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Top 5 Tim Burton films that go beyond his commonly explored genre of horror

The director, who turns 64 today, will be making his OTT directorial debut with the Netflix show Wednesday

Agrima Tikader Calcutta Published 25.08.22, 06:00 PM
Tim Burton at the premiere of Dumbo.

Tim Burton at the premiere of Dumbo. @dumbo/Instagram

Known for creating visual wonders in the form of horror and fantasy films, Tim Burton is set to make his web series debut this year with Netflix’s Adams Family spinoff show, Wednesday.

Burton’s films like Beetlejuice (1988) and Dark Shadows (2012) have his trademark combination of horror and comedy, which we are likely to get a good dose of in Wednesday as well.


The director, who turned 64 today, has done some of his best work with actors such as Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, and his films are not just limited to the horror genre. Here are some of his best non-horror films that should be on your watchlist.

Batman (1989)

Following the success of his third film, Beetlejuice, Burton gave a shot at directing a superhero film. The 1989 Batman saw Michael Keaton take up the mantle of the Caped Crusader. It also had one of the most interesting live-action portrayals of Batman’s arch nemesis, Joker, played by Jack Nicholson. Burton was able to add his dark touch to the film with Batman killing off Joker by the end of the movie.

The success of Batman saw both Keaton and Burton return for its sequel Batman Returns (1992), where Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face was the primary villain threatening Gotham City. Both Batman and Batman Returns were box-office hits.

Planet of the Apes (2001)

A remake of the 1968 Planet of the Apes faced several bumps on the road till Burton was hired to helm it. The director added his spin to the 2001 science fiction film Planet of the Apes. It had Mark Wahlberg as astronaut Leo Davidson, who enters a portal to a world ruled by humanoid apes. He leads a revolution against the humanoid chimpanzee military commander Thade (Tim Roth).

Burton leaves us on the edge of our seats with the film’s twists and turns that lead up to the shocking ending, where Davidson returns to Earth, which is unexpectedly dominated by humanoid apes as well. A sequel was planned by the filmmaker, but instead of that 20th Century Fox rebooted it in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Burton’s dark fantasy take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a visual delight. The film has the hit-making trio of Burton, Depp and Bonham Carter. Under the filmmaker’s direction, the star cast, including Anne Hathaway and Alan Rickman, delivers an over-the-top and quirky performance that goes perfectly with the vibe of the film. The movie follows Alice (Mia Wasikowska) through her journey in Underland (which she had remembered as Wonderland), where we get to meet the reimagined versions of the characters from Carroll’s books.

In its 2016 sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, most of the cast returns to reprise their roles. However, Burton produced the sequel instead of directing it.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

A teenager finding his grandfather dying with his eyes ripped out is just a scene from Burton’s 2016 fantasy film Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Despite Jake Portman’s (Asa Butterfield) trauma of witnessing his grandfather’s gruesome death, the film is not about horror. It’s more of an X-Men-like story about children with superhuman powers.

Portman goes on an adventure to ‘the loop of September 3, 1943’, as directed by his dying grandparent, where he finds the superpowered peculiar children and their superhuman school’s headmistress Alma LeFay Peregrine/Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) stuck in a time loop. The film is noted for its visuals and direction, which make its convoluted plot play out well.

Dumbo (2019)

Disney’s onslaught of churning out remakes of its animated films saw Burton return to the director’s chair years after his previous film, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, released.

The animated Disney film had a sad beginning where the baby elephant Dumbo was separated from his mother, till he became the circus’ flying elephant sensation due to his comically large ears.

Burton’s version had more unfortunate characters in the form of a widowed World War I veteran, who lost his leg in the war, and his children trying to cope with the death of their mother. The film ups the drama by having a real villain in the form of the conniving VA Vandevere (Michael Keaton). If a baby animal being separated from its mother isn’t heartbreaking enough, the children’s movie nearly has Dumbo’s mother euthanised. After all, is it really a Tim Burton movie if the audience is not in distress?

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