Johnny Depp has captivated audiences for over 30 years with his daring choice of roles and ability to fully transform into the eclectic characters he plays. As one of the most talented character actors ever to grace the silver screen, Depp boasts an extensive filmography spanning genres from offbeat indie films to big-budget blockbusters. This comprehensive Johnny Depp movies list will chronicle Depp’s illustrious career from his early work to his most iconic performances.
Johnny Depp Becomes a Hollywood Legend
Johnny Depp’s rise to stardom is a unique Hollywood story. Drawn to the creative arts from childhood, Depp dropped out of high school against his parents’ wishes to pursue music. He supported himself by taking odd acting jobs which eventually launched his film career. After minor TV work, Depp broke onto the Hollywood scene in ‘80s slasher flicks before working with iconoclast directors like John Waters and Tim Burton, who recognized his talents and provided opportunities for him to craft wonderfully weird, sympathetic outsiders.
Depp brought sensitivity and nuance to roles that subverted leading man tropes. With colorful recurring collaborations with Tim Burton, offbeat filmmakers like Terry Gilliam, and big-budget Disney vehicles like Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp fashioned himself into one of the most daring, versatile film stars around. He wholly disappears into roles with dramatic physical and vocal transformations aided by long-time collaborator makeup artist Joel Harlow. Though famous for portraying dark misfits, Depp injects humor and soul into even the strangest characters.
View this post on Instagram
Early Life and Career Beginnings
Born in 1963 in Owensboro, Kentucky, Johnny Depp’s creative instincts trace back to childhood when he began playing guitar at age 12. His family moved frequently before settling in Miramar, Florida. Surrounded by turmoil from his parents’ marital problems, Depp found solace through watching films and became obsessed with Buster Keaton and the Three Stooges. In high school, Depp dabbled in drugs and inked his arms—rebelling against the conformist suburban environment. Through a school friend, Nicolas Cage, he became intrigued by the idea of being an actor.
At 15, Depp dropped out of school against his parents wishes to become a rock musician. His principal prophetically told him, “Johnny, one day you are going to be a famous actor,” though Depp disagreed at the time. Depp’s band The Kids moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of fame but struggled financially. To make ends meet, Depp sold pens over the phone. In 1983, Depp’s wife at the time introduced him to her ex-boyfriend Nicolas Cage, who advised Depp to pursue acting since it would provide a steadier income. This fateful encounter launched Depp’s storied Hollywood career.
- Grew up moving frequently with volatile home environment
- Dropped out of school at 15 hoping to make it as a musician
- Cage gave Depp pivotal advice to break into acting for financial stability
- First landed TV role on 21 Jump Street after grueling audition process
After small roles in films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Platoon, Johnny Depp rose to fame on the TV cop show 21 Jump Street, turning girls’ hearts aflutter as undercover officer Tom Hanson. But Depp longed to pursue weightier, more provocative film projects. In 1990, Depp took a major career risk by collaborating with Tim Burton on Edward Scissorhands, establishing himself as a serious film actor.
After Scissorhands, Depp rejected studio leading man offers for quirky auteur projects like Benny and Joon (1993) and Ed Wood, gaining appreciation as a character actor devoted to his craft rather than fame. In 2003, Depp’s flamboyant performance as Jack Sparrow in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean finally launched him to global stardom and became his most iconic role. With a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Pirates, Depp gained industry clout to pursue passion projects while maintaining box office dominance through crowd-pleasing tentpoles.
View this post on Instagram
Edward Scissorhands (1990) represented a major shift in Depp’s career towards weightier dramatic work that relied on his ability to convey emotional subtleties. Depp established himself as an actor who completely disappears into roles. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) propelled Depp to new heights of mega-stardom. His eccentric take on pirate antihero Jack Sparrow became an instant pop culture phenomenon adored by audiences worldwide.
Additional Standout Performances:
- Arizona Dream (1993)
- Ed Wood (1994)
- Donnie Brasco (1997)
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
- Blow (2001)
Iconic Character Portrayals
A character chameleon, Johnny Depp imprints his colorful portrayals into viewers’ minds, often basing characterizations on obscure historical or literary figures. With fantastical costumes and dramatic physical transformations aided by makeup wizard Joel Harlow, Depp manifests the inner lives of outsiders and outcasts. His trademark is finding the humor and humanity beneath even the strangest facades.
Most Iconic Roles
- Edward Scissorhands (1990) – As the innocent, tragic title character, Depp wordlessly conveys wonder and heartbreak in his first major collaboration with Burton. His alabaster face and wild black hair became a signature early look.
- Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean (2003–present) – Drawing inspiration from rock stars Keith Richards and Pepe Le Pew, Depp conceived Jack Sparrow’s look of dreadlocked hair, kohl-rimmed eyes and gold-toothed grin. He injects the unreliable pirate antihero with off-kilter charm and sly wit.
- Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) – Depp modeled his creepy, childlike take on Roald Dahl’s Wonka after cold marble statute depictions of subversive singer Michael Jackson.
- Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) – Depp captures the frightening intensity of Stephen Sondheim’s murderous Victorian barber out for revenge. With dramatic sunken cheeks, wild eyes, and volatile mood swings, he manifests this Shakespearean antihero’s madness and humanity.
Memorable Supporting Roles:
- Raoul Duke – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
- George Jung – Blow (2001)
- John Dillinger – Public Enemies (2009)
View this post on Instagram
Johnny Depp Filmography
Boasting eight collaborations with Tim Burton and five Pirates of the Caribbean films which propelled him to A-list stardom, Johnny Depp has proven himself as one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood for the past 30 years. But he continues to take risks in colorful character pieces and passion projects guided by provocative filmmakers. From offbeat cult classics to CGI spectaculars, Depp leaves his mark across all manners of genres.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Debuts playing ill-fated teen Glen Lantz
- Platoon (1986) – Appears briefly as Vietnamese-speaking soldier interpretor
- 21 Jump Street (1987–1990) – Breaks out starring alongside Peter DeLuise on hit Fox police series
- Cry-Baby (1990) – Channels Elvis in John Waters’ musical comedy
- Edward Scissorhands (1990) – First collaboration with Burton; receives first Oscar nomination
- Benny and Joon (1993) – Finds love as gentle eccentric opposite Winona Ryder
- What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) – Second Oscar nomination as mentally disabled brother
- Ed Wood (1994) – Shines as infamously untalented B-movie director
- Dead Man (1995) – Stars in Jim Jarmusch avant-garde Western
- Donnie Brasco (1997) – Goes undercover as mafia associate opposite Pacino
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) – Reunites with Gilliam as Hunter S. Thompson proxy
- Sleepy Hollow (1999) – Begins lucrative collaboration with Burton as Ichabod Crane
- Chocolat (2000) – Plays Irish traveler who arrives in quaint French village
- Blow (2001) – Portrays ambitious drug smuggler George Jung
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) – Finds fame as flamboyant Captain Jack Sparrow
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) – Brings sinister edge to Roald Dahl adaptation
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) – Sings for his third Oscar nomination as murderous barber
- Public Enemies (2009) – Hunts as famous bank robber John Dillinger
- Alice in Wonderland (2010) – Reunites with Burton as the Mad Hatter
- The Rum Diary (2011) – Directorial debut adapting Hunter S. Thompson novel
- Dark Shadows (2012) – Stars as cursed vampire Barnabas Collins for Burton
- The Lone Ranger (2013) – Plays Native American sidekick Tonto
- Black Mass (2015) – Goes dark playing real-life Boston gangster Whitey Bulger
- Murder on the Orient Express (2017) – Features as murder suspect aboard lavish train
- Minamata (2020) – Directs and stars as war photographer W. Eugene Smith
- Waiting for the Barbarians (2019) – Appears with Mark Rylance and Robert Pattinson
View this post on Instagram
Accolades and Legacy
One cannot mention Johnny Depp without noting the incredible mark he has left on cinema by portraying some of the most colorful and unusual characters ever to grace the screen. Though often typecast as playing “weirdos,” Depp injects such imagination and empathy into these roles that he has rightfully been labeled one of the most accomplished actors of his generation. Beyond his chameleonic performances, Depp also deserves credit as an auteur who has nurtured long-term collaborations with talents like Tim Burton to create strange magic.
Key Awards and Nominations
With dozens of awards wins and over a hundred other nominations, Johnny Depp’s acclaimed performances have been recognized by nearly every major Hollywood institution.
- 3 Oscar Nominations for Best Actor – for Pirates, Finding Neverland, and Sweeney Todd
- 2 Golden Globe wins for Best Actor – for Sweeney Todd and Pirates
- Guild Awards from the Screen Actors Guild
- Multiple People’s Choice fan votings
- MTV Movie Awards spanning several decades
As Depp continues to take daring risks, he cements himself as Hollywood’s most unpredictable shape-shifter. Though attempts at conventional leading man status failed to capture his off-kilter allure, Depp succeeds on his own iconoclastic terms. Beyond his filmography, Depp has nurtured talents like Penelope Cruz in their early English-language roles and aligned himself with envelope-pushing directors inspired by his commitment to quirky roles. In influencing subsequent indie darlings like Ryan Gosling, he has passed his adventurous spirit to a younger generation. While tabloid exploits may splash his name across headlines, on screen Johnny Depp leaves an indelible legacy through his vivid transformations.
FAQ’s About Johnny Depp
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Johnny Depp’s iconic career:
What was Johnny Depp’s first movie role?
Depp’s very first role was in the 1984 horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, playing Glen Lantz, boyfriend to heroine Nancy Thompson. He memorably died in a gory bed scene.
How many times has Depp been nominated for an Academy Award?
Depp has been nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Actor – first for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), then for Finding Neverland (2004), and finally for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).
What was the first Tim Burton film Depp starred in?
Depp’s first collaboration with Burton was Edward Scissorhands in 1990, which launched his reputation as an acclaimed character actor and Burton’s favorite collaborator.
Is Johnny Depp in all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies?
Yes, Depp stars as Captain Jack Sparrow in all five Pirates films spanning from The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003 to Dead Men Tell No Tales in 2017.
What upcoming Johnny Depp movies can fans expect?
Upcoming Depp films include Jeanne du Barry, where he plays King Louis XV, and the animated series Puffins Impossible, where he voices the title character. Depp is also slated to return as Gellert Grindelwald in the third Fantastic Beasts film.
Has Johnny Depp ever directed a movie?
Yes, Depp made his directorial debut with The Rum Diary in 2011, based on the Hunter S. Thompson novel. He also directed the 2020 film Minamata and produced several films with Tim Burton.
Why does Depp often collaborate with Tim Burton?
Depp and Burton’s similarly dark offbeat sensibilities mesh well. Both were perceived as weird outsiders before finding success in Hollywood. Their collaborations span 30 years with 8 films, often featuring Depp in gothic outsider roles that resonate with his and Burton’s aesthetics.
What was Depp’s most recent film role?
Depp’s most recent major film was 2022’s Minamata, which he directed and starred in as war photographer W. Eugene Smith exposing Japanese mercury poisoning. The film underperformed at the box office as Depp’s roles have been more limited following legal issues.
View this post on Instagram
Johnny Depp is a Beautifully Bizarre Iconic Actor
Johnny Depp’s unique path from underemployed dreamer to gothic leading man to swashbuckling megastar reflects the charming unpredictability he folds into eccentric iconoclasts. As Hollywood’s most daring shape-shifter committed to radical metamorphoses inside and out for over 30 years, Depp has certainly fulfilled iconoclastic ambitions beyond typical movie star fame. From cult classics to blockbuster franchises, he has left an indelible mark across genres by bringing sensitivity to dispossessed outsiders.
However, Depp’s career has reached an inflection point amid personal scandals. The ugly legal battle with ex-wife Amber Heard tarnished Depp’s reputation as abuse allegations surfaced regardless of libel trial verdicts. Consequently, major studios may be wary of working with Depp presently. Time will tell whether he can rehabilitate his career by proving himself a bankable leading man again while retaining the quirky edge that made him so beloved. If any performer can engineer an unpredictable career comeback after image crises, the endlessly inventive Depp can write future chapters even more fantastical than fiction. For now, fans will revisit his singular catalogue, celebrating the beautifully bizarre characters only this master chameleon could conjure.