Tim Burton Week: How Do You Know You’re Watching a Tim Burton Film?

When it comes to cinema, there are many directors out there with a distinctive style. Quentin Tarantino has copious amounts of bloodshed, Edgar Wright adds action edits to a humdrum scene, and Alfred Hitchcock tortured his actresses. Over time, film work becomes distinctive but arguably, no one has a clear and recognisable style like Tim Burton.

With his latest release, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, we ask the question: What makes a Tim Burton film? How can you recognise the film symptoms?

Johnny Depp is in it

At the time I’m writing this, Johnny Depp has been in 45 movies. Nine of these were Tim burton films. That means if you are watching a film with Mr. Depp in it, there is a 20% chance it is a Burton movie. I like those odds! Is he wearing excessive amounts of make up? Even better!

At least one of the main characters is dead or undead – and that’s ok!

Disney halloween stop motion tim burton anniversary

Most of the time if a film’s main character is dead then it’s a sad occasion. Sometimes, in the case of ghosts, zombies and other ghouls, it’s just goddamn scary. Not in Burton’s films! In fact his dead or undead characters are often a family favourite. Think Beetlejuice and Jack Skellington. Think Frankenweenie!

Stripes. Everywhere.

If black and white stripes feature somewhere predominantly in the film, you can bet Burton had a hand in the design. Goth girls everywhere love it, especially at Halloween.


You question whether it really is suitable for children

First look at Burton’s remakes – Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland. The originals were bright, colourful films that you watched as a child with your grandparents. Give it to Burton and a whole new twist is unraveled. Suddenly things seem a bit dark, a bit creepy, but still, at heart, the classic story you know and love. Now think of Burton’s original kids films – The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. Both focus on death and the supernatural. Aesthetically, they are pretty tragic. And the characters? Dead, monsters, distorted stuff of nightmares. But kids love ’em. Burton taps into a part of their imaginations most fear to tread, and children love his films for it.


Salvador Dali could have painted this.

politics alice in wonderland cheshire cat

I would love to step into Burton’s brain and see his world. The abstract is commonplace. Surreal is reality. Melting clocks would be the least of your concerns. The checkered battlefield in Alice, or the sand worm infested desert in Beetlejuice are my favourite examples. Dali’s elephants or wailing figures could easily feature in one of Burton’s worlds.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is out in cinemas now.