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The 10 best Johnny Depp movies, ranked

Willy Wonka in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
Warner Bros

Johnny Depp put his career in a tailspin in the late 2010s and early 2020s. From domestic abuse issues to drug abuse, the talented performer lost roles in the Fantastic Beasts series and hasn’t appeared in many big films during the last decade. Current struggles don’t erase past successes, though. Depp is one of the best actors of the 1990s and 2000s. His skills range from comedy, drama, fantasy, horror, and everything in between.

Depp often transforms into characters who look nothing like one another, from pirate captains to chocolatiers in top hats. His willingness to get out of his comfort zone and pursue audacious characters defined his prime and helped him become a Hollywood legend. These are the best Johnny Depp movies of all time!

10. Into the Woods (2014)

10. Into the Woods
125m
Genre
Fantasy, Comedy
Stars
Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, James Corden
Directed by
Rob Marshall
Watch on Disney+

Johnny Depp was right at home in this family film amalgamation of several famous fairy tales and tropes. Depp plays the Big Bad Wolf and imbues the iconic Grimm Brothers’ character with chaotic energy that remains true to the book but with a unique modern spin. Meryl Streep’s performance as the Witch stood out to critics in a movie with so many great actors. 

9. Black Mass (2015)

9. Black Mass
123m
Genre
Drama, Crime, History
Stars
Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Julianne Nicholson
Directed by
Scott Cooper
Watch on Amazon

Black Mass represents another of Depp’s successful forays into the mob movie genre, and it showed off the depth of his dramatic acting chops in a new light. Depp plays real-life criminal Whitey Bulger, a Bostonian mafia boss who will do whatever it takes to evade the authorities and take out his rivals in the New England area. The strength of the ensemble, which includes Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons, helps separate this one from the average organized crime story.  

8. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

8. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
115m
Genre
Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Stars
Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly
Directed by
Tim Burton
Watch on Amazon

Older generations probably love Gene Wilder’s version of Willy Wonka the best, while Timothee Chalamet’s portrayal enchanted current kids. Children who came of age in the 2000s will most certainly cape for Johnny Depp’s performance, though (this author raises his hand high in the air!) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory glows with enchantment and whimsy, but it still incorporates Tim Burton’s signature ominous darkness into the mix. The result is a movie that argues both for and against the innocence of getting whatever you want as a kid. 

7. Finding Neverland (2004)

7. Finding Neverland
106m
Genre
Drama, Fantasy
Stars
Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie
Directed by
Marc Forster
Watch on Amazon

Sometimes pulling open the curtain and looking at the life of creative geniuses helps us enjoy the works of a person even more than before. Johnny Depp helps us see Peter Pan creator J.M Barrie in a whole new light with this magical biopic about the author’s family and professional life. Depp does a fantastic job emulating one of Scottish theater’s most important figures in Finding Neverland.

6. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

6. Edward Scissorhands
105m
Genre
Fantasy, Drama, Romance
Stars
Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest
Directed by
Tim Burton
Watch on max

Edward Scissorhands definitely typecasted Johnny Depp into exotic, even creepy roles for a good part of the 1990s. He plays a misunderstood automaton with human feelings, emotions, and thoughts. If only he didn’t have scissors for hands! Winona Ryder perfectly plays off of Depp as the love interest in the movie. This movie would begin Depp and director Tim Burton’s dynamic partnership through the decades.

5. Ed Wood (1994)

5. Ed Wood
127m
Genre
Comedy, Drama, History
Stars
Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker
Directed by
Tim Burton
Watch on Amazon

Ed Wood was never considered a good director while he was alive, but Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s collaboration about his life made people realize the filmmaker had a lot more to say than met the eye. Ed Wood is one of the best biopics about the film industry that came out in the 1990s. It captures Wood’s cheeky style and the life events that led to some of his quirky decisions behind the camera.

4. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

4. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
116m
Genre
Drama, Horror
Stars
Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman
Directed by
Tim Burton
Watch on Paramount+

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was long overdue for another adaptation in the 2000s, and Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s influence fit the story and themes of the story to a tee. A musical about a serial killer is a juxtaposition that needs fine tuning to pull off, but everyone involved makes it one of the best genre mashups of the decade. The late Alan Rickman is spectacular in support as Sweeney Todd’s main rival.

3. Donnie Brasco (1997)

3. Donnie Brasco
127m
Genre
Crime, Drama, Thriller
Stars
Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen
Directed by
Mike Newell
Watch on Amazon

Johnny Depp and Al Pacino combine for infinitely compelling theater in Donnie Brasco. Depp plays an undercover agent who manipulates Pacino’s mobster protagonist, Lefty Ruggiero. The film studies power dynamics and the interference of personal feelings into professional lives. When it comes to Johnny Depp movies, Donnie Brasco showed that he could act alongside anyone in Hollywood, even legends like Pacino.

2. What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

2. What's Eating Gilbert Grape
118m
Genre
Romance, Drama
Stars
Johnny Depp, Juliette Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio
Directed by
Lasse Hallström
Watch on Amazon

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape transports viewers into the lives of a downtrodden, problem-riddled family in Iowa led by Depp’s titular lead character. Gilbert is a young man overwhelmed with responsibility, but a potential romance helps illuminate his life when he least expects it. Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Gilbert’s younger brother has endured as the most timeless part of the film, though, a role so powerful that he was nominated for an Oscar at 19 years old.

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
143m
Genre
Adventure, Fantasy, Action
Stars
Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley
Directed by
Gore Verbinski
Watch on Disney+

While the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise eventually deteriorated into a bloated, stale multitude of sequels, the first film in the series remains a benchmark in Depp’s career and introduced the world to his most iconic role. Playing pirate captain Jack Sparrow, Depp exudes quiet confidence and a whacky sense of humor that crosses gender divides and opened Hollywood up to the idea of untraditional antihero protagonists in blockbusters. Orlando Bloom plays the traditional hero, Will Turner, with a large dose of confidence coming off his success in The Lord of the Rings. 

Movie images and data from:
Shawn Laib
Shawn Laib is a freelance writer with publications such as Den of Geek, Quote.com, Edge Media Network, diaTribe, SUPERJUMP…
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