Follow TV Tropes


Film / Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Go To

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a 2007 musical horror film directed by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter and Timothy Spall.

It is based on the musical of the same name by Stephen Sondheim, which was based on the Christopher Bond version of the legendary story of an English barber who murdered his customers and, with the help of his neighbor Mrs. Lovett, made them into pies. Sondheim himself composed the film's soundtrack instead of Burton's usual collaborator Danny Elfman.

In this version of the story, Todd is out to get revenge on a corrupt Judge who sent him to prison on false charges, raped his wife (who then poisoned herself), "adopted" his daughter Johanna fifteen years ago and plans to marry her. Mrs. Lovett smoothly tries to dissuade him from this goal so that he can settle down with her and run a business, whilst Johanna takes a shine to a young sailor.


In addition to many of the tropes from the musical, the film provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The sewers connected to Lovett's cellar are shown in the opening and the climax to be fairly large, enough for Todd and Lovett to comfortably walk down in search of a disappeared Toby.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The film greatly tones down the subplot between Anthony and Johanna. All their duets from the musical have also been cut as a result.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Pirelli's real name goes from Daniel O'Higgins to Davey Collins, due to him being British in the film rather than Irish.
  • Adapted Out: The crowd songs from the musical, including the much-beloved "Ballad Of Sweeney Todd", do not appear in the movie.
  • Almost Holding Hands: Mr Todd almost holds hands with Mrs Lovett, but doesn't.
  • Apathetic Citizens: During "Poor Thing." Not only do the partygoers do absolutely nothing as Judge Turpin forces himself on Lucy, they crowd around to watch it happen and laugh at her.
  • Advertisement:
  • Artistic License – History: London's Tower Bridge was not yet constructed in 1846, the year that the film is set in. In fact, construction wouldn't have even started until 1886, a whole forty years later.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
    • Pretty Boy Anthony has remarkably smooth skin despite his life at sea and the beating he takes early in the film.
    • Johanna after her time in the asylum is beautiful, even with her yellow hair perfectly combed.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to the musical, which, being the medium it is, has less means to depict its violence. The film gleefully shows it in all its morbid glory.
  • Blood Is the New Black: When Sweeney takes final vengeance against Judge Turpin, his face and clothes are practically covered in blood. This makes for an utterly terrifying scene when he finds Johanna, doesn't recognize her due to her disguise, and almost kills her.
  • Bowdlerise: The free version on YouTube replaces "shit" with "spit" during Todd's song under Crapsack World - the gore remains uncensored.
  • Bungled Suicide: Lucy's suicide attempt was unsuccessful, as Mrs Lovett reveals in the film's final sequence. She poisoned herself after having been raped, but she didn't die.
  • Camera Abuse: Blood spatters the camera during Sweeney's rendition of "Johanna".
  • Cannibal Larder: Mrs. Lovett's evil basement is where she turns the corpses that Sweeney produces into pies for her customers. Poor Toby winds up locked in there near the end and soon discovers what the pies are being made of when he sees body parts in the pie he's eating and the feed hopper of the meat grinder, and then sees the Beadle getting dropped down the chute and into the room.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Signor Pirelli's purse. When Mrs. Lovett takes it out attempting to distract Toby with an offer of a penny, Toby recognizes the purse, and Lovett's attempt to say it was a gift from Todd only cements in his mind that Todd murdered Pirelli.
  • Circle of Shame: The climax of "Poor Thing", where all the attendants to the Judge's ball gather around and laugh as he rapes Lucy.
  • City Noir: Tim Burton's dark vision of Victorian London. Ominous steamy sewers full of rats, dark and polluted streets and alleys, dirty houses and filthy rooms, corrupted and utterly evil people... Not a nice place to live. Things looked much rosier in the flashback to Benjamin Barker's happy life, though both that and the present could be framed to the audience through Todd's emotional state.
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: Todd and Mrs Lovett call for Toby in the sewers but not with good intentions.
  • Cool Chair: Todd rigs his barber chair to flip backwards at the press of a foot pedal, dumping his victims through a trapdoor and straight into the bakehouse.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Mr. Todd desperately cradles the dead body of his wife Lucy. He murdered her without realizing who she was.
  • Crapsack World: To quote Todd himself:
    Todd: There's a hole in the world like a great black pit
    And it's filled with people who are filled with shit
    And the vermin of the world inhabit it...
  • Crime After Crime: After murdering Pirelli, Todd decides to hone his craft on almost any poor sod willing to pay him a visit.
  • Crowd Song: Deliberately averted in the process of adaptation. Only the principal cast got singing roles in the film, while unnamed citizenry who served the purpose of extras had some sung parts on the stage. The most noticeable effect of this is that "God, That's Good" no longer includes its own title, which was sung by the guests at Lovett's restaurant at the end of stanzas.
  • Dark Reprise: "Not While I'm Around" and "The Barber and his Wife" both get this treatment, with the former featuring as Mrs. Lovett attempts to use it to lure out Toby, who first sang it to her, and the latter coming up as Todd's last despairing words as he mourns the wife he accidentally murdered.
  • Dance of Despair: When Todd realizes that he has killed his wife Lucy, he is utterly shocked and accuses Mrs. Lovett of lying to him. She explains that technically she didn't lie: Lucy did poison herself, but she lived, only she lost her mental health. Todd pretends to forgive her and he starts dancing manically with Mrs. Lovett. Then he suddenly pushes her into the oven and she burns alive.
  • Dead Man's Chest: When Toby comes up to Todd's shop looking for Pirelli, Todd is startled to see Pirell's hand sticking out from the chest he stuffed his body in. And it's still twitching.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Johanna. She is one of the nine principal characters in the play with a decent amount of stage and song time, but the film reduces her to a Living MacGuffin. Most of her lines are cut, and she doesn't shoot Fogg in the asylum. She is only given one song ("Green Finch and Linnet Bird"), when the play also had her perform major parts in "Kiss Me, Kiss Me/Ladies in Their Sensitivities (Quartet)", "City on Fire", "Ah Miss (reprise)", and the "Johanna" quartet. Here, she is mainly just a living motivator for Todd and Anthony.
    • Not as bad as Johanna, but the Beggar Woman also has a much smaller role in the film. Again, this is due to the cutting of most of her singing material (specifically "No Place Like London", "City on Fire", and "The Beggar Woman's Lullaby"), the overall trimming of her scenes (her interaction with Anthony during "Ah Miss" cuts her "Hey, hoy, sailor boy!" line), and now she doesn't interact with Sweeney at all until her death scene. This renders the overall twist and ending much less effective than in the original play.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the original play, Fogg was shot by Johanna. Here, he gets killed by a mob of his inmates after Anthony leaves him in the cell.
  • Double Meaning: Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett's line of "We'll serve anyone" refers both to them being willing to take anyone as a customer, and to their willingness to turn anyone into a meal to sell.
  • Do with Him as You Will: After freeing Johanna from Fogg's Asylum, Anthony leaves Fogg at the mercy of his "children."
  • Downer Ending: Even more so than the original play. Anthony manages to get Johanna out of the asylum, but they're now on the run and Johanna is quite obviously scarred for life. Sweeney Todd may get his revenge, but he also unknowingly kills his long lost wife Lucy, and when he finds out Mrs. Lovett knew who Lucy was all along and lied to him, he throws her into the oven to be burned alive. As he begins to sing a reprise of "The Barber and His Wife," Toby, who is implied to have been driven insane by what he has seen and done, emerges from the sewers and kills Todd himself, with his own razor, no less. The last shot is the now-dead Todd holding his dead wife. In addition, the tune at the end was more melancholy, rather than it ending with shock and a reprise of the "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd".
  • Even Evil Has Standards: One of the only men Todd changes his mind about killing is one who enters his shop with wife and child. Granted, it might be more because he simply doesn't want to get caught, but considering everything that happened to his wife and child, there's got to be some empathy going on here.
  • Evil Is Burning Hot: Mrs. Lovett's oven is framed like a window to Hell as dead bodies are sent into it to be cooked in its roaring flames. She is also largely unsympathetic and dies in her oven as a symbolic sendoff to Hell. A trick the film medium pulls out is having the flames of the oven symbolically take over as the color grading switches from cold blues and greys to infernal tones once bodies start piling up and cooking in large numbers. The color shifting, not coincidentally, brings out the redness of Lovett's hair, which was all but impossible to notice in the scenes before she and Todd committed to their scheme.
  • Exact Words: Mrs. Lovett's defense when Todd learns his wife was alive: "Said that she took poison, she did, never said that she died!"
  • Fauxreigner: Adolfo Pirelli a.k.a. Davey Collins (played by the English—and very Jewish—Sacha Baron Cohen).
  • The Film of the Play: It is based on the Sondheim musical of the same name, which was based on a theater play, the Christopher Bond version of the legendary story of an English barber.
  • Finger-Twitching Revival: Pirelli, temporarily. Todd opens the trunk, and as Pirelli sits up, Todd cuts his throat with a razor to finish him off.
  • Genre Mashup: A musical, period film, and slasher all rolled into one.
  • Get Out!: Todd screams at Anthony to get out after the latter unwittingly ruins his first attempt to kill Judge Turpin.
  • Gorn: There are many graphic close-ups of throats being slashed and stabbed, the blood spurting out.
  • Hanging Judge: Judge Turpin. After he sentences a preteen to death - whether the charge was true or not, the Beadle expresses to Turpin that the kid "must have done something to warrant a hanging." The Judge agrees, saying "who has not" done something to warrant it? Certainly, he knows he has.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: As mentioned on the page for the musical, Sweeney becomes so obsessed with revenge that he ends up becoming just as inhumane as the man he actually wants to kill by casually slaughtering anyone and everyone.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Every throat that is slit by Todd's razor gushes rivers of blood with two notable exceptions. The Beggar Woman who is actually Lucy Barker and Todd himself; despite having their throats cut like everyone else their blood flows gently down their necks instead of spraying everywhere. Quite notably, Judge Turpin's blood is forceful enough to splatter pretty high up on the angled roof window of Todd's shop.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The song "A Little Priest", making jokes about food quality and professions under the concept of what people would taste like based on their jobs.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "Life is for the alive, my dear." Said first by Mrs. Lovett, trying to get Sweeney to move on from his dead wife. Sweeney says this line in the final song, right before, having realized her betrayal, throwing Mrs Lovett into the oven.
    • Mrs Lovett continually calls out "Poor thing!" when she reveals what actually happened to Lucy, just as she did when she revealed what happened to her at the Judge's party and then led him to believe that she had killed herself.
  • Kick the Dog: In addition to most of the moments from the stage version, there's the Beadle, on orders from Turpin, beating Anthony bloody for the crime of "gandering" at Johanna.
  • Kill 'Em All: Were you expecting this movie to have a different, yet happy ending? Even though this is a film version of a revenge tragedy? Sweeney Todd, Judge Turpin, Beadle Bamford, Lucy, Pirelli, Fogg and Mrs. Lovett are all dead. Only Toby, Johanna, and Anthony are all alive. Toby is a murderer now. Anthony and Johanna do not appear at the end and are presumed to have escaped. Just before the end, Johanna got the clues needed to figure out that Sweeney was her father and that he murdered her mother as well as Turpin. It remains unknown whether she—or the law—ever actually figures it out.
  • Large Ham:
    • Johnny Depp—increasingly so as the film goes on.
    • Pirelli is, intentionally, this way. When he's not doing the Pirelli act and just being Davey Collins, he is more sedate, softer-spoken, and not at all flamboyant.
  • Living MacGuffin: Johanna's reduced role in the film leaves her with little agency and no power, leaving her fate to the other characters in the story trying to protect, rescue, and restrict her.
  • Location Song: "No Place Like London": Anthony is singing about how the world is marvellous and London is its crown jewel, while Sweeney is singing about how it's a Crapsack World and London is the worst place in it.
  • Locked into Strangeness: Sweeney Todd has a prominent white streak in his black hair after his imprisonment, with the filmmakers describing it as a visual symbol of his trauma changing him and his rage emerging.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Both Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett have corpselike appearances with pale skin, dark messy hair, and shadowed eyes, a motif used frequently by Tim Burton's characters and fitting a duo of murderous criminals.
  • Love Triangle: Two of these—one regular and one insane.
    • Johanna is loved by Turpin and Anthony. Will she choose the beautiful young man who might help her break free—or the creepy guy who has the power to hurt her if she defies him?
    • Lovett and Todd have a duet where they sing about their one true love, using the same words of affection in unison. However: Lovett loves Todd, while Todd loves... a set of razors. From that point on, the things Lovett and Todd do for love just keep getting more and more depraved.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The attendees of Judge Turpin's masked ball, where the "Poor Thing" scene takes place, wear animal masks. They crowd around Lucy and watch and laugh as Turpin rapes her.
  • Madness Makeover: When Todd and Mrs. Lovett take Toby under their wing, Toby starts to get some characteristics from them, mostly the untamed hair and some eyebags and very pale skin. After learning the ingredients of the meat pies, seeing at least one body drop down the chute, and witnessing the murder of Mrs. Lovett, Toby looks just as deathly and haunted as Todd.
  • Morton's Fork: Sweeney uses this to justify killing everyone in "Epiphany". There Are Two Kinds of People in the World—"the one staying put in his proper place and the one with his foot in the other one's face" AKA either you're powerful, because you're evil, and therefore you deserve to die, or you're good, so you're oppressed, and therefore "death will be a relief". To his credit, even in his madness he includes himself in his litany of nihilism—his drive to kill Judge Turpin is the only reason he has to live any more.
  • Mood Dissonance: "A Little Priest" is a cheerful, upbeat, pun-laden tune... about cannibalism.
  • Murder by Cremation: Near the end, Todd throws Mrs. Lovett into her own oven to be burned alive after finding out that the beggar woman, whom he had recently killed, was none other than his wife Lucy, and that Mrs. Lovett had lied to him about her being dead because she wanted him for herself.
  • Musical Spoiler: As a holdover from the stage score, much foreshadowing is built into the music, but perhaps the most overt and immediate case is when Todd kills the beggar woman. The notes that play after he makes the slash were previously heard in the song "Epiphany", notably accompanied by the words "And my Lucy lies in ashes". Turns out, at that point in the story, it wasn't true, but after killing the beggar woman, it immediately became so; Lucy was still alive as the beggar woman and Todd unknowingly killed his own wife, which is revealed soon thereafter.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Todd utters this line when realizing he killed his wife by accident.
  • No Doubt the Years Have Changed Me: Todd to Turpin just before killing him.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Sweeney Todd bashes Pirelli's head in with an iron water kettle.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Mrs. Lovett wears dresses with corsets, which makes her cleavage very prominent.
  • One-Hour Work Week: Sweeney works, he just happens to use his workday to kill people. He's only ever seen completing two shaves: one during his duel with Pirelli and another when a man's wife and child are present in his shop.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: The blood splatter is very much played for emotional effect rather than realism, so the flow is scaled to the drama, not to biology. The special effects people even admitted that all of the people who get killed spew forth far more blood than is typically in the human body (about 8 pints).
  • The Ophelia: The Beggar Woman/Lucy was driven into madness by her sad fate. She was happily married with a baby, but was pursued and eventually raped by Judge Turpin.
  • Painting the Medium: During "Johanna (reprise)", when blood spatters on the edge of the camera lens.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Mrs. Lovett has a cream parasol with red polka dots during her "I Want" Song "By the Sea" where she fantasizes about a comfortable, happy, slightly glamorous life with Todd.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • When Toby almost catches Sweeney killing Pirelli. Rather than kill him, Todd tells Toby to go downstairs so that Lovett could make him a meat pie. When he hesitates, Todd tells him to ask for some gin and tell Mrs. Lovett he said it's okay. This causes the boy to rush downstairs in excitement.
    • Later, when Mrs. Lovett finds out about Pirelli's murder, she asks what they're going to do about Toby, and when Sweeney tells her to "Send him up." she protests, saying she can fob him off with a story.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Sweeney is seen cradling the body of his dead wife at the end. Toby cuts his throat, but Todd remains in that pose as he dies.
  • Pre-Insanity Reveal: The homeless madwoman that hangs around the barber shop is revealed to be Sweeney's long-lost wife, Lucy. Unfortunately, this isn't revealed—either to Sweeney or the audience—until after he murders her.
  • Precision F-Strike: Todd's first song (No Place Like London) has "shit" in the lyrics, used as a rhyming word, no less. The language up until then has been G-rated so it's a bit unexpected.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The last words Sweeney yells to Judge Turpin. "BENJAMIN BARKER!"
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Judge Turpin's rape of Lucy is filmed this way, with him spreading his cape as he falls onto her, filmed from behind and from a distance.
  • Rape Leads to Insanity: Lucy, aka the beggar woman. One line in "Poor Thing" mentions that she could handle raising a child alone, her husband's jailing and Turpin's persistent advances, but being cornered while drunk and raped pushed her over the edge. It's subverted later when it's suggested that the self-poisoning, which didn't actually kill Lucy, was what truly damaged her mental state.
  • Rasputinian Death: During the final vengeance scene, Judge Turpin is stabbed in the throat multiple times, eventually has his throat slit and gets dumped headfirst onto a stone floor in the basement. Even after that, he manages to survive long enough to grab for Mrs. Lovett's dress before he finally dies.
  • Refrain from Assuming: "Epiphany" and "The Contest", as in the play. Additionally, in the film, the title of "God, That's Good" is never actually sung, with the crowd roles that sang it in the play not singing in the film.
  • Relationship Compression: In the stage version, Anthony and Johanna have quite a few duets with each other, and both are at least a little more badass. But in the film they cut out almost all of their scenes to just the bare bones, meaning they are depicted with little to no emotional connection with each other in the film.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: "Poor Thing" is accompanied by flashback footage, which is soundless at first, but at the very end—when Lucy is in the grip of Judge Turpin and completely surrounded by the partygoers—her screams and their laughter compete with Mrs. Lovett's singing.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Judge Turpin fills this role, fooling himself that he can protect young Johanna from the evil of other men's sexuality by forcing her to marry him and satisfy his own selfish lust. Judge Turpin is also shown in a flashback to have raped Todd's wife at a party with the witnesses laughing after having Todd shipped off to who-knows-where.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Mrs. Lovett looks less mousy and disheveled and has better clothing as her gruesome scheme begins to make her restaurant profitable.
  • Shout-Out
    • Sweeney's hair and wardrobe resemble the lead singer of The Damned in a concert video of their song "Video Nasty."
    • The pose that Todd and Mrs. Lovett strike at the end of "A Little Priest" is meant to resemble the poster for the original West End production.
  • Shown Their Work: During the shaving duel between Todd and Pirelli, the flashy manner in which the latter handles his razors not only places more stress on the blades, resulting in them going duller faster, but also is much more dangerous to the person getting the shave.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Several main characters were left out of promotions. Some made sense like not revealing Laura Michelle Kelly also played the Beggar Woman but others were odd, such as Toby.
  • Slashed Throat: Most of the characters who die at Sweeney's hand do so with a throat cut from his razors, which Todd plans to use on the Judge after getting him into his chair. The Judge is actually first attacked by vicious throat stabs from the razor before he gets a finishing slash. Also, Todd himself dies this way at the hands of Toby.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Burton’s previous film, Sleepy Hollow (1999). Both are gory Victorian murder stories starring Johnny Depp.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome
    • While out in the marketplace, Sweeney sees Beadle Bamford out of the corner of his eye and reaches for his razor before Mrs. Lovett quietly tells him that a crowded market is not the place to commit a murder. Cue Sweeney slowly putting his blade away and looking at the ground sheepishly.
    • Pirelli learns the hard way that when engaged in a shaving competition, bragging and boasting and singing are not a free action. Sweeney has finished shaving his man in roughly under five seconds flat by the time Pirelli even begins.
    • Once Sweeney's finished singing 'Epiphany', where he comes up with the philosophy that everyone is worthy of death and that he wants to kill, also with the implication that to some degree, he's been awkwardly acting out his theatrics in the shop room, Mrs Lovett—not looking at all impressed—asks dryly "That's all very well, but what're we going to do about him?", alluding to Pirelli's corpse stuffed in the trunk. Cue Todd awkwardly getting up off his knees.
  • That Man Is Dead: Todd declares Benjamin Barker to be dead, assuming his current name at some point after his incarceration and using it to go unnoticed upon returning to London. The story depicts this mentality as fairly true- Benjamin Barker was forever changed and likely completely destroyed by what happened to him, and Todd is largely depicted as someone who has metaphorically already died and is animated only by revenge.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The film's advertising makes no mention of the fact that this is a musical. Arguably, it wasn't necessary because the musical is still quite popular, but a handful of audiences were surprised.
  • Trap Door: Todd's barber chair gets rigged to dump his victims through one, but he uses the switch to activate the trap door without seating someone in the chair so he can dispose of the Beggar Woman when the Judge is about to enter his shop.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: "A Barber And His Wife" and "Poor Thing" tell the story, with flashback footage, of Judge Turpin's cruel pursuit of Lucy Barker, having Benjamin Barker sent away to prison and luring Lucy to her assault.
  • Wife Husbandry: Turpin is grooming his young ward Johanna into a perfect little wife.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Just after killing Pirelli, Sweeney calmly tells Mrs. Lovett to send Toby up. She protects the boy, but Sweeney's intentions are very clear. However, he does hesitate to kill a father with his child, probably because he identifies with that man. Sweeney later nearly kills his own daughter Johanna; he doesn't recognize her, of course, due to her disguise, but she does look like a pre-teen boy. Shortly afterwards, Todd follows Mrs. Lovett into the sewers with the clear intent to murder Toby.


Video Example(s):


Ladies and their Sensitivities

Bamford tells Turpin of how he can be seen as a good husband for the lust of his life, his ward Joanna, who he stole from her real parents any years prior.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / VillainSong

Media sources: