Black Sails

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Black Sails TV Poster Image
Parents recommend
Pirate drama revels in sex, blood, and salty talk.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 6 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

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

Positive Role Models & Representations

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."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byc b January 18, 2018

just give it time i beg you

I'm an adult now but I began Black Sails when i was 17. I could talk for days about this show. It's masterfully written and acted, beautifully filmed,... Continue reading
Adult Written bySunny2099 March 10, 2021

Glorified rape culture

This show slid a classic example of glorifying rape culture in the most explicit and indecent way possible.
Teen, 17 years old Written bybojack November 29, 2020

Not one to watch with the family

This show has some of the best writing, character development, acting, thematic through-lines and diversity I've ever witnessed on network television. I wo... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byVictoria568 February 6, 2019

Sex and violence but all round good

Such an amazing show with really good acting. I would strongly recommend watching this, lots of strong sex scenes and violence but
In my opinion a 16 + would... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate