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Meet the Maitlands, Barbara and Adam. They're a young couple, crazy in love, and trying to have a baby to fill up their idyllic home in a sleepy little Connecticut town. One day, they run to town for an errand...and crash through the covered bridge over the river.
The ghosts of the Maitlands return home, not knowing how, and find that they can no longer leave it (unless they want to be beset by sandworms). Even worse, their house has been sold to the Deetzes—an eccentric, upscale yuppie family who want to do a complete overhaul. Not knowing what to do, and getting little-to-no real help from the Celestial Bureaucracy known as the afterlife, Barbara and Adam learn of a being known as Betelgeuse (pronounced, of course, "Beetlejuice"). They release him after saying his name three times. Hilarity Ensues.
This iconic Tim Burton movie remains one of the most popular comedy movies of all time. Though it contains the typical gothic imagery you'd expect from Tim Burton, it also features memorable performances by Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O'Hara, Glenn Shadix, Winona Ryder, and Michael Keaton as the B-Man himself, as well as the musical stylings of both Danny Elfman and Harry Belafonte. Mix all of these elements together, and it's not hard to figure out why Beetlejuice soon became a staple of Halloween.
The movie was so popular that it spawned an animated Recycled: the Series on ABC and Fox Kids. It bore little resemblance to the movie, however; the Maitlands were eliminated entirely, the title character's name was changed to "Beetlejuice", he and Lydia were best friends, and the stories largely took place in Beetlejuice's home dimension of "the Neitherworld". However, the show kept a lot of the film's manic energy and clever visuals (as well as Tim Burton as a producer and Danny Elfman as theme music composer), so it is considered one of the better film-to-TV translations out there. Beetlejuice remained a Jerkass, but at least he was a family-friendly Jerkass.
- Abnormal Limb Rotation Range: Betelgeuse
Betelgeuse: Don't you just hate it when that happens?
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?
(rest of the dinner table goes silent)
- And Now You Must Marry Me
- Animated Adaptation/The Renaissance Age of Animation: Beetlejuice: The Animated Series (1989-1991)
- Antagonist Title
- Anti-Hero: Betelgeuse isn't evil...but he's definitely NOT a good guy.
- The Deetzes are varying shades of Jerkass who treat the Maitlands and their ghostly antics with emotions ranging between annoyance and amusement, and ultimately Charles wants to use them as a tourist attraction. However, once they summon them to see them and realize they're actually people who they're hurting, they smarten up and learn to live in peace.
- Arc Music: Harry Belafonte's songs, from the pre-credits to the closing finale.
- Bedsheet Ghost: The Maitlands, while trying to scare the Deetz family. It didn't work: Charles thought one of them was Lydia playing a prank, Delia was too doped out on valium to notice them, and Lydia thought it was Charles and Delia playing some kinky bedroom game (at first).
- Berserk Button: He might not look it, but Betelgeuse takes great pride in his work as a bio-exorcist. When the Maitlands save Charles from being killed by Betelgeuse in his snake form, he gets pissed off at them for interrupting the work of a professional.
- Bishonen Line: Betelgeuse shapeshifts into a variety of forms throughout the film and appears in the model repeatedly, but for the final confrontation appears full-sized at last, now wearing the iconic black and white suit.
- Bizarrchitecture: Most notably the hallway in the afterlife... but also a few other instances, such as at the very end. Not to mention what the Deetzes do to the Maitlands house after moving in.
- Black Comedy: Of course. Prime example, Betelgeuse says he'd better flip to the business section of his paper and look for a job—and flips to the obituaries, which colorfully and cheerfully list the dead as new arrivals to be greeted.
- Book Ends: Early on in the film, Adam reads the Handbook For the Recently Deceased and claims that it "reads like stereo instructions." Charles later says the same thing at the end of the film when he's reading a guide for living people with ghosts in their houses called "The Living and the Dead".
- By the Power of Greyskull: Saying "Betelgeuse" three times summons him into the "real world" to wreak his mischief, saying it three times again sends him back.
- Celestial Bureaucracy: Made up of the ghosts of people who committed suicide.
- Character Title
- Chekhov's Armoury: The wedding clothes, Delia's sculptures, the sandworm, and Betelgeuse's car in the model.
- Chekhov's Gun: The sandworms.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Betelgeuse scares off fashionable interior decorator Otho by magically changing his duds into a tacky leisure suit.
- If you kill yourself, you spend your afterlife as a civil servant.
- Dance Party Ending
- Danny Elfman: Composer
- Dark Is Not Evil: The ghosts, except for Betelgeuse.
- Dead All Along: Adam and Barbara. And a team of football players.
Quarterback: Coach... I don't think we survived that crash...
Juno: How did you guess?
- Dead Man Writing: Subverted. Lydia writes a suicide note, but it is never seen by anyone since she is talked out of killing herself.
- Dead to Begin With
- Deader Than Dead: See Fate Worse Than Death.
Janitor: Those are ghosts that have been exorcised. That's death for the dead.
- Decapitation Presentation: One of Adam and Barbara's failed attempts at scaring the Deetzes.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Barbra Maitland wangs the Sand Worm right on the nose, causing it to retreat...and then later befriends it!
- Dub Name Change: In Brazil, Betelgeuse was renamed Besourosuco. ("Besouro" meaning "Beetle" and "Suco" meaning "Juice")
- Dumb Muscle: The dead football players.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Lydia.
- Emotionless Girl: Lydia
- Encyclopedia Exposita: The Handbook for the Recently Deceased.
- Establishing Character Moment: Adam and the tarantula. Instead of squashing, he only comments on its size and lets it go free, showing him to be a nice guy.
- Mirrored later on when Lydia sees a big spider and nods "I could live here" - pretty much guarantees she'll get on well with the Maitlands.
- Exposition Diagram: Charles Deetz uses a Type 1 to show what his "Museum of the Paranormal" will look like.
- 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 like they try to.
- Fate Worse Than Death: The "Lost Souls Room" is described as "death for the dead."
- Foreshadowing: Delia is momentarily trapped by a piece of sculpture when her art collection is moved into the new house. Though he hadn't even been summoned yet, Betelguese somehow picked up on this.
- Free the Frogs: Lydia gets a C in Biology because she refuses to dissect frogs.
- Though she clearly stated, she did it because she thought it was gross, not for animal rights. She tries to get out of it by claiming that it's against her religion, but gets the C all the same.
- Godzilla Threshold: Only when the Maitlands are threatened with Exorcism does Lydia finally cross it by summoning Betelgeuse.
- Goodbye, Cruel World: Lydia
- Goth: Lydia. Became a Perky Goth at the end of the movie.
- This movie is pretty much the Trope Codifier of goth.
- Grey and Gray Morality: All the characters have decent and slimy aspects, even Betelgeuse.
- Haunted Headquarters
- Haunted House
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: Completely and utterly averted with Lydia.
- I Just Want to Be Special: Lydia longs to be a ghost.
- Invisible to Normals: Which is why their spooks didn't work. Luckily for them, Lydia isn't normal.
- I See Dead People: Lydia
- According to The Handbook, anyone can if they choose to believe in ghosts. The entire Deetz family at the end can see Adam and Barb.
- Jacob Marley Apparel: All of the ghosts except Betelgeuse.
Barbara: Adam, is this what happens when you die?
Beauty Queen Receptionist: 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.
- Kitschy Local Commercial: The commercial featuring Betelgeuse appears to be based on the cheezy ads Cal Worthington used to create for his car dealership.
- Large Ham: Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse.
(normal voice) "Ah. Well... I attended Juilliard... I'm a graduate of the Harvard Business School. I travel quite extensively. (creepy voice) I lived through the Black Plague and had a pretty good time during that. I've seen The Exorcist ABOUT A HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SEVEN TIMES, AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT... NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT YOU'RE TALKING TO A DEAD GUY... NOW WHAT DO YOU THINK? You think I'm qualified?"
- Layman's Terms: The Handbook For The Recently Deceased. Strangely, it seems to be trying 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.
- However, it's implied that they should have understand it by now.
Juno: Okay, have you been studying the manual?
Adam: Well, we tried.
Juno: The intermediate interface chapter on haunting says it all. Get them out yourselves. It's your house.
- Look Behind You!: Betelgeuse does it to a witch doctor.
- Losing Your Head: The movie poster at the top.
- Male Gaze and Female Gaze: During at the dinner party where everyone is possessed and singing the Banana Boat song, a couple bend over and continue singing from their butts.
- Manipulative Bastard: Betelgeuse tries, at least.
- Monster Clown: Betelgeuse
- Monster Roommate
- Mood Motif: Ominous, spooky, but with a very quirky undercurrent.
- Mouse World: Adam's elaborate model of the surrounding town.
- Multiple Choice Past: Betelgeuse makes all sorts of bizarre and contradictory claims while describing his qualifications to the Maitlands, as noted above under Large Ham. When he's in the waiting room at the end of the movie, he claims that he has a photoshoot with GQ Magazine coming up, and that they've been bugging him to do a spread with them for a while now. More likely all his claims are Blatant Lies.
- At one point, he claims to have lived during the Black Plague.
- My God, What Have I Done?: The Deetzes realize something is terribly wrong after summoning the Maitlands into their wedding clothes.
- Nested Mouths: The Saturnian sandworms have what looks like a smaller version of themselves inside their mouths, with a different colour scheme.
- New House, New Problems: The Deetzes move into a haunted house; however, the lackluster haunting job done by Adam and Barbara Maitland does nothing to scare them away.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: As Juno calls them out on, the Maitlands let out Betelgeuse, they let Otho steal the Handbook, and their lackluster haunting attempts have succeeded only in Charles thinking the town would make a neat tourist attraction.
- Noodle Incident: Juno tells the Maitlands that Betelgeuse started renting himself out as a freelance bio-exorcist, but just caused trouble instead.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Celestial Bureaucracy.
- One-Scene Wonder: Despite his name being in the title, Betelgeuse is on-screen for all of eighteen minutes. He makes every second count.
- Only Sane Man: Compared to Delia, Otho and Lydia, Charles is a perfectly normal guy, and is openly frustrated with the behavior of the other three.
- Our Ghosts Are Different
- Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Subverted
- People Puppets: The infamous dinner scene.
"I would rather talk about... DAAAYYYY O."
- Product Placement: The B-man tempts a fly with a Zagnut bar. (Yes, Zagnut is a real candy bar.)
- Precision F-Strike: After Betelgeuse knocks down a tree:
"NICE FUCKIN' MODEL!" *HONK-HONK*
- Reality Warper: All ghosts seem to be able to do this to an extent, though they are limited to the place they are haunting. The Maitlands, being new to the whole Dead thing, take most of the movie to get the hang of it. Betelgeuse's powers, on the other hand, seem virtually limitless... though that is hampered by that whole "call my name" business.
- His glaring weakness is touched upon a few times during the movie, (particularly during the Scaled Up scene, where he nearly murdered one of Lydia's parents before Barbara was able to send him back) which leads him to seek out Lydia. Marrying her would, presumably, rid him of the...
- Rule of Three: Betelgeuse's summoning/dismissal procedure.
- And knocking three times on the chalk door to enter the afterlife offices.
- Sand Worm
- Saw Star Wars 27 Times: Beetlejuice has seen The Exorcist "about a hundred and sixty-seven times" (and it keeps getting funnier every time he sees it).
- Scaled Up: Snake!Betelgeuse.
- Scale-Model Destruction: Averted by the town model, which only suffers minor damage.
- Secondary Character Title
- Shout-Out: When Betelgeuse drags a fly down into his tomb, he sarcastically cries "Help me! Help me!".
- Skeleton Key: Lydia gets one from a relative of the deceased couple.
- The Scarpia Ultimatum: Betelgeuse to Lydia.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Betelgeuse is trapped in the hereafter.
- Small Secluded World: The main characters are stuck in their house, unable to have any contact with the surrounding world. At first, they do not realize that they are dead and haunting the house in which they lived.
- Smug Snake: Otho.
- Snake People: Snake!Betelgeuse, except no arms.
- Speak of the Devil: "Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse!"
- Spinning Clock Hands: During the "Jump in the Line" number at the end of the movie.
- Stellar Name: Betelgeuse.
- It's worth noting that Betelgeuse (the star) is part of the constellation "Orion." The armpit of Orion.
- Strange Girl: Lydia, and she's very aware of it. View her quote on said page.
- Take a Number
- Take Our Word for It: Betelgeuse's "scary face."
- Tear Off Your Face: Barbara pulls her own face off in an attempt to frighten off the Deetzes. Unfortunately they can't see her.
- Ted Baxter: Delia thinks she's a great artist.
- Theme Music Power-Up: When Lydia summons Betelgeuse to save the Maitlands at the end.
- 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.
- Throw It In: 90% of Michael Keaton's lines are ad-libbed.
- Transformation Trauma: The Maitlands when changing their faces.
- Vampire Vannabe: Lydia Deetz wants to die and become a ghost like the Maitlands.
- Vaporware: The scrapped sequel Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian.
- Visual Pun: After Betelgeuse becomes spiky to avoid being picked up.Gag Penis He decides to go to a strip club that appeared out of nowhere.
- 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.
- Wafer-Thin Mint: The dog on the bridge.
- Weirdness Censor: Lydia is the only one who normally sees the dead couple; just about everyone else completely filters them out.
- Weirdness Magnet: Lydia, she's initially the only one who can see the Maitlands, and is nearly forced into a marriage with an undead bio-exorcist. Not too many people can say that's happened to them...
- Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: At the end, when Barbara tries to banish BJ, she's able to get his name out once before he zips her lip...literally. She unzips her lip to say his name a second time, which pisses him off enough to seal it up with a metal plate.
- Year Outside, Hour Inside: Seems to be true of the weird place (Saturn?) that Barbara and Adam wind up in if they leave the house. Adam is outside briefly, but Barbara tells him he was gone for two hours.