5 Donnie Brasco
Depp plays the title role in this film where he is paired against Al Pacino. Talk about a match made in acting heaven! Donnie Brasco (the pseudonym assumed by Depp’s character, Joe Pistone) is an undercover FBI agent who is assigned to infiltrate the mob. Aside from watching Depp and Pacino chew scenery together, the real joy here is the way Depp plays Joe/Donnie with a certain veil. Like he would have to as an undercover agent, you can never really get a sense of what’s going on in his mind, and that shines brightly throughout this film.
4 What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
Poor Gilbert Grape. He’s a quiet man who is forced to spend his time caring for his mentally challenged younger brother (Leonardo DiCaprio in his breakout performance) and his morbidly obese mother. He’s adjusted and accepted his life until love walks through his door and he’s forced to rethink everything. Depp plays Gilbert with a tenderness that is difficult to describe. Though usually cast as the outsider/weirdo, Depp is the pillar of his small Iowa community and it’s fun to watch him deal with that while trying to tend to his own inner turmoil.
3 Ed Wood
Third on our list is another Depp/Burton joint, this time telling the true story of Ed Wood, the universally accepted “worst movie director of all time”. Shot entirely in black and white, the film centers around poor Ed Wood (a closet transvestite, no less) trying to make his now-famous for all the wrong reasons epic “Plan 9 From Outer Space”. There is a certain charm to the character that Depp brings to life, as Wood is painfully oblivious to the fact that he is absolutely awful as a writer/director. His heart is always in the right place, though, and it’s like watching the man-boy try to fulfill his dream of being the next Orson Welles. This is one of our favorite Depp performances, and it should also be known that Martin Landau won an Oscar for his role as Bela Lugosi. Oh, and Bill Murray is in it.
2 Edward Scissorhands
The Depp/Tim Burton union is deep and strong. Burton has a way of finding just the right role for Johnny Depp and, naturally Depp nails it every time. Edward Scissorhandsis no exception. In this take on suburban life and conformity, Edward is a Pinocchio-esque man created atop a mountain in a gothic castle by an aging inventor (Vincent Price). Unfortunately, the inventor dies before completing Edward so his real hands are never attached, leaving him with the makeshift scissors. Eventually, Edward is brought down the mountain to live with a family where he falls in love with a beautiful young woman. He is shunned, accepted, and then shunned again by the townspeople. The depth of Depp’s performance is amazing. From his initial awkwardness to him trying to fit into a world he clearly has no place in, he’s he nails every beat of Edward’s heart and you can see it in his eyes.
1 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
If you haven’t read the book, you are missing something in your life. Johnny Depp plays the author of the book itself, Hunter S. Thompson. Hunter and his large, nearly unintelligible Samoan lawyer Dr. Gonzo (played beautifully by Benicio Del Toro), travel to Las Vegas to chase the American Dream by way of a large red convertible full of every kind of drug known to man. Watching Johnny Depp successfully navigate the different moods set on by marijuana, cocaine, uppers, downers, speed, ether, LSD, and alcohol is truly amazing. Naturally, we wouldn’t know anything about those, but a friend of ours who is a veteran with most of those narcotics told us the visuals and performances are spot on. The movie is a weird one, as it is a Terry Gilliam picture, but it’s absolutely on of Johnny Depp’s strangest and most memorable performances. Just beware of bat country.
Johnny Depp has been in lord knows how many films, but we feel that these are his finest moments. I know some of you are going to scream “Pirates of the Caribbean” and maybe you’re right. If you want to do so, leave us a comment.