When it comes to actors, easily one of the most iconic is Johnny Depp. While the actor had an eclectic career in the ’80s and’ 90s with a wide variety of largely offbeat funny movie roles that paired him with great directors like Tim Burton, John Waters, and Mike Newell, it was the 2000s when the actor’s career truly exploded to the next level. While the actor was considered popular, he was more well known for roles that played against the actor’s conventional looks.
However, in the 2000s the actor exploded to superstar status, becoming a global icon the world over who was up there with the likes of Will Smith and Tom Cruise as someone who could attract audiences to any movie regardless of genre or subject. Even when taking on franchise roles, the actor would be known to make unique choices that, even if they did not always land, are certainly memorable performances.
For over 20 years, Johnny Depp has been known less as an offbeat character actor and more as a movie star, and since the start of the 21st century, the actor has stepped into iconic beloved roles from various genres and even created a brand-new character himself that became a pop culture icon. Depp’s career is so vast and filled with great performances, even just looking at the past 22 years there is no shortage of films to choose from. These are Johnny Depp’s best movies of the 21st century.
9 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
While Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s collaborations were always ones worth watching, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory may have been the duo’s highest-profile collaboration together, with Depp landing the coveted role of Willy Wonka and the movie being Depp’s first big blockbuster after Pirates of the Caribbean. The movie was a box office smash hit, grossing $ 474 million worldwide, proving Depp was a bankable movie star.
While the 2005 adaptation was not as beloved as the original 1971 film, Depp’s portrayal of Willy Wonka makes the right call by going so far in the opposite direction from that of Gene Wilder that there’s really no resemblance at all. Depp does not try to imitate the iconic performance Wilder made, and instead takes a much different approach, creating a Willy Wonka that feels cold, isolated, and emotionally stunted, very much matching the mindset of an individual who has locked themselves away for years.
8 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was the third film in the franchise, and at the time was the conclusion to the massive Pirates of the Caribbean movie trilogy that had taken audiences by storm. While perception at the time was more mixed due to the long runtime, the film reaction has grown more over time in part to the lackluster Pirates sequels that followed but also just how different the film is from other blockbusters.
Just like the other Pirates entries, Depp’s performance as Jack Sparrow is a real highlight specifically in a scene where Depp has to play multiple versions of Jack Sparrow in Davy Jone’s locker. The film ends with Depp’s character back where he started at the beginning of the series, with his crew stealing his ship and left with a dingy to sail the seven seas but with adventure on the horizon, and had this been the end, it might be regarded as one of the best trilogies.
7 Once Upon a Time In Mexico
In the final film in Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico trilogy that began with El Mariachi and DesperateDepp joins the cast in Once Upon a Time In Mexico as CIA Agent Mr. Sands, a mysterious individual who hires El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) to kill a corrupt general. Depp’s character stands out with a distinct look, an all-black outfit with sunglasses, and releasing just two months after Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl this feels like a real turning point in the actor’s career. Right before he became the biggest movie star in the world, this film felt very much at home with the actor’s work in the 1990s, along with the decade’s great work of director Robert Rodriguez.
6 Finding Neverland
In Finding Neverland, Depp steps into the role of JM Barrie, the man who created the character Peter Pan. While much of Depp’s career is defined by playing outcasts or characters with weird affectations and dress styles, his role in Finding Neverland sees Depp stepping into a warm fatherly role, one that was relatively new for the actor, but one that he carried over from his real-life as by the time of the films release his two children had been born, and the actor’s newfound fatherly instinct kicks into the character. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including a Best Actor nomination for Depp.
5 21 Jump Street
While Depp’s role in 21 Jump Street is a small cameo, it is an important one that ties into the actor’s career and the larger franchise. The actor reprises the role of Tom Hanson, the same character he played back in the original 21 Jump Street series that jump-started his career. This effectively makes 21 Jump Street a movie sequel to the TV showand allows Depp to play against his character’s original characterization, where he was once a sensitive teen heartthrob and is now a cynical foul-mouthed undercover cop who meets his end in a humorous but also incredibly gruesome shootout.
The movie is full of meta-jokes about Depp, from the fact that his undercover character is covered in elaborate make-up and prosthetics, to a character commenting on his undercover work as ‘an amazing actor.’ While Depp was not a fan of the series while it was on, it appears he had an appreciation for the series for launching his career and his return for the film felt like everything coming full circle.
4 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow was the breakout character of the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, so the character gets a much larger role in the sequel Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. The film finds Jack as the central driving force, as he is looking for a way to save his soul from the villainous Davy Jones. The movie is the high mark in the franchise, with creative visual effects that still hold up to this day and a classic sense of adventure that feels more absent in modern films. The film’s cliffhanger ending depends on the audience’s investment in Jack Sparrow, and much of that investment is because of what Depp brings to the role. Audiences were so excited to see more of Jack Sparrow that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest still stands as the actor’s highest-grossing film in his filmography.
While it is voice work, Rango still manages to stand as much of a Johnny Depp performance as any of his other films. The movie centers on a pet chameleon who accidentally ends up in a town that is in desperate need of a new sheriff. Rango re-teams Depp with Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski (and also is not the last time the two would work on a western together, as they would two years later in The Lone Ranger), and the pairing results in the right kind of offbeat mixture that makes Rango a very different type of animated film. The movie was a critical and box office hit and stands as one of the few non-Disney and non-Pixar films to win Best Animated Feature Film at the Academy Awards.
2 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
2007 saw two major Johnny Depp films released, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End in the summer and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street for the holiday season. With the film’s prestigious Broadway roots, the re-teaming of Depp with Tim Burton in their sixth collaboration, and a prime holiday release date, the film was set for greatness. Surprisingly, Sweeney Todd failed at the box office, though the movie has gained a cult following in recent years, for the film, much like the play, gives audiences a very different type of musical. While Depp’s vocal pattern may not fit the play’s more original operatic singing, due to songwriter Stephen Sondehiem’s use of writing many pater songs, it goes well with Depp’s more grungy rock and roll low and often gravelly voice. Depp also landed another Academy Award for Best Actor, although like in previous years he did not win.
1 Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Johnny Depp’s career can be defined in two eras, pre-Jack Sparrow and post-Jack Sparrow. While Depp starring in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl had many people scratching their heads, wondering why Disney would invest in the actor for their big family film and why a character actor like Depp would appear in a big blockbuster from the most family-friendly studio. Even with the studio executives at the time hating the performance before release, once it finally arrived in theaters, audiences ate the film up and Jack Sparrow became one of the most iconic characters in film history.
Jack Sparrow works as a character due to Depp’s instinct as an actor. Instead of the conventional swashbuckling hero, Jack Sparrow is messy. He favors wit and intellect over strength and often comes off as a fool, but still is capable. Basing the character ogf rock stars like Keith Richards is not the safe choice by most measures, but it was the right one and provided just the level of surprise audiences were craving. The role was such an immediate hit that, in a surprise move, Depp was even nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his role in the film. This is the role that would define Depp’s career for better or worse, and to many will be the first film audiences think of when they think of Johnny Depp.
These Are The Best Johnny Depp Performances Of All Time
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