Johnny Depp vs. Keanu Reeves: Who's a better actor?


Fact Box

  • Both Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves are high-school drop-outs; however, Depp left to pursue a career as a rock musician, while Reeves left to pursue acting. 
  • The name Keanu is of Polynesian origin and means “cool mountain breeze.” 
  • According to actor Nicholas Cage, he convinced Johnny Depp to try acting instead of becoming a musician in the ’80s. 
  • In 2011, Keanu Reeves released Ode to Happiness, a collaborative art and poetry book with artist Alexandra Grant. 
  • Some of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood, Johnny Depp made $90 million to play Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, while Keanu Reeves made $83 million starring in The Matrix.

Amanda (Depp)

If this were a comparison of who Hollywood or the internet loved more, Keanu Reeves would almost certainly win. He has a well-deserved reputation as one of the nicest guys working in film, and it’s practically unheard of for a castmate or director to have a bad word to say about him. Johnny Depp? Not so much. But that’s a question of professionalism, not talent, and for the latter, it must be said, Depp is the winner.

Though both Reeves and Depp came up through the industry around the same time, with similar reputations as teenage heartthrobs, Depp always had a much greater range than Reeves. He’s been able to move easily between character roles and leading-man headliners, while Reeves has tended to struggle with character parts.

Depp also made a deliberate decision early on to pursue more unusual and difficult roles, which benefited him throughout his career and helped him to rack up an impressive list of critically acclaimed films. While Reeves has undoubtedly made his share of crowd-pleasers and had successful second – and third – winds, he hasn’t done nearly as much to stretch himself as an actor.

Finally, Depp is simply more of a chameleon; he has radically different takes on his roles in films like Ed Wood, Pirates of the Caribbean, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and can genuinely disappear into parts. Reeves, charismatic as he is, still usually seems to be Keanu Reeves acting in a movie.

Though Depp has sadly coasted in the last few years, struggling both personally and professionally, it’s hard to argue that, overall, he isn’t one of the premiere actors of his generation.

Katia (Reeves)

Keanu Reeves is a better actor than Johnny Depp because, in addition to his acting talent, his charisma and chemistry bring out consistently great performances from his co-stars, which cannot be said of Depp, who acts 'at people' instead of with them.

Reeves brings excitement to his roles through the power of convincing--to the point where, according to Film Critic Hulk, audience members scream, 'He really is John Wick!' He is both 'effortlessly cool' and 'genuinely earnest.' 

Reeves has range, but he is at his best when he sticks to his wheelhouse of adorable slackers and transfixing stillness, which have earned him many awards. Not to mention the fact that he has successfully morphed from teen heartthrob to arthouse muse to full-fledged action star. Depp's early career was repetitious with 'sweet, misunderstood boy' characters and then later swung the other way with over-the-top characters like Jack Sparrow. Not necessarily range, but affectation.  

The New York Times calls Reeves a talent, and DC and Marvel are fighting over who gets to make him part of their cinematic universe. 

He is consistently one of the most respectful men in Hollywood toward his fans and co-stars alike. Something clearly evidenced in the chemistry he has with Sandra Bullock in Speed. The two of them light up the screen. 

Further, it is almost an internet joke that Keanu is ageless, and this allows him to play a wider variety of roles. He is also more self-aware than he lets on, which adds another layer to his performances that anyone can appreciate. There's a reason why Reeves has been dubbed the 'internet's boyfriend.' He's likable onscreen and off.

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