The king of Halloween: Tim Burton’s best movies, ranked

The king of Halloween: Tim Burton’s best movies, ranked

Halloween wouldn’t be the same holiday we know and love today without the past few decades of director Tim Burton’s vivid imagination and spooky aesthetic. Check out some of his best movies to date and stream one this month for a fun and spooky evening, guaranteed. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas

As much of a modern-day Christmas classic as it is a Halloween favorite, The Nightmare Before Christmas makes for essential fall and winter watching. The crown jewel of Burton’s career, this beloved, uniquely original stop-motion masterpiece earns a 95% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Whether you’re watching it for the first time or the fiftieth, you’re in for a trick and a treat with unforgettable music (and vocals!) by composer and musician Danny Elfman — Jack Skellington himself. 

“Part avant-garde art film, part amusing but morbid fairy tale,” The LA Times calls it “a delightfully ghoulish holiday musical that displays more inventiveness in its brief 75 minutes than some studios can manage in an entire year.”

Ed Wood

This little-known Burton film happens to be one of his best. Hailed as a “comedic masterpiece,” 1994’s Ed Wood stars the director’s favorite leading man Johnny Depp as the eponymous real-life eccentric director and Hollywood outcast. Following his personal idiosyncrasies, as well as his filmmaking failures and misadventures (among them a few creature features), The Guardian asserts that with the black-and-white noir, “Burton imitates Wood ‘s films brilliantly, and Wood’s chaotic lifestyle is brought to the screen with brio.” Watch out for Sarah Jessica Parker and Patricia Arquette in supporting roles.

Edward Scissorhands

Depp’s portrayal of a different, much more widely-known Edward makes this list as well. Another completely original vision from Burton that works just as well for Halloween as it does Christmas, the beloved Edward Scissorhands made for an instant cult classic upon its release in 1990. In a world where suburban social dynamics are scarier than the supernatural, “Burton’s modern fairytale has an almost palpably personal feel,” according to The Telegraph. “It is told gently, subtly and with infinite sympathy for an outsider who charms the locals but then inadvertently arouses their baser instincts.” A memorably blonde Winona Ryder co-stars.


This Disney-backed, stop-motion feature follows young Victor Frankenstein, a middle school kid/scientist, who succeeds in bringing his beloved Bull Terrier Sparky back to life. Based on a live action short film the director made in 1984 as a parody and homage to Frankenstein, this full-length effort was a commercial and critical success. And while “admittedly less eccentric and more classic in style than some of Burton’s acclaimed earlier works,” Sight & Sound says “Frankenweenie is still chock-full of the filmmaker’s old dark magic.” Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short lend their voices to Victor’s loving parents. 

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Not for the faint of heart, this blood-filled Broadway show turned film, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is another Burton fan favorite. Starring, yet again, Depp — alongside the late, great Alan Rickman, Christina Ricci and Burton’s long-time (now ex) partner Helena Bonham Carter — this horror-fest is perfect for lovers of gothic and gore. “Full of pith and Grand Guignol grossness, this macabre musical is perfectly helmed and highly entertaining,” according to Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics Consensus. “Tim Burton masterfully stages the musical in a way that will make you think he has done this many times before.” 


This true gem of absurdist filmmaking centers on the trials and tribulations of an all-together normal, wholesome, recently-deceased couple — perfectly played by Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin. The star, however, is the “deliciously manic” Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse: a rowdy (to say the least), undead fellow hired to scare away the new family that’s taken up residence in the couple’s home. With a vision of the afterlife that we’ve never seen before or since (think hell’s DMV), this off-the-wall movie should be at the top of any Halloween-lover’s streaming list.


Keaton strikes again as Burton’s Batman, in a role that can’t get much more opposite than the last. As a dark and brooding version of the superhero, he faces off Jack Nicholson’s unforgettable turn as The Joker as he tries to protect Gotham, his identity and his lady-love (Kim Basinger). Burton’s vision creates a broken Batman, driven by demons and on the brink of insanity, which makes for a “a psycho thriller posing as an action-adventure movie,” according to the Miami Herald. “A breathtaking ride through a fun-house populated with all-too-believable ghouls, phantoms and tortured souls.”

Sleepy Hollow

Based on Washington Irving’s classic short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (published in 1819 alongside Rip Van Winkle), this is the tale of the unusually superstitious Ichabod Crane (Depp) and his fascination with the Headless Horseman. Set in the long-believed to be haunted village of Tarrytown, New York in 1799, the film reimagines the character as an investigator looking into a series of murders, but where there is magic afoot, things are seldom as they seem. Ricci co-stars in this visually stunning, Hollywood-driven effort.

What’s your favorite Tim Burton movie to watch at Halloween or any time of year? Let us know @DIRECTV!

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