15 Best Swashbuckling Pirate Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes

Aye, Mateys! Time to sail the seven seas and search for adventure with these classic pirate movies. The life of a pirate is a life of freedom, danger, and debauchery that make for perfect entertainment. Pirate films are fun and exciting adventure movies that provide a little bit of everything.

There are usually great fight scenes, ship battles, and even some romance. Audiences can have a great time with these movies, and most critics can’t deny their joy at getting the chance to become invested in the world of pirates.

Updated October 7th, 2021 by Rose Graceling-Moore – Pirates continue to be a source of fascination for audiences, with recent offerings including Netflix’s mini-series The Lost Pirate Kingdom (which managed an impressive 100% on Rotten Tomatoes itself). The Pirates of the Caribbean pirate movie franchise also continues to grow, with reports of a female-fronted installment in the works. In the meantime, these classics, twists, and new favorites are enough to keep any pirate happy! 

 

15 Muppet Treasure Island – 73%

Muppet Treasure Island is a retelling of the classic novel, but with The Muppets. The Muppets fit very well in this movie, with Kermit the Frog as the captain and Gonzo as a member of the crew. However, the star of this movie is Tim Curry as Long John Silver, who is clearly having the time of his life portraying a pirate alongside Muppet characters.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this film is the creative and memorable musical numbers that are guaranteed to get stuck in fans’ heads. It’s got a lot of humor, heart, and family-friendly pirate entertainment. While many pirate films are certainly not appropriate for younger viewers, this is a sanitized version of piracy that anyone can enjoy.

14 The Goonies – 76%

The Goonies is the definition of a good time. It follows a group of curious kids who search for lost pirate treasure after stumbling upon a treasure map. Along the way, they face dangerous foes and obstacles that they will have to get through in order to find the treasure, in a classic treasure hunt.

The Goonies has lots of pirate moments, including a treasure room on a ship that was owned by a character named One-Eyed Willy. Critics really enjoyed this family adventure and it is considered a classic movie from the ’80s. It’s hard to watch this movie and not be sucked into the adventure.

13 Peter Pan (2003) – 77%

When it comes to movies that tell the tale of Peter Pan, most people think of the Disney animated classic and Hook. However, many overlooked this 2003 version of the classic story, yet it is considered to be one of the better versions by critics who found it to be a faithful adaptation that still manages to be a great fantasy story.

Captain Hook is a legendary pirate character who is on a mission to get his revenge on Peter. Here, he is played by Jason Isaacs, who always loves to play the villainous characters. This version of Peter Pan may have forgotten about, but it deserves more attention.

12 Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl – 79%

While it is not the highest-rated film on this list, Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the most famous pirate films. Based on the popular attraction at Disney Parks around the world, Pirates of the Caribbean is incredibly enjoyable. It has an amazing swordfight, a cool story with a unique mythology, and a world enraptured by its swashbuckling atmosphere.

Jack Sparrow is the most iconic pirate character ever put to film, helmed by a great performance from Johnny Depp. However, Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa also competes for the best cinema pirate. It’s one of the biggest franchises ever and people love revisiting these characters. Also, Hans Zimmer’s incredible score is the theme music for anything pirate-related, forever. Surprisingly, though, the rest of the franchise doesn’t do so well on the aggregate site, with many of the films managing a ‘rotten’ rating.

11 The Pirates Of Penzance – 81%

The Pirates of Penzance is a romantic musical comedy from 1983. Based on the Broadway play, the film appears as though it straight from Broadway. as the sets are very obvious and the musical atmosphere is in every frame of this movie. It does have a lot of entertaining pirate moments, but the musical numbers are also clever, catchy, and fit in with the world of pirates.

It still manages to be a pirate adventure while also being a great musical. The action may not be as exciting as other pirate movies, but there is still a lot that critics love about this goofy, pirate musical.

10 Peter Pan (1953) – 81%

Disney’s Peter Pan is an animated classic that makes viewers wish they could stay kids forever. While there are moments in Peter Pan that have aged incredibly poorly, there is still a lot to love here. The animation is colorful, bright, and beautiful throughout. Peter Pan also has wonderful songs that will make any fan want to fly to the second star to the right.

Captain Hook is one of Disney’s best villains, and it’s just as easy to love his goofy sidekick, Mr. Smee. Hook and his pirate crew turn this animated fantasy into an imaginative pirate tale.

9 Blackbeard’s Ghost – 82%

Blackbeard’s Ghost is another pirate adventure from Disney in 1968. This movie is about a track coach who has a supernatural encounter with the ghost of the infamous pirate, Blackbeard. This sounds like a bizarre concept, but critics really enjoyed the movie and found it to be solid family entertainment that delivers some laughs and is immensely creative.

It’s an intriguing concept, as it mixes modern day with the world of pirates. It turns out that these two worlds meld much better than expected.

8 The Black Swan – 83%

This pirate flick is an absolute classic, from 1942 – and an Academy Award winner (for Best Cinematography). The plot revolves around Henry Morgan, rogue pirates, the Jamaican governor, and a beautiful daughter… all the classic ingredients for a swashbuckler.

While elements of the film may appear outdated today, it’s a pirate movie that still deserves the rating it has, not least because it is simply an excellent straightforward adventure movie. This isn’t a film that will appeal to those wanting twists and turns, or historical accuracy, but anyone who wants swordfights and romance will be thrilled.

7 The Pirates: Band Of Misfits – 86%

The Pirates: Band of Misfits is a 2012 stop-motion animated film about a band of pirate scoundrels. This movie has a tremendous voice cast, including Hugh Jackman, Salma Hayek, Brendan Gleeson, and Martin Freeman.

The animation is also impressive, especially since stop-motion is a difficult form of animation that takes a lot of time to complete. However, the effort was worth it here, as critics appear to love this movie. While it is a goofy film, critics praised the movie for having a lot of smart and clever humor mixed with a wonderful cast and beautiful animation.

6 The Sea Hawk – 93%

The true classic from 1940 stars Errol Flynn as Geoffrey Thorpe, Queen Elizabeth’s man on the high seas. Focusing on the conflict between Queen Elizabeth and the Spanish (and her famous ‘sea dogs’ of the time period), there are plenty of swordfights to be found here – enough that the film was nominated for four Oscars.

Spies, pirates, adventure, battle and more is set against a stunning soundtrack, and although the film is in black and white (and many aspects of it may be considered outdated today) it remains a classic… and a film to prove just how long pirates have been popular on the big screen.

5 Captain Phillips – 93%

Unlike most pirate movies, Captain Phillips isn’t a romanticized look at piracy or set in the Golden Age of Piracy, either. Instead, this modern-day movie looks at piracy as it still exists, a violent and frightening part of shipping and sailing. Based on a real-life story, the film centers on a merchant vessel taken hostage by pirates in 2009.

This is not the film for anyone seeking family-friendly swashbuckling adventures, but for those looking for an action film with real depth and intensity. The film was nominated for six Oscars.

4 Swallows And Amazons – 94%

This recent ‘pirate’ film is an incredibly wholesome look at children playing at pirates and sailors in the Lake District, in the 1930s. Based on the novel of the same name, it is a sweet adventure about a simpler time… while also being a surprising adventure, when the children band together to take down a real-life criminal. There may be no swordfights, but there are some incredible action scenes involving a float plane which more than make up for it.

Treasure maps, imagination, and the power of friendship take center stage in this sweet pirate film appropriate for all ages.

3 The Princess Bride – 97%

The Princess Bride is an iconic film, filled with memorable moments and quotes that stand the test of time. The characters are equally as memorable, from Buttercup and Westley to Fezzik and Inigo Montoya. Directed by Rob Reiner, The Princess Bride is a hilarious film that blends together action, comedy, and romance.

It’s a great fantasy adventure that critics and audiences loved when it first came out and still love today. It is more of a fantasy film than a pirate film, but there are some great swordfights that make for some swashbuckling entertainment. Watching The Princess Bride without a smile is inconceivable.

2 The Crimson Pirate – 100%

With a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, The Crimson Pirate is a near-perfect pirate movie (for its time, of course). Made in 1952, the film stars Burt Lancaster as the pirate Captain Vallo, a classic swashbuckler who falls in love with a beautiful woman, and must save her from an odious marriage.

This may be something of a predictable film, as it fulfils so many of the tropes of classic Hollywood movies, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

1 Treasure Island – 100%

Disney is the king of pirate-themed entertainment. Treasure Island is a classic pirate tale about Jim Hawkins who encounters Long John Silver on a journey to recover lost pirate treasure. This adaptation of the classic novel is much more faithful to the novel than Muppet Treasure Island and critics praised it for bringing the novel to life.

It has a lot of great pirate action but still manages to capture the family fun that Disney is so well-known for. Disney did give Treasure Island a sci-fi spin with the animated Treasure Planet, but this version from 1950 is the most beloved by critics.