Top 10 Tim Burton Characters

I don’t think you can name a person who hasn’t seen a Tim Burton film, from his early work in Edward Scissorhands, to his more recent pieces like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

His famous stylistics have made him stand out in the film industry, and it’s his imagination that brings him a huge, dedicated fan base. With this inventiveness in his work, it’s his characters and their presence that seem to make the most impact on audiences. I’m taking a look across all his films and naming (in my humble opinion) his top 10 characters.

10. Ed Bloom, Big Fish (2003)

ed bloom, big fish, film,

This is probably one of Burton’s most misunderstood films. I still can’t get to grips fully with it, but it’s creative flare makes it spellbinding to watch. Ed Bloom, played by Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney and Perry Walston, progresses throughout the film and becomes more endearing to watch. He’s quiet and peaceful, unlike a lot of Burton’s characters which makes him extremely engaging to follow through the film. Yet, his cheeky charm keeps you entertained and laughing.

9. Grandpa Jo, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

charlie and the chocolate factory, film, tim burton

Unlike a lot of the eccentric characters we see throughout Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Grandpa Jo (David Kelly) remains wise and collected. His knowledge and encouragement towards Charlie Bucket makes him so incredibly lovable that you find it hard not to want to hold his hand and go for a walk along the chocolate waterfall with him.

8. Vincent, Vincent (1982)

vincent, tim burton, film,

Burton’s shorts are fantastic, and this one really got him noticed. Vincent’s gothic nature and personality specifies exactly what Burton is great at. He takes him from being polite and considerate, to turning into a tormented character from shot to shot. Through only expressing feelings via the detail in the animation without a voice, Burton brings Vincent alive with emotion.

7. Barkis Bittern, Corpse Bride (2005)

corpse bride, film, tim burton

Barkis Bittern is a horrible character. He’s a character you really love to hate. Voiced by the wonderful Richard. E. Grant, his gorgeous English voice brings such a detest to the posh accent that he holds. From his giant chin to his repulsive presence, never have I ever wanted to kill a fictional character as much as him.

6. Ichabod Crane, Sleepy Hollow (1999)

johnny depp, sleepy hollow, film,

From the long list of characters Johnny Depp has played for Burton, this one always brings back fond memories. The fact he’s squeamish about blood and is a doctor is brilliant. The way his dithering characteristics make him perfect for building up tension in the ridiculous storyline plays out well. And because he’s just so god damn great in the climatic end makes for a stupidly enjoyable watch with him on screen.

5. Lydia Deetz, Beetlejuice (1988)

beetlejuice, winona ryder, lydia, tim burton characters,

Winona Ryder was made for this role. She starts off as this misunderstood teen, passionate about the arts with her flamboyant black clothing, and turns into someone her age hanging out with a couple of friendly ghosts. The fun she’s having as she mimes to Shake, Shake Senora brings the whole film together, and her character really holds the plot together.

4. Mrs Lovett, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barbar of Fleet Street (2007)

sweeney todd, tim burton,

From Depp to Helena Bonham Carter, she’s also played relatively minor roles in his films, but this she just comes into her own. In an interview she started she had always wanted to play this character and you can really tell. Her cockney accent, desperation for Sweeney and really quite a good voice for the singing makes her a really delight to watch – Plus, the clothing makes her look awesome.

3. Jack, A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

nightmare before christmas, film, tim burton

Often confused as being directed by Burton, he wrote this film and had a creative input into the cinematography. Burton made a skeleton seem like the nicest man alive, discovering Christmas and escaping from his Halloween world. If you can turn a bunch of bones into such an iconic character, you’ve struct gold, and that’s exactly what he did with Disney still raking in on the profits.

2. Edward Scissorhands, Edward Scissorhands (1990)

edward scissorhands, johnny depp, tim burton characters, films,

I instantly judge someone when they say they don’t like Edward Scissorhands. Again, he’s taken the most unlikely of characters to be bewitching, and turned almost everyone who’s witnessed him into a blubbering mess. His limitless speech, movement and understanding of the world makes him vulnerable and in need of care. All you want to do is help him get by, and this feeling to look after him stays with you well after you’ve watched the film.

1. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice (1988)

michael keaton, beetlekjuice, film, tim burton

Michael Keaton, what a man. Beetlejuice is cocky, rude, in your face and loud. He invades everything and everyone around him, desperately seeks attention and will do anything to get what he wants. His being there on screen brings the film alive with excitement. He’s just the definition of ADHD. The quirkiness and originality of this character makes him number 1. You’ve never seen anything like it, and probably never will.

Written and complied by Kelly Alyse. Kelly is the author of blog The Film Obsession and is a contributing reporter for HeyUGuys.

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    JasonW Reply

    What a visionary Tim Burton is! I haven’t always loved his films but the ones I do love I could watch every day! Big Fish, Ed Wood, Beetlejuice…all brilliant. And can’t argue with your choice for number one – Bettlejuice is a genius creation.

  2. Avatar
    Luke Reply

    Intriguing choices! That dog in particular – he was probably my favorite part of an otherwise disappointing movie. I’m a little bummed to not see Mama Deetz on the list, but Lydia and the big guy himself make up for it. 🙂 Beetlejuice has got to be my favorite Burton flick!

  3. Avatar
    John Reply

    I’m awfully partial to Ed Wood and/or Bela Lugosi. Granted, they’re biographical and therefore not original characters.

  4. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @JasonW: I seem to have a love, love, hate thing with Burton – two great films for every bad one. But I agree he’s got great visual style.

    @Luke: As you say – “an otherwise disappointing movie” – I’m always at a loss as to why Burton’s vision sometimes doesn’t work and yet when it does I can’t always put my finger on what the difference is. I hated Alice In Wonderland, a terrible film that seemed to lose the magic of the original story, and yet I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a story tailor made for his cinematic visions. What made one film great and the other rubbish – they both looked fantastic after all. Maybe it’s a little over-indulgence?

    @John: I’d probably put Ed Wood up there with Bettlejuice and Big Fish as my three favourite Burton films.

  5. Avatar
    Andrew Reply

    I’d honestly go for Jack or Ichabod before anyone else here for the #1 slot, though Beetlejuice is kind of amazing and totally deserving of the top honor. I might be the wrong person to comment on this post, though, since I’m not a huge Burton fan when it comes to his work in the 2000s and I never really fell for Edward Scissorhands.

  6. Avatar
    amy Reply

    I think Big Fish is the most non-Burton-styled of his films, so it’s understandable fans of the style didn’t really dig it. At its core it’s probably one of his more moving films.

    @Andrew, can Ichabod be considered a Burton character though?

    Hmm… I should probably buy Beetlejuice to sorta complete my Burton collection xD though I miss several titles xD

    Great list, Dan.

    Does anyone think Vincent looks a little bit like a grown-up Victor? xD

  7. Avatar
    rtm Reply

    Interesting, I just mentioned Beetlejuice on my post today as well. I’m not a big Tim Burton fan, only seen a handful of his work, but I really want to see Big Fish! That photo is sooo pretty and I like McGregor. Oh and I like Sleepy Hollow and Ichabod Crane, y’know come to think of it, you could do a top ten of Johnny Depp’s characters on Tim Burton’s films 😀

  8. Avatar
    Castor Reply

    Never was much of a fan of Tim Burton, I somewhat liked Sleepy Hollow but yea… that’s about it 🙁

  9. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Keaton’s Beetlejuice as number 1? Oh dear. I’d have put Chris Walken’s crazy Max Shreck (if that’s how you spell it) above Keaton…. I didn’t find Beetlejuice all that great, to be honest. Perhaps even Ichabod would have slotted nicely into top spot…. I’ll have to rewatch Sleepy Hollow again to be sure….

  10. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Rodney:“I’d have put Chris Walken’s crazy Max Shreck (if that’s how you spell it) above Keaton…”

    That’s just it. There’s so many great characters in Burton’s films – even the bad ones – that’s it’s difficult to highlight the ten best. I’d agree with you Rodney on Walken – he’d have to be in my top ten.

    @rtm: Big Fish is one of my favourite Burton films. I think the story really lends itself to Burton’s creative visual style.

    @amy: You’re right about Big Fish being a very moving story (perhaps only beaten by Edward Scissorhands).

  11. Avatar
    sundryandco Reply

    It has to be said – Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands are wonderful creations. I used to feel a little distraught when watching Edward – The feeling of wanting to help him was also the strongest feeling I had when I used to watch him and I don’t think a film has brought that out in me since then (except maybe with Gollum…I’m not a huge LOTR fan, but the first time I watched one his scenes, I just felt incredibly bad for him!). I used to be ever so slightly terrified watching Beetlejuice – Very witty, but also absolutely disturbing. When I watched Scissorhands and Beetlejuice as a youngster, I didn’t have much of an awareness of who the actors were, which is probably another reason why I used to watch it wide-eyed and enthralled. Maybe the fact that, like many others, I watched his films at a young age is the reason that I was able to take them so seriously at the time.

    Elfman is another ingredient that makes some of Burton’s work so complete. I’d love to take a train around both their minds. I suspect it’d be one of those horror rollercoasters.

    I was rather hoping that I would grow up to be Lydia. And as for Vincent – The animation, writing, narration – Excellent. I’m a little worried about the Poe film which is due to be released – Sometimes Poe’s work, and the man himself, need to remain untouched and need to finish with the Price recordings, unless something of quality comes along. Maybe the film will be decent! There’s an animation somewhere on the net that does a relatively good version of The Tell-Tale Heart, so I guess not all hope is lost!

    Unfortunately, Burton’s films have become a bit bland and overly perfected in the visual sense. I’m sort of in the mode of assuming that he will create some strong films in the future and that this is just a common cycle which has affected other creative people – great work….mediocre work….great work! I’d love to learn more about the reasons people don’t like Edward and so on – I can’t imagine watching it without feeling like someone is prodding my heart with knitting needles 🙁

    I think I’d probably be taken aside and reprimanded by film buffs if I said that I quite liked Batman…I felt it was a pretty good interpretation of the comic book side of things. It may not have had as much credibility as more recent interpretations, but there should really be two versions of these films – Comic book and then a version with more, shall we say, subtlety. If “Batman” is tamed any further, then we may as well start altering Dickens’ caricatures too.

    I feel like I’m repeating myself when I say – I thoroughly enjoyed this list!

  12. Avatar
    sundryandco Reply

    @JasonW “What a visionary Tim Burton is! I haven’t always loved his films but the ones I do love I could watch every day!” That summed up in two sentences what I didn’t quite manage to say in about six paragraphs!

    A visionary, not without flaws, but when he does it well, he does it very well…in a neatly mad way 🙂

  13. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @sundryandco: The site’s longest reply! I’m going to have to dig out a prize for that! 🙂

    But I honestly agree with you regarding Tim Burton’s ability to be hit and miss. I think his visual sensibilities will always set him apart but they can’t cover up holes in character or plot (re: Alice in Wonderland, Planet of the Apes, Mars Attacks) and I think he becomes too complacent and relies on his style when the substance is lacking. When it comes together I think he’s made some of the best and most unique films of the last 30 years.

  14. Avatar
    sundryandco Reply

    @Dan I remember reading a quote from Tim Burton (I’ll see if I can track it down) where he said that the story isn’t important and it’s all about the visuals. To me, that’s like saying that the lyrics of a song don’t matter once the melody is brilliant. If there were no lyrics to begin with, that would be fine, so in one respect he has the right idea, but noone would want to hear someone singing the Raindrop Prelude using the lyrics “Blah, blah, blah” all the way through – So, in the same way, Burton should either have a completely plotless film or get the plot right! Otherwise the bland story distracts (and detracts!) from the visuals, no matter how much he believes that the former should not affect the latter. I wonder how a plotless film would work…Maybe a silent film..although you’d still have a plot, wouldn’t you. Even a series of unrelated scenes would tell a story, if only as perceived by the viewer. Does plotlessness even exist? I do believe I have confused myself to the point of no return. He needs to learn from Guy Maddin and get back to his roots of madness and inaccessibility 🙂

    I hope I get a prize of an imaginary work placement with Tim Burton. Ooooh, fingers crossed, everybody!

  15. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @sundryandco: I think the likes of Man with a Movie Camera and Koyaanisqatsi are generally considered as plot-less.

    I’d be interested in seeing/reading that interview where Burton says story isn’t as important as visuals. I think the biggest argument against that is a film could have bland photography and yet have great characters and story. I watched Kes recently – a wonderful film but its low budget and the fact Ken Loach was directing meant the visuals were fairly bland. But they worked for the realistic approach to the story and the working class lifestyle of Britain in the period. That for me is so much more important than great visuals. Alice In Wonderland might look nice but I really didn’t like it. When he gets a happy medium between visuals and story he makes some fine films.

  16. Avatar
    filmgurl Reply

    Neat list of characters! His characters are so unique with personality. Some of these characters are a major blast from the past. It makes me want to re-visit a few, thanks for sharing! 🙂

  17. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Shortest comment. Win.

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