Meet the Maitlands, Barbara and Adam. They're a young couple, crazy in love, and 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 crash through the covered bridge over the river.The ghosts of the Maitlands return home, not knowing how, and find that they can no longer leave it (unless they want to be beset by Sand Worms). Even worse, their house has been sold to the Deetzes — an eccentric, upscale yuppie family who want to do a complete overhaul. Not knowing what to do, and getting little-to-no real help from the Celestial Bureaucracy known as the afterlife, Barbara and Adam learn of a being known as Betelgeuse (pronounced, of course, "Beetlejuice"), who claims he can rid their house of its new owners. They release him after saying his namethree times. Hilarity Ensues.This iconic Tim Burton movie remains one of the most popular comedy movies of all time. Though it contains the typical gothic imagery you'd expect from Tim Burton, it also features 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 staple of Halloween.Interestingly enough, Beetlejuice was originally conceived as a very serious horror film titled The Maitlands with Beetlejuice originally envisioned as a shape-shifting reptilian demon. The involvement of Tim Burton and Michael Keaton helped turn it into more of a comedy.The movie was so popular that it spawned an animatedRecycled: The Series on ABC and Fox Kids. It bore little resemblance to the movie, however; the Maitlands and Juno were eliminated entirely, the title character's name was spelt "Beetlejuice", he and Lydia were best friends, and the stories largely took place in Beetlejuice's home dimension of "the Neitherworld".
Affably Evil: While hardly anybody's friend, Betelgeuse actually seems like a fun guy to be around. How despicable 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?
Bedsheet Ghost: The Maitlands, while trying to scare the Deetz family. It didn't work: Charles thought one of them was Lydia playing a prank, Delia was too doped out on valium to notice them, and Lydia thought it was Charles and Delia playing some kinky bedroom game (at first).
Berserk Button: He might not look it, but Betelgeuse takes great pride in his work as a bio-exorcist. When the Maitlands save Charles from being killed by Betelgeuse 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 pinstripe 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.
Black Comedy: Of course. Prime example, Betelgeuse says he'd better flip to 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.
Book Ends: 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. This is after he's taken the Handbook For the Recently Deceased and presumably has been looking through it.
Lydia contemplates suicide, and Betelgeuse is confused as to why she'd ever want to.
By the Power of Grayskull!: Saying "Betelgeuse" three times summons him into the "real world" to wreak havoc, saying it three times again sends him back.
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.
Establishing Character Moment: Adam and the tarantula. Instead of squashing, 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 and nods "I could live here" — pretty much guarantees she'll get on well with the Maitlands.
Exposition Diagram: Charles Deetz uses a Type 1 to show what his "Museum of the Paranormal" will look like.
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 like they try to.
Forceful Kiss: Immediately introducing himself to Adam and Barbara, Beetlejuice grabs her and gives her this kind of kiss. As you can imagine, they're immediately 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 picked up on this.
Free the Frogs: Lydia gets a C in Biology because she refuses to dissect frogs. Though she clearly stated, 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.
Ghostly Glide: A very subtle example. The Maitlands actually do glide while wearing sheets and "pretending" to be ghosts. However, 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, slieds effortlessly to Bettlejuice's side. Though this is not of her own accord.
I Gave My Word: Beetlejuice does exactly what he promised to do after Lydia releases him, saving Adam and Barbara from being exorcised. He's quick to try to dispose of them afterwards, however, sending Adam to the model and sending Barbara to the Sand Worm infested desert. Both tricks backfire, as Adam is able to use a toy car to distract him while Barbara manages to befriend a Sand Worm, which swallows him.
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 rather obviously waits for him to retaliate between sayings (though this could be attributed to her still being exhausted from her brush with "death for the dead").
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, implied to be repeatedly trying to sell the Maitlands' house behind their backs for no reason than she thinks it's too big for a childless couple, which she tells Barbara outright. She then gives a half-hearted apology before Barbara pushes her out the door, as we find out later the Maitlands are trying to conceive and just haven't had it happen yet. And, of course, Beetlejuice himself, but unlike Jane he's a strangely lovable jerk-ass.
Karma Houdini: Jane the realtor. She's taken it onto herself that 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. At Adam said, it isn't "any of Jane's business".
Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Otho. He 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, which in turn leads to Betelgeuse humiliating him with a Shameful Strip (see below). However, his claim that suicides become civil servants in the afterlife is actually true.
(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 ExorcistABOUT 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?!"
Laughably Evil: Betelgeuse is the villain. He's a pervert and a con-man and he tries to force Lydia to marry him to get permanent access to the mortal world. But he's so funny, people forget just what a terrible person he is.
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.
However, it's implied that they should have 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.
Mood Motif: Ominous, spooky, but with a very quirky undercurrent. It is a Tim Burton film, after all.
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 under 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 that they've been bugging him to do a spread with them for a while now. More likely all 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.
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 disco suit.
Nested Mouths: The Saturnian 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; however, the lackluster haunting job done by Adam and Barbara Maitland does nothing to scare them away.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: As Juno calls them out on, 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.
Nightmare Face: Betelgeuse makes one to demonstrate his talents to the Maitlands. "Can I be scary? Well, whaddya think of this?"
Noodle Incident: Something like this, given this exchange between Adam and Barbera when Lydia at first fails to convince her parents about them:
Adam: They have to believe her! She has photographs!
Product Placement: Betelgeuse tempts a fly with a Zagnut bar. (Yes, Zagnut is a real candy bar.)
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!.
Betelgeuse: Hey, these aren't my rules. Come to think of it... I don't have any rules!
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 murdered one of Lydia's parents before Barbara was able to send him back) which leads him to seek out Lydia. Marrying her would, presumably, rid him of the...
Shameful Strip: Happens to Otho when Beetlejuice goes on his hilarious climactic rampage. When Otho tries to make a run for it Beetlejuice uses his supernatural powers to shoot Otho's black and red clothes off, but rather than leave him naked or in his underwear he leaves him clad a light blue '50s/'70s style leisure suit, causing him to scream in horror before running away in despair.
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 appear to be Jake and Elwood Blues.
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. Otho also arguably fits this trope.
Small Secluded World: The main characters are stuck in their house, unable to have any contact with the surrounding world. At first, they do not realize that they are dead and haunting the house in which they lived.
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 Magnet: Lydia. She's initially the only one who can see the Maitlands, and is nearly forced into a marriage with an undead bio-exorcist. Not too many people can say that's happened to them...
Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: At the end, when Barbara tries to banish Betelgeuse, she's able to get his name out once before he zips her lip...literally. 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: Seems to be true of the weird place (Saturn?) that Barbara and Adam wind up in if they leave the house. Adam is outside briefly, but Barbara tells him he was gone for two hours.
Also the social workers' office. The Maitlands spend about 6 months waiting for their turn but don't seem to notice.