Editor’s Note: So Senior Writer Sommer was inspired to do a ranking of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Now I had done a ranking way back in October 2016 but I thought you Red Mango Readers may like to check out her list as well. And here we are. Do enjoy.
Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Right. Settle down. Now that we have that out of our system, let’s talk about one of the strangest yet most successful franchises of all time. Let’s talk about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere at the time it was the movie no one asked for and yet it was the one everyone ended up talking about—Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Based on a Disney theme park ride no less, this surprise hit went on to become an unstoppable juggernaut the summer it came out (the distant shore of 2003) and from its fruitful loins (that sounded weird, lemme rephrase that) from its bountiful booty (that’s better) sprung five more films (with a sixth on the way). Yes, these movies may get crazier with each new rendition, but in terms of quality they’ve been like a real-life pirate, which is to say, loud, messy, weird and yet kinda cool, and you maybe wouldn’t mind hanging out with one every now and again.
So let’s hop on the high seas, climb into the crow’s nest, and take a look back at the franchise no one asked for, yet it’s still here for some reason. Let’s take a look from WORST TO BEST: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN MOVIES:
#5 Dead Men Tell No Tales
To break the curse of the Flying Dutchman, Captain Jack Sparrow and Henry Turner embark on a mission to find the Trident of Poseidon. They also try to stop Captain Salazar who intends to rule all of the oceans. This wasn’t where I started disliking this franchise, but it was most definitely the film that made me think, this franchise needs to end and end now!
Watching Dead Men Tell No Tales felt like I had been tied to the bow of a ship during a hurricane, while being battered by every pirate trope Disney could find. Overstuffed is an understatement and it only gets worse when you think back on the terrible CGI. The image of a computer generated de-aged Johnny Depp with his dead soulless eyes still haunt my nightmares. Then there are the new characters of Henry Turner and Carina Smyth, played by Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario respectively. I’ve cared more about the fate of camp counsellors in Friday the 13th movies than I did about these two, and I don’t even remember the counsellors’ names!
Javier Bardem is a wonderful actor but all his acting is overshadowed by Disney’s need to throw special effects at the audience until you’re dizzy from it. If there’s one reason (and one reason only) to watch this movie, it’s to see the conclusion of Captain Barbossa’s story. The ever-so-talented Mr Geoffrey Rush somehow managed to take what could’ve been a silly one-note villain all the way from his first appearance in Curse of the Black Pearl to his finale in Dead Men Tell No Tales and never lose the charisma that made this character so interesting and fun. He’s the best thing about this movie and although I did find the big finale memorable, Dead Men Tell No Tales hit a reef and sank faster than you can say land ho!
#4 At World’s End
Captain Barbossa, Will Turner, and Elizabeth Swann must save Jack Sparrow and form an alliance with the pirates around the world to fight against the East India Company.
If Dead Men was too over stylised, then At World’s End takes the cake as the one with too many plot threads, too many characters, too many everything! Instead of focused storytelling, we have to deal with Lord Beckett’s control of the oceans using Davy Jones to destroy all pirates and their ships, Will trying to save his dad Bootstrap Bill from the Flying Dutchman, the goddess Calypso being trapped in human form for “reasons”, Jack’s crew trying to rescue him from Davy Jones’s Locker, and a pirate war consisting of every pirate gang that ever sailed the seven seas! Good lord why?! It’s like Disney lost their freakin’ minds and forgot the third film is supposed to wrap things up, not set us on a course for crazy island.
I’ve also never been a fan of the whole Will and Elizabeth storyline. Not only did these two take focus off of what everyone actually came to see in these movies (that would be Johnny Depp nailing it as one of his most iconic characters of all time) but their whole love story fell flat for me. And due to a lack of chemistry between the two, I never once found myself invested in their so called epic love story.
The whole movie is just too much and I found myself wanting certain aspects to stay (Jack Sparrow, Davy Jones and his awesome crew, the pirate war) and everything else to sink to the bottom of the ocean. A mess of a movie, At World’s End might’ve made bank at the box office but I wouldn’t find myself rewatching it anytime soon.
#3 On Stranger Tides
After the bloated mess that was World’s End, the sails were trimmed and the course well set with the much more subdued and streamlined On Stranger Tides. First things first, no more Will and Elizabeth! They were absent in the fourth film and I for one didn’t miss either of them. Instead we got the addition of the beautiful and talented Penelope Cruz as Angelica. Her chemistry with Depp is perfect which makes their kinda love story actually enjoyable to watch. Ian McShane, fresh off his villainous role in HBO’s Deadwood, is dream casting as Blackbeard, the legendary pirate that Jack has to square off against here. And Geoffrey Rush returns as well as Barbossa.
All winners in my book, and while there is a whole lot less bombastic action sequences in this one On Stranger Tides was a refreshing return to form (or at least it was for me) to what made me enjoy these movies in the first place. Speaking of which…
#2 The Curse of the Black Pearl
A blacksmith joins forces with the pirate Captain Jack Sparrow in a bid to free the love of his life from Jack’s undead former pirate associates, who kidnapped her suspecting she has a mythical medallion that can break their curse.
The movie that launched a thousand ships, or in this case a box office Titanic, The Curse of the Black Pearl was the pirate movie I never knew I wanted. If you’re from the Caribbean like I am, there’s just something about this movie that feels like a genuine love letter to us. Specifically, something about the man, the myth, the legend in his own mind, Captain Jack Sparrow! With his deceptive devil-may-care attitude, witty one-liners, and that glint of mischief and intelligence always showing in his eyes, Jack is so much more than he pretends to be. Men wanted to be him, women wanted to be with him, and Johnny Depp stole each and every scene he was in, and in a movie where he was never meant to be the lead character! I bet you didn’t know Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner was supposed to be the hero you root for in the Pirate series of films. Instead we got a character that for all intents and purposes should be ridiculous and cartoonish, and yet somehow Depp turned him into cinematic gold.
The rest of the movie also isn’t half bad, with excellent swordplay, fun and exciting plot points, and what in the end DID feel like a rollercoaster ride come to life! I’m still not sure how they pulled it off but Disney did it, and (for better or worse) a franchise was born.
Honourable Mention: Tales of the Code: Wedlocked
Bet you didn’t know this was a thing? Yes me maties, this mini-prequel to The Curse of the Black Pearl (it’s about 10 minutes long) explains why the ladies, specifically Scarlett and Giselle in this case, take to slapping Jack about whenever he crosses their parts. Both women are brides-to-be who discover they have a missing groom in common. It gets points for having some truly funny one-liners (“We’ve formed a corporation!”) and if you want to check it out yourself, it’s available on YouTube.
It doesn’t add anything to the franchise as a whole, but it’s harmless enough and if you watch it, at least you can truly say you’ve seen every movie in the franchise.
#1 Dead Man’s Chest
Captain Jack Sparrow seeks the heart of Davy Jones, a mythical pirate, in order to avoid being enslaved to him. However, others, including his friends Will and Elizabeth, want it for their own gain.
A sequel has one job to do and that’s to take everything you enjoyed in the first film and make it twice as big, twice as fun, and 10 times more than anything you ever thought you could get. Dead Man’s Chest took the baton passed by The Curse of the Black Pearl and proved without a doubt the first movie wasn’t lightning in a bottle.
The film picks up right where part one left off (I actually love when they do that) with Will and Eliabeth’s wedding interrupted by Lord Cutler Beckett, chairman of the East India Trading Company and man with a face you just wanna punch as hard as you can, who threatens to arrest them for their pirating adventures. Meanwhile Jack Sparrow meets with Will’s father, Bootstrap Bill Turner, who was forced to join the crew of the Flying Dutchman, a haunted ship captained by the coolest-looking pirate ever brought to screen, Davy Jones, played with maniacal delight by Bill Nighy. While there are a lot of different plot threads here they all converge into one singular, purposeful story which culminates with one of the best conclusions any adventure film of this ilk ever had as we get to see Captain Jack and the crew of the Black Pearl go up against the freakin’ Kraken!
I still cannot believe what the effects team of this movie pulled off here. Thanks to director Gore Verbinski, we don’t get your typical ghostly-looking crew, but a fully-fledged army (or in this case navy) of crazy looking undersea creature designed pirates. I still find it hard to accept Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones is all digital effects, it just looks so damn realistic, with every tentacle on his face perfectly positioned and moving in a way that’s both natural and nightmarish to behold. Even with a runtime of 150 minutes, the movie never felt overly long. And while I’m sure there are those who’ll argue the first movie is the best of the bunch (put down your hand Jules!), the first movie isn’t the one that is vividly stuck in my memory banks. No my friends, the gold medal for that goes to Dead Man’s Chest.
So with another Pirates movie heading our way sometime in the near future it seems like Disney has no intention of giving up on their cash cow. There’s no real info available yet and the debate on whether or not Johnny Depp is returning as Jack Sparrow is still undecided, so it’s hard to say whether or not a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie would be any good or not. We never asked for the first one, yet it turned out to be one of the best adventure/fantasy films out there. And even though the sequels are a mixed bag, part of me is still curious to see what this franchise that no one asked for may still have to offer. Will it be smooth sailing or a fishing boat caught in a category five hurricane? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Until then, we have these five films (and the mini-prequel) we can rewatch and a bottle of rum we can drink to get through them all.
Wait…dammit!…WHY IS THE RUM ALWAYS GONE?!
So which Pirates film is your favourite? You can check out Editor Jules’s ranking below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
Double Tap Baby!