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  • Writer's pictureRua Fay

Johnny Depp's 11 Best Performances

Ever since 1984, Johnny Depp has been one of America's most prominant, respected actors, with a resume that spans dozens of genres, directors, and characters. It's difficult to name a role that Johnny Depp hasn't made his own, and it's very rare that he gives a sub-par performance. So to celebrte the actor's incredible legacy, it's time to list some of the greatest performances the actor has given over the course of his nearly four decade long career.


#11: Glen Lantz, Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) dir. Wes Craven

The world wouldn't even have Johnny Depp if it weren't for Wes Craven and his iconic, Nightmare on Elm Street. In this, Depp plays a stereotypical teen jock who dies after being consumed by his mattress. Even 38 years after its release, Nightmare on Elm Street still stands as one of the most beloved slasher films in history, but it wouldn't be the same without Johnny Depp.


#10: Victor Van Dort, Corpse Bride (2005) dir. Tim Burton, Mike Johnson

The quintessential Tim Burton movie, and no Tim Burton movie is complete without Johnny Depp. He seldom does voice acting, but when he does, we end up with charismatic, entertaining characters like Victor Van Dort. It's remarkable how much personality is revealed solely through Depp's line delivery. His performance along with Helena Bonham Carter truly makes Corpse Bride a one of a kind film.


#9: Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker, Cry-Baby (1990) dir. John Waters

Among one of Depp's most underrated movies. John Waters' Cry-Baby is such a fun movie, and the perfect thing to watch after a long day. It takes all the cliches of 50's era movies and romantic comedies and spins them around to create something original and fun. But you wouldn't have any of that without the titular character. Cry-Baby Walker has such an unignorable presence on screen and none of it would be possible without Johnny Depp.


#8: William Blake, Dead Man (1995) dir. Jim Jarmusch

There are many reasons why Jim Jarmusch is hailed as such a great director, and one of them is his ability to get great performances out of his actors, and Dead Man is no different. It's much less of a blockbuster than Depp's other work but that doesn't stop him from giving an excellent performance as the meek accountant, William Blake who's been hiding with a Native American tribe while being wanted for murder in the old West.


#7: Gilbert Grape, What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) dir. Lasse Hallström

While the standout performance of What's Eating Gilbert Grape is Leonardo DiCaprio, that doesn't take away from how extraordinary Johnny Depp is as the titular character. This movie, based on the Peter Hedges novel is a great example of life in the American midwest, and the struggle between latching onto your family roots or taking your own path. Anyone who's seen What's Eating Gilbert Grape knows there's not a single weak performance by any of the cast members.


#6: Sweeney Todd, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) dir. Tim Burton

Like I said before, no Tim Burton movie is truly complete without Johnny Depp, and perhaps the best example of this is his work as Sweeney Todd. It's difficult to picture another actor in the role. Not only is the acting great but the song performances with Helena Bonham Carter make Sweeney Todd among one of the most enjoyable movie musicals. Stephen Sondheim would be proud.


#5: Rango, Rango (2011) dir. Gore Verbinski

What makes this rare voice-acting performance so much better is when you learn the lengths Johnny Depp went to while filming. Rather than reading lines in a studio, Depp would perform these scenes with stage directions, and the crew would capture the dialogue along the way. Along with incredible animation and a great story, Rango stands as one of the most wrongfully overlooked movies in Johnny Depp's filmography.


#4: Ed Wood, Ed Wood (1994) dir. Tim Burton

In conversations about Tim Burton or Johnny Depp, Ed Wood rarely gets brought up, which is a shame because this is genuinely some of their best work as collaborators. It's difficult bringing a character to life, but it's an even greater task to play a real person on screen and accurately capture their essence, and when you're portraying someone as enigmatic as Ed Wood, the task becomes nearly impossible. However, despite all that I think Depp did a stellar job of bringing the bizarre director to life on screen. It's clear just how much Burton and Depp cared about this amazing project.


#3: Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (2003-2017)

It's rare that you see an actor take a character and make it completely their own, but this is Johnny Depp we're talking about. For over a decade, Depp was able to reprise the character of Jack Sparrow in five separate films, and each time it was just as enjoyable as the last. Even those who haven't watched a single Pirates of the Caribbean movie are still familiar with Jack Sparrow. It's the kind of role nobody else could possibly do justice to after Johnny Depp's performance. I mean, he literally has his own ride at Disney World...


#2: Edward Scissorhands, Edward Scissorhands (1990) dir. Tim Burton

Perhaps the most iconic character on both Tim Burton's and Johnny Depp's resumes. There aren't many actors who could pull off the largely silent, mysterious character of Edward Scissorhands, and if it weren't for the unique on-screen chemistry between Depp and Winona Ryder, there's no telling how different the movie would be. There's a reason why Edward Scissorhands remains a Halloween classic over thirty years since it first came out. No one has ever trimmed a hedge the same since...


#1: Raoul Duke, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) dir. Terry Gilliam

From the wacky mannerisms to the insane manner of speech, Raoul Duke has got to be one of the most challenging characters to portray, but in true Johnny Depp fashion, he knocks it out of the park. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a delightfully trippy, obnoxious, crazy adventure that's made unique by Terry Gilliam's unique directing style and Johnny Depp's extreme dedication to his role. It shines as a prime example of why Johnny Depp is still one of the most beloved actors in the world, nearly four decades after his career begun.



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