Jay Wolpert developed a script based on the theme park ride in 2001, which Stuart Beattie rewrote in early 2002. Around that time, producer Jerry Bruckheimer became involved in the project; he had Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio work on the script, adding the supernatural curse to the storyline. Filming took place from October 2002 to March 2003 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and on sets constructed around Los Angeles, California.
The world premiere was held at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, on June 28, 2003. The Curse of the Black Pearl was an unexpected success, with positive reviews and grossing over $654 million worldwide. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Depp.
The film became the first in a series, with two back-to-back sequels, Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, released in 2006 and 2007. Two more sequels, On Stranger Tides and Dead Men Tell No Tales, were released in 2011 and 2017 respectively.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is the thrilling high-seas adventure with a mysterious twist that started it all. The roguish yet charming Captain Jack Sparrow's (Johnny Depp) idyllic pirate life capsizes after his nemesis, the wily Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), steals his ship, the Black Pearl, and later attacks the town of Port Royal, kidnapping the Governor's beautiful daughter, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley). In a gallant attempt to rescue her and recapture the Black Pearl, Elizabeth's childhood friend Will Turner joins forces with Jack. What Will doesn't know is that a cursed treasure has doomed Barbossa and his crew to live forever as the undead.
A massive ship emerges from the gray and unnatural fog. The HMS Dauntless, the pride of the British Royal Navy, sailing on a voyage from England to the British settlement of Port Royal. While the Dauntless sailed through the Caribbean Sea, young Elizabeth Swann (Lucinda Dryzek) stands at the bow rail, gazing at the sea while singing a pirate shanty. One of the sailors, Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally), warned her about "cursed pirates" and, after Lieutenant Norrington (Jack Davenport) intervened, stated his superstition about singing about pirates in the unnatural fog. Although Elizabeth expressed her fascination for the subject of piracy, both Norrington and her father, Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce), showed their concern, with Norrington stating that he intended to see all pirates get "a short drop and a sudden stop".
The Dauntless then happened upon the wreck of a merchant vessel, which Gibbs took to be the work of pirates. Prior to this, Elizabeth spotted a lone survivor: young Will Turner (Dylan Smith), lying unconscious on a piece of driftwood. After being brought aboard the Dauntless, Will roused in time for he and Elizabeth to introduce themselves before he lapsed back into unconsciousness. Elizabeth then noticed a gold medallion about his neck, which, after seeing a skull, gave her the thought that Will was a pirate. Fearing that Norrington would have Will hanged, Elizabeth takes the medallion from Will before he was taken below decks. As Elizabeth stood on the bow of the Dauntless, looking at the medallion, she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. Looking up, she saw a tall ship with black sails moving silently through the thick fog. At the top of the highest mast flew a flag-a flag that had the same skull as on the medallion. As the ship slipped quickly into the fog, Elizabeth widen her gaze upon realizing it was a pirate ship. Fearing the black-and-white flag billowing in the wind, Elizabeth shuts her eyes.
Eight Years Later
We rejoin Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) eight years later, as she wakes from her dream of that fateful day. She still has the medallion, kept in a hidden compartment in a chest of drawers, and puts it on. Her father, Governor Swann, knocks on the door, startling her. He then enters with a gift for her: a dress from London he hopes Elizabeth will wear to Captain Norrington's promotion ceremony. She agrees to wear it, though finds the corset highly restricting and uncomfortable. The Governor receives a visitor, in the form of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who has forged a sword for the soon-to-be Commodore. It is clear he has developed romantic feelings for Elizabeth, but they part on less-than friendly terms, owing to her station as the Governor's Daughter and his, a lowly blacksmith's "apprentice".
Meanwhile, a strange figure is approaching Port Royal onboard a sinking dory: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is in the market for a new ship, and, after bribing the harbormaster (Guy Siner), he heads into the docks as, high above at Fort Charles, Norrington's promotion ceremony gets underway. Jack is accosted by two marines, Mullroy (Angus Barnett) and Murtogg (Giles New), but distracts them with mention of the legendary Black Pearl.
On the battlements of the fort, Commodore Norrington offers Elizabeth a proposition: his new status has made clear to him he has not yet taken a wife, and sees Elizabeth as a "fine woman". Elizabeth faints, though less through shock at James' words, and more because of the tightness of her corset, and plummets into the sea far below. Jack, having engaged the marines in idle conversation, dives in and rescues her from the seabed, from where her medallion sends out a mysterious pulse, a signal sent across the waters. Back on the harbor, Jack's interest is piqued by the medallion, but his questions are forestalled by Norrington, who arrives with marines to arrest the pirate, having recognized a brand on his forearm as the mark used by the East India Trading Company to identify pirates. Jack, however, holds Elizabeth hostage long enough to have his effects returned before making his swashbuckling escape into the port.
As he tries to escape, Jack meets Will Turner, who is now John Brown's blacksmith apprentice, inside of the blacksmith shop, and a sword fight ensues. Eventually, Jack is knocked unconscious by Will's employer (who had slept through the entire sword fight) and arrested by the Royal Navy officers who have just broken into the blacksmith shop.
Raid of Port Royal
That night, Port Royal is besieged by the infamous ghost ship known as the Black Pearl — a black vessel crewed by a vicious, bloodthirsty crew, and captained by a man reputed to be "so evil that Hell itself spat him back out". The mysterious pulse which emanated from Elizabeth's medallion seems to have "called" the Black Pearl somehow. Crew members from the Pearl find Elizabeth (who hides her true identity as the governor's daughter by using Turner as a last name) in possession of the medallion, and take her back to their ship. She invokes the rule of parley ("parlai" in Middle English, "parley" in modern American English—a negotiation or discussion between two parties, particularly in military situations, during which no harm can befall the adversary) in order to be taken to the captain of the Black Pearl, Hector Barbossa, to ask that he cease his attack on Port Royal in exchange for the medallion. Barbossa agrees but, employing a loophole in their agreements, abducts Elizabeth. Later, Elizabeth is asked to dine with Barbossa and to wear a red dress. When she refuses, she is told that the captain said she'd say that, in which case she'd be dining with the crew and she'd be naked, Elizabeth decides to wear the dress and dine with the captain. The next day, Will (having seen Elizabeth taken by the Pearl's crew) fails in his passionate efforts to convince Commodore James Norrington and the Royal Navy to pursue the culprits immediately (despite the Commodore's own feelings towards Elizabeth). While the Commodore puts his faith in strategy, Will takes up an offer by Jack Sparrow to rescue Elizabeth in exchange for breaking him out of jail.
After absconding with the Royal Navy's fastest ship and assembling a crew to man it on the lawless island of Tortuga (Spanish for turtle), Jack and Will set off to find Barbossa and the Black Pearl, which is heading towards Isla de Muerta— a mysterious island that's supposedly undiscoverable, save for "those who already know where it is."
- “For too long I've been parched of thirst and unable to quench it. Too long I've been starving to death and haven't died. I feel nothing. Not the wind on my face nor the spray of the sea, nor the warmth of a woman's flesh. You best start believing in ghost stories, Miss Turner. You're in one!”
- ―Hector Barbossa to Elizabeth Swann[src]
Here, we learn the true story and intentions of Barbossa and his crew. The ship and its crew were once under the command of Jack Sparrow until they mutinied a decade ago, stealing the bearings for Isla de Muerta from him, and then marooning him with a pistol containing only one shot. The island contained a cursed Aztec treasure that the crew of the Black Pearl discovered — but believing the curse to be a myth, they took the Aztec treasure for themselves. Shocked by this action, Will's father, "Bootstrap Bill" Turner , the only pirate who protested against the mutiny, sent one of the cursed gold pieces away to his son in order to ensure a fitting punishment for the crew's betrayal. In retaliation, Barbossa ordered Bootstrap to be tied to a cannonball and thrown overboard. Too late, the crew discovered that the curse was indeed real; in order to break it, they were required to return all the pieces of the treasure to its chest and give a blood sacrifice from everyone who removed them. As part of the curse, the crew's gluttony, greed, and lust for worldly possessions can never be satisfied, and they became undead, forced to never die or rest in their covetousness (moonlight reveals this fact, showing the pirates in its glare to be living, rotting skeletons). After a decade, they have succeeded in fulfilling almost all of the requirements to end the curse — save for obtaining the blood of Bootstrap Bill and the gold piece he stole. With the medallion (in reality, the last piece of the treasure) and Elizabeth "Turner" (who they believe is the child of Bootstrap) in their custody, Barbossa believes he finally has what he needs to lift the curse.
Rescue at Isla de Muerta
- “You know, for having such a bleak outlook on pirates, you are well on your way to becoming one: sprung a man from jail, commandeered a ship of the fleet, sailed with a buccaneer crew out of Tortuga, and you're completely obsessed with treasure."
"That's not true! I am not obsessed with treasure."
"...Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.”
- ―Jack Sparrow and Will Turner[src]
In a cave full of treasure on Isla de Muerta, Barbossa, believing Elizabeth is Bootstrap's child, anoints the last coin with her blood and drops it into the chest. When the crew questions if the curse was lifted, Barbossa shoots Pintel, which has no effect on him— the curse remains unbroken. Confused, Barbossa asks Elizabeth if her father was William Turner, to which Elizabeth says no. Barbossa then asks if she knows where his child is that sailed from England, eight years ago, and Elizabeth does not answer. Enraged, Barbossa knocks out Elizabeth. Reaching the island, Will suspects Sparrow may betray him and knocks him out. He rescues Elizabeth, who takes the medallion, and they escape to the Interceptor.
The crew of the Black Pearl discover Jack, wandering around, and Jack is then taken to Barbossa, as Jack invoked the right of Parley. Barbossa is shocked by seeing Jack alive and well and orders the crew to kill their old captain. Jack then asked if Elizabeth's blood didn't work, which caused questioning if Jack himself knew whose blood would work.
Destruction of the Interceptor
Back aboard the Interceptor, Elizabeth returned Will's medallion to him, and he realized that it was his blood, not Elizabeth's, the pirates required to lift their curse. Angry and despairing, Will drove Elizabeth away, yet again forestalling the chance of romance between them. At the same time aboard the Black Pearl, Jack barters with Barbossa—he will reveal Bootstrap Bill's child in exchange for the Pearl. Jack's negotiations come to naught when the Pearl pursues the Interceptor. As the Pearl draws near, the crew of the Interceptor prepares for battle. Soon, both ships fired at one another, causing damage to each vessel. It didn't take long for the crew of the Pearl to win, and retrieve the medallion.
The crew of the Interceptor is imprisoned, and Barbossa watches in anticipation as the Interceptor is blown up and sunk. Will then reveals that he is Bootstrap Bill's son and demands that Elizabeth and the crew be freed, and not to be harmed, or he will shoot himself and fall overboard. Barbossa agrees, but applies another loophole: marooning Elizabeth and Jack on an island. Will is then taken to Isla de Muerta, where Barbossa plans to kill him to break the curse.
Rescue at Black Sam's Spit
Elizabeth and Jack are stranded on Black Sam's Spit, the same island on which Jack was marooned a decade ago. Elizabeth asks Jack about how he escaped the island last time, to which he answered that with the help of the rum runners, he bartered passage off the island. But seeing that the rum runners are long out of business, Jack has no plan of escaping. Then, Elizabeth took matters in her own hands by burning all their supplies (Jack's hidden cache of rum), as well as some of the small island's palm trees, to create a signal fire to alert anyone from the Royal Navy of her location. Elizabeth and Jack are eventually rescued by Norrington, but Elizabeth is unable to convince him to go back and rescue Will until Elizabeth promises to marry him.
Battle of the Isla de Muerta
Upon arriving at the cursed island, Jack convinces Norrington's forces to lie in ambush for Barbossa's crew while he goes in and convinces them to come out. He convinces Barbossa to delay spilling Will's blood to break the curse until after they have killed the crew of the Royal Navy ship Dauntless and taken the ship. This proves to all be part of Jack's plan; however, he was not expecting the undead crew to walk along the ocean floor to the ship, which allows them to escape the planned ambush. As the Black Pearl crew engages the Royal Navy in hand-to-hand combat aboard the Dauntless, Jack steals one of the cursed coins, unseen by Barbossa, and engages in his own sword fight with his former first mate. Because of the coin he stole, Jack now has a share of the loot, so he too is cursed and thus can't be killed until the curse is lifted. Moreover, in order for the curse to be lifted, his blood must now also be given.
During their fight, he distracts Barbossa long enough until both he and Will can give their blood and return their respective coins (Will has the medallion from the start of the film, Jack the coin he recently stole). Before Will drops the coins into the chest, Jack shoots Barbossa with his pistol, containing the one shot he was given when marooned after Barbossa's mutiny. When Barbossa claims, "Ten years you carry that pistol, and now, you waste your shot." Will claims, "He didn't waste it!" and drops the coins into the chest breaking the curse. After the curse ends and all the Black Pearl crew becomes mortal again. Barbossa falls to the treasure-covered ground and drops his sour, green apple. Once they realize they're no longer cursed — and no longer immortal — Barbossa's crew surrenders to the Royal Navy.
The Hanging and the Escape
- “So, this is the path you've chosen, is it? After all, he is a blacksmith."
"No. He's a pirate.”
- ―Weatherby Swann and Elizabeth Swann[src]
Back at Port Royal, Norrington is forced to hang Jack as per law, but Will, who believes him decent enough a person to not deserve death, rescues Jack. Elizabeth, inspired by Will's sudden defiance, as well as his confession of love towards her, rejects marriage to Norrington and declares her feelings for Will instead. Norrington agrees to release her from her promise and Will is pardoned for his criminal act; meanwhile, Jack escapes and awkwardly falls into the ocean, to be rescued by the crew he assembled to help him earlier and who now man the Black Pearl. As the movie ends, Norrington watches as Jack sets sail for unknown adventure, impressed by the pirate enough to allow him one day's head start before setting out in pursuit.
Meanwhile, Barbossa's pet monkey, Jack, climbs out of the water and onto the Aztec chest, where he takes a piece of the treasure. Jack's skin sloughs off and he looks at the camera for a moment before pouncing forward, the scene disappearing into his mouth.
- Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow: The role was originally written especially for Hugh Jackman, thus the name "Jack Sparrow"; however, he was not well known outside of his native Australia, so Disney cast the more famous Depp as Jack. Depp found the script quirky: rather than trying to find treasure, the crew of the Black Pearl were trying to return it in order to lift their curse; also, the traditional mutiny had already taken place. Initially Sparrow was, according to Bruckheimer, "a young Burt Lancaster, just the cocky pirate." At the first read-through, Depp surprised the rest of the cast and crew by portraying the character in an off-kilter manner. After researching 18th-century pirates, Depp compared them to modern rock stars and decided to base his performance on Keith Richards, who would later appear as Jack's father in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Although Verbinski and Bruckheimer had confidence in Depp, partly because it would be Bloom who was playing the traditional Errol Flynn-type, Disney executives were confused, asking Depp whether the character was drunk or gay, and Michael Eisner even proclaimed while watching rushes, "He's ruining the film!" Depp answered back, "Look, these are the choices I made. You know my work. So either trust me or give me the boot."
- Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa: Verbinski approached Rush for the role of Barbossa, as he knew he would not play it with attempts at complexity, but with a simple villainy that would suit the story's tone.
- Orlando Bloom as Will Turner: Bloom read the script after Geoffrey Rush, with whom he was working on Ned Kelly, suggested it to him.
- Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann: Knightley came as a surprise to Verbinski; he had not seen her performance in Bend It Like Beckham and was impressed by her audition.
- Jack Davenport as Commodore Norrington:
- Kevin McNally as Joshamee Gibbs: Jack Sparrow's friend and first mate, he was once a sailor for the Royal Navy.
- Zoe Saldana as Anamaria: A female pirate who signs up to join Will Turner and Mr Gibbs for a chance to confront Jack Sparrow for stealing her ship.
- Jonathan Pryce as Governor Weatherby Swann: Tom Wilkinson was negotiated with to play the part, but the role went to Pryce, whom Depp idolized.
- Damian O'Hare as Lieutenant Gillette: Gillette is the second-in-command to Commodore Norrington.
- Lee Arenberg as Pintel: A pirate aboard the Black Pearl. He and Ragetti dress up as women to provide the distraction that allows the cursed pirates to board the Dauntless near the end of the movie.
- Mackenzie Crook as Ragetti: A pirate aboard the Black Pearl, Pintel's buddy, with a wooden eye that never seems to stay in place.
- David Bailie as Cotton: A sailor who had his tongue cut out, is now mute and has a macaw to talk for him.
- Christopher S. Capp as Mr. Cotton's Parrot.
- Martin Klebba as Marty: A dwarf pirate who also lived in Tortuga until hired by Jack and Will to rescue Elizabeth.
- Giles New as Murtogg Murtogg is a dutiful but daft Royal Marine. He serves under the command of Commodore Norrington.
- Angus Barnett as Mullroy Mullroy is a dutiful but daft Royal Marine.
- Greg Ellis as an Unnamed Lieutenant
- Isaac C. Singleton Jr. as Bo'sun
- Guy Siner as the harbormaster
During the early 1990s, screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio began to think of a supernatural spin on the pirate genre. Disney had Jay Wolpert write a script based on the ride in 2001, which was based on a story created by the executives Brigham Taylor, Michael Haynes, and Josh Harmon. This story featured Will Turner as a prison guard who releases Sparrow to rescue Elizabeth, who is being held for ransom money by Captain Blackheart. The studio was unsure whether to release the film in theaters or direct-to-video. The studio was interested in Matthew McConaughey as Sparrow because of his resemblance to Burt Lancaster, who had inspired that script's interpretation of the character. If they chose to release it direct-to-video, Christopher Walken or Cary Elwes would have been their first choices. Stuart Beattie was brought in to rewrite the script in March 2002, because of his knowledge of piracy.
When Dick Cook managed to convince producer Jerry Bruckheimer to join the project, he rejected the script because it was "a straight pirate movie." Later in March 2002, he brought Elliott and Rossio, who suggested making a supernatural curse - as described in the opening narration of the ride - the film's plot. In May 2002, Gore Verbinski signed on to direct Pirates of the Caribbean. He was attracted to the idea of using modern technology to resurrect a genre that had disappeared after the Golden Age of Hollywood and recalled his childhood memories of the ride, feeling the film was an opportunity to pay tribute to the "scary and funny" tone of it.
Although Cook had been a strong proponent of adapting Disney's rides into films, the box office failure of The Country Bears made Michael Eisner attempt to shut down production of Pirates of the Caribbean. However, Verbinski told his concept artists to keep working on the picture, and when Eisner came to visit, the executive was astonished by what had been created. As recalled in the book DisneyWar, Eisner pondered "Why does it have to cost so much?" Bruckheimer replied, "Your competition is spending $150 million," referring to franchises like The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix. Eisner concurred, but with the stigma attached to theme-park adaptations, Eisner requested Verbinski and Bruckheimer remove some of the more overt references to the ride in the script, such as a scene where Sparrow and Turner enter the cave via a waterfall.
Influence of the Monkey Island series of games
Although it has never been officially confirmed, there is strong evidence to suggest that the series was influenced by, and perhaps loosely based upon, the Monkey Island series of video games. Ted Elliott was allegedly the writer of a Steven Spielberg-produced animated film adaptation of The Curse of Monkey Island, which was cancelled before its official announcement, three years prior to the release of The Curse of the Black Pearl. This film was allegedly in production at Industrial Light and Magic before being cancelled.
Ron Gilbert, the creator of the Monkey Island series, has jokingly expressed a bitterness towards the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise for its similarities to his game. Gilbert has also stated that On Stranger Tides, a novel by Tim Powers which was adapted into the fourth film, was the principal source of inspiration for his video games.
Filming and design
Verbinski did not want an entirely romanticized feel to the film: he wanted a sense of historical fantasy. Most of the actors wore prosthetics and contact lenses. Depp had contacts that acted as sunglasses, while Rush and Lee Arenberg wore dulled contacts that gave a sinister feel to the characters. Mackenzie Crook wore two contacts to represent his character's wooden eye: a soft version, and a harder version for when it protrudes. In addition, their rotten teeth and scurvy skin were dyed on, although Depp did have gold teeth added, which he forgot to remove after filming. Depp also used a genuine pistol which was made in 1760 in London, which the crew bought from a dealer in Connecticut. The crew spent five months creating the cavern in which Barbossa and the Black Pearl crew attempt to reverse their curse, filling it with five feet of water, 882 Aztec coins, and some gold paint on the styrofoam rocks for more impressions of treasure. The crew also built the fortress at Port Royal in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and Governor Swann's palace was built at Manhattan Beach. A fire broke in September 2002, causing $525,000 worth of damage, though no one was injured.
The filmmakers chose St. Vincent as their primary shooting location, as it contained the quietest beach they could find, and built three piers and a backlot for Port Royal and Tortuga. Of most importance to the film were the three ships: the Black Pearl, the Dauntless, and the Interceptor. For budget reasons, the ships were built on docks, with only six days spent in the open sea for the battle between the Black Pearl and the Interceptor. The Dauntless and the Black Pearl were built on barges, with computer-generated imagery finishing the structures. The Black Pearl was also built on the Spruce Goose stage, in order to control fog and lighting. The Interceptor was a re-dressed Lady Washington, a full-scale replica sailing ship from Aberdeen, Washington, fully repainted before going on a 40-day voyage beginning December 2, 2002, arriving on location on January 12, 2003. A miniature was also built for the storm sequence.
Shooting began on October 9, 2002 and wrapped by March 2003. The quick shoot was only marred by two accidents: as Jack Sparrow steals the Interceptor, three of the ropes attaching it to the Dauntless did not break at first, and when they did snap, debris hit Depp's knee, though he was not injured, and the way the incident played out on film made it look like Sparrow merely ducks. A more humorous accident was when the boat Sparrow was supposed to arrive in at Port Royal sank. In October, the crew was shooting scenes at Rancho Palos Verdes, by December they were shooting at Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and in January they were at the cavern set at Los Angeles. The script often changed with Elliott and Rossio on set, with additions such as Gibbs (Kevin McNally) telling Will how Sparrow allegedly escaped from an island - strapping two turtles together with rope made of his back hair - and Pryce was written into the climactic battle to keep some empathy for the audience.
Because of the quick schedule of the shoot, Industrial Light & Magic immediately began visual effects work. While the skeletal forms of the pirates revealed by moonlight take up relatively little screentime, the crew knew their computer-generated forms had to convince in terms of replicating performances and characteristics of the actors, or else the transition would not work. Each scene featuring them was shot twice: a reference plate with the actors, and then without them to add in the skeletons, an aesthetic complicated by Verbinski's decision to shoot the battles with handheld cameras. The actors also had to perform their scenes again on the motion capture stage. With the shoot only wrapping up four months before release, Verbinski spent 18-hour days on the edit, while at the same time spending time on 600 effects shots, 250 of which were merely removing modern sailboats from shots.
Verbinski managed the score with Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer, who headed 15 composers to finish the score quickly. Alan Silvestri, who had collaborated with Verbinski on Mouse Hunt and The Mexican, was set to compose the score, but Bruckheimer decided to go with Zimmer's team, frequent collaborators of Bruckheimer's productions, Silvestri left the production before recording any material.
The film was a big success. However, before its release, many journalists expected Pirates of the Caribbean to be a flop. The pirate genre had not been successful for years, with Cutthroat Island (1995) a notable flop. The film was also based on a theme park ride, and Johnny Depp, known mostly for starring in cult films, had little track record as a box office leading man. Walt Disney Pictures also took a big risk in allowing it to be the first PG-13 rated film by the studio, with one executive noting that she found the film too intense for her five-year old child. Nonetheless, the studio was confident enough to add The Curse of the Black Pearl subtitle to the film in case sequels were made, and to attract older children. Verbinski disliked the new title because it is the Aztec gold rather than the ship that is cursed, so he requested the title to be unreadable on the poster. Their confidence paid off: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl opened at #1, grossing $46,630,690 in its opening weekend and $70,625,971 since its Wednesday launch. It eventually made its way to $654,264,015 worldwide ($305,413,918 domestically and $348,850,097 overseas), becoming the fourth-highest-grossing film of 2003.
Overseas, it dominated for 7 consecutive weekends at the box office, tying the record of Men in Black II at the time. Only three movies after that broke the record, its sequel, Dead Man's Chest, (with nine consecutive #1 weekends and ten in total), Avatar (with 11 consecutive #1 weekends) and The Smurfs (with 8 consecutive #1 weekends). It is currently the 55th-highest-grossing film of all time.
The film has received mostly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 79% of 205 sampled critics gave the film positive reviews and that it received a rating average of 7.1/10. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 63 based on 40 reviews. Alan Morrison of Empire felt it was "the best blockbuster of the summer," acclaiming all the comic performances despite his disappointment with the swashbuckling sequences. Roger Ebert acclaimed Depp and Rush's performances, with "It can be said that [Depp's] performance is original in its every atom. There has never been a pirate, or for that matter a human being, like this in any other movie... his behavior shows a lifetime of rehearsal." However, he felt the film went for too long, a criticism shared by Kenneth Turan's negative review, feeling it "spends far too much time on its huge supporting cast of pirates (nowhere near as entertaining as everyone assumes) and on bloated adventure set pieces," despite having also enjoyed Depp's performance.
For his performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp won several awards, including Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role at the 10th Screen Actors Guild Awards, Best Male Performance at the 2004 MTV Movie Awards, and Best Actor at the 9th Empire Awards. He was also nominated for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy at the 61st Golden Globe Awards, Best Actor at the 57th British Academy Film Awards, and Best Actor at the 76th Academy Awards, in which The Curse of the Black Pearl was also nominated for Make-up, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects. Awards won by Curse of the Black Pearl include Best Make-up/Hair at the 57th British Academy Film Awards, Saturn Award for Best Costumes, Golden Reel Award for Sound Editing, two VES Awards for Visual Effects, and the People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture.
- American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) — Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – Fantasy — Nominated
The DVD and VHS editions of the film were released five months after the theatrical release, December 2, 2003, with 11 million copies sold in the first week, a record for live action video. It earned $235,300,000 from DVDs as of January 2004. The DVD featured two discs, featuring four commentary tracks (Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski; Jerry Bruckheimer, Keira Knightley, and Jack Davenport; and the screenwriter team), various deleted scenes and documentaries, and a 1968 Disneyland episode about the theme park ride. A special three-disc edition was released in November 2004.
A PSP release of the film followed on April 19, 2005. The high-definition Blu-ray Disc version of the film was released on May 22, 2007. This movie was also among the first to be sold at the iTunes music store.
- Audio commentaries
- "Outtakes of the Caribbean" blooper reel
- An Epic At Sea: The Making of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl"
- 19 Deleted and Alternate Scenes
- "Moonlight" Scene Progression
- "Below Deck" - An Interactive History Of Pirates
- "Fly on the Set" Featurette
- "Diary of a Pirate" - Behind-the-Scenes look with cast member Lee Arenberg
- "Diary of a Ship" Video Journal
- "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" - Archival TV Program
- Producer's Diary Featurette With Jerry Bruckheimer
- Image Gallery
- DVD-ROM Features: "Moonlight Becomes Ye" Effects Studio, History of the Ride Featurette, Virtual Reality Viewer, Scriptscanner & Storyboard Viewing Modes
- Five hidden Easter Egg features
- "Becoming Captain Jack" - Johnny Depp featurette (7:45)
- "Becoming Barbossa" - Geoffrey Rush featurette (5:29)
- "Thar She Blows!" - The film's ship Interceptor, from building it to blowing it up (6:15)
- "The Monkey’s Name Is Jack" - Meet Levi and Tara, the film's monkeys (4:33)
- More "Fly on the Set" featurettes (15:31)
- "Pirates Around the World" - international release comparison (4:09)
- "Spirit of the Ride" - Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski and others reflect on their earliest memories of the attraction (7:09)
- "Dead Men Tell No Tales" the History of the Attraction - documentary previously available only as a PC feature (13:41)
- "Sneak Attack Animatic" (4:14)
- One hidden Easter Egg bonus feature
The high-definition Blu-ray Disc version of the film was released on May 22, 2007.. This two-disc edition included all special features of the three-disc DVD release as well as the new scoundrels of the sea - build your own view of pirate history game.
- The Curse of the Black Pearl makes numerous references to the Disneyland ride on which it was based. These include:
- The song "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" by Xavier Atencio and George Bruns, which is sung partially three times in the movie: by Elizabeth in the opening scene; by Jack and Elizabeth on the desert island; and by Jack in the final scene.
- The jail scene, including Jack's line, "That dog is never going to move", and his trying to tempt it with a bone later on.
- The "burning town" sequence in Tortuga, and within it, the redheaded prostitute (Scarlett), the man being dunked in a well, a pirate drinking rum atop two wobbling barrels, and the "stuffed pirate" drinking the rum spurting out of a barrel. Also, Jack's initial discovery of Gibbs sleeping with the pigs.
- The line "Dead men tell no tales", said by Cotton's Parrot, repeated throughout the ride's narration.
- A quick shot of a skeleton sprawled on the beach of the Isla de Muerta, with a crab nearby.
- A skeletal Barbossa drinking wine, which trickles through his exposed ribcage.
- During the battle scene between the Black Pearl and the Interceptor, Barbossa yells "blooming cockroaches".
- There are references to cursed treasure in the ride: old pirates speak of cursed treasure and how you probably don't believe in it, and the line "Who knows when that evil curse will strike the greedy beholders of this bewitched treasure."
- Part of the Caribbean Beach Resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is called "Port Royal".
- Due to the success of the film, animatronic characters of Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa were added to the Disney ride, along with a tweaked storyline. The new attraction opened on July 7, 2006, the day of the release of Dead Man's Chest.
- Originally, the film was supposed to be animated. Gavin Dell has some concept art on display.
- In the early 1990s screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio wrote the very first draft of the movie (which in it, the role of Will Turner was the lead role), somehow Steven Speilberg (whose all time favorite ride at Disneyland, and in the world, is the Pirates of the Caribbean ride) got hold of the script and greatly wanted to do the film, his three choices for the role of Jack Sparrow were Bill Murray, Steve Martin or Robin Williams. However, Disney did not give permission for the film to be made. In 2000, the film was greenlit, however, a different script had to be written because Speilberg's company, Amblin, owned the rights to it.
- Keira Knightley was only 17 years old when the film began shooting, so she had to have her parents with her throughout the shooting period
- Pirates of the Caribbean was the first live action PG-13 movie to be directly released and produced by Disney. Most other films before then that were rated PG-13 were previously released by Disney subsidiaries such as Touchstone or Miramax.
- According to the screenwriters' commentary on the DVD, Will Turner is the best swordsman in the film, Barbossa and Commodore Norrington are evenly matched, and Jack Sparrow is actually the worst.
- Johnny Depp wore contact lenses which served as sunglasses so he wouldn't be squinting in the sun all the time.
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