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Betelgeuse's 12 Most Hilarious Moments In Beetlejuice Ranked

Nearly 35 years after its initial release, there aren't many movies that continue to delight and innocently scare viewers as much as "Beetlejuice." One of the greatest comedy films of the 1980s, it stands the test of time as one of director Tim Burton's most popular films.

Subverting the classic haunted house premise, the movie follows the Maitlands, a recently deceased couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis), as they adjust to their new ghostly state. Finding their quiet countryside home invaded by an annoying New York yuppie family, the couple does their best to scare the new homeowners away, going so far as to hire a "bio-exorcist" specialist, Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton).

Between its darker undertones and basis in the horror comedy genre, "Beetlejuice" remains a favorite viewing option for the entire family every Halloween season. A major turning point for Tim Burton that helped elevate the young filmmaker to mainstream success, it's also one of the more humorous films the director has ever directed — thanks largely to the appearance of the title character.

Brought to life (or rather death) by Michael Keaton, Betelgeuse is arguably the main reason to see "Beetlejuice" in the first place. Though he has incredibly limited screen time, Keaton's eccentric performance provides an abundance of laughs with his gross, crude behavior throughout the course of the movie. While every scene he appears in is hilarious in its own right, some scenes are far more memorably funny than others. Here are some of Betelgeuse's standout moments in 1988's "Beetlejuice."

12. Zagnut attack

One of the earliest scenes that introduces Betelgeuse into the film sees him feast on an unassuming fly in the most stomach-churning way possible. Still partially buried in the grounds of Adam's miniature cemetery, Betelgeuse catches the attention of a wandering fly passing nearby. Inviting the fly to have "a little bite" with him, Betelgeuse holds up a giant Zagnut bar to lure the unsuspecting insect in. When the fly draws close enough, Betelgeuse promptly throws the candy bar away, dragging the fly into his grave and eating him whole.

Striking a balance between disturbing and more than a little gross, this scene may be a little upsetting to some viewers, but it's a prime example of Burton's characteristically dark humor. The comedically large size of the Zagnut bar is laughable on its own, but the fact that Betelgeuse chooses to literally throw the bar away in favor of an entire fly keeps in line with his mischievous personality and ghastly dietary habits.

It may be an off-putting scene for some, but for those who like dark comedy (or who hates flies), it can be humorously off-kilter. That being said, the fly's rampant pleas to "Help me, help me" (a reference to 1958's "The Fly") are just icing on the cake.

11. Looking for a job

Another early scene that unofficially introduces Betelgeuse's character to the audience finds the freelance bio-exorcist enjoying a quiet night on his own. Reading the newspaper by candlelight and casually humming to himself, Betelgeuse comments on a recent rise in reported sandworm attacks before resolving to find a job. Turning to the obituary section as one would the classified ads, Betelgeuse soon finds the description of the Maitlands, commenting that the couple "look nice and stupid," devolving into a series of maniacal chuckles as he forms his next sinister plot.

There are a lot of subtle jokes that come with this scene. It helps build the world of the dead up a good deal more with the appearance of The Afterlife newspaper Betelgeuse is reading, as well as foreshadowing the appearance of the sandworm at the end of the movie. It also adds some additional insight into what Betelgeuse is doing when no one else is around — namely, drinking, reading, and chortling to himself out of sheer boredom. In this one scene, we see Burton hint at how unhinged this demonic ghost truly is, as well as what his real intentions are before he even meets the Maitlands.

10. Betelgeuses' rant against the Maitlands

Shortly after his "snake attack" on the Deetzes, a once-again miniature Betelgeuse angrily lashes out against his de facto clients. Crashing a small truck into a lamppost simply as a way to get their attention, Betelgeuse then bitterly rants against the Maitlands, crassly telling them off for "interrupting a professional while he's working." After he expresses interest in Lydia, an equally irate Barbara picks him up to yell at him, causing Betelgeuse to sprout thorns over his entire body, stabbing Barbara's fingers in the process.

Seeing Betelgeuse grow hysterical in his anger is always cause for a good laugh, as is the strange body language he uses to express himself. From the moment he rolls out of the crashed miniature truck (an important plot device in the film's climax) and begins launching into his tirade, it's impossible not to laugh, especially seeing the cartoonish way he jumps around in the street à la Yosemite Sam. His insistence that he's a "professional" and his pseudo-business talk with the Maitlands also provide more than material for a hearty laugh.

At the end of this scene, we also see his dance toward a hellish adults-only club down the street, humorously pulling out a comb and straightening his unkempt hair. It's another great moment in the film and one that underscores Betelgeuse's inherent sleaziness as well.

9. It's showtime!

As the Deetzes' exorcism of the Maitlands gets dangerously out of hand near the film's climax, a desperate Lydia searches for Betelgeuse for help. Finding him in Adam's model community, she makes a deal with him, offering her hand in marriage — ensuring Betelgeuse can once again enter the mortal world — in exchange for Betelgeuse coming to the Maitlands' aid.

The following scene after this, in which Betelgeuse reigns havoc on the Deetzes, may be the standout of the two scenes. But there's a lot to enjoy about this first scene as well. For starters, it's the first instance where Betelgeuse's iconic black and white striped suit is seen — which is reason enough to love it. But then there are the other, smaller details that make this scene memorable. Once again, you're entreated to see another example of how Betelgeuse spends his free time alone — picking at his nails and ensuring they're clean, in sharp contrast to his otherwise slovenly, decaying appearance.

Then there are also numerous reasons he gives to Lydia to convince her to marry him. As we see in the scene, he tries to lure her in with the idea of "marrying the most eligible bachelor in town," bragging about how he "doesn't have any rules" and giving a snorting laugh. But of course, it's the cool confidence that he uses to approach Lydia, knowing she has to say yes to the marriage proposal if she wants to save Adam and Barbara that makes this scene such a standout one in the context of the film.

8. Betelgeuse meets Lydia

Lydia's first run-in with Betelgeuse comes early in the movie's second act. Trying to find the Maitlands in the attic, Lydia instead stumbles across Betelgeuse, who's now idly sunbathing under a red lamp and who is surprised to find Lydia can see and hear him. Taking the opportunity to introduce himself, he almost immediately asks Lydia's help in freeing him, making up a variety of lies to try and persuade her to say his name three times.

As mentioned previously, it's always interesting to see what kinds of mundane activities Betelgeuse does to pass the time. In this particular instance, we see him ineffectually sunbathing under a lamp despite his pale appearance — right down to the little protective glasses they give sunbathers in salons. Additionally, the restrained eagerness he tries to harness as he's talking to Lydia might also provide viewers with some decent laughs.

But more than that is the number of lies and one-liners Betelgeuse uses to enlist Lydia's help in freeing him. There are his attempts to empathize with Lydia, saying the whole being dead thing is "just too creepy," as he's chowing down on a bug mid-conversation. The scene is a great example of Betelgeuse's opportunistic personality, his disgusting taste buds, and his effortless ability to spin lies to serve his end goal. Watching him, you have no question he really is "the ghost with the most," as he smugly refers to himself when first speaking with Lydia.

7. Betelgeuse's snake transformation

Betelgeuse's first attempt to ward off the Deetzes comes halfway through the film. Transforming himself into a giant serpent with a ghastly version of his own head, Betelgeuse terrorizes the Deetzes on the second floor of the house. Before he has the chance to completely scare Lydia after all her family members have been well and truly spooked, he is summoned back to Adam's community by Barbara, vanishing in the blink of an eye.

To be fair, the visual design of Betelgeuse in this scene can be extremely unnerving to some viewers, especially those who have a fear of snakes. With his razor-sharp teeth, reptilian eyes, and the distorted facial features of the Betelgeuse-snake hybrid, it's arguably one of the few instances where the movie veers more toward horror. However, much of the scene is still played largely for laughs, with Betelgeuse merely trying to scare the Deetzes rather than causing any genuine harm (more or less, anyway).

Sure, he does take a few liberties on his own, slapping Otho down the stairs and dropping Charles down to the first floor. But through his mischievous behavior, incessant wheezing laughter, continuous one-liners, and the slapstick elements of the scene, it avoids taking itself too seriously. After all, it's impossible to not at least crack a smile when Betelgeuse tells Charles, "We've come for your daughter, Chuck" like some kind of B-movie horror villain.

6. Hey, this might be a good look for me

In the final scene, Betelgeuse appears in sees him shortly after his second death at the hands of Barbara and the sandworm. Stuck in the afterlife waiting room, he harasses the severed corpse of a recently-deceased female ghost until moving to his seat next to a witch doctor and a hunter with a shrunken head. Seeing the doctor has a better-numbered ticket than he does, Betelgeuse quickly tries to switch the two. After coolly trying to play the whole situation off, the doctor expressionlessly sprinkles a mysterious powder over Betelgeuse's head, shrinking his head drastically down in size.

The great thing about "Beetlejuice" is how relatively upbeat the whole movie remains, with each character receiving a largely happy ending in some way, shape, or form. Such can also be said for Betelgeuse. True to his nature, he remains just as lecherous as he was at the beginning of the film, as well as constantly relying on a series of outlandish lies to impress random people (such as his claims that he's got a supposed GQ underwear photoshoot that he has to get to).

But it's the end of the scene that makes Betelgeuse's epilogue so memorably funny. As we've seen throughout the entire movie, he's a creature of great confidence, able to always make the best of a bad situation. Whereas most other ghosts might despair at their new appearance, Betelgeuse remains characteristically optimistic, quipping to himself, "Hey, this might be a good luck for me."

5. Call now!

The first glimpse the Maitlands receive of Betelgeuse is through a cheesy ad Betelgeuse sends to their attic television. As the Maitlands try to bar the Deetzes from entering the attic, Betelgeuse appears on their TV, featured centerstage in a poorly-made commercial that seems more akin to a car dealership than one for "the afterlife's leading bio-exorcist." Complete with Western-themed attire and banjo music playing in the background, Betelgeuse offers the Maitlands all kinds of amenities if they act fast and enlist his services, going so far as to promise them a "free demon possession" with every exorcism.

Betelgeuse's character has always more closely resembled a sleazy used car salesman than he does a legitimately terrifying demon. Here, it's humorous to see Betelgeuse so fully embrace his persona as a shady businessman, down to the low-brow commercial and promises of extra benefits should the Maitlands call immediately.

Of course, it's his dedication to the commercial itself that really sells the entire joke. From his riding a fake cow at the beginning of the commercial to his entire cowboy outfit, the commercial just screams desperation on his part to attract his clients' attention. Even his staged self-demon possession is worthy of praise. The added benefit of his outfit, too, including his large hat and sunglasses, adds a mysterious element to his character, his face not clearly seen until the Maitlands' first official encounter with him later in the film.

4. Charades with Betelgeuse

After meeting Lydia in the Maitlands' attic, Betelgeuse successfully convinces her to help him enter the mortal world by saying his name three times. Without a way to tell her his name himself, Betelgeuse proposes an impromptu game of charades. The game leads to him conjuring a human-sized beetle and a glass of orange juice in front of Lydia, eventually allowing her to stumble onto his name. As Lydia prepares to say his name a third time, she begins to express misgivings until the Maitlands arrive. 

Betelgeuse is one of those characters who grow more humorous the more agitated he becomes, not unlike other equally hysterical animated characters like Daffy Duck or Donald Duck. Seeing his excitement bubble over into full-fledged anger is enough to cause anyone to chortle, but there are also the images he creates for Lydia in their game together. Specifically, the casual way the giant beetle is sitting cross-legged in a chair, nodding and saying, "Hi, how are you?" like it's a normal sight to behold, is a great visual gag that completely catches you off guard.

As his anger rises, we also see Betelgeuse struggling to keep his frustration in check, literally to the point of gritting his teeth as he tries to coerce Lydia to continue their game. If it were any other actor other than Michael Keaton, the scene would've likely been more serious. But in Keaton's hands, the moment is more fully steeped in a comedic undertone, punctuated by Betelgeuse's cartoonish body language and his over-the-top delivery of, "No you don't need to talk to Barbara — just say it!"

3. A timely save

At the film's climax, Lydia makes a deal with Betelgeuse, offering herself as a bride to the demon so long as Betelgeuse saves the Maitlands from her family's exorcism. Slowly rising from his former prison in the model town, Betelgeuse promptly dispatches the Deetzes' would-be business partners through a carnival high striker. He then turns his attention to excusing the Maitlands from the exorcism, sending Otho fleeing from the house in terror from a mismatched suit (a fashion-savvy interior designer's worst nightmare).

There's not one wasted joke in this entire scene. There's the way Betelgeuse introduces himself to the assembled Deetzes, offhandedly telling them how excited he is to be back in the mortal world like a comedian preparing to perform once again in front of an audience, is pure comedy gold. His carnival-like costume at the beginning of the scene and his barker-esque dialogue with Maxie also perfectly capture his showmanship. Sure, Betelgeuse could have as easily found less complex ways to rescue the Maitlands, but he's all about style first and foremost.

His slightly spent exaggeration after sending Maxie and his wife out of the house also comically resembles that of a tired comedian wrapping up his performance, taking a bow in front of his humble audience. Even his subtle joke that the Maitlands "have had enough exorcise/exercise" for one night is enough to induce decent chuckles from the most reserved audience members. It's a fitting return to form for Betelgeuse's return to the mortal realm, perfectly segueing right into his marriage ceremony with Lydia.

2. An unholy wedding ceremony

Wasting no time after completing his end of the bargain, Betelgeuse quickly tries to get Lydia to fulfill her part of their deal together. Converting both of their clothes into outlandish formal attire, Betelgeuse summons a nightmarish minister to proceed over their wedding ceremony. As the minister officiates the wedding, Betelgeuse contends with a variety of distractions that threaten to undermine the event — namely the repeated interjections of the Maitlands.

As with every other scene we've discussed so far, this wedding scene is fully indicative of Betelgeuse's character. His sense of urgency as he tries to tie the knot with Lydia, his insistence on going by the books in the ceremony, and his momentary apparent reluctance at going through another marriage all completely sum up his character. While he is busy trying to thwart the Maitlands' attempts to stop the marriage, he still takes the time to ponder whether he's ready to be married again. It's as though he simply can't help himself in being the most freewheeling and entertaining ghost around amid such a stressful scene as this.

The panic he displays in trying to get through the wedding is also worthy of note. As we see his initial confidence give way to a burgeoning anxiousness, you're again able to witness his growing exasperation, leading to some humorous results. There's also his hilarious responses to each one of the Maitlands' interruptions, including his gut-wrenchingly funny high-pitched screech when Barbara begins saying his name. We can assure you, you've never seen a wedding scene quite like this before.

1. Betelgeuse meets the Maitlands

Betelgeuse's official introduction in the film comes when the Maitlands are shrunken down in size and transported to Adam's model community. Arriving at the miniature town's cemetery, the Maitlands unearth Betelgeuse's grave, allowing Betelgeuse to burst from his coffin and eagerly introduce himself to the Mailtands. In the scene that follows, Betelgeuse demonstrates all of his core qualities as a character, including his eccentricity, confidence lustfulness, and penchant for nonstop joke-making.

Out of all of Tim Burton's films, perhaps no scene better establishes a character as completely as this one. The scene sums up all of Betelgeuse's quirks and habits, his trademark brand humor, and the strange, personal working relationship he has with prospective clients. Though he barely knows Barbara and Adam, he almost immediately takes more than a few social liberties, passionately kissing Barbara on the lips in front of Adam and asking Adam about the stability of their marriage. It's a wonderfully colorful way to greet someone, and very true to Betelgeuse's character as we see from their encounters later on.

Matters only get more out of hand from here, leading to a few more hilarious moments. His suddenly straight-laced monologue about his "qualifications" is pricelessly funny, as is the gradual way his speech and mannerisms devolve into his typical guttural way of speaking. Following that is his characteristic desperation trying to secure the Maitlands' services and ingratiate himself with them, going so far as to appear in Adam's clothes and calling themselves "simpatico." It's a brilliant scene that shows Betelgeuse at his best, establishing his character and relationship with the Maitlands from the very get-go.