He’s gone from a witty pirate to a chocolate-crazed factory owner. He’s been a drug dealer and a tourist. Name it, he’s been it.
Johnny Depp is without a doubt, one of the best actors of our generation. Reserved and mysterious in reality, Depp steps into a movie role and owns it, naturally adapting to the character he plays and jumping from one eccentric role to the other.
Throughout his 30-year career in acting, the iconic Hollywood hero has taken on remarkable and memorable roles in film. So, without further ado, here are 20 of Johnny Depp’s best movie roles (in no particular order)…
1. Edward Scissorhands
Movie: Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Johnny excelled in what goes down in history as one of the darkest yet most heart-warming stories of all time. He doesn’t need dialogue in order to craft such a compelling character. With the simple use of outfit, makeup and facial expressions, Depp as Edward was fundamentally endearing. A top movie and character that won’t be forgotten and will also be seen at Halloween parties for centuries to come.
2. The Mad Hatter
Movie: Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Depp is no stranger to outlandish make-up and wacky outfits, in fact it actually became his brand along the years. Perhaps that is why he so effortlessly shined as the renowned literature character Mad Hatter in the Disney live action remake of Alice in Wonderland. In what is probably one of Johnny’s most famous movies, the idolized actor took on a fascinating and flamboyant character and proved that he is truly a master of his craft.
3. Sweeney Todd
Movie: Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Is there an end to his talents? Among his great body of work, Johnny has also shown that he can sing. In the role of the terrifying barber Sweeney Todd, the Hollywood legend laid bare his ability to take on musical theater as if he has done nothing else all his life. Depp played a menacing serial killer in a lighthearted musical that awarded him a Golden Globe for Best Actor.
4. John Dillinger
Movie: Public Enemies (2009)
Johnny has also stepped away from kooky and cartoonish characters to play more serious roles. What is considered his most bad-ass role thus far is also his most enigmatic. Depp captured the thrilling life of the Great Depression-era bank robber and gangster John Dillinger flawlessly, proving once again that his range is wide and has very few limits.
5. George Jung
Movie: Blow (2001)
It is Johnny’s duty to show the consistency of a character and the actor does exactly that in Blow. George Jung, drug dealer raised in extreme poverty whose rise to power is threatened, is depicted so shockingly well by Depp that everyone rightfully wondered why on earth he didn’t get an Oscar for this incredible performance that year. If you haven’t seen Blow, it’s certainly one of Johnny’s must-watch movies!
6. Wade Walker
Movie: Cry-Baby (1990)
In this sweet, endearing 1990 romance directed by John Waters, Johnny plays the iconic role of a motorcycling-riding bad boy and love interest of a young teenager who is tired of being good and sparks a romance with him. If you haven’t seen this movie, you have at least seen the poster for it. That is how iconic this character is.
7. Ichabod Crane
Movie: Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Johnny’s long and diverse collaboration with director Tim Burton represents some of the actor’s most splendid and eclectic work. So it’s not surprising that he swayed audiences with his naturally alluring presence on screen as Ichabod Crane, the steadfast police detective who tries to understand what is happening to a small village where several murders have occurred.
Movie: The Lone Ranger (2013)
Although The Lone Ranger received some harsh criticism, there’s no denying that Depp’s depiction as the Native American Tonto is engaging and humorous, just the type of character that Johnny masters best. Like his other imaginative roles, Depp handles the comedy marvelously and shows once more that he can pretty much do anything better than any other actor can.
9. Willy Wonka
Movie: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
A character with a bizarre haircut, creepy smile and chirpy personality was so bravely embodied by Johnny Depp – especially following after Gene Wilder’s historic performance. The actor was certainly the right man to take on such a cherished role. Depp’s larger-than-life portrayal of Wonka was weird, whimsical and so wonderfully depicted that most people will never be able to not picture him when they hear the name Willy Wonka.
10. Frank Tupelo
Movie: The Tourist (2010)
Depp starred alongside Angelina Jolie in this romantic comedy thriller, allowing some incredible chemistry with his co-star. Probably one of the actor’s least thrilling roles, Depp showed that he can always give substance to any role by still managing to captivate audiences with his charisma and charm as Frank Tupelo.
11. Barnabas Collins
Movie: Dark Shadows (2012)
Barnabas Collins is one more character that proves the cocktail ‘Tim Burton + Johnny Depp’ can rarely disappoint, if ever. Once again playing in a supernatural gothic tale, Depp plays a vampire out for revenge after being cursed to become the immortal blood-sucker creature by a witch. Giving wit and charisma to the beloved character, the actor mesmerizes and terrifies all at once.
12. Gilbert Grape
Movie: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
In this movie that made Leonardo DiCaprio a rising star, Johnny shines just as much in the role of a young man whose choice is torn between his girlfriend and his mentally-challenged brother Arnie. If most people today remember him for comedic roles such as Jack Sparrow, the character of Gilbert proves that he should be just as much revered for his dramatic films.
13. Jack Sparrow
Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean saga (2003-2017)
With this iconic swashbuckling character, Johnny threw on the eyeliner and gold teeth and showcased his magnificence as an actor more than ever before. Quirky, sarcastic and intelligent, Jack Sparrow is a beloved character in film that has marked the minds of an entire generation. Depp added charm and swagger into a mischievous pirate character, creating another celebrated role on screen.
14. J.M. Barrie
Movie: Finding Neverland (2004)
This time, Johnny switches it up a bit but also stays faithful to his usual roles. In Finding Neverland, the actor plays an eccentric character in a drama. What could be better for him? In this film that narrates the relation between ‘Peter Pan’ author J.M. Barrie and the family that inspired him, Depp robs hearts as the caring fatherly figure for five fatherless boys.
15. Frederick George Abberline
Movie: From Hell (2001)
In this adaptation of a novel that tackled the very real and still unsolved Jack the Ripper murders, Depp plays yet another detective, this time one who has visions of each new forthcoming attack. And with London’s gloomy Victorian atmosphere, viewers might wonder if they haven’t dropped head first into another Tim Burton movie.
16. John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Movie: The Libertine (2004)
There’s no denying that Johnny can play strange characters just as well as terribly seductive ones. Depp’s role in The Libertine might just be his best work in that regard. In this historical drama, Johnny plays the poet John Wilmot who is tasked to write a play for the French ambassador. The movie’s title gives you enough details to figure out the rest of the character’s hobbies…
17. Raoul Duke
Movie: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
In this trippy drama, Depp plays Raoul Duke, a man who goes to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle event but ends up going on a few acid trips with his partner. Although the film didn’t soar very high at the box-office, Depp gave one of his most nuanced, realistic performances as someone who slowly, but surely loses touch with reality.
18. Gellert Grindelwald
Movie: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)
Although not one of his most famous movies, Johnny Depp carves himself a good place in the Harry Potter universe by becoming one of its most terrifying baddies. He wasn’t unanimously accepted by the saga’s fans as the evil Gellert Grindelwald, but Depp still earned his place in the franchise – probably by giving the mysterious and diabolical character the charisma that any good villain should have.
19. Joseph Pistone
Movie: Donnie Brasco (1997)
This acclaimed and iconic gangster film is probably one of Johnny Depp’s best movies. Giving us an unforgettable duo with Al Pacino, Depp plays an FBI agent who goes undercover for one of the most powerful crime families in New York, becoming the trusted disciple of one of its members. Before Public Enemies, Depp proved in 1997 that he had everything to play a mafioso and ace it.
20. The Wolf
Movie: Into the Woods (2014)
His appearance in this Disney musical was quite short-lived, but Depp gave it his whole as the ‘wolf-like’ man who attempts to seduce Red Riding Hood in a seriously creepy rendition of the classic tale. We’ve got chills just thinking about his “Hello, little girl” song, which makes the wolf even more frightening than if he had been portrayed as an animal.
Here you have it – 20 of Johnny Depp’s best movie roles! Any actor would love to be able to reach such a range, and we can confidently say that Johnny does it like a boss.
It’s difficult to decide which of these best performances deserves the most acclaim. So, out of Johnny Depp’s movie list, which role do you think is his best? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to know more about his personal life? Here’s a full list of Johnny Depp’s relationship history!