The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ Movies Ranked from Worst to Best

The trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has arisen many interesting details about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Based on the popular Disney parks attraction, the Pirates movies have been one of the most successful franchises of all time. 

Johnny Depp attends the movie premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Johnny Depp | Rich Fury/Getty Images

There are mixed reactions toward the quality of some of these movies, but most people still love watching Depp as Jack Sparrow either way. Here are the five Pirates of the Caribbean movies ranked from worst to best. 

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

The biggest issue with On Stranger Tides is that it feels like a Jack Sparrow spinoff. It ditches the central plot of the first three movies for a new story involving Blackbeard (Ian McShane), mermaids, and the search for the fountain of youth. While it is a cool idea to see Jack Sparrow interact with real historical pirates like Blackbeard but it’s a messy story with forgettable characters.

Even Geoffrey Rush is a very toned-down version of Captain Barbossa. There are some positives including McShane, who is a good Blackbeard, and Penelope Cruz is a welcome addition as well. The sequence with mermaids is also a solid scene with creative action and haunting imagery. Still, On Stranger Tides can’t break the curse of having forgettable characters, boring storylines, and bland action. 

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

This fifth entry did wisely change course and go back to the story involving William Turner (Orlando Bloom). He isn’t in the movie much, but the tone of this feels closer to the first three. The story involves Will Turner’s son, Henry (Brenton Thwaites), who is looking for the Trident of Poseidon that can end his father’s curse.

There is also another storyline where a ghost captain (Javier Bardem) is back from the dead and is looking to get revenge on Jack Sparrow. Where Dead Men Tell No Tales falls flat is that it doesn’t feel like anything new. Yes, there are some unique action scenes and funny moments, but it doesn’t do enough to stand out. The humor falls flat mostly and Depp is overdoing it with his portrayal of Jack here. 

It’s not terrible and it’s trying to capture the original tone of the first three, but it feels like an unnecessary extension of the story instead of a natural progression of the narrative. Still, it’s a better way to end things than On Stranger Tides

3. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

The first three Pirates movies are just so delightful and should have just been their own trilogy. At World’s End is the weakest of the three, but not by much. What makes At World’s End the weakest of the three is that the plot is too confusing. It’s an almost 3-hour movie but it still feels like there is too much going on. The fantasy aspects are cool, but never thoroughly explained. There are weird things like rock crabs, Davy Jones locker, Calypso, and overly-complicated dialogue that bog this movie down.

However, At World’s End introduces many exciting aspects like the Brethren Court which features international pirates with different cultures and styles. The political aspects of pirates are interesting and it’s fun to watch these characters debate and strategize. Hans Zimmer’s music also has never been stronger and this is one of his best scores to date. 

The climax involving the crew of the Black Pearl fighting Davy Jones’ crew over a whirlpool is possibly the greatest climax in the series. It has amazing swordplay, intense moments, and a surprisingly hilarious wedding. This may be the most complicated movie in the series, but it’s engaging if you allow yourself to go along for the ride. 

2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

The sequel to the original introduces more fantasy elements into this world but doesn’t go too over the top. The introduction of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) brings in a great villain that gives our heroes a menacing challenge. The CGI on Jones and his crew still looks impressive even 16 years later. Once again, Depp is having a blast as Sparrow and Knightley gets more agency as a character here. 

The one downside to Dead Man’s Chest is that there are a few sequences that overstay their welcome. This is a two-and-a-half-hour movie and it didn’t really need to be. For example, there is a scene where the crew tries to save Jack from a group of cannibals. It’s a delightful sequence, but it doesn’t need to be as long as it is. Plus, the absence of Rush’s Barbossa is notable as he is one of the best characters in the franchise. 

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

The Curse of the Black Pearl still manages to be the best Pirates movie of the bunch due to its simplicity. It’s a simple pirate adventure of a lowly crew trying to save someone from a group of wicked pirates. Barbossa is a great villain and his skeleton crew has many memorable moments. 

There are references to the ride that will satisfy hardcore Disney fans while still expanding the lore of this story. Depp shines as Jack Sparrow and he and Bloom work well off of each other. Also, shout out to Kevin McNally who plays Mr. Gibbs and always manages to be a highlight. 

There is still an element of fantasy, but it’s a great spin on pirate lore and adds some emotional depth to the villains. The fantasy doesn’t overpower the fantastic action and wonderful characters. The original Pirates movie remains the best one, even as the franchise continued to expand. 

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