Film: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) is the first movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

The movie begins when Will Turner,,the sole survivor of a shipwreck, is found by a ship carrying his future love interest, Elizabeth Swann, the daughter of the royal governor, who takes a medallion from him. Eight years later, Will is a blacksmith in Port Royal. A pirate captain, Jack Sparrow, arrives in a crowning entrance high on the mast of a sinking...dinghy, only to be arrested after a couple fateful run-ins with Elizabeth and Will. That night, the town is attacked by more pirates, but Elizabeth persuades them to call off the attack in exchange for the medallion.

Unfortunately for her, the pirates, led by Captain Barbossa, sail off with Elizabeth, but Barbossa tells her the Back Story. They have been cursed for stealing Aztec gold, doomed to forever exist as undead creatures who can not gain satisfaction from eating, drinking, or even the simple pleasure of a warm breeze; even the final peace of death is denied to them. Now they must collect all the coins and return them, along with blood from each pirate. Since Elizabeth gave them her name as Elizabeth Turner, they think she is the daughter of a missing crewman and they need her blood. Jack likewise has ties to them as before they were cursed, their ship, the Black Pearl, was under his command before Barbossa took it over. Now Jack is looking to get it back, and Will springs him from prison in exchange for Jack's promise to help rescue Elizabeth.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: A toddler is shown wandering alone, screaming for his mother during the ransacking of Port Royale. He's just barely saved by a passing woman before being crushed by a burning building. Thinking of one's own child alone, terrified, and screaming for you during a disaster can certainly send a stab of fear through any parent.
  • An Aesop: Just because a man is an outlaw doesn't mean he isn't a good person in his own ways.
  • Anti-Advice:
    Murtogg: But why aren't we doing... what Mr. Sparrow said we should do? With the cannons and all?
    Norrington: Because it was Mr. Sparrow who said it.
  • As You Know: First movie, "You're the Governor's Daughter."
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: Gov. Swann and the pirate zombie's arm.
  • Audible Sharpness: When Will says his father was not a pirate, then draws his sword, it makes the metallic scraping sound, despite simply being tucked in his belt without any kind of sheath.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: As a child Elizabeth is fascinated with pirates and dreams of meeting one. When she finally does meet some real pirates as an adult, well, they're not quite the romantic figures she imagined them to be.
  • Beware the Honest Ones: Jack briefly gives homage to this trope.
    Jack: Me? I'm dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. It's the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they're going to do something incredibly... stupid.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: When Barbossa marooned Jack on a desert island, even providing him with a loaded gun. Truth in Television, as pirates really did do this. Although after Jack escaped the first time, you'd have thought Barbossa would have learnt not to do it again.
  • Book Ends:
    • The movie begins and ends with someone singing "A Pirate's Life for Me".
    • Jack and Elizabeth meet when she falls from the cliff; when they say goodbye at the end of the film, at the same place, Jack is the one who falls off the cliff.
  • Bowdlerize: You can't have Sparrow say the actual phrase, "Rape, pillage, plunder", now could you?
  • Brick Joke: As Jack is about to be arrested by the British after arriving at the port at the beginning, Norrington comments on how he's the "worst pirate he's ever seen". Several scenes later, after Jack stole a British ship, Lt. Groves declares Jack to be "the best pirate he's ever seen", earning him a Death Glare and a muttered "So it would seem." from Norrington.
  • Catchphrase Interruptus: The only time Jack ever finishes his Catch Phrase "You will always remember this as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow!" is when he actually gets captured.
    Norrington: "Well, I'm sure you will remember this as the day that Captain Jack Sparrow almost escaped."
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys:
    Pintel: Damn to the depths whatever mutton-head thought up parley!
    Jack: That would be the French.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Will's sword throwing is first used to stop Jack from escaping, but at the end he saves Jack from the gallows with it. Although this looks like it would be a Chekhov's Skill, Will's skill at throwing swords was part of the screenplay before the scene at the gallows was even created.
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: "We know you're 'ere, poppet..."
  • Crowd Hockey: Ragetti's eye.
  • Curse Escape Clause: The entire motivation of Barbossa and his crew was to find the last remaining piece of the treasure as well as the descendant of Bootstrap Bill Turner so that they could meet the conditions of this. Jack, being Jack, curses himself before the final battle, and then triggers the escape clause at the opportune moment.
  • Dem Bones: The Black Pearl was really run by a "skeleton" crew under Barbossa.
  • Derelict Graveyard: Isle De Muerta is surrounded by one, implied to be all the other people who've gone looking for the treasure.
  • Disappeared Dad: William's father being missing from his life turns out to be an important plot point. He was one of the Black Pearl's crew, who objected to mutinying against Jack... until Barbossa got fed up, tied him to a cannon and dropped him into the sea. And then the crew learned they needed his blood.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Barbossa explicitly says the gold's curse is this in his big speech before taking Elizabeth's blood.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Jack Sparrow heroically sailing his sunken boat into port (physics be damned), and getting on the dock without breaking stride.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: It is said that "the Black Pearl is crewed by the damned and captained by a man so evil that Hell itself spat him back out."
  • Fake Hair Drama: Governor Swann is inspired to take action against the pirates after they almost steal his wig.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: During the scene where the crew of the Pearl is kidnapping Elizabeth out of her father's mansion.
  • Food Porn: Brief in-universe example: Barbossa can't taste, so he just watches Elizabeth eat with a very...interesting expression on his face.
  • Gilligan Cut: Used with Elizabeth's would-be Rousing Speech. Immediately after she makes it, it cuts to her rowing back to Ilse De Muerta alone.
  • Go Through Me: Elizabeth and Will to Jack.
  • He's Dead, Jim: Barbossa, as he is shot through the chest, says "I feel... cold." and collapses.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...:
    "I expect the man who made this sword would put the same care and dedication into every aspect of his life."
  • Improvised Zipline: Captain Jack Sparrow did this with the chain on his handcuffs.
  • Insistent Terminology: They're not stealing the Dauntless, they're commandeering it.
    Jack: Nautical term.
  • Irony:
    • When the pirates raid Port Royal, one of Elizabeth's maids assumes they've come to kidnap her because she's the Governor's daughter so Elizabeth lies to say her last name is Turner and that she's just a maid. Except unfortunately for her, they were actually looking for someone descended from one of their crew whose blood they need to remove their curse. The last name in question? Turner of course.
      • Further irony - the Turner the pirates were actually looking for is in love with Elizabeth and when the pirates kidnap her he sets out to try and rescue her, not knowing he's the one they're looking for. And another bit - he didn't need a plan to rescue Elizabeth. He could have just walked into the Isla De Muerto, told them who he was and offered his own blood in exchange for Elizabeth's safety (provided he invoked parlay as well).
    • Pointed out by Pintel and Ragetti about the story of Bootstrap Bill. Barbossa dropped him into the sea for sticking up against Jack, after which they learned they needed his blood to end the curse in the first place.
  • Island of Mystery: The Isle de Muerta where the cursed Aztec gold was hidden, a place shrouded in fog that could only be found by those who already knew where it was. Following the events of the movie, it was reclaimed by the sea.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: The following exchange when Will and Jack first meet. And immediately start fighting in Will's workshop.
    Jack: You need to get yourself a girl mate! Or maybe you've already met one, and the reason you practice three hours a day is because you're otherwise incapable of wooing self-same lass, hmm?
    Will: ...the reason I practice three hours a day, is so that when I meet a pirate, I can kill it!
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Elizabeth stabs Barbossa and breaks another cursed pirate's neck by smacking him with the ship's wheel while dressed in the crimson dress she's been forced to wear. Later subverted with Pintel and Ragetti, zombified, fighting British sailors while still wearing the tattered remnants of their pretty dresses.
  • Killing for a Tissue Sample: Averted initially, then played straight.
    • The pirates avert the trope with Elizabeth. They let her believe she'll be sacrificed to free them, but all they need is a few drops of her blood on the gold.
    Barbossa: Waste not.
    • When it becomes William's turn, they are by this point rather frustrated and decide to spill it all just to make sure. And provide greater dramatic emphasis for the effort to rescue him, of course.
  • Loophole Abuse: As Barbossa's crew captures Jack's crew and Will, Barbossa agrees, as per Will's demands, to set Elizabeth free and not harm Jack's crew. Barbossa, however, adds a loophole, marooning Elizabeth and Jack on the island Jack was marooned on years earlier. When Will calls Barbossa out on his actions, Barbossa retorts thus:
    Barbossa: Don't dare impugn me honor, boy! I agreed she'd go free and it's free she'll go! It was you who failed to specify when or where.
    • He also does it when agreeing to spare Port Royal in exchange for the final piece of Aztec gold; Elizabeth didn't say anything about being returned to port, so Barbossa decides to keep her for her blood.
  • Mayincatec: The cursed Aztec gold.
  • Meaningful Echo: Jack says to Will "you can accept that your father was a pirate, and a good man, or you can't." At the end of the film this exchange occurs about Jack.
    Governor Swann: "He's a pirate."
    Will: "And a good man."
  • Mercy Lead: At the end of the film, Norrington grants the escaped Jack a day's head start.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The film starts with Elizabeth meeting a shipwrecked Will, during their childhood.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: This poster for the first movie.
  • Mortality Ensues: This happens to Barbossa at the worst possible time; Will drops the final gold piece into the cursed treasure chest just after Sparrow blows a fatal hole in Barbossa's chest with a pistol, removing the curse and causing Barbossa to bleed out.
  • Mutual Disadvantage: Near the end of the film, Jack grabs a bit of the cursed treasure before his fight with Barbossa, briefly resulting in this.
  • Myopic Architecture: And that, my friends, is why one shouldn't build prison cells with half-pin hinges.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Pirate zombies.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Jack saves Elizabeth from drowning, which gives Norrington the chance to find him, and order him shot, something Elizabeth and Jack object to.
    Elizabeth: Pirate or not, this man saved my life.
    Norrington: One good deed does not make up for a life of wickedness.
    Jack: But it seems enough to condemn him.
    Norrington: Indeed.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: The scene where Elizabeth is forced to dine either with Barbossa or with the crew and she reluctantly decides to dine with Barbossa.
  • No Respect Guy: Will is the one doing all the work at the town blacksmith's, while his master spends all day either drunk or unconscious, yet the man gets all the credit while Will is overlooked completely. After all, he's just an apprentice.
  • Of Corset Hurts: Elizabeth complains mightily when trussed up in a corset for Norrington's ceremony, especially since it causes her to faint, and fall off a cliff...
  • Of Corsets Sexy: ...but one can't deny it gives her some excellent cleavage. Although in the audio commentary Keira Knightley jokes that her cleavage was painted on.
  • Ominous Fog: Follows the cursed Black Pearl around.
  • Organ Dodge: Ragetti takes a fork to the eye after the opposing ship fires a round of shrapnel after running out of cannonballs. Fortunately, the eye that gets hit is wooden.
  • Orphaned Punchline: "...And then they made me their chief."
  • Palm Bloodletting: The preferred way to shed the blood required to end the curse, once it's established that only a little bit of blood is needed.
  • Powder Trail: How the cursed Black Pearl crew destroys the Interceptor.
  • The Power of Blood: The blood of those who took coins from the Chest of Cortez (or that of their children)is required in order to end the curse.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: See Beware the Honest Ones above.
  • Precision F-Strike: From Curse of the Black Pearl:
    Will: Barbossa, you lying bastard!
    • Props for slipping that into a Disney movie. Oh, and also using the word "strumpet". And "eunuch". And...just the way that Jack is, feels like it shouldn't be in a Disney movie.
  • The Punishment: Steal the Aztec Gold and you'll become immortal and impossible to kill (downside: but you won't enjoy a moment of it).
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The pillaging and burning occurs during the Black Pearl's attack on Port Harbor. This being a Disney movie, no raping is shown.
    • Although, in a pretty blatant Getting Crap Past the Radar moment, there is the scene where Barbossa tosses a recaptured Elizabeth into the hands of his crew, who start pawing at her and pulling on her dress and hair as she starts screaming. Will shows up, everyone is distracted, and nothing further happens to Elizabeth, but this still reads as a near-Attempted Rape.
  • Rule of Three: Both parley and thinking of the pirates' code as guidelines are both mentioned thrice over the course of the movie:
    • Elizabeth uses parley to spare her life; Jack tries it later on his old partners to no avail; and Pintel warns Jack's captured crew not to think of playing the parley card.
      • In this case, it could be "Rule of Four": after the curse is lifted and Barbossa's crew are no longer immortal, they are held at gunpoint by the soldiers. As this happens, Pintel nervously says, "Parley?"
    • Barbossa informs Elizabeth that he finds the pirates' code to be more like guidelines than actual rules; something she recites to Jack's crew; and something they tell him at the end of the film.
    • In Tortuga, Jack encounters a woman who slaps him without speaking a word, and he defiantly tells Will that "Not sure I deserved that." Another woman steps up, says one line, and then she slaps Jack. "I might have deserved that." A few scenes later, his newly-assembled crew contains one woman, who slaps Jack the moment he removes her hat.
      Will: I suppose you didn't deserve that one, either.
      Jack: No, that one I deserved.
  • Running Gag:
    • Jack calling people (Will, mostly) a "eunuch"
    • Ragetti's fake eye falling out or otherwise taking damage
    • "Pirates." / "Pirate."
  • Sarcastic Confession: Jack.
    Well, then, I confess. It is my intention to commandeer one of these ships, pick up a crew in Tortuga, raid, pillage, plunder and otherwise pilfer my weaselly black guts out.
  • Sense Loss Sadness: Barbossa's motivation to undo the curse.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: "I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request. (Beat) Means 'no'".
  • Shout-Out: Several very nice ones to pirate films, and to Disney movies as well:
    • Peter Pan: In the very first scene, Governor Swann's costume looks exactly like Captain Hook. Also, in the final fight, Jack cuts off some of the feathers on Barbossa's hat, just like Peter does to Hook.
    • Snow White: When Elizabeth refuses Barbossa's apple, believing it's poisoned.
    • Dante's Inferno: A subtle one, but when confronted in the jail cell by Kohler, Jack retorts that the deepest circle of hell is reserved for traitors, as that book states.
    • There are numerous nods to the attraction at Disneyland. Most notably is the use of the theme song "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life For Me", which is partially sang a good three times in the film.
      • Port Royal stands in for the Spanish fort attacked by pirates on the ride, while Isla de Muerta represents the pirate caverns at the start of the ride.
      • The prison scene where captured pirates try to lure the guard dog over with a bone. Jack points out the dog will never move, and then tries to lure it over with the bone himself later on.
      • Tortuga features a lot of nods to the "burning town" scenes from the ride - the iconic redheaded woman named Scarlett appears as a prostitute, a pirate lies under a barrel of rum drinking from the tap, Gibbs sleeps with pigs, a woman chases a thief pirate around a balcony, and there is a musical band of pirates.
      • During the Black Pearl's assault on Port Royal, pirates chase women around.
      • Cotton's talking parrot is a nod to the ride's animatronic parrot mascot, and squawks "Dead men tell no tales!"
      • When Jack and Will are rowing through Isla de Muerta's caverns, there is a skeleton lying nearby with a crab next to it.
      • The skeletal Barbossa "drinks" a bottle of wine, and its contents trickle through his ribcage.
      • The film's plot of cursed treasure and greedy pirates may come from the ride's line "Who knows when that evil curse will strike the greedy beholders of this bewitched treasure."
      • The storm scene is a nod to a similar one in the ride.
      • Barbossa calls his crew "bloomin' cockroaches!"
  • Spiteful Spit: Koehler does this toward Jack Sparrow when he discovers him in the jail.
  • Squick: In-universe example when Jack finds out that Cotton has no tongue.
  • Stepping-Stone Sword: Will throws a sword under Jack's feet to save him from a hanging.
  • The Stinger: Jack (the monkey) recovering one of the cursed coins after everything's over.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Norrington. He's definitely not the bad guy, and is pursuing Jack out of duty and orders. Jack is, after all a pirate, and piracy was a huge threat to settlements.
    • Several of the deleted scenes feature Pet the Dog moments for Norrington. Notably, he tells Governor Swann that whatever his personal feelings towards Will, he's duty-bound to try and rescue him from Barbossa. He also has a moving heart-to-heart talk with Elizabeth after she "accepts" his proposal. Even Jack admits that he respects Norrington as "a man who knows what he's after."
  • Tactful Translation: Played for laughs when Barbossa "translates" his comments for Elizabeth. It can be argued that Elizabeth's look of confusion is merely the result of Barbossa speaking so eloquently seconds after asking her to use smaller words that the "humble pirates" can understand, and his translation is not for her, but his own crew, who also seem confused.
  • Tell Me About My Father: Will. He notes on breaking Jack out that the man recognises his name, but doesn't press the matter until they're out at sea. He doesn't like what he hears.
  • Undead Author: With regards to the Pearl.
    Jack: No survivors? Then where do the stories come from, I wonder?
  • Using You All Along: As Jack is bargaining with Barbossa for Will's life, and to destroy the men of the Dauntless (more or less), plus getting to sail the Pearl again as captain, Will bursts out "You've been planning this from the beginning!"
    Jack: (Beat) Yep.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Where Elizabeth stores the Aztec gold piece.
  • Walk, Don't Swim: The strategy used by the undead pirates to reach Norrington's ship undetected.
    Barbossa: Gents... talk a walk!
  • Walk the Plank: To be marooned on a Desert Island... twice.
  • Who Are You?: From Barbossa to Will Turner. It features a mild subversion, with Jack trying very hard to keep Will from answering, since it will derail his plans.
    Barbossa: Who are you?
    Jack: Nobody! He's nobody! Distant cousin of my aunt's nephew, twice removed. Lovely singing voice, though. Eunuch.
  • Worthy Opponent: Naval officer Lt. Groves seems to hold this view of Captain Sparrow. At the least, he openly admires the pirate's ingenuity. "That's got to be the best pirate I've ever seen!"
  • You Need to Get Laid: Jack's initial impression of Will, when they fight amongst Will's swords.
    Jack: Who makes all these?
    Will: I do! And I practice with them three hours a day!
    Jack: You need to find yourself a girl, mate.