We often wish to escape to a world full of adventure, journeys filled with heroes, mermaids, treasure, mythological creatures, and swords. On June 28th, 2003 Disney gave us a film that fulfilled these wishes. It is hard to believe it has been 20 years since Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl hit theaters and began a history-making franchise. To celebrate this milestone anniversary we are going to countdown some of the top moments in this epic film!
5. Ghost Stories
In a film like Pirates of the Caribbean, you want a villain that can send chills down your spine. This scene between Barbossa and Elizabeth shows the motivation behind the Black Pearl crew’s actions. Geoffery Rush, as Barbossa, gives a speech that builds up the curse behind the Aztec gold and why they need the medallion and Elizabeth. After the terrifying revelation that her blood is needed, Elizabeth attempts to attack Barbossa and escape. When he doesn’t fall after she stabs him Elizabeth runs out on the deck of the ship, and the audience gets their first look at these cursed pirates.
The moonlight shows their true forms — pirates that are nothing but bones, not alive but not dead, unable to truly feel anything. Encountering terrifying skeletal pirate after pirate, poor Elizabeth attempts to run back inside. This shocking scene ends with an unforgettable line, “You best start believing in ghost stories Miss Turner: you’re in one.” The cursed Barbossa then takes a drink of rum and we see as it runs down his rib bones as he gives an evil laugh that solidifies his status amongst the best of the Disney villains.
4. Black Pearl Vs Interceptor
In a movie about pirates, audiences expect there to be epic sea battles, and this scene delivers! After Elizabeth’s blood did not break the curse, Barbossa and crew give chase. On the Interceptor, we have Gibbs, Will, and Elizabeth, thinking they are on the fastest ship in the Caribbean. Much to their dismay, the Black Pearl with her supernatural advantage is gaining fast. After some clever maneuvers, the Interceptor crew fail to escape, and they decide to turn and fight. Loading their cannons with random items they have on the ship, this small crew shows their willingness to not give up.
With the word “Fire!” yelled by both ships, the battle begins. With the chaos of cannons, bullets, and swords, this scene shows how many tiny character moments can shine during these busy scenes. Whether it’s Jack yelling as he attempts to swing from ship to ship, Barbossa walking under a falling mast, or Gibbs getting his empty rum bottle back, these small moments make viewers’ care for the characters deepen. Ending with the Interceptor being blown up, this battle is sure to live on in the minds of viewers long after the movie is over.
It is rare when you can pinpoint an exact moment that truly defines a character, and in this scene, Jack shows his motivations for every decision he makes. With the Black Pearl crew capturing everything they need, Barbossa decides to maroon Jack and Elizabeth on an island before heading off to break the curse. Having been left here before, Jack goes straight for the rum stash. After learning how Jack escaped the last time, Elizabeth comes up with her plan. Dancing around a fire while singing, Elizabeth pretends to indulge in the rum while Jack is clearly enjoying himself.
Their conversation leads to Jack talking about the Black Pearl and what the ship truly means to him, “Where ever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and hull and deck and sails. That’s what a ship needs. But what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.” When speaking about freedom and the Black Pearl he drops his charade and lets us see, even if just for a second, the true Jack Sparrow. Also, this leads to the infamous ” Why is the rum gone?” scene and it would be a crime to leave that out.
2. Moonlit Walk
Upon learning that the British forces are prepared to attack them the second they are human, Barbossa and crew form a plan. Instead of breaking the curse immediately, they decide to wait until they take care of the enemy. With the instructions to, take a walk, the Black Pearl crew descend onto the unexpecting British. The shot of the cursed skeletal crew walking along the ocean floor through the moonlight beams will send chills down your spine. Rewatching this moment shows how much work and care the crew behind the scenes put into the special effects because 20 years later they still hold up! The stakes are set high in this fight. This is one of the few moments in movie history where you feel bad for the British troops, going up against pirates who can’t be killed.
While the battle is happening on the boat, another fight wars inside the cave as Jack, Will, and Elizabeth take on Barbossa and his crew. Viewers watch as the trio tries to give Jack and Will the perfect moment to break the curse. Everything seems like fun swordplay until the unthinkable happens and Jack is stabbed by Barbossa. The breathless moment causes everyone to freeze until Jack backs into the moonlight. The light reveals that Jack took a piece of the Aztec gold and therefore is cursed and can’t be killed. With this shocking development, the battle ensues again as Jack fights for the moment to take his revenge against the man who stole his beloved ship and took his freedom.
At the height of the fight, Barbossa has Elizabeth at gunpoint when we hear a shot. Shocked the shot came from Jack’s gun he has been saving for years, Barbossa teases Jack about wasting it. Will comes to Jack’s defense saying he did not waste the shot as he drops the coins covered in his blood back into the chest, breaking the curse. With the curse finally broken, pirates on the ship begin dropping from their injuries. Back in the cave, Barbossa pulls his jacket back revealing blood, and beginning to soak the shirt before he falls dead. With his revenge finally accomplished, the trio head back to the ship.
1. Jack’s Entrance
When I asked fans what Pirates moment they remember most, this answer came up every single time. I thought it only fair to give the top spot to the man, the myth, the legend himself: Captain Jack Sparrow.
Fairly early in the film, we are introduced to Sparrow. Captain Jack makes his entrance in a way that only he can. We see him looking majestically epic standing on the mast of a ship sailing into Port Royal. When Jack jumps to the deck below, viewers realize his ship is tiny and sinking quickly. Seemingly unbothered by both of these facts, we see the first glimpse of Sparrow’s character as he pays respect to a few fallen fellow pirates. Focusing on the other men’s priceless reactions as Jack sails into port makes this comedic moment shine. Standing on the mast of the tiny ship as it sinks perfectly letting Jack step onto the dock without missing a beat will forever live in fan’s minds. Seeing this one-of-a-kind character enter the film and permanently leave his mark on movie history.
It was truly a joy to revisit Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, as it is my favorite movie. Over the last two decades, we have witnessed this original film turn into a worldwide successful franchise with the addition of four more films. There have been many attempts over the years to capture the magic of this first film, but there is just something special about it that can’t be duplicated. There are lines and scenes from this special movie that have weaved their way into our pop culture and everyday lives. I give this movie credit for making me fall in love with movies and how they are made. For those of you, like me, who love to see how the magic is created, Pirates has many hours of behind the scene footage I highly recommend checking out.
The entire Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is available to stream on Disney+. Now in the words of Captain Jack Sparrow, “Bring me that horizon.”