The definitive ranking of Johnny Depp's 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movies
It’s been a pirate’s life — or a good 14 years — for Johnny Depp, who’s made the Jolly Roger crowd cool again with his wholly quirky Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
But like Kurt Russell's Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China, Captain Jack is the bumbling sidekick of his own story much of the time (though Michael Bolton does love him). The Pirates franchise has also been about the love of governor’s daughter Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and rookie swashbuckler Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), the hard-to-kill Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), and various buccaneer crews that have been monsters, ghosts and dimwits.
After being AWOL from the big screen for six years, Captain Jack is back for more misadventures in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (in theaters Thursday night). When compared to the previous films, does it sail the high seas or walk the plank? Here’s the definitive ranking of the five Pirates movies thus far.
5. On Stranger Tides (2011)
The fourth film breaks from the pack and focuses more on Jack, love interest Angelica (Penelope Cruz) and a search for the Fountain of Youth that involves mermaids, Ponce de Leon’s chalices, voodoo and Keith Richards (reprising his role as Jack’s dad). Props for bringing in Ian McShane as Blackbeard, Jack has a fun run-in with the king (and his royal spread of doughnuts) in London, but everything else just sinks.
4. At World’s End (2007)
The completion of the original trilogy is nearly three hours long. And it needs every minute because of its overstuffed plot involving Jack getting rescued from Davy Jones’ Locker (aka the afterlife), Elizabeth being named Pirate King in a crazy story line involving Chinese pirate Sao Feng (Chow Yun-fat), and the goddess Calypso (Naomie Harris) conjuring a maelstrom that may deep-six everybody. It’s perfect for anybody who wants to drown in exposition.
3. Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
Villains don’t get much more enjoyably over-the-top than Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones, the tentacle-y lobster guy who captains the Flying Dutchman. To avoid getting hanged by British authorities alongside her love Will, Elizabeth is forced to track down Jack and snag his magical compass while Will reconnects with his dad Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) — who’s cursed to serve aboard the Dutchman — and Jones threatens to sic the Kraken on Captain Jack unless he joins his undead crew.
2. Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)
The fifth installment rekindles the campy enjoyment from the early days of the franchise. Captain Jack is hunted by an old enemy, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his haunting Spanish Naval crew, and he joins up with pirate rookie — and Will’s son — Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) as well as astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) to seek out the famed Trident of Poseidon, which is said to break every curse of the seven seas.
1. The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
It’s a miracle that a movie based on an old theme-park ride wasn’t a total disaster. Instead, what pop culture got was an enjoyable romp that offered romance, swordplay, a throwback sense of high-seas Hollywood action and arguably Depp’s most watchable character. The first film also introduced the familial legacies that power the Pirates mythology and set a high bar for special effects: The sight of Barbossa’s cursed crew as they're transformed into skeletons by the moonlight is still one of the best scenes in the entire series.