Tim Burton is a top director, producer, and screenwriter famous for creating dark films that offer an excellent mix of horror and fantasy. Watching his movies, such as Batman Returns, Beetlejuice, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, is always guaranteed to be a fantastic experience. Importantly, Tim Burton characters help to bring the story alive making his films even more impressive.
Characters in Tim Burton movies are unique - they are characterized by dark, gloomy visuals, with heavy gothic influence. This unique style, combined with his excellent film scripts and choice of actors, makes them truly remarkable.
The best of Tim Burton characters
There are several dozen Tim Burton movie characters. Some of them never even came to light, with the producer having several unrealized projects. Here are 15 outstanding cast members that you need to know:
1. The Joker in Batman
There are several Joker characters in movies and TV shows that have been created over the years. And while he might not be the best, the Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman is a top contender. The character is played by Jack Nicholson and is one of the highlights of the film.
In the movie, the character is given a unique origin story that makes him even more enjoyable. His mood switches (from sad to serious), terrible comedy, and creepy smile will leave an impression when watching the film.
2. The Penguin in Batman Returns
The Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot) is another iconic Tim Burton character in the 1992 film Batman Returns. Portrayed by Danny DeVito, Penguin is the main antagonist in the movie. Unlike other Penguin characters, where he is shown as an elegant crime boss, Tim chose a much darker image.
Gone was the reasonable villain, and in his place instead, a deranged politician. Burton also decided to alter his physical appearance, giving him an animal-like look.
3. Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas
Ever wondered who Tim Burton's favourite character is? It is none other than Jack Skellington from the film, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Looking at many Tim Burton characters’ drawings, you will notice Jack Skellington features the signature Burton dark style.
Burton manages to bring out a creepy and frightening vibe – a fitting depiction for someone designed to instil fear into people. But Skellington is more than just a frightening character; he is given a great storyline that makes him human. This makes him one of the most memorable characters ever. It is no surprise that he makes cameo appearances in subsequent Tim Burton movies.
4. The Cheshire Cat in Alice in the Wonderland
The Cheshire Cat is one of the top Alice in Wonderland Tim Burton characters. He is Tarrant’s (the Mad Hatter) bodyguard and the leader of the resistance. He is shown to be a cat with shapeshifting and evaporating skills, where he appears and disappears at a moment’s notice.
However, what makes The Cheshire Cat impressive is his personality. He is smart and tends to become smug and sarcastic. He is also shown to have a dark, creepy personality. In an interview, Burton revealed that his hatred of cats influenced the character's personality.
5. Edward Scissorhands in Edward Scissorhands
The titular character in the 1990 fantasy film Edward Scissorhands is another iconic figure in Tim Burton’s films. It was inspired by a drawing he created as a teenager while growing up in the suburbs. Scissorhands is a humanoid, created by the Inventor with incomplete body form, hence the scissors.
Like many other Burton’s characters, Scissorhands has a dark vibe, and you would almost expect him to be the villain. However, he manages to bring out his human side with a moving storyline that makes the audience sympathetic.
6. The Betelgeuse in the Beetlejuice
The titular character in the 1998 comedy horror film Beetlejuice is another of the top Burton characters of all time. He is a self-proclaimed bio-exorcist hired by a recently deceased couple to scare intruders from their former home.
At first, Betelgeuse seems like a fun ghost. However, it is soon revealed that he is anything but. He is rude, vulgar, and a little psychopathic. He also takes great pleasure in tormenting other characters, even likeable ones. However, Burton's direction and Michael Keaton's portrayal of the character is impressive.
7. Sweeney Todd
Sweeney Todd is a popular villain character appearing in Victorian-era dramatizations. He appears in Tim Burton’s 2007 movie, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The character is portrayed by Johnny Deep, who appears in several of his films.
With Burton’s movie being a horror musical, creating a dark yet playful character would not be easy. However, he does a great job balancing the character’s personality, ensuring that his dark nature is not too gruesome for the audience.
8. The Mad Hatter in Alice in the Wonderland
Tarrant Hightopp (The Mad Hatter) is another character appearing in Burton's Alice in the Wonderland film. He is also another one of his characters portrayed by Johnny Deep. He is described as being an exaggerated and bitter person who is the leader of the resistance.
However, Burton and Deep worked together to create a relatable character, despite his bitter dark nature. In the end, he is shown to have different personalities, some being quite extreme but entirely captivating. Tim Burton characters’ costumes are a regular feature in costume role-play events and during Halloween holidays.
9. Sparky in Frankenweenie
Frankenweenie is a 2012 3D feature film, directed by Tim Burton, a remake of his 1984 short film. Unlike many of his other films, it was not a hit, but it was popular nonetheless. One of the things that captivated fans was his character Sparky.
Sparky is Frankenstein’s dog, who dies before he is brought back to life. He helps humanize Frankenstein's character – who is portrayed as a young boy missing his pet and not a mad scientist.
10. Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas
Sally is one of the top Tim Burton female characters whom he created personally. She appears in the 1993 dark Christmas-Halloween movie, the Nightmare Before Christmas. She is shown as a toxicologist rag doll who uses poisons to free herself.
While the film is about monsters supposed to inflict fear in the town dwellers, Sally is different. She is shy, curious, and independent. And despite all the challenges she faces, she manages to stitch herself together and press on.
11. Emily the Corpse Bride in Corpse Bride
Emily is the titular character in Burton’s 2005 animated musical fantasy film, The Corpse Bride. Played by Helena Carter, Emily is portrayed as a young animated corpse who was a beautiful, wealthy lady in her lifetime.
By simply looking at her, you are likely to assume that Emily is a monster, given that she is a revenant. You might also mistake her for being naïve and gullible after a few scenes. However, Burton gives her a fantastic personality – quirky charisma and a love of music and dance, making her lovable.
12. Alice Kingsleigh in Alice in the Wonderland
Alice Kingsleigh is another iconic Tim Burton's character appearing in his film, Alice in Wonderland. The individual was portrayed by Mia Wasikowska, with her personality created by screenwriter Linda Woolverton.
What makes the character iconic is her deviation from the norm of young women in the Victorian era, the film's setting. She is brave and independent, stubborn, and anything but girlie. Woolverton revealed that she researched how Victorian women behaved, then made Alice's personality the exact opposite.
13. Willy Wonka
Willy Wonka is a popular character appearing in children’s novels, films, and TV shows. The character also appeared in Burton’s adaptation film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Like several other characters, Wonka was brought to life by Johnny Deep.
Willy Wonka has a dark vibe, with the character sporting Burton’s signature dark, gothic style. As a result, bringing him into a children's film was a pretty challenging task. However, Burton and Deep make him likeable and unforgettable by giving him a unique, quirky personality.
14. Miss Alma Peregrine
Miss Alma Peregrine is a character in Burton's 2016 film Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Unfortunately, when making the film, the iconic director lacked the services of his two top actors – Johnny Dep and Helena Carter, who were behind his most iconic characters. However, Eva Green does a great job of playing the role, making her a fan favourite.
Miss Alma Peregrine is the headmistress of the children's home, portrayed as intelligent and strict yet caring. And while the film was not a hit as others directed by Burton, Eva Green's dark charm and charisma when playing Alma are iconic.
15. The Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow
The 1999 supernatural movie Sleepy Hollow was designed to be just a low-budget slasher film. However, after Burton was brought on board, he turned it into a romantic one, with all the gore intact.
One of the top characters of the film is the headless horseman, a brutal mercenary from the American Revolution war who terrorizes and kills the villagers. Like many other individuals, he is heavily inspired by gothic art. His appearance alone is enough to terrify the audience, making for one formidable and unforgettable villain.
Who are your favourite Tim Burton Characters? The above are some of the most iconic individuals created by Burton or those he brought to life as a director or producer. Nearly all of them feature a dark, creepy vibe, but they are nonetheless prevalent.
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