When it comes to twisted tales of the afterlife, few movies are as beloved and unique as Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice. Released in 1988, this cult classic has withstood the test of time as a darkly comic exploration of what happens when the living and the dead collide. From unforgettable characters to iconic set pieces, Beetlejuice is a movie that fans keep coming back to, and with good reason. Let’s take a closer look at this weird and wonderful cinematic gem.
At its core, Beetlejuice is a simple story. A newly-dead couple, Adam and Barbara Maitland, find themselves stuck in their picturesque New England home as ghosts. They soon realize that they can’t be seen by the living, and struggle to make themselves known. When a new family moves into their house, the Deetzes, the Maitlands take a reluctant interest in their strange, macabre daughter Lydia, played by a young Winona Ryder.
As the Maitlands attempt to scare the Deetzes out of their house, they unwittingly unleash Beetlejuice, a ghost with a penchant for chaos and destruction. Things spiral out of control quickly, and it’s up to Lydia, the Maitlands and a bumbling exorcist named Otho to save the day. Along the way, much mayhem and hilarity ensue.
One of the things that makes Beetlejuice so memorable is its cast of weird and wonderful characters. Michael Keaton’s titular character Beetlejuice is a standout, with his over-the-top personality and maniacal grin. While Keaton only appears in about 17 minutes of the entire movie, his character has become iconic in the years since Beetlejuice’s release.
But it’s not just Keaton who shines. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, playing the Maitlands, have a charming chemistry that makes their characters’ relationship believable. Catherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones make for a delightfully odd pair as Delia and Charles Deetz, the family that moves into the Maitlands’ house. And of course, Winona Ryder’s Lydia is a scene-stealer in every sense of the word, with her brooding demeanor and goth aesthetic.
One of the most striking things about Beetlejuice is its visual style. From the Maitlands’ rustic New England home, to Beetlejuice’s garish suit and wild hair, the movie is a feast for the eyes. Burton’s signature style is on full display here, with gothic overtones and off-kilter humor permeating every frame.
The set design is particularly impressive, with the Deetzes’ home, filled with tacky modern art, serving as a stark contrast to the Maitlands’ cozy, old-fashioned abode. The use of practical effects, from the sandworms to the bizarre sculptures in the afterlife waiting room, adds to the movie’s quirky charm.
It’s hard to overstate Beetlejuice’s cultural impact. Since its release, the movie has inspired everything from a cartoon spinoff to a Broadway musical. Perhaps most notably, fans have clamored for a sequel for years. In 2019, Keaton confirmed that a sequel is in the works, with both him and Burton attached to the project.
What is it about Beetlejuice that has kept fans coming back for over 30 years? Perhaps it’s the movie’s offbeat humor, or its unique take on the afterlife. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that Beetlejuice has carved out a special place in pop culture history.
Beetlejuice is a movie that defies easy categorization. Equal parts horror, comedy, and romance, its blend of disparate elements shouldn’t work as well as it does. But thanks to Burton’s singular vision and the movie’s incredible cast, Beetlejuice is a movie that feels timeless, despite its 80s roots. Whether you’re a diehard fan or a newcomer, there’s no denying the enduring appeal of this twisted tale of ghosts and the afterlife.