Movie Stars: Depp, Johnny–Love/Hate with Film Critics

Johnny Depp and the Movie Critics (2010-present, in chronological order):

alice_through_the_looking_glass_11_deppBased on the RottenTomatoes meter, below please find film critics’ degree of approval of Johnny Depp’s films over the past six years.

I would like to suggest that, give and take, the percentage of positive versus negative reviews is an indicator of a film’s critical response, and to a lesser (and more debatable) extent, a barometer of a film’s overall artistic quality.

Alice in Wonderland (2010), 52 percent positive reviews, 48 percent negative reviews

The Tourist (2010), 20 percent positive

Rango (animation, 2011), 87 percent positive

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), 32 percent positive

Rum Diary (2011), 50 percent positive

Dark Shadows (2012), 37 per positive

The Lone Ranger (2013), 31 percent positive

Transcendence (2014), 20 percent positive

Tusk (2014), 41 percent positive

Into the Woods (2014), 74 percent positive

Mortdecai (2015), 13 percent positive

Black Mass (2015), 75 percent positive

Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016), 30 percent positive

I have followed closely Depp’s career and have reviewed his films for Variety and other outlets from the very beginning, and writing this essay has made me very sad.

John Waters gave me a wonderful interview for my book Gay Directors/Gay Films (Columbia University Press) about his work with Depp on Cry-Baby, which went on to become a cult movie years after its initial theatrical debut.

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press)

Incidentally, Waters’ movie was released the same year, 1990, as Edward Scissorhands, the movie that catapulted Depp to major Hollywood stardom.

Black Mass


Last year, Depp gave one of his best performances as real-life convicted crime boss Whitey Bulger in the crime-gangster feature, Black Mass, directed by Scott Cooper.  We were all hoping that, artistically, it would serve as a major career comeback.  Oscar nomination as Best Actor–which would have been his fourth–could have helped, and it was anticipated by several Oscar pundits (including yours truly), but it did not materialize.








It was a competitive year for leading males at the Oscar race, though Depp received his third Best Actor nomination from his colleagues at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

Depp’s Worst Reviewed Film


Panned by most critics, Mortdecai, the wannabe slapstick comedy, received 87 percent negative reviews and only 13 percent positive, thus becoming Depp’s worst reviewed picture in a career spanning almost three decades.






Depp’s Best Reviewed Film

Of the dozen films he has made since 201o, only Rango, the animated feature, has received critical acclaim, with 87 of all reviews positive.

Depp’s Ensemble Movies

Into the Woods, the Sondheim musical made for the big screen by Rob Marshall, has been positively reviewed (74 percent), but it’s an ensemble piece, in which Depp played the small character part of the wolf, but didn’t carry the film on his own shoulders.



Depp Performances We Love











Edward Scissorhands







What’s Eating Ethan Grape?

Photo below: Leonardo DiCaprio as Depp’s younger, mentally challenged brother