Strange Characters: The Cinematic Pairings of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp

Photo taken from – all rights reserved to same – click through to read an interview with Tim Burton

Photo taken from – all rights reserved to same – click through to read an interview with Tim Burton

In anticipation of Tim Burton’s Big Eyes coming out on Christmas Day, I’ve been having my own Burton retrospective and recently watched Edward Scissorhands for the umpteenth time.  With this film, Burton found a kindred spirit in Johnny Depp that has survived over two decades and has resulted in some of Burton’s best-known films. While he isn’t in Big Eyes, Depp has starred in eight of Burton’s seventeen films. That is, when he isn’t busy making drunken appearances at awards shows or getting fossils named after him.

Below is my much mulled-over ranking of those eight Burton/Depp cinematic pairings.

8. Dark Shadows (2012)

This film had the potential to be a hit.  On paper, a film about a dysfunctional family with a vampire patriarch is right in Burton’s wheelhouse. And besides, he and Depp both had a fondness for the soap opera from which the movie was based.   Sadly, that passion is never present on-screen.  While Burton has previously struck a wonderful balance with macabre humor and black comedy, he falters and stumbles here.  Perhaps it was the audience’s vampire fatigue or the overwhelming presence of the juggernaut known as The Avengers, but the film only grossed just over half of its production budget.  This film, along with the next one, really made me question whether or not Burton and Depp’s artistic relationship had grown stagnant.

7. Alice in Wonderland (2010)

The movie that grossed over a billion dollars worldwide also has a 51% rating on Rotten Tomatoes so make of that what you will.  One would think that it would be a visual treat, but it’s apparent the actors are acting against a green screen for most of the film. The backgrounds look flat and lifeless and that’s exactly how I’d summarize the entire film—flat and lifeless.  It’s truly saying something when the scenes that take place before Alice falls down the rabbit hole look more vibrant than the scenes in Wonderland Underland.

Giving a plot to a story that famously had no plot could have worked, but Linda Woolverton concocted the most generic chosen-one-must-fulfill-a-prophecy-and-vanquish-evil plot imaginable.  It was doubly disappointing for me because longtime musical collaborator Danny Elfman’s score was one of the best he’s done in recent years.  I listened to the score before I saw the movie and it conjured up images of fantastical epics.  Sadly, the only thing fantastic about the movie is that someone thought it would be a good idea to commit this to film.

6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

I remember freaking out when that trailer came out and loved the movie when I saw it, but have since reassessed my opinion of it.  There’s nothing really technically wrong with it, nor is it a bad film; it’s just an unnecessary remake.  Then again, I don’t have an intense fondness tied to the original, despite Gene Wilder’s wonderful turn as the eccentric chocolate maker.  Still, this interpretation is closer to Roald Dahl‘s book and I actually prefer Elfman’s songs to the ones written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse.  Wilder’s interpretation was, and still is, iconic, so it was important for Depp to do something completely different in the role.  And, sure enough, he did.  I always felt that it was unfair that Depp’s performance was compared to Michael Jackson.  If you’ll recall, Michael Jackson loved kids.  Willy Wonka hated them and turned them into candy.  Get your facts right, Internet.

What are the top five Burton/Depp movies? Click through to find out!


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8 responses to “Strange Characters: The Cinematic Pairings of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp

  1. I do love Tim Burton but I must confess I’ve never seen Ed Wood. Not sure why. I think the fact it’s not a fantasy has probably got a lot to do with it (biased I know). But ignoring that I think I would agree with your list. Here’s a question – is one of these what you would consider the best film for either party? Personally I still think Beetlejuice is Burtons best. And for Depp? That’s a lot of films to wade through!

    • Thanks so much for your comment and that’s an excellent question! I have a soft spot for Beetlejuice and definitely think Burton needs to work with Michael Keaton again. I really believe that Burton’s best film is either Ed Wood or Big Fish. It’s interesting that you ask what I consider to be Depp’s best film because the original idea for this post was to rank my top five Johnny Depp films. While that is a lot of films to go through, I’d probably rank them something like this:

      5. Benny & Joon
      4. Finding Neverland
      3. Rango
      2. Ed Wood
      1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

      Of course, that leaves out great films like Blow, The Libertine, Dead Man and Pirates of the Caribbean. Ugh. Maybe I should rework it into a top ten list instead. :P


  2. I adore Johnny Depp, BUT hated his performance as a “chocolate maker”. Truth is I didn’t like the movie. Even the dwarfs were all wrong! “Model” didn’t look like a natural born dwarf, but a normal man who shrunk and accidentally hit the repeat button. The “difficult-dentist-dad” storyline didn’t convince me at all. Enjoyed reading your post!

  3. Reblogged this on awkward mix and commented:
    If you like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, this post is for you!

  4. Pingback: Dear Johnny Depp, | Eleventh Stack

  5. Pingback: Messrs. Riggs, Burton and Miss Peregrine | Eleventh Stack

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