It’s hip to trash Johnny Depp these days. His megastar status ended years ago (and his indie underdog status over a decade ago), leaving him either playing parodies of earlier hit characters or chasing paycheque movies for Disney. Clouded by bad memories of The Tourist and Mortedcai, though — to say nothing of his troubles over the last week — many nowadays forget all the impressive work Depp’s done in his 32-year film career.
Benny & Joon. Sleepy Hollow. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Platoon. Donnie Brasco. Edward Scissorhands. Finding Neverland. A Nightmare on Elm Street. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Ed Wood. Every one is a beloved title, and still only scratch the surface of Depp’s chameleonic abilities.
Friday’s release of Alice Through the Looking Glass marked Depp’s fiftieth movie. In a career of roles spanning pirates, transvestites, lizards, astronauts, and homicidal, singing barbers, Depp has trodden a one-of-a-kind path.
These are the movies of Johnny Depp, from worst to best.
50. PRIVATE RESORT (1985)
In the decade of sex-romp comedies, producer R. Ben Efraim followed Private Lessons and Private School with a third movie of no relation except for featuring the word “Private” and an abundance of nudity. Depp made his lead debut in this painful comedy opposite Rob Morrow, as teen guests at a Miami resort who take in all the ever-nude waifs while also foiling a jewel thief, because, hey, why not?
49. MORTDECAI (2015)
Depp’s strongest critics point to his penchant for quirkiness as his worst enemy, and they have no better case than Mortdecai. Nobody seems to understand what kind of tone Depp wants to go for (including Depp, at times), producing a limp piece of comedy that made Johnny English look revolutionary.
48. THE BRAVE (1997)
Practically every actor hears the siren call of directing eventually, regardless of the fact it often ends badly. The Brave is one of the worst movies directed by an actor, made all the worse by Depp’s involvement of Marlon Brando. McCarthy (Brando) pays Raphael (Depp) to star in a snuff film, giving him seven days to live. You’ll wish he’d only given him one.
47. THE TOURIST (2010)
Ricky Gervais tore the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to shreds for nominating The Tourist for Best Picture, Actor, and Actress, and rightfully so. It’s a dull thriller that drifts aimlessly for two hours, assuming implausible twists will provide an adequate substitute for a plot. Depp sleepwalks through the movie, but still doesn’t survive the terrible final act untarnished.
46. THE ASTRONAUT’S
A casualty of taking big risks in your choices is that sometimes, you swing for the fences and strike out. What starts as a reasonably captivating piece of suspense soon becomes bizarrely ridiculous. The dumbness of The Astronaut’s Wife’s script wouldn’t even be so bad if it didn’t telegraph almost every turn ahead of time.
45. THE LIBERTINE (2005)
“You will not like me,” Depp’s lothario says to the audience in the opening scene to this hedonistic period piece. He’s not lying.
44. THE MAN WHO CRIED (2001)
Beautifully shot and adequately performed, The Man Who Cried is taken down by its melodramatic story of a young, Jewish Woman (Christina Ricci) separated from her Russian family before the start of World War II. Depp has nothing to work with playing his Gypsy character, leading to him just replaying his character from Chocolat. It’s even less interesting the second time.
43. ALICE THROUGH THE
LOOKING GLASS (2016)
Without Burton returning to direct this sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass has nothing going for it but arresting visuals. The lingering thought of how much time of truly talented artists was wasted on the film’s substance-less dazzle permeates the whole affair and keeps it from reaching even the unimpressive heights of the original.
42. BLOW (2001)
The fact it’s a true story doesn’t make Ted Demme’s biopic of cocaine smuggler George Jung feel any less of a rip-off of everything from Scarface to GoodFellas to Boogie Nights. The amount it does succeed is purely thanks to Depp, but the more movies you’ve seen before, the less impressive Blow is.
41. DARK SHADOWS (2012)
Johnny Depp loved the gothic soap Dark Shadows growing up, so when the chance to play displaced vampire Barnabas Collins arose in movie form, Depp leapt at the chance and convinced pal Tim Burton to direct. While there are fragments of a good comedy in Burton’s Dark Shadows, it feels like a mash-up of The Addams Family, Twilight, and Encino Man, which never blends into a cohesive whole.