Beetlejuice is a 1988 American comedy–fantasy film directed by Tim Burton, produced by The Geffen Company and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The plot revolves around a recently deceased young couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) who become ghosts haunting their former home, and an obnoxious, devious demon named Betelgeuse (pronounced and occasionally spelled Beetlejuice in the movie) (portrayed by Michael Keaton) from the Netherworld who tries to scare away the new inhabitants (Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, and Winona Ryder) permanently.
After the success of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Burton was sent several scripts and became disheartened by their lack of imagination and originality. When he was sent Michael McDowell‘s original script for Beetlejuice, Burton agreed to direct, although Larry Wilson and later Warren Skaaren were hired to rewrite it. Beetlejuice was a critical and commercial success, grossing US$73.7 million from a budget of US$15 million. It won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and three Saturn Awards: Best Horror Film, Best Makeup, and Best Supporting Actress for Sylvia Sidney, her final award before her death in 1999.
Barbara and Adam Maitland decide to spend their vacation decorating their idyllic Connecticut country home. As the two are driving home from a trip to town, Barbara swerves to avoid a dog and the car plunges into a river. After they return home, Adam decides to retrace their steps as they cannot recall how they got home. Upon stepping outside, he is taken to a desert world with monstrous sandworms (later identified as Saturn) before being pulled back in by Barbara. Even though he had been gone for less than a minute, Barbara claims he had been gone for two hours. She and Adam notice that they now lack reflections and they discover a Handbook for the Recently Deceased and realize they did not survive the crash.
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 wife Delia, a sculptor; and his goth daughter Lydia, from his first marriage, is an aspiring photographer. Under the guidance of interior designer Otho, Delia begins to transform the house into a posh modern art piece. Consulting the Handbook, the Maitlands travel to a netherworld waiting room populated by other distressed souls, where they discover that the afterlife is structured according to a complex bureaucracy involving vouchers and the usual overworked caseworkers. The Maitlands’ own caseworker, Juno, informs them that they must remain in the house for 125 years. If they want the Deetzes out of the house, it is up to them to scare them away. Barbara’s and Adam’s attempts at scaring the family prove counterproductive, despite their ability to shape-shift into monsters.
While the Maitlands are away seeing Juno, Lydia discovers the handbook and reads it. Although Adam and Barbara remain invisible to Charles and Delia, Lydia can see the ghost couple and befriends them. Against Juno’s advice, the Maitlands contact the miscreant Betelgeuse(pronounced Beetlejuice), Juno’s former assistant and now freelance “bio-exorcist” ghost, to scare away the Deetzes. However, Betelgeuse quickly offends the Maitlands with his crude and morbid demeanor; and they reconsider hiring him, though too late to stop him from wreaking havoc on the Deetzes in snake form. 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, but they begin to decay, as Otho had unwittingly performed an exorcism instead. Horrified, Lydia begrudgingly summons Betelgeuse for help; but he agrees to help her only on the condition that she marry him, enabling him to freely cause chaos in the mortal world. Betelgeuse saves the Maitlands and disposes of Maxie, his wife, and Otho, then prepares a wedding before a ghastly minister. The Maitlands intervene before the ceremony is completed, with Barbara riding a sandworm through the house to devour Betelgeuse.
Finally, the Deetzes and Maitlands agree to live in harmony within the house. Adam, Barbara, and Lydia are seen in a remodeled part of the house dancing to Harry Belafonte‘s “Jump in the Line” (with Lydia floating in the air) to celebrate Lydia getting an “A” on her math test. Meanwhile, Betelgeuse is stuck in the afterlife waiting room; there, he attempts to cut in front of a witch doctor, who shrinks his head in retaliation. Being Beetlejuice, however, he remains upbeat: “This could be a good look for me”.
- Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse (pronounced “Beetlejuice”)
- Alec Baldwin as Adam Maitland
- Geena Davis as Barbara Maitland
- Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz
- Catherine O’Hara as Delia Deetz
- Jeffrey Jones as Charles Deetz
- Annie McEnroe as Jane Butterfield
- Glenn Shadix as Otho
- Sylvia Sidney as Juno
- Robert Goulet as Maxie Dean
- Maree Cheatham as Sarah Dean
- Dick Cavett as Bernard
- Susan Kellermann as Grace
- Adelle Lutz as Beryl
- Simmy Bow as Janitor
- Carmen Filpi as Messenger
- Patrice Martinez as Receptionist
- Tony Cox as Preacher
- Jack Angel as the voice of the Preacher
- as the Three-Fingered Typist
- as Little Jane
- Douglas Turner as Char Man