At The Movies

Top 10 Johnny Depp Performances

To celebrate Johnny Depp's birthday, we rank his top performances.

JUNE 9th, 2020

© Getty Images

Johnny Depp is one of Hollywood’s most fearless and interesting actors. With a unique ability and talent to bring differing characters to the screen, there aren’t many actors who can a lovable pirate and a brutal real-life gangster. We’ve decided to celebrate Johnny’s impressive work by listing his top 10 performances.

10. Willy Wonka – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

© Warner Bros.

When Warner Bros. announced a remake to the iconic Roald Dahl story, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, many fans were left wondering who could bring the wacky character of Willy Wonka to life? With Gene Wilder perfecting Wonka in the original movie, it was left to Johnny to reimagine the chocolate connoisseur.

Choosing to focus more on the crazy aspects of Dahl’s character, Depp added an almost childlike quality to Wonka. The movie, directed by Johnny’s long-time collaborator and friend, Tim Burton, became a huge hit with many critics pointing out Johnny’s performance as a highlight.

9. Mad Hatter – Alice in Wonderland

© Disney

Disney’s live action remake of Alice in Wonderland became a surprise hit for the film company. Taking over $1 billion at the box office, the CGI heavy film brought the weird and wonderful world of Lewis Carroll to the big screen like never before.

Johnny was cast as the Mad Hatter and using the usually quirky mannerisms to the character made his interpretation a hit with both audiences and critics. The actor was almost unrecognisable, with heavy make-up and CGI added to increase the size of his eyes, the Mad Hatter is arguably one of Depp’s most insane creations.

8. Ichabod Crane – Sleepy Hollow

© Paramount Pictures

With this list, there is a running theme – Tim Burton. Sleepy Hollow is no different. Bringing the story of the Headless Horseman – a phantom who chops of heads for revenge – is one which was dowsed with the dark textures of gothic styling.

Johnny would play the character of Ichabod Crane – a nervous and frightened inspector in search for answers after numerous grizzly murders. It was his much-anticipated return to the horror genre since his first ever role in A Nightmare on Elm Street in the 80s.

The unique blend of dread and humour make Sleepy Hollow one of Depp’s more interesting roles. Successfully merging the stylistic tone of Tim Burton with the deep humanity and empathy of a man seemingly way out of his depth, make Ichabod Crane one of the actor’s greatest performances.

7. Ed Wood – Ed Wood

© Touchstone Pictures

One of Johnny’s biggest critical successes was Ed Wood – a biopic on the acclaimed film director. Playing the iconic B-Movie horror director reunited him with Tim Burton. Depp’s performance would go onto both impress and surprise critics, leading to numerous award nominations and a Golden Globe win for Best Actor.

It would be a world away from the usual character driven roles he had become accustomed to by bringing a real-life movie icon to life. It broke a mould for Johnny and showed his talent and skill on screen.

6. Whitey Bulger – Black Mass

© Warner Bros

For his role as notorious mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, Depp completely transformed his appearance. With extensive prosthetics, the actor was almost unrecognisable and further underlined his skill for disappearing within his roles.

The performance would gain critical acclaim with numerous award wins and nominations, though critics were left baffled that Johnny did not receive an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Bulger.

5. Glen Lantz – A Nightmare on Elm Street

© New Line Cinema

It was the movie where it all started for Johnny Depp. The horror classic provided the actor a career into the movie industry. He later felt that the role would make Hollywood try to typecast any future roles as the ‘boy next door’ character and ‘heartthrob’, images which Depp fiercely rejected.

Whilst Johnny has proved that original notion wrong, for the movie his character’s death has become as iconic as the Wes Craven classic itself – being sucked into his bed and then his remains erupting onto his bedroom’s ceiling.

4. Sweeney Todd – Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

© Warner Bros

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street would become Johnny’s first musical. Playing the role of the vengeful barber who slits the throats of his enemies and places them into pies, would reunite Depp with Tim Burton.

But unlike their previous collaborations, Depp would struggle with filming the movie as through the production his daughter was seriously ill in hospital. The pained and haggard performance of Sweeney was down to Depp’s own worries over his daughter’s health and adds a sincere, if not nuanced approach to the role.

3. Gilbert Grape – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

© Paramount Pictures

In what was one of Johnny’s first movies away from the gothic stylings of Tim Burton. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape would become one of Depp’s most poignant performances and showcased he could play an emotional and complex role with ease.

The movie would receive praise from the critics, with Johnny’s performance alongside Leonardo DiCaprio becoming a highlight.

2. Edward – Edward Scissorhands

© 20th Century Fox

In what is probably Johnny’s most iconic role with director Tim Burton, Edward Scissorhands was the film which established him as a successful leading man. Depp was exceptional as the lost and naïve inventor’s creation with scissors for hands. His performance earned universal praise and became a blueprint for his choice in movie roles throughout his career.

Depp would reprise his role as Edward in a special cameo for the cartoon series Family Guy, though has stated there should never be a sequel or remake of the iconic movie. For many, Edward Scissorhands is Johnny at is finest.

1. Jack Sparrow – Pirates of the Caribbean

© Disney

Could there be any other performance which could take the top spot?

Jack Sparrow is arguably Johnny Depp’s greatest and most iconic character he has ever played. Arriving onto the big screen in 2003 with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Depp’s Jack Sparrow became an instant classic. With fans and critics praising the actor’s performance, Johnny would go on to play the iconic character another five times.

Basing the characteristics, movement and speech on rocker Keith Richards, Jack Sparrow became a pinnacle on character acting, and more so cemented Depp’s position as one of Hollywood’s greatest performers.

Johnny received an Oscar nomination for his role, and although he didn’t win, Jack Sparrow has since become one of the most recognisable movie characters of all time.

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