Avast ye landlubbers: Dead Men Tell No Tales / Salazar's Revenge is here! The latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie is set to broadside the box-office and shiver timbers once more, complete with its original core cast, and Paul McCartney thrown in for good measure!
Pirates of the Caribbean is one of Disney’s most profitable original franchises, so at first glance, you’d expect it to adhere to Disney’s lighter, family friendly approach. However, Pirates contains some truly stygian and shocking moments. To say the series plays loose with Disney’s guidelines would be an understatement; it practically launches them straight into the gaping, fearsome jaws of the Kraken!
What are these sequences? Why are they so messed up? And, in a franchise that features killer mermaids, cannibal tribes and cursed/un-dead pirates, what makes these moments stand out? Scroll on down, and feast your eyes on the entries below!
9. “I think... I am.” — At World’s End
This is probably the tamest entry on the list, but it’s still pretty bleak. Jonathan Pryce’s bumbling Governor Weatherby Swan is in serious danger a few scenes beforehand, yet it's still shocking and saddening to discover that he’s been killed off-screen.
For a mostly comedic character, he’s quite endearing, but the devastation of the scene lies in Elizabeth’s (#KeiraKnightley) heart-wrenching pleas. She begs for her dead father to return with them to the land of the living, but he is unable and unwilling to, accepting his fate with a disconcerting calmness. It's just my hay-fever, honest...
8. “You know my name?” — At World’s End
The scene where Elizabeth discovers an ailing Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) in the brig of the Flying Dutchman also isn’t overtly gory or disturbing, but rather unsettling. Like with Jack Sparrow (#JohnnyDepp), Bootstrap Bill’s mental faculties start to suffer as his imprisonment by Davy Jones (#BillNighy) draws out. As he’s slowly absorbed into the ship and feasted upon by sea life, his dwindling sense of self is clear; after all, his shock and happiness that someone simply knows his name are incredibly saddening, and scarily reminiscent of real mental illnesses.
It’s a truly gloomy part of the movie, especially when we discover the only thing keeping him going is a seemingly hopeless idea.
7. He’s ‘armless! — The Curse of the Black Pearl
Pirates of the Caribbean features plenty of morbid humor, and the scene where Governor Weatherby Swan "defends" himself from the cursed crew of the Black Pearl is a perfect example of this. Swan — more by chance than skill — manages to separate a skeletal arm from its owner, and his farcical attempts to subdue the arm are amusing, as is his reaction when the enchantment on the pirates has been lifted.
However, now that it’s more than likely grown all its flesh back, it’s quite horrible to think about the mess the arm is making in his cabinet, or the fact that there’s a pirate probably bleeding out elsewhere.
6. Shivver Me Timbers - Dead Man’s Chest
The fictional (but no less controversial) Pelegostos certainly had to make this list! Captured by the cannibalistic tribe, Will Turner (#OrlandoBloom) and Gibbs (Kevin McNally) are put in round, rough cages that are suspended over a chasm to await their fate. As they try to formulate an escape plan, Will asks where the rest of the crew are, to which Gibbs ominously states:
“These cages we’re in? Weren’t built until after we got here.”
Trapped by the corpses of their comrades? The disgusted reaction that Will gives says it all really.
5. “Fish-people, by dint of being fish-people...” — Dead Man’s Chest
Ok, now we’re getting into the big leagues. One of the most notably striking things about the series is how the villainous Davy Jones and his crew are realized; the CGI and makeup on each of them is simply fantastic! Corrupted by Jones's warped morality, they are all augmented by crustaceans, fauna and are becoming sea life themselves. In one scene in Dead Man's Chest, Will Turner boards a recently wrecked vessel, and is soon attacked by Davy Jones’s men when they arrive.
As their swords come out, Will manages to slash open a crew member's stomach, and rather than finding the usual intestinal contents, he is met with a fountain of bloodied fish which wriggle in their death throes upon the deck. Ew.
4. A Family Affair — Dead Man’s Chest
Again, this isn’t gory, but it’s definitely grim. When you look back on Bootstrap Bill’s role in the series, you can’t help but feel a tad sorry for him. He is betrayed by his own crew, and left, in his own words, “unable to move or die” for quite some time before escaping and becoming one of Davy Jones’s crew.
All alone and presumed dead, it must have been quite something to reunite with your only child some ten years after seeing him... and then be forced to flog the skin off his back mere seconds afterwards. His tears speak a thousand words, and Davy Jones’s sadistic smirk is horrible. If that’s not barbaric, I don’t know what is.
3. The Death of “Mister Beard” — On Stranger Tides
On Stranger Tides’s McGuffin is the legendary Fountain of Youth, which, to paraphrase Angelica (#PenelopeCruz), essentially takes the life from a person, and grants the time they would have lived to someone else. This is #Disney, yeah? So you’d expect some form of rapid aging and collapse, right? Wrong: this Fountains dispenses of its victims in a manner similar to Donovan's demise in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.
Through his usual trickery, Jack ensures that Blackbeard (#IanMcShane) is on the giving end. Instead of wrinkles and premature graying, a vortex of water literally strips the flesh off Blackbeard’s body in a bloody swirl...whilst he’s still conscious, and trying to escape...as his daughter looks on...
You do know that kids will be watching this, right guys?
2. Mercer's Sticky End — At World’s End
Bill Nighy’s cruel Davy Jones is undeniably one of the highlights of the series. He’s incredibly memorable, fantastically realized, and is one of the most complex and sympathetic characters in the whole saga. Yet he’s still a sadistic and formidable villain, and this scene is a perfect example of this. Seizing his chance in the heat of battle, Jones takes his revenge on Cutler Beckett's stooge Mercer by forcing his facial tentacles (beard-acles?) into his captor’s open orifices, with visible relish.
We’re not sure exactly what kills Mercer (Did he choke? Did the tentacles scramble his brains?) but the sickening sound effects of him choking, plus his bloodied eyes and face in the aftermath, ensure that this method of dying won’t feature on anyone’s list of preferred ways to go.
1. Cutler Beckett's Hang Ups — At World's End
Tom Hollander's Cutler Beckett might not be as striking as Davy Jones, but he's still a despicable cad. His war on piracy is the foundation of Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, but its not until the latter film that we see how eager he is to carry out his plans.
The first five minutes of At World's End aren't spent reintroducing us to our favorite characters; instead, we witness the very thorough mass executions of pirates, their sympathizers, and pretty much anyone who ever stood near a pirate, including a small cabin boy. All of this visceral, unnecessary death just to summon the Brethren Court; what a way to open a family movie!
Thought Disney would play it safe? You and me both. Mind you, talking about Pirates has made me want to re-watch the swashbuckling, supernatural epics once again! And I'm sure that, once we've all see Dead Men Tell No Tales — which includes ghostly pirate hunters and zombie sharks — that there will be even more morbid moments to enjoy and add to this list!