Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011):
This film is by far the worst of any in the saga. This film is emblematic of a problem with the next on this list as well, which is the strange (no pun intended) Macguffin. Now, it is important to note that the Pirates franchise has always thrown in random Macguffins or mythological elements. Examples of these are the 882 pieces of Aztec gold in the first film or the Flying Dutchman in the second and third films. However, in these instances the Macguffin is, at the very least, related to pirates. On Stranger Tides uses, strangely enough, the fountain of youth. This legend has existed since 5th century BC but became popularized due to Ponce de Leon, the first governor of Puerto Rico. All of this to say that Jack Sparrow wanting this felt wholly random. Jack Sparrow was not portrayed as being afraid of death in other movies, but now he wants to live forever and is scared at the thought of dying? Boring.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017):
The single reason this film is higher than On Stranger Tides is it recruits Javier Bardem to play the villain. While the film is far below his metric as an actor, it is all the better for every line he speaks. But the problems in the last film are ever-present here. The film is searching for the Trident of Poseidon, which… Is Pirates saying that the Greek pantheon are real? Because that’s equally the stupidest and coolest thing they’ve done. They are confirming a lot about their world by doing so. Anyway, this film also features the Bermuda Triangle which is referred to as the Devil’s Triangle to be more… scary? It doesn’t work. Past that apparently the Bermuda Triangle seals pirates in its triangular prison and they only get out by…? It’s not really clear. Will and Elizabeth Turner’s son sails into the triangle, finds Salazar and they just kind of escape. Other things of note in this film: Henry Turner breaks all curses laid upon the sea, Barbossa is made into a sacrificial hero to save his daughter, Barbossa apparently has a daughter the same age as Will and Elizabeth’s son, Henry and Carina (Barbossa’s daughter) elope, Will and Elizabeth are apparently back into the plot. This film is a mess, but the talent is wholly better than On Stranger Tides.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007):
This film is fine. But it’s not good. Firstly, the original trilogy is leagues (again no pun intended) ahead of the most recent two films. If only due to the fact that Jack still didn’t feel like the main character yet. Jack Sparrow is an iconic character and is, generally speaking, viewed as the face of Pirate-based cinema. But he is a terrible main character. The reason for this is that you want your audience to relate to your main character. An audience relates to Will and Elizabeth’s unspoken love, they relate to the feeling of wanting adventure or wanderlust, what they don’t relate to is a man that is so inexplicable that he flies in the face of all logic. It is highly entertaining to watch Jack do something, but not relatable. This is where At World’s End loses the audience. Suddenly there are pirate lords (nine of them) and all semblance of personality from Will and Elizabeth have diminished into being more like pirates now. In fact they’re almost the same person by this point in the film. That being said, this film has my favourite moment in the franchise in which Barbossa, as captain of the Black Pearl, weds Will and Elizabeth mid-battle. It’s a hilarious, character-led moment.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006):
The reason I have this film so high on the list is it felt like a real evolution of the characters from the first film. We have Elizabeth’s need for adventure come between her and Will. Will’s need for Elizabeth’s love leads him to betray his friends. And Jack’s carefree attitude gets him killed. It all makes sense and is wholly satisfying in that way. The only issue with this movie are the extraneous details. Like bringing Barbossa back to life (which leads to my favourite bit in the franchise, but also diminishes the first film’s end entirely), or having Jack leap into the mouth of a kraken. Frankly, they take away things that made the first film fun which was that even with Aztec gold curses, it was all fairly grounded.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003):
This is just plain and simple a fantastic film with great comedy, plot, action and writing. Almost every scene in the film isn’t pushed into a strange place because the plot demands it, rather they are put there because their characters would be there. Elizabeth is introduced as a woman in love with Will and wanting a life of piracy and adventures. When pirates invade Port Royale she knows more of the pirate code than they do and she claims to be Elizabeth Turner. Will is introduced as a loyal blacksmith who was saved by Elizabeth, prompting him to fall for her, he also hates pirates. Immediately the audience knows his love for Elizabeth outweighs his hate for pirates when he is seen saving and working with Jack Sparrow. This is the only film in which Jack Sparrow feels downright hilarious, dangerous and fun at the same time. He threatens to shoot Will by saying “this bullet is not meant for you, boy” and that, is the best line in the franchise. It tells you everything you need to know about Jack Sparrow without saying too much. This movie is still amazing.