Ranked: Every Pirates of the Caribbean movie rated from worst to best

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
(Image credit: Disney)

Five movies and $4.5 billion at the box office, pound for pound and dollar for dollar, movie franchises do not come more successful than Pirates of the Caribbean. 

Perhaps it's not surprising, given the franchise's were commercial from the get-go, with the movie actually inspired by Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney theme parks, which dates all the way back to 1967. It's one of the more gentle rides in the park, a boat ride through piratey coves where hidden treasures lies, but it provided the inspiration for a rip-roaring and hugely entertaining movie series. 

Pirates of the Caribbean follows the travails of Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow, a rambunctious, slippery, charismatic, profoundly untrustworthy and fabulously entertaining pirate. Over the course of five movies, we followed him, accompanied by various accomplices, on a series of ever-more daring and mystical adventures, with Sparrow somehow coming out on top every time. 

The franchise, which is available to stream in its entirety on Disney Plus, has some real highs and some profound lows, and, with now plans afoot to reboot the whole thing with Margot Robbie taking a starring role and Birds of Prey scribe Christina Hodson inventing a new take on the franchise, we thought it was high time to look back and rank all the movies in the series, working our way from worst to best. 

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

At World's End

(Image credit: Disney)

The final act of the original trilogy is notable for three things. One, it was, at the time, the most expensive movie ever made with a budget of $300 million, two, it features a much-trailed cameo from The Rolling Stones' guitarist and legendary hedonist Keith Richards, the man on whom Depp had based the character, and three, it is a giant hulking mess. 

We watch on as Geoffrey Rush's Hector Barbossa, Orlando Bloom's Will Turner, Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann, Naomi Harris's Tia Dalma, and the surviving crew of Jack Sparrow's ship, The Black Pearl plot to rescue Jack from a terminal curse. But to find him, they will literally have to sail off the edge of the world. 

A bloated spectacle at almost three hours long, this is incoherent, unfunny, charmless and badly plotted in the extreme. 

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Dead Men Tell No Tales

(Image credit: Disney)

In what looks set to be Depp's final outing in the role, the franchise careered to a stop with 2017's Dead Men Tell No Tales, or Salazar's Revenge, as it was known outside the US upon release. 

Directed by Norwegian pair Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg and with a script from Catch Me If You Can's Jeff Nathanson, this movie is marginally better than At World's End, but not by much. 

We find Sparrow once again on the run after he discovers that ghost pirates led by his old nemesis Captain Salazar have escape from somewhere called the Devil's Triangle and is determined to kill every pirate at sea. To save himself and all pirates, Sparrow must then find legendary Trident of Poseidon. Somewhere in all that, we also find Kaya Scodelario's Carina and Brenton Thwaites' Henry, son of Bloom's Will Turner, who are also chasing the Trident. 

Javier Bardem does a passable job of playing Salazar, but the spectre of Deep constantly running away from CGI zombies across a series of beaches gets sillier and sillier as the movie goes on. The plot is wafer-thin and is far too long at over two hours. 

3. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

On Stranger Tides

(Image credit: Disney)

After the final instalment of the trilogy made $960 million at the box office, Disney naturally found a way to keep things going. 

Knightley, Bloom and director Gore Verbinski did not return, with Chicago board clapper Rob Marshall replacing him and Penelope Cruz taking over from Knightley. 

This adventure finds Sparrow on the search for the Fountain of Youth on a quest where he is bound together shakily with Cruz's Angelica. Along the way, the pair will have to dodge the undead, mermaids and Ian McShane's take on the infamous pirate Blackbeard. 

It is quite silly, but there are some good moments here and it isn't quite the trainwreck most critics presented it to be. 

2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Dead Man's Chest

(Image credit: Disney)

The follow-up to 2003's gigantic debut, The Curse of the Black Pearl, does not quite have its predecessor's swagger or cohesion, but it's a good rip-roaring adventure all the same. 

This time, Captain Jack, a man who has left more than one debt unpaid, is reminded that he owes a debt to Davy Jones, who captains the flying Dutchman, a ghostly ship, with a crew from hell. 

If he cannot repay the debt, Jack will be sent forever to Davy Jones' Locker, an oceanic abyss and the final resting place of drowned sailors and travellers. So, to avoid that, he must find the heart of Davy Jones. Trouble is, he'll need the help of Swann and Turner to save himself, will they follow him?  

It's not a patch on its predecessor, but it's good fun all the same. 

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

(Image credit: Disney)

2003's original movie is the franchise's undoubted high. It is a rip-roaring, supremely entertaining and coherent blockbuster, packed with laughs, thrills and real pace. 

It follows Sparrow and Bloom's Turner as they search for Knightley's Swann, who has   been kidnapped by the feared Captain Barbossa. 

Soon they discover that Barbossa has been cursed. He, along with his large crew, are under an ancient curse, doomed for eternity to neither live, nor die. That is, unless a blood sacrifice is made, something Turner and Captain Jack will have to wrestle with. 

Still as much fun to watch now as the day it came out, The Curse of the Black Pearl proved to be the franchise's finest moment. 

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…