Black Sails TV Poster Image

Black Sails



Pirate drama revels in sex, blood, and salty talk.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Though the crew has egalitarian aims, the mood is hardly peaceful. Power, greed, and duplicity are common themes.

Positive role models

Although there are at least three strong female characters, it's largely a male-dominated series with noticable racial diversity. These are pirates, so they fight, steal, and drink.


Violent content includes sea battles, sword fights, savage beatings, and explosions, with bloody injuries and torture.


Nudity includes bare breasts, which are often gratuitous, and full frontal nudity. There's simulated sex, too -- including orgies -- among both hetero- and bisexual couples.


Strong, unbleeped language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "c--t," along with coarse phrases like, "My p---y gets wet."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking and recreational drug use (opium, etc.).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Black Sails heads into choppy territory in terms of sexual content and language -- and it's pretty violent, too. That means you'll see full frontal female nudity, simulated multipartner sex, and characters involved in bisexual relationships. You'll also hear strong, unbleeped language (including crude terms like "c--t" and "p---y") and see bloody swordfights and explosive sea battles, along with characters who drink alcohol and use drugs like opium.

What's the story?

Pleasure is a virtue in the former British colony of New Providence, where pirates patrol the surrounding waters with figurative BLACK SAILS, and lawlessness is practically legal. But tension brews among the crew of the much-feared Captain Flint (Toby Stephens), who's secretly searching for the mother of all treasures while his men grow ever skeptical of his leadership. Meanwhile, cunning newcomer John Silver (Luke Arnold) has his eyes on a prize that proves to be the very thing Flint's been looking for.

Is it any good?


Starz is known for its provocative period dramas that put breasts and blood to work for the sake of ratings (see also: Camelot, Spartacus: Blood and Sand), and Black Sails is no exception -- from a steamy, same-sex plotline that plays out with two female lovers to a primitive brawl that ends with the captain covered in another man's blood. But that doesn't mean that Black Sails is solely about sex and violence. It actually has a lot more to offer, including a complex plot and a compelling roster of characters -- both fictional and factual -- that combine to create an effective fantasy world.

Of course, Black Sails was designed for adults, and there's plenty of iffy content here to give parents pause. But for those who might allow older teens to watch, there's at least a silver lining: Since the series was penned as a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure tale Treasure Island, it could actually inspire impressionable viewers to read it. Its characters also include notorious real-life pirates like Charles Vane and Anne Bonny, whose fascinating stories -- if kids bother to look them up -- are even stranger than fiction.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Black Sails' premise and its decision to mix fictional characters with factual ones. What are the risks of blending fact and fiction for the sake of good drama? How important is historical accuracy?

  • How faithful is Black Sails to Treasure Island, the classic novel that inspired it? How do the Black Sails characters of Captain Flint, John Silver, and Billy Bones, to name a few, measure up to their literary ancestors?

  • Would Black Sails appeal more to men or to women, or a mixture of both? Who's the intended audience? How can you tell?

TV details

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Teen, 14 years old Written bykillerbadger19 July 22, 2015

A Very Mature Swashbuckler

Honestly, this show took me by surprise. I really was not expecting to be this hooked on a show like this especially with Vikings scratching the same historical itch. However, the show is masterfully acted, written and directed. The violence is brutal but doesn't really go above Vikings' level of blood and gore. The sex is the main issue with some very graphic scenes and nudity. Parents should know though that this is purely there for historical accuracy. Overall a great, mature pirate show with beloved characters breathing authenticity.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Adult Written byjossb February 14, 2016

It's has a great story. It's not predictable.

Has strong nudity and violence. Occasional bad language.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bySadman January 6, 2016

Make sure you research this before letting kids see it

The other reviews have pretty much covered off the fact there's a lot of sex and violence in this show, perhaps a little too much. The concern I have is families who assume that just because this is a show about pirates and especially since it's based on Treasure Island that it's OK for families. The fact it's produced for Starz should be the first giveaway that it is not. The show itself falls into the same trap that other shows do: substituting sex for storytelling and characters. Admittedly this show is a lesser offender than some, but regardless I wouldn't recommend anyone under 18 watch it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex


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