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A Pirate 400 Years Too Late

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Salty dogs of the highway.

Scott Pilgrim: "Are you a pirate?"
Matthew Patel: "Pirates are in this year!"

Swashbuckling, rum-swilling, Dressed to Plunder pirates in modern times. This trope covers works the presence of pirates clearly based on The Golden Age of Piracy, whether the real deal or the Hollywood versions, in works clearly set in the modern era or, at least, any point after the heyday of Caribbean piracy ended.

Exactly why these characters are dressed and acting like they are varies from case to case. Some will be consciously trying to reenact "classical" piracy for one reason or another, and deliberately take up the dress, gimmicks and mannerisms of pop culture piracy. Other cases will simply have peg-legged, eyepatch-wearing, doubloon-seeking Blackbeard stand-ins roam the seas of the 20th century without comment or explanation.

Compare and contrast Sky Pirates. Space Pirates is when they are a few more centuries late; many cases of this trope are just as inexplicably tied to the visual icons of Caribbean pirates as these ones are. For modern, Real Life pirates of the type who are very good at shivering people's timbers (with an AK-47, not a cutlass), see Ruthless Modern Pirates. If the pirates are more concerned with looking the part than acting it, they're probably The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.


Compare to Born in the Wrong Century for when they feel like they belong in The Golden Age of Piracy.


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    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons: Episode 42 has Weslie, Paddi, and Sparky meet a trio of pirates and join them on their ship. The show is supposed to take place in the year 3513, so it's more like 2,000 years too late.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • Batman:
      • The villains Captain Stingaree and Cap'n Fear. Somewhat subverted in the case of Cap'n Fear and his crew, as Detective Harvey Bullock doesn't find them funny or charming at all ("I hate them swishbucklers.") and one of Fear's own men mutters about how he's getting "sick of this Popeye rap" (though he promptly changes his mind once the Dark Chick threatens to slit his throat).
      • In one Golden Age story, Batman fights a one-shot villain called Blackbeard, who styles himself after the historical Blackbeard.
    • Superman: The "Trial of Superman" arc has a character named Freelance, a bounty hunter who travels space in an 18th century-style pirate ship, complete with holographic figurehead changeable to whatever female he happens to be attracted to. He enjoys letting enemies onto his ship simply to throw them off, fighting with a sword, and sports an eyepatch.
    • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Wonder Woman once faced a husband and wife team that lead a group of (mostly women) air pirates who operated out of a small fleet of aircraft. While most of the group was well adapted to "modern" (1940s) times the husband styled himself after an old timey pirate and went by Captain Redbeard. Amusingly their fight attracted the attention of a Clock Roach that then put the pirates, Diana, Steve Trevor, Etta Candy and the Holliday Girls back in the more appropriate time period for a swashbuckling confrontation on the high seas.
  • Femforce foe Singapore Sal mixes this trope with Ruthless Modern Pirates in a deadly combination. She dresses and talks like a refugee from the Golden Age of Piracy, but has no qualms about using modern ships and weaponry to conduct her piracy.
  • The Losers: Captain Storm in the original World War II version becomes one of these after losing his memory (and an eye) to an explosion. He already had a wooden leg, it was a reasonable assumption.
  • Marvel Universe: Sub-Mariner: Commander Kraken, a foe of Namor's. His arsenal includes an electrified Hook Hand, a rocket-powered Sea Dog Peg Leg and an electrified cutlass. His vehicle of choice was a Brigantine called "The Albatross". This old style pirate ship could transform into a sleek golden high powered submarine.
  • Seven Soldiers: The Subway Pirates fought by the Manhattan Guardian. In the subways of Manhattan, homeless citizens have banded together creating "pirate gangs", most notably the rival factions belonging to No-Beard and All-Beard. Theses adopt the trappings of classic pirates and ride pirate trains through the subway system: sometimes attacking subway stations to capture slaves.
  • The Ultraverse: The Strangers has Scar and his crew. After gaining superpowers, they moved to the Caribbean and become pirates, basing their costumed identities on classic pirates.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • In A New World on her Shoulders, there's White Fang member Captain Tick, whose personality and appearance is that of the swashbuckling scurvy-dogs of the past, complete with a fake hook hand. This is much to the annoyance of his crew, who better fit as Ruthless Modern Pirates in appearance and armaments.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blackbeard's Ghost is about a modern day man having to deal with the eponymous ghost as he unwittingly read an incantation to see him.
  • The Island (1980) centers on a long-isolated band of Caribbean pirates who prey on 20th Century boaters.
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life: The Crimson Permanent Assurance. The elderly British employees of the Permanent Assurance Company, a staid London firm which has recently been taken over by the Very Big Corporation of America, rebel against their much younger corporate masters when one of them is sacked. Having locked the surviving supervisors in the safe, and forced their boss to walk a makeshift plank out a window, they commandeer their Edwardian office building, which suddenly weighs anchor, uses its scaffolding and tarpaulins as sails, and is turned into a pirate ship. The stone office building starts to move as if it were a ship. Sailing through the City of London, they then proceed to attack The Very Big Corporation of America's (VBCA) skyscraper, using, among other things, wooden filing cabinets which have been transformed into cannonades and swords fashioned from the blades of a ceiling fan. On ropes, they swing into the board room and engage the executives of VBCA in hand-to-hand combat, vanquishing them.
  • Pirates Of The Plain: Pirate Jezebel Jack and his mutinous crew end up in modern day Nebraska via a time vortex.
  • In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Matthew Patell (the first evil ex) dresses like a pirate and gets mocked by the crowd for it. "Pirates are in this season!"

  • Black Lagoon: In Shaitan Baidi, one of the people the Lagoon is transporting is a woman who is, or believes herself to be, a direct descendant of the infamous Captain Morgan...and dresses the part.
  • The Flight Engineer: Invoked by some (not all) space pirates. Putting on the affectations of movie pirates makes them feel like holo heroes instead of the thieves and murderers they actually are.
  • The Island centers on a long-isolated band of Caribbean pirates who prey on 20th Century boaters.
  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle 's deceased husband was a pirate when he was alive, and the story takes place in The '50s.
  • Star Wars Legends: This is the hat of the Tof race, who embrace the wooden-ships-and-iron-men aesthetic despite living in a Space Opera universe.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. actually had an inversion — one member of John Bly's gang and his lackeys were a group of actual pirates who were bikers around 80-100 years early. Somehow or another they'd gotten driven off the high seas, so they took to pirating on the American plains, and they just so happen to have stolen some experimental new bicycles Professor Wickwire just knocked up... it's also a literal example of this trope, as they're very much classical pirates (maybe 17th century-ish), but the show is supposed to take place right around the turn of the 20th century.
  • The Armstrong and Miller Show parodied this in a sketch which involves random people getting press-ganged by the Royal Navy into joining the "South Harbour Club Patrol" after buying t-shirts reading exactly that. And if that concept isn't 18th century enough, then Somali pirates attack South Harbour... by firing audible cannon broadsides.
  • Sorry, I've Got No Head: "The Bluebeards" sketches are about a modern-day pirate family whose son Jim Bluebeard struggles with his life at a Privateer school.
  • The Wrong Door had the "The Train Pirates", disenfranchised modern people who swapped their suits and briefcases for 17th century dress and cutlasses but took to the rails rather than the seas and rode aboard "The Whore of Clapham" led by by Captain Goitier played by BRIAN BLESSED.
  • You're Skitting Me: In one of the "Tatiana the Sailor" sketches, Tats's friend Em was supposed to be disguised as a Somali pirate. However, having no idea what a Somali pirate actually was, she instead appears as one of these.

  • Jimmy Buffett: The trope name is paraphrased from "A Pirate Looks at 40"; though the line in the song is "two hundred years too late". The song contains the bittersweet confession of a modern-day, washed-up drug smuggler as he looks back on the first forty years of his life, expresses lament that his preferred vocation of piracy on the high seas was long gone by the time he was born, and wonders what he should do with himself now.
  • The Last Saskatchewan Pirate Tractor Jack became one of these (on the Saskatchewan River) due to a lack of jobs and an unwillingnes to accept government buyouts, unemployment insurance, or welfare. And all while covering The Arrogant Worms, too. Just for clarity, the music video shows that Tractor Jack isn't even sailing the Saskatchewan... It's froze over so he drives his pick-up truck and raids the other farmer's trucks as if they were Spanish Treasure ships.
  • Jesse Rice is a relatively unknown country singer, whose most major album is called "The Pirate Sessions." This trope comes into play the strongest on the song, "300 Years Ago," a ballad in which the artist compares the life he lives with that of pirates three hundred years ago.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Absolute Intense Wrestling's second championship tag team, Morty Rackem and Ruthless Rufio Rapier: The Cut Throat Crew. They were sometimes accompanied by Syd Smythe as well and Morty also serves in Pirate Justice, primarily for Prime Wrestling, and sometimes the two groups got together.
  • The Pro Wrestling Syndicate has The Drunken Swashbuckler and Salty The Deckhand.
  • In WWE Paul Burchill briefly became a "wrestling pirate" after discovering that he was a descendant of Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show: One "Pigs in Space" sketch has John Cleese attacking the Swinetrek as a pirate of the swashbuckler variety. Link Hogthrob informs him that he's a few centuries out of place, which leads to an argument between John and his parrot.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Back East: The North sourcebook for Deadlands has the Vikings of Duluth; a group of Scandanavian descendents who adopt Viking trappings to fight the British Navy on the Great Lakes. There are also pirates (drawn in full seventeenth-century garb) in the Great Maze in what used to be California.
  • Captain Kraken of Mutants & Masterminds Freedom City setting is a form of this. Essentially, he's an alien Space Pirate who started watching broadcasts of Earth pirate movies and decided that it would be fun to dress himself and his crew in the same style. How serious he is about following the tropes depends on the GM.


    Video Games 
  • Hidden Expedition 5: The Uncharted Islands features a mostly-Affably Evil group of pirates led by a man nicknamed Undertow. Justified because the islands in question are under a force field which grants its denizens rather long lives, at the price of never being able to leave.
  • The King of Fighters: Bonne Jenet and her crew are somewhere between this and Ruthless Modern Pirates. The crew dresses like stereotypical pirates, but their ship is a nuclear sub.
  • Monkey Island occasionally crosses into this due to the Purely Aesthetic Era.
  • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves features a trip to Blood Bath Bay, a series of small islands inhabited by "throwbacks" who still live by old fashioned pirate culture.
  • Soul Series: The resident pirate Cervantes de Leon is an inversion, as the games are set during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, but his design cues harken to The Golden Age of Piracy, which only begins in the mid-1600s, thus his pirate style is about a century early.

    Web Animation 
  • Happy Tree Friends: Russell, whose catchphrase is "Yar".
  • Lego Pirate Misadventures: The main cast, made more prevalent in #3, when they attend an office party in a cube farm and go into a crappy dive bar.
  • The Weebl toon Somalia portrays Somalian pirates like this.

  • Irregular Webcomic!: The pirates, who for the most part are the classic Hollywood swashbuckler sort, become this when they are arbitrarily transported to 1940.
  • Li'l Gotham: Captain Greenbeard (a sea-going counterpart of The Joker) and his crew.
  • The Non-Adventures of Wonderella: The Chesapeake Bay Pirates, who faithfully embrace every pirate trope in the book despite the increasing difficulty of maintain the traditional lifestyle in the modern day — it's hard to be a successful marine robber when the Coast Guard has machine guns and lasers and you're still sailing a wooden sailing ship.
  • Q Force: Captain Rigur DeMortis. His status as The Undead partially justifies it as he's been around for 400 years, though in the words of his "loyal" undead crew, he hasn't aged well:
    Crewman #1: Ye couldn't best Cap'n Crunch!
    Crewman #2: Software Pirates be scarier than ye!
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Kiki, Bun-Bun and a little girl play at being pirates in a small boat. Unfortunately Bun-Bun, being Bun-Bun, tries actually thieving and murdering.

    Web Original 
  • SuperMarioLogan: In "Chef Pee Pee's Father", Chef Pee Pee's father is a present-day pirate.

    Western Animation 
  • Almost Naked Animals: The lobster pirates who attempt to take over the cabana in "Narwhal's Birthday".
  • Codename: Kids Next Door features the candy-swiping Captain Stickybeard and crew. Fortunately for them he also hates vegetables.
  • Danny Phantom: Youngblood and his pirate crew hits the mark of the traditional, swashbuckling pirates we know and love, though this may be a justified case as Youngblood constantly dresses up in costumes for his own childish amusement.
  • Dennis the Menace (UK): One episode of the cartoon has a group of actors turn out to be real pirates.
  • Family Guy: Played for Laughs in one episode when Peter goes from stealing a parrot as a pet from a veterinarian's office to dressing as a stereotypical pirate and hiring a pirate crew to finally going on the road and engaging a motorist in an epic swashbuckling fight, in the course of which Peter's car acquires a mast and sails.
  • Filmation's Ghostbusters had to deal with the likes of Long-John Scarechrome, a cross between this and a Space Pirate. Any ghostly pirates seen in the show.
  • A Garfield and Friends episode featured a TV repairman who decided to follow the footsteps of his pirate ancestor and become a full pirate (In fact, the episode describes the TV repairman job as a way for pirate descendants to keep close to their roots). This modern day's pirate's criminal career was helped by the fact the authorities refused to believe whenever his victims reported him. Fortunately Garfield saved the day.
  • I Got A Rocket has Captain O'Cheese (referred to as "Pirate" in the credits) drives a pirate ship on the streets.
  • Inspector Gadget: On episode has Gadget on a Caribbean cruise ship that is attacked by stereotypical, pegleg-having eyepatch-wearing pirates who sail a galleon. Though, as Penny discovers, the pirates do have some modern equipment, like a Video Phone.
  • One Jackie Chan Adventures episode featured pirates.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes had a crew of them appearing in a Season 2 episode.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures: The first episode has pirates dressed like what you would expect from the typical traditional pirate from a few centuries ago. Justified because they're posing as ghosts to keep people away from a shipwreck while they carry off the loot.
  • Kim Possible: Played with in an episode where Dr. Drakken gets possessed by a pirate ghost:
    Drakken: Aye. Set the mainsail, wench.
    Shego: Okay, first of all we don't have any sails. Second of all, call me "wench" again and we'll be planning a burial at sea.
    Drakken: (nervously) Yearr. Arrgh.
  • Mike, Lu & Og has a trio of pirates who are the shipwrecked descendants of the pirates who shipwrecked the island's other inhabitants.
  • PAW Patrol's Season Four finale introduces a pirate villain named Sid Swashbuckle, who displays multiple stereotypes associated with pirates.
  • Rocko's Modern Life, "Sailing the Seven Zzzs": After accidentally digging up a childhood trauma involving a play about pirates, Mr. Bighead starts to sleepwalk and acts out dreams of being a pirate, trying to reclaim his "treasure map" from Rocko.
  • Roger Ramjet: Red Dog the Pirate.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • Mystery Inc confronts these, posing as ghosts no less, in Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy!
    • Mystery Inc does the same thing in various episodes of the original series... and those pirates are also posing as ghosts.
  • SheZow: The Pushy Pirate Posse.
  • South Park: In "Fatbeard", after hearing about the recent increase in piracy in Somalia and thinking this to mean that the age of Caribbean-style pirates is coming back, Cartman decides to go and live there (along with Butters, Clyde, Kyle's little brother Ike, and one of the ginger kids, that latter of whom Cartman quickly kicks out for being ginger, since Cartman believes they have no souls). Kyle and Stan realize what an incredibly stupid idea this, but instead play up his fantasy, encouraging him to go, hoping that he will be killed along the way. Cartman is disgusted to learn that modern Somali pirates are "a disgrace to Blackbeard", and tries to get them to act more traditional.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: The series often throws in pirates for no reason other than to go with its nautical theme. Most notable are the Flying Dutchman (who is a ghost) and Patchy (more of a cosplayer than anything else). (Fish) pirates sell Squidward the pie bomb in "Dyin' for Pie", and Mr. Krabs plays pirate in "Aargh!". A later episode reveals that his grandfather was a pirate... and still is.
  • The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries: "You're Thor?" has Vikings a thousand years too late.
  • Teamo Supremo: One episode has the kids' teacher tell them that there are no such things as pirates in the modern day. The identity of the Villain of the Week proves her wrong.
  • The ThunderCats has a robot version as a very minor recurring villain, complete with robo-parrot and speech pattern.
  • Van Beuren Studios: Even though most of the Cubby Bear cartoons are clearly set in the 1930s, there are old-fashioned swashbuckling pirates in "Bubbles and Troubles".

    Real Life 
  • Invoked every year on Talk Like a Pirate Day.
  • "Great Lakes Pirate" Dan Seavey (1864-1945) is called this in all of his biographies.
  • Tampa, Florida has a festival called Gasparilla celebrating Jose Gaspar, and the people of Tampa tend to follow this trope around that time.


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