In the film, which draws inspiration from the novel On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is joined by Angelica (Penélope Cruz) in his search for the Fountain of Youth, confronting the infamous pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane). The film was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures and was released in the US on May 20, 2011. It was released in Disney Digital 3-D, IMAX 3D and 2D theatres.
Writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio first learned of Powers' novel during the back-to-back production of Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, and considered it a good starting point for a new movie in the series. Pre-production started after the end of the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike, with Johnny Depp collaborating with the writers on the story design. Principal photography rolled for 106 days between June and November 2010, with locations in Hawaii, the United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, and California. Filming employed 3D cameras similar to those used in the production of the 2009 film Avatar, and ten companies were involved with the film's visual effects.
On Stranger Tides broke many box office records upon release, and it stands as the 10th highest-grossing film of all time worldwide when not adjusting for inflation. Critical reviews were mixed to negative, with the film receiving criticism over the script-writing, excessiveness, and lack of originality; positive mentions were given on the acting, directing and visuals.
A pair of fishermen on their boat of the coast of Spain pull an old man out of the ocean who became entangled in their fishing net. He gasps “Ponce de Leon” and the men quickly sail to shore and bring him to the Spanish monarch. The young monarch learns of the Fountain of Youth, and demands that his men set sail at once to find the ship.
In England, a pair of guards escort a masked prisoner into a loud courtroom which is holding the trail of Captain Jack Sparrow. The prisoner is brought in and mask is removed to reveal that the prisoner is none other than Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally), Sparrow’s first mate. He tries to convince the people he’s not Jack Sparrow, but the crowd demands blood and calls for a hanging. The court allows the judge to enter the proceedings and Gibbs is surprised to see that it’s Jack dressed like the judge. Jack commutes Gibb’s sentence to life in prison, bribes the carriage driver and gets into the prisoner carriage with Gibbs.
Jack explains that he returned to London as soon as he heard about Gibbs’ capture. Gibbs tells Jack that someone claiming to be Jack Sparrow is looking for people to join his crew and that he was mistakenly captured when he arrived at the bar. Jack is confused and tells Gibbs that he isn’t looking for a crew. He shows Gibbs the map to the Fountain and tells him that he hit a bit of a snag trying to locate it. As the two finish talking, the carriage stops and the door opens to reveal several soldiers pointing their guns at the pair; it would seem that Jack has been betrayed.
Jack is escorted to the chambers of King George. The King does not want the Spanish monarchs to have control over the Fountain of Youth and wants Jack to guide a ship to the Fountain. The king’s peg-legged privateer captain enters the room and is revealed to be none other than Hector Barbossa. Jack is angry to learn that Barbossa lost the Black Pearl at sea with his leg and angrily insists that Barbossa should join it. The King asks Jack if he has the map and Jack realizes that Gibbs took it while they were in the carriage. He organizes a complex escape from the room and the building. The guards pursue him through London by carriage, until Jack final gives most of them the slip by jumping off of his carriage. He turns around to find a guard pointing a gun at him but the guard is quickly shot by Captain Teague (Keith Richards), Jack’s father. Teague takes Jack to the bar, where the imposter Jack is organizing a crew. Teague asks Jack if he knows anything about the ritual of the Fountain and warns Jack of the tests that will lie in his path. He points out the men who have joined the crew and have a ship and disappears, leaving Jack to his own devices.
Jack confronts the men who, in turn, believe the actual Jack to be an imposter. He sees the imposter by an adjacent door and follows him. The two duel for a bit before Jack recognizes the fighting style of the imposter, and going straight for a kiss. He pulls the fake beard off of his opponent's face and asks Angelica (Penelope Cruz), his former love, what she thinks she’s doing. Angelica explains that she’s after the Fountain and needs a crew to get it. She asks Jack if he still has the map and he tells her that he memorized it. Jack apologizes for ruining her life by preventing her from taking her vows and says that he honestly mistook her convent for a brothel, a mistake "anyone could have made". Before they can go at it again, British soldiers arrive hunting for Jack. Jack and Angelica fight them all and eventually dive down a cellar, which leads out into the Thames. They climb out and get back to shore, but Jack is knocked out by a tainted dart while asking Angelica about the ritual of Fountain.
When Jack comes to, he finds himself aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship of the feared pirate Edward Teach (popularly referred to by his nickname, Blackbeard). Jack is furious to have been conscripted into helping Blackbeard, a ruthless killer. Angelica explains that Blackbeard believes her to be his daughter and that she is desperate to find the Fountain and that Jack will be their compass. Jack sees a man strapped to the top of the mast and is told by a fellow crewman that the man is part of the clergy, allowed to live only by Blackbeard’s grace.
That night, Jack organizes a mutiny against Blackbeard by convincing the crew that, since they haven’t seen Blackbeard, he is not really on the ship or even captaining it. The men rise up and Jack frees the missionary, a young man named Phillip, from the mast. The commotion awakens Blackbeard (Ian McShane), who uses his magic sword to bring his ship to life, using the ropes on the sails to capture the mutineers. He makes an example out of a young man by throwing him off the ship in a lifeboat and using the ship’s flamethrower to ignite the little boat, a warning to the crew that anyone who stands against him will be killed. Back in England, Gibbs is brought before Barbossa to be hung. Barbossa tells Gibbs to give him the map he stole from Jack. Gibbs takes out the map and throws it into a nearby fire pit, telling Barbossa that the only way Barbossa will find the Fountain of Youth is if Barbossa agrees to keep Gibbs alive and use him as the ship’s navigator. Barbossa begrudgingly agrees and welcomes Gibbs back into the Royal Navy.
On Blackbeard’s ship, Jack tries to convince him that Angelica is lying about being Blackbeard’s daughter but Blackbeard confirms that she actually is his child. Blackbeard tells Jack about a prophecy which foretold Blackbeard’s death at the hands of a one-legged man. Jack is tortured for a bit using a voodoo doll, but Blackbeard relents when Angelica intercedes on Jack’s behalf. She tells him in private that the ritual to use the Fountain involves a mermaid’s tear and two silver chalices from the ship of Ponce de Leon, which contain the key to finding the Fountain. She explains that the Fountain takes life from one drinker and gives it to the one who drinks from the cup with the mermaid tear. Angelica takes him into Blackbeard’s treasure room and shows Jack that Blackbeard captures enemy ships and places them in magic bottles. She shows him what became of his beloved ship, the Black Pearl.
The Queen Anne’s Revenge pulls into White Cap Bay and the crew is put into lifeboats to begin hunting for mermaids. Blackbeard lands on shore with Jack and Angelica and they ignite a lighthouse in order to attract the mermaids with the light. Phillip is out at sea on the lifeboat when the mermaids start to arrive and enchant the sailors. A mermaid drags one of the sailors under and soon all of the mermaids are attacking the boats. Blackbeard uses the Queen Anne’s Revenge to begin driving the mermaids to shore and Phillip uses the distraction to dive into the water and desperately begin swimming to shore.
Meanwhile, the mermaids have begun using their hair to drag people on shore in to the water to kill them. Angelica is grabbed by the leg, but Jack jumps over her and cuts the hair with his sword. Realizing that Blackbeard’s plan will get them all killed, he races to the lighthouse and damages the support beams enough to cause it to implode. He dives into the water just as debris falls all around him. Phillip reaches the shore around this time and is about to be crushed by falling debris when he is knocked aside by a mermaid. The mermaid’s tail gets crushed, pinning her to the ground. Phillip releases it, but when she tries to escape, he stabs her in the fin in time for Blackbeard to come and capture her.
The mermaid is placed in a glass coffin and the men journey into the heart of the island looking for the lost ship of Ponce de Leon. Phillip sees that the mermaid is suffocating because she can’t get any air in the sealed coffin. He resists Blackbeard’s orders and pries the coffin open with his sword, wedging his bible in enough to keep the coffin from closing. His concern for her touches the young mermaid, who is unsure of what to make of Phillip.
The group reaches a giant gap in the land, which means that someone has to go on ahead without the others and find the ship. Blackbeard tells Jack that if Jack doesn’t go, Blackbeard will kill Angelica. Jack laughs at the idea, but Blackbeard tells his men "to bring 6 pistols, two of which have bullets", but insists "not to say which are loaded". Jack takes one and fires it at Angelica, but its empty. Blackbeard makes Jack choose again and Jack takes one, sure that it isn’t loaded and fires it into the sky, blowing off a branch off a tree. Jack is mortified and Angelica is slightly disturbed but Jack agrees to go on alone. He asks Blackbeard’s Voodoo servant if he will survive the jump. The Voodoo Priest tosses an effigy of Jack off the cliff and says “Now you will survive.” Jack dives in and goes it alone.
Meanwhile, back at White Cap Bay, Barbossa and his men arrive at the shore in lifeboats and see the remnants of the mermaids who were killed on shore. Their main ship is soon overrun by mermaids and Barbossa tells the remaining men that they are going on, ignoring the screams of the men being ripped apart on the ship.
Phillip and Blackbeard’s men get into an argument and Blackbeard’s men drop the mermaid’s coffin. They are surprised to see that upon touching land, the mermaid’s tail dissolves and she is left with normal legs. Phillip takes off his shirt and covers her with it, then carries her. He names her Syrena so that the group will have a name for her. Blackbeard takes Syrena to a special pool, where mermaids are tortured and left for dead. He demands that she cry, but she does not shed a tear. Realizing that Syrena probably has feelings for Phillip, Blackbeard has his men stab him in front of her and toss his body in the woods. Phillip comes to hours later and removes a knock out dart from his neck, groggily stumbling back to the pit. He tries to free Syrena, who begins crying tears of joy, but Blackbeard appears and knocks Phillip out, bottling the tear. He has his men drag Phillip away and leaves Syrena to die.
Jack arrives at the ship of Ponce de Leon, which is delicately balanced on the point of a mountain. The slightest shift in weight will send the ship hurtling to the bottom of a crevice and kill whoever is inside. Jack tries to find the silver cups, but is surprised by Barbossa, who was lying in wait. Barbossa explains that the Black Pearl came alive because of Blackbeard’s sword and that he was forced to cut his own leg off to escape the ship. Jack is surprised, but agrees to help Barbossa kill Blackbeard. They find the chalice box, but see that it is empty– The Spaniards have beaten them to it. Using the map of Ponce de Leon, they deduce the only area for the Spaniards to make camp and head out.
The duo steals the cups and Jack realizes that Barbossa’s sword has a distinct smell to it. Barbossa calmly explains that he has been killing poisonous frogs with his sword and plans to use the toxin to kill Blackbeard. They fail to retrieve the cup and are instead captured and tied to posts. Jack escapes and leads the Spaniards on a chase while Gibbs and Barbossa’s men rescue Barbossa and steal the cups. Jack tells Barbossa how to follow them to the Fountain and they part ways, Gibbs joining Jack for the final leg of the journey.
Jack and Gibbs find Blackbeard’s group and they look for the location of the Fountain: The cave where water falls up. Jack finds it and leads the men through, knocking the cups together. Blackbeard grows impatient and threatens to shoot Jack, but Jack realizes that the inscription on the cup is the password to the pool. He says the magic words and a pool forms on the ceiling of the cavern. Jack jumps up and climbs through and looks around the Fountain room. Blackbeard and his men follow, but are soon ambushed by Barbossa’s men and a full-scale battle erupts. Phillip uses the distraction to cut his bonds and escape, but gets stabbed in the stomach on his way out of the Fountain.
Jack and Angelica fight over the chalices and tear because Jack doesn’t want her to give it to Blackbeard. Meanwhile, Blackbeard gets the upper hand on Barbossa and is about to kill him when the Spaniards arrive and begin destroying the Fountain, not wanting a "pagan monument standing the way of God". They throw the chalices into the pool and Barbossa takes the opportunity to stab Blackbeard in the back with the poisoned sword. Angelica freaks out and pulls the blade out, cutting her hand in the process. Barbossa takes Blackbeard’s sword as payment for his leg and tells Blackbeard’s men that they are now his. Phillip arrives at the pit where Syrena has been chained and he begs God to save her life, even at the cost of his own. He cuts her bonds and she immediately swims away, heading straight for the pool room.
Jack realizes that Angelica only has moments to live. He desperately seeks the chalices in the water, but they are out of reach. Syrena arrives carrying the chalices and tells him not to waste her tear before she leaves. Jack grabs the chalices and puts water from the Fountain into them and places the tear in one of the cups. He goes to Blackbeard and tells him that he needs to save Angelica’s life "as a good father would". Blackbeard takes the wrong cup, determined to survive, and drinks. Angelica is both disappointed and happy, but Jack interrupts Blackbeard’s celebration by pointing out that he gave Blackbeard the wrong cup. The pool surrounds Blackbeard and rips him apart into dust particles, transferring his life to Angelica’s.
Phillip lies dying by the pool and Syrena returns to him. She tells him that she can save him, but Phillip only wants her forgiveness. They kiss and Syrena drags Phillip to the bottom of the sea. Angelica is angry with Jack for killing her father, but Jack is unrepentant. He ties her up and brings her to the same island he was marooned on years before and he tosses her a pistol with a single shot. She fires it at him and misses as Jack prepares to leave her. He suggests that he loves her before rowing away.
Barbossa takes the Queen Anne’s Revenge and sails off with his new crew. Gibbs, on the shore of the island, awaits Jack’s return. The two meet and Gibbs hands Jack a big prize: Gibbs went to the Queen Anne’s Revenge stole Blackbeard’s collection of ships trapped in bottles; thus, Jack is now free to have the Black Pearl and a fleet of pirate ships at his disposal. Later (post-credits), alone on the island, Angelica finds Jack's voodoo doll, as it has washed up ashore.
- Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow
- Penélope Cruz as Angelica
- Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa
- Ian McShane as Blackbeard
- Kevin R. McNally as Joshamee Gibbs
- Sam Claflin as Philip
- Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as Syrena
- Stephen Graham as Scrum
- Keith Richards as Captain Teague
- Richard Griffiths as King George II
- Greg Ellis as Groves
- Damian O'Hare as Gillette
- Óscar Jaenada as The Spaniard
- Anton Lesser as Lord John Carteret
- Roger Allam as Prime Minister Henry Pelham
- Paul Bazely as Salaman
- Bronson Webb as Cook
- Richard Thomson as Derrick
- Yuki Matsuzaki as Gahreng
- Robbie Kay as Cabin Boy
- Steve Evets as Purser
- Ian Mercer as Quartermaster
- Deobia Oparei as Gunner
- Gemma Ward as Tamara—First Mermaid
- Sebastian Armesto as King Ferdinand
- Juan Carlos Vellido as Spanish Sea Captain
- Tristan Laurence Perez as Spanish Fisherman
- Norberto Morán as Spanish Castaway
- Gerard Monaco as Spanish Officer
- Tyrone Lopez as Spanish Soldier
- Luke Roberts as Captain of the Guard
- Daniel Ings as Guard
- Emilia Jones as English Girl
- Patrick Kennedy as English Father
- Jody Halse as Jailor
- Clifford Rose as Bailiff
- Paul Hunter as Foreman
- Jorgelina Guadalupe Airaldi as Mermaid
- Brea Berrett
- Toni Busker
- Sanya Hughes
- Daphne Joy
- Antoinette Nikprelaj as the Mermaids
- Derek Mears as Master-at-Arms
- Danny Le Boyer as Yeoman
- Kitt Barrie as Courtroom Wench
- Steve Morphew as Courtroom Heckler
- Alan Utley-Moore as Justice Smith
- Michael Rosales as Queen Anne's Revenge Pirate #1
- Martin Pierron as Queen Anne's Revenge Pirate #2
- Azmyth Kaminski as Queen Anne's Revenge Pirate #3
- Salomon Passariello as Queen Anne's Pirate #1
- Matt Lasky as Queen Anne's Pirate #2
- Richard Stephens as Spanish Lieutenant
- Taylor Young as Providence Sailor
- David Pinkus as London Town Crier
- Boyd Clack as Old Bill
- Richard Allan as an Unknown role
Shortly before the premiere of At World's End, Jerry Bruckheimer stated it was the end of the trilogy, but the idea of a spin-off was still possible. After the film's successful opening weekend, Dick Cook, then Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios, said he was interested in a fourth installment. Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio had started working on a script in 2007, but they were interrupted by the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike, and only resumed in mid-2008. On September 25, 2008, during a Disney event at the Kodak Theater, Cook and Johnny Depp, in full Captain Jack Sparrow costume, announced that a fourth Pirates movie was in development.
In June 2009 Bruckheimer indicated Disney would prefer the fourth installment of Pirates to be released before The Lone Ranger film, which he, Johnny Depp, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio had been working on for release on May 20, 2011. He hoped Gore Verbinski would return to direct the fourth film, as his BioShock film adaptation had been put on hold. As Verbinski was unavailable due to his commitment with Rango the same year, Bruckheimer suggested Rob Marshall, who he considered a "premiere filmmaker", stating that "Every film [Marshall] made I thought was unique and different." On July 21, 2009, Marshall accepted the job, because of the "whole new story line and set of characters. It felt new, and that was important to me." Marshall said the film provided him a long-awaited opportunity to work with Depp, and that his directing was helped by past experience as a choreographer – "the action sequences felt like big production numbers." On September 11, 2009, at Disney's D23 convention, the title was announced as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Marshall visited the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland for inspiration, eventually paying homage with a skeleton holding a magnifying glass in Ponce de Leon's ship. An appearance of "Old Bill", the pirate who tries to share his rum with a cat, was also filmed but cut.
Cook resigned in September 2009 after working for Disney for over 38 years. Depp's faith in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was somewhat shaken after the resignation, with Depp explaining that "There's a fissure, a crack in my enthusiasm at the moment. It was all born in that office". Depp also explained Cook was one of the few who accepted his portrayal of Jack Sparrow: "When things went a little sideways on the first Pirates movie, and others at the studio were less than enthusiastic about my interpretation of the character, Dick was there from the first moment. He trusted me".
During production of Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio discovered Tim Powers' 1987 novel On Stranger Tides, which they considered a good foundation on which to base "a new chapter" in the Pirates series. Disney bought the rights to the novel in April 2007. Rossio stated that he and Elliot had considered using Blackbeard and the Fountain of Youth in the story before reading the book, "but whenever you say those words, Powers' novel comes to mind. There was no way we could work in that field without going into territory Tim had explored." However, they denied that it would be a straight version of the novel: "Blackbeard came from the book, and in the book there is a daughter character, too. But Jack Sparrow is not in the book, nor is Barbossa. So I wouldn't call this an adaptation." Rossio declared the script was written to be a standalone film, "kind of a James Bond sort of thing", instead of the "designed to be a trilogy" structure of the previous installments. They hoped to "design a story that would support new characters," as characters such as Will Turner would not return. Bruckheimer added that there was a decision to "streamline the story a little bit, make it a little simpler and not have as many characters to follow", as the number of characters and subplots in At World's End caused the film to have an unwieldy length. The duo decided to employ another sea myth alluded in the previous episodes: mermaids, which are briefly referenced in the book. The mermaids' role expanded in the script, which included a vast attack sequence.
Depp was deeply involved with the story design, frequently meeting the writers to show what he was interested in doing, and in the words of Rossio, being "involved in coming up with story lines, connecting characters, creating moments that we would then fashion, shape and then go back." Among Depp's suggestions were turning Phillip into a missionary, and having a Spanish contingent following the protagonists. Afterwards, Rob Marshall and executive producer John DeLuca met Rossio and Elliot, and did alterations of their own, including building the female lead.
Johnny Depp signed on to return as Captain Jack Sparrow in September 2008, saying that he would come back if the script was good. Almost a year later, Disney announced that Depp would be paid $35 million for his role, realising that without him the franchise would be "dead and buried." Geoffrey Rush expressed interest in returning to his role as Barbossa, and Bruckheimer later confirmed his presence. Rush was positive on Barbossa having lost a leg, as he considered the disability made him "angrier, more forceful and resilient as a character", and had to work with the stunt team for an accurate portrayal of the limp and usage of cane, particularly during swordfighting scenes. While the production team considered a prop pegleg to be put over Rush's leg, the tight schedule caused it to be replaced with a blue sock that was replaced digitally, with a knob on the shoe to give Rush a reference for his walk. Three other actors from the previous films returned, Kevin McNally as Joshamee Gibbs, Greg Ellis as Lt. Theodore Groves, and Damian O'Hare as Lt. Gilette. Keith Richards also had a cameo, reprising his role as Captain Teague from At World's End; he and Depp tried to persuade Mick Jagger to audition for the part of a pirate elder. Previous cast members Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley stated that they would not reprise their roles, as they wanted to be involved in different films. They both thought the storyline involving their characters had gone as far as it could. On February 5, 2010, Mackenzie Crook also announced he would not be reprising his role of Ragetti, stating, "They haven't asked me. But actually I don't mind that at all. I'm a fan of the first one especially and I think the trilogy we've made is great. I'd almost like them to leave it there."
New cast members include Ian McShane, who plays the notorious pirate and primary antagonist of the film, Blackbeard, and Penélope Cruz, who plays Angelica, Jack Sparrow's love interest. According to Marshall, McShane was chosen because "he can play something evil but there’s always humor behind it as well", and the actor accepted the job due to both the "very funny and charming" script and the opportunity to work with Marshall. The beard took one hour and a half to get applied, and McShane likened the character's costume to "a real biker pirate – it’s all black leather.” Marshall said Cruz was the only actress considered for the role, as she fit the description as "an actress who could not only go toe to toe with Johnny and match him, but also needed to be all the things that Jack Sparrow is in a way. She needed to be funny and clever and smart and crafty and beautiful", and invited her for the role as they wrapped the production of Nine. The actress spent two months working out and learning fencing for the role. During filming, Cruz discovered she was pregnant, leading the costume department to redesign her wardrobe to be more elastic, and the producers to hire her sister Mónica Cruz to double for Penélope in risky scenes. Depp recommended Stephen Graham, who worked with him in Public Enemies, to play Scrum, a Machiavellian pirate and sidekick to Jack Sparrow, and Richard Griffiths for the role of King George II, as Depp was a fan of Griffiths' work on Withnail and I. Sam Claflin, a recent drama school graduate with television experience, was chosen to play the missionary Philip, and British actor Paul Bazely also joined the cast. Spanish news website El Pais reported that the film had four Spanish actors: Cruz, Bergès-Frisbey, Óscar Jaenada, and Juan Carlos Vellido. Jaenada was picked for both his work in The Losers and a recommendation by Cruz.
Casting for mermaids required the actresses to have natural breasts—no implants. As Bruckheimer explained to EW, "I don’t think they had breast augmentation in the 1700s, [...] So it’s natural for casting people to say, ‘We want real people.'" Marshall invited Spanish-French actress Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey to play Syrena after seeing her in a French magazine article on up-and-coming actresses. Bergès-Frisbey had to take lessons of English, swimming and breath control for the role. The rest of the mermaid portrayers, such as Australian supermodel Gemma Ward, were chosen for having "exotic sense, an otherworldly sensibility, but also under those layers a deadly quality", according to Marshall, and had to take swimming lessons to learn movements such as the dolphin and eggbeater kicks.
Principal photography began on June 14, 2010, in Hawaii. Filming was moved to California in August 2010, primarily at the Long Beach shore and a recreation of Whitecap Bay done in the Universal Studios backlot, as the original Hawaiian location on Halona Cove was plagued with strong tides. After a brief shoot in Puerto Rico, with locations in both Palomino Island and the Fort of San Cristóbal in San Juan, production moved to the United Kingdom in September, where principal photography wrapped on November 18 after 106 days of shooting. Locations included Hampton Court Palace in London, Knole House in Kent, and Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Interiors were shot at London's Pinewood Studios, and a replica of a 17th century London street was built on the backlot alongside the soundstages. The producers also considered using New Orleans as a location. In October, security was breached at the UK site when a celebrity impersonator gained access to filming at the Old Royal Naval College by dressing up as Captain Jack.
After the joint production of Dead Man's Chest and At World's End cost over $300 million, Disney decided to give a lower budget to the fourth installment. Many costs had to be cut, including moving primary production to Hawaii and London, where tax credits are more favorable, and having a shorter shooting schedule and fewer scenes featuring special effects compared to At World's End. The tighter schedule—according to Bruckheimer, "We had a 22-week post, and for a picture like this, with almost 1,200 visual effects shots, it's usually 40 weeks"—meant that Marshall supervised editing of sequences during filming.
Jerry Bruckheimer said the decision to film in 3D was made due to its being "immersive filmmaking; I think it makes you part of the actual filming because you’re part of the screen." Bruckheimer described it as the first major "exterior movie" to be shot in 3D, as Avatar was mostly done in sound stages. At first Marshall was not much interested in 3D, but the director eventually considered it a film that could benefit from the format. "You are on an adventure and with the 3D experience you are inside that adventure." While the original plan was to add 3D effects during post-production, the decision was made to shoot digitally with 3D cameras. Only one sequence was shot conventionally and needed a 3D conversion. The cameras were improved versions of the ones James Cameron developed for Avatar, which were made more compact for extra mobility. This meant the cameras could be brought into locations such as the Hawaiian jungle.
The Queen Anne's Revenge was built atop the Sunset, the same ship used to depict the Black Pearl in previous installments. On February 2010, the Sunset was sailed from Long Beach to a shipyard in Hawaii for the reforms, where a big concern was to make it imposing, with three stories, without sacrificing actual seakeeping. Given Blackbeard was meant to be the meanest pirate to appear in the series, the look for the Queen Anne's Revenge was ominous, with sails dyed blood red, various elements on fire, and a decoration based on skulls and bones (drawing inspiration from the Sedlec Ossuary in Czech Republic). Damage from cannon fire was also added to show that "not only Blackbeard was a dying man, but his ship is also a dying ship". The ship's figurehead also drew inspiration from Blackbeard's pirate flag. The replica ship HMS Surprise was used for Barbossa's ship, the HMS Providence, and all the scenes aboard the Providence were shot on the Long Beach shore as the Surprise could not be sailed to Hawaii. Over 50 designs were considered for the Fountain of Youth, with the final one representing a temple built by an ancient civilization around the Fountain, which itself was located in a round rocky structure to represent "the circle of life". The locations leading up to the Fountain were shot in the Hawaiian islands of Kauai and Oahu, but the Fountain itself was built at the 007 Stage on Pinewood.
On Stranger Tides employed 1,112 shots of computer-generated imagery, which were done by ten visual effects companies. Cinesite visual effects supervisor Simon Stanley-Clamp claimed that the most difficult part was doing the effects in 3D: "Rotoscoping is tricky. Cleaning up plates is double the work, and tracking has to be spot on." The lead companies, with over 300 effects each, were Industrial Light & Magic—responsible for, among others, the mermaids and most water effects—and Moving Picture Company, who created digital ships and environment extensions, such as changing weather and designing cliffs and waterfalls. Filming the mermaids involved eight model-actresses, who portrayed them outside the water, as well as 22 synchronized swimming athletes and a group of stuntwomen, both of whom wore motion capture suits to be later replaced by digital mermaids. Mermaid corpses were depicted by plaster models. The design tried to avoid the traditional representations of mermaids in paintings and literature, instead going for a scaly body with a translucent membrane inspired by both jellyfish and the fabric employed in ballet tutus. To make the mermaids more menacing underwater, the faces of the actresses had some digital touch-ups on the underwater scenes, adding sharper teeth and a shimmery fish scale quality on the skin. ILM also handled Blackbeard's death, where Ian McShane's actual performance was covered by digital doubles which turned him into a "boiling mass of blood and clothing", and a hurricane-like formation that represented "the waters of the Fountain taking his life". Cinesite handled the recreation of London and Barbossa's peg leg, CIS Hollywood did 3D corrections and minor shots, and Method Studios created matte paintings.
- Main article: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (soundtrack)
The film's score was written by Hans Zimmer, who had worked in all of the previous entries in the franchise; being the main composer for the second and third installments. Zimmer said that he tried to incorporate a rock n' roll sound, as he felt "pirates were the rock 'n' rollers of many, many years ago", and Spanish elements, which led to a collaboration with Mexican guitarists Rodrigo y Gabriela and a tango song written by Penélope Cruz's brother Eduardo. American composer Eric Whitacre contributed several choir-based cues, as well as regular assistant Geoff Zanelli.
On January 6, 2010, Disney announced that the film would be released in the United States and Canada on May 20, 2011, following Columbia Pictures' announcement of a delay in the Spider-Man reboot and Paramount Pictures slating Thor for May 6, 2011. The film was released in IMAX 3D, as well as traditional 2D and IMAX format, with Dolby 7.1 surround sound.
The world premiere of On Stranger Tides was on May 7, 2011, at a premium ticket screening at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, home of the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride that inspired the film series. Many of the film's stars were in attendance. Two other early screenings followed, one in Moscow on May 11, and another during the Cannes International Film Festival on May 14. The international release dates fell within May 18 and May 20, with opening dates in the United Kingdom on May 18, in Australia on May 19, and in North America on May 20. The film was released on a then-record 402 IMAX screens, 257 screens in North America, and 139 in other territories. The total number of theaters was 4,155 in North America and 18,210 worldwide.
Disney's marketing president, MT Carney, said that the film's advertising campaign was intended "to remind people of why they fell in love with Jack Sparrow in the first place and also introduce new elements in a way that was elegant". Sony Pictures' former marketing president, Valerie Van Galder, was hired as a consultant. The first footage from the film appeared on Entertainment Tonight on December 4, 2010. Three trailers were released, one in December, which had a 3D version included with the release of Tron: Legacy and broadcast by ESPN 3D; a Super Bowl XLV spot on February 2011, which was later released online in an extended version; and a final trailer in March that focused more on the plot than the previous trailer and commercials.
Promotional tie-ins included Lego Pirates of the Caribbean toy sets and a related video game, a cell phone app by Verizon Wireless, a special edition of Pirate's Booty, lines of nail polish by OPI, clothing from Hot Topic, and jewelry from Swarovski. Goldline International produced replicas of the "Pieces of Eight" coins from the movies and gold Mexican Escudo coins, which were given in sweepstakes at the El Capitan Theatre. At Disney California Adventure Park, the Pirates of the Caribbean segment of the World of Color show was extended to include visual clips and music from On Stranger Tides.
The film was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Blu-Ray and DVD on September 12, 2011 in the United Kingdom, topping both the Blu-ray and DVD sales charts during its first two weeks. The film had its high-definition home release on December 6, 2011 in the United States and Canada. Three different physical packages were made available: a 2-disc combo pack (Blu-ray and DVD), a 5-disc combo pack (2-disc Blu-ray, 1-disc Blu-ray 3D, 1-disc DVD, and 1-disc Digital Copy), and a 15-disc collection featuring all four Pirates movies. On Stranger Tides was also released as a movie download in both high definition and 3D. The regular DVD edition came out on December 6.
In its first week of release, it sold 1.71 million Blu-ray units and generated $48.50 million, topping the weekly Blu-ray chart. However these results were quite skewed due to the one-month delay of its DVD-only release. It sold 3.20 million Blu-ray units ($83.46 million) after 11 weeks. It has also sold 1.12 million DVD units ($19.32 million).
The cover art for the film covers on Blu-ray and DVD was been released a few months prior. Bonus features in the 5-disc edition include:
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in 3D
- Disney Second Screen
- Audio Commentary with Rob Marshall and John DeLuca
- Bloopers of the Caribbean
- LEGO Animated Shorts: Captain Jack's Brick Tales
- Deleted/Extended Scenes With Introductions by Rob Marshall
- Legends of On Stranger Tides
- In Search of the Fountain
- Under the Scene: Bringing Mermaids to Life
- Johnny vs. Geoffrey
- Easter Eggs
- Bloopers of the Caribbean
- LEGO Animated Shorts: Captain Jack's Brick Tales
- Digital Copy
On Stranger Tides earned $241,071,802 in the North America and $802,800,000 in other countries for a worldwide total of $1,043,871,802. It is the tenth highest-grossing film worldwide, the third highest-grossing 2011 film, the second most successful installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, the fourth highest-grossing Disney feature and the highest-grossing fourth film in a franchise. On its worldwide opening weekend, it grossed $350.6 million, surpassing At World's End's $344 million opening as best in the series and ranking as the sixth highest worldwide opening. It scored an IMAX worldwide opening-weekend record with $16.7 million (first surpassed by Transformers: Dark of the Moon).
It set records for the least time to reach $500, $600 and $700 million worldwide (in 10, 12 and 16 days respectively). The first of these records was first surpassed by Dark of the Moon and the other two by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. After 46 days in theaters (July 2, 2011), it became the eighth film in cinema history and the fourth film released by Walt Disney Studios to cross the $1-billion-mark. It set a record for the fastest Disney-distributed film to reach the milestone (since surpassed by Marvel's The Avengers) and it is the fifth-fastest film overall to achieve this.
During its Thursday-midnight showings, On Stanger Tides earned $4.7 million from 2,210 theaters, and $34,860,549 in total on its opening day. It earned $90,151,958 on its opening weekend, topping the weekend box office, but earning much less than its two immediate predecessors (At World's End - $114.7 million and Dead Man's Chest - $135.6 million) and the directly preceding Johnny Depp spectacle (Alice in Wonderland - $116.1 million). 3D showings accounted for only 46% of its opening weekend gross. It closed on September 29, 2011, with a $241.1 million gross, ranking as the fifth highest-grossing film of 2011 and the least profitable film of the franchise. However, it was the top-grossing movie during May 2011 (with $166.8 million by May 31).
Outside North America
Outside North America, On Stranger Tides is the fifth highest-grossing film, the second highest-grossing Disney film, the second highest-grossing 2011 film and the highest-grossing film of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. It is the highest-grossing Pirates film in at least 58 territories.
During its opening day on the foreign theatrical circuit (Wednesday 18 May 2011), On Stranger Tides made $18.5 million from 10 territories. It added 37 territories and $25.7 million on Thursday, for a two-day total of $44.2 million, and on Friday, it expanded to almost the entire overseas market, earning $46.2 million for a three-day total of $92.1 million. On its 5-day opening weekend as a whole, it earned a then-record $260.4 million from 18,210 screens in more than 100 territories, in all which it reached first place at the box office. The record debut was surpassed later in the same summer season by Deathly Hallows Part 2. Unlike North America, 3D showings had a much larger account of the overseas earnings, 66% of the weekend gross. Its highest-grossing countries during its first weekend were Russia and the CIS ($31.42 million including previews), China ($22.95 million) and Germany ($20.53 million). It dominated for three weekends at the overseas box office despite competition from Hangover 2, Kung Fu Panda 2 and X-Men: First Class. It reached the $300, $400 and $500-million-mark at the box office outside North America in record time (7, 11 and 14 days respectively), records first surpassed by Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
On Stranger Tides set opening day records in both Russia (including the CIS) and Sweden. Subsequently, it set opening-weekend records in Latin America, the Middle East, Russia, Norway, Ukraine and Turkey, still retaining the record in Russia ($26.8 million) and Ukraine ($2.15 million). Its highest-grossing market after North America is Japan ($108.9 million), where it managed to surpass the $100-million-mark and mark the franchise's highest-grossing film. Following in largest grosses are China ($71.8 million) and Russia and the CIS ($63.7 million). It is the highest-grossing film of 2011 in Russia and the CIS, Austria, Ukraine, Greece, Portugal and Angola, South Africa, Romania, Bulgaria, Egypt, Estonia, and Latvia.
On Stranger Tides has received mixed to negative reviews. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 33% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 252 reviews, with a rating average of 5.1 out of 10. The site's consensus was "It's shorter and leaner than the previous sequel, but this Pirates runs aground on a disjointed plot and a non-stop barrage of noisy action sequences." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a rating score of 45 based on 39 reviews. CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was a B+ on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert gave On Stranger Tides two out of four stars, saying that although the removal of Knightley and Bloom as well as the addition of Cruz were positive aspects, the film in general was "too much of a muchness" for him. Tom Long of The Detroit News gave a D+, saying that Jack Sparrow had "worn out his welcome". Despite the more linear plot, "the movie is still ridiculous". He found On Stranger Tides to be "precisely what you'd expect of the fourth installment of a movie based on an amusement park ride: a whole lot of noise, plenty of stunts and complete silliness." British film critic Mark Kermode gave the film an overwhelmingly negative review on his 5 Live show, saying "it's not as staggeringly misjudged as the third part, because it is just nothing, it is just a big empty nothing, whereas part three I think was an active atrocity, it's just nothing at all".
As with the previous films, the plot was criticized as incoherent and confusing. The Arizona Republic critic Bill Goodykoontz rated the film two out of five, stating that "the movie is a series of distractions tossed together in the hopes that they will come together in a coherent story. That never really happens." Online reviewer James Berardinelli considered the script "little more than a clothesline from which to dangle all of the obligatory set pieces", and USA Today's Claudia Puig found On Stranger Tides "familiar and predictable, ... often incoherent and crammed with pointless details."
Mike Scott from The Times-Picayune mentions that "while this latest chapter isn't quite sharp enough to restore the sense of discovery that made that first outing so darn exciting, it's enough to make up for most of the missteps that made the third one so darn arrgh-inducing." Writing for The A.V. Club, Tasha Robinson described On Stranger Tides as "a smaller film than past installments, by design and necessity", and felt that "the series has needed this streamlining" as the film "feels lightweight, but that's still better than bloated."
On Stranger Tides also had positive reviews; some critics found the film to be entertaining and well-made. Richard Roeper gave the film a B+, describing it as "the most fun installment since the first", calling the story "pure cartoon, but a lot easier to follow than the other sequels", and summing as "the franchise is getting tired, but Penelope energizes it." Along the same lines, Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post gave the film three out of four stars, writing that it "feels as fresh and bracingly exhilarating as the day Jack Sparrow first swashed his buckle, infusing new reckless energy into a franchise that shows no signs of furling its sails". She said that Marshall "swiftly and without fuss delivers the action set pieces and eye-popping escapism" and praised Depp, Cruz, and McShane's performances. Ray Bennett from The Hollywood Reporter considered that Marshall "shows terrific flair with all the usual chases and sword fights, and he handles the 3D well", and welcomed Penélope Cruz's character, saying she "brings her Oscar-winning vivacity" and had "lively sexual tension" with Depp. Writing for The Globe and Mail, Rick Groen found the action scenes to range from "merely competent to tritely cluttered", but he was pleased with the overall result, calling McShane a "fresh villain" whose "stentorian tones are welcome anywhere". Variety's Andrew Barker considered the film derivative, but accessible. "It has nary an original idea and still doesn't make much sense, but it's lost all pretensions that it should". He praised Geoffrey Rush, stating that he "not only gets the funniest lines and reaction shots, but also starts to siphon away much of the roguish charm that used to be Depp's stock and trade."
The film was nominated for four Teen Choice Awards: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movie, Sci-Fi/Fantasy Actor, Sci-Fi/Fantasy Actress, and Villain. Its trailer and TV spot were nominated for Golden Trailer Awards.
- This film takes place several years after the battle from At World's End.
- On Stranger Tides is the first of the main POTC films not directed by Gore Verbinski. He was replaced by Rob Marshall.
- Astrid Burges-Frisbee did not speak any English before the production of this film. She was tutored on set by co-star Penelope Cruz.
- Only six of the cast who appeared in the previous Pirates films returned in character in On Stranger Tides: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, Keith Richards, Greg Ellis and Damian O'Hare. Only three have been featured in all three films: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and Kevin McNally.
- On Stranger Tides was the film that marked Jack Sparrow as the main protagonist of the Pirates films. According to the film scriptwriters, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the first three Pirates were all centered around Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, particularly stating that they believed it was Elizabeth's story.
- Tim Powers' novel, On Stranger Tides , was used in the making of this Pirates film although it is not a straight adaptation.
- According to Pirates writer Terry Rossio, the seed of this film was actually a single image:
- "Jack Sparrow dancing with somebody on deck. More of a romantic period dance. A ship in the moonlight, and Jack Sparrow having to dance to maybe seduce somebody. So you write that on a card and say, 'Why is Jack Sparrow dancing?' "
- When making The Curse of the Black Pearl, the scriptwriters revealed that they placed the story in a thirty-year environment set loosely between 1720 and 1750. They also said that they did not intend the films to be entirely historically accurate. However, it was revealed through production designer John Myhre that On Stranger Tides is set in 1750.
- This makes the timeframes of the previous movies set in the 1740s.
- While filming On Stranger Tides, filming took place two months in Hawaii (one month Kauai, one month Oahu), three weeks in Los Angeles, one week in Puerto Rico, and two months in the United Kingdom.
- On Stranger Tides is the second Pirates film to make one billion dollars globally from ticket sales (the first being Dead Man's Chest).
- This is the first POTC film to reveal the subtitle before "Pirates of the Caribbean" in the main title sequence.
- This is the first movie to not inlcude Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann) or Orlando Bloom (Will Turner) on the DVD cover, however this was Geoffrey Rush's third appearance on the DVD cover, tying him with Knightley and Bloom.
- In the ending credits for On Stranger Tides, the music and songs were credited as followed.