5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
For fans of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, this one must have hurt. The first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies successfully and enjoyably told the story of Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann, and notably, Captain Jack Sparrow.
The fourth movie was an obvious ploy to squeeze more money out of the franchise. While in the other films, the plot focused on the Romeo and Juliet-like lovers, Elizabeth and Will, this one gave Jack Sparrow the spotlight. The film was high grossing but received mostly negative reviews.
In this film, Depp’s swashbuckling character meets up with another pirate/ex-girlfriend, Angelica (played by Penélope Cruz). By joining up with her again, Jack is forced to accompany her and Blackbeard (played by Ian McShane) in their search for the fountain of youth. However, Barbossa (played again by Geoffrey Rush) and a crew from Spain also seek the foundation for themselves.
Like the original movies, it combined pirate legend with vague historical facts to create a nostalgic plot. Unlike the original movies, people generally hated it. Depp’s once-beloved character just was not charming enough for audiences anymore.
4. The Tourist (2010)
If you thought Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie would make a dynamic movie duo, you would be wrong. There was a surprising and complete lack of chemistry between the two stars in this film, although they are both highly paid superstars. Depp plays a math teacher named Frank Tupelo, who finds himself on a trip to Europe to distract himself from his ex-girlfriend.
On a train, he meets a beautiful stranger, Elise Clifton-Ward (played by Angelina Jolie), and they begin to form a romance. Instead, they become trapped in a game of cat and mouse when police mistake Frank for Elise’s lover and partner in crime (played by Rufus Sewell).
Unlike many others on this list, this movie may have succeeded if it weren’t for the nonexistent chemistry between the leads. It was incredibly stylish and had beautiful set design, but it was missing a plot.
Rotten Tomatoes says, “The scenery and the stars are undeniably beautiful, but they can’t make up for The Tourist’s slow, muddled plot, or the lack of chemistry between Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.”
3. The Lone Ranger (2013)
Where to begin with this one? First, it was already controversial for Depp playing the Native American Tonto. Instead of commenting on the movie’s whitewashing, Depp said this movie was an attempt to “try to right the wrongs of the past” and that he believed he had some Native American ancestry. Another issue was that the movie was a blatantly bad remake.
The radio show, “The Lone Ranger”, began in 1933, while the book it was based on, “The Lone Star Ranger” by Zane Grey, was published in 1915. Lone Ranger radio hours, films and TV shows have been made all the way up to 2003, with steadily decreasing commercial and critical failure. However, at least some of those movies actually used actors of Native American descent to play Tonto.
The movie tried to relive past plots, but also have modern visual effects. The film was both a critical and commercial failure with Walt Disney Studios taking a huge loss. The script was bloated while the acting was bland and most shots were action sequences.
Again, the movie was already going to fail as it didn’t have a great plot, despite the popularity of the originals. The film begins in 1933 — also the year the radio show began — when a boy discovers an aging Tonto in a carnival tent. The entire plot of the movie is Tonto recounting the story of his days with John Reid as the Lone Ranger.
The plot spans from the day in 1869 when Tonto and the Lone Ranger first met, to their harrowing days of defeating Butch Cavendish (played William Fichtner) and other Old West outlaws. Despite the 149-minute run time, Depp and his co-star Armie Hammer barely had time to be charming, let alone tell a coherent story.
2. Transcendence (2014)
In this role, Depp plays Dr. Will Caster, the world’s most authoritative figure on artificial intelligence, who continues to conduct controversial experiments despite public outcry. His plans are to create a sentient machine, and because of this, extremists try to kill him and destroy his labs. His wife Evelyn (played by Rebecca Hall), fearing his death, decides to put his consciousness into a quantum computer, despite the protests of fellow researcher and friend Max (played again by Paul Bettany).
Things get worse for the doctor — and the movie’s plot — quickly after that. Both Evelyn and Max are forced to watch as Will becomes an omnipresent, power-hungry computer.
This was going to be one of those movies that simultaneously cautions the audience against scientific exploration and makes it look really cool, but somehow “Transcendence” didn’t really do either.
The film’s plot had incredibly flimsy logic for a sci-fi thriller and the storytelling did not live up to its potential. But again, this already doomed plot was made worse by Depp’s role. The acting and dialogue were choppy and unnatural. It’s not likely that another actor in the role would have made the movie better, but Depp definitely did not improve it.
1. Mortdecai (2015)
The latest flop in a string of flops — following “Transcendence” and “The Lone Ranger” —“Mortdecai” is the story of Charlie Mortdecai (played by Depp), a British aristocrat dabbling in art theft.
The titular character, Mortdecai, is lacking in funds for his lavish lifestyle when an old college friend and MI5 officer, Alistair Maitland (played by Ewan McGregor), asks him to find a stolen Goya painting. However, an American heiress (played by Olivia Munn) is also vying for the painting, as it is rumored to contain the code for a bank account filled with Nazi gold.
The story is based on the series of comics named “Mortdecai” by Kyril Bonfiglioli, and has been compared to the writing of P.G. Wodehouse. It was both critically panned and a box office flop, despite the movie’s large advertising budget.
Despite this decent set up to make it a charming and thrilling spy movie, the execution was horrendous. The acting was stiff, the dialogue was humorous, and Depp as the main character was more annoying than he was charming. It was also yet another movie where Depp, an American actor, played an English character, making his performance a little shaky.
Paul Bettany’s character as the faithful manservant Jock Strapp — a character originally compared to Wodehouse’s “Wooster and Jeeves” — ended up being a humorless joke about the innuendo of his name.
Mortdecai’s wife (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) was highly billed but largely ignored. In all fairness, the movie was already going to be bad, but somehow, having Depp as the main role made it much worse. The end of the movie is set up for a sequel, but we can only hope there isn’t one.