The 50 greatest Tim Burton characters of all time

The greatest Tim Burton characters combine his love of the macabre with his sentimental side, giving us monsters who aren’t so monstrous, and ghosts with more humanity than the living. It’s been a tough job, but we’ve created this celebration of the greatest Tim Burton characters of all time to highlight the very best of his creations. 

Tim Burton started his career with  Walt Disney Productions animation division, but really made a name for himself directing Beetlejuice in 1998. In 1989 he brought us Michael Keaton as Batman with Jack Nicholson as his Joker, and in 1990 he made us all sob into our sweater sleeves with Edward Scissorhands.

These days, Burton is directing and producing an Addams Family spin-off called Wednesday for Netflix, with Scream 5’s Jenna Ortega as Wednesday.

Doctor Finkelstein – The Nightmare Before Christmas (1996)

The Character: Resident mad scientist of Halloween Town and mysteriously wheelchair bound Doctor Finkelstein’s talents include being able to create enchanted ragdolls like Sally.

However, he’s very protective of his creations and prefers to keep them under tight lock and key.

Tim Burton Touch: In addition to his pale complexion, toothily snout and odd proportions (his overly large head) Doctor Finkelstein is also an obvious nod to the horror films the director grew up on.

Veruca Salt – Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005)

The Character: Veruca Salt is one of the ‘lucky’ golden ticket winners who wins a tour of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Burton’s interpretation of Veruca maintains much of her repugnant personality from the Roald Dahl novel but it takes on a more manipulative and snobby manner rather than aggressive and boisterous approach.

Tim Burton Touch: There’s something even more sinister about Burton’s often cool and collected Veruca.

Her large manic smile echos that of a more experienced Burton villain like The Joker.

Or certainly Conrad Veidt’s The Man Who Laughs .

Katrina – Sleepy Hollow (1999)

The Character: Burton’s interpretation of Katrina Van Tussel from The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow stayed fairly faithful to the original depiction in terms of physical appearance, but that’s almost where the similarities end.

The director developed a new family set up for the character and gave her confidence and much more of a voice.

Tim Burton Touch: As he does with many of his heroines, Burton places Katrina very far away from the damsel-in-distress box.

This is a woman who can hold her own and look gothically beautiful while doing so.

Barbara & Adam – Beetlejuice (1988)

The Character: Barbra and Adam Maitland have their vacation at home cut short (or extended indefinitely, depending on which way you look at it) when they reach their untimely deaths in a car accident. They are left to roam and try to haunt their precious home.

Tim Burton Touch: Barbara and Adam look their most Burton during their distressing exorcism: their ghoulish faces are filled with deep lines like a Burton illustration and they are lit up with the director’s favoured green gel.

Victor – Corpse Bride (2005)

The Character: Son of a fish merchant, nervous, socially awkward Victor Van Dort is engaged to poor aristocrat Victoria in a set up marriage of convenience.

However his clumsiness and shy manner gets the better of him at the rehearsal causing everyone to cast doubt over the union.

Tim Burton Touch: Victor has a suspiciously similar name to and looks a lot like an older version of Vincent, the lead character in Burton’s six minute short of the same name.

It could be suggested the two are closely linked manifestations of Burton’s own stop motion alter ego.

Kim – Edward Scissorhands (1990)

The Character: Teenage Kim leads a fairly charmed life as a popular, good looking high school cheerleader with a cool boyfriend and loving family.

This quickly changes however when her mother brings home an unconventional lodger who ruins her waterbed.

Tim Burton Touch: Kim doesn’t have the usual feel of a Tim Burton character; she’s not dark, isolated or even slightly morbid. In her most ionic scene she wears white not black.

However it’s her grace, her gentleness and her love for Edward that gives her a Burton-esque fairytale quality.

9 – 9 (2009)

The Character: 9 is the last Stitchpunk, a ragdoll-come-robot carrying a piece of human soul, to have ever been created.

Since he holds the purest part of his creator’s soul he is goodnatured and possesses strong courage and morals.

Tim Burton Touch: Burton feels very apparent in 9’s design: the burlap sack and stitching echos earlier Burton characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas , while his large bug like eyes are another feature that crops up throughout his filmography.

The Martian Girl – Mars Attacks! (1996)

The Character: The Martian Girl is an alien spy sent by the martian army invading Earth to assassinate the President of the United States.

Quiet and deadly, she disguises herself as beautiful woman with big blonde hair to sneak into the White House.

Tim Burton Touch: When undercover, the Martian Girl wears a fishtailed dress adored with glittering swirls – a prominent motif in Burton’s work.

Knave Of Hearts – Alice In Wonderland (2010)

The Character: The Knave of Hearts features more prominately in Burton’s Alice In Wonderland than he does in the original Lewis Carroll books.

In Burton’s film he is depicted as the Red Queen’s untrustworthy assassin rather than just a mere suspect tart stealer.

Tim Burton Touch: Burton’s Knave of Hearts has a very dark, gothic look typical of the director.

But what gives him extra Burton magic is his heart shaped eye patch covering the scarred left side of his face.

Sinister yet oddly endearing.

Halloween Town Residents – The Nightmare Before Christmas (1996)

The Character: The collective various residents of Halloween Town are so interesting and loveable, they could easily fill a top 50 Burton character list by themselves.

From the clown with the tear away face to that werewolf roaming around in too small lumberjack shirts – there’s something for everyone.

Tim Burton Touch: The level of playful imagination on display is astonishing.

Max Schreck – Batman Returns (1992)

The Character: The powerful and ruthless Max Schreck, one of Gotham’s biggest businessmen and dangerous sociopaths was created especially for Batman Returns .

He is the murderous boss of Selina Kyle and becomes a close ally of The Penguin when his deadly power plant plans are at risk of exposure.

Tim Burton Touch: Just look at that wild Walken hairdo (which incidentally makes a comeback in Sleepy Hollow) .

Also Max Schreck shares his name the German actor most famous for playing the lead in expressionist horror film Nosferatu .

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