Johnny Depp has become an iconic actor in Hollywood. While just 48 years old, he created a resume of film that includes both the blockbuster box office successes and the art house, highly acclaimed films. While he may have gotten his start because of his over-the-top good looks, he has grabbed his place among the acting greats because of his top notch acting skills.
He has chosen his roles wisely to display his wide acting range from playing the rapscallion Capt Jack Sparrow to the demonic barber Sweeney Todd to the increasingly paranoid drug lord George Jung. His portrayals are always believable and provide us with the emotional depth of each character.
Surprisingly, Depp claims that he has never watched any of his films after they are wrapped because he cringes at the site of himself on screen. Maybe that is the perfectionist in his nature that would be continually critiquing his portrayals for improvements he could have made. Much like De Niro and Nicholson before him, we can look forward to watching Depp adapt his roles for his older years.
Johnny Depp has been nominated for three Academy Awards, all for Best Actor in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Finding Neverland and Sweeney Todd. While he has not yet won an Oscar, I certainly expect that he will win one or more in the future. You can find the full Johnny Depp Filmography at IMDb.
This ranking of JohnnyDepp films is based on the rankings of members at Rankography best movies, a knowledgeable group of movie bloggers and fans.
All rights reserved. Copyright 2012 Rankography
10. Benny & Joon (1993)
Depp is a Comedic Genius in the Beautiful Romantic Comedy
Of all the Johnny Depp movies, Benny & Joon is my favorite. This is a charming story in which love blooms between the most unlikely pair. Juniper "Joon" Pearl (Mary Stuart Masterson) is a talented artist but also a schizophrenic unable to live on her own. As a result, she lives with her older brother Benny Pearl (Aidan Quinn), an auto shop owner and mechanic. Benny and Joon have a tumultuous relationship as a result of Joon's condition. She has driven away all of their housekeepers and some days are better than others but it is clear that she cannot live alone.
Sam (Johnny Depp) is an eccentric cousin of one of Benny's poker buddies. During a heated poker game, Benny end loses and thereby ends up with Sam as a house guest for a week. Sam is a grade school dropout who is largely illiterate, however his great passion is the comedy of silent film star, Buster Keaton, and he is brilliant at recreating their comedy. Like his idol, he speaks very little instead choosing to communicate through his comedy. While both Sam and Joon have difficulty communicating with the rest of the world, they are perfectly in tune with each other.
This is a beautiful romantic comedy about family relationships, overcoming handicaps and finding love in the most unlikely of places. Depp and Masterson are absolutely brilliant in their roles and we cannot help but root for their unlikely union. When they are faced with separation later in the film, we are heartbroken by the potential injustice to both of them.
I absolutely love this movie and can watch it over and over. If you have not seen this film yet, put it at the top of your must see list!
9. Ed Wood (1994)
A Fantastic Biopic on an Unusual Hollywood Legend
Johnny Depp and director/friend Tim Burton teamed up again for this biopic film about the legendary B-movie director, Edward D. Wood. Ed Wood is a film about Wood (JohnnyDepp) and his eclectic group of friends as well as his struggles to make his "worst" movies. Many of Wood's films earned the reputation as the worst film in their respective genre. It takes a thick skin to remain in the business with such "terrible" reviews from critics. Being a transvestite, Wood was a unique and different personality (even for Hollywood) and often directed his films in full drag.
Burton and Depp did it again with Ed Wood, creating a work of art that will endure long after its stars. While Depp was outstanding as Wood, it was Martin Landau's performance as Bela Lugosi that really stole the show. His portrayal won him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
This was a low budget, arthouse film that many may have missed but is a must see for any true Depp and Burton fan.
8. Public Enemies (2009)
A Biopic of the 1930s Criminal, John Dillinger
Another biopic movie, Public Enemies is the film adaptation of the non-fictional book entitled Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI by Bryan Burrough. Released in 2009, the film follows a crime spree in the last couple of years of John Dillinger's (Depp) life. Set in the 1930s, the world was in the throes of the Great Depression and a group of criminals were traveling the country robbing banks and other "rich" institutions. But it is also the story of the lawmen organized to bring these dangerous criminals to justice. In the early days of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover appoints Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) as the head of the task force to catch these public enemies.
While it is an action thriller with exciting action and an interesting storyline, it was not well received by critics. Part of the problem with the film was the pure glorification of the Dillinger character. He is painted as a criminal that only killed police or other criminals, never took money from "common people" and had compassion for the poor; in essence a Robin Hood style character. While he may have had some of these qualities, most of his personality was largely unbelievable. It would have been much better to create a dark, conflicted character, both despicable and respectable at times -- such as the Ben Wade character played by Russell Crowe's role in 3:10 to Yuma.
However, that weakness is on director Michael Mann, not JohnnyDepp. While I enjoyed the film as a thriller, I felt missed an opportunity to create a memorable character with the Dillinger role.
7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
A Fun Sequel but Not Near as Good as the Original
One of the most successful movies among the Johnny Depp filmography, Pirates, Dead Man's Chest grossed over $1.0 billion worldwide at the box office. Released three years after the original Pirates film, this sequel received high acclaims for its special effects and won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
Dead Man's Chest had one of the most complex plots of the Pirates series. Capt Jack (Johnny Depp) has reclaimed his ship, the Black Pearl, but now the ghost of his dead mate, 'Bootstrap' Bill Turner (Stellan Skarsgard), tells him he must return to Davy Jones to repay a debt. Thirteen years earlier, Jack made a deal with Jones that if Jones raised the Black Pearl from the bottom of the ocean, Jack would agree to serve on Jones ship of the "undead" after 13 years.
Meanwhile Turner's son, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) has his wedding to Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) interrupted by Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander). Beckett sentences both Turner and Swann to hang for aiding Capt Jack to escape the gallows in the previous film. Now Will has escaped to try to find Jack, the only person that can save them both.J
Once again Depp is great as the unpredictable and eccentric Capt Jack. The cast is largely the same except for the addition of Skarsgard and Hollander and the unfortunate loss of Geoffrey Rush. Disney must have heard from fans about the loss of Rush's excellent skill and his nasty but loveable character, Barbossa, because they brought him back for both the 3rd and 4th installments of the series.
Overall, it is a good film and a great sequel but not near as good as the first film, Black Pearl. It would take until the fourth installment, Stranger Tides for Disney to create another film that rivaled the first in overall quality.
Dead Man's Chest was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
6. Chocolat (2000)
This Film will Warm Your Heart Like Good Chocolate
There are many great movies in the Johnny Depp filmography, but few are as unique as the 2000 French film. Only two Depp films have been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar; Platoon won in 1986 and Chocolat was nominated in 2000. Chocolat is the film adaptation of the Joanne Harris book of the same name.
The film is a romantic drama set in a rural French village. Vianne (Juliette Binoche) is a young mother who has just moved to town and opens a Chocolaterie at the beginning of season of Lent celebrations. When she opens her shop on Sundays across the street from the Church, she sets of a firestorm of criticism in town. But as more and more of the townspeople try her chocolate, they are transformed into staunch supporters. But as her shop gains popularity, she finds herself in a battle with the Mayor Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina). As this rivalry intensifies she meets a handsome gypsy, Roux (Johnny Depp), and a charming romance develops.
The film is both well-written and beautifully delivered. Like the product in her shop Binoche's performance is delicious and Depp is a playful, free-spirit with a zest for life. The story will warm your heart and definitely keep you smiling.
Chocolat was nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Actress (Binoche), Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench), Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
5. Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
The Demon Barber Comes to Life Under Burton's Direction
Sweeney Todd is the film adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name. This was a unique Johnny Depp role because he had to sing and while he is not going to win any awards for his voice, he was serviceable in that category. However, his approach to the role of a sadistic, vengeful barber was absolutely top-notch.
Sweeney Todd is a dark comedy horror musical in which Todd (Johnny Depp) is a murderous barber who rigs up an elaborate system for disposing of his victims from barber chair. He teams up with the equally twisted Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) who uses the victims to create "delicious" meat pies that are all the rage among the poor in the slums of London. Of course, Todd did not start out this bitter and twisted. Rather we learn that early in life he was wronged by a greedy Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), who kidnapped Todd's first love, Johanna (Jayne Wisener), as a wealthy young lawyer. Events spin out of control, when Judge Turpin comes into Todd's parlor for a shave.
While not your typical film, it is meant as a tongue in cheek entertainment with a bit of fantasy, horror, comedy and action combined on the dark streets of Victorian London. This was the sixth pairing for Director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and once again they created a beautiful dark adventure for viewers. It is fun to watch with outstanding artistic stylings both of the set and characters.
Sweeney Todd was nominated for 3 Academy Awards including Best Actor for Depp's role as Todd. It won the Oscar for Best Art Direction.
4. Donnie Brasco (1997)
A Complex Undercover Gangster Drama
One of the few gangster movies in the Depp filmography, Donnie Brasco is based on the true story of an FBI agent who infiltrated NYC mafia as an undercover agent. Joseph D. Pistone (Johnny Depp), goes undercover as Donnie Brasco to penetrate the Bonnano crime family. He gains the trust of Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino), a hit-man and debt collector for the family. Over time they develop a deep friendship and move up as their boss, Sonny Black (Michael Madsen), moves up in the organization. As his role becomes too stressful and complex, Pistone contemplates getting out but is left with a dilemma; his friend Ruggiero who pay the price for Pistone's double cross if he disappears.
Donnie Brasco is a complex gangster thriller with deep character development. We gain an affinity for both Pistone and Ruggiero throughout the film which makes the final dilemma that much more difficult to bear. Some feel this is one of Johnny Depp's best performance and he is quite convincing as a conflicted undercover gangster. As usually, Al Pacino is excellent as an aging lieutenant in the crime family. A more sedate role than normal, it shows a softer, complex side to Pacino.
Directed by Mike Newell, Donnie Brasco was nominated for one Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
3. What's Eating Gilbert Grape
A Critically Acclaimed Coming of Age Film
Shortly after his leading roles in Edward Scissorhands and Benny & Joon, Johnny Depp had his third starring role in this film. What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a film adaptation of Peter Hedges' novel of the same name. Gilbert Grape (Depp) is a small town teen with more responsibility than the average teenager. He and his siblings must care for their morbidly obese mother and he must also look out for his autistic brother Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio). With such a heavy burden, he is a straight-lace responsible kid.
However, his life is turned on its ends when the free-spirited, beautiful Becky (Juliette Lewis) moves to town. Now he must balance his responsibilities with his new found passion for Becky and something is bound to fall through the cracks.
While not a box office success, it was a critically acclaimed film with DiCaprio getting most of the praise for his portrayal of the autistic Arnie. However, Depp was also wonderful in this film showing the difficult struggle teens facing as they gain increasing amounts of responsibility but still want to hold onto their carefree spirit. Depp creates a compassionate Grape who is searching for his inner self while trying to maintain his care for Arnie and his mother. It is a well written story and a compelling film. It is certainly deserves a spot among the top ten Depp films.
The film received one Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (DiCaprio).
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
An Entertaining Romp Through the Caribbean
It is hard to believe that this fantastic movie series was inspired by a simple, and frankly average, Disney theme park ride. But in fact, that is where Pirates of the Caribbean started. Of course it has become so much more because of a combination of great writing, perfect casting and high speed action. Curse of the Black Pearl is the first installment in the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his arch nemesis, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). There have been surprisingly few Pirate movies even though they are such an interesting chapter in World History. This combination of Pirates, Johnny Depp and Disney created an unstoppable box office success grossing over $600 million worldwide.
Johnny Depp was perfect for this, devil-may-care, eccentric pirate. Rumor has it that even the makers of the film were surprised, by how naturally Johnny Depp slipped into the role of Capt Jack. While Depp has had many more challenging roles, there have been few roles that have been more enjoyable to watch than the lovable scoundrel pirate, Capt Jack.
Curse of the Black Pearl was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Johnny Depp.
1. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
The Original Hearthrob Named Edward
The movie's original tagline, "the story of an uncommonly gentleman" says it all. As we have come to learn with Johnny Depp movies - things are never 'ordinary'. Somewhere along the way, you'll find surprises that range from bizarre to strange to peculiar. Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) is the original collaboration with is friend, Director Tim Burton and brings us the Depp's original peculiar, but brilliant screen performance.
It is a movingly dramatic story that is one of my all time favorites. It is the story of Edward, an unfinished invention created by an eccentric inventor, The Inventor (Vincent Price). Edward is a work in progress who temporarily has scissors as hands. However, before The Inventor can complete Edward's normalized hands he dies of a powerful heart attack. After The Inventor's death, Edward lives alone trying to survive with out cutting himself to shreds with his scissorhands.
His peaceful, but uneventful life is interrupted by Peg (Dianne West), a struggling Avon saleswoman. She finds Edward alone in his house and feels sorry for his loneliness and brings him home. There Edward quickly falls in love with Peg's daughter, KIm (Winona Ryder) and their forbidden love affair leads to tragic events.
This is such a memorable Johnny Depp movie and also one of his best acting performances. While strange and peculiar, you cannot help but fall for this simple, zen-like character. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have gone on to collaborate on six more films including several critically acclaimed films such as Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd.
Your Turn to Vote on the Best Johnny Depp Movies
Tell us your thoughts on Johnny Depp Films
MikeRobbers LM on October 04, 2012:
Johnny Dep is one of the best and most versatile actors Hollywood ever graced! thanks for sharing :)
Tim Spears on September 19, 2012:
Movies with great entertainment!
WriterJanis2 on August 22, 2012:
Love his movies.
Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on August 18, 2012:
You are right. Johnny is an icon. He will always have a special place among the Hollywood stars.
Rankography (author) on August 13, 2012:
@Gypzeerose: Thank you so much for the kind compliments bloomingrose. I am pleased that you like my lenses.
Rose Jones on August 13, 2012:
Your lenses are always awesome! I am trying to find one that is just so-so, no luck so far. :) Including this one. My son and I were just talking about Johnny Depp yesterday - what an amazing actor, who is not totally full of himself. Great lens - blessed!
sojourner-1 on July 08, 2012:
I can always count on a good movie with Johnny Deppâ¦
RinchenChodron on July 04, 2012:
Happy July 4th - great lens!
RinchenChodron on July 04, 2012:
Happy July 4th - great lens!
cinefile on July 02, 2012:
Donnie Brasco is a very interesting Johnny Depp movie because I think people often forget that the guy can act any role. He's remembered mostly for his wacky, nutty pieces but he's just a good, solid and talented actor as you can see in Donnie Brasco.
Andrew Po on June 29, 2012:
I enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.
wecomparebooks on June 21, 2012:
I love Johnny Depp!
Rankography (author) on June 17, 2012:
@anonymous: Thanks Tipi. He really is fantastic. I would put him and DiCaprio as my two favorite actors under 60. That way I don't have to compare them to DeNiro, Eastwood and Hoffman.
Rankography (author) on June 17, 2012:
@grannysage: I agree with you completely Sage. I don't think enough people appreciate his level of craft!!
grannysage on June 17, 2012:
I am on a quest. I am going to see every Johnny Depp film ever made. An incredible actor. It was hard to pick a favorite film because each one is so different but I went with Chocolat.
anonymous on June 16, 2012:
I haven't seen all of these movies, but I love Johnny Depp.
Nice lens my dear, its Blessed, and posted to FaceBook.
Thank you, I have more movies to see now! :)
anonymous on April 22, 2012:
Splendid actor - amazing reviews (as always!)
Ilona E from Ohio on April 21, 2012:
Like millions of others I LOVE Johnny Depp!
K Bechand from NY on April 15, 2012:
You know that Charlie and The Chocolate Factory vote had to have been mine right ??? :O)
greasergirlalex on April 10, 2012:
Johnny Depp is one of my favorite actors, so i love this lens
jolou on April 07, 2012:
I really like Johnny Depp. I'm looking forward to seeing him in Dark Shadows.
Tugee on March 18, 2012:
Sweeney Todd, great film.
Samuel Franklin on February 13, 2012:
I would have to also agree that I love him in Edward Scissorhands.
Mark Falco from Reno, Nevada on February 12, 2012:
Edward Scissorhands is my favorite although just about every Johnny Depp movie is up there on my list of favorites...except maybe The Astronaut's Wife which I didn't 'get'.