10. Rango (Gore Verbinski, 2011)
In this Oscar winning animated western film directed by Gore Verbinski, Depp lends his voice to a Hawaiian-shirt-wearing chameleon named Rango who ends up in a lawless town called Dirt, a place in desperate need of a new sheriff. The film also stars voices by Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Ray Winstone, Ned Beatty, and Timothy Olyphant as the spirit of the west.
As an ode to Depp’s earlier animation film, his voice is quite charming and unrecognizable, giving off a beautiful and colorful performance. It’s an animated film wonderfully made with stunning but simple visuals that is fun to watch by kids and adults alike.
9. Finding Neverland (Mark Forster, 2004)
In this biopic based from real life Peter Pan author, Depp plays James Matthew Barrie who got his inspiration for Peter Pan on an unlikely family; a single mother, (Kate Winslet) and her four young sons. Deeply rooted in his work, JM Barrie’s own personal marriage is going down. With no kids, he spends his time writing and playing with Winslet’s sons and in time, he grew attached to them.
The film gave Depp his second Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Depp plays his role with an attitude like a child; humble and with a sweet temperament nature. He moves with ease and calmness and his chemistry with Kate Winslet is effortlessly beautiful and heartbreaking. Finding Neverland is a moving film about how everyone has an inner child in them, waiting to be set free.
8. Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995)
Depp plays William Blake, an accountant travelling to a town called Machine where he was promised a job as an accountant in the town’s metal works. Finding out that the job is already taken when he arrives, Blake’s life is suddenly in danger when hired killers are in his pursuit after he accidentally killed the son of the company-owner. While on the run, Blake then encounters an American Indian who helped him journey into the spiritual world.
The film is shot entirely in black and white. Dead Man is quite bizarre, but the combination of Depp, Jarmusch and Western, is refreshing for the audience. Seeing Depp in a different film giving off a simple, low-key performance is a welcome change. Though it may not be the best Depp movie of the 90’s, the film sure gave a fresh name to American Western film.
7. Pirates of the Caribbean Tetralogy (Gore Verbinski, 2003, 2006, 2007 and Rob Marshall, 2011)
The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is based from a Disney theme park ride. This raised a lot of eyebrows when Disney agreed to green light this film. Not only was it just an attraction, it was also a question of who would play the lead, drunken but wise role of Captain Jack Sparrow.
During this time, Depp was making low budget and lesser known movies. He was approached by producer Jerry Bruckheimer if he wanted to play Captain Jack. Depp read it and he would later share that his inspiration for the role was Rolling Stone guitarist and front man, Keith Richards.
The Pirates films are an adventure to the heart of the life of the rocks stars of that era which were the pirates. Playful, fearless, and sometimes crazy, these films are a vision of special effects, and adrenaline pumping action and music that resulted to a one of a kind adventure. The first Pirate film (Curse of the Black Pearl), gave Johnny Depp his first ever Oscar nomination for Best Actor; a rare honor for a comedic performance.
Though Depp didn’t win, it would cement his status as an A-list actor from now on. Up until today, this role is Depp’s most popular role ever. It is a surprise to him and to everyone that this film became such a huge success and made Depp a household name despite his I-don’t-care attitude towards mainstream and big budget movies. To him, he just wanted to portray and fulfill a childhood dream: to become a pirate.
6. Donnie Brasco (Mike Newell, 1997)
Donnie Brasco is an American crime drama directed by Mike Newell set in New York in the 1970s. Depp plays Joseph Pistone, an FBI agent who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family going undercover as Donnie Brasco or “The Jewel Man”. Al Pacino co-stars as an aging hit-man, Lefty Ruggiero. As Pistone goes deeper into his assignment, a close and trusted bond grew between him and Ruggiero that will put him in a difficult place that will eventually lead to Lefty’s inevitable death.
This is one of Depp’s early mature roles. He was praised for choosing such a part and giving out a zealous and strong performance as an agent crossing lines between the rules of his work or something criminal. He made this role his own and acted alongside veteran actor such as Al Pacino. Depp wasn’t overshadowed at all. It proved that he can also hold an early A-list, grown up role despite how media portrayed him during the early days of his career.
5. Chocolat (Lasse Hallstrom ,2000)
Johnny Depp gives a small, but memorable appearance in this Oscar nominated film by Lasse Hallstrom based on a book by the same name by Joan Harris. A mysterious woman, Vianne, (Juliette Binoche) and her young daughter moved into a tranquil French village to open a chocolaterie just in time for Lent. A town enveloped with tradition and morality, the town grew curious about the mother and child and Vianne’s spirited and kind nature. Depp plays Roux, a charming, guitar playing gypsy who befriended Vianne and her daughter.
The film is led by a powerful cast of women including Judi Dench, Lena Olin, and Carrie-Ann Moss. Depp’s grace and careful demure blends well with the strong portrayal of each woman in the film. Alfred Molina, who plays the mayor, gives a touching performance as a strictly guided man whose morality broke down after his own personal life was put on hold. The film is a one of a kind tale of passion, intrigue and how humans, in nature, are such passionate creatures.
4. Blow (Ted Demme, 2001)
In this Ted Demme direct film, Depp plays George Jung, the man who set the American cocaine market back in the 1970s’ and the effect it has on him when he finally started to have his own family.
For the role, Depp was able to channel his inner George Jung, even imitating and nailing his stride and the way he talks. The role also gave him the chance to play something he always wanted to become in real life, a father. Though not his first father role, Depp gave out a truly dedicated performance about the fast growing and dangerous world of smuggling.
Despite Jung’s journey to a darker life, Depp made the character likable especially after he showed how much he is willing to sacrifice for his family’s safety. The film also stars Penelope Cruz, Franke Potente and Ray Liota.
3. Edward Scissorhands (Tim Burton, 1990)
Edward Scissorhands tells the story of an unconventional young man who was left by his inventor with a pair of scissors for hands. This is Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s first collaboration and it would spawn 6 more films in years to come. Of all the films they did together, this is the one that everyone’s definitely familiar with. Burton has this affinity for the weird and he found a kindred spirit when he cast Depp in this film.
Drawing inspiration for his role from a dog, Depp’s performance is heartbreaking as it is fearless. He would act with his eyes. Depp would cower with fear like a dog, but he would give you unconditional love when you accept him as he is. The late and great Vincent Price played the kind inventor and Winona Ryder played Depp’s love interest.
2. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (Lasse Hallstrom, 1993)
Depp plays Gilbert Grape, a loving and hardworking big brother looking after his mentally ill younger brother played by the amazing then 19-year old Leonardo DiCaprio (who got his first Oscar Supporting Actor nomination for this role) and his obese mother. Gilbert’s life is pretty much like a routine. Working in a small convenience store and struggling to make ends meet. When a young woman walked into his life, played by Juliette Lewis, his family got in the way of his happiness.
Depp took this role because he recognized his own life in the part. Because of that, he gave a moving, warm, and sensitive performance that made him the “the knight in shimmering armour” in the film. He shimmered and he glowed.
Together with the very talented Leonardo DiCaprio, they made this film very relatable to normal, everyday, struggling families wanting the best for everyone. Depp even dyed his hair red and chipped his teeth to go deeper into the role. It is an early sign of dedication that Depp would later bring in his future films.
1. Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994)
Ed Wood is a biopic directed by Tim Burton. This is their second collaboration after Edward Scissorhands. Edward D. Wood Jr., is a director known for making B rated movies. His films don’t get too much attention but he’s a dedicated director who loves his craft.
The film tells the story of when Ed Wood made probably the most popular film in his career, Plan 9 From Outer Space. Burton shot this movie in crisp black and white resonating it more during Ed Wood’s era. This film also showcased the tough lifestyle in Hollywood for both directors and actors a like.
Edward D. Wood Jr., also dresses up as a woman because it gives him some sense of comfort. And Depp plays that comically and almost naturally in the film. Walking in heels, wearing angora sweaters, and knee length skirts. The film was also supported by comedic actors such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray, and Oscar winning character actor Martin Landau.
Author Bio: Krisha Dula is currently a Digital Copywriter in an Advertising Agency. She has always wanted to be a writer ever since she was 10 years old. She loves movies and counts Johnny Depp as her favorite actor, and Sam Mendes and Alfonso Cuaron as her favorite directors. In her downtime, She read, write, watch movies and the National Geographic Channel.