Every Johnny Depp Performance In A Tim Burton Movie, Ranked

Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
(Image credit: DreamWorks Pictures )

Now that the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial is long behind us, I thought it was time to focus on what Johnny Depp is most known for, which is his performances. Most notably, his performances in Tim Burton movies.  

Now, we already ranked most of Tim Burton’s films, but this list isn't about that. Because honestly, Ed Wood would go at the top of a list of that nature.  

No, this is a list of Depp's actual performances in said movies. I've already done a similar list with Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, and now, I'm doing one with Burton and Depp. Let's see which performance is a cut above the rest.    

Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

8. Dark Shadows (2012) 

Based on the soap opera of the same name, Dark Shadows sees Depp as a vampire. A very boring vampire. The plot is soap opera-y enough, and the film probably stays close to the source material, but who even cares when the movie is this boring? 

Depp playing a vampire in a Tim Burton movie seems like a match made in heaven, but everything about this movie feels so phoned in, including his performance. Sometimes, a Johnny Depp performance can save a movie, like with some of the later Pirates of the Caribbean flicks (let’s hope he can make a comeback), but not with Dark Shadows, as the only thing that screams vampire in this movie is Depp’s ultra white makeup. Yawn.    

Johnny Depp in Sleepy Hollow

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

7. Sleepy Hollow (1999) 

If this were a list ranking Burton films featuring Depp, Sleepy Hollow would go a lot higher, but as this is a list based on the actor's performances, it lands close to the bottom. It’s not that the performance is bad, per se, as he plays a competent enough police constable as this version’s Ichabod Crane. But, that’s just it. “Competent enough” does not make for a very compelling performance. 

Ichabod is indeed quirky in this film, and again, I do like the movie. But, the performance feels more like Depp doing an impersonation of a kooky Depp role, rather than a genuinely interesting portrayal of the character. In the end, it’s serviceable, sure, but nothing special, and definitely nothing particularly unique. 

Johnny Depp in Corpse Bride

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

6. Corpse Bride (2005)  

Corpse Bride, which sees Depp’s animated character in relationships with two women, one alive, and one dead, is another case of a movie that I would put higher on this list than some of the other flicks here. But, it’s kind of hard for me to make a case for it when the star plays a pretty one note role as Victor, who either sounds frightened, repentant, or frighteningly repentant throughout the entire movie. 

I would say that maybe he just isn’t great at voice acting, but he gave a much better, and more interesting performance in Rango. (Remember Rango?!)

But, to Corpse Bride's credit, I sometimes forget it’s even Depp (even though it looks just like him), so that’s at least a plus, since it means I’m totally engrossed in his performance.  

Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland

(Image credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

5. Alice In Wonderland (2010) 

Alice in Wonderland is an abysmally bad movie, and one that I don’t want to ever watch again, but I will say this: Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter is probably the only interesting thing about the entire film. 

In Depp’s portrayal, the Mad Hatter’s personality shifts quite a bit throughout the movie, making it a rather unpredictable performance. And, I don’t care what anybody says. Even though it was all CG nonsense, seeing him do the “Futterwacken” that he kept going on and on about throughout the entire film was pretty awesome, and peak Johnny Depp/Tim Burton nonsense.    

Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

4. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005) 

I know I’m the only person on the planet who actually likes Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but one of the reasons I do is because of Johnny Depp’s bizarre performance, which is in steep contrast to Gene Wilder’s performance in the classic movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.     

Whereas Wilder’s Wonka was inviting with a bit of darkness to him, Depp’s version is childlike, and almost feels like Michael Jackson if he owned a chocolate factory. He’s cheerful, but aloof, friendly, but distant, and it’s the kind of contradiction-heavy performance that almost feels like a tightrope act. Please give this another chance, people! It’s good!  

Johnny Depp in Ed Wood

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

3. Ed Wood (1994) 

As I mentioned earlier, Ed Wood is my favorite Tim Burton movie, as it just has everything going for it. It’s a history lesson, it’s fun, it’s engaging, and the acting is impeccable. But, while I do enjoy Depp’s performance as the infamous director, I have to say that this is a film where the lead role actually gets overshadowed by supporting roles, most notably by Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi, and Lisa Marie as Vampira. 

Still, that’s not to say that Johnny Depp isn’t great as the titular character. I find his quirky optimism enjoyable, and he definitely carries the movie. I think there’s a reason that he wasn’t nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards (though he was nominated for Best Actor at the Golden Globes for that year, which he lost), whereas Martin Landau was nominated and won Best Supporting Actor, and it’s because the performance is only serviceable. Still, for a movie this good, Depp definitely doesn’t hurt the film.  

Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd

(Image credit: DreamWorks Pictures)

2. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2007) 

Speaking of Academy Awards, he was nominated for Best Actor (but lost) for his portrayal of Sweeney Todd in this musical adaptation where he actually sings. Sweeney Todd sees Johnny Depp play a murderous barber who kills his victims only for them to be served up as meat pies to residents of London. 

He's convincing as somebody who will cut your throat, but is also charming in a way that only Depp could pull off. Plus, as I mentioned, he sings in the movie, which is no small feat, since he’s really good in the role. I honestly wanted to put Sweeney Todd at the top, just for the mere fact that he makes singing about razor blades as his friends seem convincing. But, there can only be one number one Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration, and, strangely enough, it also deals with knives. Or rather, scissors.   

Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands

(Image credit: Disney/Fox)

1. Edward Scissorhands (1990) 

In a lot of ways, Edward Scissorhands is the quintessential Tim Burton movie, and also the quintessential Johnny Depp performance. It’s bizarre, full of imagination and wonder, but also deeply isolating and internal. It’s the kind of performance that you could only see one person pulling off, and that one person is Depp. 

In the film, he plays a half-finished creation, and one that isn’t quite sure if he wants to be normal, or even if normalcy really is a thing at all. He solidified himself as the kind of actor you could call upon if you wanted heartfelt, oddball performances, and honestly, I’m not sure if we’d have the Depp that we have today if not for this performance in Edward Scissorhands, so for that, we can be all thankful. 

For more news on all things Johnny Depp, make sure to swing by here often. 

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.