Story by Chelsea ‘Dee’ Doyle
The problem with an actor like Johnny Depp is finding movies in his history that aren’t fantastic. Then you have to consider the movies that aren’t that good, but that he was great in anyway (which covers basically everything else).
The truth is, this Kentucky-born actor is one of the best in his or anyone’s generation, and he also is an accomplished producer, director, screenwriter, and yes, even has quite a set of singing pipes. Good thing he’s just so unattractive or he might just be the perfect Hollywood hunk … oh wait. He’s gorgeous. Damn you, Johnny Depp!
Here’s a look at some of the best and worst of Johnny Depp movies just in time for his newest flick Public Enemies, hitting the theaters July 1!
Edward Scissorhands has to be the first Depp movie mentioned because it is what solidified him as a rising star, and it also started his very important relationship with director Tim Burton. Burton and Depp would work together on six other films after their first, and it’s a partnership made in gothic heaven. As the title character of Edward Scissorhands, Depp played Edward to be a gentle, kind hearted half-monster who was never quite finished by a mad scientist. He ended up looking human except for his hands, and one day his quiet life is interrupted by a kindly Avon saleswoman Peg (Dianne Wiest). Peg takes pity on the strange looking Edward, seeing his goodness within, and brings him home to her house. It is there Edward gets his first taste of humanity, eventually finding companionship with the Boggs family and even young love with their daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). However, not everyone is so welcoming of their strange guest, and the movie ends up in a bittersweet-not-quite-tragic ending. Depp’s beauty and offbeat performance won him great attention for this role, and this is just where it began.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is important for Depp because the first film – and the subsequent sequels – made him a huge box office draw to the mainstream as well as to the indie fans. Depp had always been an A-list celebrity, but this movie solidified his place as an actor who could bring in bigger crowds. All three “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies were huge hits, and it is was mostly credited to Depp’s performance as the brilliantly crazy Captain Jack Sparrow. His pirate was a genius madman with a good heart (sometimes) and a taste for adventure. Marooned and betrayed by his own crew, Sparrow used Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) to get himself close to his goal, but he wasn’t above helping them out of a jam if need be. Perhaps he was even, shall we say, a hero in disguise? His hilarious persona is the most memorable of the films, and possibly one of the most memorable movie characters of all time. This is all thanks to Depp’s own idea of the pirate and his basing the performance off Keith Richards, who had a cameo in the third film.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is not one of the many movies Depp was nominated for, but he should have been. Anyone who is a fan of Hunter S. Thompson’s Gonzo journalism and chaotic books would loudly claim this. The movie is semi-biographical, based on a book written by Thompson himself about a wild drug-induced road trip between two not-quite friends. Depp played Raoul Duke, a character based on Thompson, and Benicio Del Toro played his friend Dr. Gonzo. Together they ingest a great deal of different drugs and go from California through Las Vegas on a search for … well, who really knows. This bizarre and fascinatingly humorous film is full of odd characters and ugly situations, but we’re with the two main characters through it all. There were a few people who claimed that Depp’s good looks had a lot to do with his fame, but no one could call Duke attractive. He’s overweight, bald, and his face is hidden behind huge glasses. He slurs his words and screams about bats. Depp carries off the part with charisma and insanity, proving not for the first time that he was much more than a pretty face.
Finding Neverland is a story about a very famous author, J. M. Barrie (of Peter Pan fame), and his innocent relationship with a widow. It gave Depp several different award nominations (nine in fact), including the Academy Award for Best Actor, and showed once again that his range kept growing with each movie. Barrie is played by Depp with a quiet earnestness and a longing for something more, for success and love and acceptance, something which he was not getting for his plays until Peter Pan. It was through his relationship with Sylvia (Kate Winslet) and her young sons that Barrie comes up with the story of a boy who didn’t grow up. It is not as flashy or as weird as many of Depp’s parts, and in that lies its beauty. Barrie is ordinary, lonely, and very relatable.
Honorable Mentions: Sweeney Todd, Donnie Brasco, Benny & Joon
And the worste ones?
The Astronaut’s Wife should have been a success with the acting power of Depp and Charlize Theron, but it pretty much flatlined in the theaters. Depp played Spencer Armacost, a NASA astronaut who gets in an accident in space where communication is missed for several minutes. His partner dies abruptly upon returning to Earth, and his widow then commits suicide. Spencer’s wife Jillian (Theron) gets pregnant but begins to suspect something is wrong with her husband. It may be that he is not her husband after all. Why this film tanked is anyone’s guess, but it certainly did not include powerful performances from either of its stars, which might have saved it. Depp seemed to be sleepwalking through the part, as cold as ice and not in a menacing way. In a boring way. It was a little too much like Rosemary’s Baby and had that been-there-done-that feeling to it.
Secret Window is based off a Stephen King novella, and between King and Depp, it managed to actually be quite the success in the theaters. Box office does not always mean good movies, however, and this one unfortunately is a big of a misstep for Depp. He walked away unscathed, but it turned out his constant eccentric nature in movies was getting a little annoying, and beyond that, people were so used to King that his endings were becoming expected. Yawn. Depp plays writer Mort Rainey, an author who is dealing with writer’s block and is hiding out in a cabin to keep away from estranged wife Amy (Maria Bello). Mort is confronted by a mysterious stranger John Shooter (John Turturro) who claims that Mort’s work plagiarized his own. In a blend of Fight Club meeting The Shining, this story goes sinister fast, but it never quite works the way it wants to. King is a genius at psychological thriller, but in this case it became a little predictable, and too much like a slasher to really work. Still, Depp did the fine … as a character similar to several of his previous roles.
Cry-Baby is an early Johnny Depp movie that has actually become lucrative on DVD now that he’s a star, but it was somewhat of a disaster when it actually came out for director/writer John Waters. A spoof of several different teen movies, including Grease and Rebel Without a Cause, “Cry-Baby” is about a rebel leader of a school gang who falls in love with the goody two shoe girl Allison (Amy Locane). They decide to fight for their love even against all the odds and enemies they may have, and to sing about it too! Now Depp is pretty awful and over the top in this, and while that may be completely intentional to spoof bad acting in other movies … that may not be a good enough excuse. The worst/best line of the movie is “Electricity makes me insane!” Find it on YouTube, it’s worth it for a huge laugh!
Honorable mentions: From Hell, The Libertine
Do you agree with it?
In my point of view, Sleepy Hollow CANNOT be forgot in the best movies.