March 3, 2011

MRQE Rewind: Johnny Depp’s 10 Greatest Roles

Johnny Depp is truly a chameleon of an actor. A man of many faces, illusions, and masks, Depp can easily re-identify himself over and over again; he's been doing just that for almost thirty years with over forty roles. Depp’s pliable personality has leaded him to adopt some of the most dynamic personalities ever. This weekend Depp morphs into a chameleon--which fits him perfectly--in Nickelodeon’s latest endeavor, Rango. Another character to add to Depp’s resume, he once stated that he keeps all these little monsters he has created bottled inside him, and at any moment anyone can come out. Depp has become each character, and they have now become him. Inspired by this eccentric and evolutionary man, we look back at some of the most memorable roles Johnny Depp has ever played.

10. The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Oh, the Mad Hatter, such a craze he is! Depp embraces the role of the Mad Hatter, a wild and witty man, in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. After bargaining with time to stay alive forever, the Mad Hatter is living in an eternal tea party with just a simple guest list of two: March Hare and Dormouse. Depp is momentous in this role, rarely blinking and forever staying on the ludicrous queue. Audiences became convinced Depp is this mad man. Whether you choose to blame it on the seeped mercury during the curing of pelts process, or Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s original fantastic character, it is an undeniable fact that Depp oozes flawlessly into this character’s skin.

9. Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a peculiar tale. In 1998 when Terry Gilliam wanted to adapt this classic book into a film, many were hesitant. At various different points many directors tried to make an adaptation, with actors ranging from John Cusack to Jack Nicholson to Marlon Brando clamoring for the role. However, in Thompson's mind only one person seemed right: Johnny Depp. The two became great friends and Depp got Thompson down so perfectly that one would be convinced while seeing Depp in this role as a psychedelic infused writer traveling to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race, that he was probably doped-out while filming the movie. Though sober of drugs, Depp's flawlessness as Raoul Duke seeps through. From LSD to weed to cocaine, Duke sees and seeks it all. And aside from some negative critic reviews, the film became such a cult classic to Hunter S. Thompson fans and anyone planning a trip to Vegas.

8. George Jung in Blow (2001) 

Blow is a film that reaps excitement. Involving a $100 million drug business, some really infamous gangsters, and a lot and a lot of partying, Blow illustrates the highs and lows of drug smuggling. George Jung is the center of this world, played perfectly by Depp. Jung is a man who enters an unknown domain, gets involved with a toxic business, and then encounters mass betrayal from people who used to be on his team. He was a leading man in the Medellin Cartel, which at the height of business was making $60 million … a day. Though, the image of Depp as this character in the "old school" 1970s and '80s suits, with dark sunglasses and the perfectly sweet golden locks, reciting Bob Dylan’s "It Ain’t Me Babe" lyrics at the courthouse, is a defining moment both of this character, and of the film. 

7. Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

Sure, we all will always think of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, but Depp knew how to make the role his own. The story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, whether its the book, the original 1970's film, or this re-telling, helps evolve a child’s imagination of where their favorite sugary sweets are coming. When renowned director Tim Burton approached Depp to star, Depp jumped on board. In fact, Depp has once stated that he would act in anything Burton asked, since he believes Burton is a true genius. But, Depp’s role as Willy Wonka is almost freakishly convincing. Reportedly based off of Marilyn Manson (who had long been rumored as attached to the role), Depp's Wonka appears real; as if this always was his character and mold all along, and that jaw-dropping French man he is in actuality is a simple illusion.

6. Edward Scissorhands in…well, Edward Scissorhands (1990)

The first of seven collaborations with Tim Burton, Edward Scissorhands is another role that's totally out there. The 1990 romantic fantasy film tells of Edward, an innocent and gentle man, merely sheltered by the fact his hands have been replaced with scissors. Critically acclaimed, this film was nominated for multiple awards including the Academy Award for Best Makeup. Director Tim Burton considers this to be his most personal work, and could not imagine anyone but Depp playing in the lead part.

5. Benjamin Barker/Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Sweeney Todd is the story of a British barber, Benjamin Barker (a.k.a Sweeney Todd), who has a little knack for killing his patients. As his patients sit in his barber chair, Todd has a tendency to open the floors, and drop them back into a shoot to later finish them off. As a unique and sinister relationship develops with the next door neighbor Mrs. Lovett, who soon becomes his accomplice, eventually the tale takes a mysterious twist for itself. It makes one question, what really is in that mystery meat pie? Depp is edgy, passionate, dark, and thrilling is this role as a murderous barber.

4. Joseph D. Pistone/Donnie Brasco in Donnie Brasco (1997)

Sliding back to his crime-drama roots from the days of 21 Jump Street, Depp portrays Joseph D. Pistone (a.k.a. Donnie Brasco) the titular character from the 1997 film. Pistone is an undercover FBI agent who penetrated into the Bonanno Mafia crime family. As Brasco, Pistone is taken under the wing of an already established Mafia member, Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero, played by none other than Al Pacino. The distinct success of the collaboration between Depp and Pacino comes through in each reel, making this film, and Depp’s array of characters, continue to excel.

3. J. M. Barrie in Finding Neverland (2004)

Finding Neverland is the biographical film about J. M. Barrie, the original playwright of Peter Pan. An honest encounter of true writers block and the struggles and trials writers go through, Depp was smoothly supported by lead actress Kate Winslet who plays Sylvia Davies, his platonic partner. A quieter role for Depp, his genuine acting capabilities shine seductively and are charming, yet in a humble manor. As a result this became Depp's second nomination for the Best Actor Oscar.

2. Edward D. Wood, Jr. in Ed Wood (1994)

Edward D. Wood, Jr. was a cult film director of the twentieth century, producing B-movies like Glen or Glenda, Jail Bait, Plan 9 from Outer Space, and Night of the Ghouls. Just like director Tim Burton, Wood was a risky human. Wood played with shock footage, produced pornographic movies, wrote crime and sex novels, and often signed extremely eclectic casts for his movies. Burton wanted to re-work the tale of this man, and it was the perfect role for Depp to play. In a flawless performance as Ed Wood, Depp won himself a Golden Globe nomination in 1994.

1. Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

And, finally, we are given the Depp we all know and love, Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean series, first seen in The Curse of the Black Pearl. Depp received his first Academy Award nomination for this role, and it stands as one of those roles which Depp’s love of acting comes forth. You can see the sparkle in his eye, the jump in his step, and the mischievous thoughts in his mind. He is an illusion on screen. Though hard to tell at moments if it's Depp, Capt. Jack, or Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, this role defines how dynamic Depp can truly be.


  1. Pirates of the caribbean is the best.

    Ceiling Lights

  2. What about chocolat?

  3. Johnny Depp is a talented actor! I watched all his movies. And recently, on have downloaded Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Classy film. One of the best this year.

  4. It's so hard to narrow it down to 10, isn't it? I loved him in Public Enemies too! 


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