Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales be the finale film in the franchise, says I. Although I don’t believe that for a second. Disney wouldn’t let something so profitable end like this. But that didn’t stop me from making this the only Pirates of the Caribbean film I saw in theaters. Something I probably should have done sooner. After the experimental solo adventure that was On Stranger Tides, Dead Men Tell No Tales returns to its roots and addresses open ended storylines. Specifically the tragic yet hopeful end to Will and Elizabeth’s story. Their son Henry grows up to become a Royal Navy sailor obsessed with legends of the sea. Specifically the Trident of Poseidon that can end every curse at sea (where’s Aquaman when you need him?).

After entering the Devil’s Triangle, Henry encounters the least notable crew of cursed pirates yet. An undead crew with missing body parts like Barbossa’s crew, but that are unable to go on land like Davy Jones crew. Not even Javier Bardem as villain Captain Salazar is enough to make them stand out. The title comes from the ride and it also ties into Salazar keeping one shipmate alive to tell his tale. That leads him to the distinctly modernized astronomer Carina Smyth. She’s labelled a witch, but she’s the only one who can follow a map to the Titrant.

A mutual ally is found in Captain Jack Sparrow. Who’s famous compass is linked to Salazar’s fate. At this point Johnny Depp has made Jack into a bumbling caricature of his former glory. Not that any of these movies would survive without him. Together after a wacky Fast & Furious style safe scene, Jack, Henry, and Carina set sail with his sort of loyal crew. Later newly dubbed Pirate master Barbossa joins them as well. So after 5 movies, Jack Sparrow, Hector Barbossa, and Joshamee Gibbs are the only characters to appear in every installment. Of course Henry and Carina take Will and Elizabeth’s place as a less interesting romantic pairing. Like Henry, Carina is also related to a veteran character. One I find a bit hard to believe.

After many other ridiculous swashbuckling scenarios, the Black Pearl (and Jack the Monkey) are freed from the bottle. The water opens up to reveal the Trident and all are freed after a noble sacrifice. Orlando Bloom had it super easy appearing briefly on the Flying Dutchman and making out with Keira Knightley at the end. She doesn’t say a word and her hair is suddenly brunette, but they at least appear again in a post-credit scene that may or may not be addressed. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was probably better left untold. “Savvy.”

5. Dead Men Tell No Tales

Captain Jack Sparrow gets cornered

Preceded by: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Mermaids, Zombies, & Blackbeard

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides be the most inconsequential film in the franchise, says I. Honestly, apart from Pirates of the Caribbean being one of Disney’s most profitable franchises, no one was asking for a fourth outing. At World’s End was clearly a conclusion and Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley were definitely done. Well since Captain Jack Sparrow was always the star of the trilogy, Johnny Depp is the only one held captive by it. Geoffrey Rush and Kevin McNally return too as Captain Barbossa and Gibbs respectively.

Despite a far more reduced scale and thankfully a much lower runtime, On Stranger Tides somehow managed to be the most expensive movie ever made (even after 4 Avengers movies). This is the only installment based on an existing work. The title comes from a 1987 book of the same name. The only thing they kept was the real life villain Blackbeard, mermaids, and the search for the Fountain of Youth. The only thing that was alluded to in the previous film. On Stranger Tides focuses entirely on Depp just doing his thing as the beloved Pirate. He’s enlisted by the King of England to find the aforementioned Fountain before the Spanish Navy does.

We also discover that Barbossa is now a straightlaced British Navy officer with one leg. Plus there’s a Jack Sparrow imposter running around who happens to be a former lover of his. Penรฉlope Cruz plays the new female lead as Angelica. A fierce Pirate who happens to be Blackbeard’s daughter. I’m not saying Ian McShane’s Blackbeard isn’t an intimidating antagonist, he’s just a bit underwhelming after Davy Jones. He’s given yet another cursed crew of zombies this time. While he also possesses voodoo dolls (see post-credits scene) and the Queen Anne’s Revenge that he controls with a magic sword. The Black Pearl is also trapped in a bottle along with Jack the monkey.

At this point it feels like ideas are just being thrown together. And I haven’t even gotten to the sexy mermaids that lure men then eat them. In Will and Elizabeth’s absence, less memorable discount versions take their place. As it’s a hunky missionary and a beautiful mermaid that fall in love. Long story short, a mermaid tear, two chalisies, and a victim are needed to complete the Fountain ritual. With plenty of swashbuckling action and witty remarks along the way. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is an unnecessary detour that gives fans exactly what we enjoy. “Savvy.”

4. On Stranger Tides

Captain Jack Sparrow and Angelica voyage

Preceded by: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End & Followed by: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

A Pirates Life for Me

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End be an incomprehensible action packed addition to the franchise, says I. With an unbelievably long 2 hour & 49 minute runtime, At World’s End really should have been the epic conclusion it was trying to be. Instead it’s somehow more complex than Dead Man’s Chest with a slow building story that incorporates endless subplots from a giant ensemble cast. One that I’ll explain to the best of my ability.

It’s quite apparent that Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End were filmed back-to-back. Davy Jones is still the main villain, but the incredibly dull Lord Beckett takes command after Norrington brought him his heart. Beckett is so evil that he’ll even hang children for piracy (a Disney movie). Geoffrey Rush is back in full swing as a more heroic Captain Barbossa. Along with Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom who are still dragging out Will and Elizabeth’s love story with misunderstandings. Will is still concerned for his father and Elizabeth gradually becomes more of a confidant pirate.

After a trip to Singapore involving Captain Sao Feng, a crew consisting of Captain Barbossa, Gibbs, pristest Tia Dalma, Pintel, Rigatti, Jack the monkey, Will, Elizabeth, and a Chinese crew all plunge their boat over the titular World’s End. It’s there in Davy Jones’ Locker that Johnny Depp officially turns Captain Jack Sparrow into a cartoon character. He sees multiple versions of himself on the Black Pearl as well as thousands of rock crabs. 1 hour and a bizarre series of circumstances later, the crew finally frees Jack after capsizing their boat.

From there the overly complicated plot includes: a Brethren Court of nine pirate lords, Elizabeth becoming a lord then Pirate King, Tia Dalma being both the former lover of Davy Jones and the sea goddess Calypso, and Will gaining control of the Flying Dutchman after stabbing Davy Jones heart. Keith Richards even plays Jack’s father (of which Depp was inspired by). Despite the runtime, the swashbuckling action is a bit scarce. Until the exhilarating climax which pits all the pirates against each other. Where Jack and Davy Jones sword fight on a precarious mast and Barbossa marries Will and Elizabeth in the most badass wedding ever. Although tragic, they do go on to have a post-credits son. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is exciting, but they really should have stopped here. “Savvy.”

3. At World's End

Captain Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones fight on a mast

Preceded by: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest & Followed by: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Yo Ho, Yo Ho

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest be the grandiose sequel the franchise needed, says I. Even if some of their decisions may have been too grand. The unexpected success of The Curse of the Black Pearl inspired Disney to commission 2 sequels shot back-to-back. Dead Man’s Chest is far more complex with an added bit of deep sea mythology not found in the theme park attraction. Although their story was pretty much complete, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley return as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. Their dark and stormy wedding is interrupted by the forgettable Lord Beckett. Leader of the East India Trading Company who sentences Will, Elizabeth, and Norrington to death. For their aid in the escape of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Although exaggerated a tiny bit, Johnny Depp is still the best part of any Pirates of the Caribbean movie. This time (along with Gibbs and his crew), Jack seeks to end his debt to Davy Jones. The supernatural Captain of the Flying Dutchman with an octopus beard and crab claw. He and his crew are also cursed with aquatic barnacle encrusted appearances. Through an impressive system of motion capture CGI, Bill Nighy plays what is easily the best villain in the franchise. And not just cause he plays the organ with his tentacles. He’s also a shakespearean style antagonist who cut out his own heart. Which was placed inside the titular chest. This is where things get overly complicated.

Let’s just say, Jack needs his compass, a drunken Norrington wants revenge, Will wants to free his cursed father Bootstrap Bill, Elizabeth becomes a badass pirate, and betrayal is all around. Pintel and Ragetti also return as “good” guys. Along with the undead Jack the Monkey and the prison dog (see post-credit scene). There’s also a love triangle that forms between Elizabeth, Jack, and Will. That ends with a steamy kiss between her and Jack. Despite my growing interest in the franchise, I chose to wait until DVD. I was a bit confused, but the even crazier swashbuckling action made up for it.

There’s the hilarious physics defining cannibal island escape, the awesome three person sword fight on a giant wheel, and Jack’s heroic sacrifice on the Black Pearl against the mythical Kraken. Culminating in a cliffhanger where a voodoo priestess brings Captain Barbossa back to life. Apart from a small sense of over ambition, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was an enjoyable achievement nonetheless. “Savvy.”

2. Dead Man's Chest

Captain Jack Sparrow battles a kraken

Preceded by: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl & Followed by: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Why is the Rum Gone?

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl be the greatest film ever based on a theme park attraction, says I. So looking back on it now, it’s truly hard to believe literally no one had faith in the project. Pirates of the Caribbean was originally based on the Disneyland attraction which opened as far back as 1967. Naturally, Disney was at a point in the 2000’s where they wanted to expand on every property they had their hands on. With The Country Bears released the previous year and The Haunted Mansion released shortly after, Pirates of the Caribbean was almost a guaranteed failure. Not to mention the pirate genre was practically dead in the water.

Yet against all the naysayers, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a massive success that made pirates cool again. Despite that, my history with the franchise is very muddled. Pirates of the Caribbean peaked my curiosity when it was first released, but I only ended up seeing The Curse of the Black Pearl a few years later on DVD. I didn’t fully understand the story, but I knew it was a big deal. After a few rewatches, I can honestly say that the films were a perfect way to reignite everyone’s love of seafaring adventure (with a supernatural twist)…

1. The Curse of the Black Pearl

Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner set sail

The Curse of the Black Pearl incorporates elements of the ride, but this is very much an original story that works. Thanks in no small part to Johnny Depp. Who proved himself to be a certified A-lister by giving us one of Disney’s most iconic live-action characters. Captain Jack Sparrow is a dashing roguish pirate with a love for rum that all the ladies went crazy for. Until they slap him. Depp brings him to life with a unique slurred speech pattern and arm movements. While his appearance stands out with Sparrow’s trademark dreadlocks, goatee, eyeliner, and red bandana. He always carries a compass, sword, and gun. Depp was so fully immersed in the character that most people forget that this earned him his first Best Actor nomination.

At Port Royal during the 1700’s, piracy plagues the seven seas. Elizabeth Swann is a free spirited daughter of a governor whose been in love with blacksmith Will Turner since childhood. Something that’s complicated by a proposal from Royal Navy officer Norrington. Keira Knightley plays her first of many period specific characters. While Orlando Bloom was fresh off his success in The Lord of the Rings. Their fates intertwine with Captain Jack Sparrow after his unforgettable entrance on a sinking ship. He’s known for somehow escaping an island (sea turtles), but his crimes of piracy land him in jail. So Will frees Jack and they team up to rescue Elizabeth when she’s kidnapped by pirates. They recruit faithful first mate Mr. Gibbs and a scurvy crew of bildrates (including pre-fame Zoe Saldana).

The titular curse refers to pieces of Aztec gold treasure that was stolen by Jack’s mutinous crew aboard the Black Pearl. Specifically by a grisled Geoffrey Rush as Captain Hector Barbossa, a sympathetic villain that just wants to feel again. All pirates must respect the code after all. The crew become skeletons in the moonlight and are unable to die. The CGI may be dated, but it’s still a creepy effect. Betrayal is around every corner and the swashbuckling action is just as exciting as a theme park. Made even better with the “He’s a Pirate” theme.

This was actually the first PG-13 movie under the family friendly Disney banner. It makes sense considering the lewdity of pirates, but I’m still surprised at how intense it can get. Not that the film doesn’t have a quirky sense of humor with a handful of comic relief characters. Like Pintel and Ragetti or Jack the monkey. Who also appears in the series first post-credits scene. With its more grown up tone, easy to follow story, and sense of adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was just the blockbuster Disney needed. “Savvy.”


“You will always remember this as the day that you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow”

Followed by: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest