worst movie director of all time. Now Tim Burton seems to have made a tribute to Wood's work." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

05 Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Twentieth Century Fox

15. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016). Total score: 60.67%. IMDb users: 6.6. Metacritic: 57. Rotten Tomatoes: 5.9. 
Directed by: Tim Burton. Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Allison Janney, Chris O'Dowd. 
Plot summary: When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.
What the critics said: "The film feels overstuffed, with Tim Burton repeating tricks from his greatest hits (think Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands). But stick with it just for those times when Burton flies high on his own peculiar genius." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

06 Pee-wee's Big Adventure
Warner Bros.

14. Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985). Total score: 65%. IMDb users: 7. Metacritic: 47. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.8. 
Directed by: Tim Burton. Starring: Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton. 
Plot summary: When eccentric man-child Pee-wee Herman gets his beloved bike stolen in broad daylight, he sets out across the U.S. on the adventure of his life.
What the critics said: "It might start off silly, but by the end, it's skewered tons of film clichés, offered our first glimpse at Tim Burton's cinematic vision, and, most crucially, made you laugh more times than you can count" Will Harris, Bullz-Eye.com. 
 

07  Big Eyes
The Weinstein Company

13. Big Eyes (2014). Total score: 66.33%. IMDb users: 7. Metacritic: 62. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.7. 
Directed by: Tim Burton. Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston. 
Plot summary: A drama about the awakening of painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.
What the critics said: "Visually inventive, as are all of Burton's movies, Big Eyes is pleasant enough to watch; you just wish there were more to it." Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times
 

08 Sleepy Hollow
Paramount Pictures

12. Sleepy Hollow (1999). Total score: 67.33%. IMDb users: 7.4. Metacritic: 65. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.3. 
Directed by: Tim Burton. Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Christopher Walken.
Plot summary: Ichabod Crane is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the decapitations of three people, with the culprit being the legendary apparition, The Headless Horseman.
What the critics said: "The best-looking horror film since Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula." Roger Ebert, At the Movies.