Barbara and Adam Maitland decide to spend their vacation decorating their idyllic Connecticut country home. As the two are driving home from a trip to town, Barbara swerves to avoid a dog and the car plunges into a river. After they return home, Adam decides to retrace their steps as they can't remember how they got home. Upon stepping outside, he's taken to a desert world with monstrous sandworms before being pulled back in by Barbara. Even though he had been gone for less than a minute, Barbara claims he had been gone for two hours. She and Adam notice that they now lack reflections and they discover a Handbook for the Recently Deceased and realize they did not survive the crash.
The house is sold and the new owners, the Deetz family, arrive from New York City. Charles Deetz is a former real estate developer; his wife Delia, a sculptor; and his goth daughter Lydia, from his first marriage, is an aspiring photographer. Under the guidance of interior designer Otho, Delia begins to transform the house into a posh modern art piece. Consulting the Handbook, the Maitlands travel to a Neitherworld waiting room populated by other distressed souls, where they discover that the afterlife is structured according to a complex bureaucracy involving vouchers and the usual overworked caseworkers. The Maitlands' own caseworker, Juno, informs them that they must remain in the house for 125 years. If they want the Deetzes out of the house, it is up to them to scare them away. The Maitlands' attempts at scaring the family prove counterproductive, despite their ability to shape-shift into monsters.
While the Maitlands are away seeing Juno, Lydia discovers the handbook and reads it. Although Adam and Barbara remain invisible to Charles and Delia, Lydia can see the ghost couple and befriends them. Against Juno's advice, the Maitlands contact the miscreant Betelgeuse, Juno's former assistant and now freelance "bio-exorcist" ghost, to scare away the Deetzes. However, Betelgeuse quickly offends the Maitlands with his crude and morbid demeanor; and they reconsider hiring him, though too late to stop him from wreaking havoc on the Deetzes. The small town's charm and the supernatural events inspire Charles to pitch his boss Maxie Dean on transforming the town into a tourist hot spot, but Maxie wants proof of the ghosts. Using the Handbook for the Recently Deceased, Otho conducts what he thinks is a séance and summons Adam and Barbara, but they begin to decay, as Otho had unwittingly performed an exorcism instead. Horrified, Lydia begrudgingly summons Betelgeuse for help; but he agrees to help her only on the condition that she marry him, enabling him to freely cause chaos in the mortal world. Then Beetlejuice saves the Maitlands and disposes of Maxie, his wife, and Otho, and prepares a wedding before a ghastly minister. The Maitlands intervene before the ceremony is completed, with Barbara riding a sandworm through the house to devour Beetlejuice.
Finally, the Deetzes and Maitlands agree to live in harmony within the house. Beetlejuice's stuck in the afterlife waiting room; there, he attempts to cut in front of a witch doctor, who shrinks his head in retaliation. Being Beetlejuice, however, he remains upbeat, "This could be a good look for me". Meanwhile, Adam, Barbara, and Lydia are seen in a remodeled part of the house dancing to Harry Belafonte's "Jump in the Line" (with Lydia floating in the air) to celebrate Lydia getting an "A" on her math test at school.
Note: Most of these scenes are exclusive to the rare original workprint of the movie but a couple can be viewed online. A couple have not surfaced yet and only exist in photo form as of now.
- The Gear Sequence: The scene where Adam attempts to leave the house after he and Barbara die is different. Instead of a desert he sees empty darkness filled with rolling cogs.
- Photo Developing: A scene were Lydia is developing the ghost sheet pictures she took of Adam and Barbara.
- Convincing Dad: After her mother yells at her and blames her for cutting holes in her sheets, Lydia runs upstairs and tries to convince her dad the pictures are real.
- Attic Sandworm: an added 10 seconds where after the adults leave the attic after searching for the ghosts, we see a Sandworm trying to eat Adam and Barbara as they hang from the attic window.
- Biking Home/Jane's Call: An extra 2 minute scene at the end were we see Lydia riding her bike home from school and her parents talking to Jane on the phone telling her they do not want to sell the house.
- The Original Snake Scene: The snake scene had been filmed before Michael Keaton was cast as Betelgeuse, and the animatronic snake used bore no resemblance to the actor. After Keaton had been cast, some additional film was shot for the scene, using a stop-motion snake that looked more like Betelgeuse. This was suggested by the studio to make sure the audience knows that the snake is actually Betelgeuse and not some random monster from the afterlife. No footage of this scene has surfaced yet.
- Old Bill in The Afterlife: After the afterlife scenes proved to be popular with test audiences, two additional scenes were filmed with Beetlejuice in the waiting room, however only one made it into the final film (Beetlejuice's head getting shrunken). The other involved Old Bill, the rambling barber from early on in the movie which was cut. Not much else is known about this scene as only publicity stills of it have surfaced and no footage.
Home Video Releases
- 1988 Original VHS: Standard version of the movie
- 1988 Original Laserdisc: Standard Version of the movie
- 1998 VHS: Edited Version of the movie removing the scene where after Beetlejuice kicks down the tree in the model, says the F word and makes a yanking motion.
- 1998 Laserdisc: Same as above
- 2008 20th Anniversary Edition: Restores the previous edits from above and includes many extras including 3 episodes of the cartoon.
- 2011 Blu-Ray: Same as above
All Characters are listed as they first appear in the film
- Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson (Casting Directors)
- Aggie Guerard Rodgers (Costume Designer)
- Danny Elfman (Musical Score Composer)
- Jane Kurson (Editor)
- Robert Short (Creature & Make-Up Effects Designer)
- Bo Welch (Production Designer)
- Thomas E. Ackerman (Director of Photography)
- Michael McDowell (Story/Screenwriter)
- Larry Wilson (Story)
- Warren Skaaren (Screenwriter)
- Michael Bender, Larry Wilson & Richard Hashimoto (Producers)
- Tim Burton (Director)
- Winter River, Connecticut
- Titan (A moon of Saturn's which the Sandworms are located)
- Model of Winter River (For the movie Betelgeuse would stay there whenever not loose)
- This is one of Michael Keaton's favourite roles he's ever done
- The studio originally wanted to call the film, "House Ghosts." Tim Burton jokingly suggested the title "Scared Sheetless" and was shocked when the studio considered the title.
- Michael Keaton add-libbed a lot of his lines.
- Unlike Keaton, Alec Baldwin hates his performance in the movie
- Despite being the title character, Beetlejuice is only on screen for approximately 17-18 minutes. He doesn't even show up until after the 25-minute mark in the movie. Keaton was able to shoot his scenes in just two weeks.
- The snake scene in the hallway was done before Michael Keaton was cast as Beetlejuice and it did not resemble the actor at all. When he was cast, additional stop-motion was done with the snake to have the audience know that Beetlejuice was the snake and it wasn't just some random monster from the Netherworld.
- One of the few films that managed to say the "f-word" and have a PG rating.
- In the waiting room at the end of the film, the bottom half of the magician's assistant that Beetlejuice tries to feel up was played by Tim Burton's then-girlfriend.
- The character was named after the second brightest star in the Orion constellation.
- Wes Craven was the first choice to direct
- Otho Fenlock was named after Otho, a Roman Emperor of only three months; January 15th to April 16th, 69 A.D.
- When the actor who played Otho, Glenn Shadix, died in 2010, the last song performed at his memorial service was Day-o (the Banana Boat Song).
- In the forced wedding scene, Lydia's wedding dress is red. This is a reference to the old rhyme about dress colours: "Married in red, better off dead."
- Beetlejuice's name is spoken fifteen times throughout the movie.
- The waiting room scene at the end of the film with Beetlejuice and the Witch Doctor was added after test audiences loved the titular character so much that they wanted more.
- When Adam and Barbra are attempting to scare the Deetz's with Adam's head being cut off, Alec Baldwin was kneeling behind a black show-card that was cut around his chin.
- Main article: Beetlejuice (film)/Gallery