For three years now, I only used to greet Johnny Depp a happy birthday as a passing sidenote but since I've already done something special on Sherlock Holmes' birthday last January, I believe my favorite actor of all time deserves the same recognition. So here is my list of favorite movies starring John Christopher Depp II, Type 4 Gemini and renowned actor!!
Any hardcore Johnny Depp fan knows that he grew up dreaming of becoming a rock star. He idolized Kiss, The Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper, The Replacements and Iggy Pop. He was a stoner and a social pariah in school until the book On the Road changed his life and he decided to pursue his high school dream. He got married early to a make-up artist named Lori Ann who knew a rising actor named Nicolas Cage. She introduced them to each other and at some point Cage asked Johnny if he ever considered acting. Johnny, however, had no intention of sacrificing his love for music but he needed the money. He auditioned for a role in a horror movie and A Nightmare in Elm Street was an instant success. What made Johnny Depp a household name is through being the star of 21 Jump Street, an eighties television series where he plays Officer Tom Hanson, an undercover cop in high school. Johnny didn’t want to be just another pretty face and he certainly started to love acting and so he wanted to be taken seriously. He diligently took acting lessons to improve and sooner or later he was calling it quits with 21, knowing it might just smother his future career prospects as an actor.
And so begins his movie career. The most memorable people associated with Johnny Depp are Tim Burton (visionary filmmaker), actress Winona Ryder (his first relationship ever to be dissected by the public), model Kate Moss and Marlon Brando (cinematic genius). His film roles which are often eccentric and misunderstood individuals, the fact that he doesn’t play into the whole Hollywood scene and his much coveted bad-boy image have made Johnny Depp an infamous and sought-after actor. I‘ve always felt a very strong connection to him because I used to do a lot of stage-acting when I was in grade school and acting was something that I have loved deeply as much as I love writing right now. Johnny’s movies are a constant reminder to me that one should put artistic integrity over commercial success when it comes to talent. As long as you have talent, commitment and humility towards your career, you will get far.
That’s the overview. I’ve been watching his TV series over YT and he looked just about the same in the ‘80s as he is now, approaching his fifties. Creepy, I know. Anyway, here is my list of favorite Johnny Depp movies (as well as the average and least favorites):
Blow (George Jung)
Throughout his career, Johnny likes doing movies based on real famous people and he definitely portrayed the cocaine smuggler George Jung justice in this movie. It was quite an enjoyable look at how drug lords are made and Blow is also one of the reasons I started watching the television series Weeds because both stories tackle about serious issues on drug use and its inevitable economic roots in the American society. Blow is an autobiographical examination of George Jung’s life, notably his ambitions, successes and eventual downfall. The most memorable scenes for me are the ones with Ray Liotta who played the role of his father. Liotta is also a favorite and seeing him acting alongside Johnny is a treat (Another tidbit: Liotta starred in NARC; another excellent movie about drugs). Penelope Cruz is a slutty-slut-slut (in the best possible and most flattering way) who plays Jung’s wife. The heart of the film is probably George Jung’s epiphanies about family values and other things one holds dear. His relationship with his daughter is the most heartbreaking aspect and I cried by the last scene of the film.
“Danbury wasn't a prison, it was a crime school. I went in with a Bachelor of marijuana, came out with a Doctorate of cocaine.”
“It was the greatest feeling I ever had. Followed very abruptly by the worst feeling I ever had.”
“Throughout my lifetime I've left pieces of my heart here and there. And now, there's almost barely enough to stay alive. But I force a smile, knowing that my ambition far exceeded my talent.”
Ed Wood (Edward D. Wood Jr.)
Yet another Johnny Depp film about a real-life famous person, this time in the embodiment of the Worst Director of All Time, Ed Wood, who is also an active cross-dresser, if he’s not busy making crappy genre films. If there is a single best Tim Burton film, it’d be Ed Wood and the talents of Sarah Jessica Parker (long before her vixen role in Sex in the City) and Patricia Arquette (of the supernatural TV series Medium) are delectable and them being the two love interests of Depp’s Ed Wood is definitely for the lulz and fluff. The parts of the film I liked the most are whenever Ed Wood gets hit by an idea about a film he wants to make and how passionate and dedicated he is to see through his vision, although the movies themselves are really shitty in the end. There is a genius in Ed Wood that Johnny Depp brought out because I feel that he does have a connection to this character; they are both neurotic and sensitive about their surroundings and underneath the carefree artist attitude, they have fears that eat them up inside just like everyone else. I watched the movie from beginning to end, despite how all of it is black-and-white, because Ed Wood is a fantastic optimist who had the guts to take the risks even though he crashed and burned too many times. Nothing gets him down at all and Johnny’s comic style of portrayal adds to the charming effect of this character. I love Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi’s dynamic too. The scenes with them together are kind of philosophical for me.
One Favorite Scene:
Ed: Mister Weiss, I have never told anyone what I'm about to tell you. But I really want this job. I like to wear women's clothing.
Weiss: You're a fruit?
Ed: No, not at all. I love women. Wearing their clothes makes me feel closer to them.
Weiss: You're not a fruit?
Ed: No, I'm all man. I even fought in WW2. Of course, I was wearing women's undergarments under my uniform.
From Hell (Frederick Abberline)
Sergeant Peter Godley: You've seen something? What did you see?
Frederick Abberline: A petticoat saturated with blood.
Sergeant Peter Godley: You know, they used to burn men like you alive.
And so begins Alan Moore’s rendition of the Jack the Ripper murders with a psychic police officer played by Johnny Depp as its protagonist. The truth is he’s quite the frequent Absinthe user and this allows him to have introspective dreams that help him solve mysteries. The movie itself has an air of dark supernatural forces although the film’s attack of these forces is more on psychological. The overall atmosphere is creepy but subtle and I think it was a great approach to make the audience relate to the prostitutes personally so that they would grieve along when their deaths come to them. Heather Graham as the pregnant Mary Kelly is an innocent soul corrupted by patriarchal tyranny and she’s outstanding. Jack the Ripper seemed to have loved her in a way that is both twisted and sincere but her murder wasn’t a vengeful claim like the rest. Johnny Depp is a broody sack here but (just like his role as Sweeney Todd,) you can feel something heavy on his shoulders and instead of being pulled down, it’s actually what motivates him to go on and seek the truth. The movie is a stunning macabre filled with dimensional characters. And Ian Holm, goddammit! Ian Holm is a strong force in this movie.
Dead Man (William Blake)
If you want to watch this, you should never have any expectations for this film at all, dear ones. You may or may not have heard of this movie but if you had, I sure hope you recognize that its level of art is in a different league altogether. It is considered as the ultimate postmodern Western movie, if you believe all its critical acclamations. The truth is that with so many cultural allusions and elements, you probably can’t find your way out of this film fast enough and you might definitely need a director commentary for every scene in order to understand what the fuck is going on. It’s difficult to explain the story and I won’t. The first time I watched this was when I was only twelve and it was an unpleasant experience. I re-watched it again two weeks ago and I started to see what it was in it that got to me. Besides the Neil Young instrumental tracks and the fact that I lost count of how many times the reluctant “hero” William Blake gets his ass into so much trouble, the film is gorgeous because it shows ugliness where people don’t reform, people discriminate, people are road kill and people will always look for something that exceeds their grasps just because it simply is.
Pirates of the Caribbean
“Me, I’m a dishonest man. And a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly.”
Ah, yes. Depp was just looking for a family movie for his son and he stumbled into this blockbuster screenplay produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the guy that brought us CSI on TV. He loved Jack Sparrow instantly and he approached the role in an offhanded way that made some of the crew uncomfortable. Depp’s interpretation of Sparrow never got disrupted though, despite the many protestations from some who were yet to be familiar with his style of acting. Depp is an indie-film baby and this is the first time in years he starred in a movie (a Disney one at that) which will turn out to be a big sold-out not since Nightmare. It even got him an Oscar nomination for his performance. This movie ranked higher (even though the others below it are clearly better films) only because Johnny Depp’s pirate is glorious and almost seamless. Never before had I seen him fully emerged in a character like this. The story is interesting enough and Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and Geoffrey Rush are a foursome to be reckoned with.
Sleepy Hollow (Ichabod Crane)
Villainy wears many masks but none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.
Two people in this film besides Johnny Depp have gotten me so giddy. There is the lovely Christina Ricci who is blonde and rocking it; and Christopher Walken with his predator fangs. And it’s a murder mystery directed by Tim Burton with supernatural elements and a gothic setting so what more can a girl like me ask for? Constable Ichabod Crane is a deeply poetic character. He might value logic and rationality above anything else but he is tortured by a spiritual disease that blinds him from the truth he is looking for. The case of the Sleepy Hollow murders allowed him to explore the inner demons residing under his brittle façade of professionalism. And I love how sweet Depp and Ricci are together, despite the seventeen-year gap (which probably explains why their romantic scenes are so chaste it’s aggravating). I have watched this film seven times already and it still gets me laughing and cringing. Depp’s Ichabod Crane is very flinchy but his courage is there I admire him all throughout the movie.
in Las Vegas
There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.
If one would ask me how to describe this movie, I’d probably just blurt out that "it’s the shit" and it is the shit! Another film about drugs courtesy of Johnny, only it’s less concise and a deeply affecting mind probe. Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel of the same name, this film is a cult classic and a commercial failure. However, Raoul Duke is Depp’s most superb character interpretation to date. Trust me, guys, no one can play drugged-out junkie with a self-disruptive behavior and death wish like Johnny Depp. The film almost looks like what a Chuck Palahniuk movie would be like (Fight Club made even more sense than this shit), and Duke’s narration is as excessively self-aware and pretentious as Tyler Durden’s. Co-starring the ravishing Benicio del Torro, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas starts with a boy played by Toby Maguire hitchhiking with two strung-out asshole in the middle of the desert. Duke is mumbling like a lunatic already about “bat country” and the Manson family while Benicio del Torro’s Dr. Gonzo comments how he loves the shape of his skull. And then the movie gets more delirious, spiraling down like its characters are with their drugs. The Vietnam War references and snapshots in the film are a silent testimony to something more profound than Duke realizes (but the asshole is an unreliable narrator anyway). I have yet to read the book but I hear that Thompson has a surreal ferocity with his literary language. Anyway, the movie is—great but it’s not an everyday staple for a movie watcher. Only hardcore fans of the movie like me can re-watch it again and again and still love every second of the acid ecstasy it provides.
(John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester)
I wish to be moved. I cannot feel in life.
I must have others do it for me in theater.
Remember what I said about how Johnny often enjoys playing real-life famous people in movies? Well, this is the best one so far. Ah, John Wilmot. He was a dreamier version of Marquis de Sade and probably a more humane version of him at that. The movie has the best scene sequences in all of the Johnny Depp movies I’ve seen so far and each moment that is intense is delivered with dignity and precision. John Malkovich as King Charles II is a great presence but not as powerful as Samantha Morton’s Elizabeth Barry, a rookie actress that Wilmot took under his wing and made a star. Their passionate connection is something that ached me terribly and it’s the first time in years I’ve seen Johnny bound to a female actress so intricately, not since with Winona Ryder (who was his fiancé before). No one plays tragic individualist better than Johnny!
Download the “prologue” of the movie and see for yourselves. HERE IT IS.
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
No! Not Barker. That man is dead. It's Todd now. Sweeney Todd. And he will have his revenge.
What do you get when a barber with a murderous intent and a distraught meat shop owner cross paths in the eerie streets of London? Revenge and cannibalism that is Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, of course! And it’s a musical!
I’ve watched the play itself when it was performed here in the Philippines just last year and I don’t think I could ever get over the story and the songs for as long as I live! Burton’s film adaptation is a thumbs-up. Depp and Helena Bonham Carter have awesome chemistry and they look like gothic twin dolls! Tim Burton incorporates elusive craftsmanship in this film, one that tickles your imagination and drives you to surrender in its clutching depths. He provided just the right touch of sadistic mirth and tragedy in loss, making the movie unbearable at some point and yet overwhelms the audience with the impulse not to resist. Johnny Depp is perceptive in his role as usual and his consistent facial expressions are a win! He only smiles when he’s singing and killing someone, that is. The original Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett are supposed to be older but he and Carter pulled it off just as well. Alan Rickman is another pleasant factor. Boy wonder Ed Sanders rendering a ballad for Mrs. Lovett is touching as it is enjoyable whenever he sings his advertsiments. And freaking Sacha Baron Cohen and his head tone!
And LOL, Johnny sings, okay? That is something I paid good money to see and wasn’t disappointed at all. I love how emotional and psychotic he is all throughout the movie. My favorite songs are “Pretty Women”, “Epiphany”, “My Friends” and “A Little Priest”. The lyrics are fucking marvelous! And don’t you just love the way the story itself is told through these songs? In a lesser movie and storyline, the same approach would have failed, but this just shines! Sure, throats being slit casually and meat pies made of human flesh are not appetizing to the weak-stomached but Burton hands the menu anyway and it’s all Bon Appétit! from there on!
Kim: Hold me.
Edward: ...I can't.
This is my most favorite movie of all time. This movie is the first time I’ve met Johnny and our meeting was serendipity. I think this review from a critic echoes the movie’s heart:
"Edward Scissorhands is a tale of misunderstood gentleness and stifled creativity, of civilization's power to corrupt innocence, of a heedless beauty and a kindhearted beast. The film, if scratched with something much less sharp than Edward's fingers, reveals proudly adolescent lessons for us all."
This movie was released in the year 1990, the same year of my birth. My mother was pregnant with me while she watched this film. Since I was five, I’ve been having these vivid dreams about a man with scissors playing with me. It was only when I was in first year high school that Papi has shown me this movie and I knew that it was the same man with the scissors. Something became definite for me since then and I stopped having the dreams. My heart has never been filled like it had been then when I watched the magic that is Edward Scissorhands.
Least Favorites Movies and Roles
[The following movies are films that didn't satisfy me. They are still great only because of a few redeeming qualities and because Johnny is there].
Alice in Wonderland as Mad Hatter
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as Willy Wonka
Secret Window as Mort Rainey
Finding Neverland as J.M. Barrie
Average-liked Movies starring Johnny
[I liked many of these films but they didn't make it to the final Top 10 list. I recommend any of them. They're all awesome. You can just research the movie plots yourselves if interested].
Nick of Time
The Ninth Gate
The Astronaut’s Wife
What’s eating Gilbert Grape?
Benny and Joon
Once upon a time in Mexico
Johnny Depp with Helena Bonham Carter
Johnny Depp with Samantha Morton
Johnny Depp with Christina Ricci
Johnny Depp with Winona Ryder