If you’d never seen a Johnny Depp movie made before the dawn of the 21st century then you’d be forgiven for thinking that the genetically blessed actor was nothing but a pretty boy hack with a talent limited to pirate-themed Keith Richards impersonations. Things were not always so. While Y2K may have created a glitch in Depp’s script-picking skills, back in the ’90s Johnny made multiple movies a year—and nearly all of them were worth seeing. Things didn’t start to go south for the actor until 1999’s The Astronaut’s Wife (its 16% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes was a definite harbinger of the coming Depp doom).
But for the 25th anniversary of Edward Scissorhands—the film that made Johnny Depp a household name—we’re looking on the bright side of his CV by pointing out that for every flop Depp’s put his name on since 2000, there’s a Johnny-made gem just waiting to be dug out of his ’90s-era catalogue. Check these out:
’90s Johnny Depp: A look back at the former awesomeness
The Tourist vs. Arizona DreamThe debate over whether or not The Tourist, promoted as a romantic thriller and received as a comedy (by no less than the Golden Globes), was intended to be funny is perhaps the only interesting thing about this movie. In contrast, 1992's Arizona Dream saw Depp work with two-time Palme D'or winner Emir Kusturica to produce an unusual and unpredictable film that borders on experimental. Less recycled ideas, more risk-taking please.Columbia Pictures/Warner Bros.
The Rum Diary vs. Fear and Loathing in Las VegasNot all movies based on Hunter S. Thompson novels are created equally. See: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diary. The former is a Johnny Depp-starring movie that features a drug-addled duo (Depp and Benicio del Toro) hilariously reporting on a narcotics convention for district attorneys. The latter is a Johnny Depp-starring movie that features an actual cock fight. Ick.GK Films/Universal
The Lone Ranger vs. Sleepy Hollow1999 was the year when things began to go downhill for the star (other than when he's doing his Pirates thing) but Sleepy Hollow still had lots going for it—one thing being Depp's cheekbones. The steampunk-tinged take on Washington Irving's spooky tale was a big hit with audiences, even while Depp began to slip in critics' esteem. But by the time Lone Ranger came out in 2013, getting back on the horse (literally) couldn't revive the star's reputation as a good reason to go to the movies.Disney/Paramount
Mortdecai vs. Donnie BrascoSince its release earlier this year, Mortdecai has become more of a punchline than a movie title. Not so for Academy Award-nominated Donnie Brasco which features Depp in the title role as an undercover FBI agent who infiltrates the mafia. This is the based-on-a-true-story movie that brought us the oft-quoted line “Fuggetaboutit" uttered, naturally, by Depp himself.Lionsgate/TriStar Pictures
London Fields vs. What's Eating Gilbert GrapeLondon Fields is the worst Depp movie you'll never see. It was pulled from last fall's TIFF lineup after the director launched a lawsuit against the producers—but not before we suffered through it. But for this grainy photo, the internet was scrubbed clean of evidence of Depp's involvement. Better to remember him as the conflicted, caring, incredibly good-looking older brother to Leonardo DiCaprio's character in the wonderfully quirky Gilbert Grape. Not that you need us to tell you that after seeing these photos.Lionsgate/Paramount
The Libertine vs. Cry-BabyWe sincerely hope you were spared from seeing The Libertine, in which Depp wears one of the worst wigs to ever appear on screen paired with a gold nose. (Because: syphilis.) The next time someone dumps you, passes you up for a raise, or frames you for larceny, mail them a DVD of this movie and consider yourself even. If you did see this cinematic travesty, erase the memory by watching Cry-Baby, a 1990 John Waters wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance where Depp plays the title character. It's a bonafide cult classic.The Weinstein Company/Universal
Jack and Jill vs. Benny and JoonIf you can't recall Jack and Jill it's probably because the mind has defense mechanisms that safeguard against traumatic memories. Your brain likely repressed the fact that Depp did a cameo in an Adam Sandler movie. Thanks, brain. Benny and Joon, however, features Depp at his comedic best—channeling the greats of physical humour: Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.Columbia Pictures/MGM
Dark Shadows vs. Edward ScissorhandsIt's hard to believe that the same actor/director duo who made a movie in which a 50-year-old man tries, in vain, to mug like little boy also made a movie in which a 26-year-old man tries, successfully, to mug like a little boy. Wide-eyed innocence works in your twenties. And then it doesn't. Edward Scissorhands floated on the chemistry between Depp and co-star Winona Ryder. Dark Shadows sunk—despite a budget seven-and-a-half times bigger.Warner Bros./20th Century Fox