/Answers: The Greatest Movie Pirates To Sail The Seven Seas (Or Outer Space)

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. This week's edition, tying in with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, asks "Who is your favorite movie or TV pirate?" As always, we have submissions from the /Film writing crew and podcast team, and we also have answers from directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg.

If you'd like to share your pick for your favorite movie pirate, please send your thoughts to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com for a chance to be featured on the site. Find our choices below!

Jack Giroux: Blind Pew in Muppet Treasure Island

He's maybe not the first classic pirate that comes to mind, but he's definitely one of the funniest. Blind Pew's entrance in Muppet Treasure Island, from his movements to his voice to his overall design, is an absolute joy. The character only has two scenes in the movie, but aside from Tim Curry's performance and some other gags, Blind Pew is what I remember most from Muppet Treasure Island. It's the kind of minor supporting character whose presence makes the overall movie better and funnier. There's nothing the character says or does that isn't amusing to me, and maybe it's because the "visually challenged fiend" doesn't overstay his welcome. Another minute or two of the pirate could've been too much, but with only maybe five minutes or so of screentime, it's never too much of a good thing. The late Jerry Nelson makes every joke, both physical and vocal, hit its mark.

Ben Pearson: The Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride

I considered including Errol Flynn's iconic cinematic pirate Captain Blood as my choice in this week's discussion, but I can't lie to myself: deep down, The Princess Bride's The Dread Pirate Roberts is my favorite movie pirate ever. We don't even ever really see Westley (Cary Elwes) doing any pillaging or plundering in the film, but the reason it resonates so much for me is the way the script presents the character as more idea than man.

You can listen to Westley's full explanation in the video above, but seeing this film was the first time I'd heard of anything as cool as the idea of a pirate who builds his legend by cultivating a name with multiple people taking over the mantle as the years go on. It effectively makes Roberts the Batman of the high seas, a force designed to strike fear into the hearts of his opponents, with a fully-formed costume and lifestyle that can be passed to a new generation should the situation ever call for it. It's surprising, clever, and super fun – just like The Princess Bride itself.

Harrison Ford as Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back

Ethan Anderton: Han Solo in Star Wars

Is there really a better pirate than Han Solo? Sure, you might better know him as a smuggler, but  smuggler is really just a fancy word for a pirate, and that's exactly what Lando Calrissian calls him when he reconnects with his old buddy at Cloud City on Bespin.

Han Solo is one of my favorite characters from the Star Wars saga. He's cool in the face of danger as evidenced by the scene in the cantina where he shoots Greedo point blank without any hesitation. Flying in his trusty hunk of junk known as the Millennium Falcon, he's one of the best pilots in the galaxy. And although his cockiness and arrogance may sometimes get in the way of him being more effective as a hero, he's got a softer side that he shows whenever he's in the presence of Princess Leia.

Plus, even though he puts out a vibe that he's all about money and the next job, he's a pirate with a conscience, as he comes back to help the Rebellion defeat the Empire by destroying the first Death Star. Then he sticks around to help as best he can, bringing his many years of experience dealing with some of the most dangerous criminals in the universe to do what pirates do best: fight against the established order.

Kuala - Captain Hook

Joachim Ronning & Espen Sanberg: Kuala and Captain Hook

Joachim Ronning didn't quite remember the names of the pirate villain Kuala in the Swiss Family Robinson, but here's what he had to say:

"I remember the first movie I saw when I was a very young kid was Swiss Family Robinson. I think I saw it like a hundred times because I had it on VHS and we got the VCR in 1979 because my dad had a record store and he was selling these films in the store. I remember it really captivated me. I can't remember the names of the bad guys in that film now, of course, but I think that was my first love, so to speak, for the kind of adventure that Pirates of the Caribbean reminds me of."

Meawhile, Espen Sandberg was much more quick and forthcoming with his answer, "Captain Hook. He's funny and scary!"

captain phillips muse

Jacob Hall: Muse in Captain Phillips

The movies generally make piracy look like an awful lot of fun. You get to the sail the ocean and have swashbuckling adventures, hoarding gold and getting in sword fights and generally having a grand 'ol time. Through a Hollywood lens, being a pirate is a romantic adventure and not a career choice made by desperate men struggling to survive in a world that has chewed them up and spit them out. Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips, set in 2009, strips the romanticism out of a pirate's life by necessity. The group of men who seize control of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama aren't sashaying heroes who conduct themselves like rockstars on the high seas – they're criminals who have been pushed to the edge, people who are out of options and have resorted to desperate measures. They're a frightening bunch, but they're also tragic. Pathetic, even.

At the forefront of the hijackers is Barkhad Abdi's Muse. Malnourished and dead-eyed, Muse is acting under the orders of men who plan to ransom the crew for millions of dollars. It's not a matter of him wanting to be here – he must be here. There are no other options. This is it. Abdi wasn't an actor when he was cast and Greengrass makes expert use of this. There's a reality to his performance, an authenticity that you won't find with a recognizable face. Muse is never presented in a truly sympathetic light and the film never apologies for his decisions, but Greengrass and Abdi refuse to ignore his humanity. You watch him and you ache for an alternate reality where it didn't come to this. 

And for the record, not a day goes by where I don't tell somebody to "Look at me" before informing that that "I'm the captain now."

Peter Sciretta: One-Eyed Willy in The Goonies

I didn't watch many pirate movies as a kid (or even an adult, although the television series Black Sails on Starz is great for anyone who is looking for something substantial to watch from this genre), but The Goonies has remained one of my favorite films and it looms large here. Sure, we never get to see One-Eyed Willy in action on the big screen, but he represents a promise, an swashbuckling adventure filled with fun, but also dangerous booty traps. I'm still not even convinced that the skeleton we find aboard the pirate ship at the end of the film is that of the famous pirate, nor do I think this was his fully booty. One-Eyed Willy was too smart for the men after his gold in too many ways to find himself dead in this situation. I think this is yet another set-up to send treasure hunters off Willy's trail. Of course, the movie presents no evidence to support this and with no sequel in sight, it's just my crackpot theory. Although maybe, someday, it could be in the cards, eh?

Christopher Stipp: Time Bandits

I don't know how else I could have accidentally started my film education so wonderfully.

For those of you who remember the halcyon days of television when all you had to choose from was your basic networks and the rise of cable, it was a truly glorious thing to cherish the movies you could watch on HBO. One of my first movies I was exposed to before I turned 10 was Time Bandits. A truly inspired tale by Terry Gilliam, even then it was conceived as part of a "trilogy of imagination" alongside his other movies, Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. This was a movie that felt accessible and fantastical in equal measure.

The protagonist at the center of this tale is a young boy caught up in an insane plot that spans time, space, and reality alongside a marauding pack of six little people, pirates really, who have stolen a map from "the Supreme Being" in the hopes of discovering riches to plunder across various times and dimensions. I cannot begin to describe how third eye-bending this movie was to a young person (and to adults! Gilliam has made a children's movie that doesn't talk down to his audience pushes them artistically. It was, and is, an enduring ode to the kinds of adventures we would all have  liked to have gone on as a kid.

Pirates 5 Reviews

What do you think of our picks? Who is your favorite movie and TV pirate? Talk about it in the comments below or email your personal answer (a paragraph or more) to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com with the subject title "Favorite Movie or TV Pirate." Our favorite responses will be featured on the site in a future post!

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