The Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise’s 10 Best Villains

Summary

  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    has a rich history of memorable villains, each with their own unique characteristics.
  • Captain Barbossa is the classic villainous pirate captain with a strong backstory and a spooky presence.
  • Davy Jones is the only villain who can follow Barbossa, in part because of award-winning special effects.

Numerous swashbuckling, brilliant, and wacky villains have provided conflict for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise across its five movies to date. Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow is at the center of Pirates of the Caribbean as its eccentric protagonist and mascot, although many other characters from the series have also become hugely iconic additions to Disney’s roster. This includes some dastardly villains played by various A-listers who may evolve if they appear in enough movies or serve as a straightforward, wonderfully maniacal antagonist.

However, the shifting loyalties and betrayals in Pirates of the Caribbean means that few of the characters opposing Jack and his allies are straightforward villains, when most of the “heroes” are just as ruthless. Meanwhile, the European presence in the 18th-century Caribbean is always a threat to the pirates, embodied by characters steadfast in their convictions. In the future, Margot Robbie’s Pirates of the Caribbean spinoff will have to find its own charismatic villain. Everyone can be called a villain at some point in Pirates of the Caribbean, yet a few characters still stand out as playing this narrative role better.

Movie

Release date

Villains

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

2003

Captain Barbossa, James Norrington, the crew of the Black Pearl

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

2006

Davy Jones, Cutler Beckett, the crew of the Flying Dutchman, the East India Trading Company

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

2007

Davy Jones, Beckett, Tia Dalma/Calypso, the East India Trading Company

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strange Tides

2011

Blackbeard, Angelica, Mermaids, King George, King Ferdinand

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

2017

Captain Salazar, crew of the Silent Mary

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10 Captain Edward “Blackbeard” Teach

Played By Ian McShane

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Pirates of the Caribbean failed the most famous pirate in history by putting him in a lackluster story. However, it is possible to discern what the writers were going for with Blackbeard: They simply wanted him to be the most evil character in the franchise yet. Some of the elements surrounding him might be silly — like his magic sword that can control the rigging of any ship — but Ian McShane’s version of Blackbeard is stone-cold.

Blackbeard is seeking immortality for the sake of it, terrorizes his crew to keep them in line, and values his daughter only because she is useful to him — he is perfectly willing to sacrifice her to save his own life. Whatever other weaknesses On Stranger Tides suffers from, McShane convincingly portrays this character. Blackbeard might come across as having little interiority, but this is likely supposed to be the point of him. He just could have used more screen time to achieve a greater presence in the franchise rather than being the obligatory threat in the fourth installment.

9 Commodore James Norrington

Played By Jack Davenport

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Commodore Norrington (later promoted to lieutenant) is an antagonist by default in Curse of the Black Pearl. He might just be doing his job and offering a heartfelt proposal with the intent of being a caring husband, but to the audience, he is an opposing force to the (somewhat) noble criminal protagonist and the star-crossed romance. Norrington politely ends his engagement with Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) at the end of the first movie, something a lot of characters of this archetype would do.

Norrington then has to consider all the consequences of his actions when Elizabeth affirms that they are enemies.

What makes Norrington so interesting and more of a villain is what the story does with him after he has served this very clichéd role. He is a different man in Dead Man’s Chest: disillusioned, uncaring, and wanting only to kill those who wronged him and reclaim his position. Norrington then has to consider all the consequences of his actions when Elizabeth affirms that they are enemies. There are many different shades to his character, undergoing an interesting evolution from being an antagonist simply by existing.

8 Tia Dalma/Calypso

Played By Naomie Harris

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Tia Dalma’s arc is somewhat maligned by At World’s End, but there are some interesting beats surrounding her character. In Dead Man’s Chest, she appears to be more of a plot device than a villain, directing the main characters towards the chest of Davy Jones. All of this turns out to have been part of Tia Dalma’s plan to trick the Brethren Court into releasing her, so she may regain her true form and powers as the goddess Calypso. Throughout, she has an element of mystery and foresight about her that Naomie Harris plays well.

The scene of Calypso being freed might have been ham-fisted, but taken out of context of the rest of the movie, she is an interesting character and villainess. She abandoned Davy Jones, making him the monster that he is, for no other reason than inconsistency is in her nature. She has a complicated alliance with Barbossa and seems to have known all along that Will Turner (Orlando Blood) would become the new captain of the Flying Dutchman. Calypso is cruel, but she also gives the impression of only being cruel as fate demands it.

7 Pintel (& Ragetti)

Played By Lee Arenberg & Mackenzie Crook

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Pintel and Ragetti serve Pirates of the Caribbean well as the wacky duo who start out as members of Barbossa’s villainous undead crew before casually joining Jack’s crew in Dead Man’s Chest. In this setting, the fact that these characters have tried to kill Jack and co. before is water under the bridge. Pintel and Ragetti have a good dynamic with each other and with the rest of the cast, which allows them to flit throughout the story as comedy fodder, occasionally surprising everyone with a serious moment.

As a pair, Pintel and Ragetti are great sort-of villains who occasionally dip back into seemingly wanting to kill the main characters — like when they try to steal the chest and fight Elizabeth (also in Dead Man’s Chest). Yet they are an iconic duo inextricably linked with Pirates of the Caribbean, showcasing the franchise’s characteristic comedy and drama. Because they are at the fringe of the story, they can perhaps shift between being friends and enemies better than anyone. When characters like Will and Elizabeth turn on everyone and back again, it demands more of an explanation.

6 Lord Cutler Beckett

Played By Tom Hollander

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The franchise could have spent more time developing the plot and themes surrounding the presence of the British Empire in this setting; it is one of the reasons that Black Sails may be better than Pirates of the Caribbean. However, on his own, Beckett is a very unlikable character who never once questions his mission to murder hundreds to thousands of people. He is everything that the main characters are not: formal, dressy, and only a figurehead, rather than actually getting his hands dirty by fighting.

Beckett represents another conflict in Pirates of the Caribbean that should have been given more attention. The rough timeline of the first few movies is at the end of the Golden Age of Piracy, when figures like Jack are “a dying breed.”It is left to Beckett to embody this ideological conflict when the story doesn’t address it as much as it should, and he at least has a strong run when due to being almost cartoonishly evil.

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5 Angelica Teach

Played By Penélope Cruz

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Giving Jack a real love interest who undermines his philosophy of self-preservation above all else might not have been the best choice, but Angelica is still an excellent character. Angelica understands Jack almost better than anyone, and therefore stands the best chance at taking him down. Angelica is the only character in Pirates of the Caribbean who can match Jack in terms of skill, intellect, and pure flair. Likewise, Penélope Cruz was the perfect choice to star alongside Depp in the context of a new high-seas adventure.

Angelica is the only character in Pirates of the Caribbean who can match Jack in terms of skill, intellect, and pure flair.

Angelica is fiercely dedicated to her father, a loyalty which is misplaced. Along the way to helping him find the Fountain of Youth, she terrifies everyone in her vicinity. Angelica might be called sympathetic because everything she does is in the service of helping someone she loves who does not love her in return. However, as far as Jack and anyone who gets in her way is concerned, she is one of the most dangerous threats they will face.

4 Mermaids

Played By Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Gemma Ward, & Others

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On Stranger Tides tried its hand at bringing to life another legendary ocean monster, intertwining the myth of mermaids with the necessary ingredients to derive life from the Fountain of Youth. Syrena (Bergès-Frisbey) and Philip (Sam Claflin) might have been poor replacements for Will and Elizabeth, but the On Stranger Tides sequence where the pirates are attacked by the mermaids is well-executed. The setting, mermaids, and music are all completely ethereal before they reveal their fangs to slaughter all the pirates in a strong live-action depiction of the violent tales of sirens.

All the mermaids except for Syrena disappear after this scene because they are actually difficult to capture, proven by multiple failed attempts. Additionally, all the mermaids are remorseless about luring sailors to their death, embodying another aspect of the mythology. Even Syrena, although she falls in love with Philip, is resolute to not help the other pirates. Admittedly, why she brings the chalices back to Jack is one of the biggest plot holes across the five Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

3 Captain Davy Jones

Played By Bill Nighy

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Davy Jones, as he is seen in Pirates of the Caribbean, is the only villain who could live up to and surpass the standard set by Barbossa in the first movie. The spectacular design of the character and his crew, constituting Oscar-winning special effects, is a big part of it. However, Davy Jones is also darker and more dangerous than the benchmark established by Curse of the Black Pearl, and a wonderful play on the seafaring myth of Davy Jones’ locker (appropriately referenced by Will in the first movie).

In addition to being generally evil and extremely difficult to defeat, Davy Jones is tinged with themes of loneliness and heartbreak that make Dead Man’s Chest slightly more nuanced. He wants to inflict the emotional pain he has suffered on others. Davy Jones’ fallout with Calypso has far-reaching consequences, leading to other souls who have died at sea also becoming lost and alone. He is a complex villain because of the harm he directly and indirectly causes.

2 The Kraken

No Applicable Actor

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Accompanying Davy Jones is his biggest weapon: control over the legendary beast known as the Kraken. The Kraken is a near-perfect contribution to Pirates of the Caribbean’s story, lessened only by how it is unceremoniously killed off when the writers had no purpose for it in At World’s End. Before that, the monster is completely terrifying and apparently impossible to beat. The main characters are not victorious when they go up against the Kraken in the final act of Dead Man’s Chest, but are forced to flee, losing Jack and the Black Pearl in the process.

Before that, the Kraken is the crux of some of the best action sequences in Pirates of the Caribbean, characterized by well-planned choreography and inescapable dread. There is also something very classic and inevitable about the Kraken, as though the main characters would always have had to fight something like it eventually. So long as Pirates of the Caribbean got more than one movie, some kind of sea serpent or other monster lurking in the depths would have come into play.

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1 Captain Hector Barbossa

Played By Geoffrey Rush

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Yet no villain in Pirates of the Caribbean is as classically brilliant and evil as Barbossa. In Curse of the Black Pearl, Barbossa is the perfect villainous pirate captain with a strong backstory and a talent for telling ghost stories. Over time, Barbossa and Jack evolve to have a protagonist/antagonist dynamic where they also have best friends vibes — there is no other reason the crew of the Black Pearl would have ironically named their undead monkey Jack. For better or worse, Barbossa and Jack have known each other for a long time and understand how the other one operates.

Even when he is not the primary villain, Barbossa has a certain cackling determination and expertise that makes him the archetype Pirates of the Caribbean always needs, although he is the best at being this character. Yet he is at his best in Curse of the Black Pearl, where he is a strong foil to Jack and brings in some of the best references to the original ride. Pirates of the Caribbean has many great villains, but Barbossa remains a strong contender to be the best of all of them.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean The Curse of the Black Pearl Poster Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Where to Watch

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    The Curse of the Black Pearl is the film that kickstarted the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, a series of supernatural swashbuckling adventures. In 1720, blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate “Captain” Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor’s daughter Elizabeth Swann, from Jack’s former pirate allies, who are now undead.

    Director Gore Verbinski Release Date July 9, 2003 Writers Ted Elliott , Terry Rossio , Stuart Beattie , Jay Wolpert Cast Johnny Depp , Geoffrey Rush , Orlando Bloom , Keira Knightley , Jack Davenport , Jonathan Pryce

  • Pirates of the Caribbean Deadman's Chest Poster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest Where to Watch

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    Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is the second installment in the swashbuckling franchise directed by Gore Verbinski. Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, who must settle a blood debt with the legendary Davy Jones, portrayed by Bill Nighy. As Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) are drawn into Jack’s perilous quest, they face new dangers on the high seas and encounter the fearsome Kraken.

    Director Gore Verbinski Release Date July 6, 2006 Writers Ted Elliott , Terry Rossio , Stuart Beattie , Jay Wolpert Cast Johnny Depp , Orlando Bloom , Keira Knightley , Jack Davenport , Bill Nighy , Jonathan Pryce

  • Pirates of the Caribbean At World's End Movie Poster Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End Where to Watch

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    Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is the third film in the blockbuster series directed by Gore Verbinski. Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is trapped in Davy Jones’ Locker, prompting Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to rescue him. As they battle the East India Trading Company, led by Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), they must unite the pirate lords to fight against an impending extinction of piracy.

    Director Gore Verbinski Release Date May 19, 2007 Writers Ted Elliott , Terry Rossio , Stuart Beattie , Jay Wolpert Cast Johnny Depp , Geoffrey Rush , Orlando Bloom , Keira Knightley , Jack Davenport , Bill Nighy

  • Pirates of the Caribbean on stranger tides movie poster Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Where to Watch

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    Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the fourth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. When Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) finds himself on the hunt for the fabled Fountain of Youth, he runs afoul of his old rival Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and the feared pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Accompanied by the mysterious Angelica (Penelope Cruz), Sparrow races his competition to the fountain in the hopes of claiming the Fountain for himself.

    Director Rob Marshall Release Date May 7, 2011 Writers Rob Marshall Cast Johnny Depp , Penelope Cruz , Geoffrey Rush , Sam Claflin , Ian McShane , Kevin R. McNally

  • Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Men Tell No Tales Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Where to Watch

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    The fifth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Dead Men Tell No Tales follows young Henry Turner as he enlists Captain Jack Sparrow to release his father, Will Turner, from the curse binding him to the Flying Dutchman. Their quest puts them in the path of ghostly pirate-hunter Captain Salazar, with whom Sparrow has a storied past. To save his old friend, Sparrow must confront his own past to reunite Will with his long-lost son.

    Director Joachim Rønning Release Date May 26, 2017 Writers Joachim Rønning , Johnny Depp Cast Johnny Depp , Geoffrey Rush , Orlando Bloom

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