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7. Batman Returns (1992)
This better-than-average sequel is all about balance. Danny DeVito's manic Penguin makes up for Michelle Pfeiffer's boring Catwoman, and an army of penguins outfitted with explosives makes up for everything else.
6. Batman (1989)
While The Dark Knight's grittiness makes Burton's Batman look cartoonish, in 1989, this was as dark as comic-book movies had ever gotten, a far cry from the over-the-top camp of the Adam West Batman. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari-inflected production design still holds up.
5. Beetlejuice (1988)
With enough pop-culture references or reruns on TBS, even the greatest movie moments can get tired. But Beetlejuice's scene of yuppies forced to dance to Harry Belafonte seems to be in no danger of getting old. And the bizarre sculptures, the claymation, and the Winona Ryder hairdos are all the stuff of SNL sketches spoofing Burton now, but in 1988, they were radical in every sense of the word.
4. Big Fish (2003)
In Burton's recent work, the director has seemed set on self-parody, phoning in candy-colored goth design while neglecting what's actually a considerable gift for storytelling. Big Fish is an exception. Although it features giants and werewolves, at heart, it's a charming story about family, told with a warmth Burton would do well to revisit.
3. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
It would be easy to credit the success of this movie to Paul Reubens' performance, but Pee-Wee would have fallen flat if he hadn't had Burton's world to adventure through. The lackluster sequel a few years later proves how integral Burton's influence was to the film.
2. Ed Wood (1994)
This might have been the story that Burton was born to tell, given the material that Ed Wood's life offered. Johnny Depp's confidence in a skirt and sweater set and Bill Murray's deadpan performance are what really take it from interesting biopic to great film.
1. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
It's almost hard to watch Burton's greatest film now, because so much of what made it great has gone so bad (Winona Ryder's career, Johnny Depp in pancake makeup, etc.). Still, it earns the top spot for Depp's seemingly effortless performance as the shy, troubled creature — and for capturing how "bright and perfect" can be just as unsettling as "dark and gloomy."