Ranking The Best Pirate Movies Of All Time
When it comes to the best pirate movies of all time, there are plenty of excellent films to choose from. It’s a genre that’s been with us since the very beginning of modern cinema, and over the years there have been plenty of quality adventures on the high seas captured on film. There have also been a few questionable movies, and a fair few box office flops too.
So if you’re looking for a movie that features dashing buccaneers, nail-biting sword fights, and swashbuckling action, then check out the list of our favorites below!
Forget movie piracy, go and buy one of the best pirate movies of all time instead!
The Best Pirate Movies Of All Time
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Back Pearl (2003)
The Pirates Of The Caribbean film franchise helped to successfully reinvent the pirate genre, bringing swashbuckling adventures on the high seas to a new generation of moviegoers. While any films from the series could go on a list of the best pirate movies ever made, it’s the series opener, The Curse Of The Black Pearl that we like best.
With an all-star cast that includes Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, and Geoffrey Rush as Captain Hector Barbossa, The Curse Of The Black Pearl takes viewers on a journey across the Caribbean in search of a legendary ship with a cursed crew. Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly star as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, two characters linked by fate whose destinies take an unusual turn after the Black Pearl raids their town.
The movie opened at #1 in the US box office, grossing over $46.5 million in the opening weekend. It eventually grossed more than $654 million worldwide, making it the fourth-highest-grossing film of the year. It was an unexpected triumph that has led to four sequels: Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End, On Stranger Tides, and Dead Men Tell No Tales.
Runtime: 2h 23m
IMDB Score: 8/10
Age Rating: PG-13
The Goonies (1985)
The Goonies isn’t your average pirate movie. In fact, it’s only tenuously linked to piracy but it still deserves a place on any list of the best pirate movies. The screenplay was written by Chris Columbus, based on a story originally conceived by Steven Spielberg, and the film was directed and co-produced by Richard Donner.
The film focuses on a group of kids from Oregon who are desperately trying to save their homes from the threat of foreclosure. Upon discovering an old treasure map, the gang sets off on an adventure to find the treasure of the lost 17th-century pirate, One-Eyed Willy.
Their actions catch the attention of a local crime family, the Fratellis, who have also been hunting for the very same treasure. The adventure follows the gang as they navigate pitfalls and booby traps, while evading the Fratelli family, in search of this long-lost treasure.
This movie has an all-star cast that includes Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, and Jonathan Ke Huy Quan. Not only did it launch the careers of those actors, but The Goonies has also evolved into a classic film that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages.
Runtime: 1h 55m
IMDB Score: 7.8/10
Age Rating: PG
Captain Blood (1935)
Errol Flynn is one of the most recognizable names in the history of cinema, and the young actor received his big break when he starred in Michael Curtiz’s Captain Blood. This 1935 movie would go on to catapult Flynn and his co-star, a then-unknown actress by the name of Olivia de Havilland, into the Hollywood history books.
Based on Rafael Sabatini’s novel, Captain Blood sees Errol Flynn play Irish doctor Peter Blood. After being convicted of treason for treating a rebel leader, Blood is sold into slavery and sent to the West Indies. Fate leads him to fall in love with a local military commanders’ daughter, but it also forces him into an unexpected life of piracy on the high seas.
The film also stars another Hollywood heavyweight. This time, Basil Rathbone plays a French buccaneer and enemy of Flynn’s Blood. The two are forced into a conflict and duel. The result is one of the greatest cinema moments in history.
Captain Blood was nominated for a total of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and the film made celebrities out of Flynn and de Havilland. Today, Captain Blood is often rated as the best pirate movie ever made, with a 100% score from Rotten Tomatoes, and 89% from Google.
Runtime: 1h 40m
IMDB Score: 7/10
Age Rating: G
Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
Treasure Island is undoubtedly one of the greatest pirate stories ever told. However, when Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic 1883 novel was given the Muppet treatment in 1996, the tale reached a new audience in a new and exciting way.
The story follows the adventures of Jim Hawkins and the crew of the Hispaniola. The sailors are searching for a legendary buried treasure before the ship’s cook, Long John Silver, stages a mutiny and takes command. Treasure Island is an epic adventure story, but with the addition of Jim Henson’s Muppets, it becomes a comedy too.
Though it’s not a serious film and features comedic elements and musical numbers, it remains fairly faithful to the original subject matter. Consider it a more cheerful version than the original novel that viewers of all ages can enjoy.
Starring Muppet favorites such as Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Fozzie Bear, and Miss Piggy, and a human cast featuring Billy Connolly, Jennifer Saunders, and the legendary Tim Curry as Long John Silver, Muppet Treasure Island is a swashbuckling pirate movie that’s fun for all the family.
Runtime: 1h 59m
IMDB Score: 7.7/10
Age Rating: Not Rated
Pirates and Peter Pan go hand in hand. Over the years there have been numerous adaptations of J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan, but the early 90s brought viewers a different approach to the story. It was called Hook, and it was a story about a Peter Pan that had grown up and forgotten about Neverland and all of the magic that it represents.
Robin Williams stars as Peter Banning, a workaholic corporate lawyer, and father of two children. Upon returning from a social event, Peter finds his house ransacked and his children missing. The only clue to their kidnap is a ransom note from Captain James Hook.
After a surprise encounter with an old friend, Peter finds himself back in Neverland and has to remember who he was and remember the magic of childhood to help track down his children. On the way, he reunites with the Lost Boys, learns to fly, and faces Captain Hook one last time.
Though Robin Williams is the star of the show, he’s joined with an all-star cast that includes Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, and Dame Maggie Smith. If you prefer your pirates from Neverland rather than from the Caribbean, then this interesting take on Peter Pan could be the family-friendly pirate movie for you.
Runtime: 2h 24m
IMDB Score: 6.8/10
Age Rating: PG
The Princess Bride (1987)
The Princess Bride is an adaptation of William Goldman’s fantastic novel of the same name. It’s a story within a story that features everything a fantasy story should have: giants, sword fighters, princesses, and most importantly: pirates. It’s a beloved tale that has become a movie classic, and it manages to appeal to new generations of fantasy fans, even years after its first release back in 1987.
The story follows the love between Buttercup and Westley, and a promise made between the two. Before seeking her hand in marriage, Westley heads out on a voyage to find his fortune. Disaster strikes when his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Five years pass, and a heartbroken Buttercup is forced into marriage with Prince Humperdinck. On the night before the wedding, she’s kidnapped by three mysterious outlaws.
It’s a film that has it all: romance, action, comedy, and exceptional dialog. In fact, if you’re looking for a movie with all the hallmarks of a swashbuckling classic—including one of the best sword fights ever captured on film—then this one of the best pirate movies out there.
Starring Cary Elwes as Westley, Robin Wright as Buttercup, as well as Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Peter Cook, Billy Crystal, and Chris Sarandon, The Princess Bride is a fun-filled adventure that doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is. And what is it? One hour and thirty-eight minutes of pure entertainment.
Runtime: 1h 38m
IMDB Score: 8.1/10
Age Rating: PG
The 1986 movie Pirates is another unusual choice. It’s undoubtedly a pirate movie, but it’s a controversial one since director Roman Polanski was accused of sexual assault by one of the movie’s stars in 2010. Despite the controversy, we like this film on the strength of the setting and the actor’s performances.
The film opens with Walther Matthau playing Captain Thomas Bartholomew Red, with his cabin boy Frog, adrift on a raft in the middle of the ocean. The old buccaneer and his crewmate are eventually pulled aboard a Spanish galleon. Though it seems like a convenient rescue, it turns out to be the beginning of the pair’s problems, and the start of an exciting adventure.
Though a financial failure, Pirates was still able to clinch a few award nominations, including a nomination for the Academy Award’s Best Costume Design category. On paper, it was a bomb. However, this film certainly paved the way for the piratical revival in the form of Pirates of the Caribbean. Without it, we’d never have seen Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow.
Today, the film has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 30%, and a Metacritic score of 32%. IMDB has a more favorable score of 6.1 out of 10. It’s a great pirate movie, but one that won’t please everyone.
Runtime: 2h 04m
IMDB Score: 6.1/10
Age Rating: PG-13
Captain Phillips (2013)
Captain Phillips probably isn’t the most obvious choice for a pirate movie list. It doesn’t feature any treasure maps or cutlasses, and there certainly aren’t any parrots, peg-legs, or incredibly accurate compasses. However, the film focuses on a real-life story of modern-day piracy. Set aboard the MV Maersk Alabama, Captain Phillips follows the ship on a journey from Oman to Kenya, sailing through the notorious pirate-infested waters around the Horn of Africa.
The stretch of the ocean directly off of the coast of Somalia has long been known as a dangerous area for large tankers and cargo ships. In 2009, the Maersk Alabama was boarded and hijacked by a group of Somali pirates, and this is the story of that event.
Starring Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips, and Barkhad Abdi as Abduwali Muse, the film is an accurate account of what happened on board the vessel and the events that followed.
The movie was a box office hit, grossing more than $218 million—a huge figure considering the film’s budget was only $55 million. After the film’s theatrical release, it earned six Academy Award nominations, four Golden Globe nominations, and nine British Academy Film Award nominations. Though it didn’t win, Captain Phillips was ranked as one of the best films of the year.
If you haven’t watched it, you really should!
Runtime: 2h 14m
IMDB Score: 7.8/10
Age Rating: PG-13
Waterworld is another unusual choice for a list of the best pirate movies, but it features all of the main ingredients. It’s an unconventional pirate film, but it has plenty of sailing, plenty of swashbuckling action, and a map to an unusual treasure. Rather than being set in the golden age of piracy, it’s set far off into the future, where climate change has taken its toll on the planet.
When it was released in 1995, it was the most expensive movie ever made at the time. This is largely because it involved a lot of water to film! Set in the year 2500, the melting of the polar ice caps has flooded Earth, leaving the concept of dry land as nothing more than a myth. Floating communities dot the ocean, and adventurers sail the seas in post-apocalyptic jet skis and curiously constructed trimarans.
The movie is a hybrid of genres. It takes a lot of inspiration from classic pirate films, but there are distinct Mad Max-inspired overtones. It’s post-apocalyptic piracy gone wild!
Despite having a strong cast that included Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, and Jeanne Tripplehorn, the film was met with mixed reviews. In fact, it was a box-office bomb by most standards. Despite this, critics praised the setting and vision, but most agreed it missed the mark. Why do we include it on our list? It’s still a fun movie, and you might be surprised at how enjoyable it is to watch.
Runtime: 2h 56m
IMDB Score: 6.2/10
Age Rating: PG-13
The Black Swan (1942)
The Black Swan is often ranked as one of the best pirate movies of all time by real aficionados of the genre. If you’re into classic films with plenty of swashbuckling action, then The Black Swan won’t disappoint. Based loosely on Rafael Sabatini’s 1932 novel of the same name, this early action film has it all.
The film stars two of the most recognizable names from the genre: Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara. Power plays Jamie waring, a fearsome pirate and ally of self-styled Pirate King Henry Morgan. When Morgan becomes the governor of Jamaica, Jamie is forced to reconsider his way of life, especially when he falls in love with the previous governor’s daughter, Margaret Denby.
Maureen O’Hara described the film as: “everything you could want in a lavish pirate picture: a magnificent ship with thundering cannons; a dashing hero battling menacing villains … sword fights; fabulous costumes …” For fans of the genre, it really does have everything a pirate film should have.
This 1942 swashbuckler was nominated for three Academy Awards and won Best Cinematography. Today, it’s highly regarded as a classic, with a score of 91% on Google, 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a respectable 6.8 out of 10 on IMDB.com.
Runtime: 1h 27m
IMDB Score: 6.8/10
Age Rating: Not Rated
Andrew Dalton on April 25, 2021
Seriously? No Crimson Pirate (1952)? No mention of the great Robert Newton’s definitive Long John Silver in Disney’s Treasure Island (1950) or his wonderfully O.T.T. turn in the title role of 1952’s Blackbeard the Pirate?
Doc Bollywood on June 8, 2021
I saw Crimson Pirate for the first time when I was a young boy, and it was marvelous. Said movie has incredible acrobatics and swashbuckling attitude like no other and still holds its own today.