Best: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Before Pirates , Depp was a hugely respected talent, who had balanced offbeat character tics, heart-throb status and sheer cool to popular effect. After Pirates , he was an undisputed global megastar.
The first installment in the now-ginormous franchise was solid, good old-fashioned fun, but it was anchored by an unforgettable performance by Depp.
Captain Jack Sparrow has already bagged his place as a genuinely iconic character in film history. Kudos to Gore Verbinski, Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney for allowing Depp to lead a big-budget action adventure as a hero who's more camp, drunk and swaggering than he is, well, heroic.
Worst: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
It's such a shame that Jack Sparrow didn't get the franchise he deserved.
While we were hoping for standalone Indiana Jones -style adventures, we got lumbered with a tedious mythology, fun-draining secondary characters, convoluted plotting, and nowhere near enough Sparrow for our buck.
At World's End is arguably the worst of the sequels, as it introduced even more unnecessary characters before even starting on Part II 's loose ends. Here's hoping Pirates 4 gives the franchise the shake-up it needs this summer.
Best: Ed Wood (1994)
Tim Burton is a huge part of Johnny Depp's career, and it doesn't seem like that's ever going to change (the pair are currently gearing up to shoot Dark Shadows , which will be their eight collaboration).
The two idiosyncratic oddballs have become giants within the Hollywood Studio system. Ed Wood was one of their least successful films financially, but it's also one of their most atypical, and best.
Burton shows a restraint that he's never matched before or since, and the pair bring heart to the title character, who remains endearingly optimistic in the face of failure and disappointment.
Worst: Benny and Joon (1993)
Here Depp showcased his impressive skills as a physical comedian, but sadly that was the only interesting thing on offer.
At the story's core is outsider Sam (Depp), who falls for Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson), when he moves in with her brother Benny (Aidan Quinn).
Depp's Buster Keaton-esque capering punctuates the meandering narrative, but there's a patronising tone in the film's uneven treatment of mental illness, with Sam and Joon's relationship verging on the exploitative.
Best: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Another Burton movie, and here Depp's disturbingly madcap performance as the reclusive confectioner was one of the main attractions in this Roald Dahl theme park come to life.
The story is thin (a thrown in daddy-issue subplot fails to yield any substance), but it's easy enough to get distracted by the visual feast on display, and Burton really captures the wonder of Wonka's marvellous factory.
It doesn't hurt that Freddie Highmore plays Charlie either, ensuring the audience really feels for the little blighter and his quest for a golden ticket.
Worst: Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Perhaps Lewis Carroll's trip down the rabbit hole was already too Burtonesque to need an adaptation, but whatever the reason, this disappoints on almost every level.
Depp as the Mad Hatter also sounded too good to be true, and in fact it was, as the character's kerazeeness quickly becomes an exercise in self-indulgence.
Alice also suffered from an unengaging lead in Mia Wasikowska (who has since proved herself to be an extremely capable actress), and poor CGI (Helena Bonham Carter's giant bonce excluded) which failed to bring the book's world to life in the way that Burton managed with Chocolate Factory 's sets.
Best: Platoon (1986)
Early in his career, Depp secured a small role in one of Oliver Stone's best movies.
As grunt Lerner, he doesn't get much screentime, but he still manages to ooze his unique brand of cool.
And his fresh face lends itself to a character who goes from carefree rebel to disaffected soldier caught up in Stone's hellish recreation of Vietnam combat.
Worst: The Ninth Gate (1999)
One would have hoped that the teaming of Roman Polanski and Johnny Depp for a supernatural thriller would have resulted in something a little more thrilling, disturbing, or just plain interesting, than this.
Anything a little less vanilla would have been a relief. Indeed, as Depp's book-dealer goes off on a jaunt around Europe to seek out some texts that may be able to summon the devil, it's hard to believe this shares a director with Rosemary's Baby .
Frank Langella's sinister collector provides good value ham, but even he's unable to convert this mess into a guilty pleasure.
Best: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Depp's first movie role was in Wes Craven's classic horror. Some of the effects may seem a little dated now, but Nightmare steel feels fresh, especially in comparison to the recent shoddy remake.
Improved VFX capabilities couldn't outdo the scare factor here, as Craven plays with primal fears, Freudian motifs and a surprising amount of subtlety for a mainstream slasher.
Johnny may occupy the token boyfriend role, but he's gifted with one of the most memorable death scenes in 80s horror, as he's pulled into his bed and ejected as a geyser of gore...
Worst: The Astronaut's Wife (1999)
1999 was a bad year for Depp and supernatural horror. As well as starring in Polanski-directed misfire The Ninth Gate , he also appeared in this Polanski-aping sci-fi horror.
He plays an astronaut who may have been possessed by an alien being during a brief 'communication blackout' on a mission. The accent supremo adopts a southern drawl, but that's the extent of the acting he does here.
To be fair, the script doesn't really allow much room for ambiguity, despite a promising, if derivative, premise.
Best: Finding Neverland (2004)
Before they teamed up for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , Depp and Freddie Highmore showed a very affecting chemistry in Marc Forster's movie about the Peter Pan scribe.
Depp, with a faultless Scottish accent, gives J.M. Barrie a natural, child-friendly energy, without ever approaching the zany zone.
Forster opts to keep the story simple (batting off any dodgy overtones or troubling questions) and truncated (it covers the period of Pan 's creation only), which helps magnify to the film's impending emotional pay-off.
Worst: The Man Who Cried (2000)
Depp's not the only one whose talents are wasted here. Christina Ricci and Cate Blanchett aren't given room to shine, and Jon Turturro is embarrassingly OTT.
Ricci stars as a Russian refugee separated from her father at a young age. After growing up in England, she wants to go to America to find Daddy but gets waylaid in Nazi-occupied France.
Some heavy-handed imagery, paired with a selection of duff accents, make it almost impossible to connect with The Man Who Cried , despite the underlying feeling that there is an interesting story to be told.
Best: Edward Scissorhands (1990)
It's no surprise that Edward Scissorhands started a longstanding creative partnership between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, as the modern fairytale feels like the perfect combination of director, star and subject matter.
It's hard to imagine anyone else as the none-more-Burton outcast, a scarred, sensitive goth with safety-hazard digits.
Burton nails the tone of his offbeat love story perfectly, punctuating the pathos-soaked tone with humour, and a garishly-stylised suburbia.
Worst: The Libertine (2004)
Depp seems to be having a ton of fun here, enjoying himself much more than any audience members will be. As always, he still exudes his natural screen appeal, which is far more than the movie deserves.
Depp plays the Earl of Rochester, tasked by Charles II (John Malkovich) to write a play for the French ambassador, and he churns out Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery .
The problem is, the film is never quite debauched enough to be shocking (or even funny), and it's also pointless attempting to engage with any of the characters.
Best: Donnie Brasco (1997)
This movie was one of Depp's earliest chances to show what he could do with an uncharacteristically intense role: shine.
He's the title character, an undercover FBI agent infiltrating a prominent mafia family in the 70s. While there are familiar beats here to satisfy those looking for generic mob movie trappings, the movie is anchored by Depp and his relationship with hitman Lefty (Al Pacino).
Depp does exceptionally well portraying the psychological strain that comes with going under cover, and the movie is also well-remembered for its focus on the finer minutiae of mob culture: "Forget about it!"
Worst: Secret Window (2004)
As far a Stephen King adaptations go, this falls distinctly into the weaker half, despite centring on the troubled writer motif that also appeared in The Shining and Misery .
Depp plays Mort Rainey, an author who, suffering from writer's block and in the midst of divorcing his wife, retreats to a remote log cabin, where he's visited by a sinister hick (Jon Turturro) who claims Mort has ripped off one of his stories.
There's a laughably obvious twist on its way, and Depp seems to be the only one interested in approaching the movie with anything resembling lightheartedness.
Best: What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
Perhaps the purest distillation of Depp's 'disaffected innocent' screen persona, with director Lasse Hallstrom plonking him into a movie that's perfectly attuned to his unconventional presence.
In the hands of another actor, Gilbert Grape could have been an insufferable moper, but Depp turns him into an altogether beguiling character, finding the humanity beneath the stoic, isolated existence of the big brother/father figure.
And it doesn't hurt that he's supported by Leonardo DiCaprio in an utterly superb early performance.
Worst: Chocolat (2000)
A film that's not short on sensual pleasures but has little lasting nutritional value.
Juliette Binoche is the drifting chocolatier who has an almost supernatural mastery of her craft, and whose creations inject some much needed life into a sleepy, buttoned-down village.
Gilbert Grape director Lasse Hallstrom must have known that Depp could sleepwalk the role of 'sexy gypsy with a funny accent', and he does. Moderate fun in the moment, but totally forgettable.
Best: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Gilliam has an ace double act at the centre of his necessarily chaotic adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's gonzo classic.
Benicio Del Toro is attorney Dr Gonzo to Depp's Raoul Duke. As the pair head to Las Vegas to cover the Mint 400 motorbike rally, they encounter picaresque supporting characters (Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire), drug-induced hallucinations and the odd convention.
During his extensive preparation for the role, Depp struck up a friendship with Thompson that lasted until the writer's death.
Worst: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
You can't fault Johnny Depp's motives for taking a role here, helping Terry Gilliam complete Heath Ledger's final movie after his tragic death.
Depp does actually get one of the best scenes, briefly playing an Imaginarium-Tony trying to win a soul in the fantasy environment (and from some angles he looks eerily like Ledger).
Ledger's replacements actually slot in surprisingly well, so they can't be blamed for the fact that the movie is a disjointed muddle that fails to live up to its ambitions.
Best: Once Upon a Time In Mexico (2003)
Depp had a surprisingly big role in Robert Rodriguez's third Mariachi movie (the restless narrative means there's not a main character, strictly speaking).
It's pointless attempting to follow the plot, as Depp's calculating CIA man plays all sides of a drug-related Mexican coup off against each other. You've just got to sit back and enjoy Rodriguez's giddily-inventive action, which rarely slows down.
Depp is also a pleasure from start to finish, never short of a sarky quip, funny T-shirt or an innovative plan of action.
Worst: Blow (2001)
While Blow sticks to the Boogie Nights / Goodfellas formula of 'drugs equals good times for a while, before the inevitable lows kick in', it does it with none of the characterisation or narrative energy of those two classics.
It fatally lacks the zip that this kind of story needs, and even Depp (under a succession of awful haircuts) can't seem to make George Jung likeable, especially when the heavy-handed moral message starts to loom large.
Best: Public Enemies (2009)
In Michael Mann's period Heat , Depp invests John Dillinger with charisma befitting the fast-living bank robber who became something of a 30s Robin Hood figure in his celebrity.
Public Enemies brims with detail, and though it plays out against the backdrop of J. Edgar Hoover establishing the FBI, the central driving force is the rivalry between Dillinger and G-Man Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), and the conflict of the two men's ideals.
Dillinger's relationship with Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) adds emotional heft to what could have been a boys and guns tale (though, in typical Mann style, the shootouts are brutally involving).
Worst: The Tourist (2010)
The combination of (let's face it) the movie world's two sexiest leads was another disappointing proof that screen chemistry has no fail-safe formula.
It was also another baffling example of a classy European director (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, The Lives of Others ) fluffing a Hollywood crossover.
Despite the star-wattage and exciting, screen-friendly location, The Tourist seems happy to coast by, looking undeniably stunning but failing to engage in any other way.
Best: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Another win for the Burton-Depp combo, with the actor here showing that his vocal chords can handle singing as well as they do accents.
On paper it sounds like it shouldn't have worked, but Burton's blend of Grand Guignol gore, musical numbers and tragic parable sits surprisingly comfortably, with Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Alan Rickman performing Stephen Sondheim's songs to wonderful effect.
Worst: Nick of Time (1995)
Evidence, if any was needed, that Johnny Depp and generic thrillers don't mix. Here, he's an Average Joe bullied into assassinating a governor with threats on his daughter's life.
The film attempts to play out in real-time (hence the woeful title), but even that gambit fails to generate any noticeable tension.
It is scientifically impossible to entirely hate a movie that has Christopher Walken on snarling villain mode, though.