One of Disney’s iconic franchises of the new millennium is undeniably the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. Before they bought Marvel and “Star Wars,” Disney attempted to launch their own mega-franchise. While many scoffed at the idea of a film based on a theme park ride, the combination of a built-in fandom and enjoyable characters made the “Pirates” films some of the biggest films of the 2000s. In fact, “Pirates” became the first film franchise to have multiple entries gross over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. With “Dead Men Tell No Tales” representing the fifth film in the franchise, what are your favorite “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies?
1. “The Curse of the Black Pearl”
The film that kicked off the franchise remains the most groundbreaking of the series. It released at the perfect time in the early 2000s, and pushed Johnny Depp into the stratosphere. There’s a reasonable argument to be had that Depp deserved to win the Best Actor statue at the 2004 Oscars, and SAG agreed when they gave him their trophy. Beyond that, the film was immaculately shot, had some of the stronger visual effects of the franchise, and had the most swashbuckling plot. The practical set design and stunt performances felt unique and fun, especially those with Orlando Bloom. The subsequent films have made the franchise look weaker, but with 5 Oscar nominations, this one was undeniably a hit. Throw in great performances from Geoffrey Rush, Jonathon Pryce, and Keira Knightley, and the franchise had a strong foundation that still builds goodwill 4 films later.
2. “Dead Man’s Chest”
The only film in the franchise to win an Oscar, was also a fairly successful blockbuster sequel. There was some indulging of Depp, which ultimately became a sign of bad things to come, but the plot of “Dead Man’s Chest” pushed forward the franchise. Both the Kraken and Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones became instantly iconic pieces of the franchise. The visual effects Oscar was a lock, and the film managed to repeat nominations in sound editing, sound mixing. However, the snub for makeup effects signaled the series’ overreliance on CGI. Still, “Dead Man’s Chest” remains one of the stronger entries in the franchise, and was a fun movie at worst.
3. “At World’s End”
“At World’s End” is where things begin to get very shaky for the franchise. The film goes to some extremely strange places, and while it does gel with some of the established mythology, it pushes the limits of audience believability. Depp gets weird with his performance, and plays several versions of himself via hallucinations. The problem in this film comes down to execution, not with the ideas at play. Every actor plays a heightened version of the characters they played in previous versions, and several feel like self-parody. Perhaps the most egregious part of the film is the handling of Orlando Bloom and Knightley’s storyline. Somehow the ending feels rushed, and while Knightly is doing the best she can with what she’s handed, it’s still unfulfilling, to say the least.
4. “On Stranger Tides”
“On Stranger Tides” suffers more from the disappointment factor than actually being a bad film. They simplified the plot on one level, but yet it feels flat. When you add Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz to a franchise about pirates, audiences should have gotten more. While the other films in the franchise feel like they are at least advancing plot, this is the one that feels most like a payday for everyone on board. There’s a shocking lack of effort from several of the actors, and new actors to the franchise, such as Sam Claflin, don’t gel with the existing cast. It’s not surprising that a film begins to falter 4 films into a franchise, but considering how much talent is here, it is still disappointing.