Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

  • Review Date: May 2, 2004
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2003
  • Running Time: 135 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Rip-roaring fun for kids who don't mind skeletons.
  • Review Date: May 2, 2004
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2003
  • Running Time: 135 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The main characters eventually work together to defeat an evil band of undead pirates. But they also constantly double- and triple-cross each other.

Positive role models

Strong female lead character, one strong minority supporting character. Main character is a scoundrel, and authority figures are portrayed negatively.


A lot of action violence, characters killed. Some images, including the literally skeleton pirate crew and a false eyeball that keeps coming out, that may be disturbing to some viewers.


Sexual references, prostitutes, revealing bodice.


Colorful, strong pirate talk.


Remember, this is one big ad for a Disneyland ride.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink rum, get totally smashed.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's lots of violence for a PG-13, and while it is not especially graphic, there are images, including the literally skeleton pirate crew and a false eyeball that keeps coming out, that may be disturbing to some viewers. There are some revealing bodices and some mild sexual references, including prostitutes (not explicit and no nudity or sexual situations). There is some strong and colorful pirate language. Characters drink rum and get tipsy.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Elizabeth Swann, daughter of the Governor Jonathan Pryce) is fascinated by pirates. On their voyage from England, Elizabeth helped rescue a boy named Will Turner. While he was unconscious, she took his gold medallion with a skull and crossbones. Now grown up, Elizabeth (Bend It Like Beckham's Keira Knightley) is still wearing the medallion and is loved both by Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) and by Will (Orlando Bloom). When the dreaded pirates of the Black Pearl, led by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) sack the town, Elizabeth offers them the medallion if they will leave. They take it, and take her, too. Turner takes off in pursuit with the notorious Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), with Norrington and his men right behind them. It turns out that the medallion is the last of the cursed pieces of gold that turned Barbossa and his crew into the walking dead, always hungry and thirsty, but unable to eat or drink. By restoring the gold to its chest -- with the right person's blood -- the curse will be removed. There are advantages, though, in being a pirate who cannot be killed.

Is it any good?


Avast, me hearties and come hear the tale of a terrible pirate curse. No, not the one about the curse on pieces of gold that turn anyone into the walking undead, revealed as skeletons when touched by moonlight. This is one about the curse of the pirate movie, which has been known to turn fine actors into eye-rolling, scenery-chomping over-actors and empty the bank accounts of movie studios faster than real-life pirates pillaged their victims. This one's origins as a Disney theme park ride didn't seem too promising. So maybe it is those low expectations that made this movie seem surprisingly enjoyable. That is, if swashbuckling, rope-swinging, plank-walking, yard-arm-spinning, rum-drinking, double-crossing, colorful sidekicks, and all-around yo-ho-ho-ing sounds like fun, and especially if you know the theme park ride well enough to appreciate a couple of sly references, including a replica of one of the ride's most memorable moments.

Just like the theme park ride that inspired it, the movie's greatest strengths are its atmosphere and art direction. The production design has that splendidly imaginative synthesis of classic book illustrations and some innate collective unconsciousness that gets the essence of every detail right, from the curve of the sail to a pirate's pet monkey. Then come the action sequences, both energetic and entertaining. The script has some nicely creepy twists and some nicely saucy lines. Johnny Depp falls prey to the pirate curse, speaking as though he is recovering from dental surgery and at times seeming to be acting in his own movie completely separate from everyone else. But he is undeniably fun to watch.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the rules/guidelines distinction and the movie's many broken promises.

  • Families could talk about the history of pirates and where they came from and if they still exist.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 9, 2003
DVD release date:December 2, 2003
Cast:Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom
Director:Gore Verbinski
Studio:Buena Vista
Run time:135 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:action/adventure violence

This review of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written bymathgirlie September 7, 2010

Amazing and funny!

This is the BEST Disney movie I've ever seen in my life! I didn't have very high expectations for this movie (C'mon, it's an advertisement for an AMUSMENT PARK RIDE, people!) But half an hour into them movie, it became one of my favorite movies of all time! Capt. Jack is hilarious, with his slurring and constantly drunk-like walk (although you never see him drink on-screen) and Will Turner is heroic (albeit a little stupid in some places--like when he dashes off to save Elizabeth without a seconds' thought) and Elizabeth is a strong role model for girls everywhere--she is clever, funny, and keeps her head in a crisis. I highly recommend this movie!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written byA.M. June 27, 2010
This is the best movie in the trilogy, I think. The graphics are believable and it's just pure entertainment. Johnny Depp is very funny, and Knightly and Bloom play there roles well. Lots of violence, explosions, chases, etc. (Harry Potter sometimes shows bloody cuts on characters' faces and hands, but in this movie, I remember no blood whatsoever.) The sequel is okay, but save yourself time and don't watch the 3rd.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Educator and Parent of a 9 and 14 year old Written bylioness57 April 9, 2008

Fun, fun, fun!

We took our 9 year old and left our 5 year old at home. My 9 year old doesn't scare easily and she loved it. Every potentially frightening scene is balance by Johnny Depp's wonderfully funny character - - no time for the scary skeletons to sink in before you're laughing out loud again.


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