Despite existing since the 14th century BC, pirates really came into their own during the Golden Age of Piracy: 1650-1730—the time period that created the kind of pirate that’s most popular in TV shows and movies today.
Ready for some swashbuckling? Strap on your boots and fly the Jolly Roger for these pirate shows and movies your crew is guaranteed to love.
- Black Sails (2014-2017)
- Treasure Planet (2002)
- Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
- Crossbones (2014)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
- The Goonies (1985)
- The Pirates: Band of Misfits (2012)
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
Black Sails (2014-2017)
IMDB Rating: 8.2/10
Director: Jonathan E. Steinberg
Starring: Toby Stephens, Hannah New
Intended to be a prequel to Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Black Sails takes place around Port Royal, Jamaica, and shows how Long John Silver originally became a pirate and fell in with Captain Flint.
With four seasons, this show gives audiences the perfect opportunity to see the brutality and cunning that goes into being a captain and surviving in the world of the 1700s Caribbean.
There are multiple characters with their own motivations who all get screen time, although the narrative primarily follows Captain Flint.
Stream Black Sails on Hulu here.
Treasure Planet (2002)
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
Director: Ron Clements
Starring: Joseph Gordan-Levitt (Voice), Emma Thompson (Voice)
This Disney movie breathes fresh life into the Treasure Island story by setting everything in deep space, following the events of Jim Hawkins as he boards an interstellar ship to take him among the stars.
The combination of strange and adorable aliens, enhanced special effects showing the future, and Disney’s lovable characters amount to an amazing film.
Events generally follow those of Treasure Island, and many of the characters are still recognizable. It sadly did not perform well upon its premier—but not for lack of trying.
You can stream Treasure Planet on Disney+ here.
Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
IMDB Rating: 7.0/10
Director: Brian Henson
Starring: Tim Curry, Billy Conolly
This delightful movie follows the adventures of Jim Hawkins as he and his friends Rizzo and Gonzo climb aboard the Hispaniola for some fun, swashbuckling adventures with the likes of Long John Silver himself.
The juxtaposition of human actors and muppets interacting is always fun to watch, of course. What’s more, the songs will definitely get stuck in your head after finishing this film.
It’s a perfect watch for people with young kids who want to experience life on the high seas, without the gritty realism most pirate shows and movies offer.
You can find this film on Disney+ here.
IMDB Rating: 6.5/10
Director: Neil Cross
Starring: John Malkovich, Richard Coyle
Although this series took some artistic liberties with reality, it follows the supposed life of the fearsome pirate Blackbeard, also known as Edward Teach.
Historically, Teach died in 1718—and dead men tell no tales. However, this show looks at what else he might have done if he’d lived.
Crossbones takes place in 1729, eleven years after Blackbeard’s now faked death. The show centers around pirates stealing the blueprint for a new invention. If brought to fruition, this invention will allow naval ships to avoid pirates all too easily.
You can stream Crossbones on NBC here.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
IMDB Rating: 8.0/10
Director: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom
Everything about this movie primed it for success, both in the box office and in perpetuating a lasting franchise for years to come.
Johnny Depp plays Captain Jack Sparrow, undoubtedly the worst pirate anyone has ever seen, in his journey to reclaim his supposedly stolen ship, the Black Pearl.
Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann get roped in along the way. They transform into formidable pirates themselves while they help Sparrow solve the mystery behind the Pearl’s theft…as well as the sinister Captain Barbossa’s skeleton crew.
You can watch this (and all the Pirates of the Caribbean films) on Disney+ here.
The Goonies (1985)
IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin
Plenty of famous actors got their starts as children in this beloved film. When a group of kids discover an old treasure map, they set out to find the fortune and save their neighborhood from foreclosure.
No adventure comes without challenges, of course. Along with treacherous caves and booby traps, the kids must outrun and outsmart the criminals on their tail—who want that treasure for themselves.
You can stream The Goonies on HBO Max here.
The Pirates: Band of Misfits (2012)
IMDB Rating: 6.7/10
Director: Peter Lord
Starring: Hugh Grant, David Tennant, Martin Freeman
The star-studded cast of this stop-motion film practically guaranteed its success, but the witty writing and adorably inept pirates ensured it.
Together, the band of misfits must stay clear of Queen Victoria’s mandate to end piracy, while still making a name for themselves among the other pirates.
They’d prefer to do it the old-fashioned way, by capturing ships. But instead of gold and silver, they manage to capture Charles Darwin.
However, they underestimate Charles Darwin’s own thieving tendencies, and thus become involved in a scientific competition to win renown and money. It turns out the pirates have been harboring a truly profitable fugitive: the last living dodo bird.
You can rent or purchase this film on Amazon Prime here.
Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
IMDB Rating: 8.0/10
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Mayumi Tanaka (Voice), Keiko Yokozawa (Voice)
This beautiful film, set in the late 1800s, focuses on a young girl with a magical necklace as she desperately searches for a castle in the sky. She is accompanied by a boy determined to keep her safe from pirates and governmental agents at all costs.
Along the way, they learn about the origins of humanity, what happened to the original people who lived among the clouds, and why they came to Earth.
This anime film has a steampunk atmosphere that has influenced plenty of other films and media since its release. In fact, it’s been named one of Japan’s most influential films.
You can stream this and other Ghibli films on HBO Max here.
These pirate shows and movies may not be wholly factual—but they are wholly entertaining, satisfying that morbid curiosity that’s plagued landlubbers for centuries.