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The BEST and WORST of Johnny Depp

Last updated on: June 11, 2013 17:10 IST

The BEST and WORST of Johnny Depp

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Raja Sen in Mumbai
Johnny Depp turned 50 this weekend, and while we haven't seen the actor set our imaginations alight in the very recent past, there isn't much doubt that he is one of the most captivating leading men of his generation.

Instead of just looking at Depp's finest moments, however, we decided to look also at his weakest films.

Here then are his five best movies, followed by five we'd rather forget:

Edward Scissorhands

Tim Burton crafted this touching fable about a tender young man surviving Frankensteinal loneliness, owing to the absurd fact that he has scissors for hands. He stays in a painfully patient purgatory, locked inside a mansion.

A nosy neighbour interrupts his sleeplessness, and Edward reenters reality. He falls in love with a local girl, and his fingers work wonders on bushes and hairdos, thus more than ensuring his popularity among women. Life, as our snippy Ed discovers, can be quite a good thing.

But the world isn't that simple, as he discovers after accidentally injuring a young boy. Suddenly, the town awakens to the fact that he's not just a freak, but a monster, and turns vindictive.

The dark tale is arguably the best effort to come from the surreal, fabulous Depp/Burton relationship.

Image: Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands


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Donnie Brasco

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In the late 1970's, FBI agent Joe Pistone (Depp) poses as jewel expert Donnie Brasco to win the trust of ageing mob middleman Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino).

As time passes, Donnie gets tighter and tighter into the mob, rising firmly into the upper crime echelons when boss Sonny Black gets bumped up.

While Donnie puts his life at risk, his real life crumbles as he never sees his wife or children. As he moves upwards, his friend Lefty is bypassed time and time again. As Donnie gets deeper, the FBI start to worry and want to extract him -- something that cannot be done without exposing himself and condemning Lefty to death.

It was a tough ask for young Depp, taking on a co-star this legendary, but -- armed with a terrific character -- Depp pretty much stole the show from the veteran actor.

Image: Johnny Depp in Donnie Brasco


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Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

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Terry Gilliam's film based on Hunter S Thompson's "unfilmable" novel is a twisted, outlandish venture into the mind of a warped junkie, a reporter travelling to Nevada to cover a Hells Angels motorcycle race, along with his Samoan attorney Dr Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro, who gained forty pounds for his role).

"We were somewhere around Barstow when the drugs began to take hold," is the line that opens the movie, as a red convertible roars from right to left, towards Vegas.

"We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers. Also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, two dozen amyls."

The narrator of the story is Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp), a balding, stumbling shell of a man, constantly smoking or inhaling drugs, his body overloaded with deadly substances. He is in a permanent stupor throughout the entire film, constantly consuming drugs every time the camera pans on him.

He is the reporter, the main character of the film, and he is in such a daze that after the motorcycle race is over, he's not even sure who has won.

So sitting cramped in his increasingly trashed hotel apartment, he begins clacking away mumbo-jumbo on his typewriter, desperately trying to make sense of the seemingly frenzied world surrounding him.

Brilliant psychedelic insanity, and Depp incandescent as a firefly on acid.

Image: Johnny Depp in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas


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Ed Wood

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In this bizarre Burton biopic, Depp plays Ed Wood, purveyor of celluloid mediocrity.

The infamous creator of the worst films of all time, including Plan 9 From Outer Space, Wood's cinema demonstrated a tacky and absolute lack of decency and taste.

The film thematically explores the basic fear of anyone believing himself to be a creative artiste. The fact is that artists can't take the plunge without the self-assumed right to fail. Wood believed, deludedly, in his warped ideas and thought he was making high art.

But he failed miserably, even as he did all his morals commanded him to: he believed in himself, his dream; worked hard and took groundbreaking initiative; he was an entrepreneur. But the darkly comic tale is tragic at heart: you can try like hell and manage merely to get there.

While Martin Landau is amazing with his Academy Award-winning portrayal of Bela Lugosi, Johnny more than held his own in this stunning film, and critics given to hindsight often rate this as the actor's finest performance.

Image: Johnny Depp in Ed Wood


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Pirates Of The Carribean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

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Captain Jack Sparrow is, quite simply, one of the most original characters ever to grace the silver screen.

Depp laughed and claimed he based the unforgettable Sparrow as a cross between rock dinosaur Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones, and foppish French cartoon skunk Pepe Le Pew.

Richards' influence was overriding, as he swaggered drunkenly around and slurred some fabulous gems of dialogue.

Johnny developed a superbly characteristic walk, a clumsy gait which still managed to possess panache, and Jack Sparrow single-cutlassedly elevated this predictable script to a whole different crow's nest.

And then there was the kohl on the eyes, a masterstroke indeed. Depp managed to create a wonderfully dimensional character of infinite appeal in a film otherwise bordering on sheer tediousness.

Quite a staggering achievement indeed. Hic.

Image: Johnny Depp in Pirates Of The Carribean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl


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The Libertine

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What a waste, this.

Depp plays John Wilmot, the historically notorious second Earl of Rochester, a man steeped as iconically into debauchery as the film's title makes evident.

And yet this Laurence Dunmore film remains spectacularly inert, a mess of unrestrained excess and very little flair.

Depp hams it up excruciatingly and constantly -- it's actually hard to look at him stumble through this pointless monstrosity.

Image: Johnny Depp in The Libertine


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The Astronaut's Wife

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A melodramatic and far-fetched plod through poorly written science fiction, this Rand Ravich film took a couple of solid actors and sadistically put them through the grinder. (And some of us had to stick around to see the mangled debris.)

A painful tale about a dead astronaut's widow feeling the essence of her husband inside her, this is a movie nobody should have to sit through -- and one I bet Charlize Theron and Depp would love struck from their IMDb pages.

Image: Johnny Depp in The Astronaut's Wife


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The Ninth Gate

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There's often some fascinating subtext to be found between the lines even in a weak Roman Polanski film, but this turkey isn't one of those.

Depp stars as a dealer of rare books, and while the film leads him on a quest for a book written by the Devil himself, there's little Depp does here besides travel and walk, and look bewildered.

Depressingly boring, this.

Image: Johnny Depp in The Ninth Gate


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The Tourist

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Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, The Tourist is a very pretty film.

Unfortunately this, a travelling-spy film that never thrills, is also nothing but a pretty film.

Plus, a pretty daft film.

Angelina Jolie looks luminous, Johnny Depp looks confounded, and both actors go through the motions with expert ease: it's just that the motions themselves are silly.

There's some fun dialogue shared between the stars, but this is essentially just inanity that, sadly, pretends to be clever.

Image: Johnny Depp in The Tourist


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Dark Shadows

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A perfectly cast film about a 200-year-old vampire who returns to the 70s?

Directed by Tim Burton? How could this go wrong?

The answer is in many, many ways.

There is excess everywhere, and while Depp tries valiantly to keep the film's energy fun and flippant, this is a film that doesn't seem to know what it's doing or where its heading.

Even if it's all meant to be merry lunacy, the cliched action climax is a pain.

Not worth it at all.

Image: Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows


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