Film / Beetlejuice

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Go ahead. Make his millennium.

"It's showtime!"

Barbara and Adam Maitland are a crazy-in-love young couple trying to have a baby to fill up their idyllic home in a sleepy little Connecticut town. One day, they run to town for an errand...and on the way home, their car crashes through a covered bridge, eventually falling into the river below.

The ghosts of the Maitlands return home, not knowing how, and discover they can no longer leave the place unless they want to be beset by Sand Worms. Even worse, their home has been sold to the Deetzes, an eccentric yuppie family who want to do a complete overhaul of the house. With no idea what to do about the Deetzes and no real help coming from the Celestial Bureaucracy that is the afterlife, the Maitlands learn of a... being named Betelgeuse (pronounced "Beetlejuice", of course) who claims he can rid the house of its new owners. Out of options, Barbara and Adam release him after saying his name three times. Hilarity Ensues.

This legendary movie remains one of the most popular comedy films of all time and the film which made Tim Burton a household name. It contains the typical gothic imagery you'd expect from Burton and memorable performances by Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O'Hara, Glenn Shadix, Winona Ryder, and Michael Keaton as the B-Man himself, as well as the musical stylings of both Danny Elfman and Harry Belafonte. Mix all of these elements together, and it's not hard to figure out why Beetlejuice soon became a Halloween staple.

Beetlejuice was originally conceived as a serious horror film titled The Maitlands in which Betelgeuse was a shape-shifting reptilian demon. The involvement of Tim Burton and Michael Keaton helped turn it into a comedy.

The movie was popular enough that it spawned an animated Recycled: The Series on ABC and Fox Kids. It bore little resemblance to the movie; the Maitlands and Juno were eliminated entirely, the title character's name was spelled "Beetlejuice", he and Lydia were best friends, and the stories largely took place in Beetlejuice's home dimension, called the Neitherworld.

A sequel languishes perpetually in Development Hell.


Tropes. Tropes. Tropes. ... It's showtime.

  • Abnormal Limb Rotation Range: Betelgeuse.
    Betelgeuse: Don't you just hate it when that happens?
  • Action Girl: Barbara.
  • Affably Evil: While hardly anybody's friend, Betelgeuse actually seems like a fun guy to be around. How miserable can someone really be if he occasionally dresses up as a cowboy, enjoys carnival games, and offers to make Barbara and Adam an Italian dinner?
  • Afterlife Antechamber
  • Altar the Speed: Attempted by Betelgeuse, including saying Lydia's vows for her.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Otho. It helped that Shadix himself was gay, and that Otho makes a The Wizard of Oz reference after.
    Otho: Well, of course! You remember, after my stint with the Living Theatre. I was one of New York City's leading paranormal researchers, until the bottom dropped out in '72.
    Beryl: "Paranormal"? Is that what they're calling your kind these days?note 
    (rest of the dinner table goes silent)
  • And Now You Must Marry Me
  • Animated Adaptation/The Renaissance Age of Animation: Beetlejuice: The Animated Series (1989-1991)
  • Antagonist Title
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Subverted with Delia. She at first refuses to believe Lydia about her claims about the house being haunted, but comes to believe it immediately after the dinner scene. Her agent Bernard, on the other hand, absolutely refuses to believe it happened, despite the fact that he was there when it happened.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Betelgeuse does the following in his second summoning: kills Maxie Dean and his wife, sexually harasses Lydia, and changes Otho's suit into one not his style.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: The Maitlands, while trying to scare the Deetz family. It didn't work: Charles thinks one of them was Lydia trying to play a prank, Delia is too doped out on "Prince Valium" to notice them, and Lydia thinks (at first) that it's Charles and Delia playing some kinky bedroom game. Lampshaded by Barbara.
    Barbara: Is this what we're reduced to? Sheets?!
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: The Celestial Bureaucracy that runs the afterlife. They do the best they can, but pretty much every one of their clients is either hopelessly ignorant (the Maitlands) or painfully stupid (the football team). Juno is up to her eyeballs in paperwork and new arrivals. And then the Maitlands go and hire a hitman to get the Deetzes out rather than dealing with the problem themselves.
  • Berserk Button: He might not look it, but Betelgeuse takes great pride in his work as a bio-exorcist. When the Maitlands stop Betelgeuse from continuing to menace the Deetzes in his snake form, he gets pissed off at them for interrupting the work of a professional.
  • Bishonen Line: Betelgeuse shapeshifts into a variety of forms throughout the film and appears in the model repeatedly, but for the final confrontation appears full-sized at last, now wearing the iconic black and white prison-stripe-style suit.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Most notably the hallway in the afterlife... but also a few other instances, such as at the very end. Not to mention what the Deetzes do to the Maitlands' house after moving in. In fact, the Maitlands think the new space is the weirdest they've seen yet in the afterlife, until they're shocked to realize it's their home.
  • Black Comedy: Of course. Prime example: Betelgeuse says he'd better check the business section of his paper and look for a job - and flips to the obituaries, which colorfully and cheerfully list the dead as new arrivals to be greeted.
  • Body Horror: The Maitlands, when changing their faces.
  • Bookends: Early on in the film, Adam reads the Handbook For the Recently Deceased and claims that it "reads like stereo instructions." Charles later says the same thing at the end of the film when he's reading a guide for living people with ghosts in their houses called The Living and the Dead.
  • Brick Joke: The receptionist in the afterlife implies she's at her position because she committed suicide in life by slitting her wrists. Otho later cracks that people who commit suicide become civil servants in the afterlife.
  • Captain Obvious / Too Dumb to Live: The football player who earnestly announces to Juno that he doesn't think they survived that crash!
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: Made up of the ghosts of people who committed suicide.
  • Cessation of Existence: This is nearly Barbara and Adam's fate when Otho summons them in a séance and they begin to crumble into dust - only for Betelgeuse to rescue them after Lydia promises to marry him. Otho, who knows quite a bit about the hereafter himself, confirms this for us with "They're already dead. They can't feel a thing."
  • Chekhov's Armoury: The wedding clothes, Delia's sculptures, the sandworm, and Betelgeuse's car in the model.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment
    • Betelgeuse scares off fashionable interior decorator Otho by changing his duds into a tacky leisure suit.
    • If you kill yourself, you spend at least a portion of your afterlife as a civil servant.
  • Cool Old Lady: Juno
  • Country Mouse: Adam and Barbara. Their idea of a vacation? Spend it in their country house and renovate.
  • Dance Party Ending
  • Dead All Along: Adam and Barbara. And a team of football players.
    Quarterback: Coach... I don't think we survived that crash...
  • Dead to Begin With
  • Deader Than Dead: See Fate Worse Than Death.
    Janitor: Those are ghosts that have been exorcised. That's death for the dead.
  • Death Seeker: Lydia. The existence of the Maitlands just makes her more convinced suicide is the answer. The Maitlands manage to cure her of this with An Aesop that the afterlife is just as difficult and that death doesn't have any of the mystery people think it does.
  • Decapitation Presentation: One of Adam and Barbara's failed attempts at scaring the Deetzes.
  • Dem Bones: One scene in the afterlife shows a bunch of skeletons working on typewriters.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Barbara Maitland wangs the Sand Worm right on the nose, causing it to retreat... and then later befriends it!
  • Dirty Old Man: Okay, so Keaton isn't old, but almost every perverted aspect of Betelgeuse's personality is based around this trope.
  • Dub Name Change: In Brazil, Betelgeuse was renamed Besourosuco. ("Besouro" meaning "Beetle" and "Suco" meaning "Juice")
  • Dumb Jocks: The football team that was killed in a bus accident and mistake Juno for their coach. Juno snaps that the coach survived.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After an entire film of being thrown through the wringer by the afterlife and Betelgeuse, the Maitlands and the Deetzes instead learn to live in harmony, with the Deetzes even restoring part of the house to its original state. Lydia is also shown to be much happier, having let her hair down literally and figuratively, with the Maitlands treating her like the daughter they never got to have.
  • Easy Amnesia: After falling to their deaths in the river, they don't seem to remember coming out of it or even the walk back to their house.
    Adam: (realizing) Maybe we should take things a little extra slow. Do you remember how we got back up here?
  • Eaten Alive: Betelgeuse eating a fly early on in the film and the Sandworm eating Betelgeuse towards the end of the film.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: A Tim Burton requirement. In this case, it's Lydia.
  • Emotionless Girl: Lydia, or at least she tries to be; she actually feels things pretty intensely.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: The Handbook for the Recently Deceased.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Adam and the spider. Instead of squashing it, he only comments on its size and lets it go free, showing him to be a nice guy. Mirrored later on when Lydia sees a big spider (possibly the same one) and notes, "I could live here." It's a hint that she'll get on well with the Maitlands.
  • Eureka Moment: Lydia figures out Betelgeuse was the snake that attacked her, her parents, and Otho.
    Lydia: It was you, wasn't it?
    Betelgeuse: Me?
    Lydia: The snake.
    Betelgeuse: No! What snake? You kids and your overactive imaginations. Just say it!
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Lydia gives Betelgeuse the implication she wants to die by telling him "I want to get in," he responds with a confused "Why?", pointing out that no matter how bad things get, death is still worse. Even in his current situation, he'd rather be alive. It doesn't entirely trouble him that she wants to be dead, however, as he observes that she probably has her own reasons; if she'll help him get out of the model, maybe they can discuss it and he can find a way to help her. He's by no means nice, but to judge by his own words earlier in the film, she's the only person he seems to like at all and he does actually seem interested in helping her.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Including the toy truck from Adam's model town.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Lydia and the Maitlands learn the hard way not to trust Betelgeuse, no matter how hard he tries to talk you into letting him out. While not "evil", the Deetzes also realize they can't control the supernatural.
  • Exposition Diagram: Charles Deetz uses a Type 1 to show what his "Museum of the Paranormal" will look like.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: The "Lost Souls Room" is described as "death for the dead."
  • Faux Affably Evil: Betelgeuse's fun side can actually be the enjoyment of his sadistic nature to torture and kill. It has been shown that he's perfectly willing to harm and even murder people with Dark Humor continuing on with the laughter and humorous effects afterwards.
  • Forceful Kiss: Immediately after introducing himself to Adam and Barbara, Betelgeuse grabs her and gives her this kind of kiss. As you can imagine, they're already regretting their decision to meet with him, especially since he acts like a pervert around her the rest of the time.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Delia is momentarily trapped by a piece of sculpture when her art collection is moved into the new house. Though he hadn't even been summoned yet, Betelguese somehow picks up on this later.
      Delia: This is my art, and it is dangerous!
    • Betelgeuse momentarily controls Barbara, having her say in his voice, "Learn to throw your voice! Fool your friends! Fun at parties!" Guess what he does at Delia's party?
  • Free the Frogs: Lydia gets a C in Biology because she refuses to dissect frogs. However, she clearly states that she did it because she thought it was gross, not for animal rights. She tries to get out of it by claiming that it's against her religion, but gets the C all the same.
  • Funetik Aksent: The title is Beetlejuice to show the pronunciation of "Betelgeuse."
  • Get Out: Juno explodes at the football players when one of them asks where the men's room is.
    Juno: WILL YOU GET OUT OF HERE?! Men's room. Are you kidding me?
  • Ghostly Glide:
    • In a very subtle example, the Maitlands actually glide while wearing sheets and "pretending" to be ghosts. When Lydia begins taking pictures of them, they begin to show more normal signs of movement.
    • A more direct example comes at the climax when Lydia, suddenly garbed in her red wedding dress, slides effortlessly to Betelgeuse's side as if on wheels - though not of her own accord.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Only when the Maitlands are threatened with exorcism does Lydia finally cross it by summoning Betelgeuse.
  • Good Bye Cruel World: Lydia.
  • Goth: Lydia qualifies, though she becomes a Perky Goth at the end of the movie.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: All the characters have both decent and slimy aspects—and yes, that includes Betelgeuse.
  • Haunted Headquarters
  • Haunted House
  • Heel Realization: The Deetzes realize something is dreadfully wrong with the Maitlands as they appear during the exorcism. Otho blurts out that he doesn't know how to stop whatever's happening and it's too late to stop it.
  • I Gave My Word: Betelgeuse does exactly what he promised to do after Lydia releases him: he saves Adam and Barbara from being exorcised. He's quick to try to dispose of them afterwards, though, when they attempt to stop the wedding; he sends Adam into the town model, and he teleports Barbara to the Sand Worm-infested desert of Saturn. Both tricks backfire: Adam uses the toy car Betelgeuse drove to distract him, and Barbara returns by riding a Sand Worm, which swallows Betelgeuse.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Lydia longs to be a ghost.
  • I See Dead People: Anyone can see the dead if they choose to believe in ghosts. Lydia already believes, but by the film's end, the entire Deetz family can see the Maitlands.
  • Iconic Outfit: Betelgeuse's black-and-white striped suit.
  • Idiot Ball: Adam and Barbara grab this at the climax when they both have enough time to get out Betelgeuse's name three times if they're quick about it, but fail. Barbara even waits for him to retaliate between sayings. (This could be attributed to the two of them still being exhausted from the exorcism, though.)
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: A lot of what Delia wears could be considered this. In one scene she has a glove on her head as part of a sort of headband. Meanwhile, the red sweater Charles wears in one scene makes a reappearance later as Delia's pants, held up with suspenders.
  • Incongruously Dressed Zombie: Some of the recently-deceased in the waiting room died while dressed in odd or embarrassing garments (hospital gown and cap, safari hunter, showgirl).
  • Informed Flaw: Everyone calls Delia's sculptures "garbage," but they're actually pretty good. She clearly has talent; what she lacks is conventional taste. The workers hired to help the Deetzes move into and renovate the house, as well as Delia's own agent, show no appreciation for her work.
  • Insistent Terminology: Though it's explicitly stated that Delia is Lydia's stepmother, Charles seems determined to ignore that fact, telling his daughter things like "Go help your mother in the kitchen." It makes the fact that Lydia's birth mother is never mentioned all the more glaring.
  • Invisible to Normals: The Maitlands qualify, which is why their attempts to scare the Deetzes didn't work. Luckily for them, Lydia isn't normal.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY"!: At first, Adam can't even pronounce Betelgeuse's name right. A bit of a Running Gag implies that Adam isn't horribly bright, as he reads the word "deceased" as "diseased" before Barbara corrects him.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: All of the ghosts except Betelgeuse, Adam and Barbara.
    Barbara: Adam, is this what happens when you die?
    Miss Argentina: This is what happens when you die. That is what happens when he dies. And that is what happens when they die. It's all very personal. And I'll tell you something: if I knew then what I know now... (shows her slit wrists) ...I wouldn't have had my little accident.
  • Jerkass:
    • Though it's a minor role, Jane shows herself as this by trying to sell the Maitlands' house behind their backs for no reason other than she thinks it's too big for a childless couple (which she tells Barbara outright). She gives a half-hearted apology before Barbara pushes her out the door, and we find out later that the Maitlands are trying to conceive. In a deleted scene, she also tried convincing the Deetzes to sell their house, only for Charles and Delia to say no.
    • Bernard, Delia's agent, belittles Delia and her work, calling her a flake and refusing to believe that anything happened after the dinner scene despite overwhelming proof, as well as refusing to let the other two witnesses who do believe in it actually continue investigating. It goes a long way toward explaining why Delia is so uptight and neurotic.
    • And, of course, Betelgeuse himself; but unlike Jane, he's a strangely lovable jerkass.
  • Karma Houdini: Jane the realtor says the Maitlands' house is "too big" for the two of them and has been advertising their house against their wishes despite being told not to repeatedly—which is practically harassment. As Adam says, it isn't "any of Jane's business" whether the house is too big for them. And then they die, and she either inherits the house herself or sells it on behalf of whoever does, meaning that she gets what she wanted without repercussion (unless you believe her when she tells Lydia that she's "devastated" by their deaths). As written above, a deleted scene shows she tried this again with the Deetzes, but they don't want any of it.
  • Killed Offscreen: Maxie Dean and his wife - maybe. Betelgeuse sends them crashing up through a ceiling of the house, but whether they actually die or are just seriously injured is unclear. They're never mentioned again.
  • Kitschy Local Commercial: The commercial featuring Betelgeuse appears to be based on the cheesy ads Cal Worthington used to create for his car dealership.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Otho claims to be schooled in chemistry (among other things) while sharing many of Delia's off-beat fashion and artistic interests; but according to Lydia, he can't even change a tire. Otho's lack of know-how comes back to bite him in the ass when he snags the Recently Deceased handbook and summons the Maitlands without realizing he's actually exorcising them; this leads to Betelgeuse humiliating him with a Shameful Strip (see below). He does get one thing right, though he doesn't know it: he jokes during his dinner with the Deetzes that people who commit suicides become civil servants in the afterlife.
  • Lack of Empathy: Betelgeuse's biggest trait. He really doesn't give a shit about anyone but himself.
  • Large Ham
    • Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse.
    (normal voice) "Ah. Well... I attended Juilliard... I'm a graduate of the Harvard Business School. I travel quite extensively. (creepy voice) I lived through the Black Plague and had a pretty good time during that. I've seen The Exorcist ABOUT A HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SEVEN TIMES, AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT... NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT YOU'RE TALKING TO A DEAD GUY... NOW WHAT DO YOU THINK? You think I'm qualified?!"
    • Though not nearly as Large a Ham as Betelgeuse, Glenn Shadix as Otho certainly qualifies.
  • The Last Straw: The dog on the bridge.
  • Laughably Evil: Betelgeuse, the film's villain, is a pervert and a con-man who tries forcing Lydia into marrying him so he'll have permanent access to the mortal world—but he's so funny that people forget what a terrible person he is.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: It's possible that Barbara is infertile, especially when Jane says that their house should belong to a family; Barbara looks crushed. At the very least, they've had no luck conceiving. It's no wonder they become almost second parents to Lydia.
  • Layman's Terms
    Barbara: Why did you disappear when you stepped off the porch? Are we halfway to heaven? Are we halfway to hell? And... how long is this gonna last?
    Adam: I don't see anything about heaven or hell. This book reads like stereo instructions; listen to this: "Geographical and temporal perimeters. Functional perimeters vary from manifestation to manifestation."note 
    • However, it's implied that they should have been able to understand it by now:
    Juno: Okay, have you been studying the manual?
    Adam: Well, we tried.
    Juno: The intermediate interface chapter on haunting says it all. Get them out yourselves; it's your house.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: "Go ahead - make my millennium!" (Not to mention he "lived through the Black Plague.")
  • Look Behind You:
    • Betelgeuse does it to a witch doctor.
    • He also does this to Lydia during their game of Charades.
      Betelguese: (frustrated) WILL YOU JUST LOOK BEHIND YOU?!
      (Lydia does... and sees a gigantic beetle sitting on a chair)
      Beetle: Hi! How are ya?
  • Losing Your Head: The movie poster at the top. In one scene Adam goes headless in an attempt to frighten the Deetzes. He can replace his head as easy as putting on a hat.
  • Male Gaze and Female Gaze: During at the dinner party where everyone is possessed and singing the Banana Boat song, everyone bends over and continue singing from their butts.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Betelgeuse tries, at least.
  • Masquerade: The ghost world is hidden from the living—and that's how Juno wants to keep it. She demands a quick conclusion to the Maitlands' haunting so more morons don't commit suicide and make the afterlife even more complicated. (This doesn't explain the manual on how the living and the dead can co-exist, though. It's implied the living who do know are inducted as a part of that masquerade.)
    "We cannot have a routine haunting like yours provide proof that there is existence beyond death."
  • Meaningful Name: The Deetzes are ditzes - the parents, anyway.
  • Missing Mom: It is explicitly stated that Delia is Lydia's stepmother. What (if anything) happened to Lydia's biological mother is never explained, although if she died that might have contributed to Lydia's morbid fascinations.
  • Monster Clown: Betelgeuse invokes this a tiny bit.
  • Monster Roommate: The Maitlands are this for the Deetzes, although they seem to feel it's the other way around.
  • Mood Motif: Ominous, spooky, but with a very quirky undercurrent. It is a Tim Burton film, after all.
  • Mood Whiplash
    • From the fun and hilarious "Banana Boat Song" scene to the intense and frightening scene where Betelgeuse turns into a snake.
    • Betelgeuse's unexpectedly serious and straightforward reaction when Lydia tells him she'd rather be dead. He snaps back almost instantly, but it's a surprising moment.
  • Motor Mouth: Betelgeuse talks very quickly.
  • Mouse World: Adam's elaborate model of the surrounding town.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Betelgeuse makes all sorts of bizarre and contradictory claims while describing his qualifications to the Maitlands, as noted above in Large Ham. When he's in the waiting room at the end of the movie, he claims that he has a photoshoot with GQ Magazine coming up and they've been bugging him to do a spread with them for a while now. It's highly likely that most, if not all, of his claims are Blatant Lies.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The Deetzes realize something is terribly wrong after summoning the Maitlands into their wedding clothes... by performing an exorcism instead of the séance they intended. Otho himself is troubled, and apologizes that he has no idea how to stop the ritual.
  • Naked Freak-Out: He's not left naked or in his underwear, but Otho has this kind of reaction after Betelgeuse changes his outfit into a leisure suit.
  • Nested Mouths: Saturn's sand worms have what looks like a smaller version of themselves inside their mouths, with a different colour scheme.
  • New House, New Problems: The Deetzes move into a haunted house, but the Maitlands' lackluster haunting job does nothing to scare the new owners away.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • The Maitlands' "Day-O" haunting attempt only serves to entertain the Deetzes and their guests, not frighten them.
    • The Maitlands let out Betelgeuse, they let Otho steal the Handbook, and their lackluster haunting attempts have succeeded only in Charles thinking the town would make a neat tourist attraction. Juno calls them out on all of it.
  • Nightmare Face: Betelgeuse makes one to demonstrate his talents to the Maitlands. "Can I be scary? Well, whaddya think of this?"
  • Noble Demon: Despite being a disgusting con man and pervert, Betelgeuse does have some otherwise redeeming moments:
    • When the Maitlands first enlist his services as a bio-exorcist, he goes right to work and actively tries to live up to his end of the bargain in getting rid of Otho and the Deetzes.
    • When Lydia is contemplating suicide, he actually shows genuine concern for her.
    • When Lydia agrees to release him in exchange for saving the Maitlands from being exorcised by Otho, he lives up to his end of the deal and saves them. He then immediately subverts this when he attempts to banish the Maitlands, albeit in a more temporary manner than exorcism, on account of them attempting to stop the wedding - and to be fair, Lydia did agree to marry him as the price for his aid. He also treats Lydia very affectionately throughout the whole wedding scene, although whether this is genuine or a continuation of his con artistry is up for debate. In any case, the Maitlands return and promptly turn the tables on him.
  • Nonindicative Name: If the lead character's name had been spelled the same as the title of the movie, it would have made sense. However, he has nothing to do with what he's actually named after: a star in the constellation Orion, notably a home of the Elder Gods in the Cthulhu Mythos and the location of Hell in the poem "Betelgeuse, a Trip Through Hell".
  • Nonverbal Miscommunication: Betelgeuse tries to teach Lydia his name using a game of Charades.
    Lydia: Breakfast? Orange? Orange beetle? Beetle fruit? Beetle breakfast? Beetle drink? [She finally gets it] Beetle juice?
  • Noodle Incident: Something like this, given this exchange between Adam and Barbara when Lydia at first fails to convince her parents about them:
    Adam: They have to believe her! She has photographs!
    Barbara: Adam, you have a photograph of Bigfoot.
    Adam: That was... different.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Barbara tamed the sandworm—and since time passes differently on Saturn, she must have tamed it almost instantly.
  • Only Sane Man
    • Charles seems to be a straight example, but ends up as a subversion. Compared to Delia, Otho and Lydia, he is a perfectly normal guy who is openly frustrated with the behavior of the other three. But the speed with which he goes from trying to relax in his new home to trying to exploit his new hometown for profit shows he's obsessed with success and just as eager to destroy something simple and beautiful as Delia, only on a larger scale.
    • In fact, as eccentric as she is, Lydia ultimately takes on the role of Only Sane Man for the film, being extremely reasonable and down-to-earth.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: They can interact with the living, been seen by them so long as the living believe, and have vaguely defined Reality Warper powers.
  • Peek-A-Boo Corpse: Subverted
  • People Puppets: The infamous dinner scene.
    "I would rather talk about... DAAAYYYY O."
  • Product Placement
    • Betelgeuse tempts a fly with a Zagnut bar. (Yes, Zagnut is a real candy bar.)
    • Minute Maid Orange Juice.
    • Kmart gets a brief mention during Betelgeuse's big scene.
  • Production Foreshadowing: During the sequence where Adam and Barbara enter Juno's office and see her speaking to the recently deceased football team, a movie theater full of ghosts can be seen through Juno's office window. Two of those ghosts are a red skeleton and a green skeleton, which is exactly what some of the characters are reduced to in Tim Burton's later effort, Mars Attacks!.
  • Precision F-Strike: After Betelgeuse knocks down a tree:
    "NICE FUCKIN' MODEL!" (HONK-HONK)
  • Psycho for Hire: Betelgeuse.
    Betelgeuse: Hey, these aren't my rules. Come to think of it... I don't have any rules!
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: Betelgeuse worked for afterlife case worker Juno before he became a "freelance bio-exorcist."
  • Reality Warper: All ghosts seem to be able to do this to an extent, though they are limited to the place they are haunting. The Maitlands, being new to the whole Dead thing, take most of the movie to get the hang of it. Betelgeuse's powers, on the other hand, seem virtually limitless... though that is hampered by that whole "call my name" business. His glaring weakness is touched upon a few times during the movie (particularly during the Scaled Up scene, where he nearly murders Lydia's father before Barbara is able to send him back), which leads him to seek out Lydia. Juno briefly displays powers on a similar scale by casually manifesting a whorehouse in Adam's town model and summoning the Maitlands into her office to chew them out.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Bernard (Delia's agent, played by Dick Cavett) lays into her when the Maitlands refuse to make a "live appearance":
    Bernard: Delia, you are a flake. You have always been a flake. If you insist on frightening people, do it with your sculpture.
  • Rule of Three
    • Betelgeuse's summoning/dismissal procedure.
    • And knocking three times on the chalk door to enter the afterlife offices.
    • And Barbara getting her and Adam out of trouble by saying "Home, home, home!"
  • Sand Worm: On Saturn, which appears to be a Desert Planet.
  • Saw "Star Wars" 27 Times: Betelgeuse has seen The Exorcist "about a hundred and sixty-seven times" (and it keeps getting funnier every time he sees it).
  • Scaled Up: Betelgeuse turns into a giant snake.
  • Scale Model Destruction: This is averted by the town model, which only suffers minor damage... though that brothel will probably drive land values right down.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: Betelgeuse to Lydia, after she gives him a Please, I Will Do Anything! so he'll save Adam and Barbara from being exorcised.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Otho is all too happy to ditch the Deetzes when his séance gets out of control. He doesn't get far, though...
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The title ghostly con artist is trapped in the afterlife. He can be temporarily brought back to the real world (and returned) by saying his name three times, but can only be truly free if he marries a human female.
  • Secondary Character Title: Betelgeuse doesn't physically appear until halfway through the movie, and only becomes an important character (that is, the villain) at the very end. 90% of the film is focused on the Maitlands and the Deetzes.
  • Shameful Strip: This happens to Otho when Betelgeuse goes on his climactic rampage. When Otho tries to make a run for it, Betelgeuse uses his powers to shoot Otho's black and red clothes off—but rather than leave Otho naked or in his underwear, Betelgeuse leaves the poor bastard dressed in a light blue leisure suit, which causes Otho to scream in horror before running away.
  • Shout-Out
  • Shrunken Head: At the end, Betelgeuse runs into a hunter who has a shrunken head, then starts chatting with the Witch Doctor next to him, asking if that's his work, while he steals the witch doctor's line number. He gets his head shrunk himself in retaliation.
    Betelgeuse: Hey, this might be a good look for me.
  • Single-Biome Planet: In the film, Saturn appears to be a Desert Planet (complete with Sand Worm).
  • Skeleton Key: Lydia gets one from a relative of the deceased couple.
  • Small Name, Big Ego
    • Delia thinks she's a great artist. Most everyone else thinks she's insufferable and her sculptures are garbage.
    • Betelgeuse is no slouch at primping himself up. While he has some brutish skills, he's nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is.
  • Small, Secluded World: The Maitlands are stuck in their house and unable to have any contact with the surrounding world. They don't realize that they're dead and haunting the house in which they lived until they try to leave.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Juno, in a Black Comedy sort of way; when she smokes, she exhales through a wound in her throat, which presumably has something to do with how she died.
  • Smug Snake: Otho.
  • Snake People: Snake-Betelgeuse counts, except he has no arms.
  • Speak of the Devil: Saying "Betelgeuse" three times summons him into the "real world" to wreak havoc; saying it three times again sends him back.
  • Spinning Clock Hands: During the "Jump in the Line" number at the end of the movie.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: As Adam reads The Handbook for the Recently Deceased, he says it "reads like stereo instructions." Charles says the same thing when reading a book about living with ghosts.
  • Stellar Name: The star named Betelgeuse is part of the constellation "Orion"—the armpit, that is. This is also used by Lovecraft as a home of the Elder Gods and by Jean Louis de Esque as the location of Hell.
  • Stealth Pun: A brilliant one. The ending scene has the characters dancing along to Harry Belafonte's "Jump in the Line". Midway through, we cut to a scene with Betelgeuse swapping his numbers with a witch doctor so he can be called earlier - or, in other words, "jumpin' the line..."
  • Suicide Is Shameful: This is both Downplayed and Played for Laughs. People who commit suicide are sentenced to an eternity as a Beleaguered Bureaucrat working in the afterlife's social services department.
  • Take a Number: The afterlife waiting room has the typical number system. Betelguese pulls a ridiculously high number, while the nearby counter clicks to '3'.
  • Take Our Word for It: Betelgeuse's "scary face."
  • Tear Off Your Face: Barbara pulls her own face off in an attempt to frighten off the Deetzes. Unfortunately, they can't see her.
  • Terrible Artist: Calling Delia's work "terrible" may be unfair, but she's not exactly Picasso. In the final scene of the movie, she actually sculpts a bust resembling Betelgeuse's "snake form", scaring Charles half to death, and then still presumes he likes it. Of course, a brief image in the ending suggests Delia also managed to successfully get people to appreciate her art in the end, with one image being a cover of Art In America with the advertisement of them being "images of the afterlife". Perhaps she fired her Jerkass agent?
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: In one of the film's most famous scenes, Lydia's parents and their dinner guests are possessed and forced to perform Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song"—which they rather enjoy.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: When Lydia summons Betelgeuse to save the Maitlands at the end.
  • Title Drop: The only time "Beetle Juice" is ever stated with that meaning, rather than the more celestial Betelgeuse, is during Betelguese's game of charades with Lydia.
    Lydia: Beetle Orange? Beetle Fruit? Beetle Breakfast? Beetle Drink? Beetle... Juice?
  • Together in Death: This film is a rare lighthearted approach, as Adam and Barbara Maitland are stuck as ghosts haunting their own home. Even in death, they remain a Happily Married couple. This is used in a much creepier way when Lydia's family tries to conduct a sèance but accidentally perform an exorcism instead, causing Adam and Barbara's summoned spirits to dry up together. They don't disappear in the end, but only because of Lydia's "Please, I Will Do Anything!" to Betelgeuse himself.
  • Took a Level in Cheerfulness
    • Lydia is very unhappy for most of the movie, but once the Maitlands become a part of her family, she becomes a Perky Goth.
    • Delia too, if her letting the Maitlands change some of their house back to the way they had it before is any indication.
  • Trapped in a Sinking Car: How the Maitlands die.
  • The Unmasqued World: The Maitlands are roundly criticized by their caseworker for letting the living get solid evidence of ghosts, while the Deetzes look to find a way to monetize their haunted house.
  • Vampire Vannabe: Lydia Deetz wants to die, presumably so she can become a ghost like the Maitlands. What she doesn't realize is that if she kills herself, she'll be pushing paperwork for eternity.
  • Visual Pun: After Betelgeuse becomes spiky to avoid being picked up, he decides to go to a strip club that appeared out of nowhere. He's a very horny guy.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Maitlands and Betelgeuse.
  • The Wall Around the World: The impassible and dangerous desert around the Maitlands' house that keeps them there. The context of a remark from Betelgeuse about hating sandworms suggests the place outside their house may be Saturn.
  • Weirdness Censor: Until the film's climax, Lydia is the only one who sees the dead couple, while everyone else completely filters them out.
    Lydia: I've read through that Handbook for the Recently Deceased. It says: 'Live people ignore the strange and unusual.' I, myself, am strange and unusual.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Lydia is initially the only one who can see the Maitlands, and she's nearly forced into a marriage with an undead bio-exorcist. Not too many people can say that's happened to them...
  • Wicked Stepmother: Downplayed. Delia is rude and dismissive towards Lydia, but not actively cruel to her; in the end, she really does seem to care about her stepdaughter.
  • Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: When Barbara tries to banish Betelgeuse in the film's climax, she's able to get his name out once before he literally zips her lip. She unzips her lip to say his name a second time, which pisses him off enough to seal it up with a metal plate.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside
    • When Adam leaves the house for the first time, he ends up in a desolate desert landscape filled with "Saturnian sandworms". When he makes it back into the house, Barbara tells him he was gone for two hours. Appropriate, since Saturn was a god of time.
    • This also happens in the social workers' office. The Maitlands spend about three months waiting for their turn, but don't seem to notice.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: After Maxie Dean gets off the phone with Charles, he calls him a putz.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/BeetleJuice