Johnny Depp, currently starring in sci-fi thriller Transcendence, has been making films for three decades now; his first big screen appearance was opposite Freddy Kreuger in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, released in 1984.
Here are a few of our favourite performances from throughout his career. Disagree with our choices? Any major omissions? Let us know in the thread below.
1. Pirates of the Caribbean
We probably could have done without some of the sequels, but Depp was tremendous fun as the louch Captain Jack Sparrow in the first Pirates of the Caribbean.
2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Depp moved in with Hunter S Thompson to prepare for his role in this 1998 adaptation of Thompson’s book. The pair remained good friends, and Depp funded Thompson’s (rather unconventional) funeral after the author’s death in 2005.
3. Ed Wood
One of Depp’s many pairings with director Tim Burton, this biopic of the “worst director of all time” is an affectionate celebration of one of cinema’s true originals.
4. Cry Baby
John Waters’ camp 50s-set musical is a hoot. Depp overacts to brilliant effect as the motorcycle-riding bad boy who falls for the girl from the right side of the tracks.
5. Dead Man
Jim Jarmusch’s idiosyncratic western stars Depp as William Blake (not that one), a diffident accountant who finds himself alone and destitute after travelling to a frontier town on the promise of a job that no longer exists.
Sometimes, a great actor will look at a script for a movie he or she is about to star in, and will know the movie is going to be less than stellar. Rather than sigh and phone in the performance as most actors do in such situations, the great actor will smile with glee, knowing that this is the perfect excuse to go over the top and overact like a drunken high school drama student trying to emote hard enough to make Shylock a relatable character instead of an offensive Jewish stereotype. Some movies succeed despite terrible scripts because of these hammy performances, and these are seven of my favorite examples (in no particular order).
- Johnny Depp – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl
This is probably the most obvious example, so let’s get it out of the way first. A couple of decades ago, Johnny Depp had the talent to be an incredible, versatile actor. Unfortunately, after years of tutelage under the wacky likes of Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam, Depp forgot almost everything he learned about genuine dramatic acting in favor of acting ever more eccentric and weird. Right before his complete descent into self-parody (see his performance in The Lone Ranger), Depp struck gold in the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, a potentially interesting secondary character in a ludicrously cliché pirate yarn featuring dozens of one-dimensional archetypes and less originality than a group of 18-year-old film students training under Quentin Tarantino can muster. Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie, but if you had handed me the script before I had seen the final product, I wouldn’t have wanted to wipe my ass with it for fear I might contract some inspiration-sapping infection deep in my bowels. Depp almost single-handedly saved this movie (with some help from Geoffrey Rush, whose own overacting seems tame by comparison) by not even trying to take the role seriously. It’s a shame that he has let the role define him, because now his overacting is ruining movies instead of saving them.
2. Gary Oldman – The Professional
Oldman is–and remains–an amazing actor who can do just about anything he wants. He can seemlessly transform himself from a real-life drug-addled punk-rocker in Sid & Nancy to the notoriously belligerent classical composer Beethoven in Immortal Beloved to the shapeshifting wizard who serves as Harry Potter’s surrogate father with ease, and then go on to earn dozens of serious acting awards for films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Dark Knight. Still, he’s an actor who isn’t afraid to push through the envelope and go crazy. Examples of this are legion–The Fifth Element, Air Force One, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, True Romance, Lost in Space–but the one that stands heads and tails above the others is his role as preposterously corrupt DEA Agent Norman Stansfield in The Professional. Luc Besson movies are all flawed guilty pleasures, but without Gary Oldman’s insane performance, The Professional would be an uncomfortable and morally bankrupt film about a deadly assassin’s creepy relationship with a little girl. Oldman cuts through the abhorrent subject matter and lets audiences know that it’s okay to have fun with it, to laugh instead of gasp when he pops some pills and dances through a low-income apartment with a shotgun, casually killing an entire family. That’s no small achievement.
3. Al Pacino – Devil’s Advocate
Somewhere along the way, Al Pacino fell into the same trap as Johnny Depp, apparently losing a wealth of acting talent to the siren song of overacting. Every once in a while, he pulls out a good performance that reminds us of his glory days, but usually, Al Pacino is something of a joke, a one-note loudmouth who hoots his way through every role so that he can feast on the scenery. This is why, if there were an Oscar for Greatest and Ballsiest Casting Choice, Mary Colquhoun and Nancy Klopper should have shared one for casting Al Pacino as the antagonist in Devil’s Advocate, a patently silly movie about a lawyer who literally works for the Devil. Pacino out-Pacinos himself in the role, playing Satan as a coked-out one-percenter who relishes just being himself. If there is a checklist of things actors should never do, Pacino’s performance would probably check off every single item, and yet, somehow, it works. He makes you love the father of lies, and his climactic monologue against God is, all by itself, worth the price of admission.
4. Whoopi Goldberg – Ghost
Ghost is a stupid movie. There, I said it. I don’t think it’s stupid just because it’s a chick flick that stars Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, but also because it’s a movie about a goddamn ghost who misses making ceramics and listening to the Righteous Brothers with his woman. Reading the script gives you terminal brain cancer. Having said that, I adore Whoopi Goldberg’s performance as Oda Mae Brown, a remorseless conwoman whose fake psychic abilities suddenly work. She is so entertaining and so… Whoopi Goldberg that you can’t help but fall in love with her, despite the awful movie she finds herself in. I dare posit that Ghost would not be remembered or beloved today if it weren’t for Whoopi.
5. Raul Julia – Street Fighter
Still, there are scripts even worse than Ghost. Take, for example, Street Fighter, a movie so bad it sours the reputation of other movies based on video games. It takes a special kind of suck to make Super Mario Brothers and Mortal Kombat look good, but that’s where we are. It’s an incomprehensible movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and, uh, Kylie Minogue, and it’s based on a fighting game with a plot no more complex than “a bunch of totally random characters fight each other in a bunch of totally random locales.” The only notable thing about this abomination of celluloid is that it’s the last movie in which the late, gifted actor Raul Julia starred in. He agreed to do it for his kids, but he never agreed to take it seriously. Indeed, to say he overacts is to undersell it, because Raul Julia breaks all the records for overacting that exist. No one will ever be able to go any further over the top than Raul Julia uttering the following dialogue: “For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life, but for me, it was Tuesday.”
6. Alan Rickman – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
In its day, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was a decent movie, as Robin Hood movies go. It introduced Morgan Freeman to a wider audience, made Bryan Adams ridiculously popular amongst middle-aged mothers for a few months, and almost convinced the world that a mulletted Kevin Costner and Christian Slater could be related. Unfortunately, it has aged about as well as room-temperature lowfat yogurt. If you have fond memories of it from a couple of decades ago, do yourself a favor and never watch it again, unless you just watch YouTube snippets of Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham. Rickman builds off of his great hammy acting job in Die Hard and creates a villain who is so cartoonishly loathesome you can’t help but smile when he insists on cancelling Christmas or cutting hearts out with spoons.
7. Jack Nicholson – As Good As It Gets
The script for As Good As It Gets calls for a neurotic, bigoted, homophobic, cynical, racist asshole who is somehow redeemed by his romantic feelings for an eternally patient waitress. This movie simply should not work, because it depends on audiences liking the protagonist despite him being the least likable human being in existence. 90% of his dialogue is patently offensive and, on its own, the opposite of funny, but the script is written as a romantic comedy. It makes no sense, until you give this impossible role to Jack Nicholson, who is somehow loveable when he says things like, “I’ve got Jews at my table,” or “Oh, you were talking about your dog. I thought you were referring to that colored man inside your apartment.” Nicholson magically makes his character fun by making him even worse than the script calls for, and yet, that’s exactly what is needed. That’s a sure sign of a talented actor: the ability to know when to overdo it.
Jack Black and Boy George have paid tribute to The Doors with an amazing performance of Hello, I Love You.
The two stars were praising the legendary group when chat show host Conan O’Brien suggested if they liked them so much, they could perform one of their songs.
The discussion began when the presenter admitted he didn’t hear The Doors’ influence on Boy George’s music.
Jack argued: “What’s wrong with The Doors? The Doors are rad!”
After a chat about the late Jim Morrison and his iconic “yelling”, Conan threw down the guantlet.
He teased: “If you both love The Doors so much, why don’t you both sing a Doors song now?”
Guitarist Robby Krieger – who was a member of the band form the mid-19960s until the end of their run – was then introduced, creating a true supergroup.
Meanwhile, Jack Back fans will have no doubt been excited after the terrifying and hilarious trailer was revealed for the upcoming Goosebumps movie.
He stars as R.L. Stine in the movie adaptation of his terrifying series – which will bring feelings of terror and nostalgia for all 90s kids.
With creatures like Slappy the Dummy, the Abominable Snowman and gangs of evil garden gnomes causing havoc in our world, the film could become Jumanji for a new generation.
1. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
The first Ace Ventura is the movie that made Jim Carrey a huge star. It grossed $72 million, but had a lower budget. It has a strong 6.6 rating on IMDB and Carrey received good reviews for his performance as the bumbling pet detective assigned to rescue the Miami mascot before the Super Bowl. The sequel made more money than the original, but didn’t receive the same warm reception. The first Ace Ventura still appears on TV many times today, and is responsible for much of Carrey’s career.
2. Dumb and Dumber (1994)
This Jim Carrey hit grossed $127 million in 1994, a big chunk of money. It also scored a 7.2 on IMDB among its favorable reviews from critics. The movie is a fixture on cable television to this day, cementing its legacy as one of Carrey’s most popular movies. It also spawned a TV series and a spin-off.
3. The Truman Show (1998)
Carrey entered more dramatic territory with this Peter Weir film about a man who is unaware that his whole life is a reality show. It was a highly original film that grossed $125 million at the box office. It has an 8.0 rating on IMDB puts in the Top 250 on that site. Carrey received a lot of praise for his performance in the film.
4. Liar, Liar (1997)
Prior to Liar, Liar in 1997, Jim Carrey had a couple of flops and his start was thought to be fading. Reuniting with director Tom Shadyac, Carrey played a lawyer who can only tell the truth for 24 hours. It grossed $181 million and produced solid critical and audience responses. It also restored Carrey as a box office star.
5. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
This is Carrey’s highest grossing movie, pulling in $260 million domestic. It received modest reviews, but became a popular holiday hit. It was directed by Ron Howard.
6. The Mask (1994)
No Jim Carrey movie list is complete without this comedy masterpiece. Box office earnings and ratings aside The Mask is a definite favorite of mine, along with 71,575 voters on IMDB. If this list was made based on humor genius alone, The Mask would top this list. Hands down.
- Action: The Dark Knight (2008)
- Adventure: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Seven Samurai (1954) both have two mentions
- Biopic: Raging Bull (1980) has two mentions – but also two more that see it as mainly a Sports movie
- Coming of Age: The Breakfast Club (1985) has two mentions
- Fantasy: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) and Pan’s Labyrinth or El Labrintho del Fauno (2006) both have two mentions
- Gangster: The Godfather (1972) has three mentions (plus one more under the parent genre “Crime”)
- Musical: Singin’ in the Rain (1952) has two mentions
- Mystery: Rear Window (1954) has three mentions
- Romance: Casablanca (1942) has two mentions
- Sports: Rocky (1976) has two mentions – Raging Bull (1980) also has two, but also two more that see it as mainly a Biopic
- Thriller: The Silence of the Lambs (1991) has two mentions
- War: Saving Private Ryan (1998) has two mentions
- Western: The Searchers (1956) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) both have two mentions
Many will be aware of the new Hollywood film which has been recently released entitled: ‘Dracula Untold’. It might not be well known that, supernatural powers aside, the tale of Dracula is actually based on a real person. Unfortunately however, this film is such a fictitious remake that it speaks volumes about the rise of Islamophobia as well as it does about the West’s attempts to seek to rewrite history by glamourising mass murders whilst peddling the fear of the ‘Muslim invaders’. What follows is a summarised account of the real, well-known history of Dracula.
Vlad Dracula was a three-time Voivode of Wallachia (modern day Romania), ruling mainly from 1456 to 1462, the period of the emergent Uthmani Khilafah, the Ottoman Caliphate, and its conquest of the Balkans. His father, Vlad II Dracul, was a member of the Order of the Dragon, which was founded to protect Christianity in Eastern Europe and was fashioned after the military orders of the Crusades requiring initiates to defend the Cross and fight the so-called “enemies of Christianity”, in particular the Muslim Ottoman Caliphate.
There was a time, when much of what is modern Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, the Balkans, the Crimea and almost all of southern Russia was ruled by Muslims. This was once part of the Muslim heartland of Islām, the Ottomon Empire and produced many great leaders and scholars. Today of course, the only majority Muslim community found in mainland Europe is in Bosnia, Kosovo and al-Baniya, Albania.
The Christian communities in Hungary and Wallachia wanted to fight against the Ottomans, however they were very weak and there was much disunity amongst them. In 1436, Vlad II Dracul ascended to the throne in Wallacia only to be dethroned by those loyal to the King in Hungary, János Hunyadi. Vlad II sought the help of the Ottoman Muslims who in turn sought payment of the Jiz’yah, a tax which non-Muslims pay to a Muslim ruler in return for their protection from outside nations. As part of this deal, Sultan Murad II asked that Vlad II send two of his four sons to Istanbul to be educated. Vlad II agreed and so he sent his two sons and he in turn was ascended to the throne again in Wallachia by the Ottomans.
The two sons who travelled back with the Muslims to Edirne were Vlad Dracula and his younger brother, Radu. Vlad is the one who we have now come to know as Dracula because the word Dracula means ‘son of Dracul’ which was the name of his father. The word ‘Dracula’ has of course since taken on a different meaning, being synonymous with a devilish evil, and we will see why this is.
Whilst under the tutelage of the Ottoman Muslims, the boys were provided with education including that of Islamic texts. Radu became Muslim and was a close friend with the young boy of the Sultan Murad II, Muḥammad (Mehmet II). Vlad however was rebellious and is recorded to have developed a well-known hatred for Muslims even though he too studied the Qur’ān, spoke Arabic, Persian, Turkish and of course Wallachian (Romanian).
In 1447 the King of Hungary attacked Wallachia and killed Vlad Dracula and Radu’s father and brothers. Given that Vlad’s father had paid the Jiz’yah, the Muslims defended them against the Hungarians and they installed Vlad Dracula in power.
In the meantime, Radu at the age of 22 became a leading Mujāhid (one who strives in the path of Allāh) within the Ottoman court and commanded the Janissaries (the foreign contingent of the army). He was sent by his good friend Muḥammad, who by this stage had become the Sultan at the age of 19, to subdue various rebellions such as that in Anatolia. Perhaps more importantly, he participated alongside Sultan Muḥammad in the Ottomon siege which eventually led to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Constantinople was the capital city for the Roman Byzantine Empire. Napoleon was quoted as once saying, “If the Earth were a single state, Constantinople would be its capital” . As for Sultan Muḥammad, he was from here on forever to be known as Muḥammad Fātiḥ (Muḥammad the Conqueror), and his new city was from here on forever to be referred to as Islambul, meaning the “City of Islām”. It should be noted that it was only during the secularisation process of Ataturk where it took on the name of ‘Istanbul’ which has no relevant meaning. Incidentally, there are coins in the British Museum from 1730 where the name of the city, Islambul is clearly imprinted . By conquering Constantinople, Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ had also fulfilled the blessed words of the Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) who said concerning this event:
“Verily, Constantinople shall be conquered. Its commander shall be the best commander ever, and his army shall be the best army ever.”
With the fall of Constantinople, Pope Pius II called for crusade in 1459 against the Ottoman Muslims, at the Congress of Mantua. In this crusade, the main role was to be played by Matthias Corvinus, son of János Hunyadi, the King of Hungary. To this effect, Matthias Corvinus received from the Pope 40,000 golden coins, an amount that was thought to be enough to gather an army of 12,000 men and purchase 10 warships. In this context, Vlad Dracula allied himself with Matthias Corvinus, whose family it should be remembered killed his family, with the hope of keeping the Ottomans out of the country.
The Declaration of War
Later that year, Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ sent emissaries to Vlad in Wallachia to urge him to pay a delayed jiz’yah which Vlad Dracula had put off paying. Unknown to the Ottomans, Vlad Dracula had already allied himself with the Hungarians and joined the Pope’s call for a Crusade against them. Vlad Dracula met with the emissaries and said to them, “If you want to step inside of my port, you have to take off your turban and bow.” The Muslims responded that they would not remove their turban and “we only bow to Allāh”. So Vlad once again demanded, “Take it off” and again they refused. Vlad Dracula then told someone to come with some very big nails and hammers and he said, “If they refuse to remove it for me then they will never remove it again.” And he commanded that their turbans be nailed into their heads. Of course, this resulted in them being killed – this act was a declaration of war against the Muslims which Vlad Dracula had been spoiling for.
Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ sent the Bey of Nicopolis, Hamza Pasha to eliminate Vlad Dracula. Vlad Dracula however planned an ambush. Hamza Pasha, the Bey of Nicopolis, brought with him 10,000 cavalry and when passing through a narrow pass north of Giurgiu, Vlad Dracula launched a surprise attack. The Christians had the Muslims surrounded and defeated and almost all of them were caught and impaled, with Hamza Pasha impaled on the highest stake to show his rank. Impalement was Vlad Dracula’s preferred method of torture and execution and it was this which makes him stand out in being remembered as absolutely evil and barbaric. Impalement is the penetration of an organism by an object such as a stake, pole, spear or hook, by complete (or partial) perforation of the body, often the central body mass. What they would do is get a very long stick, make sharp one end and insert it through a person’s back passage, driving it through their body until it came out of their mouth. Often, the victims would be alive and this is how they would be killed. Then they would put this stick into the ground and impale others, putting them next to each other.
In the winter of 1462, Vlad Dracula crossed the Danube and devastated the entire Bulgarian land in the area between Serbia and the Black Sea. Disguising himself as Turkish, utilising the fluent Turkish he had learned whilst under the care of the Muslims, he infiltrated and destroyed Ottoman camps. In a letter to Corvinus of Hungary, he wrote:
“I have killed peasant men and women, old and young… We killed 23,884 Turks (Muslims) without counting those whom we burned in homes or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers… Thus, your highness, you must know that I have completely broken any peace with him (Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ).”
Vlad Dracula’s attack was celebrated by the then western Christendom; the Saxon cities of Transylvania, the Italian states and the Pope. A Venetian envoy, upon hearing about the news at the court of Corvinus, expressed great joy and said that the whole of Christianity should celebrate Vlad’s successful campaign. The Genoese from Caffa also thanked him.
In response to this, Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ raised an army of around 60,000 troops and 30,000 irregulars, and in spring of 1462 headed towards Wallachia. This army was under the Sultan’s commandership and in its ranks was his friend and brave Mujāhid, Radu. Vlad Dracula was unable to stop the Ottomans from crossing the Danube on June 4, 1462 and on entering Wallachia, they found that on one of the very long roads leading to the capital of this area were 20,000 Muslims impaled along the sides of these roads. Imagine this, we suffer today no doubt but incidents of such brute are very rare indeed. You can imagine how Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ felt to see even one Muslim killed which was too much to bare, but to mutilate their bodies after this was something, which was beyond acceptable.
Vlad Dracula constantly organised small attacks and ambushes on the Muslims and adopted what we would call today ‘Guerrilla warfare’. Pausing for a moment and thinking of the current state of the Muslim world, it is clear that it is now the Muslims who usually adopt guerrilla tactics in view of their weakness and inferior military might whereas Muslims were in the time of Muḥammad Fātiḥ, the superpower of the day.
The End Game
After some time, Radu, who remained faithful to Islām and the Sultan and spent his entire life on the frontlines of Jihād and battle in protection of the frontiers of the Ottoman Empire, was charged with the responsibility of pursuing his brother and thus showing the world that in Islām, brotherhood in faith is given priority over blood relations where they have an enmity towards the faith. Vlad Dracula was running out of funds and returned to Hungary to seek help from Corvinus, who instead of helping Vlad Dracula, imprisoned him as he was seen as a liability even for the Christians. In his absence, Radu defeated the remnants of Vlad Dracula’s army and became the ruler in Wallachia and he ruled from 1463-1473 when he died at the age of 40. Meanwhile, Vlad Dracula was released from prison and he returned to Wallachia once again and retook power in 1476 with Hungarian support. He immediately assembled an army and invaded Bosnia, slaughtering its Muslim population and impaling 8,000 on stakes in a forest of human bodies. Vlad Dracula had arisen from the darkness with the objective of eliminating Islām from the Balkans once and for all and installing Christianity. Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ invaded Wallachia and faced the forces of Vlad in Bucharest, Romania. Vlad’s army was overrun in a blitz and all were killed, including Vlad himself. His head was removed from his body and was taken back to Istanbul. They impaled his head and put it at the gates of Islambul where it stood for about 2 – 3 months to send a clear message to others. “If you want to be like this man, then dare wage war against us.”
7. The Rum Diary
When American journalist Paul Kemp takes a freelance job for a local newspaper in Puerto Rico during the 1950s, he realizes he must work to find the balance between island culture and the expatriates who live there. Based on an early novel by Hunter S. Thompson, Depp’s portrayal in the film adaptation engages all the treachery, rum and lush writing fans of the book can expect.
6. Cry Baby
Teen musical? Check! This 1990 American cult classic featured the likes of Iggy Pop, Amy Locane, Traci Lords, Ricki Lake, Kim McGuire, David Nelson, Susan Tyrrell and Patty Hearst.
5. Sleepy Hollow
The brainchild of Burton and Depp began on the set of Burton’s 1999 period horror film adaptation inspired by the 19th century short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In total, the two have partnered for six films. This May, Burton and Depp will drop Dark Shadows, rounding out the collaboration to a healthy seven films.
4. Pirates of The Caribbean
All judgment aside, Johnny Depp made a character everyone loved. The first Pirates of the Caribbean film was a huge commercial success and pretty well-received by critics. Pirates became cool again because Johnny Depp created a bumbling, funny character based off of a real-life character (Keith Richards) that everyone could get along with. So despite any animosity you may still hold towards the now quadrilogy, admit it… He’s Captain Jack Sparrow.
3. Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas
Hunter S. Tompson created Raoul Duke. Johnny Depp brought him life. The book’s tales of the psychedelic escapades of Duke and Dr. Gonzo pioneered gonzo journalism and brought explosive social reactions. The 1998 film was a box-office failure but became an American cult classic. Depp almost didn’t get the opportunity to play the role he’s made iconic, as Jack Nicholson, Dan Aykroyd and John Cusack were all considered for the part.
2. Edward Scissorhands
It’s a story of an uncommonly gentle man. The unfinished Edward is taken in by a suburban family. He subsequently falls in love with their teenage daughter. The seemingly rudimentary plot drives a powerful perspective on civilization’s corruption of innocence along with themes of isolation and self-discovery. Gothic archetypes and German expressionism line the floor for the iconic way-before-its-time 1990 American romantic fantasy film.
We’re not talking about Blow the film. We’re talking about Blow Johnny Depp. Despite the overall mild reception of the 2001 biopic, Depp took “Boston George” Jacob Jung and rang him through our emotions and our minds. He’s the king of destruction, a desperate, egotistic, fatally flawed human being who never gets a leg up, always lets someone down and cannot surpass his greed. Depp’s riviting performance makes his portrayal of Jung our favorite of all.