Apparently, it’s Pirate Week here at BOM. Despite my annoyance with International Talk Like a Pirate Day, it has motivated not one, but two posts! I suppose that this one was partly helped along as well by discussions of Johnny Depp. Just so you know? Captain Jack Sparrow will not be making an appearance on this list. Sorry.
It seems as though we’ve always had a fascination with pirates. They lead, on the surface, a pretty “romantic” existence: world travel, gold and jewels, a life of crime. Sometimes I have to remind myself that they were probably actually a dirty, disease-ridden, unpleasant bunch. These pirates, however, are a talented and often quite handsome bunch. Check them out, or walk the plank!
Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare (Stardust, 2007)
Captain Shakespeare is the meanest, roughest, toughest pirate out there … as far as you know. A lot of people had complaints about De Niro’s performance in this fantastic movie, but I’m here to tell you that they are mostly smoking crack. He is completely perfect, and an absolute joy to watch. He just seems to be having so much fun! I know, I know, he’s the Robert De Niro, and all, but who says the greats can’t be silly every now and then? Besides, Stardust is a much better movie than, say, Analyze This or those Meet the Parents movies. Bleh.
Cary Elwes as the Dread Pirate Roberts (The Princess Bride, 1987)
Duh. About the time I started paying attention to good-looking guys, here came The Princess Bride. Cary Elwes was IT back in the day, amirite, ladies? He was so smooth, and suave, and we already knew how handsome he was under that mask. Plus, he died and came back to life to rescue his lady-love. He gave piracy some class, and looked impossibly dashing doing it. That summer, I successfully led a bid for Movie Night at camp to feature The Princess Bride over Dirty Dancing, insisting that all those Patrick Swayze fans didn’t know what they were missing. And you know what? After it was over, most of them agreed with me.
Gene Kelly as Serafin (The Pirate, 1948)
Ok, so Serafin is not really a pirate. He’s actually a wandering minstrel who poses as legendary pirate Macoco in order to impress the girl with whom he’s fallen in love, played by Judy Garland. But still, he’s Gene Kelly, so naturally he succeeds in his goal, bringing Macoco to life with virility and swagger. Given the opportunity to use his physicality as a means of characterization, Kelly is going to get it right every time, and it’s the dance scenes that make the movie. The Pirate is not the best in either the Kelly or the Garland catalogue, but it’s a must-see for fans of either star.
Kevin Kline as The Pirate King (The Pirates of Penzance, 1983)
This little-known adaptation of the Gilbert & Sullivan musical is a fun romp, boasting some other big names (Linda Ronstadt, Angela Lansbury) in addition to the fabulous Kevin Kline. He really sets the tone for the entire production, capturing the pomp and braggadocio of the Pirate King while still managing to be properly ridiculous. And he totally rocks that puffy shirt look. It is, as they say, a glorious thing.
Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa (Pirates of the Caribbean, 2003-2011)
Captain Jack, you say? Ha! Captain Barbossa is the proper pirate here. First of all, Geoffrey Rush is a brilliant actor, and it’s always fun to see brilliant actors cut loose and have a little fun. Second of all, I think that Barbossa is just a much better pirate. He’s got some menace, some bravado, and his own, special brand of lunacy. And he doesn’t wear guyliner. Plus, I mean, Captain Jack is really kind of incompetent. Who would you rather sail with? All in all, as the series has gone on (and on, and on …) I’ve heard more and more from audiences about how it’s Rush who steals the show. That doesn’t surprise me one bit, frankly. From his very first scene, Barbossa was the pirate to look out for.
And now, tell me … who’s your favorite pirate? I know there are some more tars* worthy of mention out there. You know, besides that one guy.
*Note: “Tar” is another term for “sailor”. So I’m not missing an S. Hey, you’ve learned something today! It’s an educational blog!
Update: Need more pirates? Check out these obscure favorites over at Fencing.Net!