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Black Sails

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

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 5 reviews

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 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 fa... Continue reading
Adult Written byjossb February 14, 2016

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

Has strong nudity and violence. Occasional bad language.
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... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byUser2789 May 8, 2017

Rated M for a reason

To be honest I have seen other Stars shows such as out-lander and HBO's Sex and The City but this show is nothing like that. The biggest concern is the nud... 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

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love history

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