Recently turning 49, John Christopher “Johnny” Depp II is one actor, producer, and musician that is well respected not only by critics, but also his loving fans. With his recent acclimation of the MTV Movie Awards Generation Award and a special request by fellow RMN movie critic Sarah Jakubowski, I figured the best way to congratulate Johnny on his win and wish him a happy birthday would be to name him as Reel Movie Nation’s Actor of the Week! But because Mr. Depp has such a wide array of films under his belt, more than I can probably count, I’ll be doing this column a little differently this week. Instead of simply telling you about Johnny’s past, current, and future works, I’m going to list the top 10 most important films of his career!
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
As Johnny Depp’s very first appearance on the big screen, we have A Nightmare on Elm Street to thank for kick-starting Depp’s career. Written and directed by horror film buff Wes Craven, the film became an instant classic, even spawning a remake in 2010. Also selected as one of the New York Times “The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made”, Johnny Depp was lucky that his first leading role was a huge success.
Despite some scary scissors for hands, a kind and gentle Johnny Depp stole many of America’s hearts as Edward Scissorhands himself in the early 90′s flick. Not only was the film a great success, and another instant classic for Depp, it also began the now epic friendship between writer/director/crazy person Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.
3. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)
In the heart-felt drama, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Depp stars as a caring older brother to a young autistic Leonardo DiCaprio. While DiCaprio’s stellar performance nearly stole the show, Depp stood out on his own merit. Continuing to be a part of highly successful movies, Depp’s name soon became a household one, as his many diverse roles gained him an ever-growing fan base.
4. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
As a fan and long-time friend of author Hunter S. Thompson, it’s no wonder Johnny Depp landed the role to play a version of Thompson in the film adaptation of his novel of the same name, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Starring alongside Benicio del Toro, Depp is almost disturbingly convincing as a psychedelic drug user. While the film didn’t win any big awards, it’s certainly a staple in Depp’s career and a classic in the “drug movie” genre. The film also has a kick-ass soundtrack which adds to the liveliness of Las Vegas, featuring tracks by Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, and Dead Kennedys.
5. Blow (2001)
Easily my favorite Johnny Depp film, Blow is a whirlwind of drugs, luxury, guns and turmoil. Based on the real life accounts of cocaine peddler George Jung and Colombian drug lord’s Pablo Escabar and Carlos Lehder, the film has some raw, tense, vulgar, and disturbing scenes. The biographical flare added interest to the otherwise action-drama film and helped form the vision for the film. Blow is oddly realistic, and although Depp plays a drug dealer, it’s hard not to sympathize with his friendly and charming character. Blow is definitely worth purchasing to become a part of your movie collection, it offers a complex story that you’ll want to watch over and over.
6. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
In the very first of the adventure-fantasy series, Depp bursts into super stardom - if he wasn’t already there. Making over $600 million, Pirates of the Caribbean showcased Depp as a stellar performer, and his portrayal of the eccentric Captain Jack Sparrow really gave audiences a whole new perception of the actor. Not only could he perform biographical and down to earth characters, but Depp was able to completely transform into the most bad-ass pirate on the sea. Although my personal preference was for Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner, I can see how so many fell in love with the gnarly beard, gold teeth, and freakish amount of other accessories rocked by Sparrow.
7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
In the remake of the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Depp somehow manages to add a creepy flair to a seemingly charming candy factory owner. While I wasn’t a personal fan of the new vision the film had, it gave Depp another chance to shine with director Tim Burton. The film was most noted for it’s fantastical factory within which Burton decided to use less computer-generated imagery, and instead focus on more scale models and camera techniques. Depp was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for the film and was generally liked by critics. It’s definitely worth renting if you haven’t seen it, but for a family movie you might agree that it’s a bit dark.
8. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
In yet another Tim Burton film, Depp is able to show off some of musical talents as a serial killer/barber in the film adaptation of the Tony Award winning 1979 musical of the same name. While the film wasn’t as big of a success as most other Depp films, only pulling in around $150 million at the box office, for a musical film it was still pretty well received. The film won two Golden Globe Awards, including one for Johnny Depp’s performance, and is definitely worth seeing - unless you’re about to get a haircut!
9. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Another Tim Burton film that is also a remake, Alice in Wonderland is one hell of a film. From it’s fantastical scenery, to it’s impeccable costume design, to it’s perfectly picked cast: it’s no wonder Alice in Wonderland made over $1 billion at the box office. Noted for it’s combination of computer animation as well as live action, the film certainly takes audiences to a whole other dimension that only the crazed mind of Tim Burton himself could dream up. Definitely worth adding to your collection, if nothing else the film is an artistic masterpiece.
10. Dark Shadows (2012)
In his most recent Tim Burton film based off a 60′s television show, Depp plays hilariously out of place vampire Barnabus Collins. While the film received mixed reviews it’s definitely worth seeing. Dark Shadows has some pretty cool imagery, from the Collinwood Manor mansion to the glass-like villain Angelique, there’s certainly some visuals that make this movie stand out.
What’s next for Johnny Depp? He’s currently working on a film called The Lone Ranger, playing the Native American Tonto due to be released next summer. I have no doubt that Depp will completely transform himself to become the character, as he often does for his roles. Johnny Depp is not only inspiring for being a successful and talented actor, but also for staying true to himself, his friends, and his fans. We’ll keep you updated on all things Depp, if we can spot him!
Interview with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton: