Johnny Depp is one of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors known for bringing complex, intriguing characters to life on screen. While he is renowned for his transformative roles, many of Depp’s films also impart meaningful lessons about self-respect.

Three movies in particular—Edward Scissorhands, Finding Neverland, and Public Enemies—explore themes of inner worth, staying true to oneself, and the emptiness of an identity built without a foundation of self-respect.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

In Edward Scissorhands, Depp plays Edward, a gentle but lonely creature who was abandoned by his inventor before having normal hands. Instead, he was given scissor blades that have become his hands. Edward is taken in by a kind suburban family, but faces rejection from the close-knit community due to his unusual appearance and inability to do everyday tasks without his scissorhands.

Despite Edward’s differences, Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest) sees his kindness and artistic talents. She encourages him to embrace his uniqueness rather than see his scissorhands as a limitation. Through Peg’s acceptance, Edward begins to understand his own self-worth is not defined by what others think. He uses his scissorhands to create intricate topiaries and ice sculptures, finding purpose and pleasure in his gifts.

Edward’s story is a poignant reminder that true beauty and worth come from within, not from conforming to superficial standards. Though his scissorhands set him apart physically, Edward never complains about his fate or sees himself as less-than. He accepts himself for who he is and shares his talents with the community. In the end, it is Edward’s compassion and creativity—not his scissorhands—that win people over and teach them not to judge by appearances.

The film’s message of inner worth resonated strongly when it was released in 1990 amid rising materialism and consumerism. Edward Scissorhands highlights that while fitting in socially has its allure, one’s sense of self should not be defined by others’ opinions alone. Having compassion for others as well as oneself is most important. Edward teaches the value of embracing differences and using any “limitations” positively to create rather than focusing on what one lacks. His story of finding acceptance through self-respect still rings true today.

Finding Neverland (2004)

In Finding Neverland, Depp portrays J.M. Barrie, the creator of the beloved story of Peter Pan. The film shows Barrie as a successful yet unfulfilled playwright stuck in a loveless marriage in turn-of-the-century London. He finds inspiration through his friendship with the Davies family—Sylvia (Kate Winslet), who has recently lost her husband, and her four boys.

Barrie’s bond with the boys reawakens his youthful imagination and belief in magic. Through their adventures together, he begins to craft the story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up. However, Barrie faces criticism and doubt from his producer and wife, who see his new play as childish nonsense unbefitting of a respected dramatist.

The movie powerfully depicts Barrie’s internal struggle between living according to society’s expectations of maturity and success, and staying true to his creative spirit and what truly makes him happy. In one pivotal scene, Barrie’s producer tells him “You write plays for adults, not children,” trying to steer him back to more conventional works.

But Barrie refuses to compromise his vision, responding “I write for those who are young at heart, no matter what their age.” He perseveres despite naysayers, finding the courage to believe in himself. Barrie’s story underscores that true fulfillment comes from living according to one’s passions and values rather than living for others’ approval. His unwavering self-belief allowed him to create one of the most beloved works in literature.

Finding Neverland is a moving portrayal of an artist staying true to his dreams against the tide of conformity. It highlights how self-respect means not just accepting but embracing who you are authentically, even if it goes against social norms. Only by doing so can one achieve their full potential and create works of lasting meaning. The film inspires viewers to find the courage to believe in themselves the way Barrie did.

Public Enemies (2009)

In Public Enemies, Depp takes on the iconic role of notorious bank robber John Dillinger. Under Michael Mann’s direction, Depp brings nuanced layers to Dillinger as both a charismatic outlaw and complex man. The film captures the excitement and danger of Dillinger’s life on the run, constantly one step ahead of law enforcement led by FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale).

While Dillinger achieves a level of celebrity and notoriety for his brazen heists, the movie also shows the psychological and emotional toll of his relentless pursuit. Dillinger is never at peace, always looking over his shoulder and jumping from one dangerous situation to the next. Though surrounded by admirers, he remains a lonely figure. His identity is wholly wrapped up in his outlaw image and fleeting fame, with no stability or real connections.

In one of the film’s most poignant scenes, Dillinger is recognized at a baseball game and swarmed by adoring fans wanting autographs or just to touch him. But amid the chaos, he looks overwhelmed, as if longing to just be an ordinary man in the crowd enjoying the game. Public Enemies suggests that no matter how much notoriety or adrenaline Dillinger found in his criminal life, it could never fill the emptiness or buy him true happiness, respect, or peace of mind in the end.

The movie serves as a cautionary tale. It highlights that an identity built solely on fleeting thrills or the fickle admiration of others, without an inner sense of self-worth, will always be unfulfilling. Real respect comes from within—how we carry ourselves and treat others—not superficial measures of fame or popularity. In the end, Dillinger’s story underscores that true peace is found by living with integrity and valuing relationships over momentary thrills, no matter the cost to one’s reputation.


Through these three diverse roles, Johnny Depp brought nuanced portrayals of men wrestling with issues of identity, purpose, and self-respect. Edward Scissorhands, J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland, and John Dillinger in Public Enemies each teach meaningful lessons about embracing one’s inner worth regardless of outward judgments or expectations.

Their stories highlight that true fulfillment lies not in what others think or how much fame one achieves, but rather in believing in oneself, staying true to one’s values and passions, and living with compassion for others.

Nearly thirty years after its release, Edward Scissorhands’ message of accepting differences still resonates strongly. Finding Neverland inspires the courage to believe in one’s dreams against conformity. And Public Enemies serves as a cautionary tale about identities built on fleeting thrills without inner substance.

Depp brings these characters to life in a way that keeps their lessons on self-respect timeless and impactful.

While movies can certainly be interpreted differently, these three roles in particular offer compelling perspectives on forging identities rooted in integrity, creativity, compassion—and ultimately respect for oneself.

Their messages continue resonating with viewers seeking to better understand the importance of inner worth and living purposefully according to one’s true self.

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