Streaming Spotlight – pirates at the pictures

Hoist the mainsail as we set out on the high seas

by Jennie Kermode

A French Ship And Barbary Pirates by Aert Anthoniszoon
A French Ship And Barbary Pirates by Aert Anthoniszoon Photo: National Maritime Museum of England

In celebration of International Talk Like A Pirate Day on Sunday the 19th of September, we’re setting sail on the high seas with this week’s Streaming Spotlight to seek out some sensational buccaneers. Killing the music industry and winning surprise elections will have to wait because there are numerous swashes to be buckled here, but if you’re looking for something serious, you’ll find a taste of the modern phenomenon mixed in with the family fun. Save your sea shanties for later and lie back in your hammock to enjoy these thrilling tales of maritime adventure.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl - Disney+

It may have been based on a ride – not the most auspicious start – but this franchise definitely made its mark, despite Johnny Depp revealing recently that the producers had no idea what he was doing with his performance as Captain Jack Sparrow (inspired by Keith Richards, who would go on to play his dad) until its first instalment was complete. Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom may not exactly sizzle as the star-crossed lovers at the heart of the tale but they’re basically playing the straight men to Depp’s alcoholic pantomime dame of a buccaneer, and there’s no shortage of action comedy there to keep things entertaining, plus a fine turn from Geoffrey Rush as a rival pirate with a sinister agenda.

The Goonies
The Goonies

The Goonies - Virgin TV Go, AppleTV, Chili

Written by Steven Spielberg and Chris Columbus, shot by Richard Donner, The Goonies captures the distilled essence of the Eighties kids’ adventure movie as it follows a group of kids on an underground adventure to find a lost pirate ship full of treasure – if they can fend off the adult criminals who want the loot for themselves. It’s a quest made more important for Mikey (Sean Astin) because a lack of money means his single parent family may be forced to move away, separating him from his friends (who include Jonathan Ke Quan, better known as Short Round from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom), but the focus is on action, with some spectacular set pieces and all the doubloons you can eat.

A Hijacking
A Hijacking

A Hijacking - AppleTV

Arriving on cinema screens the year before Paul Greengrass' Tom Hanks-starrer Captain Phillips, Tobias Lindholm's film brought the true account of a Somali pirate hijack of a boat in the Indian Ocean to the screen. The film benefits from its avoiding Hollywood gloss in favour of more documentary-style sweaty, gritty thrills with the action unfolding largely in the wake of the hijacking itself - no doubt added to by the fact that much of it was shot on a boat in similarly dangerous waters. As the ship's cook (Pilou Asbæk) finds himself trying to negotiate the ransom by phone with the CEO (Søren Malling) as the crew become pawns in a claustrophobic money game.

Conan The Barbarian
Conan The Barbarian

Conan The Barbarian - Amazon Prime, Starz, Virgin TV Go

An important part of the Conan legend, in Robert E Howard’s original books, is the famous barbarian’s years spent as a pirate, yet this has rarely made it onto the screen. The exception is in this 2011 film. Jason Momoa’s characters are rarely far from water – indeed, he would go on to fight a pirate as Aquaman – and his Conan is seen sailing the high seas alongside Bob Sapp as Captain Ukafa, raiding slave caravans and making merry in taverns en route to hunting down the man responsible for his father’s death, who also happens to be a threat to all the civilised world. Although most of the film is set on land, there’s a memorable ship-based battle, a sea monster fight and a whole lot of pirate attitude.

Peter Pan
Peter Pan Photo: Disney

Peter Pan - Disney+

Pirates don't come much more iconic than the hook-handed Cavalier of Disney's JM Barrie adaptation - the look that launched a thousand Halloween costumes. Voiced impeccably by Hans Conried - who also voices Mr Darling - he's flamboyantly enjoyable in this version of the story of the boy who never grew up, providing a solid level of danger as he takes on Peter, Tinkerbell and their friends but also a decent dollop of humour thanks to his sweetly bumbling sidekick Mr Smee and the ever-ticking crocodile.

The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists
The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists

The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists - Sky, Now Cinema, AppleTV

Adapted from Gideon Defoe’s popular The Pirates! book series, this Aardman animated romp features the vocal talents of Hugh Grant, who might look a little too clean cut to play a pirate in person but relishes the chance here. From cutlasses to sea shanties to prize joints of ham, this film has it all, plus a series of exciting encounters with Charles Darwin, a cheeky monkey and a villainous Queen Victoria. There are great cameos from Salma Hayek as the beautiful but deadly Cutthroat Liz and Brian Blessed as the Pirate King, plus a healthy measure of shouting, running through, and donning of clever disguises in a film that really does deliver for viewers of all ages.

The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride - Amazon Prime, Virgin TV Go, Chili

A pirate’s life may be ideal for some, but sooner or later, those who are most successful at it start to think about retiring and settling down somewhere nice where they can enjoy their loot. It’s the name that strikes fear into other mariners. That’s how the hero of this tale – otherwise known as Westley and played by Cary Elwes – acquires the title of Dread Pirate Roberts, inheriting it from his predecessor. Even though most of the story is set on land, as he seeks to retrieve his sweetheart from the clutches of a scheming prince, he gets to show off lots of piratical skills, from rope climbing to sword fighting (all the actor’s own work) to escaping from quicksand. Rob Reiner’s take on the much loved book is an enduring classic.

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