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Top 10 Johnny Depp Performances

VO: Rebecca Brayton
This Hollywood icon has continuously wowed audiences with his ability to play offbeat characters that transcend such things as gender norms. A rare bread of Hollywood A-list actor, he has starred as some of cinema's most unconventional and challenging characters, thrilling audiences with his devotion to fully transforming into another person for the camera. Join as we count down our top 10 favorite Johnny Depp performances.

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Top 10 Johnny Depp Performances

This dynamic actor has played more than a few strange and complex roles. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our top 10 favorite Johnny Depp performances.

Number 10: Wade Walker – “Cry-Baby”

Kicking off our list is Depp’s cult classic performance as a 1950s greaser bad boy who sheds a single tear to drive the girls wild. That is, before he falls in love and learns to cry with both eyes. This role came on the heels of Depp’s “21 Jump Street” success, and helped him avoid becoming a stereotypical heartthrob. Even though he hates dancing in real life, Depp boogied his way onto our list – now if only that were his actual singing voice…

Number 9: George Jung – “Blow”

In this mesmerizing role, Depp portrays real-life cocaine smuggler “Boston George,” who is credited with establishing the American cocaine market in the 1970s. Depp gives an oddly sympathetic and captivating take on the criminal, while chronicling his spectacular rise and downfall. There’s no shortage of greed, danger and introspection in Depp’s portrayal, which proved to be a bright spot on an otherwise questionably-acted film.

Number 8: Benjamin Barker/Sweeney Todd – “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

Sporting one wild hairdo, Depp re-teams with longtime collaborator Tim Burton for a hypnotic performance in a tale of vengeance and cannibalism. As a man who has everything he loves taken from him, Depp’s character becomes a singing throat slasher who takes no prisoners. Not only do we get to hear Johnny’s dulcet tones in this role, we also see him blend comedy with the macabre. Classic Depp!

Number 7: Sam – “Benny & Joon”

This role helped put Johnny Depp on the map: wearing a top hat and sporting a cane, he gives an unparalleled performance of physical comedy that honors Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Depp plays the eccentric cinemaphile Sam who wins people over with his bizarre, yet charming personality. He gets much of the credit for this film’s surprise success, and got many award nominations for his trouble.

Number 6: Gilbert Grape – “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”

In one of his most gentle, bittersweet and enchanting roles, Depp plays a man who must stay in his small town to take care of his mentally handicapped brother and morbidly obese mother. His multifaceted performance helps fuel this touching melodrama, when he could just as easily have let Leo DiCaprio steal the show. We’ll always leave this film feeling choked up.

Number 5: Ed Wood – “Ed Wood”

Depp isn’t typically associated with comedy, but it’s clear he’s got a funny bone. His role as B-movie director Ed Wood celebrates the creative spirit – however misguided – as he strives to make a name for himself by making the worst films ever recorded. Historical inaccuracies aside, this quirky flick renewed Depp’s love of acting, and allowed him to make many more classics in the years that followed.

Number 4: Donnie Brasco/Joseph Pistone – “Donnie Brasco”

Whoever paired Pacino and Depp together was a genius. Johnny gives a restrained performance in this mafia thriller as a real-life undercover FBI agent who befriends a low-level mob hitman. As his character works his way to the top of the organization, Depp gives the riveting performance that made him the Hollywood VIP he is today. Not only did it give him star power, it proved his talents as an actor.

Number 3: Raoul Duke – “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”

In this surreal book-to-screen adaptation, Depp portrays author Hunter S. Thompson under the guise of stoned sportswriter Raoul Duke. As Thompson’s alter-ego, Depp subjects himself to acid-fueled hallucinations, bounces back and forth between highs and lows, and suffers through terrible bursts of paranoia. Even Thompson himself agreed that no one else but Johnny Depp could play him.

Number 2: Edward Scissorhands – “Edward Scissorhands”

This modern gothic Frankenstein tale was the first time Depp and Tim Burton collaborated. Depp plays the misunderstood artist with razor-sharp extremities, and captivates by adding depth and tenderness to the creature who only wishes to be loved. The character communicates through skills that make him both special and feared, and this gives Depp the opportunity to earn sympathy without the use of dialogue.

Number 1: Captain Jack Sparrow – “Pirates of the Caribbean”

Taking the top spot on our list is the role that Depp was born to play. With inspiration from Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards, Depp gives life to this ethical swashbuckler who depends on his wit rather than force. No matter how bad the sequels get, it’s Depp’s lovable, outrageous and relaxed Captain Jack Sparrow that keeps raking in the doubloons.

Are you a big Johnny Depp fan? Which of his other roles should have made our list? For more entertaining movie countdowns, visit us at!

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