Johnny Depp is an actor who, at a young age, was able to command the movie screen like an industry veteran. He made his debut in the 1984 horror flick “Nightmare on Elm Street”. From there Depp would go on to star in numerous blockbuster films over the next 25 years. What sets him apart from other great actors is his ability to play these deep eccentric characters such as Willy Wonka and Ichabod Crane.
In my opinion, Johnny Depp’s Top 10 Characters include the following (in no particular order):
1) Edward Scissorhands in Edward Scissorhands (1990): A young Johnny Depp took on the challenge of playing Edward, a boy “created by a bizarre inventor who died shortly before his transformation from mechanical construct to organic seeming human could be complete, leaving him permanently with hands that resemble several pairs of scissors” (Qwipster.net). Adopted by a loving woman named Peg, Edward finds himself relating to the nice and accepting family in her home. The neighborhood becomes interested in this new boy, showing kindness and curiosity in their approach. Edward finds himself developing feelings for Peg’s daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder), but their friendship doesn’t sit so well with the girl’s boyfriend. As the likeable Edward, Depp demonstrated his depth as an actor early in his career.
2) “Drape” Wade Walker in Cry-Baby (1990): The handsome Drape Walker is known by his nickname, “Cry-Baby”, based on his ability to shed a single tear. Set in the 1930s, Depp’s rebel character falls in love with a square named Allison Vernon-Williams. Cry-Baby’s crew isn’t pleased with his choice, as they don’t trust the squares. Even more disapproving of their new relationship is Allison’s mother, who constantly tries to steer the two apart. If you’ve seen this movie, Depp comes across as a heartthrob with the seriousness of a mainstream actor. You can tell he’s a big fish in a small pond.
3) Raoul Duke in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas (1998): This movie was Depp’s breakout role as an adult actor. Fear & Loathing garnered a fan base seemingly overnight, and the movie still holds onto it after more than a decade. As Raoul Duke, Johnny Depp plays a gonzo journalist sent to cover a motorcycle race in Las Vegas. While there, he and his lawyer end up consuming a large amount of drugs and set out to discover “The American Dream”.
4) Joseph D. Pistone in Donnie Brasco (1997): If I had to number the movies 1 through ten, this would be #1. Johnny Depp gives an Oscar-worthy performance in this true story of FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone’s 1975 infiltration of the New York City-based Bonanno crime family. Using the alias Donnie Brasco, Pistone poses as a gem expert/thief who puts himself in the sights of Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero (Al Pacino). The long-term operation results in a brotherly closeness between Pistone and Lefty, something that leaves the undercover agent feeling conflicted. He knows that when the day finally comes that his mob associates are arrested, Lefty will surely be killed as a result of bringing Brasco into the family.
5) Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow (1999): Depp portrays Constable/Detective Ichabod Crane in the movie adapted from Washington Irving’s classic murder mystery. In the eighteenth century Crane is investigating the legacy of the headless Horseman in the small town of Sleepy Hollow. Because he excels at playing rather dark and mysterious characters, Depp was a great choice for this role.
6) George Jung in Blow (2001): The actor did another biopic in 2001, and to good result. In a snapshot taken from his life during the 1970’s to the 1980’s, Depp plays American drug smuggler George Jung. He graduates from marijuana to cocaine after his cellmate tells him of the profits associated with the cocaine business. Jung operates between the U.S. and Colombia as he works with Pablo Escobar’s cartel.
7) Willy Wonka in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (2005): Johnny Depp reaches deep into his magic hat of characters with this one. Although it’d be pretty hard to fill the shoes of Gene Wilder in the original film, Depp does a good job of adding his own spin to Willy Wonka. According to People, Charlie marked Depp’s biggest opening ever, surpassing the $46.6 million debut of his 2003 blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
8) Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films (2003, 2006, 2007): This is the role for which Depp is probably best known. As Jack Sparrow he is the protagonist of all of the Pirates movies. The character is one of the Brethren Court, the Pirate Lords of the Seven Seas. Sparrow relies on his wit and negotiation tactics for survival, though he is willing to fight when necessary. The sequel to the first blockbuster movie came in 2006 with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. It was immediately followed by a 2007 film, titled Pirates: At World’s End. With the role of Jack Sparrow Depp was able to create a character that’s both entertaining and unique, captivating viewers across an entire series of movies.
9) Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007): Although it’s a dark and horrifying character, Johnny Depp once again demonstrates the depth of his acting ability. In the screen adaptation of the Broadway musical, Depp portrays Benjamin Barker, a skilled barber who is unjustly sent to prison after being convicted on false charges. Behind his imprisonment is a corrupt judge who lusts after his wife. Upon his release, Barker learns of the dark fate that his family has met while he was away. Vowing revenge, Benjamin Barker re-opens his barber shop and becomes Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. For those who have seen his other films, Johnny Depp is incredibly disciplined and unpredictable as Sweeney Todd. It’s unlike anything he’s ever done, and if one actor could pull it off, it’d be him.
10) Gilbert Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993): As Gilbert Grape, Johnny Depp is the hero and narrator of this story. The 1993 film is an early testament to his acting genius. Although he does not play an oddball character in Gilbert, the New York Times review explains that Depp continues to bring “much the same soulfulness and strength to this role” as those of his other films.
Gilbert Grape is the oldest of four children living in an isolated town in Iowa. In addition to two sisters, he has a younger brother named Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is mentally-handicapped and requires a lot of effort and supervision on Gilbert’s part. With their obese mother bedridden, Depp’s character has become the family’s backbone in the absence of a real father figure. What’s Eating… is a touching and emotional story, thanks to both the storyline and Depp’s portrayal of the loving older brother.