1. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

IMDB Rating: 7.9/10
RottenTomatoes Rating: 90%

Storyline: Edward Scissorhands tells the story of a gentle and compassionate creation of a reclusive inventor who dies before he can physically complete his creation. Left with no one in the world and blades as hands, Edward must navigate a whole new world when a local Avon representative discovers him. He tries to fit into a strange suburban world where people fear and love him at the same time. His gothic exterior clashes with the colorful environment, but it’s his tender heart that leaves a lasting impact on the residents and viewers.

Why It’s a Major Movie: A beautiful, unique, and heartwrenching take on a modern day fairytale, Edward Scissorhands truly secured Burton’s reputation as a director with a quirky yet touching vision. The way the characters and their pastel-colored world are contrasted against Edward’s grim appearance and unconventional presence creates a visually stunning image that Burton is known for. This movie became a staple of Burton’s filmography and defined his style, characterized by its darkly whimsical and eccentric nature.

Why It’s a Major Movie: It’s the symbolism and metaphors scattered throughout the film that make it more than just a visually pleasing picture. The film deals with themes of isolation, self-discovery, acceptance and the ultimate human need to belong. This movie is a timeless masterpiece that combines both beauty and melancholy in equal measures, heavily emphasized by Johnny Depp’s compelling performance.

2. Beetlejuice (1988)

IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
RottenTomatoes Rating: 85%

Storyline: Beetlejuice is a dark comedy that revolves around the ghost couple, Adam and Barbara, who are trying to scare away the obnoxious new owners of their beloved country home. Desperate, they turn to Beetlejuice, a raucous spirit, whose “help” quickly becomes a problem in itself. The movie is an absurd but hilarious exploration of life after death.

Why It’s a Major Movie: Beetlejuice was Burton’s second feature, and it quickly cemented his reputation as a director with a wildly imaginative visual style. The film is not only funny, but it’s also a strangely whimsical exploration of death. Despite its dark theme, it’s filled with a bizarre kind of energy that keeps viewers engaged. The film’s effortless blend of horror and comedy became a signature trait of Burton’s ensuing films.

Why It’s a Major Movie: Beetlejuice was a success not just commercially but critically too. It was well-praised for its offbeat and macabre humor, quirky characters, and imaginative special effects. Michael Keaton’s performance as the delightfully wicked Beetlejuice steals the show and quickly turned him into a Hollywood A-lister. The movie’s iconic status is only amplified by its award-winning makeup and a catchy, calypso-infused soundtrack which is still as memorable today as it was at its release.

3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

IMDB Rating: 8.0/10
RottenTomatoes Rating: 95%

Storyline: “The Nightmare Before Christmas” follows the story of Jack Skellington, the beloved Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, who stumbles upon the magical world of Christmas Town. Inspired, he decides to bring Christmas to his home, but his understanding of the holiday leads to some strange and chaotic results.

Why It’s a Major Movie: As a stop-motion animated musical, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” showcased another side to Burton’s unique cinematic vision. The film is a bold genre-bending creation combining elements of horror, musical, and fantasy. Critically acclaimed for its creativity and inventiveness, the movie played a vital role in reviving the art of stop-motion animation.

Why It’s a Major Movie: On another level, this film is a major movie because though it’s ostensibly a kids’ film, it also resonates with adults. The movie’s exploration of Jack’s struggle with identity and disillusionment is a theme that resonates with a broad audience. The film’s magical animation, memorable characters, catchy musical numbers, and tender love story between Jack and Sally continue to charm viewers, making it a classic piece of Burton’s filmography.

4. Big Fish (2003)

IMDB Rating: 8.0/10
RottenTomatoes Rating: 75%

Storyline: “Big Fish” tells the story of Edward Bloom, a larger-than-life character who has always told exaggerated stories about his
Youth. Edward’s adult son, estranged due to a lifetime of tall tales, returns home to his dying father and tries to decipher the truth in his father’s incredible anecdotes, discovering their shared narrative along the way.

Why It’s a Major Movie: “Big Fish” is a showcase of Burton’s unique, vibrant, and visionary style, but it also delves into more weighty themes of family and mortality, allowing for a more profound storytelling experience. Easily one of Burton’s most emotionally resonant and touching films, the movie is packed with whimsical anecdotes, heartfelt moments, and visually stunning sequences.

Why It’s a Major Movie: The movie stands out in Burton’s repertoire due to its focus on a father-son relationship and the theme of reconciliation. Addressing themes of understanding, acceptance, love, and loss, “Big Fish” is unique in how it marries Burton’s imaginative visuals with a heartwarming narrative. This film proved Burton’s ability to deliver profound and emotionally touching stories wrapped in his signature aesthetically pleasing style.

5. Batman (1989)

IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
RottenTomatoes Rating: 71%

Storyline: Offering an entirely new take on the superhero genre, “Batman” tells the origin story of billionaire Bruce Wayne and his crime-fighting alter ego, Batman. The vigilante battles his arch-nemesis, the Joker, while confronting his own past and the thin line that separates hero from vigilante.

Why It’s a Major Movie: Tim Burton’s “Batman” represents a significant achievement in the history of superhero cinema. The film was credited for redefining the genre, with a darker, more serious tone in contrast to the colorful campiness of previous iterations. Packed with Burton’s unique blend of gothic aesthetics, the movie is heavy on atmosphere and rich character development.

Why It’s a Major Movie: Burton’s big-budget rendition of Batman stands as an exemplary piece of superhero cinema that paved the way for future adaptations. Groundbreaking in its darker portrayal of a superhero, unforgettable performances by Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, and Danny Elfman’s brooding score, this film remains a classic in the superhero genre.

6. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
RottenTomatoes Rating: 85%

Storyline: “Sweeney Todd” follows the vengeful journey of Benjamin Barker, a barber who returns to London after being wrongfully imprisoned. Adopting the name Sweeney Todd, he cuts more than hair, conspiring with his neighbor to turn his victims into meat pies.

Why It’s a Major Movie: This movie stands out in Burton’s filmography as his first and only musical thriller to date. His gothic and grotesque style was a perfect match for the dreary and macabre tale of Sweeney Todd. The film capitalizes on its intriguing concept, mashing together horror, comedy, and music to create an atmospheric and memorable experience.

Why It’s a Major Movie: Full of blood, gore, and stunning musical numbers, the film was a commercial success and won Burton his first Golden Globe for Best Direction. Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Sweeney Todd was critically acclaimed, earning him an Academy Award nomination. The grim, gritty aesthetics, combined with lyrical genius and brilliant performances make this film an extraordinary addition to Burton’s career.

7. Corpse Bride (2005)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
RottenTomatoes Rating: 84%

Storyline: In “Corpse Bride,” a nervous groom named Victor ruins his wedding rehearsal and runs away, practicing his vows in a nearby forest. When he places the wedding ring on what he believes to be a branch, he unwittingly marries the Corpse Bride, a skeletal beauty who takes him to the Land of the Dead in this enchanting stop-motion tale.

Why It’s a Major Movie: “Corpse Bride” showcases Burton’s ability to render dark fantasy tales filled with whimsical charm and eerie beauty. His use of stop-motion animation allows for visually stunning scenes, while his dark yet colorful pallet, along with the touching love story, create a unique movie-watching experience. It stands out as another testament to Burton’s mastery at melding the macabre with the heartfelt.

Why It’s a Major Movie: The film does not shy away from Burton’s signature style of gothic charm that has made him one of Hollywood’s most unique voices. It balances the humor and romance with darker themes of death and unrequited love. Its success lies in its visual brilliance, stellar voice performances, and imaginative storytelling, making it a classic Burton film.

8. Sleepy Hollow (1999)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
RottenTomatoes Rating: 68%

Storyline: In this gothic horror film, Ichabod Crane, a New York cop, is sent to investigate several beheadings in the small village of Sleepy Hollow. Crane, a man of science, must confront his rational beliefs as he comes face-to-face with the legendary Headless Horseman in this frightening mystery.

Why It’s a Major Movie: A beautiful homage to classic horror films, “Sleepy Hollow” boasts splendidly gloomy visuals that perfectly fit Burton’s film universe. Its atmospheric tension, mounting suspense, and stunning set designs transport viewers into a dark, fearful, but also magically captivating place. Johnny Depp’s performance as the quirky but brave Ichabod Crane adds another dimension of appeal to the film.

Why It’s a Major Movie: “Sleepy Hollow” was appreciated for successfully turning a well-known ghost story into a visually stunning, horror-filled tale without losing the essence of the original story. The film’s successful blending of horror and mystery with a hint of romance and comedy make it another standout achievement in Burton’s diverse list of films. Burton’s unique interpretation of the timeless tale introduced a fresh and exciting experience for audiences, making it a memorable part of his filmography.