Follow TV Tropes


Film / Beetlejuice

Go To

"It's showtime!"

Beetlejuice is a 1988 Horror Comedy film directed by Tim Burton. It stars Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O'Hara, Glenn Shadix and Winona Ryder, with Michael Keaton as the title character.

The story follows Barbara and Adam Maitland, a loving young couple who die in a car accident and find themselves caught in the Celestial Bureaucracy of the afterlife. Unable to move on, they haunt their rustic Connecticut home until it's bought by Charles and Delia Deetz, an insufferable yuppie couple with a goth daughter, Lydia. Wishing to rid themselves of the Deetzes, they enlist the help of a malevolent ghost named Betelgeuse (pronounced Beetlejuice) to drive them out. But between Betelgeuse’s unwillingness to play fair and the increasingly strong bond between Lydia and the Maitlands, who come to see her as the daughter they never got to have, things go off the rails quickly, and Hilarity Ensues.

The film is remembered for its dark humor and inventive visuals, helping to make Burton a household name. The score by Danny Elfman and a memorable musical sequence set to Harry Belafonte's "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" also brought renewed attention to both performers.

In the years since its release, Beetlejuice spawned a franchise, including an early 90s animated series of the same name on ABC and Fox Kids bearing only a loose resemblance to the film, and a theatrical production that commenced in 2018. A sequel has long languished in Development Hell. As of March 2023, however, Warner Bros. officially announced that a sequel was in development. Beetlejuice Beetlejuice is currently set for release on September 6, 2024, with Burton, Keaton, Ryder and O'Hara returning and Jenna Ortega, Monica Bellucci and Willem Dafoe joining the cast.

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

    open/close all folders 

  • Abnormal Limb Rotation Range: Betelgeuse's head spins freely, apparently not within his complete control.
    Betelgeuse: Don't you just hate it when that happens?
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: When Adam finds the advert for Betelgeuse, he actually says the name three times, but because he pronounces it "Bay-til Guy-ce", the incantation doesn't work.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    Otho: Don't mind her. She's still upset because somebody dropped a house on her sister.note 
    Lydia: Wait, what am I worried about? Otho, you can't even change a tire!note 
  • Affably Evil: Betelgeuse actually seems like a fun guy to be around at first. How evil can someone really be if he enjoys carnival games, dressing up in fun costumes, and offers to make Barbara and Adam an Italian dinner? Then he demonstrates that he's a crude, perverted murderer with no restraint or self-control, and it becomes clear that as fun as he seems, he is a dangerous man to be around for more than a few minutes.
  • Afterlife Angst: Adam and Barbara experience quite a lot of this after they figure out they are dead. They panic when they notice they can't feel pain or be seen in mirrors, though they calm down a little when they realize they will be able to stay in their house together forever. Then a living family moves in who want to change everything about the house...
  • Afterlife Antechamber: The eternal waiting room.
  • Against My Religion: During the epilogue Lydia admits to using this as an excuse to get out of dissecting a frog in biology class.
  • Agony of the Feet: A shrunken Adam uses Betelgeuse's model truck to ram it into his foot.
  • Alien Sky: On Saturn we see a huge, green Jupiter looming in the sky, and Mars far away in the distance.
  • 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 
    [The rest of the dinner table goes silent]
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Betelgeuse's main goal is to marry Lydia, because marrying a living person will allow him to stay in the living world indefinitely.
  • Animated Adaptation: Beetlejuice: The Animated Series (1989-1991)
  • Antagonist Title: Although not actually spelled the same as in the film, Betelgeuse is the ultimate antagonist.
  • 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.
    • Charles and Delia show concern about raising Lydia in such a dangerous environment: "Snakes? Ghosts? Shrimp?"
  • Asshole Victim: Maxie Dean and his wife. They are boors at the dinner party, and laugh and delight at Beetlejuice terrorizing everyone up until the moment he kills them.
  • 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.
    • Also calling his name to summon him only to reject his services, thus getting his hopes up and wasting his time. That's the first time you really see him upset. This could also be the reason why Betelgeuse didn't just tell Lydia his name.
  • Big Bad: Betelgeuse's actions drive much of the film's plot and stopping his plans are the Maitlands' main objectives.
  • Bishōnen 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.
  • Blatant Lies: Jane Butterfield gives Lydia her business card and says that she single-handedly decorated that house and is willing to offer any advice along those lines. It's established at the beginning of the story and during their meeting with Juno that the Maitlands were the ones who decorated and restored that house together.
  • Body Horror: The Maitlands, when changing their faces.
  • 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.
  • Bowdlerise: Network TV airings usually omit Miss Argentina's joke about her "little accident" (and showing her slit wrists). They also cut Beetlejuice's f-bomb and crotch grab and end the scene with him kicking the model tree over, but the abrupt cut still makes it pretty funny.
  • 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.
    • One of the ghosts in the afterlife waiting room has a shrunken head. It's not until the final scene when Betelgeuse has his head shrunk that we find out why.
  • Captain Obvious: 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.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: The wedding clothes, Delia's sculptures, the sandworm, and Betelgeuse's car in the model.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Beetlejuice's supernatural ventriloquism.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment:
    • Betelgeuse scares off fashionable interior decorator Otho by changing his classy 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, the Maitlands' caseworker, is savvy and competent, and easily the most helpful person in the realm of the dead. Naturally, she has a huge waiting list.
  • Coordinated Clothes:
    • Jane Butterfield, a realtor who sold their house to the Maitlands and is also their relative, wears matching outfits with her little daughter Jane. First they are both seen in black when they go from Adam and Barbara's funeral — they wear very similar dresses, handbags and identical hats. Later Jane and little Jane wear identical light yellow sweaters, light blue and white striped shirts with polka dot ties shaped like a flower.
    • Beetlejuice/Betelgeuse imitates Adam's clothes when he wants to convince him and Barbara that they should hire him as a bioexorcist. He switches from his shabby coat to Adam's red T-shirt, white and black plaid shirt and beige pants.
      Beetlejuice/Betelgeuse: Hey guy, come on! We're simpatico here... Look at us. Huh? We even shop at the same store!
  • Country Mouse: Adam and Barbara. Their idea of a vacation? Spend it in their country house and renovate.
  • Covers Always Lie: On the movie's poster, clothes worn by Adam, Barbara, Betelgueuse, and Lydia aren't those they wear during most of the film, but during the climax only: the Maitlands wear their wedding clothes because those are personal effects that Otho used in order to summon them to perform the séance, while Beetlejuice's striped suit and Lydia's red dress they only wear during the botched wedding which happens just after the séance. Due to the movie being a ghost story, and to how common the Jacob Marley Apparel trope is, showing the two main characters dressed in their wedding clothes implies to the audience they died during their wedding ceremony. In the movie's context, they're already married when they die. Also, Adam didn't die from being beheaded, and the scene he removes his head comes from a completely unrelated scene.
  • Dance Party Ending: In the final scene, the Maitlands reward Lydia by creating music out of household objects for her to dance to, inexplicably joined by the ghosts of the football team seen earlier.
  • Dead All Along: Adam and Barbara. And a team of football players.
  • Dead to Begin With: The Maitlands die a few minutes into the film. Most of the plot involves them dealing with the afterlife and with the people who are now inhabiting their house.
  • Deader than Dead: Going into the "Lost Souls Room" is a Fate Worse than Death.
    Janitor: A room for ghosts who 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.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: At first the film appeared to deconstruct the monster movie by showing that the "monsters" could be pretty decent folk, the corollary of course being that Humans Are Bastards. But the movie ultimately affirms that not only are humans redeemable if they're just scared straight, but supernatural creatures can still be complete assholes.
  • 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.
  • The Dreaded: The Sandworms on Saturn. Even Betelgeuse fears them and with good reason; they seem to he the only creatures that can physically harm ghosts.
  • 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.
    • The Deetzes also get what they want: Charles adjusts more, Deelia gets a new inspiration for her art, and Lydia finds a reason to live.
  • Easy Amnesia: After falling to their deaths in the river, Adam and Barbara don't seem to remember coming out of it or even the walk back home.
    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 a roach later, then the Sandworm eating Betelgeuse towards the end.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: A Tim Burton requirement. Lydia is pale and wears black, expressing her gloomy personality and alienation from her yuppie fashionista parents. She never totally stops being this, but when she’s become a Perky Goth in the epilogue, her complexion is noticeably rosier and she’s added dark blue to her palette.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: When Charles is having a phone conversation with Maxie Dean, the Chrysler Building is right outside the latter's penthouse to indicate he's talking from New York.
  • Emotionless Girl: Lydia, or at least she tries to be; she actually feels things pretty intensely. By the epilogue, she’s no longer worried about this and expresses herself freely.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: The Handbook for the Recently Deceased.
  • Enslaved Tongue: When the Maitlands first release Betelgeuse, he gives a demonstration of his possession power by talking through Barbara.
  • 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.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: It's very subtle, but in the final scene, Lydia has softer, more natural bangs to go with her new Perky Goth outlook and healthier complexion, after spending most of the movie with them gelled into points.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Lydia figures out Betelgeuse was the snake that attacked her, her parents, and Otho. And perhaps she also realized Adam and Barbara didn't send him.
    Lydia: It was you, wasn't it?
    Betelgeuse: Me?
    Lydia: The snake.
    Betelgeuse: No! What snake? You kids and your overactive imaginations.
  • 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. Then he tells her that if she lets him out, they can talk, and maybe he can help her if she helps him.
    • Otho is portrayed as a pompous and hubristic thief at best. Even he's horrified at what his bumbling nearly does to the Maitlands.
    • Subverted with Juno and the rest of the afterlife bureaucracy. They don't care about the damage Betelgeuse causes, per se, just that he attracts too much attention.
  • 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.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: When the Maitlands grotesquely contort their faces, Adam pulls out his eyeballs and places them on his fingertips. Barbara's eyes sit on the tongue of her stretched-open mouth.
  • Failed Attempt at Scaring: After the Deetzes move into their house, the ghosts of the Maitlands try to scare them away, but no matter how gruesome they make themselves, none of the Deetzes are aware of them except for Lydia, because ghosts are Invisible to Normals.
  • 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.
  • Faux Horrific: What Beetlejuice does to Otho; he does suitably horrible things to everyone else, but to Otho... he changes Otho's debonair suit to a powder-blue leisure suit, but Otho reacts like he had just been shown Beetlejuice's Nightmare Face.
  • 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.
    Betelgeuse: (with both arms around Adam and Barbara) You know what's beautiful about this? You two kids picked me! You didn't have to, but you picked me, and it makes me wanna kiss you guys.
    [Betelgeuse tries to have his way with Barbara again.]
  • 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, since he uses the exact same sculpture to retrain Delia in the climax.
      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 happens at Delia's party?
    • The Lost Souls Room foreshadows the potential fate of the Maitlands.
    • Betelgeuse mentions he hates sandworms when reading the newspaper, and again when he first meets the Maitlands.
    • Barbara manages to land a good punch on the sandworm the first time it attacks her. Her ability to handle the creature better than the rest of the cast comes in handy later on in the film.
    • In the first scene, Adam receives a Harry Belafonte cassette in the mail. "The Banana Boat Song" is even briefly heard early on in the film after Adam and Barbara just died. Guess what song plays during Delia's dinner party later on in the film?
    • During the dinner party, Otho mentions he used to be a paranormal researcher in New York before the market collapses, and he makes a joke that people who commit suicide become civil servants in the afterlife. This reveals that Otho has legitimate knowledge of the supernatural, which comes into play in the film's climax.
    • When Betelgeuse appears to the Maitlands in a TV ad, he's performing in the model's cemetery, long before it's even revealed he's in the model.
  • 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.
  • From New York to Nowhere: The Deetzes move from New York into a quaint little town Winter River in Connecticut. Charles Deetz has suffered a near-nervous breakdown and hopes to escape his stressful NY life there. His wife Delia, an art snob with terrible taste, hates moving there, but is somewhat satisfied when she can transform this old-fashioned cozy New England house into a postmodern urban one and start sculpting again. Delia convinces her interior designer and friend Otho to come from New York with them. Charles eventually tries to buy more property in the town — some habits persist, and they manage to invite some New Yorkers to come for a visit (to talk about Delia's art, to evaluate possible investments and to check paranormal activities), and most of them are very condescending. Only teenage goth girl Lydia Deetz likes the house as it was.
  • 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: "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 considers suicide early in the film.
  • Goth: Lydia wears black and seems delight in gloominess, spiders and other goth trappings. She perks up by the end, so it's not clear if she's left all of her goth trappings behind (since she's wearing a mandatory school uniform) or just started being happier. Harry Belafonte, however, is definitely not goth.
  • Goths Have It Hard: Lydia Deetz is a goth, and at one point, she tries to drown herself.
  • Great White Hunter: One of the souls in the Afterlife's waiting room is a big game hunter carrying a rifle and dressed in a classical safari outfit. Most memorably his head has been shrunk which is presumably how he died.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: All the characters have both decent and slimy aspects—and yes, that includes Betelgeuse.
  • Hanging Around: Discussed. Lydia's parents think that George and Barbara hanged themselves, but they actually died in a car crash.
  • Haunted Headquarters: The Deetzs buy the Maitland's home which gets haunted and then permanently stay to make good on their investment.
  • Haunted House: The Maitlands haunt their own home.
  • 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.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Betelguese, being much more advanced at haunting than the Maitlands, is a dangerous Reality Warper that can warp an entire house into his bizarre playground.
  • 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. Ironically, he's only wearing the outfit for about five minutes of screen time (during the climax) as he's typically in a long coat and ratty pajamas for most of the film like a ghastly Hugh Hefner. However, the look was so iconic and so heavily featured in the movie's advertising that it's basically the only thing he wears in the animated adaptation.
  • 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. Especially bad since Barbara did this properly earlier in the film.
    • They grab it earlier in the film when they decide to summon Beetlejuice, even though they had been warned not to. They quickly realize their mistake, but it's too late by that point.
  • 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.
    • Betelgeuse inflicts Otho with this in the climax.
  • 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).
  • Inconsistent Spelling: The correct spelling of the title character's name is Betelgeuse, like the star, however it is pronounced "beetlejuice". The decision to use the spelling Beetlejuice for the title of the movie and spin-off media has resulted in zero consistency in the spelling of the character's name. Hell, even on this PAGE, the spelling goes back and forth, especially in its musical, in which the titular character spells it like the "insect beverage" in a song.
  • 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. Makes you wonder why they and Juno thought it was such a good idea to scare them off by transforming their faces when that sort of trick failed miserably earlier in the film.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: All of the ghosts except Betelgeuse who is the only one who can change his outfit. He wears either a very shabby coat and some kind of pyjamas, he imitates Adam's clothes (Coordinated Clothes styles! to convince him that they are very similar and that they should hire him) and his iconinc black and white striped outfit. Adam and Barbara wear the clothes they died in, and it is implied they drowned without major injuries because their bodies are in top form. Other ghosts also wear the same clothes and usually viewers can infer how they died (one afterlife worker is flat with tire marks, so he's a suicide who jumped under a car).
    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:
    • Barbara's cousin Jane, a real estate agent. She repeatedly tries to pressure the Maitlands to sell their house and secretly takes pictures of the house to show to potential buyers behind their backs. She does this because she thinks the house is too big for a couple without children: the Maitlands have been trying to conceive and Jane offers a half-hearted apology when she realizes what she said before going back into her sales pitch. The Reveal the house has been sold happens during a scene of Jane's family, still in their funeral wear, visit it one last time; the Maitlands weren't even buried yet before Jane sold their house. A deleted scene has her trying to convince the Deetzes to sell the house too, which makes it clear that she just wants to repeatedly sell the house to keep making commission off the sales.
    • 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.
    • Maxie Dean and his wife are strangely unmoved at the Maitlands withering away in front of them, instead wowed by Betelgeuse's antics. The dinner scene earlier seems to suggest that they, especially the wife, are dead inside.
    • Betelgeuse himself; but he's a strangely lovable jerkass.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Charles and Delia Deetz, moreso Charles. They're snooty, preppy New Yorkers, Charles wants to buy out the town and turn it into a tourist trap, and Delia makes it known she hates living in the small town. But the two are ultimately able to come to an understanding with the Maitlands and co-exist with them in peace.
  • 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 (not to mention illegal). 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 sells it on behalf of her agency, 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.
    • Otho seemingly gets off with nothing more than a torn suit and a bad replacement. Though he at least seems remorseful for his actions.
  • 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: One of Betelgeuse's traits that's hard to miss. He'd have a hard time giving a shit about anyone but himself; the closest we ever see him get to showing real empathy is when he talks to Lydia about her suicidal impulses.
  • Large Ham
    • Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse.
      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 Deetzes as well, particularly Delia. Lydia is something of a Cold Ham as her suicide note illustrates.
  • The Last Straw: The dog's departure off a loose board ultimately pushes the Maitland's car off of 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.note  At the very least, they've had no luck conceiving. It's no wonder they become almost second parents to Lydia.
  • Layman's Terms
    • The Handbook for the Recently Deceased attempts to be a helpful Tome of Eldritch Lore. Barbara asks a question and the book just happens to open to the relevant section. Unfortunately, the Handbook was written by a bureaucrat.
      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) JUST TURN AROUND AND 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 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 Background Event: In the office, there are several flight departures announced. The Maitlands are told to go to door 6 and wait there, which opens into their own house. The implication is they'll go to Heaven after 125 years as ghosts.
  • Meaningful Name: The Deetzes are ditzes - the parents, anyway. Bernard even calls Delia a "flake".
  • 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 and 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 (a simple, "Why?") 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.
  • The Music Meister: Ghosts can apparently do this, as the Maitlands demonstrate during the sequence with "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" by Harry Belafonte.
  • 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 do this a few times.
    • The "Day-O" haunting attempt only serves to entertain the Deetzes and their guests, not frighten them.
    • The Maitlands release Betelgeuse, their carelessness allows Otho to 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?" The audience can't see it, but the Maitlands certainly seem terrified.
    • When Juno asks the Maitlands what they're going to do to scare away the Deetzes, they respond by grotesquely distorting their faces. Adam's nose is pulled out to resemble a huge beak, and Barbara's mouth is stretched open wide with her eyeballs perched on her tongue.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Downplayed, but Delia's sculptures have a disturbing, organic quality to them and she is proud of her work. After things settle down, she's inspired to start sculpting Betelgeuse in his snake form.
  • No Fourth Wall: Played with. The theater seating full of ghosts behind the Maitlands in Juno's office is Tim Burton's way of suggesting that the dead on the other side are watching the story unfold along with the living audience, and for a brief moment the two can see each other staring back.
  • 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; however, his chosen methods are much more temporary than exorcism, and he only does it because they're 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.
  • No Full Name Given: Juno presumably has a surname, but it's never stated.
  • 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: She’s got photographs, Barbara!
    Barbara: Adam, you had a photo of Bigfoot.
    Adam: My photo of Bigfoot is a different story.
  • Not Drawn to Scale: When Adam and Barbara dig up the cemetery to get to Beetleju(... ah,ah,ah, no one says the "B" word), the cardboard used as filler is printed to the smaller scale, not as if it was normal size.
  • The Nothing After Death: "The Lost Souls" room, which is an endless black void filled with ghosts that have been exorcised. This is nearly Barbara and Adam's fate when Otho summons them in a séance (but accidentally performed an exorcism) and they begin to crumble into dust - only for Betelgeuse to rescue them after Lydia promises to marry him.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Barbara tamed the sandworm—and since time passes differently on Saturn, she must have tamed it almost instantly.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Lydia when Otho reveals that he got his hands on the Handbook. She briefly calms herself, claiming that he wouldn't be able to do any harm with it as he "can't even change a tire", but it comes back full force when she realizes that the séance is actually an exorcism, and has no choice but to summon Betelgeuse to save Adam and Barbara.
    • Otho when Betelgeuse transforms his suit into a leisure suit. Also earlier, when he accidentally performs an exorcism on Adam and Barbara instead of a séance.
      Delia: What's happening to them?
      Otho: (frantically flipping through the Handbook) I-I don't know.
    • Betelgeuse himself when Adam hurts his foot and when the sandworm is about to eat him alive.
  • Only One Afterlife: Heaven and Hell were mentioned briefly, and nothing in the book tells anything about them.
  • Only One Name: Betelgeuse.
  • 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 that he's obsessed with success and just as eager to destroy something simple and beautiful as Delia is, only on an even larger scale.
    • In fact, as eccentric as she is, Lydia ultimately takes on the role of Only Sane Man, being extremely reasonable and down-to-earth.
  • Otherworldly Visits Youngest First: When the Maitlands, as ghosts, try to drive out the new family that has moved into their home, and begun remodeling it, the only person who is initially aware of their presence is teen daughter Lydia. Before too long, though, everyone is aware of the ghosts in the house, especially after a Calypso-inspired dance number via possession.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: They can interact with the living, be seen by them so long as the living believe, and have vaguely defined Reality Warper powers.
  • Parents as People: Charles and Delia are certainly preoccupied with their own lives (Charles recovering from a nervous breakdown, Delia obsessing over her sculptures) as well as moving into a new place which has them regard Lydia's sighting of the Maitlands as Not Now, Kiddo until they realize it could benefit them in some way. Overall, though, both of them genuinely love Lydia; they're just not sure how to really deal with her which is pretty typical of parents with a teenager.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Barbara Maitland attempts this on the Deetzs but she is invisible to them.
  • People Puppets: The infamous dinner scene.
    Delia: I would rather talk about... DAAAYYYY O.
  • Precision F-Strike: After Betelgeuse knocks down a tree he says this and the movie still gets away with a PG ratingnote :
  • Product Placement:
    • Betelgeuse tempts a fly with a Zagnut bar. (Yes, Zagnut is a real candy bar.)
    • A subtle one: moments before Delia's sculpture crashes through the window, Charles is choosing from a selection of Lipton's Celestial Seasonings teas.
    • Minute Maid Orange Juice.
    • Kmart gets a brief mention during Betelgeuse's big scene.
    Betelgeuse: Attention, Kmart shoppers!
  • 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 Burton's later effort, Mars Attacks!.
    • Also, during the scene where Lydia summons Betelgeuse to help her save the Maitlands from being exorcised, Betelgeuse comes out of the Maitlands' town model and is wearing a carousel hat. On top of Betelgeuse's hat, you can see a small skeleton head that looks like Jack Skellington, a character who shows up in the later animated film produced by Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas. (Though, really, Burton has snuck in Edward Gorey Homages in all of his films.)
    • During the same scene, on the sides of his hat, you can see little bat wings that look very similar to the Batman logo. We all know what Keaton and Burton's next collaboration was.
  • 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 to keep Betelgeuse occupied 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.
    • Juno gives a subtle one to the Maitlands, when they complain they wouldn't mind a family that wasn't too different. Juno snarks, "More like you used to be?", basically calling them closed-minded bigots.
  • Rule of Three: Repeatedly.
    • Betelgeuse's summoning/dismissal procedure.
    • Knocking three times on the chalk door to enter the afterlife offices.
    • Barbara getting herself and Adam out of the model by saying "Home, home, home!"
  • Sand Worm: On Saturn, which appears to be a Desert Planet.
  • Saw "Star Wars" Twenty-Seven Times: Betelgeuse has seen The Exorcist "about a hundred and sixty-seven times" (and it keeps getting funnier every time he sees it).
  • 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.
  • Scaled Up: Betelgeuse turns into a giant snake.
  • 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 gets married.
  • 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.
  • Shackle Seat Trap: In the climactic "wedding" scene, two of Delia's ugly sculptures animate and crawl up to Lydia's parents, press up behind them while bending into chair-like shapes, and ensnare them with tendrils or grasping prongs, holding them as involuntary "witnesses" to the ceremony.
  • 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: Has its own page.
  • Shrunken Head: In the climax, Betelgeuse runs into a hunter with 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.
  • 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 pumping himself up. While he has some brutish skills, he's nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is.
    • Otho thinks he's an expert in nearly everything, but isn't as smart 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.
  • Snake People: Snake-Betelgeuse counts, except he has no arms.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Don't kill yourself or you'll end up as an office worker in the Celestial Bureaucracy.
  • 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.
  • Staircase Tumble: Charles gets subjected to this during Snake-Betelgeuse's attack.
  • 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 Otho's book on living with ghosts, which is based on the Handbook that he stole.
  • 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..."
  • Stylistic Suck: All of the effects are rather deliberately cartoonish and unrealistic-looking, to match with the B-Movie aesthetic. Burton stated that he wanted them to look "cheap and purposely fake-looking".
  • Suicide is Shameful: This is both Downplayed and Played for Laughs. People who commit suicide are sentenced to an eternity as a civil servant working in the afterlife's social services department.
  • Surreal Horror: The cartoonish Body Horror Adam and Barbara pull off, the staircase handrail suddenly morphing into the Betelgeuse Snake, Delia's statues coming to life and attacking, pretty much anything revolving Saturn and the Netherworld, especially the look of the other deceased permanently stuck in the final moment of their Cruel and Unusual Death.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: The film opens with a depressed, mournful rendition of "Day-O": "Daylight come, and me wanna go home..." An attitude the Maitlands feel during the film.
  • 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" is not visible to the audience beyind some snake-like tendrils that project from it.
  • Tear Off Your Face: Barbara pulls her own face off in an attempt to frighten off the Deetzes. Unfortunately, they can't see her.
  • Teetering on the Edge: The Maitlands are driving across a bridge over a stream. They get into an accident and end up hanging off the middle of the bridge. They and their car eventually fall into the water, where they're Trapped in a Sinking Car and drown off camera.
  • Terrible Artist: Calling Delia's work "terrible" may be unfair, but she's not exactly Picasso. In the final scene, 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?
  • "Test Your Strength" Game: When the Ghost with the Most is summoned in the climax, he gets rid of Mr. and Mrs. Dean by putting each on high strikers and, by turning his arms into mallets, sending them flying through the ceiling.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: In one of the 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: The 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.

  • Unconventional Wedding Dress: Beetlejuice and Lydia are planning to get married, Lydia's dress is red because of the association with Hell.
  • Unishment: At the end, when Bettlejuice swipes the low number of a voodoo priest for his absurdly long number, the voodoo priest retaliates by shrinking his head. Beetlejuice likes the new look.
    Beetlejuice: Whoa... this could be a good look for me.
  • 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. However, the fact there is a book for the living and dead getting along together seems to indicate that the Deetzes are Secret Keepers now.
  • Unreveal Angle: The viewer only sees it from the back when Beetlejuice offers up his Nightmare Face as a demonstration of how scary he can be.
  • 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.
  • Wham Line: Right after Barbara pulled Adam from Saturn.
    Adam: That was close.
    Barbara: Two hours!
    Adam: Barbara, you're not gonna believe— What?!
    Barbara: That's how long you were gone!
  • 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...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Did Maxie Dean and his wife survive being catapulted through the ceiling by Beetlejuice? In reality, this would have certainly killed them, but in-universe, this is doubtful. For instance, Charles Deetz survives a head-first fall off a second floor after being thrown by Beetlejuice (in snake form) with nothing more than a bad bump on his head (in reality, such a fall would have killed Charles or left him permanently crippled).
  • 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. Betelgeuse lures a fly toward him with a candy bar, asking if it wants a nosh. He even says it in a faux-Yiddish accent.

Nice fuckin' trope page! [honk honk]


Video Example(s):


The Maitlands

After the Deetzes move into their house, the ghosts of the Maitlands try to scare them away, but no matter how gruesome they make themselves, none of the Deetzes are aware of them except for Lydia, because ghosts are Invisible to Normals.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / FailedAttemptAtScaring

Media sources: