12 Tim Burton Movies You Should Watch This Halloween

Over the course of his career, Tim Burton has become a master of the spooky aesthetic. Ever since the release of his debut directorial feature, 1985's "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," Burton has been a singular voice in Hollywood who speaks for outcasts, weirdos, and everyone looking for a place to belong in the world. In addition, his films often feature bizarre creatures, supernatural hijinks, and a macabre sense of humor. As a result, his films make great choices for your Halloween movie marathon.

With films that range from the genuinely scary to hauntingly beautiful, there's a Tim Burton film for practically every Halloween vibe. Whether you're looking for animated family fare, creepy camp classics, or a beautiful horror film that'll give you nightmares, here are the Tim Burton movies you should watch this Halloween.


An animated feature adaptation of Burton's classic live-action short film, "Frankenweenie" follows Victor Frankenstein, a young boy whose best friend is his dog, Sparky. When Sparky unexpectedly dies, Victor refuses to accept reality, and uses all of his power, abilities, and scientific knowledge to bring his beloved dog back from the dead. 

Victor is elated, but he has to get his family and the rest of the town on board. See, everyone else considers Sparky a monster, especially since Sparky isn't quite the same as he used to be. Halloween can mean many different things to people, including a chance to honor those who have passed on. "Frankenweenie" teaches kids of all ages what it means to deal with loss. While the film has its flaws, it's a genuinely heartwarming Halloween tale full of classic horror references, and showcases the best of Burton's ability to combine the light and the dark.

Edward Scissorhands

Easily one of Burton's best and most beloved films, "Edward Scissorhands" is a tragic supernatural romance in which Johnny Depp plays the eponymous character, a boy brought to life by a sweet but eccentric inventor (Vincent Price). The inventor dies before he has the chance to finish his creation, leaving the boy with scissors for hands and no ability to fend for himself. As he ventures out into the world of suburbia, people are afraid, but that doesn't stop Edward from falling in love with Kim (Winona Ryder), the daughter of the family who takes him in. 

Edward begins to find his way in the world as he becomes friends with Kim and utilizes his unique skills to style hair and shrubs, slowly becoming accepted by the community. But, of course, fear of the unknown wins out, and Edward and Kim have to fight to escape the judgment of outsiders. "Edward Scissorhands" highlights Tim Burton's love of outcasts, using the best of his Gothic aesthetic to create a creepy but family-friendly Halloween setting.

Sleepy Hollow

Perhaps the scariest film on this list, "Sleepy Hollow" is Tim Burton's take on Washington Irving's classic Halloween tale. Johnny Depp stars once again as the queasy but dogged constable Ichabod Crane, who is sent to the quiet and close-knit village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of decapitations. 

Sleepy Hollow is haunted by the legend of the Headless Horseman (Christopher Walken), a ghost from the Revolutionary War. When the Horseman's head is stolen from his grave, he comes back from the dead to collect heads of Sleepy Hollow residents until his own is returned. Ichabod has to work to determine who has the head and how to save the town, all while falling in love with Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci). 

Even with some genuinely scary violence and gore, "Sleepy Hollow" maintains Burton's dreamlike horror aesthetic, and comes with a solid story that makes it a must-see Halloween film.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

An adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler musical, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" features Johnny Depp — yes, again — in the title role. The film follows Sweeney Todd, formerly known as Benjamin Barker, a barber who goes into business with a baker, Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter). 

In a former life, Barker had been a happily married family man with a daughter, Johanna (Jayne Wisener), before the menacing Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) falsely accused him of a crime and sent him to prison. After leaving prison, Todd sets up shop as a barber and begins to kill his clients. Mrs. Lovett turns them into pies they sell in the shop, while Todd waits to exact his revenge on the judge. Though the movie received mixed reviews, its premise and macabre atmosphere make for a fun and thrilling Halloween treat — it has plenty of gore and some real scares, too.

Mars Attacks!

Aliens may not be what most people think of when it comes to Halloween, but when Tim Burton puts his spin on them, they can be fun, campy, and scary. "Mars Attacks!" is Burton's sendup of the classic Hollywood sci-fi movie and follows a group of humans trying to survive a Martian invasion of Earth. 

When the government sees a series of flying saucers making their way towards our planet, officials are convinced by a scientist (Pierce Brosnan) that the Martians will have a civilized and peaceful culture, and decide to welcome the Martians with open arms — a deadly mistake. As the two planets go to war, the film follows the various characters who try to survive the chaos and cruelty of the Martian attacks, including the President (Jack Nicholson). "Mars Attacks!" is genuinely funny and scary, making for a great Halloween watch for those who want something both campy and creepy.

Corpse Bride

A spiritual successor to "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Corpse Bride" uses a similar style of stop-motion animation to tell a haunted love story. Victor (Johnny Depp) is set to marry Victoria (Emily Watson) in an arranged marriage. Nervous over the fact that he doesn't know her, Victor heads to the woods to practice his vows and accidentally wakes the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter), unwittingly marrying her in the process. 

At first, Victor is repulsed by the Corpse Bride, but as he gets to know her, he finds that there's lots about her to love. As in many Tim Burton stories, Victor finds himself torn between the regular (Victoria) and the alluringly supernatural (the Corpse Bride). "Corpse Bride" features lots of spooky skeletal creatures and a paranormal romance that's perfect for those who want a light and spooky Halloween flick.


"Beetlejuice" is so beloved that it was adapted into a Broadway musical, and may be the most Halloween-y film of all on our list. Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam (Alec Baldwin) are an average young, married couple who die in a tragic car accident — but that's only the beginning of their story. The couple have no clue how to be ghosts, despite the handbook they find in their house after they die. Tied to their former home (which they now haunt), they have to figure out how to kick out the new family who has moved in. 

Thanks to the help of Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), Barbara and Adam learn how to take their hauntings to the next level. But as they grow closer with the family's daughter, Lydia (Winona Ryder), they end up realizing that they don't want to hurt the new residents or scare them away. "Beetlejuice" has lots of genuine scares and laughs, and is a sweet paranormal story that's perfect for All Hallow's Eve.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

While Burton did not direct "The Nightmare Before Christmas," the film is still one of his most famous stories — Burton came up with the idea, and was intimately involved in its production. The movie follows the King of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon), who becomes bored with living through the same holiday year after year. One day, Jack accidentally discovers Christmas Town, a place full of joy and presents that feels like the opposite of the ghoulish Halloween Town. 

And so, Jack decides that he wants to bring some Christmas into Halloween — but neither he nor his subjects understand what makes the holiday special. As Jack tries to learn the meaning of Christmas, he discovers that the missing piece of his life might have been in Halloween Town all along as he gets to know Sally (Catherine O'Hara), who has loved him from afar the whole time. "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is a family-friendly adventure and the perfect bridge between Halloween and Christmas seasons.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Based on the novels by Ransom Riggs, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" is one of Burton's more successful recent films, combining the best of his oddball sense of whimsy and his creepy aesthetic. The story follows Jake (Asa Butterfield), a young boy whose grandfather, Abe (Terence Stamp), dies under mysterious circumstances. While Jake's family assumes the death was normal, Jake remembers the stories his grandfather told him when he was little about a home for children with special abilities, and decides to go to Wales to find out the truth for himself. 

What follows is a mystery across time featuring "peculiars," or children with various awesome (and creepy) gifts, all of whom Jake befriends in an effort to protect them and their home. The story itself is a bit confusing, but Burton does an excellent job making a spooky film for kids and teens that will set the mood for Halloween.

Dark Shadows

A remake of the cult classic '70s vampire soap opera, "Dark Shadows" is arguably the worst of Burton's films. However, if you love vampires and campy movies, it's full of fun Halloween vibes. 

Burton's longtime friend and collaborator, Johnny Depp, stars once again as vampire playboy Barnabas Collins. At the beginning of the film, Barnabas is cursed by his jilted lover, a witch named Angelique (Eva Green), who buries him alive until he's inadvertently freed two centuries later. When Barnabas awakens, he discovers that his beloved family estate is in ruins and that his surviving descendants are dealing with their own set of problems, leading to a kooky vampire family drama. 

Again, "Dark Shadows" was widely panned and is largely a mess, but if you're looking for lighter fare this Halloween, "Dark Shadows" may be up your alley, especially if you love anything and everything vampire.

Batman Returns

The sequel to Burton's superhero blockbuster finds Bruce Wayne facing the Penguin (Danny DeVito) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) at Christmastime. At the beginning of the film, we learn that the Penguin is an orphan, rejected by his parents for his appearance. As a result, he wants to know where he came from, but doesn't have the means to do it other than committing crimes. While Penguin vies for respect, Batman also battles Catwoman, unwittingly falling in love with her when their masks come off. 

While the Joker makes for a fantastic villain in "Batman" (which we recommend you watch, too), "Batman Returns" offers an overall darker and edgier take on Batman and Gotham City. It's perfect for Halloween, even though the film is set at Christmas; much like "The Nightmare Before Christmas," the holiday spirit fuses nicely with the horror, setting the mood as autumn gives way to winter.

Ed Wood

"Ed Wood" is definitely not one of Burton's scariest films. However, if you like to watch Tim Burton's movies for their aesthetic, or you like the black and white movies horror movies of the '50s, "Ed Wood" is a great homage to the movies that shaped Burton's unique voice. The film follows Johnny Depp as the eponymous Ed Wood, who made "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and is widely known as the worst director of all time. 

Wood's friendship with famed "Dracula" star Bela Lugosi is the center of the film. Though Wood and Lugosi were considered laughing stocks among their peers, the film treats them with empathy and respect, making "Ed Wood" sort of a camp classic. Martin Landau's performance as Lugosi is a particular high point. 

It's worth noting that the film's gender politics haven't aged particularly well, as much of "Ed Wood" deals with Wood's gender identity and angora fetish, but Burton treats the issue with overall sensitivity. On the whole, if you're looking for a campy sendup of classic Halloween fare, "Ed Wood" is an excellent choice.