Beetlejuice is a 1988 American fantasy horror comedy film[2][3] directed by Tim Burton from a screenplay by Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren based on a story by McDowell and Larry Wilson. The film stars Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder, and Michael Keaton as the title character. The first installment of the Beetlejuice franchise, the plot revolves around a recently deceased couple. As ghosts, they are not allowed to leave their house. They contact Betelgeuse,[a] a charismatic "bio-exorcist" from the Netherworld, to scare the home's new inhabitants away.

Theatrical release poster by Carl Ramsey
Directed byTim Burton
Screenplay by
Story by
Produced by
  • Michael Bender
  • Larry Wilson
  • Richard Hashimoto
CinematographyThomas E. Ackerman
Edited byJane Kurson
Music byDanny Elfman
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • March 30, 1988 (1988-03-30)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million
Box office$74.7 million[1]

Beetlejuice was released in the United States on March 30, 1988, by Warner Bros. The film was a critical and commercial success, grossing $74.7 million on a $15 million budget. It won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and three Saturn Awards: Best Horror Film, Best Makeup, and Best Supporting Actress for Sylvia Sidney. The film's success spawned an animated television series, video games, and a 2018 stage musical.

A sequel, Beetlejuice Beetlejuice, is scheduled for theatrical release on September 6, 2024.[4]



In Winter River, Connecticut, married couple Barbara and Adam Maitland decide to spend their vacation decorating their idyllic country home. As they are driving home from a trip to town, Barbara swerves to avoid a dog, and the car plunges into the river. After returning home, she and Adam notice they now lack reflections.

When Adam attempts to leave the house, he ends up in a strange and otherworldly desert-like landscape populated by enormous "sandworms." The encounter lasts only a few seconds for him, but after Barbara rescues him, she says he was gone for two hours. They then find a Handbook for the Recently Deceased, which leads them to realize they drowned in the river and have become ghosts.

The house is sold, and the new owners, the Deetz family, arrive from New York City. Charles Deetz is a former real estate developer; his second wife, Delia, is a sculptor and conceptual artist; and his teenage goth daughter, Lydia, from his first marriage, is an aspiring photographer. Under the guidance of interior designer Otho, the family transforms the house into a new-wave work of postmodern art.

Consulting the Handbook, the Maitlands travel to an otherworldly waiting room populated by other distressed souls, where they discover the afterlife is structured according to a complex bureaucracy involving vouchers and caseworkers. The Maitlands' caseworker, Juno, tells them they must remain in the house for the next 125 years on pain of a dire fate. If they want the Deetzes out of the house, it is up to the Maitlands to scare them away.

Adam and Barbara are invisible to Charles and Delia, but Lydia is able to see them; she attributes her paranormal intuition to her "strange and unusual" nature. Against Juno's advice, the Maitlands contact the miscreant Betelgeuse, Juno's former assistant and a now-freelance "bio-exorcist", to scare the Deetzes away.

Betelgeuse quickly offends the Maitlands with his crude and morbid demeanor. They reconsider hiring him, but they are too late to stop him from wreaking havoc on the Deetzes. The small town's charm and the supernatural events inspire Charles to pitch his boss, Maxie Dean, on transforming the town into a tourist hot spot, but Maxie wants proof of the ghosts. Using the Handbook for the Recently Deceased, Otho conducts what he thinks is a séance and summons Adam and Barbara, using their wedding clothes, but they begin to age and decay, as Otho unwittingly performed an exorcism instead.

Horrified, Lydia summons Betelgeuse for help, but he will only help her if she marries him; marrying a human would enable Betelgeuse to freely cause chaos in the mortal world. Betelgeuse saves the Maitlands, disposes of Maxie, Maxie's wife in a high striker game, and Otho by changing his clothes to a leisure suit outfit, then prepares a wedding before a ghastly minister. The Maitlands intervene before the ceremony is completed, and Barbara rides a sandworm through the house, which devours Betelgeuse.

The Deetzes and Maitlands agree to live in harmony within the house. Barbara and Adam form a stronger bond with Lydia, and she persuades them to occasionally unleash their ghostly powers, including spirit possession. Betelgeuse is stuck in the afterlife waiting room. He steals a number ticket from a witch doctor, who shrinks his head in return.







After the financial success of Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), Burton became a "bankable" director and began working on a script for Batman with Sam Hamm. While Warner Bros. was willing to pay for the script's development, it was less willing to green-light Batman.[5] Burton had become disheartened by the lack of imagination and originality in the scripts he had been sent, particularly Hot to Trot.

Michael McDowell and Larry Wilson formed a partnership (Pecos Productions) with entertainment attorney Michael Bender, and Beetlejuice was their first original project. After developing the story, McDowell and Wilson decided they would write the first draft of the screenplay together, while Wilson would only take 'Story By' credit, as well as his 'Producer' credit.

Burton had gotten to know and worked with McDowell and Wilson (who co-wrote the script for "The Jar", an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that Burton directed).[5] Burton read their first draft of Beetlejuice, liked it but had other projects that kept him from becoming involved at that time.

The original script is far less comedic and much darker; the Maitlands' car crash is depicted graphically, with Barbara's arm crushed and the couple screaming for help as they slowly drown.[6] A reference to this remains: Barbara remarks that her arm feels frozen upon returning home as a ghost.[7] Instead of possessing the Deetzes and forcing them to dance during dinner, the Maitlands cause a vine-patterned carpet to come to life and attack them by tangling them to their chairs.

The character of Betelgeuse—envisioned in the first draft as a winged demon who takes on the form of a short Middle Eastern man—is also intent on killing the Deetzes rather than scaring them and wants sex from Lydia instead of marriage. In this version of the script, Betelgeuse need only be exhumed from his grave to be summoned, after which he is free to wreak havoc; he cannot be summoned or controlled by saying his name three times and wanders the world freely, appearing to torment different characters in different manifestations.

In another version of the script, the film concludes with the Maitlands, Deetzes, and Otho conducting an exorcism ritual that destroys Betelgeuse and the Maitlands transforming into miniature versions of themselves and moving into Adam's model of their home, which they refurbish to look like their house before the Deetzes moved in.

Co-author and producer Larry Wilson has talked about the reaction to the first draft by a prominent executive at Universal, where Wilson was employed at the time:

I won't name names here, but I worked at Universal Studios at the time. I was director of development for the director Walter Hill. I had a very good relationship with a very prominent executive at Universal. He liked me, and he liked what I was doing with Walter, and the material I was bringing in.

I gave him Beetlejuice to read, and I gave it to him on a Friday, and on Monday his assistant called me and said "well, he wants to meet with you". My initial reaction was "wow! He'd read it. He must have loved it or he wouldn't have wanted to see me so soon." But I went into his office, and he literally said, "what are you doing with your career?"

"This piece of weirdness, this is what you're going to go out into the world with? You're developing into a very good executive. You've got great taste in material. Why are you going to squander all that for this piece of shit" was basically what he was saying. It goes to show, right? Shortly after that, we sold it to the Geffen Company.[8]

Skaaren's rewrite shifted the film's tone, eliminating the graphic nature of the Maitlands' deaths and further developing the concept created by McDowell and Wilson that the Afterlife is a complex bureaucracy.[9] Skaaren's rewrite also added to McDowell and Wilson's depiction of the limbo that keeps Barbara and Adam trapped inside their home; in the original script, it takes the form of a massive void filled with giant clock gears that shred the fabric of time and space as they move. Skaaren had Barbara and Adam encounter different limbos every time they leave their home, including the "clock world" and the sandworm world, identified as Saturn's moon Titan. Skaaren also introduced the leitmotif of music accompanying Barbara and Adam's ghostly hijinks, although his script specified R&B tunes instead of Harry Belafonte[9] and was to have concluded with Lydia dancing to "When a Man Loves a Woman".

Skaaren's first draft retained some of McDowell's Betelgeuse's more sinister characteristics but toned the character down to make him a troublesome pervert rather than blatantly murderous. Betelgeuse's true form was that of the Middle Eastern man, and much of his dialogue was written in African-American Vernacular English. This version concluded with the Deetzes returning to New York and leaving Lydia in the care of the Maitlands, who, with Lydia's help, transform their home's exterior into a stereotypical haunted house while returning the interior to its previous state. It also featured deleted scenes such as the real estate agent, Jane, trying to convince the Deetzes to allow her to sell the house for them (having sold it to them in the first place—Charles and Delia decline) and a revelation of how Betelgeuse had died centuries earlier (he attempted to hang himself while drunk—having been rejected by a woman—only to mess it up and die slowly by choking to death rather than quickly by snapping his neck) and wound up working for Juno before striking out on his own as a "freelance bio-exorcist".

Retrospectively, McDowell was impressed with how many people made the connection between the film's title and the star Betelgeuse.[10]



Burton's original choice for Betelgeuse was Sammy Davis Jr. The producers also considered Dudley Moore and Sam Kinison for the role, but Geffen suggested Keaton. Burton was unfamiliar with Keaton's work, but was quickly convinced.[11][12] Several actresses auditioned for the role of Lydia Deetz, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Lori Loughlin, Diane Lane, Justine Bateman, Molly Ringwald, Juliette Lewis, and Jennifer Connelly.[13] Alyssa Milano was the runner-up for the role.[14] Burton cast Ryder upon seeing her in Lucas. Anjelica Huston was originally cast as Delia Deetz but dropped out because of illness.[13] O'Hara quickly signed on, while Burton claimed it took a lot of time to convince other cast members to sign, as "they didn't know what to think of the weird script".[15]



Beetlejuice's budget was $15 million, with just $1 million given over to visual effects work. Considering the scale and scope of the effects, which included stop motion, replacement animation, prosthetic makeup, puppetry and blue screen, it was always Burton's intention to make the style similar to that of the B movies he grew up with as a child. He said that he wanted to make the effects look cheap and purposely fake-looking.[16] Burton wanted to hire Anton Furst as production designer after being impressed with his work on The Company of Wolves (1984) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), but Furst was committed to High Spirits, a choice he later regretted.[17] He hired Bo Welch, his future collaborator on Edward Scissorhands and Batman Returns. The test screenings were met with positive feedback and prompted Burton to film an epilogue featuring Betelgeuse foolishly angering a witch doctor.[18] Warner Bros. disliked the title Beetlejuice and wanted to call the film House Ghosts. As a joke, Burton suggested the name Scared Sheetless and was horrified when the studio actually considered using it.[19] While the setting is the fictional village of Winter River, Connecticut, all outdoor scenes were filmed in East Corinth, a village in the town of Corinth, Vermont.[20] Interiors were filmed at The Culver Studios in Culver City, California. Principal photography took place from March 11 to June 11, 1987.


Beetlejuice (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
ProducerGeffen Studios
Danny Elfman chronology
Pee-wee's Big Adventure
Beetlejuice (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [21]
Filmtracks     [22]

The Beetlejuice soundtrack, first released in 1988 on LP, CD, and cassette tape, features most of the film's score, written and arranged by Danny Elfman. Geffen reissued the original 1988 soundtrack on vinyl in 2015, which was remastered and pressed to vinyl by Waxwork Records in 2019 for the film's 30th anniversary.[23] The soundtrack features two original recordings performed by Harry Belafonte used in the film: "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" and "Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)". Two other vintage Belafonte recordings that appear in the film are absent from the soundtrack: "Man Smart, Woman Smarter" and "Sweetheart from Venezuela". The soundtrack entered the Billboard 200 albums chart the week ending June 25, 1988, at No. 145, peaking two weeks later at No. 118 and spending a total of six weeks on the chart. This was after the film had already fallen out of the top 10 and before the video release in October. "Day-O" received a fair amount of airplay at the time in support of the soundtrack.

The complete score (with the Belafonte tracks included) was released in both the DVD and the Blu-ray as an isolated music track in the audio settings menu; this version of the audio track consists entirely of "clean" musical cues, uninterrupted by dialogue or sound effects.



Box office


Beetlejuice opened theatrically in the United States on March 30, 1988, earning $8,030,897 its opening weekend. The film eventually grossed $74,664,632 in North America. Beetlejuice was a financial success,[24] recouping its $15 million budget, and the 10th-highest grossing film of 1988.[25][26]

Critical response


Beetlejuice was met with a mostly positive response. Based on 62 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Beetlejuice received an 85% overall approval rating with a weighted average of 7.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Brilliantly bizarre and overflowing with ideas, Beetlejuice offers some of Michael Keaton's most deliciously manic work—and creepy, funny fun for the whole family."[27] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on 18 reviews.[28] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a B on a grade scale of A to F.[29]

Pauline Kael called the film a "comedy classic",[19] while Jonathan Rosenbaum of Chicago Reader gave a highly positive review. Rosenbaum felt Beetlejuice had originality and creativity absent from other films.[30] Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "a farce for our time" and wished Keaton had more screen time.[31] Desson Howe of the Washington Post felt Beetlejuice had the "perfect" balance of bizarreness, comedy and horror.[32]

Janet Maslin of the New York Times gave the film a negative review, writing that the film "tries anything and everything for effect, and only occasionally manages something marginally funny" and "is about as funny as a shrunken head".[33] Roger Ebert gave the film two out of four stars, writing that he "would have been more interested if the screenplay had preserved their [Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis] sweet romanticism and cut back on the slapstick". Ebert called Keaton "unrecognizable behind pounds of makeup" and said "his scenes don't seem to fit with the other action".[34]

In his book Comedy-Horror Films: A Chronological History, 1914-2008, Bruce G. Hallenbeck praised the film's lively script, assured direction, offbeat casting, and "delightfully off-kilter, Edward Gorey-like look", citing the explorer with the shrunken head and the animated sandworm as particularly memorable visuals.[35]



At the 61st Academy Awards, Beetlejuice won the Academy Award for Best Makeup (Steve La Porte, Ve Neill, and Robert Short),[36] while the British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominated the film for Best Visual Effects and Makeup at the 42nd British Academy Film Awards.[37][38]

Beetlejuice won Best Horror Film and Best Make-up at the 1988 Saturn Awards. Sidney also won the Saturn for Best Supporting Actress, and the film received five other nominations: Direction for Burton, Writing for McDowell and Skaaren, Best Supporting Actor for Keaton, Music for Elfman, and Special Effects.[39] Beetlejuice was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.[40] Beetlejuice was 88th in the American Film Institute's list of Best Comedies.[41][42]



A sequel, Beetlejuice Beetlejuice, produced by Brad Pitt's studio Plan B Entertainment alongside Warner Bros.,[43] with Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, and Catherine O'Hara reprising their roles, is scheduled for release on September 6, 2024.[44]

In other media


Video rental


On March 10, 1998, Beetlejuice became the first of more than 5.2 billion DVDs shipped by Netflix, which launched as a mail-based rental business.[45][46]

See also



  1. ^ The title character is variously spelled "Betelgeuse", "Beetle Juice", and "Beetlejuice" in the film, script, and credits. The "Betelgeuse" spelling is used throughout this article for consistency.


  1. ^ "Beetlejuice (1988)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on November 14, 2019. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  2. ^ Erickson, Hal. "Beetlejuice (1988)". Allmovie. Archived from the original on July 19, 2013. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
  3. ^ Nero, Dom (October 11, 2018). "Beetlejuice Is a Horror-Fantasy-Comedy Hybrid Above All Categorization". Esquire. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  4. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (May 9, 2023). "'Beetlejuice 2', Starring Michael Keaton and Jenna Ortega, to Hit Theaters in 2024". Variety. Archived from the original on May 10, 2023. Retrieved May 10, 2023.
  5. ^ a b Salisbury, Mark; Burton, Tim (2006). Burton on Burton. Faber and Faber. p. 54. ISBN 0-571-22926-3.
  6. ^ McDowell, Michael. "Beetle Juice (2nd Draft)". Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
  7. ^ Burton, Tim (1988). Beetlejuice. Warner Bros. Studios.
  8. ^ Brew, Simon (October 23, 2014). "Larry Wilson interview: Cindy, Beetlejuice, sequels, Aliens". Den of Geek. Archived from the original on November 15, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Skaaren, Warren. "Beetle Juice". Archived from the original on June 18, 2013. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
  10. ^ Schaaf, Fred (2008). "Betelgeuse". The Brightest Stars. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley. pp. 175–76. ISBN 978-0-471-70410-2.
  11. ^ "'Beetlejuice' Could Have Starred Sam Kinison and 'Day-O' Was Almost Cut". August 25, 2015. Archived from the original on August 29, 2021. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  12. ^ Salisbury & Burton 2006, pp. 55–7.
  13. ^ a b Puchko, Kristy (March 29, 2018). "15 Things You Might Not Know About Beetlejuice". Mental Floss. Archived from the original on August 29, 2021. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
  14. ^ "Alyssa Milano regrets losing a certain role to Winona Ryder". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on August 29, 2021. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  15. ^ Salisbury & Burton 2006, pp. 58–60.
  16. ^ Salisbury & Burton 2006, pp. 61–6.
  17. ^ Hughes, David (2003). Comic Book Movies. Virgin Books. p. 38. ISBN 0-7535-0767-6.
  18. ^ Salisbury & Burton 2006, pp. 64–6.
  19. ^ a b Salisbury & Burton 2006, pp. 68–9.
  20. ^ "15 famous fictional New England locales - A&E". February 20, 2013. Archived from the original on March 23, 2022. Retrieved March 6, 2013.
  21. ^ Phares, Heather. "Danny Elfman: Beetlejuice (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". AllMusic. Archived from the original on October 11, 2014. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
  22. ^ "Beetlejuice (Danny Elfman)". March 1, 1999. Archived from the original on June 30, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  23. ^ Spacek, Nick (January 1, 2019). "Beetlejuice OST (30th anniversary)". Starburst Magazine. Archived from the original on May 5, 2021. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  24. ^ "Beetlejuice". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on September 7, 2019. Retrieved April 3, 2008.
  25. ^ Easton, Nina J. (January 5, 1989). "Roger Rabbit' Hops to Box-Office Top; 'Coming to America' Hits 2nd". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 4, 2016. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  26. ^ "1988 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on March 2, 2011. Retrieved April 3, 2008.
  27. ^ "Beetlejuice". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on January 9, 2010. Retrieved April 15, 2022.  
  28. ^ "Beetlejuice". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Archived from the original on July 16, 2016. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  29. ^ "CinemaScore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on April 13, 2022. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  30. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (April 1, 1988). "Beetlejuice". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on February 12, 2009. Retrieved April 4, 2008.
  31. ^ Canby, Vincent (May 8, 1988). "'Beetlejuice' is Pap For The Eyes". The New York Times. p. H19. ProQuest 110530758.
  32. ^ Howe, Desson (April 1, 1988). "Beetle Juice". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 10, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2008.
  33. ^ Maslin, Janet (March 30, 1988). "Ghosts and Extra Eyeballs". The New York Times. p. C18. ProQuest 110568854.
  34. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 30, 1988). "Beetlejuice". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2019. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  35. ^ Hallenbeck, Bruce G. (2009). Comedy-Horror Films: A Chronological History, 1914-2008. McFarland & Company. pp. 155–158. ISBN 9780786453788.
  36. ^ "The 61st Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on September 4, 2023. Retrieved January 28, 2024.
  37. ^ "Achievement in Special Effects: 1988". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Archived from the original on May 31, 2012. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  38. ^ "Make-Up Artist: 1988". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Archived from the original on May 31, 2012. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  39. ^ "Past Saturn Awards". Saturn Awards. Archived from the original on April 4, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  40. ^ "1989 Hugo Awards". The Hugo Awards. Archived from the original on June 12, 2010. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  41. ^ "AFI's 100 YEARS...100 LAUGHS". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on June 15, 2008. Retrieved August 18, 2008.
  42. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 16, 2013. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  43. ^ Grobar, Matt (February 28, 2022). "'Beetlejuice 2': Brad Pitt's Plan B Boards Sequel In Early Development At Warner Bros". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on March 31, 2022. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  44. ^ McArdle, Tommy (February 1, 2024). "Tim Burton's 'Beetlejuice' Sequel Unveils Official Title and New Poster: 'The Wait Is Almost Over'". People. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  45. ^ "Netflix to close the curtains on its once-mighty DVD business that helped put Blockbuster in the grave". Fortune. April 18, 2023. Archived from the original on May 29, 2023. Retrieved September 24, 2023.
  46. ^ "Netflix will ship its final DVDs this fall". digitaltrends. April 18, 2023. Archived from the original on April 19, 2023. Retrieved September 24, 2023.