Tim Burton has produced, directed, and written films that have been carried through decades. Some of these films are even holiday traditions- like The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Edward Scissorhands (1990). His most notorious films created abstract worlds and stories that spanned the worlds between life and death, dealt with love, acceptance, and identity, and gave us stories that we're eager to share with our younger siblings and children. Even his most abstract pieces of work like Mars Attacks! (1996) are some of my favorite films to revel in all its weirdness and fun.
With all of these amazingly creative and reimagined stories, there has also come a massive assemblage of memorable and lovable characters. From Jack Skellington to his re-adaptation of Willy Wonka and Alice in Wonderland, these characters have been over-exaggerated and completely complex people that capture an essence of unconventionality and uniqueness that many others don't attempt to. Many creators, however, have followed in the steps of Tim Burton, creating wonderfully different characters that don't always fit in, but enhance the beautiful nature of sometimes misunderstood and empathetic creatures.
His characters and films have been so influential in pop culture that they prompted many exhibitions and tributes on his work around the world. What I have love most about Tim Burton's wacky characters, is their ability to capture a personality of jagged edges and floral colors, with a depth that captures loneliness but hope as well. I will always love Tim Burton's film because of the joy they brought me as a child and the comfort and understanding they continue to bring me as an adult.
With that being said, here is a ranked list of my top 15 favorite Tim Burton characters (reimagined and original.) I love all of his characters, all the way from the dead receptionist to his versions of the Batman characters, but I narrowed it down to a sweet 15 list of main characters to make this as easy to get through as possible.
15. Willy Wonka (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005)- I had the genuine blessing of growing up on both Gene Wilder's classic, bewildering Willy Wonka and the eccentric, and sometimes creepy, 2005 readaptation from Johnny Depp. This Willy Wonka made my top 15 list, maybe partly because of nostalgia (but so did most of this list), but also because it was his funky nature that made him so much fun to watch as a kid. Willy Wonka is definitely one of those complex characters that Tim Burton mixed up a little. Much more than the original, we learn that this new Willy Wonka has some serious trust issues and daddy issues. Nonetheless, his wonky nature and hilarious indifference to the children make him my number 15 spot.
Favorite Quote: "Good morning Star-shine! The Earth says hello!"
14. Ichabod Crane (Sleepy Hollow 1999)- Taking the number 14 spot for me is Ichabod Crane from the 1999 film Sleepy Hallow. There's something about the grey filtered editing that makes the aesthetic of Johnny Depp's Ichabod Crane more appealing. His queasy stomach and unconventional detective skills were something I have been watching since I was a kid. Ichabod is a double-left footed man with a nasally and witty personality, who was also a technical genius. He solved the crime of Sleepy Hallow and created a hilariously dark adventure while doing so. What definitely appeals me even more than the character is the overall directing of the film. The cartoonish, yet gory and mature, nature of the film make it a must-watch every Halloween.
Favorite Quote: "There's not a horseman, there never was a horseman, and there never will be a horseman."
13. Kim and Peg (Edward Scissorhands 1990)- I had to put these two together, because I couldn't choose just one. Edward Scissorhands is truly a beautiful film in every way possible- from the characters, to the storyline, and to the overall cinematography of it all. What's even better is the true villains of this film are the 'normal' people. It captures the hum-drum boredom and hypocrisy of suburban life, and that only highlights the kindness and grace of both Kim and Peg. As they're the only ones who genuinely love and accept Edward, they experience hardship but also something extraordinary in their ability to see beauty in even the strangest creatures.
Favorite Quote: "You see, before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did. If he weren't up there now... I don't think it would be snowing. Sometimes, you can still catch me dancing in it."
12. James Trotter (James and the Giant Peach 1996)- James is one of the sweetest, most influential characters of my childhood. I was watching James and the Giant Peach with my mom in our living room as a kid. As he slips away into a cartoon world, away from every trouble he ever had in his life, he offers hope and peace for anyone watching his good nature. His relationship with all of the bugs residing in the giant peach is a metaphor and lesson in positivity and love for all children and adults watching it. James and the Giant Peach is truly one of the best family films to date, and it captures an innocence and vibrance that many others fall short of, and although every character contributes to this story, it's James character that drives the audience and touches them.
Favorite Quote: "Excuse me, sir, can you tell me where the Empire State Building is?"
11. Victor Frankenstein (Frankenweenie 2012)- "He's ALIIIVEEEE. He's ALLIIIIIVEEEEEEE."
In his 2012 film Frankenweenie, Tim Burton reimagines one of the most influential horror characters and stories of all time and turns it into a genuinely lovely family film for all ages. In this version, Victor Frankenstein is a teenage boy who is massively misunderstood because of his genius mind and introverted nature. All he cares about is his puppy, Sparky. His attempt to hold on to the most precious and loving bond he has in his life is truly admirable and heartbreaking altogether. I'll never forget going to watch this film on a whim because I had free tickets and coming out teary-eyed, and I never regretted it.
Favorite Quote: "I don't want him in my heart. I want him here with me."
10. Miss Peregrine (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 2016)- My number 10 spot goes to the amazing Miss Peregrine. Miss Peregrine is another one of those beautifully crafted eccentric and badass characters. This film has received criticism for its storyline, but it's the characters that salvage it completely. Miss Peregrine is the headmistress of the home for Peculiar Children, and she not only has the ability to turn into a Peregrine bird, but she also has a fierce nature and motherly love for her children. Eva Green absolutely dominates the role, and made an outstanding, memorable mark on the film.
Favorite Quote: "Promise me one thing. Look after them, Jake."
9. Sweeney Todd (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 2007)- This is absolutely one of my favorite musicals. There is a dark theme of unrelenting revenge that drives the story, and it has beautiful numbers to match and elevate it. Sweeney Todd is an entrancing, mourning character that still has the ability to touch on your empathy, but swirls in and out of a blinding rage and lust for revenge that absolutely terrifies you. He is not a curated character from the mind of Tim Burton originally, but the retelling and direction of the film is something to marvel at. His heinous plot to slice, dice, and bake the people as an act of revenge is clever and nauseating all the same, making him a revenge hero, or villain, depending on your point of view.
Favorite Quote: "No, we all deserve to die... Even you, Mrs. Lovett, even I! Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief. For the rest of us death will be a relief. We all deserve to die."
8. Sparky (Frankenweenie 2012)- We have two good boyos on this top 15 list, and Sparky is one of them. He is truly the star of Frankenweenie. He is a sweetheart with a heart full of love, excitement, and loyalty. My heart was attached to Sparky from the first scene, and I longed for him to live longer just as much as Victor. He is a best friend and ball of literal joy and puppy innocence. I love this franken-doggie.
Favorite Quote (about Sparky): "When you lose someone you love they move into a special place in your heart."
7. Zero (The Nightmare Before Christmas 1993)- Our second best dogg-o is the red-nosed best friend of the pumpkin king. He guides Jack through the foggy night and follows him through every adventure. He is truly the best dog, and one of the first ones I fell in love with as a kid. He's just a perfectly happy ghost dog who wants to support his owner and enjoy life in Halloweentown. Truly an inspiration for us all.
Favorite Quote (about Zero): "You're the head of the team, Zero!"
6. Sally (The Nightmare Before Christmas 1993)- Sally is a charming and resistant character. She is the smartest character in Halloweentown, and she is also the most emotionally mature and thoughtful. It's not her loyalty to Jack that is admirable, but it's her insightful and empathetic nature that allows her to see in him what no one else sees. She is constantly underestimated and overlooked, but none of that matters to her. She is artistically independent, she trusts her heart, and she has a love for Jack that runs so deep and pure. This was one of my favorite love stories growing up- it was more in-depth and honest than anything else I had seen at the time.
Favorite Quote: "Although I'd like to join the crowd in their enthusiastic cloud, try as I may, it doesn't last."
5. Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice 1988)- First of my top 5 is Lydia Deetz. Lydia Deetz is the daughter of Delia and Charles, two completely opposite and clueless parents. Lydia is the original goth girl that I admired growing up. When her family moves into the house of a dead couple, Lydia befriends them using her melancholy and doom-gloom personality. She is strange and wonderfully dramatic. She is confident yet reserved and positively articulate. She was my favorite film character for a long time. I admired her gelled black hair and dark circled eyes. Winona Ryder takes over the role and makes it wonderfully unique and classic for every new generation of goth girls to look up to. It was Lydia Deetz who helped shape my melodramatic nature today.
Favorite Quote: "Live people ignore the strange and unusual. I, myself, am strange and unusual."
4. Edward Scissorhands (Edward Scissorhands 1990)- Edward is one of Tim Burton's most prominently abstract, misunderstood, and well-known characters. He is left alone after his owner dies before finishing his design, leaving him with dysfunctional scissors for hands. When he is taken from his lonely place to the suburbs with Peg, he finds that his solitude has ill-prepared him for the manipulative nature of people. He is innocent and gracious in his every action. His love has no conditions, and it's his pure nature that makes him an outsider to everyone else. He was misjudged and cast out, but he experienced love in the process, and he relished in the memory. This story always touches my heart to the core.
Favorite Quote: "People are afraid of me because I am different."
3. Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice 1988)- "Beetlejuice... Beetlejuice...Beetlejuice."
My number 3 spot is definitely the crazy, striped Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice, played by one of the best actors of our generation, Michael Keaton, is an eccentric demon who expels humans for the fellow dead. At least that's what his business card says, because he generally sucks at it, and he spend most of his time trying to sleaze his way into a teenage girls pants. He looks dirty and musty as hell, but he's an absolute riot and a fun time throughout the entire film. He's a terrible bad guy because of his lazy and incoherent nature. However, when I was small, he was scary enough to me. Now, I get that he's just a selfish, green demon with no friends and a wild and sexual personality.
Favorite Quote" "I've seen 'The Exorcist' about 167 times and it keeps getting funnier every single time I see it!" (He's also a secret film buff.)
2. Corpse Bride (Corpse Bride 2005)- Like many other Tim Burton films, Corpse Bride is a magnificent and complex story about pain, love, and manipulation. This corpse bride takes my number two spot, because I love her light spirit and tragic story. She has a charming and poetic personality. She was betrayed and murdered by the man she loved, but her determination never wavered. She sat with her finger in the ground, waiting for some rambling lonely man to propose to her so she can find love again. I never felt desperation in her story, just a determined love and a need for sharing it. She's witty and adorable and an absolute freaking icon. Her soul is literally full of butterflies,and there is no greater ending than when she finally gets her peace. I absolutely love this character and every line she says.
Favorite Quote: "I spent so long in the darkness, I'd almost forgotten how beautiful the moonlight is."
1. Jack Skellington (The Nightmare Before Christmas 1993)- The pumpkin king, himself, made it to the top of my very list. He is the original abstract character that we all fell in love with. His wandering nature and his wide, curious eyes paired with his yearning for self-actualization and his love for life and excitement make him one of my favorite characters created of all time. He is awkward and wildly misunderstood, but his unique personality is what many of Tim Burtons other characters (even other creative animated characters) were based on. He is the very blueprint. Jack yearns for something new, and he is tired of being told who he is, so when he stumbles into Christmas town he believes the exact opposite is what he needs. He's optimistic and child-spirited, and his intentions are pure, but his execution is flawed. Jack Skellington embodies the previously mentioned"jagged edge" personality. He is rewired to understand human interaction differently, therefore even his most noble deeds is taken the wrong way. No matter how unconventional his ways are, he is my favorite character from the Tim Burton universe. In fact, its his very uniqueness that I admire now and loved so much as a child.
Favorite Quote: "Of, there's an empty place in my bones that calls out for something unknown."
Author, Jacinda Perez
I am a current college student, with a passion for all things film, television, book, and coffee. she/her. check out more of my pieces on FLIPSCREENED!