Johnny Depp was at one time one of the most sought out and best actors in Hollywood. He would consistently give great performances in good and sometimes great movies, which allowed the actor to earn back-to-back Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in 2003 and 2004, as well as a nomination in 2007. But lately, Depp has been on a streak of duds. With movies like “Dark Shadows” (2012), “The Lone Ranger” (2013), and “Transcendence” (2014), Depp has taken a drastic fall from Hollywood superstar to almost unwatchable.
On Friday, Depp looks to get off this recent slide as James ‘Whitey’ Bulger in Scott Cooper’s “Black Mass”. Before we get to see that performance, which looks spectacular, let’s look back at some Depp’s finest performances.5 – Benjamin Barker/Sweeney Todd – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Johnny Depp and Tim Burton are the gothic version of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. Burton always brings the best out of Depp and Depp always gives it his all with Burton. In this dark musical, Depp is marvelous as the shattered barber hellbent on revenge after his wife and child are taken away from him. Depp is mesmerizing, terrifying, and occasionally funny as Todd. He shows us his anger and grief, as well as his dedication to the craft of shaving. And who knew Depp could sing like that? It is one of the best performances from the dynamic duo.4 – Ed Wood – Ed Wood (1994)
Ed Wood was an eccentric character. He was a man of wild ambition and delusion who made movies he thought were great, but ended up being some of the worst movies in cinematic history. Depp nails Wood’s insanity and charisma, taking charge of the movie and bringing us into the mind of infamous director. This is also one of Depp’s funniest performances, as Wood rocks women’s clothes and struggles to get masterpiece after masterpiece done in just five shooting days. This is one of Depp’s most underrated performance and is one that should not go unnoticed.3- Joe Pistone/Donnie Brasco – Donnie Brasco (1997)
Depp’s performance in this gangster classic is another one that gets overlooked by many. Depp went toe-to-toe with acting legend Al Pacino (who was still giving good performances at the time), and goes line for line with him, never letting Pacino overshadow him. We watch as Joe Pistone, an undercover F.B.I. agent in the New York City mob, loses himself and become Donnie Brasco, and it’s because of Depp’s commitment to the performance that it works. It is a fascinating, riveting portrayal, and one of the best performance ever in a gangster movie.2 – Captain Jack Sparrow – Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Captain Jack Sparrow was a role Depp was meant to play. He’s a funny, deceitful, rum-loving pirate who isn’t very good at his job. Inspired by Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards, Depp takes a movie based on a children’s ride at Disney World, and turns it into a wild sea adventure. And even though the sequels are terrible, Depp is still worth watching, as he never phones it in and continues to show us the hijinks of the witty Captain. He has a ball playing the Captain and we have a ball watching him. It is a truly iconic performance.1- Edward Scissorhands – Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Captain Jack might be his most iconic, but Depp’s portrayal as Edward is one of the greats. Using limited dialog, Depp brilliantly convey’s every emotion of the misunderstood monster using his body and facial expressions. We grow sympathy for Edward as he is feared by everyone in the neighborhood, when he means no harm and just wants to feel loved. Depp is sweet, funny, frightening, and heartbreaking as a modern day version of Frankenstein. This was Depp and Burton’s first collaboration together and it is, for my money, their best collaboration and one of the greatest performances ever in film.
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