Looking at Depp‘s career, what were his best movies? From tragic fairy tale figures to ruthless crime bosses, Depp has delivered believable performances as them all.
The Academy may not have given him recognition for his great body of work but we are about to. Below are the movies which we consider to be among the best in his career although you’re bound to have your own opinions when considering which are Johnny Depp’s best movies.
Depp is known for the characters he plays, immersing himself in the roles, with some of the most notable being Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Edward Scissorhands, and Willy Wonka. He’s had a long career in TV and film, and because of this, his resume is long.
Currently, Depp is involved in a defamation trial with his ex-wife Amber Heard, who accused him of abuse in 2016, before the two divorced. And after an op-ed Heard wrote was published–which did not name Depp but alluded to him–Depp claimed that hurt his career, which is part of this defamation suit. This also led to a decision for Depp to not return to Disney’s Pirates movies.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Tim Burton’s darkly comic fantasy wasn’t Depp’s first movie but at the time, it was certainly his most successful. He gave a sensitive and tender performance as Edward, the artificial man whose creator gave him scissors for hands, and it was an early indication that he was destined for great things in Hollywood.
With less than 150 words of dialogue, Depp rarely gets the chance to speak but as his face tells us everything we need to know about what Edward is feeling, he doesn’t really need to say anything at all.
This is a wonderful movie that still has the power to enchant audiences today. It still has the power to make them cry too, especially during the scene when Winona asks him to hold her. “I can’t,” he says, afraid of turning the young teen into a human pin cushion!
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
For a movie based on a theme park ride, this was surprisingly successful. It raked in over $654 million at the box office and went on to make a lot more money with its DVD sales.
A lot of the movie’s success was down to Depp’s wonderfully daffy performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, the pirate who not only searched for gold but who had a heart of gold too!
With its excellent special effects, rousing music score, and fanciful adventures of derring-do, this was the movie that broke the ‘curse of the pirate movie’ that had long since plagued Hollywood.
While swashbuckling movies were all the rage back in the 1940s and 50s, they went out of fashion in the modern era, thanks to such misfires as Pirates and Cutthroat Island, which sank at the box office.
Gore Verbinski’s movie brought them back into fashion and while the sequels to this weren’t quite as good, they were still popular thanks to Depp’s turn as the headlining pirate captain.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
Leonardo DiCaprio deservedly received an Oscar nomination for his role as Arnie, Gilbert’s disabled brother, but Depp still deserves credit for his role as the title character. He gives an utterly convincing performance as the down on his luck man who is forced to care for his younger bro and morbidly obese mother, and he is what gives this movie its heart.
The brotherly dynamic he shares with DiCaprio is particularly touching as it’s clear that their respective characters have a lot of love for one another, despite the frictions in their relationship.
Watching the two of them is a joy and there is a real sense of loss when the movie ends, as more time in their company would not have been unwelcomed.
Ed Wood (1994)
Ed Wood was the director of some of the worst movies of all time. Plan 9 From Outer Space is perhaps the most famous but Glen or Glenda, one of the first movies about transvestism, is possibly the worst movie of them all.
His films have to be seen to be believed but if you can’t pluck up the courage to watch some of the worst titles in cinema history, you should sit down with Tim Burton’s biopic, his second collaboration with Depp.
The fact that Depp is so good in this is no surprise as the eccentric actor was the perfect fit for the role of Wood. But his performance isn’t the only thing that makes this movie worth watching.
Burton’s movie takes an affectionate look at both the director and his terrible films and it features an Oscar-winning turn from Martin Landau, who starred as Bela Lugosi, the famous horror actor whose career took a downward spiral when he agreed to star in Wood’s failed productions.
Donnie Brasco (1997)
As FBI agent Joe Pistone, the man who infiltrated the gangster underworld as Donnie Brasco, a supposed jewel thief, Depp more than managed to hold his own against acting heavyweight Al Pacino, who stars as the ageing hitman that takes Brasco under his wing. Goodfellas might still be considered the best gangster movie of the 90s but thanks to the two lead performers at the heart of this stellar film, Scorsese’s masterpiece has a worthy contender.
The movie is based on a powerful true story and is an exploration of the organized crime world and the challenges of maintaining cover while operating within it.
Other movies have explored similar themes, including Infernal Affairs and its Hollywood remake The Departed, but this still holds up as one of cinema’s great crime stories, not least because of the heartbreaking ending.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Here’s another Johnny Depp/Tim Burton collaboration and it’s as darkly funny as the other movies they have made together. It’s another telling of the Headless Horseman legend, with Depp as eager Constable Ichabod Crane who takes it upon himself to investigate the villain’s murders.
Burton is at his best when working within the gothic horror genre and he ably delivers here. With the movie’s fog-enshrouded locales and macabre special effects, it’s a Halloween treat, although Depp deserves just as much credit as Burton’s visuals.
He delivers another great performance, disappearing into the role of the 18th-century anti-hero who tries to save the town of Sleepy Hollow.
Benny & Joon (1993)
Johnny Depp has made a career out of playing misfits. Edward Scissorhands was one, The Mad Hatter was another, and as Sam, Depp had another kooky character to add to his resume.
The actor channels Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in his performance, purposefully so, as he recreates moments from those silent comedians’ earlier films, including the bread roll dance that originated in Chaplin’s The Gold Rush.
Depp earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance but as good as he is, credit must also go to Mary Stewart Masterson, who plays Joon.
As the mentally fragile girl with whom Benny falls in love, she gives a superb performance, and it’s a shame that she didn’t go on to have the successful acting career that Depp did.
Finding Neverland (2004)
In this true-life tale about Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie, Depp gave one of his most charming performances. He is incredibly likeable as the playwright who befriends the Llewelyn Davies family, the people who became the inspiration for his most famous creation. His scenes with Freddie Highmore are particularly moving but the film as a whole is a warm and touching delight.
This might not be a completely accurate version of events but it still earned seven Oscar nominations. Depp was one of the people up for an award but the Oscar eventually went to Jamie Foxx for his portrayal of Ray Charles.
While Foxx arguably deserved to take the gold statuette home, it was a shame that Depp was overlooked, as his gentle, playful performance as Barrie still stands as one of the best of his career.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Going to the barber is always a risk but while you might not always get the haircut you want, at least you come out with your throat intact. Well, unless your barber is Sweeny Todd that is! Not only will you get a nasty cut from the sharp end of his blade, but you’ll likely end up as pie filling too!
Thankfully, Todd is long since dead but Depp successfully managed to bring him back to life for this screen adaptation of the Broadway musical.
While Depp is largely known for being an actor, he does have a musical background too, so it wasn’t a complete surprise when he was cast as the throat-cutting barber.
He earned his third Oscar nomination for his exuberant and macabre performance but once again, he failed to win. Daniel Day-Lewis won for There Will Be Blood, which is kind of ironic, as there was a lot more blood flying around in Tim Burton’s gruesomely grotesque musical.
Black Mass (2015)
In his long and varied career, Depp has mostly played hero types so it’s little wonder that he took the opportunity to change his image and play a real-life mobster in this masterful crime drama.
The actor plays James “Whitey” Bulger, a violent criminal who worked within South Boston, who later became an FBI informant to take down a rival Mafia family that was encroaching on his turf.
Depp is almost unrecognisable here. His movie-star looks have been replaced with a mask of prosthetics but while the makeup does much to make his character look sinister, he is still able to channel Bulger’s quiet malice with his chilling performance.
After a string of flops, including Transcendence and Mortdecai, this was was the film Depp needed to make the world stand up and take notice of him again.