Love him or hate him, no one can deny that Tim Burton is perhaps one of the most creative living American directors. His gothic tendencies and dark stories are as moody and poignant as the characters he creates. Burton's style didn't come out of a vacuum, however. He is a film nerd and, like all artists, transforms themes and ideas from his favorite directors and movies and incorporates them into his work. Burton's influences come primarily from older movies, films that played on the silver screen between the 1950s and 1980s. You may not be familiar with many of them, but they are as weird as you would expect from a guy like Tim Burton.
Many of these films are creature features, movies about lovable monsters that are more misunderstood than terrifying. Several of them heavily feature stop-motion animation. If there is a common thread among Burton's favorite movies, it's that they are pretty freaking weird. If these Tim Burton recommendations are any standard to uphold, the man's taste is consistently eccentric, whether he's producing films or consuming them.
Burton isn't oblivious to the similarities between his take of Alice in Wonderland (2010) and The Wizard of Oz (1939), especially to the parts of the stories that relate to the main characters. Both films feature a young woman in an unfamiliar land, and her journey to make sense of it all. Burton said:
All these kinds of stories, whether it be The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland, are an internal journey. I think that's a fairly universal concept. These characters represent things inside the human psyche. I think that's what every child does. You try to work out problems as you go along. Same thing as an adult. Some people get therapy, some people get to make movies. There are different ways of getting this sort of thing worked out.
You can't be a fan of Japanese monster movies without giving credit to the big G himself. Godzilla (1954) is widely regarded as a cinema classic, and Burton loved the movie so much that his childhood dream was to grow up and be the man in the Godzilla suit.
He once said in an interview, “I always felt an empathy with monsters. In those early films, the monsters were the most emotive characters. The people were the scariest ones.”
Tim Burton is a huge fan of stop-motion animation, and his admiration comes from classic films like The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973). Titles like Sinbad and Clash of the Titans heavily feature stop-motion monsters that were little more than detailed puppets, but Burton appreciated seeing these inanimate objects brought to life.
He has claimed to have a deep respect for special effects master Ray Harryhausen, whom he believes could inject life into his creations like they were Frankenstein or Pinocchio.
Long before Nicholas Cage became a woman-punching, bee-fearing meme due to his performance in The Wicker Man (2006), Tim Burton was being inspired by the original 1973 version of The Wicker Man. Like Dracula, this film stars one of Burton's favorite actors, Christopher Lee. The movie follows a police sergeant as he investigates the disappearance of a young girl in a small Scottish village, only to have the locals insist she never existed.
Burton explained The Wicker Man falls into a canon of rough but poignant films that have affected him deeply, saying:
These kinds of films, there was something that harkened back to when you read a weird kind of pulp or fairy or folk tale. They’ve got kind of rough edges around them. There’s something primal about them. A lot of these movies, for me, some of their flaws are actually their strengths. These are the kinds of films that if they’re on, I’ll watch them. Call it masochism, I don’t know. They’re a part of me.