Film Review: Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands" (1990)

Figure 1. Edward Scissorhands DVD cover

Being one of his first set of most memorable films, Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) is one to be easily recognised. It all begins in a suburban town with the exaggerated appearance of the 1950’s era, with pastel coloured houses and clean cut lawns as far as you could imagine. A kind hearted Avon lady, played by Dianne Wiest, was going about her daily business, only to be lacking in selling her products. Without giving up hope, she spies a gloomy looking castle set on the mountain located at the outer edge of this town. Unfazed by it’s appearance, she proceeds to travel to said castle, only to find a mysterious being lurking within, with a ghostly white face, clad in black, and with scissors for hands. Meet Edward, played by Johnny Depp, an unfinished man created by an old scientist, who sadly died before he could complete his creation. The story then proceeds with following Edward around this suburbia and how each misfortune snowballs into one large incident towards the end.

The town is a relatively small area, where everyone knows everyone, and personal business is the talk of the town, so it’s seen to be that nothing is private and gossip gets around rather quickly. The depiction of society’s behaviour with rumours within this film is somewhat exaggerated and yet, has a sense of truth to it. As Janet Maslin evokes in her review, the story “is a tale of misunderstood gentleness and stifled creativity, of civilization's power to corrupt innocence, of a heedless beauty and a kindhearted beast.” (1990)

Figure 2. Edward Greeting the Colourful Neighbours

It is noticeable that there are many contrasting elements within “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), the most obvious being Edward himself and the colourful folk of the suburban town. It is a consistent clash of dark and light, prime examples including the dark gloomy castle and the stereotypical preppy neighbourhood. It has been considered that this could slightly be reflecting on Burton’s childhood in a sense that he was an individual who ‘wasn’t like everyone else’ and contrasted deeply with their ways. The character Edward could also potentially be an embodiment of a young Burton, fearful of the outside world as he was considered ‘different’. As Owen Gleiberman states, “The romanticism has a personal dimension — for Edward is, of course, Burton's surreal portrait of himself as an artist: a wounded child converting his private darkness into outlandish pop visions. Like Edward, he finds the light.” (1990). Even within the ending sequence of the film, Edward and Kim are represented as two completely different entities, one at each end of the spectrum. Kim all in white, Edward draped in black. The development of the characters here are interesting too, in a sense that polar opposites can somewhat come together, but as we see develop through the film, there is the struggle of how these two separate things can stay together for so long. It was only a matter of time before carnage took place. In a compelling, heartfelt moment, we see Kim in need of physical contact, as she murmurs "hold me.", to which he painfully replies "I can't." This possibly embodies the eternal struggle of Burton and how he was potentially unable to connect with "the norm".

Figure 3. Edward Holding Kim

Psychological aspect aside, the film embodies some form silent era theatricality within the film. As Rita Kempley so poetically put, “Johnny Depp, nicely cast, brings the eloquence of the silent era to this part of few words, saying it all through bright black eyes and the tremulous care with which he holds his horror-movie hands.” (1990). The silent era value is represented with small actions performed by Edward himself, such as when he comes flustered upon seeing Kim (Winona Ryder) and then bursts her waterbed in an exaggerated way. In a way, this somewhat produces that fairytale like quality and lightheartedness to the films overall emotional theme.

The film is then concluded by Grandmother Kim finishing her tale of why it snows in the suburban area. As Edward once again remains isolated in his castle at the end of the film, he puts his spare time into carving out these spectacular ice sculptures, the shavings then falling from the rooftop all the way down to the town. It is noted that film can be a gripping piece of cinema, with it's compelling tale of how the protagonist is so helpless, misunderstood and lost. It certainly tugs on a few heartstrings of most cinema goers that can appreciate Burton's whimsical atmosphere. A very magical, fantasy like ending to a heartwarming experience.


Maslin, J. (1990) ‘MOVIE REVIEW: Edward Scissorhands (1990) Review/Film; And So Handy Around The Garden’ (1990) In: 07.12.90 [Online] At:

Gleiberman, O. (1990) ‘Edward Scissorhands (1990)’ (1990) In: 07.12.90 [Online] At:,,318762,00.html (Accessed on 24.11.14)

Kempley, R. (1990) ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990) In: 14.12.90 [Online] At: (Accessed on 24.11.14)


Figure 1. Edward Scissorhands DVD Cover (1990) [DVD Cover] At: (Accessed on 24.11.14)

Figure 2. Edward Greeting the Colourful Neighbours (1990) [Movie Still] At: (Accessed on 24.11.14)

Figure 3. Edward Holding Kim (1990) [Movie Still] At: (Accessed on 24.11.14)


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