Pirates in real life may have been violent thieves, but Hollywood made them debonair and daring. Hollywood pirate movies, with a vast cast of actors and sense of charismatic flair, have provided audiences with the adventurous side of piracy and somewhat quelled the evil truth of history. To this day, pirate movies have a vivid cinematic fascination for legions of fans.
The earliest films featuring errant buccaneers included a version of "Treasure Island" in 1912, and "The Black Pirate" in 1926. "The Black Pirate," was a silent film, and was only the fourth full-length film in Technicolor. It also featured Douglas Fairbanks as a noble young man who pretended to be a pirate to avenge his father. In fact, most pirate movies enhanced the intentions of the main characters by insinuating they would never harm innocent victims; they were simply there to battle the bad guys. In that same year, "Old Ironsides" featured Barbary pirates as cutthroat evildoers, fighting against honorable American adversaries who were allowed to resort to tactical revenge.
Perhaps the best known on-screen swashbuckler was Errol Flynn in the 1935 movie "Captain Blood." This movie is reported to have kick-started his career as a Hollywood star and with that success he revived his buccaneering talents in the 1940's "The Sea Hawk," followed by at least two more movie adventures at sea in the 1950s.
A few pirate comedies and musicals surfaced in Hollywood, including a film version of Gilbert and Sullivan's opera, "Pirates of Penzance." Bob Hope got into the act with "The Princess and the Pirate" in 1994. Not to be left out, the Muppets also rallied for "Muppet Treasure Island" in 1996.
Women as pirates captured the attention of moviegoers, in the 1951 film "Anne of the Indies" starring Jean Petersand, and in the 1990's, when Geena Davis starred in "Cutthroat Island."
Perhaps the best known characters of Hollywood pirate movie fame include Captain Hook and Long John Silver. Numerous versions of Peter Pan have reached the silver screen including, "Hook," a version about an adult Peter Pan starring Robin Williams. Attempts by Robert Newton, Orson Welles, and Charlton Heston, have sailed or failed in efforts to depict Silver. Indeed, Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "Treasure Island" has been adapted for the screen more than any other pirate story and has been produced as a silent film, by Disney, and in several animated versions from as early as 1912 and most recently in 1999.
Dozens of pirate films have been produced and many well-known actors have won a role in at least one of them. By the 1960's however, pirates seemed to lose favor with the movie-going public, but started to revive in the early 1980's. In fact, few Hollywood pirate movies can claim financial success, although people continue to love Ð and hate Ð the lifestyle of pirates. Critics have panned numerous pirate-themed movies made in Hollywood.
The movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," and its sequel "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," which is slated to hit theaters in Summer 2006, have managed to carry the romantic adventures of buccaneers into the twenty-first century. Disney studios produced these movies based on its famous ride of the same name. The first film grossed over $305 million making it 21 of the top 1000 grossing films of all time. If the sequels does well also, the duo is expected become the most successful pirate movies ever.