From Pirates of The Caribbean to a host of Tim Burton films, Johnny Depp goes all out when it comes to acting, and it’s very rare that he doesn’t give a performance that you’ll be talking about for the rest of the year.
Here is my ranking of his performances (not of the films themselves) to date:
1. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
I’ve mentioned Tim Burton a few times already, but this is his best film by far and it is, therefore, Depp’s best performance. He is fantastic as the almost monster that is Edward Scissorhands, and it’s amazing how Depp’s performance, alongside the brilliant Winona Ryder, made us love his character so much.
Again full of fantasy with just enough horror to keep you on edge, this time with the addition of romance, the pairing of Burton and Depp is at its pinnacle here.
2. Pirates of The Caribbean (2013 – 2016)
When this film was first released, all I could think was that it was great to have a successful pirate franchise finally in the works. Depp totally inhabits his character, and it is because of him that this franchise has been successful.
With a talented supporting cast, too, this fantasy adventure is highly enjoyable – funny, engaging and brilliantly written. Everything about it just works so well.
3. Sweeney Todd (2007)
One of my favourite Burton films and Depp roles, Sweeny Todd is a brilliant musical take on the original film, with horror, drama, romance, comedy, a lot of gore, and some excellent songs. Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are perfect in the leads, and their chemistry is amazing.
I could watch many more films with these two in the leads, but the supporting cast is just as impressive, with Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, and Sacha Baron Cohen.
4. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
This is a real horror classic, one that scared me a lot more than I thought it would with its slightly dated appearance, but the gore was effective and the effects were pretty decent.
Some of the performances may have been poor but that’s typical for most horrors, and with Johnny Depp supporting it really couldn’t be faulted.
5. Ed Wood (1994)
A “mostly true story” about the legendary “worst director of all time”, Ed Wood is a surprisingly respectful biopic. It’s a film by Tim Burton that feels possibly the least Burton-esque of his filmography, aside from the brilliant use of black and white and having Depp in the lead, that is.
This is certainly one of Depp’s most underrated performances, and Burton is missing out on something by not making more films like this, too.
My ranking continued:
- 6. Donnie Brasco – – Crime dramas are always at their best when they’re based on truth, with Donnie Brasco being one of the most underrated of the bunch. Johnny Depp has another great role, this time alongside the excellent Al Pacino. With great performances all around, Donnie Brasco is a brilliant character-driven gangster drama that is well-made and paced, and is just as engaging as the more ‘classic’ crime dramas it is so often compared to.
- 7. Public Enemies – – Johnny Depp is great at most things he does, but I especially love it when he leads a biographical crime drama. With a great cast and fantastic style, Public Enemies is a classy crime thriller.
- 8. Blow – – The film reminded me a lot of Goodfellas, but that’s because they’re both true stories about one man’s entire life, and the consequences they are faced with after entering the world of drugs. Both share many of the same qualities, especially the perfect pacing as so much happens and is constantly happening that the long run-time doesn’t ever feel dragged out or become tedious. This is definitely one of Johnny Depp’s best performances and it’s a shame that he doesn’t star in such serious dramas these days as he is a wonder to watch.
- 9. Sleepy Hollow – – This is Tim Burton’s work at its best (Although Edward Scissorhands is the better film). The film isn’t particularly strong but the whole feel to it is incredible – the clash of horror and subtle comedy, the gloomy settings, and Christopher Walken as a headless horseman. The combination of Johnny Depp, a frequent lead in Burton’s films, is a highlight of the film too, and is much better than their recent work together.
- 10. From Hell –
- 11. Finding Neverland – – A beautiful story that is both fun and adventurous but also serious and sad. It promises to make you laugh, smile, and cry, and for that reason, it is a great film. Both Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet are brilliant in their roles and each give a stunning performance in their own way. How can you not enjoy a film based around the real-life creations of Peter Pan?
- 12. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? –
- 13. The Astronaut’s Wife – – I was intrigued by this film with it being led by Charlize Theron and Johnny Depp, and also because it was rated an 18. I don’t think it quite deserves at 18 rating, though it is both sexy and scary in places. It’s not a great sci-fi thriller but I didn’t expect the final twist and I was curious as to where it would go, so it was entertaining enough.
- 14. The Libertine – – If you want to be put off Johnny Depp for life, then this is the film to watch. Exceptional performances, but his character and illness made my stomach churn. I liked the period drama set pieces and costumes, but the director seemed to blend a cast of Pirates of The Caribbean and Pride and Prejudice because he knew they all looked good in wigs in already.
- 15. Chocolat – – The poster of this makes it look as if this film is a sexy, romantic drama led by Johnny Depp. If only it was. Chocolat, instead, is a film about ’emotional liberation’, religion, and, of course, chocolate. The French settings are gorgeous but that’s about as much as I enjoyed.
- 16. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas –
- 17. Secret Window – – This is one of those thrillers that I always forget the ending to, which is what keeps me interested every time I watch, even if it isn’t anything particularly original or unpredictable. But Johnny Depp is enough to keep you entertained, and it has a pretty tense atmosphere.
- 18. Transcendence – – Directed by cinematographer Wally Pfister with usual collaborator Christopher Nolan serving as executive producer, Transcendence certainly has a Nolan feel to it. It’s dark, futuristic, intelligent and full of ambition. The speed at which technology evolves will always be a scary thought, and what Pfister explores here is clever and thought-provoking. There may not be any massive explosions or show-off effects, but Transcendence‘s visuals are subtly elegant and the story is one that will make you think. What I liked most was that you were made to question whether you believed if Will’s mind really had been kept alive or not, which added another layer to the story, I thought, and that’s what a science fiction film should be about. You can read my full review here.
- 19. Once Upon a Time in Mexico –
- 20. Platoon –
- 21. The Rum Diary – – The Rum Diary is director Robinson’s first film in 19 years. Whilst the film is visually attractive, with a lot of the focus on the 1950s Caribbean setting, the film is also quite dark. Some parts of the film make you laugh, all of which can be seen in the trailer, but in between the pretty backdrops and humour derived from Depp, the story is dull and deeply uninteresting. I expected a light-hearted, tropical drama about a journalist who drinks a lot of rum, but this isn’t what I got. You can read my full review here.
- 22. The Ninth Gate – – Well, it’s definitely not what I expected. I can’t tell if it was supposed to be serious and scary, or if it was a light comedy. It didn’t do well to be either, to be honest.
- 23. Black Mass –
- 24. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – – With new fantastical beasts, a darker plot, new characters we’ve been looking forward to meeting, and a look at the magical wizarding world in Paris to further expanding our experience of the franchise, The Crimes of Grindelwald is very different from the first prequel but it also has so much more to be excited about. You can read my full review here.
- 25. Dark Shadows – – Far from what I was expecting from the film’s promotion, Dark Shadows is also much better than the condemned reviews have made it out to be. It’s far from a Tim Burton masterpiece, but maybe that’s just because we’ve seen his gothic style so often that we’re just not overwhelmed by it any more. I still thought there was something unique about this film, though. Its look feels similar, the cast is predictable, but I enjoyed the combination of dark comedy and fantasy.
- 26. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – – It’s certainly imaginative and creative, but messy films with little story and meaning cannot be pulled off by some decent visuals. Lily Cole is not an actress, as pretty as she is, but Andrew Garfield was a great addition to the cast. This was, however, all about Heath, and it always will be. He is the only thing I loved about this.
- 27. The Lone Ranger – – To say the least, The Lone Ranger was a lot better than I thought it was going to be, but it really is one long film; there was a whole other story that begun after I thought the film had ended, and I really don’t remember what it was about. Nevertheless, The Lone Ranger is a great western full of some really decent action scenes, but it’s also very family-friendly so it could have done better to appeal to an older audience. You can read my full review here.
- 28. Murder on the Orient Express (2017) – – There’s nothing like a good murder mystery, and the classic book that this film is based delivers everything perfectly. So when I saw the cast list for this adaptation, I was supperrrr excited. I love Kenneth Branagh as a director and an actor, and every member of the cast was another reason to get excited about this film. You can read my full review here.
- 29. The Tourist – – Not thriller and so obvious, even if it lied to your face right until the very end.
- 30. Into the Woods – – Into The Woods is the kind of film that you’ve got to take with a pinch of salt. If you let yourself be taken in by its humour and fun then there are a lot of laughs to be had, but it’s a film that you can’t take too seriously. It takes a while, admittedly, as it’s difficult to understand its tone at first. But soon enough, when you see two Princes in tight pants splashing water at each other and singing about love, you’ll be laughing along as well. You can read my full review here.
- 31. Alice in Wonderland (2010) –
- 32. Alice Through The Looking Glass – – I usually love Johnny Depp but I think he is the worst thing about these Alice In Wonderland films. And since this sequel has a bigger focus on his character, I really don’t get on with it. There is so little story to this film that it really doesn’t feel worthwhile at all. It’s amazing how such a brilliant cast can all be part of such a ridiculous film.
- 33. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) – – Everything about this film is so unlikeable, especially in comparison to the original. The original film certainly had some nightmarish elements, but the characters were still fun to watch and you could even sympathise with Willy Wonka in the end. But I like absolutely nothing about this remake. The children are all horrible, Depp’s Willy Wonka is cringy, and the Oompa Loompas are probably the worst thing about it. You would have thought that Tim Burton would have been the perfect director to take on this film and that he would have been able to handle the fun but slightly scary qualities brilliantly, but it’s just too quirky and out-there, and loses any sense of being entertaining by getting lost in trying to do something different. It just makes me shudder and fills me with none of the magic of the original film. The only thing I vaguely don’t mind about this film is Freddie Highmore’s Charlie and his parents (Helena Bonham Carter and Noah Taylor), who would have suited the film well in a better remake.
- 34. Mortdecai – – It’s one of those Johnny Depp films that you don’t want to watch.
Note: I still need to see Minamata, Waiting for the Barbarians, City of Lies, The Professor, Yoga Hosers, Tusk, Lucky Them, …And They Lived Happily Ever After, Before Night Falls, The Man Who Cried, The Brave, Nick of Time, Dead Man, Don Juan DeMarco, Benny & Joon, Arizona Dream, Cry-Baby, and Private Resort.