Johnny Depp, one of the most enigmatic actors on the planet, began his career as a regular on the TV series “21 Jump Street. Since then, he has amassed a remarkably diverse collection of film roles, the majority of which have one thing in common.
He is drawn to playing outcasts or people on the fringes of society who go their own way, and going his own way has certainly been a hallmark of this much-awarded actor’s career.
Depp has had a remarkable 10 Golden Globe Award nominations in his nearly four-decade career (starting with 1984’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”), winning the Best Actor award for the 2007 musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Along with “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” from 2003 and “Finding Neverland” from 2004, that picture earned Depp his third Academy Award nomination.
Depp has also been nominated for three Screen Actors Guild Awards (winning for “Pirates of the Caribbean”) and two BAFTA Awards for Best Actor (winning for “Pirates of the Caribbean”).
10. INTO THE WOODS (2014)
Depp plays The Big Bad Wolf in his second Stephen Sondheim musical, in which he utilizes all of his charming talents to entice Little Red Riding Hood to her grandmother’s house so that the wolf can have a good meal.
However, Depp performs the wolf’s characteristic song “Hello, Little Girl” with a pronounced sexual overtone, which, given Little Red Riding Hood’s young age, raises the creepy-meter to 11.
It does, however, give “Into the Woods” an adult zing, which only adds to the film’s ability to stand out from the normal Disney kiddie fodder.
9. BLACK MASS (2015)
For his portrayal of infamous South Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, Depp won his third SAG Best Actor nomination.
While Depp’s amazing prosthetic makeup allowed him to sink into Whitey’s character, it is the actor’s the inside performance that is the most compelling, with most of his wrath hidden beneath a placid exterior until it explodes in violent outbursts.
Despite the fact that Depp’s Whitey is always the center of attention, “Black Mass” is always an ensemble piece, and Depp’s character work here allows him to blend in seamlessly with his co-stars.
8. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FAMILY (2005)
This Tim Burton adaptation of Roald Dahl’s popular children’s novel is significantly darker and hence closer to Dahl’s book’s tone than Gene Wilder’s 1971 “Willy Wonka” classic. Depp is your man if you’re seeking a gloomy Willy Wonka.
Yes, Depp’s candy billionaire is flamboyantly larger-than-life, but his Willy Wonka has been injured in the past, and being the beloved Candy Man is his method of dealing with that. Depp won his sixth Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of Willy.
7. SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (2002)
Depp’s first journey into the realm of musical theatre composer Stephen Sondheim paid him handsomely: his portrayal of Sweeney Todd earned him a Golden Globe nomination, as well as Oscar and SAG nods.
Sweeney Todd is one of the most sinister characters an actor can play, as a furious barber slices his rivals’ throats and supplies the filling for his partner’s wealthy meat pie business, all set to Sondheim’s gripping music. Depp gives one of his greatest performances.
6. ED WOOD (1994)
Depp reunited with director Tim Burton for this really unique project: a black-and-white biography of Ed Wood, a transvestite dubbed “the worst director in history” by many. (The Walt Disney Company, ironically, acquired the picture.)
Despite all of Wood’s setbacks, Depp imbued the character with a Capra-esque sense of optimism about his lot in life, even if he hinted that Wood could have some doubts about it himself. Depp received his fourth Golden Globe nomination for his performance.
5. EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990)
For his performance as Edward, a construct of The Inventor (Vincent Price), who handed the artificial young man scissors instead of hands, Depp won his first Golden Globe nomination.
Even if the strange young man is unsure of his surroundings — the home of a suburban family with a beautiful daughter (Winona Ryder) with whom Edward falls in love.
Depp gives Edward a remarkable capacity for empathy in the first of a career-long number of film collaborations with director Tim Burton. Edward Scissorhands is the sweetest of the many films Depp and Burton have made in the years since.
4. FINDING NEVERLAND (2004)
Expecting another version of J.M. Barrie’s classic “Peter Pan,” moviegoers were likely shocked to find a film about Barrie himself and how he came to compose the cherished children’s favorite in “Finding Neverland.”
Depp is known for his big performances, but his portrayal of Barrie is uncommonly quiet, with many critics praising how accurate the tone was in depicting Barrie.
The industry agreed, with Depp getting Oscar, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild nods for Best Actor.
3. WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE (1993)
“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” a straight drama set in a small Iowa town where Depp looks after his morbidly obese mother Bonnie (Darlene Case) and his mentally challenged younger brother Arnie, was certainly a change of pace for Depp (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Depp’s portrayal is the film’s lively heart and soul, and the relationship between Depp and DiCaprio is exceptionally believable, persuading the spectator that Gilbert and Arnie are genuine brothers.
2. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series (2003, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2017)
With his decision to style his pirate Jack Sparrow after out-there rock legend Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Depp grabbed lightning-in-a-bottle.
When Disney execs saw the dailies, they were apparently taken aback by Depp’s aggressive approach, with some wishing to shut down production completely, believing it would be a flop.
It was far from a flop, and Depp’s now-iconic pirate is at the core of a five-film franchise. For the first “Pirates” picture, “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” Depp won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor and received Oscar and Golden Globe nods, and for Pirates 2.
1. DONNIE BRASCO (1997)
Depp made a drastic change of image in this actual story of young FBI agent Joseph Pistone (Depp) who goes undercover as “The Jewel Man,” Donnie Brasco, after a string of offbeat flicks.
Donnie quickly becomes enmeshed in the Bonanno crime family and the protégé of veteran boss Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino).
Donnie Brasco” achieved a lot for Depp’s developing career; it not only established that Depp, who had previously been renowned for arty films, could succeed in a genre film.