The fourth movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean series opens with Spanish fishermen finding a very old man entangled in their fishing nets. When the Spanish commander learns that the old-man is a 200-year-old survivor from an ill-fated expedition to find the legendary Fountain of Youth, the commander gives orders to set sail on the next morning’s tide.
Meanwhile, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is on a one-man mission to rescue a member of his crew but is captured and brought before King George II (Richard Griffiths). He discovers that Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is now a captain in the King’s navy and is after Jack’s map of the location of the Fountain of Youth.
Jack escapes from the King’s custody but becomes involved in a duel with a strange man. The man claims to be Jack himself, but turns out to be an old flame, Angelica (Penelope Cruz). Jack’s romantic interlude is interrupted when he’s pursued and knocked unconscious by unknown enemies.
When Jack wakes up, he’s at sea aboard a ship captained by Blackbeard the pirate, who turns out to be Angelica’s father. Sparrow now has to lead Blackbeard to the Fountain of Youth, while Barbossa and his men, as well as the Spanish navy, are also desperately seeking the fabled Fountain.
Pirates; the supernatural
Much of the violence in this movie is stylised. It’s also sometimes slapstick. But the movie does have a few scenes in which the violence is more brutal. For example:
- There’s a sword fight between Jack Sparrow and another person who’s impersonating him and who turns out to be Angelica. Jack kicks his impersonator in the chest and then rips open her shirt to reveal her cleavage. Soldiers break into the tavern and a fight erupts between the soldiers and tavern patrons. The scene shows fist fights and general brawling along with swordplay and the occasional musket being fired. The scene is mostly played for comedy.
- During a mutiny on board Blackbeard’s ship, characters fight in a more brutal way. A pirate has a sword thrust through his chest but pulls it out as if unhurt. The scene contains hard, rough sword fights, stabbings and punches to the face. Also, ropes come to life, entangling the mutineers and hauling them up into the rigging, where they dangle upside down.
- A man in a rowboat rowing away from Blackbeard’s ship is engulfed in flames that shoot out from the ship.
- Blackbeard tortures Jack Sparrow using a voodoo doll. Blackbeard sticks a knife into the doll and Jack shows signs of pain. He opens his shirt to show a bloody symbol cut into his skin. Blackbeard then places the doll’s head into a flame, and Jack grabs hold of his head as if he’s in a lot of pain until Blackbeard removes the doll from the flame.
- Pirates talk about how mermaids pull sailors down into the sea and eat them.
- During a battle between mermaids and Blackbeard’s crew, mermaids pull the men down into the sea. They jump over rowboats to snatch the men from the boats and pull them under the sea. An army of mermaids overruns and capsizes an entire ship. During the battle, mermaids are run through the chest with swords. Barrels of oil explode. A man stabs a mermaid through the tail. This pins her to the ground, so pirates can wrap her in a fishing net. Later the same mermaid is imprisoned in an aquarium-like coffin. She can’t breathe and gasps for air until the top of the aquarium is removed.
- Blackbeard forces Jack to play Russian roulette with Angelica.
- Blackbeard slaps Angelica across her face, which knocks her to the ground.
- Blackbeard threatens to cut off Serena the mermaid’s fingers and tear every scale from her body, one by one.
- One of Blackbeard’s henchmen tries to scare Serena the mermaid. He makes a show of strangling Philip the missionary. Then he slits Philip’s throat and rolls his body into a ditch. Later Philip wakes up and pulls a dart from his chest.
- To scare and torture Serena the mermaid, Blackbeard ties her to a pole with her body half out of the water.
- During the movie’s final battle involving Blackbeard, his pirates and Spanish soldiers, there’s a lot of battle violence and destruction. A missionary is stabbed in the stomach, and Blackbeard is stabbed in the back and then through the stomach.
Content that may disturb children
- This movie has a lot of threatening pirates that younger children might find scary.
- A couple of Blackbeard’s men are referred to as ‘zombiefied’. They’re fierce and brutish, and their faces are covered in piercings, tattoos and symbols. In one scene, one of them pulls a sword from his chest as if he’s not hurt.
- Younger children might find Blackbeard’s ship scary and disturbing. The ship seems to be controlled by supernatural powers controlled by Blackbeard’s sword. Barbossa gives a chilling account of how he was forced to cut off his own leg when he was trapped by one of Blackbeard’s enchanted ropes.
- The mermaids are depicted both as beautiful women and as scary, witch-like creatures. They have vampire-like fangs and supernatural strength and abilities.The front of Blackbeard’s ship is covered in dozens of flaming human skeletons.
- A couple of scenes show the ground littered with hundreds of human skeletons. One scene includes images of partially decomposed bodies of mermaids tied to stakes half out of the water. Most of the bodies have been reduced to skeletons.
- One scene shows Blackbeard’s body being consumed by a water spout. The spout leaves a skeleton standing in the water with its hand reaching out before it collapses.
Children in this age group could also be disturbed by some of the images mentioned above.
Some younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.
This movie has some sexual references. For example:
- Angelica complains that she was used by Jack when she was a young woman. She asks Jack what he was doing in a Spanish convent. Jack says, ‘I mistook it for a brothel’.
- Sailors talk about mermaids having their way with sailors. One sailor says that he wants a proper kiss from a mermaid.
- Jack says to Philip that he ‘supports the missionary position’.
- In one scene where Jack points a sword at Angelica, Angelica says, ‘How come we can never meet without you pointing something at me?’
- Jack tells Angelica that if she had a sister and a dog, he would chase the dog.
- Angelica tells Jack that she was pregnant and that Jack was the father. She says that he couldn’t remember all this because he was drunk at the time. Jack says, ‘I’ve never been that drunk’.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie has some use of substances. For example:
- Several scenes show taverns full of rowdy pirates drinking.
- Jack and Gibbs share a hip flask a couple of times.
- Barbossa pulls a cork from the top of his peg-leg. He and Jack drink from the leg.
- In a couple of scenes, characters use darts treated with some type of drug to knock people out.
Nudity and sexual activity
This movie has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Women wear low-cut tops that show off their cleavage.
- Jack kisses Angelica on the lips.
- The mermaids are naked from the waist up, but they’re shown from the back or with their long hair covering their breasts.
- A mermaid kisses Philip on the lips and then pulls him into the water.
None of concern
There is some low-level coarse language and name-calling in this movie.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is an adventure fantasy movie targeting an audience from adolescent children upwards. Many scenes are too violent and scary for children under 12.
The main message from this movie is to live life for the moment.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include empathy and self-sacrifice. Philip shows these qualities when he’s concerned about the way a mermaid is treated. He sacrifices his own life to save her.
You could also talk about the way the pirates treat the mermaid and what it shows about their attitude to her.